Fall 2020 Course Delivery
Key Dates Leading to the Fall Semester
I am writing to update you on our preparations for the fall semester and remind you of key dates as we move closer to the beginning of classes on September 9.
Activities for businesses, organizations, and service providers in New Brunswick are taking place with physical distancing and public health protection measures to reduce the risk and impact of further waves of COVID-19. These measures will be required until the risk is controlled and may continue until the availability of treatments or vaccines.
As we announced last month, based on health requirements that impact our classrooms, hallways, and common spaces, it is not possible to safely conduct usual classes and campus life in person and we are delivering courses remotely for the fall semester. Over the summer, we have worked to improve remote course delivery and create opportunities for different types of learning engagements as well as organizing remote academic and student supports. Courses will be delivered so that students interact with the course material, professors, and each other on a flexible basis. We have also assigned a classroom to each course through WebAdvisor so that professors, if they so choose, may conduct meetings or optional small group activities with appropriate physical distancing.
Update on Gradual Reopening of Campus
Staff are returning to campus beginning today Monday, July 20, and we will reopen campus to students and the public on Tuesday, August 4. This two-week period will give us the opportunity to ensure that the health measures we are implementing will be adequate for larger numbers of people on campus.
It will be very important for us to adhere to these new ways of working in order to keep each other safe. We have put in place a St. Thomas University COVID-19 Operational Plan that has measures to assess and mitigate risks. One of the most important measures is wearing non-medical masks. Physical distancing is the most important public health measure, however, for situations where it is not possible to ensure a distance of two metres, faculty, staff and students must wear a non-medical mask. This includes hallways and when using washrooms on campus. People are also encouraged to wear a mask when walking across campus where physical distancing may be difficult to maintain.
Milestones for Students
After the August 4 opening of campus, there are a number of milestones as we move towards September 9:
- July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 27 (est) – Welcome Week E-newsletters for first-year students
- Aug. 19-20 – Students from outside Atlantic Canada move into residence for a two-week period of self-isolation. (Residence Life is communicating directly with these students.)
- Aug. 20 – Online Orientation opens for new students. This comprehensive program will guide students through their transition to STU so they can be successful in their first year.
- Sept. 4-5 – Students from within Atlantic Canada move into residence.
- Sept. 8 – Academic Transition Day / Virtual Commencement Ceremony
- September – Launch of First-year Experience Program
- Sept. 9 – First day of classes
The Schools of Education and Social Work have separate program dates, and students in these programs are requested to follow the dates given by their respective programs.
There will be more communications in the coming days and weeks so please watch your e-mails and monitor our social media channels. If you have any questions, please submit them to email@example.com.
Dr. Kim Fenwick
Vice-President (Academic and Research)
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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
President and Vice-Chancellor