Why has McGill decided that courses with an enrolment of over 200 students will be taught remotely in the Winter 2022 term?

During the Fall 2021 semester, the threshold for teaching remotely was 150 students enrolled in the course. McGill increased this threshold to 200 students for the Winter 2022 semester. Given concerns expressed by some students in F21 whose courses were entirely online, this increased threshold allows a greater number of students to have access to in-person curricular opportunities. By increasing our threshold to enrolments of 200, there are about 600 students who will have only online lectures in the W22 term. If the threshold had stayed at 150, over 1000 additional students would have only online courses.

This being said, the pandemic is not over, and it is important to remain vigilant. Having some larger lectures online for winter allows for more options for contingency planning, if necessary. Some students will still have only online classes in the Winter term, and we will be doing ongoing work to make sure that these students will have access to other in-person academic activities.

Is it possible for instructors to teach their classes both remotely and in person at the same time?

The Ad Hoc Committee is looking at multiple ways to support instructors who wish to ‘live stream’ their courses, what we are calling ‘online synchronous participation’. More information about this will be forthcoming. This is one way for instructors to accommodate students who cannot attend class due to incidental absences related to COVID-19. It is important to note that online synchronous participation is not the same as a ‘hybrid’ classroom since, in the former case, the experience for students learning remotely is different than it is for those who are in class.

Hybrid teaching across McGill is not feasible, notably since many courses and programs cannot be offered virtually (e.g., clinical training, or laboratories that require hands-on training). For other courses, a great deal of work, planning, and technical capacity is required, and McGill currently cannot support this kind of teaching, notwithstanding the efforts being made to ensure accommodations for students, as set out above.

What kind of accommodations can be offered to students who might have to self-isolate while awaiting a COVID test result?

As of the start of the Fall 2021 term, a process has been in place to receive academic accommodation requests from students arising from incidental absences due to COVID-19. This centralized process begins with a form filled out on Minerva (under the personal menu), which is sent to the Office of the Dean of Students, where a triage process has been put in place. Depending on the nature of the request, it may be addressed by the Office of the Dean of Students or dispatched to different units or Faculties, or the Office of Students with Disabilities, if necessary. McGill’s COVID Case Management Team is also notified if a student discloses a positive Covid test result, or symptoms, as part of their request for accommodation. This process will continue for the Winter 2022 term.

The types of accommodations will depend on the teaching context and on the course’s learning outcomes and envisaged key competencies. Recorded lectures are a very important way to ensure students who miss class can still access content, so McGill strongly encourages professors to take up this practice whenever possible. Instructors can also consider extensions to assignments, or perhaps setting up some technology to allow a student to participate remotely (‘online student participation’).

Can instructors offer their courses in a hybrid model if they want to?

All instructors are responsible for their courses and can adopt new approaches to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in support of course objectives and their own pedagogical design. While true ‘hybrid teaching’ is not centrally supported at the University, some instructors have adopted approaches to teaching that allow students to participate remotely (what we are calling ‘online synchronous participation’). There are ongoing efforts to provide additional resources for instructors who are interested in this approach for the Winter term. Online learning components for courses can be integrated into teaching activities provided the parameters outlined in the Course Delivery for Winter 2022 Terms of Reference are followed. These terms of reference can be found in the October 29 Ad Hoc Committee meeting minutes.

I am unclear about the various terms that are used to describe different types of teaching in the pandemic context. What is the difference between remote, hybrid, and online teaching?

Since the onset of the pandemic there’s been a proliferation in the terminology we use to describe different modalities of teaching and delivering courses. Here are some definitions, which are also found on the TLS website.

Blended learning refers to teaching and learning activities made up of a combination of online and in-person course components, both of which are necessary for students to achieve the learning outcomes of the course. The online components may be synchronous (e.g., delivered ‘live’ via Zoom), or asynchronous (e.g., pre-recorded and available for students to access at their convenience).

A Flipped classroom is a kind of blended learning where students engage in learning activities such as doing readings, completing individual learning activities, and perhaps viewing pre-recorded lectures outside class time, and class time is designed for learning activities that require interaction and inquiry.

Online course (or Online course component) refers to a course (or part of a course) that has been expressly designed for online delivery through the intentional implementation of instructional activities and selected technologies that support the achievement of course learning outcomes. Students have advanced knowledge that their course (or course component) has been designed for online delivery.

Remote delivery or Remote instruction refers to a situational need to deliver a course online that would normally be delivered in person. During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote instruction happened largely through lectures delivered over Zoom instead of in person and, in some cases, with the implementation of additional technologies on an ad hoc basis.

Hybrid (often referred to as Hyflex elsewhere) refers to a class where some students are physically present and others attend virtually at the same time with all students having the same opportunities to participate and engage in the classroom activities. Hybrid classes require technologies not readily available in most McGill classrooms and it demands additional instructor support for course planning and delivery.

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