U of T plans to have mix of in-person, online courses for fall 2020 semester

“Much still remains uncertain,” reads President Gertler’s letter to U of T
President Meric Gertler released a letter today about U of T’s plan for the fall semester.
ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY
President Meric Gertler released a letter today about U of T’s plan for the fall semester. ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

U of T’s plan for the fall 2020 semester will likely include a mix of smaller on-campus courses, seminars, and labs, while larger courses may remain online, according to a letter from President Meric Gertler to the U of T community today.

U of T anticipates a “gradual, safe return to our campuses, with as much on-campus activity as is practicable, sensible, and safe.” However, it is not clear what class size would determine whether a course would be online, or if classes that begin online in fall 2020 will remain that way the entire semester. Gertler wrote that the university is developing guidelines for safety and that there will likely be different policies at each of the three campuses. 

He also revealed three guiding principles to the university’s plan, which include “promoting health and safety, advancing academic excellence, and meeting the needs of our community – our students, faculty, librarians, and staff.” The university is working with deans and principals to meet the needs of various academic divisions and improve online learning. 

The university expects research to return in the fall, some of which may be done virtually, and promised to release more guidelines soon. Campus buildings such as libraries and labs will also focus on implementing physical distancing requirements.

According to Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) Dean Melanie Woodin, students in FAS will have the option of participating in classes online if they cannot attend in person. She wrote in a Q&A that many courses in the FAS will be delivered both in-person and online, possibly with instructors recording in-person classes for students who cannot be there physically.

In an interview with U of T News, Vice-Provost Academic Programs and Innovations in Undergraduate Education Susan McCahan said that even if larger lectures are conducted virtually, there will still be some opportunities for in-person activities. 

Woodin also announced the FAS’ plan for welcoming incoming students with online advising content and information sessions available over the summer, and noted that the FAS would reach out to new students by email as well.

“We do not have all of the answers yet,” Gertler noted, emphasizing that it is not clear what the conditions will be like in September. Ontario began the first stage of its reopening plan on May 19, with some retail stores, workplaces, and other businesses able to operate. 

The Varsity has reached out to U of T Media Relations for comment.

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