The University has undertaken extensive planning this year to support a safe and gradual return to York’s campuses. Our plans have enabled us to increase in-person courses from around 5 per cent in summer to 33 per cent in the fall, and all buildings on York’s campuses are now open, including offices and research spaces.
The combination of our safety protocols, along with optimistic public health indicators, improving vaccination rates and forecasts from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table, provide a level of assurance that we can proceed with the planned full return to on-campus academic activities for the winter 2022 term. (See the Senate Executive communication published on October 7, 2021).
Key components of winter term planning
I would encourage all community members to refer to the Senate Executive update for further details, but in brief, the winter term projections allow us to plan for a student learning experience that looks much closer to what was possible prior to the onset of the pandemic.
Under this scenario, courses are being planned without class size caps or temporal gaps between classes. We know that students and instructors alike share a deep appreciation of the tremendous value of in-person instruction to achieve student learning outcomes, engagement, connection and overall well-being. We expect mask protocols among other health and safety measures to remain in place, and ask for everyone’s cooperation in continuing to observe them now and into the winter term.
There will be a small amount of flexibility for continued remote learning this winter. Many programs will continue to offer online courses or components (as they did prior to the start of the pandemic), to accommodate the diverse needs of students and to enrich the student learning experience. We have also learned a great deal about technology-enhanced learning these past 19 months, and some colleagues are planning to pilot new e-learning methodologies this winter for potential longer-term adoption.
Such long-term changes to courses and/or programs do however require appropriate governance approval in contrast to the emergency remote teaching implemented in response to the pandemic. To facilitate the sharing of high-quality pedagogical innovation, and to develop recommendations for the University beyond the pandemic, the Provost will be establishing a collegial Task Force on the Future of Learning at York University. More information on this will be shared shortly, and colleagues who are interested in participating should contact the Provost’s Office directly.
In the short term, some important reminders regarding the winter term are
- Any changes to the course calendar for winter must be submitted to the respective Dean’s or Principal’s Offices no later than October 27.
- The agreement of a Dean, Principal or designate is required for any temporarily elevated levels of online or remote course delivery that exceed an increase of 15% relative to what was offered by the unit or program before the pandemic.
- As supported by Senate Executive, planning is underway to further increase study spaces for students, improve technical support in classrooms and teaching supports for course directors, and to further reinforce the University’s health and safety measures on campus, including daily screening and mask wearing.
- Instructors who wish to seek medical or family status accommodations for the winter term should contact their Dean’s Office, or the Office of Health, Safety and Employee Well-Being.
As always, our plans continue to be informed by the Ontario Government, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Toronto Public Health. In the event that guidance from these authorities changes, we will adapt plans accordingly, including reinstating additional emergency measures, if required.
I want to thank you all once again for your ongoing commitment to upholding a community of care while on York’s campuses and for continuing to use YU Screen daily to screen for COVID-19 symptoms. Please continue to visit the Better Together site for the latest updates.
I look forward to seeing more of the York community safely on our campuses this winter.
President & Vice-Chancellor