Students at the University of Toronto will be going back to school as usual this September, though their experiences will be markedly different from those who got their degrees pre-pandemic.
U of T president Meric Gertler announced in a letter to the university community this week that several new policies and measures would be in place for the fall semester to ensure students "a world-class academic experience" while still "respecting public health measures required by the evolving COVID-19 pandemic."
Spoiler: the plan involves a lot of online classes.
"The University of Toronto's fall semester will emphasize a mix of in-person and virtual learning opportunities for students," wrote the consistently top-ranked Canadian school in a blog post announcing its September 2020 roadmap.
"New and returning students can expect to see smaller on-campus seminars, classes and labs alongside larger online or remote classes and lectures," the post continues. "Courses are being designed to be flexible and accommodating, making use of the latest technologies and approaches to instruction."
Gertler's letter acknowledges that "much still remains uncertain" in terms of what things will look like come September, as it's difficult to predict which stage of the provincial government's reopening plan we'll be at in four months.
That said, the university has laid out three "guiding principles" that will be used to develop more concrete plans for each of its three campuses (which may each have unique needs, based on conditions at the time of reopening.)
Under the first principle "Health and Safety," Gertler writes that U of T "is preparing for a gradual, safe return to our campuses, with as much on-campus activity as is practicable, sensible, and safe."
Guidelines are currently in development for the areas of research, laboratories, environmental health and safety, student experience, residences, libraries and athletics, among other factions of university life.
The second principle, "Academic Excellence," explains that faculty members, deans and principals are in the process of "devising courses that are flexible and adaptable, accommodating — and mobilizing — various modes of teaching and learning."
Just got an email from our chair outlining different teaching options (including online) for the fall at U of T. We are being asked how we’d like to teach. This is why I ❤️ @UofT. #academictwitter #onlinelearning— Jooyoung Lee🥋 (@theyoungjoo) May 20, 2020
"The result will be a rich set of academic experiences for students to explore, whether they attend on-campus, virtually or in some combination," writes Gertler. "On-campus laboratory and library spaces will be adapted to the requirements of physical distancing, while we continue to leverage the power and possibilities of virtual research and instructional settings where helpful or necessary."
U of T Vice-Provost Susan McCahan revealed in a news release from the school on Tuesday that more than 100 staff are currently working with faculty to develop, design and deliver courses using leading educational technology.
The third guiding principle in Gertler's letter is dubbed "Our Community" and focuses on supporting all students regardless of the hurdles they may face.
"As we look toward the fall, we know the recovery will take time, resolve, patience and resilience," he wrote.
"There may be setbacks and surprises along the way. But in September, as we welcome new and returning students on-campus or online, we look forward to resuming the rich, vibrant and stimulating academic life for which the University of Toronto is so widely recognized."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO