A fall semester like no other

Ever-changing provincial and public health directives. A potential second wave of infections. No current vaccine. A concerned greater Guelph community. These were among the challenges facing University of Guelph leaders as they planned the fall 2020 semester.

“COVID-19 was and continues to be a complex, rapidly changing situation,” says Daniel Atlin, vice-president (external). “It makes planning and decision-making incredibly challenging.”

U of G – along with universities across the province – had to re-evaluate its approach for this fall semester. From late spring until classes began Sept. 10, faculty and staff created a hybrid model of instruction, with most courses being delivered remotely and only limited in-person classes and labs, all following public health and safety protocols.

As a result, there are far fewer people on campus. About 1,000 students are living in residences and in family housing, compared to more than 5,000 in a typical year. Another 10,000 students are estimated to be living in the greater Guelph area.

Some buildings are open only to students and faculty involved in face-to-face classes. However, the campus is open for all students wishing to study, with spaces designated in the University Centre and the library, following appropriate physical distancing and capacity limits.

While it’s a quiet campus, there’s a buzz in new online learning environments and virtual communities.

Numerous innovations were launched to ensure at-home, high-quality learning through new platforms and learning tools intended to offer a vibrant and varied educational experience. Faculty and staff in every college have embraced remote, interactive, multimedia models of online instruction to deliver engaging course material.

“We’ve broken down the walls of the classroom and taken that experience to their computer,” says Prof. Janet Beeler-Marfisi, Department of Pathobiology in the Ontario Veterinary College.

The University also boosted efforts to safeguard student health and well-being, including launching an innovative and interactive safety campaign and developing protocols and guidelines.

Student Wellness is offering vital health and wellness supports, both remotely and in-person, and Student Life has initiated numerous programs to engage and support students.

“We were disappointed that we could not physically welcome most of our students back to campus,” says Carrie Chassels, vice-provost (student affairs).

“However, we worked extremely hard to ensure that there are plenty of opportunities this fall for students to be supported, to get involved and to stay connected.”

For more information go to our Remote Learning at U of G page.