Eduvation Blog

The Rocky Road to Fall

Good morning, and happy Rocky Road Day!

While I’m a huge fan of the ice cream flavour, it’s also a fair description of the next few months as we enjoy a summertime reprieve from the pandemic (at least in most of the Northern hemisphere). Vaccine production and distribution, vaccine hesitancy, and the rise of new variants are still potential stormclouds threatening the sunny forecast of most CdnPSEs (as a sobering new forecast makes clear).

Today, as promised, I’ll sum up recent announcements from Ontario institutions about the Fall. In the wake of Western’s announcement that vaccination will be mandatory in residence this September, Trent has followed suit, while McMaster has clearly not. My sense is that many others are watching with interest…



Fall Plans – Part 2

Yesterday I summarized half of the announcements about Fall 2021 by institutions across most of the country, since May 10. (For all the announcements so far, check out this Insider Recap.) Today I wrestle with the rest…


Quebec Orders Normalcy

Yesterday (prompted no doubt by my newsletter!) Quebec’s minister of higher education, Danielle McCann, announced that physical distancing will no longer be required at CEGEPs and universities, provided that 75% of youth age 16-19 get both doses of vaccine. (Currently, just 42% have received a first dose, and 3% a second.) Mask requirements might persist, and there would be unspecified accommodations for immune-compromised students, but all PSEs in the province should prepare for in-person classes this Fall. (With “backup plans” in case the epidemiological situation changes.)  Global  |  CBC  |  CTV



Ontario Colleges

Several Ontario colleges have made recent announcements suggesting incremental expansion of on-campus activity, which in many cases never really stopped…


Algonquin College president Claude Brulé responded to Ontario’s “Road to Re-open” plan Friday as “another hopeful indicator that we are closer to safely returning to a more ‘normal’ way of life.” Nonetheless, Algonquin will gradually return its campuses to “pre-pandemic levels of activity… over an extended period of time.” For Fall, “we anticipate… a modest increase in activity on campuses.” AC


“This week can we say with greater confidence that positive signs are emerging every day. As we continue to look after ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbours, we do so with a renewed sense of hope that the finish line is finally coming into sight.”Claude Brulé, President & CEO, Algonquin College


Niagara College “continues to plan for a significant increase in on-campus learning for Fall 2021 term,” with “a mix of remote and in-person learning… but with the majority of programs offering at least some on-campus classes or labs.” (Contingent upon improved conditions and reduced restrictions.) Preliminary status of courses has now been posted, but “some changes may be necessary due to the evolving nature of the pandemic and the continued uncertainty around its trajectory and associated public health measures.”  NC


Sault College “is preparing for our fall 2021 intake with the anticipation that students will be returning to class,” although some public health measures may still be required. Programs may be offered in-person, blended, hybrid, hyflex, or remotely.  Sault



Ontario Universities

The presidents of Ontario’s universities issued a joint statement May 27 indicating that they were “preparing for a safe return to campus” this Fall, although “each university will develop its own unique approach.”


“We have great optimism and hope for a fall where we may safely increase in-person teaching, learning, research and student experience on university campuses… Our universities will remain vigilant, nimble and responsive to changing circumstances.”Presidents and Principals of Ontario’s Universities 



Brock U “continues to prepare for a significant return to on-campus instruction and activity this September,” but is planning for 3 scenarios: a significant return to F2F complemented with online/hybrid elements; some F2F with significant online/hybrid; or almost entirely online. (The first is the most likely scenario, so the majority of courses will be offered in-person.) Masks, self-assessments, and enhanced cleaning will likely persist. Student services will be offered on-campus and online. Residences will reopen at “at least 75% occupancy.”  Brock News


uGuelph is “looking forward to a vibrant on-campus experience this fall,” with “a significant number of courses at all year levels to be offered face-to-face or to include in-person components such as labs or tutorials.” “With many of our incoming students receiving at least a first dose of a COVID19 vaccine before the start of the fall 2021 semester… Housing Services is pleased to offer guaranteed residence to all first-year undergraduate students.”  uGuelph


Laurentian U is “working towards a partial return to in-person classes” and will offer “most courses on-campus” this Fall, but also “a multitude of academic programs and courses online.”  Laurentian


McMaster U’s Oversight Committee released its 17-page final recommendations report on May 25. It assumes that masking, screening and distancing precautions will remain in place this Fall, and urges the University to support course development for online, blended and in-person delivery – and Universal Design for Learning – through a number of investments and initiatives – but that ultimately, wherever possible, instructors should determine the mode of their courses. The committee also recommends the University consider assessments and proctoring tools, explore opportunities for student cohorts or block scheduling, and make clear masks available to instructors and staff who may be working with deaf individuals. Residences are expected to be “fully open.” Social spaces need to be monitored.  McMaster Daily News


Queen’s U anticipates “a return to full in-person, on-campus instruction” this Fall, and has established a Fall Planning Operations Working Group of staff and faculty to provide advice and create resources to assist units in the transition. Of course, “the university’s plans are ultimately subject to the authority of the provincial government and public health officials.” (A detailed town hall was held May 27 too.)  Queen’s Gazette


“We’re in the business of imagining what the fall could look like if the vaccine rollout goes as we expect it will. But this is a difficult thing to do while we’re still in the grip of some of the immediate challenges of COVID19.”Patrick Deane, Principal, Queen’s U



uToronto is “busy preparing its three campuses for a safe return to in-person academic instruction” and “as much on-campus activities as we can” this Fall. (Current plans include self-screening, mandatory masks, upgraded ventilation, traffic flow management, and limited room occupancy – although UofT is also planning for scenarios with “reduced or even no distancing.”) Online services may remain available, too: “we don’t want to lose the innovations that we have developed over the course of the pandemic.”  UofT News


Trent U is planning for “a full return to in-person learning” at both its campuses this Fall (hence the vaccine requirement announced yesterday – see below), but it will also continue to expand online course options for those who want to take some courses remotely. “Some virtual supports and services” will be offered remotely.  Trent


uWaterloo is planning a “staged and strategic return” to 50% capacity classrooms this September, with mandatory masks, enhanced ventilation, and self-screening. “It is our intention to keep expanding in-person experiences throughout this academic year, as public health conditions allow.” UW will offer courses in-person, remotely, and possibly in a hybrid model, and student services will be available on-campus and off.  UW  |  CBC  |  UW2  |  UW3


Wilfrid Laurier U is “planning to offer as many in-person classes as possible with required physical distancing and gathering-size restrictions to maintain safety. In the best-case scenario, 50% of classroom seats would be occupied up to a maximum of 100 students per class.” By January 2022, however, “Laurier’s intention is to return to regular, in-person operations with minimal restrictions.” Therefore, “staying remote for the entire 2021/2022 academic year will not be an option for most students.” (Residences will be open at full capacity, subject to the PHO.)  WLU


York U released a “revised outlook on the Fall and Winter terms” back on May 12, as vaccination was beginning to progress more rapidly, to indicate that “we are therefore preparing a more optimistic scenario with closer to 50% of courses being offered in-person, focusing on offerings for first- and second-year students, whose transition to university has been greatly impacted by this pandemic.” While Fall will be transitional, “based on the latest projections, we are preparing for a full return to our campuses for the Winter Term.”  York



Mandatory Vaccines

Last Thursday, Western U announced that a first dose of COVID19 vaccine would be mandatory for students entering residence in September (see “Moving the Needle on Vaccines”). It was a bold and welcome move, and a first in CdnPSE… but as president Alan Shepard said at the time, it wouldn’t be the last. (See the Insider Recap of Vaccination Policies for more announcements and details.)


Trent makes Vaccine Mandatory

Trent U announced yesterday that it will, like Western, require all students living in residence to have at least one dose of COVID19 vaccine before move-in day, and preferably two, “subject to availability and with some exemptions.” The approach should allow for “near-full occupancy” and support a “full return to in-person learning” this Fall. (Peterborough saw a deadly outbreak among PSE students this year, and the health unit strongly supports the mandate.)  Trent


“Requiring vaccines for students living in residence will be an important way to ensure that we avoid residence outbreaks and are able to offer our residence students the transformative on-campus experiences students have learned to expect from Trent.”Leo Groarke, President, Trent U



“We’ve already seen policies with school-aged children about mandatory vaccination… The main criteria… is ensuring to keep students safe. And how do we go about doing that in a global pandemic with a contagious virus? That’s ensuring that everybody gets vaccinated.”Ryan Watkins, Toronto employment lawyer



Others are Debating

Many other Ontario institutions are still considering a vaccine mandate in the wake of the decisions announced by Western and Trent…


Algoma U reports that decisions around vaccine requirements are “still in flux,” but discussions are ongoing and something similar to Western “is not off the table.”  CBC


Cambrian College says they do not currently plan to require vaccinations, but will follow recommendations from their local PHO.  CBC


Collège Boréal says it’s “very unlikely” that vaccines will be made mandatory for students or staff, and that Ontario’s 24 colleges are working on a coordinated approach.  CBC


Fleming College, also in Peterborough, is reportedly “actively considering options” and will “communicate a definitive decision… in the next few days.”  Global


Laurentian U says they do not currently plan to require vaccinations, but will follow recommendations from their local PHO.  CBC


Mohawk College told media that the college sector has not yet made a determination on vaccines for students, suggesting that a collective decision may be forthcoming.  Hamilton Spectator


York U says it is “closely watching how universities around the world are or are not considering required vaccinations for those who want to participate in activities on campus,” and strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated, but “at this point in time” is not requiring vaccinations.  Y File



McMaster is Opposed

On the other hand, one university has taken a starkly contrary stance…


McMaster U reiterated yesterday that vaccinations will not be required for students in its residences this fall, even though the halls are expected to be operating at 93% capacity. (Last year, Mac residences were essentially closed to students – so the university had a much gentler experience. I tracked just 49 announced cases on campus for 2020-21.) McMaster AVP Students Sean Van Koughnet says tracking vaccination status would impose “a tremendous administrative burden.” He explains: “If you’re not mandating it, and have 75 to potentially 80%, who knows, of the student population vaccinated, you’re not going to have large outbreaks.” (The McMaster Oversight Committee Report adds, “We also recognize the importance of individual choice and recommend that the University clarify that we will not be requiring individuals to be vaccinated.”)  Global



I hope Van Koughnet is right, but sufficient levels of vaccination are still not a sure thing…



The Fourth Wave?

On Monday, the Globe & Mail published a sobering series of projections that underscore our Fall plans are still hanging by a thread…


90% or Else

SFU mathematician Caroline Colijn, who specializes in infectious disease modelling, emphasizes that the current federal objective of vaccinating 75% of Canadians simply won’t be enough to prevent a fourth pandemic wave this Fall. Thanks to more contagious VOCs, herd immunity lies north of 90% — and that’s 90% of all Canadians age 12+, fully vaccinated (both doses). Her model was published in the journal Science in February, and the scenario most provinces seem to be in now – of reopening too rapidly this summer because case counts are dropping – shows a sizable fourth wave in November if just 75% have been vaccinated, VOCs rise, and PHO restrictions are relaxed. (If masking and distancing measures continue, the gradual reopening that Ottawa seems to have in mind, we’ll get through the winter OK. Or for that matter, if we accelerate second doses, we’ll see a more muted fourth wave.) The worst-case scenario, of course, is if a VOC attains vaccine escape, in which case the fourth wave would be off the charts and more lockdowns might be required.  Globe & Mail


“The difference between a fall in which COVID19 is in retreat and one where it surges back in a fourth deadly wave may come down to whether Canada can achieve a B or an A+ with its vaccination effort.”Ivan Semeniuk, Globe & Mail




Speaking of Niagara College on-campus and online…


We’re Still Here for You


About a month ago, Niagara College released this 90-sec video “in an effort to highlight and build awareness of the variety of ways that NC is still providing learning – on campus and online” and “to showcase student learning in action and celebrate the students, faculty and staff who have adapted and continued on during the pandemic.” The video includes some nice clips demonstrating innovative approaches to teaching, determined efforts to keep the campus safe, and students continuing to enjoy their studies.  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading! Please do drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world!

Stay safe and be well!


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