Stages of reopening are guided by Provincial recommendations and guidelines, but USask may decide to move more conservatively in some areas to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

USask is currently in Stage 3 of reopening.

Introduction

There has been much complexity in working through the best course of action for academic programming in the fall of 2020 and winter 2021 and yet notably, there has been much hard work and dedication on the part of all of those involved. An Academic Planning Task Force led to the development of four sub-group clusters of planning activity: (1) Health Sciences, (2) Direct Entry, (3) Graduate programming, and (4) Law. Each of these sub-groups is chaired by Vice-Provost Patti McDougall, with the graduate programming group co-chaired by CGPS Dean Trever Crowe. Membership on subgroups 1, 2, and 4 has included associate deans academic/students with resource personnel. Subgroup 3 includes associate deans research/graduate studies plus a collection of graduate chairs.

A key activity of the planning process has been to identify what program aspects can be delivered remotely and what programming elements require consideration and necessary logistical planning for delivery in-person. Decision-making in this regard follows the Framework for a Staged Approach to Increasing Activity in University Spaces. The fundamental principle has been that if a class or program element can be delivered remotely, it should be delivered remotely. Any recommendations for face-to-face delivery were questioned and tested to establish the exceptional nature of recommendation . The bar for face-to-face delivery was deliberately set very high to remain aligned with relevant public health directives and to acknowledge that in-person delivery will necessitate extensive logistical coordination around adherence to safety protocols (e.g., required PPE, social distancing, hand washing, temperature checks, etc.). Face-to-face delivery will only be possible in a limited fashion.

With regard to academic programming being offered through remote delivery, additional consideration and planning has been invested into such things as:

  1. good practice guidelines
  2. technology and accessibility
  3. needed support for faculty and instructors as they develop learning resources for their class offering.

Goal(s)

The University of Saskatchewan seeks to offer engaging and robust learning experiences across all our colleges and schools for undergraduate, graduate and non-credit students while maintaining the safety and security of all university members. The desire to optimize and elevate student achievement and student success is a key driver in our decision-making.

Resources/Supports

There are numerous people and units supporting the implementation plan for academic programming.

  • TLSE units (including but not limited to Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, Distance Education Unit, Media Production, Strategic Enrolment Management)
    • Extensive web-based resources are available to support faculty, instructors with development and delivery and to support students in their learning and development.
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
  • Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement (and Office)
  • Vice-Provost, Faculty Relations
  • University Library (including Student Learning Services)
  • Residences (and other ancillary services including but not limited to the Bookstore)
  • Procurement
  • Student Leaders
  • Facilities (Services)
  • Safety Resources

This planning work is being done with strong connection to the PRT (the Advisory Hub), and the COT. It is important to note that the adoption and support of a new learning management system (Canvas) stands as an added resource to this segment of the Implementation Plan given the expectation that Canvas is easier to use and has better functionality for the university’s needs. Although the university will continue to support BlackBoard as a tool for those who wish to use it for a long transition period, early signs about the appeal of Canvas from faculty and students are promising.

Roles and Responsibilities

In the “Process” section of the University’s Framework for Increased Activity, there is clear insight about how decisions are made that are relevant to the implementation planning (see Appendix B of the Framework for decisions around mode of class delivery).

  • Vice-Provost, Teaching, Learning, and the Student Experience (VP-TSLE) serves as the Provost’s designate in leading the academic planning for 2020-21
    • The VP-TLSE is also responsible for organizing and mobilizing any and all needed supports from within the TLSE

  • Planning sub-groups (Associate Deans Academic/Students; Associate Deans Research/Graduate Studies; some graduate chairs)
    • Have been following principles approved by PEC within the COVID-19 Phase II Task Force recommendations and now included within the Implementation Plan
    • Provided advice on how decisions about class delivery should be made
    • Collect and represent information on program requirements for 2020-21 with a particular focus on identifying classes offered remotely versus classes where the recommendation for consideration by the dean is for in-person delivery
    • Assist in developing elements of the logistics plan where courses are recommended to be delivered in-person
    • Identify and facilitate supports needed for faculty and instructors in the development of learning resources

  • On the basis of recommendations from department heads, deans make decisions regarding the delivery format of classes for 2020-21.

  • COT (representatives) provide logistical guidance related to the delivery of classes in a face-to-face format

  • PRT provides advice to the VP-TLSE on all matters related to the Implementation Plan and a representative from PRT will provide direct input into the Academic Advisory group that looks at consistency, coordination and logistics for face-to-face delivery

  • USSU Executive members providing insights and guidance and will participate in task groups that emerge from the Implementation Plan

Key Assumptions

    • Enhanced learning experiences and a richness in student life is possible in the current environment

    • The University of Saskatchewan will achieve a high quality of learning experience through remote delivery and it is entirely possible to deliver on diverse learning outcomes, including experiential learning, through virtual channels. Creativity, solution-finding and new energy are required at this time.

    • For the fall of 2020 and winter 2021, remote delivery is the safest approach and as such where we can deliver programming remotely, we should be delivering remotely.
      • Perceptions of safety on campus during the pandemic are a key decision driver for students and for parents (as seen in national survey data shared by Universities Canada)

    • In-person delivery will only be approved and implemented when necessary and only when safeguards can be guaranteed. Our processes for implementing face-to-face classes will need to adhere to provincial public health guidelines.
      • Decisions to offer classes in a face-to-face format must focus on the learning outcomes and the type of learning and will not be based on class size.
      • Different types of learning were considered as possible candidates for face-to-face delivery but were not automatically granted in-person delivery standing given other necessary considerations (e.g., space needs, logistical feasibility). These types included for example:
        • hands on use of specialist equipment or artefacts, (e.g., lab)
        • use of specialist software
        • direct interaction with people/animals (e.g., performance, lab)
        • experience in purpose-dedicated space (e.g., performance related, studio)
        • experience in specialist location (e.g., field)

    • Some of the decisions about learning opportunities are outside the university’s control (e.g., clinical placement in and outside the hospital, school practicum).
  • Communication with stakeholders, general and students in particular, is critical. The sooner the university can share information about how the course delivery will look the better off we will be in terms of encouraging enrolment and reducing anxieties. Given that remote delivery does not require permission, it makes sense to share what we know when we can (e.g., announcements about first year direct entry).
    • This communications work will be undertaken through a variety of sources and channels including the TLSE and central communications as well as colleges and the Office of the Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement.
  • We will not shift strategies in the middle of the term from remote to in-person delivery thereby requiring students to move to Saskatoon (or another USask campus) without appropriate time for students to plan.

  • As we consider and predict enrolment declines for varying reasons, we must put renewed energy into activities and initiatives that encourage enrolment.

  • Using the principles of the student learning and development cycle we assume that different students will need different things from us for the fall and winter, and this period of a pandemic is no exception. Separate and focused working groups have turned their attention to:
    • Students will require new types of supports from us and will need to receive these supports in both old and new ways.
    • Certain students, including but not limited to Indigenous and international students, will need continued attention to ensure they receive the right supports at the right times.
    • In-coming recent graduates of high school may need our support in different ways given the truncated nature of their Grade 12 year

  • We work in partnership with student leaders and associations when it comes to building robust student life. The USSU is actively engaged in discussions on student life and addressing potential challenges for students.

  • Regardless of the plan for academic programming in the fall and winter, we will need to be ready to step back from all in-person delivery if health circumstances shift and enhanced restrictions become necessary

  • Adequate technology and access are key for students to be successful.

  • As we complete our planning, there is a pressing need to also make decisions about and plan for furture terms.

Plan/Logistics

  • Course inventories across all health science programs (Appendix D for example) and for graduate program offerings have been used to identify: (1) any course where there is a proposed need for in-person delivery so that further analysis could be undertaken, (2) any course offered remotely that might need a “more-than-typical” level of support for the instructor to build and deliver. In undergraduate direct entry colleges and in law the compilation of needed information about (1) and (2) above has happened under the oversight of the college leadership.

The logistics for in-person delivery:

  • Based on advice and guidance from COT, we need to determine a set of standard “rules” when it comes to in-person delivery. This will include leveraging the Short CoVID-19 Health and Safety Online Course, as well as symptoms checklists and/or screening questions, and cleaning logs.

  • Together with COT and PRT supports, we need to develop a plan regarding use of buildings and spaces within buildings. Some of the key areas identified immediately for fall and winter program delivery include (but are not limited to):
    • Clinical Learning Resource Centre
    • Health Sciences Building
    • Veterinary Medicine Hospital and building

  • Attention is also required to evaluate and support students who are completing degree requirements offsite of the university campus (e.g., practicum experiences). Recommendations and guidelines for these academic experiences are being developed for use by academic units.

The logistics for remote delivery:

  • We have been working on a multi-level plan regarding remote access and technology plans for the following groups:
    • Rural and remote students (with a particular focus on Indigenous students living on reserve)
    • International students in China

  • Continued work to support faculty in learning resource development and remote delivery (e.g., use of technology, options within remote delivery, building tools, demonstrating tools, assisting with the development of new content).

  • Continued work to support student success in an on-line environment (e.g., front end modules developed by Student Learning Services and the Distance Education Unit about how to be successful in a remote class).

  • In response to the abrupt end to the 2019-20 academic year for high school students, one element of our enhanced student supports will be to provide “modules” in three sciences and math over the summer months. This opportunity will position students for success in first year by providing curriculum designed to give confidence in content mastery prior to commencing first year study.

The logistics of supports to students (online and potentially in-person depending on public health regulations):

  • We need to determine which support services must be open on-site as part of the Framework for Increasing Activity and there needs to be some prioritization around which of the support services would remain as remote offerings.

  • Prepare to respond to the return of students onto campus and determine the appropriate ordering for re-opening in person (subject to approvals).

  • When the number of international and Indigenous students on campus starts to increase, we need to explore access to the centres. We need to be sure to serve the needs of these students while also recognizing that our centres are gathering spaces (that we may not be able to use as gathering spaces for the near future).

  • We will want to have places for student communities to come together for academic, social, and ceremonial purposes, but they need to be virtual not physical gatherings for a period of time.

  • As it becomes possible, we need to be looking to create suitable and safe study spaces (e.g., Main Library) and the University Library will be engaged in planning around increased activity.

External Relations/Partnerships

  • City of Saskatoon
  • Post-Secondary Counsellors (FSIN)
  • FSIN and Métis Nation of Saskatchewan Leadership, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Prince Albert Grand Council Leadership
  • School Boards
  • Health practitioners who host our students in clinic placements (outside the SHA)
  • Other external partners who host our students in practicum settings
  • SHA
  • Medical Health Officer
  • IRCC and provincial government colleagues focused on international students