STU to Continue Remote Teaching and Learning Model for Winter Semester

While we continue to settle into our new teaching and learning environment for the fall semester, I know many of you have been anticipating a decision regarding course delivery for the winter semester. Recognizing the planning required for both students and faculty to prepare for a new term, I am writing to inform you that we will continue with the current remote teaching and learning model for the winter semester.  


There are many reasons for this decision and we have communicated already with the Students’ Union, Faculty Association, and PSAC. The primary factors that support the continuation of remote teaching and learning are the concern for the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, as well as the desire to minimize the disruption to the current learning and living arrangements of our students. We also want to communicate the decision early to provide as much certainty and stability as possible to our community. 


From a public health perspective, a university is viewed as a high-risk setting given the cumulative number of potential contact points from in-person teaching, residence living, dining halls, etc. The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada recently spoke of her on-going concerns about COVID-19 cases in Canada, particularly accelerated growth rates in those aged 20-39. Although the pattern has been more positive in our region, this is likely due to the precautions taken in Atlantic Canada and we must remain cautious in our planning for the immediate future. 


The factors that influenced our initial decision to opt for remote teaching and learning for the fall term remain relevant. These factors include the likely continuation of border restrictions, self-isolation requirements, and practicing physical distancing as the best public health protection measures. While we have a much better understanding of risks and how to mitigate them, there are still many barriers to a resumption of in-person classes and campus life. While the circumstances have improved in our province and region, we do not want to contribute to a setback. There are also factors specific to the second term and complications arising from the upcoming cold/flu season including testing, self-monitoring, and self-isolation.   


While the winter semester is currently scheduled to begin January 6, 2021, we will be taking a resolution to Senate in October to have the semester begin Monday, January 11, 2020. This will allow faculty and students as much time as possible to prepare for the term and for students who leave the Atlantic bubble to have more time to self-isolate upon their return. 


Given this decision, the next cycle of questions naturally relate to traditional in-person, second-term activities and events, from athletic competitions to Spring Convocation to the mode of delivery for Intersession and Summer Session.  For these, we will continue to monitor the situation, take guidance from Public Health, and inform you of any decisions as soon as possible.  


I wish to express my appreciation for the hard work that faculty, staff, and students have put into navigating the many major adjustments we have had to make as a community. It has not been easy. Your dedication, compassion, and creativity have been evident over the past few months. Let’s continue to work together and support each other through the ongoing pandemic.    


Thank you.    


Dawn Russell 

President and Vice-Chancellor