The University of Alberta has extended online course delivery, along with enhanced safety measures, until February 28.
In a statement issued by Bill Flanagan, president and vice-chancellor of the U of A, on January 14 the university delayed returning to in-person courses and activities until February 28. Flanagan also noted that the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge are making the same decision on their campuses. The deadline for students to delete courses has been extended to January 21. However, the deadline to add a course remains January 18. Enhanced safety measures previously announced will also continue and university residences will remain open for residents.
Flanagan described this decision as necessary for ensuring the safety of students, faculty, and community members.
“The decisions we make now are not easy, but they are necessary,” he said. “At this point, continuing with enhanced safety measures remains the best action. Fewer people on our campuses means greater physical space for those who must complete their work and learning activities in-person. It also means fewer points for close contact, which ensures that we keep the community as safe as possible while maintaining key in-person courses as well as critical operations and services.”
Certain in-person course components, such as labs or midterm examinations, may still be conducted in-person with appropriate safety measures. According to the released statement, instructors will receive more information on this in the coming week.
The university voiced a “high degree of confidence” that in-person courses and activities will resume after reading week.
“Our announcement today is a commitment to return to campus, at the right time,” Flanagan’s statement said. “Given what we currently know about the anticipated peak of Omicron, we have a high degree of confidence that we can safely return to campuses and our full Winter 2022 schedule of in-person courses on February 28.”
The statement expressed thanks to the U of A community for “respond[ing] with care and compassion” to others in the university community and for “those in communities far beyond the borders of our campuses.”
Students’ Union ‘irritated’ by U of A’s decision to not extend the deadline to add courses
In response to the post-secondary institution’s released statement, the U of A Students’ Union (UASU) expressed support for extending online course delivery. However, they did not agree with the U of A’s decision to keep the deadline to add courses on January 18. Since December the UASU has advocated for extending the deadlines for both adding and dropping a course.
“We were irritated with [the U of A not extending the deadline to add courses],” Rowan Ley, UASU president said. “…We understand why the university couldn’t extend the add deadline as far as the drop deadline, but I don’t think there’s any reason why the deadline couldn’t have been extended at least two days, like it was in previous semesters. I don’t agree with that decision.”
However, Ley expressed support for the U of A’s decision to extend the deadline for dropping courses.
“[The UASU is] glad to see that students were heard on the matter of the drop deadline,” he said. “Not extending the drop deadline, under the circumstances, would be ridiculous and completely unfair. So we are glad that that was done.”
UPDATE: At 12:58 p.m. on January 14, 2022 this article underwent updates. The Gateway’s initial article was written after the university shared its decision to extend online course delivery. In a subsequent update, the UASU’s response was included in the article.