Sharing our principles to guide decision of fall instruction

Friday, May 15, 2020

This message was originally sent to faculty by Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor.


Later today I will share some high-level direction about fall term with our whole community. Before I do, I want to share some guidance with you in our instructional community on how we will implement our plan for the fall.

In short, my message later recognizes that the public health situation means that while large courses will happen online, we may be able to offer some activity in person. Clearly, if we are going to be able to deliver programming on campus, we need to make important decisions about what instruction will take place in person if circumstances allow it.

I want to be clear:

  • we will be offering a full fall term for every student whether they are new to Waterloo or returning,
  • we will follow the advice and guidance of public health officials, as well as internal and external experts,
  • we hope to enable on-campus experiences and supports for as many students as possible, subject to public health advice, and
  • we will support the academic progress of every student who registers, no matter where they are for the fall term.

This week, as part of the Integrated Coordination and Planning Committee, faculties and central leadership have engaged in discussions to determine the best approach for the fall, given the above considerations.

Our consultations to date make clear that we should prioritize research graduate programs for in person activities given the size of this cohort, their need to access campus for research, and because of the support graduate students provide to University’s teaching.

For undergraduate programming, the academic associate vice presidents and associate deans have developed provisional criteria for determining priorities for in person delivery. These are that:

  1. The activity can be undertaken safely in-person. At this stage, we do not know the details of the constraints that will be in place for Fall, but we assume that physical distancing rules will be a component, for instance. This is what underpins our decision that large first year classes will not be delivered in person.
  2. The achievement of learning outcomes fully depends or is only accomplished if the activity takes place in-person. It may be that a course will have a subset of academic components that require in person delivery (e.g. clinics), while other elements could be offered remotely. Instructors and programs should limit the in-person delivery to only the necessary components so crowding in campus buildings can be avoided.
  3. If the activity does not occur in fall 2020, students would incur significant delays in their program or other academic objectives (e.g., experiential learning opportunities).

The University and the Faculties continue to require equity in programs that will have students registered who may be unable to take part in on-campus activities, for example, international students unable to travel to Canada. For these students, we must make provisions for them to successfully complete their programs in a timely way. This might include remotely delivered versions of on-campus offerings, or alternative pathways through the program so they can take courses in later terms.

In some Faculties, associate deans have already reached out to departmental leaders seeking input into these decisions, and others will do so soon. We need to make more detailed decisions about Fall Term soon, but this is a decision best made with appropriate input from all faculty involved in program delivery.

The Registrar’s Office will communicate to the associate deans the required timelines for information to be provided in order to complete the fall term scheduling.

I hope this information aids in your departments planning for the fall term and that our my full message later helps everyone better understand the full picture for our fall plan.