From the President’s Desk: Announcement on the Winter 2021 Semester

President Flanagan shares plans for Winter 2021 to provide students, instructors, and university planners the certainties they need to prepare courses and campuses for the winter semester.

24 September 2020

To the University of Alberta community,

We are announcing our Winter 2021 plans today alongside our fellow large research institutions in Alberta — the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge. Our hope is to provide students, instructors and university planners the certainties they need to prepare courses and campuses for the winter semester.

A combination of in-person and remote instruction

Instruction in the 2021 winter term will continue to be delivered with a blend of face-to-face and online modalities. This decision, subject to evolving public health guidelines, best creates the meaningful learning and engagement so essential to student experience, and will maximize the number of students that can safely be on a campus. This decision was reached after consultation with public health experts and our community. While we have made progress both on our campuses and within Alberta, we know that COVID-19 will be with us for some time yet — as we were reminded this week with the outbreak in St. Joseph’s College Residence. The combination of in-person and remote instruction provides the flexibility our 50,000+ community, currently spread over 150 countries, needs to manage the unpredictability of an ongoing pandemic.

Additional in-person opportunities

For Winter 2021, we will continue to prioritize in-person learning where it is essential for program completion or progression; and, we will explore all opportunities to increase our current roster of in-person course offerings on our campuses to maximize student learning (lectures, graduate research, practicums, experiential placements, etc.) up to 30% within public health guidelines. Decisions about Winter 2021 in-person experiences will be made in consultation with deans and academic leaders. A detailed list of Winter 2021 in-person offerings will be available in mid-November.

Gradually opening campus spaces

As a community, we remain driven by student and research success, undeterred by the location of our students or our workplaces. As an institution, we are committed to gradually and safely opening physical campus spaces as provincial and U of A public health measures allow. Our residences will remain open on a reduced basis to comply with health restrictions and maintain student safety. In November, we will provide a January 2021 status update for employees who are working remotely. In the meantime, all student services currently offer remote options, particularly for our students who are still unable to travel internationally, and where possible general campus services are available remotely as well.

Information about the Winter 2021 academic term will be shared on the Campus Life webpage as it becomes available. Please continue to read your U of A COVID-19 essential information updates as they are delivered to you each week.

Thank you for your continued resilience and resourcefulness to adapt to the changes around you. And, thank you for acknowledging that your safety and the health of our community must come first. I know that remote work, study and community is not the preferred choice for most of our students and colleagues. I, too, very much hope that we will all be back on campus again together safely sooner than expected. Until then, we must continue to be mindful and remain diligent when it comes to the community health measures in place to protect us.

Together, we will make our 2020–21 school year a safe, productive and engaging one.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-chancellor

This column originally appeared on The Quad on September 24, 2020.