Fall 2020 Course Delivery

Fall Semester Beginning Sept. 9 to Offer Improved Remote Education with Opportunities for Academic and Student Engagement

I am pleased to share the results of our collaborative planning for the fall semester that begins September 9.


This is a longer message than you would usually receive from me. I know you are following COVID-19’s impact on post-secondary education. I would like you to be aware of the process we used to arrive at our decision as to what the fall semester will look like at STU and of the factors that guided our thinking.


The end of last term was hectic for students and professors who had to prepare for changes to courses and campus life with little notice. Since classes ended, we have been planning for the fall semester. We brought together faculty, staff, and a student on a Committee on Remote Course Delivery to identify best practices and improvements. We consulted with students and faculty on their expectations. Newly hired experts in remote teaching and technology and faculty members have contributed their expertise. We conferred with Public Health on how to safely run campus.


Based on the public health situation and government requirements that affect classrooms, hallways, and common spaces, it is not possible to safely conduct full classes and campus life in person. With the strides we have made to improve remote delivery of courses, I am accepting the Committee’s recommendation that we deliver courses remotely for the fall semester.


We will have improved and innovative remote course delivery strengthened by opportunities for engagement. Courses will be delivered so that students interact with the course material, professors, and each other on a flexible basis. Classes at STU will remain small and professors will continue to form strong connections with all of their students. We are making new investments in course delivery technology, as well as organizing remote academic and student supports. We are also assigning a classroom to each course so that professors, if they so choose, with appropriate physical distancing, may conduct small, optional group activities.


Our goal is to provide the highest quality of education possible while offering a responsive, collaborative learning environment that is the hallmark of STU. At the same time, we are prioritizing the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff.


Remote Education Improvements


We are implementing the following improvements identified through our consultations to strengthen our remote learning:


1. Technology Upgrades - We are in the process of acquiring an advanced education delivery platform to allow faculty to create and share video/audio content, create a library for each course, and embed quizzes/tests. We are upgrading Moodle to render on smart phones, embed video/audio to course pages, and automatically enroll students in each course. Students will benefit greatly from improved usability and functionality, and upgrades in technology aim to make student-professor communication easier.


2. Opportunities for Academic Engagement and Support - We are providing students with some opportunities for academic engagement by assigning a classroom to each course. Under appropriate conditions and depending on the course, faculty and students may meet in small groups or they may gather online to discuss course material or conduct study groups. There will also be opportunities for classmates to work together in a physically distanced manner on campus or through online chats. The specifics will be determined by each professor on a course-by-course basis.


3. Student Services and Academic Supports - All of our student services and academic supports (Academic Advising, Mental Health and Wellness, Indigenous Student Services, International Student Services, LGBTQIA2S+ Wellness, Accessibility Services, Writing Centre, Experiential Learning, Career Development, Student Success Coach, Campus Ministry, and ITS) will be available to students no matter where you are located. Staff are creating innovative, user-friendly opportunities. For first-year students, we will provide a comprehensive online orientation program to assist in transitioning to university. Welcome Week leaders are designing an engaging social experience for new students. We are also developing a First-Year Experience Program to create connections and support networks online. We will provide more information as we move closer to the start of the semester.


4. Campus and Residence Life – Our campus buildings will be open with physical distancing requirements in place and the Great Hall, O’Brien Study Hall, and the Sir James Dunn Hall Student Lounge will be available as study spaces. The computer lab in Sir James Dunn Hall will be available for students. Events such as the Long Night Against Procrastination that promote study and time-management habits will be increased and primarily delivered online. Our residences will be available for those requiring accommodations and dining options will be available—but they will operate in a limited and restricted manner. Students who applied to live in residence will receive information via email from Residence Life this week. Any on-campus activities will be conducted with adherence to public health protocols.


Reach Out to Us


This is a complex issue and I understand there is a lot of information to absorb.


Given the ongoing risks related to COVID-19 and the public health requirements we must follow, a strengthened and innovative remote education model is the most prudent choice. This model reflects an appropriate weighting of health and safety priorities and our students’ desire for an engaging post-secondary education. By preparing for remote delivery, we will also be ready to adjust without major disruptions to course delivery if society experiences a second wave of COVID-19. Regarding a return to more regular campus operations in January 2021, we will be evaluating that possibility and working with Public Health to provide direction later in the fall. 


We still have much work ahead of us to prepare for the fall semester and I know that you will have more questions. We will soon be sharing information with you related to residence operations, tuition and fees. In the meantime, we have posted frequently asked questions at STU.ca/2020FAQ. As always, ask@stu.ca is another way of contacting us with any questions. We are also planning a student Town Hall next week as an additional opportunity to have your questions answered. Please watch your e-mail and social media for notification.


Thank you.


Dawn Russell

President and Vice-Chancellor