Sask. universities planning for remote learning in the fall, renovations to continue for P.A. campus

(Herald file photo)

Both of Saskatchewan’s universities are planning to deliver classes mostly remotely in the fall semester.

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and the University of Regina (U of R) provided updates on plans for September on Tuesday.

The U of S said it’s planning for “primarily remote online learning,” with limited classroom, lab, clinical and physical instruction where circumstances allow. The university said it’s consulting with public health officials and the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

In an email, a spokesperson said renovations on the Prince Albert campus will continue for the time being, and more information about the programming will be available in the coming weeks.

The public update said it’s recently developed a Pandemic Response Team (PRT) to lead the planning for programming and research in the fall term.

Initially, the PRT’s work includes finalizing a September 2020 implementation plan in consultation with all areas across the university and public health.

“The goal is to have the fall implementation plan finalized and approved by the end of May,” said the statement.

“Deans, associate deans, and graduate chairs are working with department heads and others to identify the programming that will be done remotely, as well as academic programming elements and research that require an in-person mode of delivery.”

The U of S said decisions on the delivery of courses will not be made by individual faculty or instructors, but through a decision-making process mapped out in the PRT’s implementation plan. This is because the university is required to adhere to all public health guidelines and given the need for mandatory safety protocols.

“More information about the PRT and its mandate, current timelines, and the decision-making principles, parameters and process for determining academic program, research activity and campus operations plans will be posted in the coming weeks,” said the statement.

“The health and safety of our campus community has been our primary focus throughout this pandemic, and will continue to be our top priority as we plan for a limited and very cautious reopening of our campuses in the fall.”

The U of R’s COVID-19 update on its website said staff are “now developing principles and protocols that will guide a cautious approach to Fall 2020 course delivery,” also in consultation with health officials.

“As of today, 12 May, a continuation of the remote delivery we are now using offers students in the fall term the best chance of academic success as we navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the global pandemic,” said the university.

“The situation is fluid, changing daily. As it changes, we will communicate with you.”

The U of R said the Academic Incremental Recovery (AIR) group—which is chaired by Interim Provost david Gregory and has broad campus representation—will be working on how courses will be delivered for the next several weeks.

Developments throughout the pandemic could cause adjustments to timelines and details of how courses are delivered.

The announcements come less than a week after the province’s post-secondary institutions—Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the U of S and the U of R—said students won’t have to pay a hike in tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year.

Both universities are conducting classes remotely for the current spring term and the upcoming summer term.