Dear University of Lethbridge Community,
Earlier this spring, the University of Lethbridge, like most post-secondary institutions in Canada, made the historic decision to move its classes online. This decision was made with the safety of our students, faculty and staff as our top priority. Today, we are announcing our Spring 2021 plans alongside our fellow research institutions in Alberta — the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta. Our hope is to provide students, instructors and university planners the certainties they need to prepare courses and campuses for the spring semester.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still significant for our University. Therefore, we have made the decision that instruction in the 2021 spring term will continue to be delivered with a blend of face-to-face and online modalities. This decision, subject to evolving public health guidelines, supports meaningful learning and engagement activities that are essential to the student experience and will maximize the number of students that can safely be on campus. Course delivery will continue to be primarily online, but with an increase in the number of face-to-face offerings. This decision was reached after consultation with public health experts and our community. Further, and within provincial guidelines, the University will do everything it can to maximize student experience opportunities.
Making our decision for the Spring 2021 semester now is important to ensure that students, faculty and staff have the certainty they need to plan for the semester. For the University, it allows us to ensure Spring 2021 courses are consistent with student needs as well as the time needed to evaluate which course components can be offered online or in a face-to-face format.
It also allows our faculty the time to prepare their courses for online delivery. Quality has always been a hallmark of the U of L experience and by allowing faculty the necessary preparation time, we can ensure the courses we offer are the best they can be. Our faculty, and the academic and departmental units that support them, will take the lessons learned from the fall semester to ensure a high-quality spring semester experience.
Finally, giving certainty to our students is critical. While many of our students are undertaking their studies within Lethbridge this term, a large number are enrolled in courses from locations throughout the world. As a destination university, we know an in-person experience means important decisions would have to be made by our students, especially those pertaining to relocation. It is essential we give students as much information as possible, as soon as possible, so they can make decisions that best work for them.
The COVID-19 pandemic situation is rapidly changing, and we are seeing other provincial governments open up, and also restrict, activities depending on the severity of the pandemic within their jurisdictions. While we will make enhancements to the student experience as we are able and permitted, we will maintain the designated course delivery format throughout the semester, so students have the certainty they need.
Health and safety will be the key consideration in determining the balance of online versus in-person delivery. Students' ability to access these courses will also be top of mind. We will consider factors such as restrictions on international student travel, student location, and risks for immunocompromised students.
While we will utilize a primarily online delivery, our Lethbridge campus is still central to the student experience. We have seen progress in recent months and have, in compliance with provincial Phase II guidelines, been able to open the fitness centre, the stadium, and the Max Bell Regional Aquatic Centre. As messaged previously, our campus will become increasingly available to faculty and staff whose work is better supported by being on campus. For our students, we will continue to create a sense of connection and support and reduce isolation through community-building initiatives. Further, the University will continue to ensure student supports pertaining to advising, online learning success workshops, health and wellness programming, and tutoring remain accessible to all students.
For our Calgary campus students, faculty and staff, while we adhere to the restrictions of Bow Valley College and the City of Calgary, your experience is a key component of our decision-making. Every effort is being made to offer the same high-quality U of L experience you have come to know despite the limitations we face.
More detailed information will be shared with faculty and staff in the coming days and weeks. Further, additional information will be emailed to undergraduate and graduate students later today.
I am sincerely thankful for the extraordinary contributions made by our faculty and staff in ensuring the University continues to deliver on its mandate. Further, our students have demonstrated great resiliency throughout these times, and I am inspired by the commitment they have shown to their education. It is through our collective efforts that our Spring 2021 semester will be successful, and that we will continue to support the many communities we serve.
Mike Mahon, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
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