Back to school: Here's what UBC, SFU have planned for the fall semester
VANCOUVER -- This back-to-school season will look a little different for students at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.
In the schools' latest updates on the response to COVID-19, both universities outlined some of the changes the school will be making ahead of September.
One of the most impactful changes is that both institutions are offering mostly online classes, instead of in person, largely due to physical distancing and other public health guidelines meant to flatten the COVID-19 curve.
While some of B.C.'s restrictions are loosening in the coming days and weeks, no timeline has been given for the ease of a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people.
UBC's message from president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono was posted online, but was also sent to faculty, staff and students in Vancouver and at UBC's Okanagan campus.
Ono said select smaller classes will still meet in person, with students and teachers expected to adhere to those guidelines.
"We will maintain a clear focus on ensuring high-quality face-to-face instruction, where possible, and high-quality remote instruction," Ono wrote in the online update.
He said individual faculties within the school will give updates to students on specific programs in the coming weeks.
Details on whether students will be able to live in residences will be provided when confirmed, Ono said, and the school acknowledges travel restrictions may have an impact on international students.
The school's plan for those students will also be shared when available.
SFU's vice-president of academic and provost Jonathan Driver said in a similar post that in-class learning will take place when classes "cannot easily be replicated" online. Some examples include lab-based classes, field trips and graduate classes where in-person participation is necessary.
He also said some extra-curriculars, such as co-op and recreation, may be able to go ahead if they follow the health and safety guidelines.
A national group representing students said there are concerns about accessing virtual classes.
"We take for granted in urban communities that everyone is wired with an internet connection, but for many Canadians, that is not the case," said Kaylin McClusky, executive director of Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. "We know that many students rely on campus resources to connect, whether that be Wi-Fi or even computer access for some."
A survey commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Federation of Students found a significant number of students are reconsidering their plans for the fall semester, some even considering dropping out because of income loss and concerns about the quality of online learning.
"Students and their families are worried about their health, the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty about how classes will be taught in the fall," said CAUT executive director David Robinson in a news release. "Among those students who say they will still be able to afford their tuition fees and living costs, a large number — about 75 per cent — are worried that distance learning will create a poor learning experience."