Scenarios for Fall on campus

To our U of T Engineering community

More than half of the population in Canada has now received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and in Toronto, the proportion is over 70% of adults. Second doses are coming, and the Ontario government recently announced its three-phase reopening plan. As I shared in a past Dean’s message, here at U of T Engineering, we’ve also been mapping out our plans for a safe and gradual return to campus.

Our plans are being built from the latest public health guidance and government directives. Indeed, the entire University has been working diligently since the pandemic began to rethink every facet of our operations — from signage and scheduling, to ventilation and vaccination — to ensure the safety of our whole community.

Of course, there are still a lot of questions and details outstanding, but I wanted to provide the outline of our scenario planning, the rationale behind it and the considerations we have made. I know it’s a lot of information, but I am sharing this so that each of you, whether you’re an incoming first-year, returning undergrad, graduate student, staff or faculty member, can begin to imagine how the Fall Term may look for you, and have as much info as possible to make your own plans.

Our leadership team, Departments, Divisions and Institutes, the Registrar’s Office, our Faculty’s Health and Safety advisors, and the Graduate Offices are working hard to develop a schedule that will prioritize as many in-person course activities as possible, while considering student workload, travel or commute times, health and safety and well-being. We also continue to work closely with EngSoc into and throughout the summer on scenario planning for extra-curricular activities such as student teams and orientation.

Review the scenarios planned for the Fall Term:

It is crucial to remember that even if we start the term under one plan, changes in public health guidelines could mean an unpredictable switch. We need to be prepared to pivot and adapt. We advise preparing for both Plans A and B, as these are based on the current provincial health and safety guidelines, which could change. Course instructors are also working to develop in-class delivery under both plans.

My central message is this: plan to be in Toronto. I encourage those who are able to be vaccinated to get their shots, as I have. While I acknowledge the past 15 months have been a grind, and I know many of you have faced challenges in your personal, professional, academic lives and beyond, I’m also enormously energized by the prospect of seeing you on campus again this Fall Term.

There will be bumps in the road ahead, but we’re moving forward. I will continue to keep you updated as we go.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

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Scenario Plans for Fall Term in U of T Engineering

Undergraduate students

Plan A: In-Person Course Activities

  • This is our “as in-person as possible” scenario, which involves in-person delivery of all course activities.
  • This is our default plan.
  • This plan is feasible as long as we do not have any physical distancing or significant gathering limit restrictions imposed by public health guidelines; however, we anticipate the continued use of non-medical masks indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • We hope that in this scenario, small club and student group gatherings will be possible but realize that, at this time, this cannot be guaranteed.
  • When registration for U of T Engineering undergraduates opens on July 14, 2021, students will register for courses as if they will take place in person under Plan A.

Plan B: In-Person Pods, Labs & Tutorials

  • The University has asked all divisions to develop a Plan B in the event that public health guidelines do not allow us to proceed with Plan A.
  • U of T Engineering’s Plan B is based on a hypothesis of having the strictest public health restrictions that would still enable us to facilitate some in-person activities: gathering limits of 50, and no physical distancing requirements. We also anticipate the continued use of non-medical masks indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • Since not all course components can be in-person under Plan B, we are prioritizing those smaller in-person activities that are focused on hands-on and/or interactive experiences, which are generally the laboratories and tutorials.
  • With gathering limits of 50, the numbers of tutorial and laboratory sections drastically increase. In this scenario, with the anticipation of classrooms being fully utilized (at low capacities), U of T Engineering does not have the space required to satisfy public health restrictions that would allow students to congregate, wait, study or attend synchronous online lectures between their in-person labs and tutorials.
  • We also do not have the space required for students to wait and study within our buildings between course activities. We are being mindful to avoid crowded and congested spaces.
  • Therefore, Plan B involves designing cohorts of undergraduate students in Years 1 and 2, divided into ‘pods’, whereby each pod’s in-person course activities (labs and tutorials) are scheduled together, so that they can leave campus when they are done their in-person activities for the day. Due to the custom nature of Years 3 and 4, we do not have a pod structure for upper-year students.
  • In developing a Plan B, we are prioritizing in-person labs and tutorials over synchronous online lectures. While we understand that this is not ideal for every course, we believe this will provide students with a better overall experience, addressing their desire for in-person peer-to-peer interaction.
  • Since undergraduates will be grouped into pods, we are encouraging students to come to campus only on days when they have in-person course activities.
  • In this scenario, we expect that all extra-curricular activities will stay virtual. If a club or design team has a specific request or concern, they are encouraged to first coordinate with EngSoc, whom we have been working with continuously through the pandemic and into this summer.

Plan C: Remote (with some exceptions)

  • If physical distancing is required, then the vast majority of in-person activities will not be feasible. We will run our Plan A schedule for undergraduate courses, but it will be fully remote with the exception that some programs will still hold some in-person laboratories.
  • All extra- and co-curricular activities will also be remote under Plan C.

Graduate students

Plan A: In-Person Under 50

  • If public health guidelines require little or no or physical distancing or gathering limits, for graduate courses where the class size is smaller than 50, the default plan is to be in-person as much as possible.
  • We anticipate the continued use of non-medical masks indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • For courses where the class size is 50 or more, the default plan is online lectures with in-person components in small groups. For example, when possible, these could include in-person office hours scheduled in a classroom, while still offering a portion of the office hours online.
  • Course enrolment opens for graduate students on August 13, 2021 (delayed from August 4, see Vice-Dean’s message). Students will register in courses as if we are proceeding with Plan A.

Plan B: Remote (with some exceptions)

  • If significant physical distancing and gathering limits are still in place: most classes will be delivered remotely.
  • In-person course activities that are possible under public health requirements, and that can be delivered equitably for all members of the class may be held in person.

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