Canadian universities going online
McGill University is one of the Canadian universities going online for the new semester in September 2020. Source: AFP

Last week, news broke of several Canadian universities going online come fall semester. In anticipation of long-term COVID-19 guidelines, learning looks set to continue virtually until provinces declare it safe to return to campus.

Students at McGill University, University of British Columbia, University of Montreal and University of Victoria can expect most of their courses to remain online. They may be able, however, to have smaller classes and attend lab sessions face-to-face.

This decision comes as COVID-19 continues to restrict mass public gatherings, including those in higher learning institutions. Further decisions on what campus sessions will be allowed also depend on the health guidelines at the start of the new academic year.

The Students’ Society of McGill welcomed the decision via vice-president Madeline Wilson. At the same time, she called for more information on chargeable fees in view of limited campus resources, and updates on grade policy.

“It’s very unclear right now what policies will be in place,” Madeline told The Globe and Mail.

These uncertainties may be doubled for international students, especially those who returned home when campuses closed.

Here’s what we know so far from the universities that are going online in fall.

Canadian universities going online — but don’t expect discounts on tuition fees

McGill student groups are calling for tuition fees to be reduced in fall. They do not have access to the type of learning and resources they were being charged for, as many other students across the world have also vocalised.

International students at McGill pay anywhere between CA$18,110 to CA$48,747 in tuition every year, depending on their programme.

Canadian universities going online

The University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Arena. Sports facilities are among the resources students are no longer privy to during the COVID-19 outbreak. Source: Don Emmert/AFP

McGill principal Suzanne Fortier has cleared the air about this issue, saying that tuition fees will remain the same. At the same time, the university is looking into reducing service fees and boosting bursary funds.

Smaller in-person sessions, with distancing measures

Over at the University of British Columbia, president Santa Ono assured faculty and students that classes will largely remain online in September. “Selected smaller classes” will be held in person with social distancing measures in place.

This means only small groups will be allowed on campus. Meetings could be limited to one-on-one guidance and rotated lab sessions. This seems to be the only way more Canadian universities going online can maintain campus activity while social restrictions are in place.

Canadian universities going online

High school and international students starting university in September may well receive a virtual introduction to their higher learning experience. Source: Geoff Robins/AFP

Flexible teaching methods are preferred

As each province follows its own guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, universities will have to base their activity around timely measures. Several universities may take a mixed approach at the start of the academic year.

For instance, flexible model for programme instruction outlined by the University of Montreal rector Guy Breton will require online teaching whenever possible to reduce density on campus. There should only be a few, carefully-selected campus activities.

Most importantly, teaching models should be flexible.

With this in mind, we will likely see more Canadian universities going online for fall 2020.

If you are an international student with plans to make, reach out to your university for updates before summer rolls along.

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