By Jensen, Randy on May 20, 2020.
The University of Lethbridge has decided to offer students a hybrid delivery model for the Fall 2020 semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Following significant work by a special task force struck in April to examine the various models of academic delivery, the decision was made to work towards maximizing the quality of a primarily online experience.
“In coming to this conclusion, the safety of our students, faculty and staff has been and will continue to be our top priority,” says Mike Mahon, U of L president and vice-chancellor, in a release. “We must ensure we are maintaining a safe environment consistent with Alberta’s public safety guidelines and in line with public health directives. The welfare of our students, faculty and staff as they learn, teach and work is of the utmost importance.”
Mahon says it was essential the university made its decision now so it could direct its efforts and resources toward creating the best student experience possible. Faculty members are now afforded more time to fully prepare for an online delivery model, and the university is providing enhanced training and acquiring new technology to aid these preparations.
Incoming students will have clarity on how their post-secondary journey will begin at the U of L, while continuing students can focus on completing their degree requirements and graduating on time.
“We wanted to stem our students’ anxiety as much as possible by removing any questions as to what the fall would look like,” says Mahon. “We will end the semester as it begins, subject to public health requirements, allowing our students, faculty and staff some certainty in the coming months.”
The decision allows for some in-person experiential learning activities, including select labs, studio sessions, practicum experiences and clinical placements. While the primary mode of all course delivery will be online, the university recognizes some experiential activities cannot be transitioned to an online context. These will occur on the Lethbridge campus and at off-site placements. Other experiential learning opportunities will be offered for students using online and remote methods. As well, the university would like to see graduate student research activities resume on campus, subject to public health guidelines.
“We will work to support our students in all aspects of this new model of delivery, including making our full suite of student support services available,” adds Mahon. “We also understand we need to be flexible on many fronts, such as allowing students involved in experiential learning programs, but who cannot be in Lethbridge, the opportunity to take those courses in a future term.”
The U of L campus will still be central to the student experience and the university is designing community-building initiatives to create a sense of connection and support and reduce isolation. These will include small group gatherings, the opening of the library for restricted in-person services and the utilization of residence spaces and food services to support the full student experience.
“We appreciate our students had different expectations of what their university experience would entail,” says Mahon. “This expectation has changed for all institutions and students around the world and yet it should not dampen excitement for our fall semester. A sense of normalcy will eventually return and until that time, we will continue to offer the robust, high-quality learning experience for which the University of Lethbridge is known.”