Message from the President: A blended framework for the 2020 Fall Semester

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This message was distributed to UPEI students, faculty, and staff on May 15, 2020 to their @upei.ca emails. While we will continue to update our COVID-19 website, the latest news will be first shared with the UPEI community by email and on UPEI SAFE, the University’s safety app (available on The App Store and Google Play). View UPEI's Operational Ease-Back Plan

 

Dear Members of the University Community,

On Prince Edward Island, there is a sense of progress as the government and many organizations, including the University of Prince Edward Island, have unveiled operational ease-back plans in recent days. However, just as our province’s economy is dependent on opening up the Island beyond our shores, UPEI relies on attracting and retaining students from PEI, across Canada, and around the world. We are very much still in the midst of a global pandemic and we all continue to face much uncertainty about what the future holds. This adds to the complexity when trying to ascertain our plans for the 2020 Fall Academic Semester, yet we all want to know what the Fall will look like.

What I am certain of is the University’s commitment to the health and safety of our community. Social/physical distancing will remain part of our reality for the foreseeable future, and likely, for the long term. Guidance and directives relating to COVID-19 have been changing daily, and how we deliver our programs this fall will ultimately be determined by the public health guidance in place at that time. We are currently mobilizing to be ready, regardless of the scenario.

Although modifications will be necessary, please be assured that the UPEI experience will continue this September. Our students will receive the quality post-secondary educational experience they have come to expect, and our student-centric faculty and staff will support our students in their studies as they strive to reach their full potential. Classes for the 2020 Fall Academic Semester will begin as planned on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, with the exception of some classes at the Atlantic Veterinary College that begin in August.

As I wrote two weeks ago, we have been looking at various models that involve in-person and online teaching and learning, and a hybrid of the two. Today, the University Senate met, and had a lengthy and thoughtful conversation about the 2020 Fall Academic Semester.  

Based on the Senate’s direction, UPEI will adopt a blended delivery framework for the 2020 Fall Academic Semester that includes online instruction for some programs, and in-person, on-campus instruction for other programs. All students will have the opportunity for on-campus and/or online student experiences:

  • Every student will have access to instructors and librarians through online and in-person contact hours.
  • Every student will have a Faculty Advisor who they can meet with online and/or in-person.
  • Every student will have a senior student Campus Ambassador within their Faculty.
  • Every student will have online and/or in-person access to the Robertson Library (and resources) and academic help centres (Writing, Engineering, Mathematical and Computational Sciences, and Chemistry). 
  • Every student will have online and/or in-person access to services at the UPEI Health and Wellness Centre and UPEI Student Affairs (Accessibility Services, Counselling, International Student Office, Career Services, and Work-Integrated Learning).
All program scenarios in the blended framework, even those that are primarily delivered online, will feature enhanced one-on-one interactions with faculty and staff, either on-campus or online. All programs in the faculties of Nursing, Sustainable Design Engineering, and Veterinary Medicine will be predominantly delivered in person and on campus, while other faculties will have a blend of program delivery depending on the year of study and program requirements. Graduate studies will continue to be delivered either online or on campus, based on the nature of the program and if it is course or thesis based.

The framework that the Senate approved is just that, an overview with overarching principles. There is still much work to be done in order to answer everyone’s questions. The next step will be for the Deans to continue to consult with their respective chairs, faculty, and staff as to how each individual program will be delivered according to the framework. I encourage them to continue discussions on how to best use online and digital technologies as alternatives to large classes, and to support international and domestic students who may be delayed in returning to PEI.

The Deans will continue to work with their faculty and staff to complete the plans which will be released by each Dean to their respective students by June 15, 2020. The interim Vice-President Academic and Research will share these plans with the President of the UPEI Faculty Association, as they are being developed, so that we will have a well-coordinated approach.

I am confident and already know that UPEI’s faculty and staff have the capabilities, perseverance, and creativity to find solutions together, and to remain focused on our mission of delivering high quality student-focused programs and experiences for all students. We are committed to incorporating strong online learning design and delivery to ensure student engagement and success, and so that our progress is not disrupted by possible waves of COVID-19 in Fall 2020.

While the majority of today’s discussion was about the Fall, the Senate also considered the 2021 Winter Semester and decided to meet in October to determine if any changes to the delivery method are required at that time.

Again, I thank all of you for your contributions toward building a stronger UPEI community, including those who are planning the way forward to our 2020 Fall Academic Semester.

Best wishes,

Alaa
 
 
Dr. Alaa S. Abd-El-Aziz
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Prince Edward Island

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