Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Mathematics launches online budgeting platform

In 2018 the Faculty of Mathematics (Math) identified a need to improve their budget process. After reviewing different options, Math selected the Vena Financial Planning & Analysis cloud-based software platform to deliver a streamlined system to support annual budgeting and reporting. 

Vena integrates data from various campus systems, including Human Resources’ (HR) Workday, Finance’s Unit 4 and The Registrar’s Office and Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affair’s (GSPA) Quest. “This is the most comprehensive initiative to get data from various source systems into the direct hands of decision makers,” according to Daryl Dore, Director Enterprise Systems, Information Systems & Technology (IST). “To support the data requirements of the Vena solution, the data stewards for Quest, Workday and Unit4 data worked together to create a data-sharing agreement to ensure data confidentiality and integrity.” 

Vena also includes a teaching module, which supports provisional teaching assignments three years in advance, provides a way to record past teaching activity and view budgeting estimates, and assists in future resource planning. Steve Furino, undergraduate studies | assistant director, online studies, was a member of the project team. According to Steve, “To see an accurate history of past teaching, a present teaching assignment that fits with the budget, and a flexible view of the future is a wonderful thing.”

The project team consisted of representatives from Math, IST, Registrar’s Office, GSPA, HR and Finance. Working together, the team delivered a solution that enables Math to base budget projections on more granular data provided directly by source systems. Kevin Hare, interim Dean of Math, reported, “Using Vena will simplify the overall budget process and provide richer, more reliable data to support decision-making.”  

Math was excited to officially launch Vena on June 26, 2020.

Ask an online learning expert: "What do I need to know about accessibility?"

By Katelin Hamilton, Senior Online Learning Assistant. This is part of an ongoing series in the Daily Bulletin on online learning.

Creating an accessible online course means providing course materials, assessments, and learning tools in a format that all students can access without requesting academic accommodations.


The University has a legal obligation to accommodate students with disabilities.  Accessibility requirements for your course depend on how it is accessed and the unique needs of the individual students.  Because all LEARN courses are password protected, accessibility needs of students with a disability are met through formal accommodations arranged through AccessAbility Services. Courses hosted on open (public) sites must meet the accessibility guidelines outlined in WCAG 2.0 AA

Benefits of Accessibility

By removing barriers for students with disabilities, you improve the learning experience for many other students as well. For example, video captions don’t just accommodate students who are hard of hearing, they can greatly assist students who are still mastering the English language, students who are unfamiliar with the topic, as well as students who process information better by reading it, rather than hearing it.  Christine Zaza from the Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) explains, “When a course is accessible, students can focus their effort on learning course content rather than on accessing content in a way they can use it. There is no such thing as an average learner, so when you remove barriers for students with disabilities you increase access for as many learners as possible.”  

Start with Small Changes

Starting with even a small change can have a large impact on student experience. You can start with one or more of the following strategies:

For more ways to make your course accessible, check out the Accessibility Checklists and other resources on Accessibility in Teaching, developed by the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Accessibility Standards developed by the Centre for Extended Learning, and the Accessibility page on the Keep Learning website. The Centre for Teaching Excellence is also hosting an event today (July 7) entitled “Teaching More Accessibly: Five easy improvements to our practice.” You can also connect with an expert from CEL or CTE by emailing remoteteaching@uwaterloo.ca.   

Waterloo Residences provides update on new policies and procedures

An illustration of a Waterloo Residence.

A message from Waterloo Residences.

Waterloo Residences is committed to upholding our reputation as the most supportive housing option in Waterloo for students. In an ongoing effort to respond to students’ needs in uncertain times, we recently amended some of our financial terms and conditions. Students now have more flexibility when making decisions and plans for the fall.

  1. All upper-year and graduate students have until July 31 to request a refund of their residence fees. This includes their $500 deposit, if applicable.
  2. Any student with a study permit will be provided additional flexibility when finalizing their plans for fall 2020.*
  3. While our Residence Life and Facilities teams are working hard to ensure everyone will still feel supported, connected and safe while living on campus, we recognize that the current living environment we offer may turn out to be challenging for some. For that reason, residents will be released from financial responsibility for their contract if they decide living on campus isn’t for them after moving in. There is a cancellation process to receive a prorated refund of the length of time left on the contract.*

* Details about the cancellation process can be found on our website: https://uwaterloo.ca/housing/fall-2020-information

It’s time to Get Ready..

..For Residence. On Wednesday, July 15  from 5:00 until 6:00 p.m. the Housing team will be hosting the Get Ready for Residence Webinar. This will give us a chance to let students know more about:

  • How we’re updating our spaces and adjusting our cleaning procedures to ensure the safest environment possible for students;
  • How we’ve adapted Residence Life programming to be safe, supportive, and impactful;
  • What being a student staff looks like during the pandemic; and
  • What move in will look like including key dates and safety procedures.

Students can sign up here.

Rebooting with research: our virtual future

A woman in a mask has a video call with another masked person.

By Janet Janes. This is an excerpt of an article originally published in Waterloo Stories.

COVID-19 has had an immense impact on the way people interact and connect with each other, particularly through work. It’s likely the current normal of virtual workplaces will continue to evolve after the pandemic ends.

“The future is really going to change,” Andrea Kerswill said, director at Innovation & Scotiabank FactoryU, Scotiabank. “It’s going to change, in fact, for the better. Instead of the office as a place that you go to for everything, it’s going to be the place that you go to for some things — meeting with customers, socializing, collaboration and creativity.”

Kerswill was speaking at Rebooting with Research: Our virtual future, the final of six panels in The Post-COVID-19 Reboot, hosted by the Gateway for Enterprises to Discover Innovation (GEDI) at the University of Waterloo.

“I think we’re really going to have to be focused and intentional about our time. I know that we’re like that now, but it’s going to change. When we plan a meeting, we need to need to think about who needs to be there, why and how, and what the outcome of the meeting is meant to be.”

When the crux of the pandemic struck in March, many Canadians working in a traditional office or other workplace quickly pivoted to working from home in an urgent approach to flatten the curve, which required traditional meetings and other human connections to move online.

“I think everything is going to be driven by that human connection. It’s going to be really focused on tools, software and rules,” Kerswill said.

Those rules and tools include clarity on working agreements, flexible and overlapping hours, along with an understanding of when to use instant messing, phone calls or online communication.

While the COVID-19 crisis has been the impetus for this growth in the use of virtual connections, challenges are bound to arise.

Ray Simonson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Glove Systems, expects that operating business in the future will require a hybrid approach. Personal contact is a key element of sales and convincing customers to buy from a new supplier they haven’t met — this could be challenging.

“I think the challenge we will need to solve is getting people to meet each other and talk to each other when they see each other very rarely or never,” Simonson said.

One online area that has increased due to the pandemic is grocery shopping.

Jim Wallace, professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems, wonders how filling a virtual shopping cart versus a physical cart where shoppers can see the ratio of fruits and vegetables to junk food, will easily affect a person’s overall health. Reading labels can be challenging in the store but more challenging online.

“I think there’s a lot of research there and a lot of questions about what this means for our long-term well-being,” he said.

Read the rest of the article on Waterloo Stories.

Upcoming office closure

Campus Wellness locations will be closed today from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. due to an all-staff meeting.

Link of the day

Composer Ennio Morricone raises a finger to his lips.

Ennio Morricone, 1928-2020

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Award from GSEF-GSA-GSPA for thesis-based master’s and PhD students who have lost funding because of COVID-19.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment. The following workshops are current offerings from the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Introduction to OER Courses, Tuesday, July 7, 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. 

Teaching More Accessibly: Five easy improvements to our practice, Tuesday, July 7, 10:30 a.m.

Remote Course Design Essentials, Wednesday, July 8. 

Introduction to Best OER’s in STEMThursday, July 9, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m.

Getting Ready to Facilitate Online Courses: TA Training, beginning July 13.

Getting Started in LEARN, Wednesday, July 15, 10:00 a.m. 

NEW - Reducing Cheating Online: Examples and TipsWednesday, July 15, 2:00 p.m. 

Introduction to OER Data & Simulations, Thursday, July 16, 11:00 to 11:30 a.m.

NEW - Fostering Student Engagement Online: Examples and Tips, Thursday, July 16, 2:00 p.m. 

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information

Interested in learning more about engaging your students in an online course? The Centre for Extended Learning has created a new resource for you called "Fostering Engagement: Facilitating Online Courses in Higher Education"

This Open Educational Resource was designed for post-secondary instructors and teaching assistants who would like to better understand the critical role of facilitation in online course delivery, and build practical skills and strategies that are relevant, effective, and authentic.

Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

The Writing and Communication Centre has gone virtual. We have many online services to help you meet your goals, including: Virtual Pre-booked and Drop-in appointments, Online workshopsVirtual Grad and Faculty Writing CafésInstagram Live Q&A sessionsLive PJ-Friendly Write-insOnline learning resources, and Online programming for Master’s and PhD students. Whatever you’re working on, we’re here to help! Visit our website for more information.

We understand that these circumstances can be troubling, and you may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

WUSA supports for students:

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at foodsupport@wusa.ca.

MATES – Providing general online Peer Support via Skype to undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to: https://wusa.ca/peersupport

Glow Centre - Providing online Peer Support for the LGBTQ2+ community via Skype to Undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to: https://wusa.ca/peersupport

The Women’s Centre – Providing online Peer Support via Skype to undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to: https://wusa.ca/peersupport

RAISE – Providing online Peer Support via Google to undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to: https://wusa.ca/peersupport

The Bike Centre – Now open by appointment for your bicycle repair and rental needs in the Student Life Centre. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please go to: https://wusa.ca/bikecentre

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.ca . More information at http://wusa.ca/caps

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-844-741-6389.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Warriors Coaching Clinics. Every Wednesday from June 3 to July 15. Free online sessions highlighting a wide range of topics featuring Warriors Coaches and staff. Register in advance for the zoom link.

Warriors Jump Into June Challenge. Weekly challenges from June 8 to July 4 (Movement, Sleep, Water and Nutrition). Post your photo for a chance to win a $100 box from truLOCAL each week. Stay healthy Warriors!

Healthy Warriors at Home. Free programming including Online Fitness, Personal Training, Health Webinars, Personalized Nutrition and more. Open to students, staff, faculty and alumni. Register today.

Waterloo Warriors Online Camps. Online youth experiences including basketball, hockey and multi-sport camps for a variety of ages. Starting at $48.00/week. Register today.

University of Waterloo internal communications survey deadline, Friday, July 3, Wednesday, July 8. Please note the extended deadline.

International Live Chat #3 – Thriving in First Year, Tuesday, July 7, 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.

Leadership, Intersectionality, and Advancing in the Academy, Wednesday, July 8, 10:00 a.m to 11:30 a.m. 

Science Live Chat, Wednesday, July 8, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

CBB Student Showcase, Wednesday July 8, 2:00 p.m., Webex, Registration required.

Intro Session: Billion Dollar Briefing, Wednesday, July 8, 6:30 p.m.

Grammar studio II: Sentence structure and punctuation, Thursday, July 9, 2:00 pm, Live Q & A on LEARN.

Engineering Live Chat, Thursday, July 9, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Ask Us Anything: Indigenous Initiatives, Friday, July 10, 1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Design & deliver II: Slide design (live webinar only)Monday, July 13, 10:00 a.m., Live Q & A on LEARN.

Graduate literature reviews B: Writing it, Monday, July 13, 10:00 a.m., Live Q & A on LEARN.