University of Lethbridge fully committed to program delivery for Fall 2020 semester

The University of Lethbridge is prepared to offer a wide range of academic courses for the Fall 2020 semester at both its Lethbridge and Calgary campuses, despite the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will offer a robust, high-quality learning experience for our students in the fall,” says Dr. Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor. “We are planning for all scenarios and are working closely with faculty and staff to ready our courses for traditional and alternative delivery models. The safety of our community will continue to be our priority, so we will take our guidance from Public Health authorities about any restrictions that may still need to remain in place.”

When the world transitions back to more normal circumstances, the University will be poised to resume classes, labs and other in-person applied learning experiences as quickly as possible. However, in light of the evolving situation, the University is planning for three potential scenarios for the Fall 2020 semester:

Regular: If Public Health directives permit, all in-person classes will continue as usual this Fall.

Blended: If Public Health restrictions are loosened, but continue to limit the number of people who can congregate in one place, courses will be offered in a combined way, with some held online and smaller courses and practical experiences (e.g. hands-on practicum, studio-based, labs, clinical settings) held in person.

Primarily online: If required by Public Health directives and to ensure the health and safety of students and employees, the University will be prepared to offer a top-quality online learning experience for its students, ensuring practicum, clinical, lab, studio and other applied learning experiences are offered in a timely and flexible manner to enable students to complete their programs as quickly as possible.

“We endeavour to finish the fall term the way we launch it, weaving in enhancements to the experience as they become available, subject to Public Health requirements. We also commit to doing all we can to ensure students have the opportunity to graduate on time, as planned,” says Mahon.

In March, the University responded to the pandemic by moving its courses to an alternative delivery model over a four-day period. Despite a tight timeline, the faculty and other teams across the University worked together to enable the semester to continue and for students to stay on track in their academic journeys.

“Following the spring semester, teams from the Teaching Centre, Student Affairs and each Faculty and School immediately began working towards the fall semester. We are continuously enhancing and advancing how we teach through an alternative model,” says Mahon.

The U of L is also closely following the implementation of the Government of Alberta’s relaunch strategy, which plans the gradual re-opening of our province in three phases. The plan recognizes that Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are engaged in alternative methods of delivery and that future delivery methods (online, in-person or blend) will depend on the restrictions in place at each phase. The decisions to lift restrictions at our campus will be done in consultation with the provincial government and using advice from public health professionals.

Kathleen Massey, associate vice-president (students), says her team is working to not only create connections between students and the University, but between the students themselves.

“We are finding ways to ensure students will have an enriching university experience. We know students care a lot about the quality of their education, but also the University’s services, extra-curricular activities and most importantly the connections and friendships they make,” says Massey.

Student Affairs has begun moving many of their initiatives online, including the Student Mentorship Program, which supports students as they enter, and continue, throughout their academic career. The new uLethbridge Cares Student Liaison Initiative kicked off in late April to support current students and facilitate their connection to University services and supports, such as advising, scholarships and bursaries, counselling and more. Online learning workshops, tutoring and learning strategy sessions will be offered to all students to prepare them for success this fall and beyond.

While the University has adjusted to a new reality, so too has the mindset of prospective and returning students.

“The world is a different place than it was a couple of months ago. Collectively, we are concerned about our future,” says Massey. “What we are hearing from our incoming students, and students in general, is that they are eager to gain the experience they need to position themselves for the future, to equip them to be leaders and contributors in their communities, and to build their careers. The University of Lethbridge is the perfect place to achieve these goals.”