As the province starts to ease some restrictions and reopen certain services across Ontario, colleges and universities are starting to announce plans to bring students back to the classroom while respecting public health measures required by the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
One pattern that is emerging is schools plan on having a mix of both online and in-person lectures in the fall, while also downsizing lecture sizes.
While the end of the COVID pandemic is nowhere in sight, the president of the University of Toronto, Canada's largest university, has shared his plans for resuming classes in the fall and says new and returning students should expect smaller on-campus seminars, classes and labs, alongside larger online or remote classes and lectures.
U of T President Marc Gertler said courses are now being designed to be flexible and accommodating while making use of the latest technologies and approaches to instruction. “The University of Toronto is preparing for a gradual, safe return to our campuses, with as much on-campus activity as is practicable, sensible and safe,” said Gertler.
“As the university develops its plans, we are committed first and foremost to the health and safety of our entire community.”
According to Gertler, the university is developing guidelines for certain areas of research, study and student life. These areas include laboratories, environmental health and safety, student experience, residences, libraries and athletics. Students have been told to keep an eye out for those guidelines in the coming days.
“We do not have all the answers yet, but in the face of a tremendously complex and constantly evolving situation, we will need to be agile and responsive,” Gertler said.
“There may be setbacks and surprises along the way. But in September, as we welcome new and returning students on campus or online, we look forward to resuming the rich, vibrant, and stimulating academic life for which the University of Toronto is so widely recognized,” Gertler said.
Susan McCahan, the university's vice-provost, academic programs and innovations in undergraduate education, said educational technologists are working closely with professors to help them create engaging and stimulating course materials and assessments for the fall semester.
“We have over 100 staff engaged in educational technology across U of T who are working hard to support our instructors in the development, design and delivery of courses,” said McCahan. "In the meantime, faculty remain optimistic about the university’s ability to tackle the crisis and still deliver a “world-class academic experience."
Ryerson University has also confirmed the fall semester will take place and students can expect the "exceptional education and engaging experiences that Ryerson is known for."
Similar to U of T, the majority of Ryerson's course offerings will be online and the university says it will continue to "explore and plan" for a potential mix of online and in-person classes. "We will also offer as many on campus activities as provincial and public health guidelines permit, along with an array of online extra-curricular programming and academic supports," said Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson University President and Vice-Chancellor.
"As we finalize plans for our fall term, our priority remains the continued health and safety of our community and making sure that you are aware of developments as they happen," said Lachemi.