Eduvation Blog

Opening Up the West

Good morning!

Today’s your chance to celebrate chocolate, macaroni, and strawberry sundaes – although I wouldn’t recommend them in combination. (This is also apparently “Great British Pea Week,” if you need more choices.)

CdnPSE announcements for Fall 2021 have been rolling out steadily, often in numerous iterations, and I haven’t had the time to summarize them since Jun 2 (see “the Rocky Road to Fall”). Since then, I’ve gathered 150+ updates, and I’ll try to summarize them succinctly, by province, moving from Canada’s left coast to its right. (You can also check out my complete coverage since Feb 24 in the Insider Recap, “Plans for Fall 2021.”)

For months now, CdnPSE has been expressing confidence in rising levels of vaccination, and promising more on-campus activity for Fall, although deferring to provincial health authorities (sometimes up front, and other times in the fine print). A handful have made vaccination mandatory for students living in residence (see the Recap on Vaccination Policies). In the past few weeks, what I’ve been noticing is some variety in promised online course options, and a growing emphasis on upgrades to campus ventilation and air filtration systems.

Today, let’s look at announcements from BC and Alberta…



Fall in BC

British Columbia has arguably demonstrated the most coherent, collective approach to pandemic response in the country. PHO Bonnie Henry has been a consistent voice of calm, with full support of provincial politicians, and the provinces’ colleges and universities have worked collaboratively on campus reopening plans. At 70/32 vaccination so far, only one-third of the population is fully immunized, but the province has been set on a full reopening for months…


New Jul 5 Guidelines

Since Mar 8, PHO Bonnie Henry has been advising BC PSEs to prepare for a full return to campus in September, emphasizing the benefits for mental health. In June, BC’s PSE institutions released Go-Forward Guidelines, and just this Monday published updated Return to Campus Guidelines. The latest guidance sets expectations for “the full return to in-person education, research and on-campus services” at colleges and universities, which will “transition from highly prescriptive COVID19 specific orders and protocols back to normal institutional policies and guidance on occupational health and safety.” As of Jul 1, in Step 3 of reopening, PSEs will require daily health checks and enhanced cleaning, allow for gradual increases in F2F instruction and occupancy limits, and develop “communicable disease plans.” In Step 4, starting as early as Sep 7, “normal social contact” can resume, including large events, parties and athletics, and classrooms, residences, and offices can return to “maximum capacity.” Physical distancing, protective barriers and directional signage will no longer be required. Masks shifted from mandatory to “recommended” on Jul 1, and will become a “personal choice” by Step 4. BC has legislated 3 hours of paid time for employees to get each dose of vaccine, and 3 days of paid leave if they are required to stay home because of COVID19. The Guidelines also emphasize special considerations for mental health supports, Indigenous students and communities.  BC RTC Guidelines


BC Campus summarizes the range of academic delivery plans for PSE this Fall, from 100% on-campus to 70/30 or a staged approach. Some STEM, trades, and visual arts programs are prioritized for F2F delivery. Other institutions may offer students a choice between an online course section or F2F alternatives, and might even prioritize unvaccinated students for online seats. Instructors are encouraged to provide flexible options to students, to help overcome inequities and barriers to access, and to consider “ditching” problematic online proctored exams.  BC Campus


UBC plans to return staff and students to campus by Sep 7, with a “phased approach” to restarting social connections, businesses, and activities. All administrative units will be developing COVID19 safety plans, and employees will be transitioning back to campus in July and August. An HVAC working group is assessing building ventilation and compiling recommendations.  UBC News


“Together we will bring vibrancy to our campuses, as we see the increased resumption of in-person teaching, learning, and research activity this fall.”Santa Ono, President, UBC



Camosun College released a 2-min video yesterday to “Clear the Air” with a tour of campus HVAC systems, including the MERV13 filters and “mixing chambers,” which currently bring in 100% outdoor air instead of recirculating indoor air. It’s a cheerful, upbeat video narrated by manager of facilities operations Julie Oakley.  YouTube


Royal Roads U president Philip Steenkamp has released many effective videos over the pandemic. (In particular, I have shared widely his compelling, 4-min answer to the question, “Do we still need Gay Pride?”) In another video message from mid-June, he expresses hope for a full return to campus this Fall, and reminds those who might be reluctant to return that “there’s a lot we’ve missed out on, by operating mostly in a virtual environment.” Steenkamp also explains that better “human connections” and “separation of work and home life” will help build mental wellness, and foster “culture, cohesion and common purpose.” YouTube


Selkirk College has “a green light” from the PHO for a “full return to campus” this Fall. Last week, the College released a 4-step restart timeline, which aims for a full return to classrooms, offices, meetings and athletics by Sep 7 (if targets for vaccination, case counts, and hospitalizations are met).  Selkirk


Simon Fraser U has been auditing HVAC airflow and upgrading filters to confirm that ventilation meets national, provincial, and international standards. “Ventilation alone is not a panacea for tackling COVID19… It’s one tool to help mitigate spread.” (Oh, and kudos to Jeff Hodson for this pun: “Having students, staff and faculty on campus this fall will be a breath of fresh air.”)  SFU


“Having students, staff and faculty on campus this fall will be a breath of fresh air.”Jeff Hodson, SFU News



Thompson Rivers U is offering students in-person and online course options this Fall, and assuring students they are working to ensure social interactions and a sense of community. A week-long “hyflex” orientation will include livestreamed large events, and outdoor scavenger hunts, tours and icebreaker games (requiring pre-registration).  Daily Hive


Trinity Western U is preparing for the majority of courses to be delivered F2F this Fall, although some courses will continue to be offered online. “It will be a joy to gather together and experience, once again, a meaningful, personal, and face-to-face learning experience.” The PHO is not expected to require physical distancing in controlled settings like classrooms, and campus housing will operate at near full capacity (80-90%).  TWU


“It will be a joy to gather together and experience, once again, a meaningful, personal, and face-to-face learning experience.” –  Mark Husbands, President, Trinity Western U



Vancouver Island U is offering courses in 5 modalities: in-person, blended synchronous, blended asynchronous, online synchronous and online asynchronous. VIU “has always had some online and hybrid programming,” and expects to expand on that “this fall and going forward.” At this time, masks will be required on campus this fall, but vaccines will not be mandatory. (Many other details are still pending.)  VIU


Canada West Universities Athletic Association released its 2021-22 conference and championship schedules last week, with some “alternative formats” for regular season games to reduce interprovincial travel. Soccer matches begin Sep 4 in Alberta, and Sep 10 in BC and MB. Rugby begins Sep 18, Football Sep 25, Field Hockey Oct 1 and Hockey Oct 15. The first championships in 2021 will be Golf, held Oct 4-5 at UBC. Cross-Country championships will be held Oct 30 at uSask, and Swimming Nov 26-28 at uAlberta.



Fall in Alberta

Alberta entered Stage 3 of its “Open for Summer” plan on Jul 1, (coincidentally) in time for Canada Day celebrations and the Calgary Stampede. Declaring a return to “normal,” the premier lifted mask mandates and restrictions on social and retail activity, even though the province is only at 62/41 vaccination so far. So far, Alberta’s colleges and universities sound much more cautious, “staying the course” with plans for academic delivery that were set in place months ago when things looked considerably more bleak in the province…


uAlberta shared its “overarching vision” for Fall 2021 last week, a fall “unlike any fall that’s come before.” On Sep 1, for the first time in 533 days, much of the UofA community will be together again on campus. 80% of classes will be delivered in-person, although some courses may be offered in online or hybrid formats. Residences and research labs will be “humming” again. “Libraries are busy. Food courts are thriving. Fitness centres are buzzing. Buses and trains deliver people every hour; bikes fill the racks and cars are in the parking lots.” UofA will take a “phased approach” to reopening, inviting faculty and staff back in stages starting in August, and campuses should “fully reopen” by Jan 2022. Students will be welcomed in-person, but also remotely “as needed for some individuals.” Student services will be offered online and on-campus. Formal requirements for 6-foot distancing or masking may be lifted, but “respect for one another’s personal space needs will be expected.”  The Quad


“It won’t be a regular September, however: we will continue to keep a careful watch. We will open everything, but carefully.”uAlberta Fall ’21 Readiness Working Group



Alberta U of the Arts is “preparing for a full return to campus” by Sep 8, at the direction of provincial CMOH Deena Hinshaw, who advised to expect “minimal health restrictions” and a return to in-person classes without physical distancing requirements. AUArts observes, however, that “we cannot guarantee this plan,” and if PHO restrictions require it, studio courses will be offered on campus while others will be delivered online. Courses may “likely” start online and pivot to on-campus later in the term.  AUArts


uCalgary is planning a “graduated return that will take place in the summer and build throughout the fall,” resulting in more classes, research and services in person – although “return to campus won’t happen overnight” and “flexibility is key as we move forward.” Student residences will be open, but vaccination will notbe mandatory.  CBC  |  Global  |  Calgary Herald  |  uCalgary


Grant MacEwan U still appears to be operating with the majority of courses online and WFH encouraged, but recent correspondence to employees makes it clear that remote work and study “will be the exception” by September. Masks will no longer be required on campus as of Jul 1, echoing the province’s decision to “Open for Summer.” MacEwan


Mount Royal U held a 45-min virtual town hall for students last month, at which AVP Students Phil Warsaba outlined expectations for a return to campus this Fall. “Our plans for the Fall are largely based on a removal of significant restrictions,” although still included traffic control, density reduction and other initiatives (such as outdoor wifi spaces). 70-80% of MRU classes will be offered in person, with 20% or more offered online “for those who need it” – but he emphasized “if you can attend in-person classes, please leave online sections for others.” On its COVID19 page, MRU adds that “mandatory vaccinations are not allowed under current legislation in Alberta.” (See also the 7-min orientation video, ICYMI, below.)  YouTube  |  MRU


NAIT is “planning for our fall transition to a more vibrant campus,” with “an increased presence of staff and students on campus above what we have known for nearly 15 months.” Still, the delivery NAIT anticipates is the most “blended” approach announced in Alberta to date: 14% of degree, diploma and certificate programs will be offered entirely online (from 31% last term), while 82% will be blended (up from 69%), and just 4% will be delivered fully on campus. “We know… there is a growing appreciation among learners for online delivery, and we are also looking at how we can successfully adopt a distributed workforce model long-term.”  NAIT


Northern Lakes College president Glenn Mitchell was pleased to share the “exciting announcement” on Jun 11, that staff and students can return to campus this Fall. (The video is now prominently displayed on the college home page too.)  YouTube



I have to admit, I’m a bit disappointed – not that so many institutions in Western Canada are planning a return to 80% F2F delivery and 99% residence capacity, nor that none of them intend to make vaccination mandatory for students, but that institutions as student-centred as Mount Royal would discourage students from enrolling in online course sections.


Clearly, one of our challenges in the months and years ahead will be to adapt our timetables, registrarial processes, collective agreements and pedagogical methods so that any student willing to pay full price for the convenience of online study is permitted to do so…




It’s hardly fair to single out MRU for criticism that way, so let me share the following upbeat back-to-campus vid, too…


Welcome Back!

Mount Royal U released a 7-min campus orientation vid on Monday, hosted by new student orientation coordinator Kaylene McTavish, to summarize protocols for returning to campus this Fall. “As of June 30” masks are still required on campus, directional signage will reduce traffic density on “Main Street,” and everyone is encouraged to clean and sanitize campus spaces and surfaces. (Nice use of 20 chapter markers, too!)  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading! Next time I’ll continue this summary of CdnPSE announcements. (Remember too that you can check out my complete coverage in the Insider Recap, “Plans for Fall 2021.”)

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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