COVID-19 Messages from the Dean

Message to Students
April 3, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Academic Standing information was sent to continuing and convocating students on Wednesday (April 1). Check your email (and spam folder) for a message from Student Services.
  • Information for students in qualifying years will be shared next week.
  • The Class of 2020 has been invited to a “virtual” convocation ceremony.
  • You can gain access to your locker by submitting this form.
  • Information about the Spring/Summer session is coming early next week from the Registrar -- be sure to check your email.
  • Co-op coordinators are working closely with students and employers to keep the summer work term on track.

Academic Standing

Each year, the Faculty of Engineering assigns an official academic standing to students, generally after every second academic term. These standings are based on attempted course units and the grades obtained in these courses. Normally CR/NC courses would not count in these calculations. However, this year, as a result of the global pandemic and UAberta’s move to CR/NC for winter 2020 courses, the Faculty of Engineering will determine academic standing in a slightly different way -- CR/NC courses in the winter term will have no bearing on GPA, but will be considered in calculating course loads. This will have implications for academic standing decisions, as well as your eligibility for convocation. 

There are several scenarios possible depending on your current academic standing, so, for details, please see the email that was sent to continuing and convocating students on April 1.

Students in a Qualifying Year

The change to a CR/NC grading system for Winter 2020 will also have a significant effect on our qualifying year students, and in particular their placement into specialized programs. Modifying our processes to take these changes into account is challenging. There are many factors to be considered in establishing a fair approach. We understand how important this information is to all of our qualifying year students. We have heard your questions and understand the uncertainty you are facing.

Please know, identifying an equitable approach in the matter is a high priority, and we are actively working out the details. Once solutions and decisions are finalized you will receive the information by email.

Convocation

As we all practice social distancing habits, it will come as no surprise that convocation will be held virtually this year and is scheduled for June 12. While a remote ceremony won’t replicate the full experience of in-person celebrations, we encourage you to participate, reflect and celebrate your and your classmate’s accomplishments. As the details are confirmed, they will be shared with graduates and posted to the convocation website.

As well, Engineering at Alberta is in the midst of planning something special to celebrate our 2020 graduates and their tenacity, flexibility and determination to finish during these extraordinary times.

Co-op

Co-op coordinators are working closely with students and employers to keep the summer work term on track. Students without a placement should continue their job search until mid-June. For those that have secured placements, the Co-op program has provided information to employers with advice on ways to adapt to the current circumstances. Information has been emailed to students with details specific to their particular circumstances. If you have not received this information, please check your spam folder. If you have questions, you can contact a co-op coordinator.

Requests for locker access

If you need access to your locker you need to submit this form. Then, someone from Facilities and Operations will be in touch to coordinate access to the building where your locker is located.

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Message to Faculty and Staff
April 3, 2020

What you need to know

  • A virtual Town Hall meeting will be held on Monday, April 6 at 3:00 p.m. Participants will not be admitted after 3:10 p.m.
  • When an employee comes to work ill, supervisors have specific authorities.
  • The Class of 2020 has been invited to a “virtual” convocation ceremony scheduled for June 12.
  • Information about the Spring/Summer session will be coming from the Registrar's Office on Monday; instructors be sure to check your email.
  • Concerned that someone in our community may be at risk of harm to themselves or others? Support is available from Helping Individuals At Risk (HIAR).
  • Consider your at-home workspace ergonomics.

Town Hall Monday, April 6

Dean Fraser Forbes is hosting a virtual town hall meeting on Monday, April 6 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. The meeting will be held through Zoom (using its updated security settings). The Dean will discuss our new online/at-home reality, including what’s known to date about the upcoming academic terms; discuss the provincial budget cut to the Campus Alberta grant and how we will navigate through the fiscal challenges. Mark your calendars and join the meeting. Please note, as an added security measure participants will not be permitted to enter the meeting after 3:10 p.m.

When an Employee Comes to Work Sick

Even under normal circumstances, supervisors have the authority to send an employee home if they come to the workplace (on campus) and are unwell. During this pandemic, supervisors must send anyone who has a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever or shortness of breath, home and advise them to seek medical advice following the guidelines and advice provided by AHS.

A public health order was issued on March 25 to control the spread of COVID-19, and legally requires anyone with a cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat that is not related to a pre-existing condition or illness to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever takes longer.

Privacy laws prevent supervisors from sharing an employee’s health status or health information with anyone, for good reason. Supervisors are also prohibited from locating and contacting people who may have come in contact with a sick employee - this is the responsibility of public health officials.

We all need to do our part by staying home if our work allows. Now, certainly, the advice is sound: if you’re sick, stay at home.

Helping Individuals at Risk (HIAR)

During these challenging and uncertain times, it is important to check in on our community, including colleagues and students. If you are concerned that someone in our university community may be at risk of harm to self and/or harm to others, please contact HIAR at hiarua@ualberta.ca or at 780-492-4372 (leave a voicemail and your call will be returned.) Please visit our website to learn more about examples of worrisome behaviour and how HIAR can help.

Ergonomics at Home

While office furniture is generally designed with ergonomics in mind, home furniture generally is not. Poor workspace design and improper body positioning can put you at risk for injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lower back pain. You can complete an ergonomics self-assessment to ensure your work environment is set up to maximize comfort and to minimize the likelihood of injuries.

Ergonomic webinar

On Wednesday, April 8 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine will be hosting a free, live-streamed presentation by Linda Miller, '89 BScOT, president of EWI Works International, on the topic of creating a healthy workspace at home using the resources you already have around you. A 20-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A where attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about their own home office setups.

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Message to Students
March 31, 2020

What you need to know:

  • The grading scheme for the term remains a CR/NC system. GFC did not review their decision.
  • You can gain access to your locker by submitting this form.
  • Access to VanVliet Centre, Butterdome and Varsity parking lot is now restricted.
  • New self-isolation requirements have been announced.

Grading Scheme for winter term

The grading scheme for the winter-term remains Credit/No Credit format as determined by the General Faculties Council Executive on March 20, 2020. A motion to revoke the earlier decision was not voted onto the agenda at Monday’s meeting of the General Faculties Council, and therefore not debated. You should now have received revised course outlines from your instructors.

Requests for locker access

 If you need access to your locker you need to submit this form. Then, someone from Facilities and Operations will be in touch to coordinate access to the building where your locker is located.

Access to VanVliet and Varsity Parking

As of March 30, access to the Varsity parking lot is reserved for people who have appointments to attend the Alberta Health Services assessment and treatment area that has been set up in the Butterdome. Precautions are in place to keep UAlberta employees and students safe, including closing off all passageways connecting other university buildings to the Butterdome and relocating employees that need to be on campus and were using that space.

Further Restrictions from GOA

On Friday, March 27 the Government of Alberta issued additional restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, including limiting gatherings of any kind to no more than 15 people; prohibiting Albertans from visiting non-essential retail businesses; and ‘close contact businesses,’such as barbershops, hair salons and nail salons, and prohibiting dine-in restaurant service. The full list of restrictions can be found here.

Self-Isolation Update

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 AHS suggests you should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment. Self-isolation remains a key measure to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Who is required to self-isolate for 14 days?

  • Anyone returning to Canada after March 12 (whether or not they have symptoms)
  • Anyone, with or without symptoms, who is a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19. ‘Close contact’ is defined as someone who provides care, lives with, or has close physical contact, or comes into direct contact, with infectious body fluids.
  • Anyone with symptoms of cold, flu or COVID: fever, cough, shortness of breath or runny nose.

What does ‘self-isolation' mean?

The federal Quarantine Act states that:

  • You are required to stay inside your home and only go outside on your own property. If you live in an apartment, you must stay in your own suite -- you cannot use the stairs or elevators to go to other parts of the building or outside.
  • If you become sick during self-isolation you must self-isolate for an additional 10 days from the beginning of symptoms or until you are feeling well, whichever takes longer. Read more about how to self-isolate.

Mental Health Concerns

AHS has boosted its service to help Albertans should they need to speak with someone about mental health concerns. Call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642, seven days a week between 7 a.m and 11 p.m to be connected to mental health staff.

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Message to Faculty and Staff
March 31, 2020

What you need to know

  • The grading scheme for the term remains a CR/NC system. The General Faculties Council did not reopen the discussion at yesterday’s meeting. Revised course outlines should have been, by now, circulated to students. Access to VanVliet Centre, Butterdome and Varsity parking lot is now restricted.  Save the Date: a virtual Engineering Town Hall is scheduled for Monday, April 6 at 3 p.m.
  • The Engineering Wellness Team has developed a newsletter to provide wellness resources to staff. Subscribe here.
  • Students are raising funds for food banks and connecting with peers through the Quarantine Olympics -- a series of friendly online competitions.

Grading Scheme for winter term

The grading scheme for the winter-term will stand as Credit/No Credit format as determined by the General Faculties Council Executive on March 20, 2020. The vote to add a motion to the agenda that would revoke the earlier decision was defeated at Monday's meeting of the General Faculties Council. Instructors should have circulated revised course outlines to their students as of March 27, 2020.

Access to VanVliet and Varsity Parking

Access to the Varsity parking lot is now reserved for people with appointments at the newly set up Alberta Health Services assessment and treatment area in the Butterdome. Precautions are being taken to keep UAlberta employees and students safe, including the closing of passageways connecting other university buildings to the Butterdome, and relocating those employees that need to be on campus and were using that space.

Save the Date

The Dean of Engineering will host a virtual Town Hall on Monday, April 6 from 3 p.m to 4:30 p.m using Zoom. Please mark your calendars for the day and time. You will need to ensure you have downloaded the Zoom app to your computer beforehand. The meeting link will be sent to you later this week.

Wellness Information Direct to You

To provide support to faculty and staff during this challenging time, the Engineering Wellness Team will be delivering a wellness newsletter over the coming weeks with tools and information to help you respond to the stress and uncertainty that you may be facing. You can sign up here.

The Engineering Wellness team works to support the overall well-being of our  students, staff and faculty of Engineering at Alberta, and under normal circumstances, would be delivering on-site programming and collaborating across the institution to foster holistic wellness and a culture of resilience within the faculty.  Their commitment continues as we all face increased stress and challenges with change. If you’re facing a wellness challenge in your work or home life, reach out to the Engineering Wellness Team for advice on support available. Please email enggwell@ualberta.ca.

The Quarantine Olympics

Our engineering students remain focused on their school work in these trying times, adapting well, generally to university online.  Nor have they lost their focus on helping the community. The Civil Engineering Students’ Society has launched ‘The Quarantine Olympics’ aimed at boosting student morale, and encouraging people to stay connected as we self-isolate. CESS has partnered with Food Banks Canada so the fun will also help those in need by raising funds in support of those living with food insecurity.

The friendly online competition kicked off on March 30 and runs until April 10. You can learn more about the Quarantine Olympics here. Please follow the games on social media:

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Message to Students
March 26, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Future frequency of communication in this format will be based on new information becoming available.
  • The NSERC Undergraduate Student Research grant program is going forward.

Communication

We hope everyone is finding their stride, as well as can be expected, as we adapt to the ‘new normal’ of university online. Update emails (which are subsequently posted to this webpage) will become less frequent now; expect to hear from us only when we have news or critical information to share. When there is a need to quickly inform you of something, email will be the way we do that, so please check your email often.

NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards

The 2020 NSERC undergraduate research program is going ahead. NSERC will honour the full value of research awards whether the work term is shortened or cancelled due to a university’s partial or full closure. NSERC says it will support remote work, provided there is connection with supervisors via video chats, telecons, and e-mail. This support will not extend to the continuation of projects into the fall term. You can learn more on the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards page.

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Message to Faculty and Staff
March 26, 2020 

These updates will become less frequent now; expect to hear from us via email (and updated on this webpage) only when we have news or critical information to share. When there is a need to quickly inform you of something, an email will be sent, so please check your email often.

What you need to know:

  • Research concerns have been taken to Ottawa by the U15

Research Programs

Amid many questions and concerns expressed by faculty about the integrity of their research programs, we want to report that answers and solutions are developing. Senior executives of the U15 Group of Candian Research Universities are in discussions with senior levels of the federal government; discussing ways to mitigate negative fallout from the pandemic on research programs and our graduate students. Ottawa is aware of the intersections between research, operations and teaching. The U15 has made it clear to the government what is at stake if additional support is not made available. It is hoped that programs will be forthcoming from the government, soon. We will share more details and decisions as they are available.

As well, the granting agencies have begun reviewing the effects of the pandemic on research and are making adjustments to programs as required. On March 24, NSERC provided program specific updates on their website, including suspending the deadline for Undergraduate Student Research Awards, delayed opening of the research portal for Canadian Graduate Scholarships - Masters, and extending the deadline for all research reports by four weeks. There will be more to come, as the agencies address a variety of competing demands from multiple stakeholders.

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Message to Undergraduate and Graduate Students
March 25, 2020

Grading for the Winter Term

A group of GFC faculty representatives has submitted a motion to the President in his capacity as Chair of GFC for consideration at the March 30 GFC meeting. Their motion calls for the decision by GFC Executive regarding CR/NC grading to be revoked, and proposes that students have the option of receiving either a letter grade or a credit/no credit. This would overturn a decision that we, as a community, reached after much carefully considered deliberation. Please be assured that our dean is committed to the grading decision; he opposes reopening the debate and will not support the motion.

Retrieving Personal Items

Facilities and Operations is working out a process for students to access and clean out their lockers. We will provide further information when it is available.

Text4Hope

Text4Hope is a new Alberta Health Services program providing three months of free, daily text messages from mental health therapists. AHS says the service is an evidence-based tool that helps people identify and adjust to the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours that may occur as we adapt to the pandemic environment. The daily messages provide advice and encouragement that may be helpful in developing healthy personal coping skills and resiliency. To sign up, text COVID19Hope to 393939.

Note, AHS says the program provides one-way communication and does not replace other mental health therapies and supports. It is intended to be a helpful option for people in self-isolation who can’t access face-to-face services, as well as those in remote locations. All existing AHS mental health support lines remain open.

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Faculty and Staff Message
March 25, 2020

What you need to know

  • The Dean will oppose a move to reopen the GFC Executive decision to use a CR/NC grading scheme for the winter term.
  • Changes to course outlines can be made using this template. Note, only winter-term instructors will have access.
  • If you have students in need of a laptop you should refer them the Office of the Dean of Students for a loaner, using this laptop signout form
  • AHS is offering a mental health support service via text messages: text COVID19Hope to 393939
  • Take note, some washrooms around campus are being closed, as additional access restrictions are put in place by Facilities and Operations.
  • Central HR has produced guidelines for managing in the current situation: UAlberta COVID-19

Grading for the Winter Term

A group of GFC faculty representatives have submitted a motion to the President in his capacity as Chair of GFC for consideration at the March 30 GFC meeting. Their motion calls for the decision by GFC Executive regarding CR/NC grading to be revoked, and proposes that students have the options of receiving either a letter grade or a credit/no credit. Our dean believes the grading decision was made in the best interest of all involved; he opposes reopening the debate and will not support the motion.

Course Outlines

Instructors may use this template to update their course outlines. This template is designed to be a cover page to your Winter 2020 term course syllabus. It contains consistent wording from the Registrar’s Office about the unique characteristics of the Winter 2020 term and is designed to allow you to capture the changes made to your course assessments (including format and weighting). The Registrar's Office has asked instructors:

  • To complete a separate template for each course you teach, indicating all required and relevant details.
  • Save the document(s)
  • Provide the completed document(s) to your department chair or delegate
  • Circulate the updated outlines to your students by Friday, March 27, 2020.

Central has posted an FAQ to help respond to questions you may have about academic changes.

Chromebook Lending Program for Students

With the move to remote delivery of classes and with campus computer labs closed, we understand that some students might not have the technology they need to do their work, remotely. The Office of the Dean of Students has procured a limited supply of Chromebooks that are available for loan to students by instructor referral. The Referral form is here: https://forms.gle/jttUs9bCoMBvpmoD8

Please complete this form if you know a student who needs technology resources. We will contact the student directly to begin the process of lending them a Chromebook. Please direct any questions to doshelp@ualberta.ca

Text4Hope

Text4Hope is a new Alberta Health Services program providing three months of free, daily text messages from mental health therapists. AHS says the service is an evidence-based tool that helps people identify and adjust to the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours that may occur as we adapt to the pandemic environment. The daily messages provide advice and encouragement that may be helpful in developing healthy personal coping skills and resiliency. To sign up, text COVID19Hope to 393939.

Note, AHS says the program provides one-way communication and does not replace other mental health therapies and supports. It is intended to be a helpful option for people in self-isolation who can’t access face-to-face services, as well as those in remote locations. All existing AHS mental health support lines remain open.

Access Restrictions

Further to the access restrictions now in place on campus, this week Facilities and Operations will continue to close buildings, or areas within buildings, to better support the maintenance and sanitizing of critical and essential areas. This includes some washrooms, kitchens and water fountains. This may mean using washrooms or other facilities that are a little bit further away from your work stations. Please help keep our campus safe and obey signage on washrooms or facilities that are closed.

Existing card or key access (or non access) remains in place -- you are only able to access buildings, spaces, floors, and doors (including exterior doors) as was granted originally on your card (or that you have keys for). Space you previously may have accessed because it was ‘open’ during business hours is now, of course, closed. If it is essential that you have access to spaces beyond what your card or keys allow,, please connect with your supervisor.

Retrieving Personal Items

Should you need to collect equipment or personal items from campus, please work with your direct supervisor to coordinate pick-up to ensure safe social distancing. If you have any (even mild) symptoms such as cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or fatigue, please stay home

Human Resource Guidelines

Central Human Resource Services has posted guidelines to help managers and supervisors navigate HR concerns during the pandemic. These include guidelines around remote work, pay and leave, what to do when someone is unwell, and more.

Please note, casual/hourly paid employees who are not working from home or working on campus, and are not ill or on an approved leave will be paid for all previously scheduled shifts up to March 31, 2020, unless otherwise authorized by a department lead. Other payments are in accordance with the respective collective agreement or handbook.For more faculty-specific circumstances please contact your HR contact in Engineering.

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Message from the Dean to Students, Faculty and Staff
March 24, 2020

It has been just over a week since COVID-19 started to directly change the daily lives of each of us, both at work and at home. We are facing innumerable challenges in this new and evolving reality, whether as a grad student or undergrad, a faculty member, or a member of the Engineering at Alberta administration and support staff. Together, we are doing our best to find our way forward.

I am proud of the way that we have pulled together to accomplish so much so quickly.

All that we have done and have yet to do comes with a considerable price -- stress, uncertainty, anxiousness and worry. There has been a flood of queries from students, faculty and staff; questions that need answers but have none yet, and cannot be answered on an individual by individual basis, as the volume is simply far too high.

Students who have had to switch to online learning near the end of term have questions about the meaning of a new grading system on admissions to their program of choice, on their academic standing, on admission to graduate school, and on their scholarships. Students who are very worried about their future.

The faculty who adapted coursework, in just days, to an online format are now determining ways to fairly assess student success under a new grading scheme. As well, faculty are seeing their research programs placed in limbo -- research programs that are well underway, funded and staffed are becoming suspended with a host of dominoeing implications for academic careers, those of the principal investigators and those of the graduate students with whom they work so closely. They need answers.

Our graduate students face challenges on two fronts: as students attempting to succeed in their programs, and as essential members of research teams that may be winding down. What was a carefully planned future, has now been turned on its head. They also have important questions to be answered.

Consider too, that staff have shifted to remote work seamlessly because of hard work, quick thinking, and collaborative problem-solving. Yet daily they are faced with new policy decisions, and unforeseeable challenges that must be operationalized in a way that poses the least disruption to our faculty and students; and must do so in ways that maintain the integrity of programs and services. Even the tasks that were once simple (e.g., receive the mail) now need to be re-thought. There are endless processes to re-jig, decisions to be made and implications from each of those decisions.

We may have different burdens to bear, but the loads are equally heavy. These examples are merely the tip of an iceberg of complexities that face Engineering at Alberta, that now must be addressed against the backdrop of funding reductions that are unprecedented in the history of our university. In the days to come, we will work our way through these challenges, seek input from you and share the practicalities of the university’s and Engineering’s decisions with you. We ask for your patience and trust as we address the challenges that prompt your questions. It takes time to respond to change, to follow the ripples, predict the implications, and to put the solutions into practice.

That said, there is and will be continued uncertainty as we adapt to the realities of a markedly changed society: a change that we all hope is only short-term. While we all crave clear answers and to have some firm sense of what tomorrow is likely to bring, at the moment that is not as possible as it was a few short weeks ago.

To date, we have as an Engineering student body, faculty and staff responded with intelligence and kindness to the challenges before us. In the coming weeks, we will need to keep pulling together. With patience, trust, respect and empathy for each other we will make this work -- we will solve the problems, answer the questions, and chart a new course.

Fraser Forbes, PhD, PEng, FCAE, ICD.D
Faculty of Engineering
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB, Canada

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Grading Decision: Message to Students
March 23, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Engineering will conform to the General Faculties Council decision regarding grading for the winter term -- adopting a credit/no credit grading system.
  • Your instructors will provide revised course outlines by the end of March.

The Engineering at Alberta leadership team has listened carefully to all of the feedback that we have received from students, parents, faculty, the regulating bodies and other stakeholders. We have decided that Engineering will adopt a credit/no credit (CR/NC/) grading scheme for this winter term.

This decision follows a General Faculties Council (GFC) decision of late last week. In choosing the CR/NC option, Engineering leadership carefully balanced the best interests of students and the practicality of implementing the grading scheme -- seeking to minimize the complexity and complications for both instructors and students -- given the extraordinary situation in which we all find ourselves.

Each student’s situation this term has complications because of the pandemic, and we believe that CR/NC is the fairest approach to the wide range of situations facing students. Also, finding a way to address these exceptional, individual circumstances within the ‘marks’ grading system would inevitably have led to more challenges than does the CR/NC choice.

We recognize, however, that CR/NC produces its own set of complexities both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Engineering at Alberta leadership team is already considering these in consultation with all of the stakeholders who offer your courses and will provide further details in the coming days around how CR/NC will work in practice. As always, our first and primary concern is making decisions based on your best interest.

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Grading Decision: Message to Faculty and Staff
March 23, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Engineering will adopt a credit/no credit (CR/NC) grading system for the winter term - conforming to the General Faculties Council decision.
  • All winter 2020 course outlines must be updated to reflect all changes, and shared with students no later than March 27, 2020.

The Engineering at Alberta leadership team has listened carefully to all of the feedback that we have received from students, parents, faculty and other stakeholders. We have decided that Engineering will adopt a credit/no credit (CR/NC) grading scheme for this winter term. This means that all winter 2020 course outlines for both undergraduate and graduate courses must be updated to outline all changes to exams, assessments and grading, and be shared with students no later than March 27, 2020.

This decision follows a General Faculties Council (GFC) Executive Committee decision late last week. In conforming to the grading scheme that was passed by GFC, Engineering leadership carefully balanced the best interests of students and the practicality of implementing the CR/NC grading scheme -- seeking to minimize the complexity and complications for instructors, students and program administration -- given the extraordinary situation in which we all find ourselves. More information on the GFC decision is here.

We appreciate, however, that our university’s decision produces its own set of complexities both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. We will need to determine how to apply the grading scheme, what it means for those graduating in terms of awarding of distinction and other accolades, how we may assign our qualifying students to an engineering discipline and how to address those on academic probation. We have already begun the necessary consultation with all of the stakeholders and will provide further details in the coming days around how the CR/NC will work in practice for this term.

Please be assured that these decisions are being made with thoughtful consideration and the best interests of the students, the effects on faculty and staff, as well as the integrity of our program, at heart.

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Message to Faculty and Staff
March 20, 2020, 4 pm

This message is primarily for faculty, instructors and researchers.

Additional information related to human resource and finance and facilities processes, will come soon -- we are awaiting central Human Resource Services updates.

The General Faculties Council approved changes to the University Calendar in an emergency meeting late yesterday, that affect grading, assessments and course withdrawal deadlines for the Winter 2020 term; you received the university’s message about this by email earlier today.

Engineering at Alberta is considering the directions from GFC, and is in discussions with the other faculties that offer courses to Engineering students. The best interests of our engineering students is guiding our thinking and will underpin all decisions. We’ll share what this means for Engineering early next week.

Undoubtedly, these developments will be distracting for your students and will prompt many questions. Please reassure them that we will have answers for them soon (within a couple of days) and do what you can to help them stay focused on their coursework and health. General information for both students and academic staff is available on the university’s COVID-19 website.

What you need to know:

  • The GFC decision allows exemptions to the grading scheme for faculties, such as Engineering, that have accreditation requirements.
  • The University has indicated that final assessments should not require the use of paid remote proctoring services, though exceptions will be considered.
  • The last day to withdraw from winter term courses has been changed; deadline is now April 8, 2020.
  • Instructors are required to complete their courses for the current term.
  • If the university ceases operations before the end of the term CR (credit) and NC (non-credit) grades for all winter 2020 courses will be determined based on whether or not the student has demonstrated achievement of the majority of the course learning objectives.

Research Information

To supplement the message yesterday about planning for a safe research lab shutdown, the university has provided an FAQ. If you have additional questions or concerns please raise them with your Department Chair or Assistant Chair Research

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Message to Graduate and Undergraduate Students
March 19, 2020

What you need to know:

  • No new information today
  • Tomorrow (March 20) expect information about grading and final assessments>

Protect Yourself and Others

AHS advises:

“Anyone who has symptoms, including cough, runny nose, fever or sore throat, must self-isolate for 14 days. Please do not visit a hospital, physician’s office, lab or healthcare facility without consulting Health Link (811) first.”

If you are experiencing symptoms you should complete the online self-assessment to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

Stay Informed

Helpful Resources

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Faculty and Staff Message
March 19, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Research leads are asked to develop plans to respond to a shut-down of campus or a failure of utilities systems. Plans are due to Chairs Monday, March 23 by 4 p.m.
  • If working alone on campus, you must follow the working alone protocol and if alarms sound in the building you must evacuate -- do not treat it as a false alarm.

Research Security Plans

In response to COVID-19, many decisions have been made quickly, as to how we operate -- the move to online teaching and learning, remote work, reduction in hours on campus, closure of buildings and facilities. The next important step for consideration is research operations, including research computing. All of our planning in this regard must be focused on the health and safety of our people; ensuring that our infrastructure and equipment are protected and secure; and our programs are operating as effectively as possible in the new circumstances.

We must now prepare ourselves for the eventuality that our laboratories and research activities will be shut down. Consider TWO possible situations:

  1. A government decision orders all university operations to end, requiring compliance within a very short period of time (e.g. an hour or two).
  2. A critical utilities failure occurs (e.g. the power fails) when your lab is unoccupied (e.g. the middle of the night).

In addition to these scenarios, it is expected that your lab must be safe and secure at all times -- for example, all supplies are safely stored and within allowable limits, and hazardous waste materials are disposed of appropriately. As you continue operations, consider that supplies on which your lab’s operations depend could become unavailable at any time, and the ability to discard hazardous waste may be unavailable in the near term -- even prior to a full shut down.

What is required now, from those who are continuing to operate their labs during the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic, is a thoughtful plan that takes into account an abundance of caution. These plans must lay out the steps for an orderly and timely (short notice) lab and / or research computing shutdown and the fail-safe measures that you have put into place. The plans are to be produced on the assumption you will be responding to either a government mandated shut down or an unexpected loss of any and all of the utilities upon which your lab and research depend. Please finalize and deliver these plans to your Department Chair no later than 4 p.m Monday March 23. Central Environmental Health and Safety requires that The Registration of Research Form also be completed. More details can be found here.

These are extraordinary times, so please understand that our university must consider (and thus plan for) the potential that key facilities staff may become ill and our utilities plant operations become fragile. Furthermore, we are increasingly seeing decisions made for us by governments.

Working Alone Safely

There are fewer and fewer people working on campus and this presents a different set of safety concerns. If you are working alone on campus, there are two primary requirements to ensure your personal safety:

  • A reliable means of communication: landline or cell phone (with charger).
  • Implement the “buddy” system: your buddy will check up on you on a predetermined frequency (e.g. every hour). The person working alone must inform their buddy when they have finished their work and are leaving the worksite. The buddy must be someone that knows where the work site is located, and ideally be your supervisor or a delegate. However you may choose any member of your team to be a buddy, but you must have such a buddy in place.

EHS has created a safety app named ‘UofA Safe’. This is available on both the Google Play Store and Apple AppStore. The app includes a working alone buddy system. The app will only work if you have internet access (cellular data or UWS).

Also note, that if a fire alarm goes off in the building, you must evacuate -- do not treat it as a false alarm. Those who require assistance evacuating when elevators are unavailable should contact University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) at 780-492-5050.

Protecting Yourself and Others Against COVID

Alberta Health Services advises:

“Anyone who has symptoms, including cough, runny nose, fever or sore throat, must self-isolate for 14 days. Please do not visit a hospital, physician’s office, lab or healthcare facility without consulting Health Link (811) first.”

If you are experiencing symptoms you should complete the online self-assessment to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

Stay Informed

Helpful Resources

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Message sent to Graduate and Undergraduate Students
March 18, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Online course delivery is proceeding very well, to date -- no new substantial changes to report today.
  • Our objective is that students will be able to complete the term.
  • How final exams will be delivered is still under discussion
  • The university has not cancelled June convocation ceremonies at this time
  • Grad students are encouraged to sign up for direct deposit to receive pay or research funds.

Today there were no new announcements from the Alberta government regarding public health measures that would affect Engineering at Alberta, directly.

Winter Term

We remain steadfast in our goal of completing the term and ensuring your graduation, or continuation of your programs. The first day of remote classes went remarkably smoothly thanks to the students, instructors and staff, who adapted quickly to this change and who worked together to figure things out and to help one another.

Final Exams

There are lots of questions about final exams. No decisions have been made yet, but much discussion and work is underway to come up with solutions and when we know the decisions we’ll let you know.

Convocation

Please ignore an erroneous news media report that suggested all post secondary institutions in Alberta have already decided to cancel Convocation ceremonies. This is untrue. One school has announced a cancellation, however the University of Alberta has not yet made a decision about Convocation -- options are being considered based on the circumstances as they arise and Convocation season gets closer in time.

Grad Students - Your Pay/Funding

Human Resource Services is working hard to ensure pay and funding is disbursed on time. Please make sure your information, including direct deposit information is up-to-date in BearTracks.

For grad students, direct deposit information is found in two distinct places in Bear Tracks: the Employees section and the Financials section. You must be enrolled in direct deposit in the Employees section to receive your wages, salaries or graduate scholarship payments via direct deposit. Sign up for direct deposit here.

Helpful Resources

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Message sent to Faculty and Staff at Engineering at Alberta
March 18, 2020, 8:27 p.m.

What you need to know:

  • No action is required on the announcement regarding research until we get clarification
  • Ensure your BearTracks information is up to date; where applicable, choose the direct deposit payroll option
  • If you have an approved Sabbatical or Administrative Leave, please discuss this with your supervisor
  • Clarity regarding working from home

Research Activities

Academics will have received or will be receiving an FYI notice that asks researchers to “ramp down or pause research that requires institutional resources and support by Friday, March 20, 2020.” We are seeking additional clarification about what is expected; please wait for additional information from Engineering before taking any action.

Getting Paid

Human Resource Services (HRS) wants to make sure everyone is paid on time. Check BearTracks to make sure your personal and banking information is current -- including your direct deposit information.

If HRS does not have your direct deposit information on file, a cheque will be sent by Canada Post to the mailing address on record. However, there is no guarantee mail delivery will continue as normal during the COVID-19 outbreak, so it is highly recommended you use the direct deposit option. Sign up for direct deposit here.

NOTE: For employees who are also alumni, direct deposit information is found in two distinct places in BearTracks: the ‘employees’ section and the ‘financials’ section. you must be enrolled for direct deposit in the employees section to receive your wages, salaries or graduate scholarship payments via direct deposit.

Additional employee information related to changes because of the COVID-19 situation is available here.

Sabbatical & Administrative Leaves

If you have a sabbatical or administrative leave on the horizon, please discuss options with your Chair. Given travel restrictions, your plans may have to be modified from your approved plan. Please take this as advice, as no formal guidance has been given from our university’s Senior Executive team.

Working From Home

For clarity, If employees can work from home, they should. However, not all work can be done remotely and responsibilities that maintain operational continuity must be fulfilled respecting the prevention actions of social distancing (2 metres distance between staff/faculty) and proper hygiene practices.

A reminder that working from home, when your assigned duties permit, is based on advice from public health authorities who ask that we all practice social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This is important in efforts to ensure we don’t overwhelm the health system.

While working remotely you may discover a need to come back to campus, for example to retrieve materials necessary to your job. Should this situation arise, please consult your supervisor to make plans for being on campus. Also, limit the number of trips back and forth. Should you have to return to campus, continue the practice of a 2 metre distance between yourself and others -- even with people you know.

Give thought to other ways you may need to create social distance in your daily activities -- consider your exposure when using public transit, in the grocery store and other public areas you will have to visit from time to time. Also, remain diligent in following the advice of public health experts-- continue washing your hands properly and frequently, avoid touching your face, and cough and sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow. Dispose of tissues in a closed waste bin and wash your hands right after.

Helpful Resources

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Message sent to Faculty and Staff at Engineering at Alberta
March 16, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

This continues to be a time of extraordinary circumstances with rapidly changing details -- please have patience as we do our best to give you the most accurate information in the moment.

We recognize you are receiving a considerable amount of information from a variety of sources, and not always in sequence. In this environment of sometimes unavoidable ambiguity, and even seemingly conflicting information, the way to help make sense of it is to consider the source of the update and the ‘type’ of updates provided:

  • The University speaks from the broadest perspective and makes decisions that affect the entire university.
  • The Dean speaks from the Engineering at Alberta perspective, and makes decisions for Engineering, sometimes ahead of the university and sometimes different from other faculties, but specific to Engineering’s situation.

Please use your judgement to make the best decision based on the context in which you are receiving the information. Again, ambiguity may be present -- and except for specific directives (which should be obvious) use your judgement to help guide you through what will continue to be a sea of often rapidly changing information and circumstances.

Speed in disseminating the most current information to you, and providing our best understanding of how the information affects engineering specifically, will continue to guide us as we communicate with you.

What you need to know:

  • Faculty and staff are encouraged to work from home if they can.
  • Faculty and staff who must be on campus are to practice social distancing, as well as standard prevention procedures.
  • The University remains open. All classes and exams will move online effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
  • Faculty and students abroad have, as have all Canadians, been directed by the Government of Canada to return home.
  • Student Services are closed to walk-in traffic but will remain ‘open” to provide services by phone and online. This is to ensure adherence to social distancing best practice, and encourage students to remain off campus.

Working from Home

We encourage faculty and staff to work from home to ensure the social distancing that will help slow the spread of COVID-19. We understand the closure of schools and childcare centres will be putting extra pressure on parents, especially. Please work with your direct supervisor regarding your plans for remote work.

The University has developed a new guide to working remotely for your reference.

Working Safely on Campus

We recognize there is work that cannot be done remotely and requires that faculty and staff on-site as long as the university campus remains open. In this case you must diligently respect social distancing protocol which means a 2 metre radius (6 feet, 6 inches) around each person, roughly the height of a door, Michael Jordan, or a bit longer than the length of a bed. For advice on effective social distancing in your workspace, visit the Engineering COVID information page.

Faculty and Students Abroad

All Canadians are expected by our government to return home as soon as possible. This has implications for Co-op students and the team is working to support them and their education.

Support for Staff

This is a stressful time for us all and it is important that you look after your mental health as well as your physical health. If you need support remember that you and your family have access to counselling services through the Employee and Family Assistance Program.

Next steps

As the university has identified, future actions decided by the government to curtail the spread of COVID-19 may result in university closure and the suspension of research activities. The faculty leadership is discussing this to ensure we are prepared to quickly and effectively respond to this likelihood with our priority being the safety of people, infrastructure and equipment.

Stay Informed

Updates and notices are available on the Engineering website so visit frequently - Gmail, given increased volumes of traffic, may not be delivering email in a timely or reliable way.

  • General health information about COVID-19 is available at uab.ca/covid19, as is information on the university’s response.

Links to official sources of information:

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Message sent to faculty, staff and graduate students at Engineering at Alberta
March 15, 2020, 6:45 p.m.

This situation is dynamic and information is changing rapidly. Please watch your email regularly for updates.

On Monday (March 16) we strongly recommend that you stay home. If you have the technology to do so, you can work remotely. Watch your email for updates regarding next steps.

Only those people absolutely necessary for the safety of our people, infrastructure and equipment on our campus are required to come to work tomorrow.

What you need to know:

  • Only those people absolutely necessary for the safety of our people, infrastructure and equipment on our campus are required to come to work tomorrow.
  • We encourage all students, including graduate students to practice recommended social distancing and stay away from campus, unless your presence is absolutely necessary for the safety of people, infrastructure and equipment on our campus.
  • The government has announced all post-secondary classes are cancelled. We don’t know what this means for online delivery, so will be moving forward with our decision to offer classes online until we hear otherwise. You will be notified if this changes.
  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health announced effective immediately (Sunday, March 15), student attendance at schools (K-12) is prohibited. All licensed child care facilities, out-of-school care programs and preschool programs are closed indefinitely. There are now 56 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.
  • AHS has an online assessment to help people determine whether they should be tested for COVID-19.

On Monday, March 16 all faculty and staff that are not absolutely essential to onsite operations are to stay home while the faculty leadership determines next steps. If you have the technology to do so, you have the option to work remotely.

With the announcement of school and childcare closures, we recognize we will need to adapt our working situations to accommodate parents who are caring for children. We will be identifying those faculty and staff that are essential and must be present on-site (including research programs) and those who, with the appropriate technology, could work remotely. We will communicate additional information and details as they are determined.

Everyone should continue prevention practices such as hand-washing, social distancing and staying home when sick.

Links to official sources of information:

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Message sent to Faculty and Staff of Engineering at Alberta
March 13, 2020, 3:00 p.m.

What you need to know:

  • The University remains open; all services are available
  • Faculty and staff should report to work as they would normally, unless sick
  • This is a dynamic and extraordinary situation likely to prompt considerable change and increased communications
  • Continue diligence with prevention measures (handwashing, stay home when ill)

In-person classes have been cancelled, however, the University of Alberta remains open and it is “business as usual” with all services are available until we hear otherwise. All faculty and staff are expected to attend work as they would normally, until notified otherwise. However, if you are sick, stay home, notify your supervisor and follow recommendations from Alberta Health Services.

This is a very fluid and stressful situation, and is changing rapidly as governments introduce various measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We will communicate new information and alert to changing circumstances about Engineering when decisions are made and new and relevant information is available. You should also watch vigilantly for communications coming from the University centrally and check uab.ca/covid19 regularly.

Please remember that we are in this together and by working with respect and patience for one another we will ensure the very best outcomes as we continue to change the way we deliver programs to our students under these circumstances.

As always, follow guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus with strategies such as hand washing and avoiding touching your face. Two official sources for information related to COVID-19 are Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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Message sent to the Students of Engineering at Alberta
March 12, 2020, 10:30 p.m.

Today on the advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (MOH) the government is “asking organizations to cancel any events that have more than 250 attendees” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. You can read the government’s announcement here. I understand this advice to mean that we should avoid dense crowds, such as are encountered in classroom settings.

Prompted by the direction from the MOH and to ensure we are doing what is in the best interests of students, faculty and staff, and our families, I have strongly recommended that all engineering classes move to online delivery, as soon as possible, and no later than Tuesday next week. Please note that your instructor may need to pause your classes during the next few days to make the transition. It is my hope any interruption or inconvenience to you will be minimal during the move to online course delivery.

I expect that each of you will receive instructions and guidance on the move to online courses from your individual instructors. In the meantime, you should attend classes as you normally would, but expect the shift to online classes to happen very soon.

These changes are being made in extraordinary circumstances to protect members of our engineering community. With patience and by supporting each other as we adapt course delivery to respond to this pandemic, we will ensure each other’s success.

Thank you,

Fraser

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Fraser Forbes, PhD, PEng, FCAE, ICD.D
Faculty of Engineering
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB, Canada

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Message sent to the Faculty and Staff of Engineering at Alberta
March 12, 2020, 7:45 p.m.

Today on the advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (MOH) the government is “asking organizations to cancel any events that have more than 250 attendees” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. You can read the government’s announcement here. I understand this advice to mean that we should avoid dense crowds, such as are encountered in classroom settings.

Prompted by the direction from the MOH and to ensure we are doing what is in the best interests of students, faculty and staff, and our families, I am strongly recommending that all engineering classes move to online delivery, as soon as possible, and no later than Tuesday next week. If you need to pause your classes during the next few days to make the transition and can do so without disadvantaging our students, please do so.

I know that many of you have already begun the work to facilitate a transition to online courses. Please know that your Department Chair is working closely with the Dean's Office to ensure that we develop the resources to assist instructors and those will be made available quickly. I also encourage faculty members and instructors to ask your colleagues who are already familiar with online teaching technologies, if you need help.

Please ensure that you communicate regularly with your students about your course changes and as you make them. There is much uncertainty and confusion. Let’s try to minimize their stress as much as possible.

With the exception of changing how we deliver classes, we will, until we receive further guidance from the government, operate on a business-as-usual basis for faculty and staff. The university and thus, Engineering at Alberta will remain open -- faculty and staff should continue to attend work as they would normally.

These changes are being made in extraordinary circumstances to protect members of our engineering community. With patience and by helping each other as we transition to the new course delivery model during the pandemic, we will ensure each other’s success.

Thank you,

Fraser

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Fraser Forbes, PhD, PEng, FCAE, ICD.D
Faculty of Engineering
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB, Canada

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