Tuesday, October 26, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Yesterday I brought you up to speed on the current trajectory of the pandemic, which is worsening for those parts of the northern hemisphere with low vaccine uptake (from Siberia to Saskatchewan), or waning immunity (from the UK to the Yukon).
Right now, it looks like the prospects for recovery hinge on vaccinating children before they fuel mutations and breakthrough infections among those most at risk. We’ll likely all be asked to get booster shots in the months ahead, but it sounds like Ontario expects kids aged 5+ to be fully vaxxed as early as January (in the best-case scenario), and the pandemic to be largely over by the end of March.
Most CdnPSEs seem to be even more optimistic about a return to normal in 2022. Some have already begun holding in-person convocations, albeit with substantially reduced audiences and health precautions in place. But while many governments are aiming for a March return to normalcy, many Canadian universities and quite a few colleges seem to expect “normal” to come right after New Year’s…
You may recall that, back in June, I shared examples of CdnPSE spring convocation ceremonies, almost all of which were entirely virtual (see “End-Times and Commencements”). I shared some sample videos from UFV, uLeth, BCIT, Centennial, Niagara, Sheridan, Glendon and VIU. I also mentioned the drive-in convocation approach taken at Mount Royal U. This Fall, regional differences in vaccine uptake and mandates means a bit more diversity in approach…
So many CdnPSEs have opted for virtual ceremonies again this Fall that I wasn’t even bothering to keep track, tbh. Here’s a handful of announcements from the past week, merely to be representative…
Fanshawe College tweeted Friday that PHO restrictions on large gatherings would require it to defer Fall convocation ceremonies. (Its virtual graduation webpage will launch Nov 8.)
uLethbridge published their 14-min virtual convocation video yesterday, including some moving speeches and performances, professional drone footage and a mace procession across campus. Convocation boxes were mailed out to graduands, who are encouraged to share the unboxing on social media.
uOttawa is holding virtual ceremonies this coming weekend.
uSaskatchewan will hold its convocation ceremony virtually on Nov 10.
Sault College is commemorating its 340 Fall graduates on a dedicated website, which goes live Thursday night.
York U won’t hold official convocation ceremonies “until it is safe to do so,” but did invite graduands to a socially-distanced celebration, “Grad Days.” (See #ICYMI below.)
What really caught my attention, of course, were…
Regardless of the epidemiological context, some CdnPSEs are apparently confident enough in vaccine requirements, masking and social distancing that they held some form of in-person convocation ceremony this Fall…
St Francis Xavier is planning in-person X-Ring and Convocation ceremonies in December (with proof of vaccination).
uRegina held in-person convocation for 998 graduands last week, some of whom watched on Facebook Live along with family and friends.
Simon Fraser U gave the class of Fall 2021 the option to attend 1 of 8 in-person convocations earlier this month (with proof of vaccination and masks).
Trinity Western U is holding its Fall commencement ceremony on campus next week (with proof of vaccination and masks).
Of course, the real question – which impacts enrolment decisions, instructor preparation, and student success – is how CdnPSEs will handle course delivery…
From February through July, I chronicled CdnPSE announcements for Fall 2021 course delivery in excruciating detail. (See my “Plans for Fall 2021” recap, if you must – but I stopped updating it in late July when things seemed to settle down.) The governments of BC, Alberta and Ontario ultimately told colleges and universities to prepare for a “full return” to campus by September, although many institutions had already made more cautious plans for a “hybrid” or “transitional” Fall term.
Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve seen said about the winter term so far…
Many CdnPSE presidents have been saying since March that they hope for an even greater return to normalcy by January 2022…
uAlberta shared its plans for Fall 2021 back in June, a “phased approach” to reopening that would see campuses “fully reopen” by Jan 2022. The Quad
Carleton U announced back in May that it would undertake “a safe and gradual return to campus” for Fall 2021, and “a return to essentially normal campus activity” by Winter 2022. Carleton
uManitoba said in late August that it will be increasing on-campus activity throughout the Fall, and bringing back all students and staff by Jan 2022. UM Today
uRegina confirmed in July that it was planning for a “staged reopening” of campus in a “transitional semester” this Fall, with a return to “near-normal operations” in Winter 2022. uRegina
Wilfrid Laurier U said in May that in the “best case scenario” classrooms might return at 50% capacity this Fall, but the hope was to return to regular operations with minimal restrictions by Jan 2022. Waterloo Record
The Latest Announcements
In the past week or so I’ve noticed 15 CdnPSE announcements about plans for the Winter 2022 term – and most of them sound very similar to those hopeful speculations in spring and early summer. (Apologies in advance to all those I missed – I suspect this list is representative, if not comprehensive!)
Algonquin College president Claude Brulé indicated last week that AC is “planning for a more vibrant and engaging on-campus experience” for the winter term, with increased on-campus activities and more in-person academic programming, services and events.
Confederation College announced last week that in January, it will be “time to return to the classroom for all courses/programs that would traditionally be delivered that way.” Exceptions will be courses and programs traditionally delivered online. Full vaccination will be required, and the PHO will determine masking or distancing requirements.
Durham College is “looking forward to even more people returning to campus for the winter semester.” Courses will be offered in 4 formats: remote, hybrid, flexible, or in-person, on-campus. Proof of vaccination will continue to be required on campus.
uGuelph is “preparing to return to conventional course delivery and offer in-person instruction for most courses this winter.” In-person students must be fully vaxxed (or have an approved exemption). Classes will be capped at 450. Some courses may be available through distance “as always,” and UofG will “continue to support” instructors who wish to use a blend of remote and in-person components in their teaching.
Lambton College is planning to offer “expanded opportunities for students to attend classes or labs on campus” in 95% of programs this January. “Almost every student” will have “at least a partial in-person learning experience,” although many programs will be delivered in a hybrid format.
McMaster U is “currently planning to resume in-person classes in the winter term, with very limited exceptions.” On-campus student life activities will be “closer to, if not meeting, pre-pandemic capacities.” Students, faculty and staff “should expect to be on campus” as of Jan 2022, although “we will be ready to pivot if necessary” depending upon PHO orders. (Existing health precautions will be maintained.)
“We have all learned a lot during the pandemic. We have learned the important role technology plays and the opportunities it creates to think differently about how we work, teach and research. We have also learned that kindness, empathy and diversity strengthen our ability to learn, to do our work, and to strive for excellence.” – Susan Tighe, Provost, McMaster U
Memorial U is planning for in-person activities “to return to mainly pre-pandemic conditions” for the winter 2022 semester. Some specifically-developed online courses will continue online, but full remote delivery will only occur when an instructor has been granted an official workplace accommodation.
Mohawk College anticipates that the majority of students will return to campus in January 2022, although “many programs will continue to offer some virtual and remote learning,” and a “small number of programs” will be delivered entirely online. Vaccinations, masks, and daily screening will continue to be required, although physical distancing and capacity limits are expected to be lifted for most instructional spaces.
RRC Polytech intends to “continue increasing face-to-face learning for many of our programs while maintaining our flexible and blended approach as well.” Since 88% of students expect to be fully vaxxed this Fall, physical distancing will no longer be required in classrooms and labs next year.
Sheridan College will offer ~80% of programs with “some in-person delivery,” with courses in hybrid, virtual, or flexible formats. 20% of programs will continue to be virtual only. Sheridan also “looks forward to supporting even more in-person student life in Winter 2022, as conditions allow.”
uToronto Mississauga is planning for the majority of winter semester courses to be held in-person, and some currently scheduled as online will be changed soon. The UTMSU reports that some students have “concerns about the plan for a full return in January,” including concerns about housing, air travel, and student visas.
uToronto Scarborough is planning for “an in-person winter semester, as well as a return to full capacity in research labs.” UTSC has not deviated from its Spring 2021 plan to return to F2F instruction in January. Classes will return to regular capacity, but masks will continue to be required.
Tyndale UC is already providing in-person classes and extracurriculars, and expects the winter semester to “look very similar.” F2F classes will also be livestreamed, and some courses will only be offered asynchronously. Residence capacity may be increased.
uWaterloo indicated yesterday that it is awaiting further guidance from the province regarding the implications of its revised “roadmap to reopen,” but that it will “make changes to expand capacity as we are allowed to do so in a safe and gradual manner.” Circumstances give UW “confidence in our plan to return to a more ‘normal’ Winter term in January.” Masks and vaccination will remain mandatory on campus “for the foreseeable future.”
York U’s senate announced earlier this month that the comprehensive health measures already in place, combined with “optimistic public health indicators and forecasts,” will allow the university to proceed with its planned “full return to campus” for the winter term. Up to 15% more courses may continue to be offered online “on a transitional basis,” to accommodate international and out-of-province students, graduating students, or as pilot tests for possible long-term delivery.
It would appear that most of CdnPSE is hoping to get back to F2F instruction by January, thanks to campus vaccine mandates, mask requirements, and perhaps some remaining distancing or classroom caps (although many expect to ditch those entirely). Based on the sample above, it would appear that universities are in a much bigger hurry to return to traditional course delivery. I admit, it’s counter-intuitive: you would think the more abstract, lecture-based programs, perhaps with students more attuned to book-learning, could better afford to transition back to campus gradually than colleges, with their emphasis on hands-on learning and applied programs. But I suppose universities also cater more to traditional-aged students, who struggle with remote instruction and self-motivation, and sorely miss the extracurricular and social aspects of campus life. And right now the decisions about university program delivery in January are being made by academic senates, which tend to be inherently conservative decision-making bodies, and may be eager to close the door on radical new approaches to program delivery.
Or am I just being cynical?
Most virtual graduation ceremonies consist of stuffy pre-recorded speeches and a scroll of graduates’ names, but here’s an upbeat, fun video that breaks the mold…
York U graduands attended an unofficial celebration, “Grad Days,” last week that provided a photo opp in full regalia, and an opportunity to receive their diplomas in a socially-distanced way. This :45 sec video nicely captures the energy and excitement of the graduates, while assuring them an in-person convocation will be held “when it is safe to do so.” 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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