Fall 2021 Planning Update

Provost Steven Dew shares an update on the U of A's current planning status and approach for the 2021-22 academic year.


Dear members of the U of A community,

Over the past weeks we’ve heard from our public health experts and policy makers about the next steps we need to take towards COVID-19 recovery. I’ve heard from many of you, too, encouraged by recent progress and keen to hear about the university’s plans for the Fall 2021 semester as you consider options in the months ahead. Today, I’d like to bring you an update on our current planning status and the approach we will be taking for the U of A’s 2021-22 academic year.

Welcoming back the next phase of our on-campus community

While a complete return to normal from the COVID-19 crisis is unlikely by September, we plan to welcome a significantly increased number of our university community members back to our campuses this autumn. We are optimistic that Alberta’s expanded vaccine rollout and anticipated steps forward will provide the atmosphere we need to safely offer face-to-face undergraduate and graduate courses, research, and related support services across all of our campuses. These, plus some public health controls, such as masking policies, physical distancing limits, travel restrictions, are likely to make this possible. 

Larger spaces for smaller classes

We expect to continue with a combination of in-person and remote course delivery, with increased in-person and blended learning that take full advantage of classroom spaces across our campuses. Academic planners, faculty organizers, and instructors are currently working with campus health and safety experts to assess all classroom, lab, studio, research, work-integrated learning opportunities, and student service possibilities for the fall. This planning may determine that larger classes will be offered online or through simultaneous remote and in-person teaching, while smaller classes will have the opportunity to attend in-person. Our class size limits will be determined by Alberta’s indoor gathering limits, related public health restrictions, and the university’s risk assessment.

Guided by safety, sustainability, and student support and success 

Over the next two months, as we look at possibilities for the 2021-22 year, university planners will be guided by the following principles: 

  • Protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff.
  • Supporting continuity in the delivery method of classes throughout the term.
  • Supporting student program completion and program progression.
  • Supporting equity of access for students, regardless of where they are located or the resources they possess.
  • Making sustainable choices.
  • Focusing on the student experience by maximizing in-person learning and continuing to improve online learning experience; where possible, in-person learning will be prioritised for first and second-year undergraduate students, smaller graduate classes, students completing their programs, and courses that cannot be taught remotely.

Fall 2021 registration begins mid-May; course delivery format available by April 26

To help students make the best decisions for their courses, we’ve taken the exceptional step this year of delaying our Fall 2021/Winter 2022 registration to start mid-May. By that time, students will know their anticipated course schedules and locations as the delivery formats of courses will be available in Bear Tracks by April 26. May registration dates will be sent directly to students in April.

Flexibility is key—for you and for the university community

During the pandemic, circumstances can still change quickly—for travellers, gatherings, and close contacts. It is important that we continue to be prepared and ready to adapt as necessary at the individual, group, and community level. Throughout 2021-22, we will continue to offer academic support and accommodations whenever possible for remote and isolated students. We will also explore equipping more classrooms with the ability to offer simultaneous remote and in-person teaching. And finally, we will be as responsive as possible to evolving public health restrictions, including measures relating to travel, gathering in groups, and physical distancing. As public health measures continue to be opened up, we will make all efforts to continue to grow our on-campus community in 2021-22. By January 2022, if not sooner, we anticipate being back to our regular campus routines.

My thanks to all of our students for your continued patience and determined commitment to your academic careers during these trying times. And, my gratitude to our academic planners, faculty organizers, instructors, and tremendous support community, as they take on this extraordinary planning challenge over the next couple of months.

At our heart, we are a campus culture and community. Shared learning, teaching, working, and living spaces and experiences remain integral to the university and the U of A experience. We are one step closer to being together in classrooms, conference rooms and on campus again.

Steven Dew
Provost & Vice-president (Academic)

Additional Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 information will be posted on Campus Life and COVID-19 Response websites and distributed to U of A students and employees as it becomes available.