Academic Planning - May 8 2020

Fall 2020

Is there a risk the fall term will be canceled?

McGill is delivering its academic programs and courses at the present time, and we will continue to deliver our academic programs and courses in the fall term. There is no risk that the fall term will be canceled.


When will we know about whether we’ll be teaching and learning on campus in Fall 2020?

This decision has just been announced: courses in the fall term will be primarily delivered through remote platforms. Just the same, we will be actively exploring opportunities for rich and robust on-campus experiences for students who will be in Montreal in the fall term, which can also be replicated for students who are abroad.


How is the decision about teaching this fall being made – who is involved?

As chief academic officer for McGill, academic planning is core to the Provost & Vice-Principal (Academic) (PVPA)’s responsibilities. The PVPA and his team have been immersed in academic planning since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure academic program continuity for students This work has been carried out in collaboration and consultation with multiple University offices and stakeholders.


What factors are being considered in planning for Fall 2020?

The health and safety of our community is our primordial consideration. At the same time, our planning has been guided by 8 key principles:

  1. Remain focused on McGill’s Mission
  2. Ensure continued delivery of academic programs and courses
  3. Innovate within limits, without losing sight of our identity
  4. Maintain high quality teaching and learning
  5. Demonstrate agility and flexibility
  6. Prioritize accessibility
  7. Retain student enrolment and engagement
  8. Communicate clearly and consistently across our community


How are students’ views being considered in decisions about Fall 2020?

Students’ voices have been considered in several ways. Results from a survey sent to all students at the end of the Winter 2020 term will guide ongoing planning for the Fall. The Interim Dean of Students has been meeting the main Student Associations once per week. There have also been students involved as part of Faculty Town Halls. The Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies has been meeting graduate students weekly to hear their concerns. All members of McGill’s administration have heard directly from many students and have appreciated these messages. Looking forward, Teaching and Learning Services will be organizing a platform for engaging students in reference to learning remotely in the Fall term, to be sure their voices are heard. The Executive Director of Student Services is also ensuring close collaboration on topics related to student engagement and experience, and students’ views will be heard as part of that work. Finally, students focus groups have been part of the discussions about convocation planning.


Can we start the fall term remotely, then switch to on-campus classes later, say, if it’s safe to do so in October?

This is unlikely given the challenges that this would present for students who may not make it to Montreal mid-way through the term, on account of international mobility restrictions that may remain in place over the period ahead, but also for domestic students who may not be residing in the Montreal area for the fall term. It is also difficult to plan for a switch to on-campus course activities if, for example, there are public health directives that require the University to put in place other measures that prevent some in-class activities. So many people’s long-term plans are filled with uncertainty. We are aiming to boost stability where we can. Therefore, how we start the fall term for our courses is how we would like to end the fall term.


Admissions & Enrollment

Can the University be more flexible around admission deferrals for Fall 2020?

We are able to accommodate a limited number of admission deferrals each academic year; usually these are for a year or a single term. Please visit this webpage for more information.

In deciding whether to defer, consider the importance of maintaining your study habits and skills, as well as your academic, or learning, momentum and progression. There may also be limited alternatives this fall in terms of the opportunities that a gap year often presents, such as travel or interesting work experiences.

The work that the McGill community is engaged in right now to build a robust remote learning experience for the fall is primed to offer students an experience that will prepare them well for their future careers.


Teaching and Learning

In the event of teaching remotely in the fall, is there a possibility that clinical activities associated with courses could still be done in person?

It may be possible for some clinical activities that do not have a remote alternative to continue, provided such activities can be done safely. Deans will work with the Administration in the coming weeks to determine what activities might be possible to continue in-person. We recognize that in some disciplines (e.g. the health professions), clinical work is necessary for academic continuity.


How will labs and internships work if we’re teaching remotely in the fall?

We are exploring options such as virtual labs, simulations, and multimedia resources. Not all courses will be suited to the same tools or solutions, but the University and professors are committed to ensuring rich and valuable learning experiences for courses with a hands-on component, even in the context of remote delivery.

Many laboratories will be redesigned to ensure they can be offered remotely.

Internships are more difficult to predict because much would depend on the organization that is hosting the internship. Assuming proper safety protocols are in place, it should be possible for many to continue.


If we teach remotely in the fall, does the University intend to boost enrolment caps on courses? Or, will you limit class enrollments for safety reasons?

Given that most of our courses will be delivered remotely, there may be some increases in capacity on some courses, but this must be done carefully and with consideration of demands on the teaching staff. For any activities that might occur in-person, it is predicated that there will be limits in place around the number of students permitted in teaching spaces. Information about this will be determined in the coming weeks.


How will we address academic integrity if assessments are done remotely this fall?

The principles of academic integrity apply to all our courses regardless of the format of delivery. Students are expected to do honest work, and if they are alleged to have violated the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, Disciplinary Officers will investigate. The Interim Dean of Students is in discussion with Disciplinary Officers to ensure there is good understanding of the ways that academic integrity is addressed when students are learning remotely.


How will we support students who must learn remotely but do not have access to proper equipment and technology to do so (e.g., laptops, high-speed wi-fi)?

The University is looking at ways to increase support for students because of the impacts of COVID-19, including challenges related to learning remotely. Students with technological constraints should touch base with the Scholarship & Student Aid Office (SSAO) to discuss the needs. It is also important to recognize that “keeping it simple” is an important principle to follow when Instructors are altering their courses to remote delivery format.


What about time zones for international students?

This is an important consideration as we continue academic planning. Instructors are aware of the challenges students face when learning remotely and will be supported in adapting their courses in light of this; instructors will be encouraged to consider teaching approaches that take into consideration students who are studying in different time zones.


Will our learning be “remote” or “online”? Please explain the difference.

These terms are often used interchangeably. An ‘online course’ is one that has always been designed, from first principles as an online course; it is advertised as such and will always be delivered as an online course. However, we are using the terms ‘remote delivery’, ‘remote learning’, ‘remote instructors’ or distance learning to refer to situations in which a course that is normally delivered in-person is adapted to course delivery through education technology resources. Therefore, the course is ‘online’ but not necessarily designed as an ‘online course’. A course can be of high quality in content and delivery whether it is online or remote-delivery, but the latter is more representative of what many universities are doing for most course adjustments needed because of COVID-19.


Graduate Studies

How can graduate students succeed without access to labs?

The provincial government has authorized a gradual resumption of on-campus research activities. The government has targeted for re-opening research laboratories in the fields of Health, Natural Sciences, Agriculture, Forestry, Engineering, and in cases where research activities depend on seasonal growth. Re-opening of McGill labs will be slow and progressive and will not involve the simultaneous opening of all buildings and all research groups. Graduate students should resume on-campus activities only where these activities will support their progress toward their degree. Progress can still be achieved as students work remotely to complete any remaining course work and work on publications, reports, literature reviews, plan experiments and write portions of their thesis until such time as a return to the lab is possible.


Will remote teaching affect funding for doctoral or other graduate students?

Remote teaching will not affect funding for graduate students. In the FY21 budget, the University has maintained its financial commitment to graduate students.


International mobility

Can some students start their studies without their CAQ or study permit in hand, given that processing times are longer due to COVID-19?




Will residences be open?

Residences will be available to students who need to be on campus; that being said, at this stage, it is not clear what the situation will be for Residences in the fall, including whether current distancing measures will be in place; this may impact which buildings are open, and the level of occupancy allowed.


Can I guarantee my spot in residences if I defer?

Residence room assignments are done on a yearly basis. Accommodations are available in the winter term if space permits.


Can a student who must be in quarantine upon entry into the country for 14 days spend that time in residences?

This will depend on the configuration of our residences and on the quarantine requirements in force in the fall.



Student Experience

Are exchange programs planned for Fall 2020 or Winter 2021 still going ahead?

International travel is among the areas that have a very uncertain outlook. To this end, the University has asked all students with an exchange abroad to also be ready for a backup plan by selecting courses at McGill.


Will events like frosh/orientation be held? How, if we are learning remotely?

We are working closely with students to plan and develop virtual orientation activities. This will be followed by in-person events as restrictions are lifted. We are exploring ways to engage incoming students that include connecting them with returning students and recent grads so that they can gain an understanding of what the McGill experience is in a remote setting. We are also developing virtual communities and activities for both returning and incoming students based on their interests.

We will be reaching out to incoming students after June 1 to hear their voices and gather ideas on student engagement in the new reality. Stay updated by following announcements on Campus Life & Engagement's website.

Faculty Student Associations will similarly need to consider adaptations to Frosh. We expect there to be some in-person activities in the fall on both our campuses, so students who are in the Montreal area can expect to be on campus, providing this can be done safely.


Will varsity sports teams restart in Fall 2020? ­

There is still uncertainty over what varsity seasons will look like for 2020-2021, which will of course have an impact on the teams’ activities.


Library Resources

What library services are available to us during this period?

Library openings remain unknown for now, but when they do open, there may be access restrictions and other protocols in place in ensure that activities can be done safely. This being said, the library is fully open for online/virtual services, and the libraries also recently announced the new HathiTrust emergency service in which two million books from McGill’s print collection will be available online to the community.


Instructor Access and Support

What resources will be in place to support instructors through the Fall 2020 term?

Teaching and Learning Services is working closely with all faculties to ensure instructors have the necessary supports for teaching remotely in the Fall, whether related to pedagogical skills or access to the right kinds of technology and software. Support for instructors is ramping up and concrete resources will be in place as instructors work to adjust their course for the Fall.


Can instructors have access to their offices and classrooms to teach and access materials, even if we teach remotely?

Further information will be forthcoming about instructors’ ability to access physical space in the coming weeks.


If we teach remotely but also offer some in-person experiences, will instructors have to teach two versions of their course – one virtually and one in-person?

Instructors will not be expected to teach two versions of their course. The majority of courses and their components, and certainly lectures, will be delivered remotely as one version of the course. Some class components may be possible to have on campus, if they can be done safely and in a way that ensures students who cannot attend in person are not penalized. Further information will be forthcoming about the protocol to seek permission for exceptional in-person/on-campus teaching activities in Fall 2020.




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