McMaster University students will not be returning to campus for in-class learning at all this academic year.
In a letter from the university’s Provost, Susan Tighe, and sent out on Monday (Sept. 14), it was announced that classes will remain online for the winter term as well.
“To keep our community as safe as possible, the winter academic term will be online with only a few exceptions where program requirements or the need for access to specialized equipment or facilities may still require some in-person campus time,” Tighe’s letter, posted to Mac’s website, says.
“By making the decision about the winter 2021 term as early as possible, we hope to provide as much stability as we can in what is a dynamic and unpredictable pandemic.”
Student residences will remain closed, the letter said, but will continue to provide accommodation in exceptional circumstances and to support international students or others who need to quarantine.
The University welcomed students back, albeit virtually, just two weeks ago.
The announcement comes as cases of COVID-19 are on an upswing as the school year gets underway.
On Sunday (Sept 13), McMaster reported that a staff member tested positive for the virus. The university says that the employee was last on campus on Sept. 8 and notified the university on Saturday, Sept. 12 after testing positive.
The University of Western Ontario in London declared an outbreak of the virus after five students tested positive for the virus.
Tighe explains that the decision to deliver classes online for the entire school year was made in consultation with a group ‘of academic and campus leaders who evaluated many options for the winter term.’
“For those of you who are used to being on campus and interacting with colleagues, peers and students in person, the virtual environment presents additional challenges,” Tighe wrote.
“For those of you who, like me, are new to McMaster, I understand the difficulties with building relationships and negotiating through our University virtually.”
Mac’s leadership is putting together a task force to address concerns with the delivery of online learning.
The Virtual Learning Task Force will be c0-chaired chaired by the deans of Engineering and Social Sciences.
“Even in a normal year the beginning of term tends to bring with it some technical glitches no matter how much preparation and planning is done,” Tighe wrote.
“We are establishing a new group to help to ensure we are in the strongest position to address all of these issues and to continue to share solutions and best practices across campus.”