Posted: March 13, 2020
A message from Maureen Mancuso, interim provost and vice-president: academic
As the global health crisis escalates daily, the University continues to face difficult decisions. The situation in which we now find ourselves is uncharted territory—not unimaginable, as warnings about potential pandemics have long been a factor in institutional contingency plans—but still unprecedented in its scope and impact. The past few days have witnessed widespread and coordinated recognition that large gatherings of people and intensive in-person social interaction—activities that are inherent in campus life—should be curtailed to limit the impact of the pandemic we are now confronting.
Therefore, in order to best protect the health and well-being of students, staff, faculty, and members of the community on and around campus, the university will discontinue in-person instruction for all courses* effective Monday, March 16 at 8:30 a.m. for the remainder of the Winter 2020 term. All instructors are required to hold at least one technology-enabled class meet or communication (Microsoft Teams, MyLearningSpace chat, email, etc., as appropriate to the course) no later than March 20. During that meet or communication with class members, instructors will explain their plan for alternative instruction or assessment to enable students to fulfill learning outcomes and receive course credits for Winter 2020. If the instructor decides to revise their grade distribution or assignments for the course, they must make their revised course syllabus available to the students enrolled in their class. Faculty decisions will be guided by the principles of ensuring the preservation of academic standards and providing the maximum degree of academic continuity possible.
Students may leave campus and return home as of now. We encourage those who can go home, to do so, as we believe this is in their own and their family members’ best interests, but the university will remain open and functional, and will provide support for those who must remain on campus. Regardless of their location, students will be informed that they are still expected to complete outstanding assignments and projects, with appropriate adjustments as necessary given the situation, as determined by their instructors. There are a variety of ways that outstanding course material can be covered during this period: instructors can distribute materials or lecture notes electronically, online discussion sessions can be hosted via Teams or MyLearningSpace, additional assigned reading or assignments could be substituted for cancelled lectures, and so on. In some cases, an instructor may decide that no provision for the further delivery of course material needs to be made, though students will still need to submit outstanding assignments. Details for each course will be determined by the instructor as appropriate, and institutional technical and logistical support will be made available as needed to assist in reducing impact.
Earlier this week, I asked faculty to begin considering possible options for final exams and determination of course grades in the event of a disruption. It has become clear that it is now time to begin implementing those options, including but not limited to changing from in-person finals to take-home exams, assignments, or final papers. As noted above, instructors will need to inform their students of the arrangements they decide on. Should the arrangements they make involve changes to assignments, grade weighting or learning outcomes, instructors are required to provide their students and their department chairs (or equivalent) with a copy of the revised syllabus. Faculty are encouraged to consult with their Dean and/or Associate Dean regarding academic questions and are reminded that Petitions Committees will be asked by students to make decisions on exceptions to academic requirements.
Students, faculty or staff who have questions or concerns about the impact of these modifications to the winter term should consult the Novel Coronavirus information page for the most current information. During regular business hours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We cannot pretend that these response measures will all proceed smoothly and problem-free; this is a scenario that we may have anticipated in outline, but with which no one has experience in any detail. Balancing the protection of public health with the preservation of academic continuity will not be easy, but it is something that I believe the Laurier community can accomplish with its signature grace, equanimity, and understanding. Even though a primary theme of the next several weeks will be to keep ourselves largely separated from one another physically, it is through working together for the common good and common goals that we will meet this challenge.
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