In a letter sent to staff this week, Queen’s University said it was planning to do most of its teaching remotely in the fall semester due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
“In preparing for the fall term, we need to ensure we are ready for the likely possibility that we will face significant restrictions on classroom space given the anticipated need for physical-distancing measures. As such, most course delivery will need to be done through remote means in the fall, even if students are physically present in Kingston,” the letter said.
There’s no word from the province on what restrictions will be in place come September. Although Ontario is slowly lifting COVID-19 restrictions in May, there is a possibility that gatherings like those at universities like Queen’s will still not be allowed.
There are also significant fears that reopening communities across the world could bring a second wave of the virus, causing significant lockdowns in the fall when the usual cold and flu seasons start to ramp up.
Back in late April, Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for KFL&A Public Health, said he had advised post-secondary institutions in his region to continue the distance and online learning that they implemented in March.
Moore stated again on Wednesday public health’s concern about having a large amount of students gathering together on campus in the fall.
There was no official word from the university on whether that advice was going to be implemented until the letter sent out to staff this week, which acknowledges that most classes will have to be done online.
Nevertheless, the letter also noted that there will be efforts to have as many students on campus as safely as possible and to keep some teaching in classrooms if allowed by the province.
“Should a significant number of students be able to return to campus in the fall, there may be opportunities for limited, in-person, course-related activities (e.g., a guest lecture or a lab demonstration in a large auditorium, or small in-person seminars or program offerings),” the letter said.
If current two-metre physical-distancing restrictions are still in place come fall, Queen’s said it would only be able to use about 10 to 25 per cent of its current classroom capacity.
That space would be dedicated to priority programs such as medicine, nursing and rehabilitation therapy — programs that Queen’s says require on-campus delivery for clinical training.
Certain research graduate master’s, PhD and some professional graduate and second entry programs, such as law, might be able to use classrooms next fall as well.
“These programs will likely need a combination of on-campus and remote delivery models to accommodate on-site access needs regarding labs and other critical teaching and research resources that cannot be accessed remotely,” the letter said.
Nevertheless, it seems like the post-secondary institution is erring on the side of caution when it comes to fall plans.
The university is, therefore, preparing to shore up their online learning programs so that they are “more advanced than those developed on short notice in March,” the letter noted.