Biology at McGill - plans for Fall 2020

Greetings from McGill Biology!  We hope that you and your loved ones are well and safe.

We wanted to reach out during these uncertain times and let you know how excited we are for the upcoming academic year.  The Biology department is hard at work developing new content and programming that can be delivered effectively online.  Throughout the summer, we will be posting periodic updates to keep you informed of what’s happening at McGill and in the department, ranging from review material to help you prepare for Fall semester to the latest research results from our diverse faculty.  We look forward to welcoming new and returning students to participate in the vibrant community within our department and across the University. 

Stay safe, take care and we’ll be in touch again soon!

Biology Fall 2020 Planning Committee
(Profs. Graham Bell, Jon Sakata, Alanna Watt, Stephanie Weber & Tamara Western)

Questions & Answers:

Will you be offering all of your usual Fall courses?

Yes – absolutely! However, as specified by the Faculty of Science, for reasons of safety and equity, all of our courses in Fall 2020 will be delivered remotely.

What are your remote courses going to look like?

For accessibility, our courses will include a combination of pre-recorded background material, interactive sessions during the scheduled lecture times, and flexibly scheduled smaller group office hours and/or conferences with the course professors and staff to allow for personal connection. In addition, all live sessions will be recorded and posted on myCourses, and extra review materials will be available.

We are designing course assessments that will be spread across the term and include integrative assignments to engage students in authentic scientific thinking.

For those students already registered in Biology courses, all of our course pages will be available on myCourses starting June 1 and will include a course plan for the fall to give you more information for each course. Short versions of all Fall 2020 course plans will soon be available in the Biology 2020-21 Bluebook-Remote Learning Edition.

You may also wish to check out these videos on the plans for various courses - please see the complete list further down on this page.

How can you offer laboratory courses and laboratory portions of courses remotely?

For BIOL 206, professors and TAs are re-envisioning the course to be delivered online, but retain the breadth of experience in sampling and data analysis offered from the case studies. Each case study is different, so we have different ideas for each one, but we are trialing some in-your-backyard biology and technology to make the Redpath museum come to your living room. Fortunately, our last module is on ‘big data’, so that’s relatively easy!  We are also very interested in how to best do statistics remotely, and we are exploring all possibilities. The course will be an adaptable mix of short pre-recorded content videos, live sessions, and virtual laboratory sessions with TAs. How can you offer lab courses section?  See here!

The professors of BIOL 301 are thinking about a number of ways to teach core scientific principles and practices, including hypothesis generation, experimental design, remote data collection, data simulations, data analysis, and scientific communication.  For example, students will: 

  • perform immersive, case study-based simulations to introduce experimental techniques
  • design experiments that will be carried out by lab staff and then analyze their “own” results (“remote data collection”)
  • work on protocol development and/or trouble-shooting of experiments that have failed in the past
  • work in mentored teams to do “choose your own adventure” case studies based on publicly available data and open science initiatives

In summary, while it won’t be the same as doing hands-on molecular biology (e.g., holding the micropipettor yourself), BIOL 301 will continue to be inquiry-based, interactive, comprehensive, authentic, and fun! How can we offer our BIOL 301 lab course? See here!

[CLICK HERE to view all Course videos offered in Biology and the Faculty of Science]

Where can I go to get questions answered about Biology courses?

  1. Check out the McGill Biology Yammer community (login with your McGill email)
  2. Contact Nancy Nelson (nancy.nelson [at]
  3. Check myCourses pages & discussion groups for relevant courses
  4. Email profs directly with course number in the subject line
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