On March 8, Anne Kang, B.C. Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, announced in a statement that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advised the presidents of all post-secondary institutions to prepare for a return to on-campus learning in the fall semester.
The following day, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s president Dr. Alan Davis announced in a YouTube video that KPU will be planning for students and faculty to return to campus.
“I’m encouraged by Dr. Henry’s advice that a return to in-person instruction can be done safely this fall for all students, staff and faculty,” Kang said in the statement.
“We will move immediately to develop a fall academic schedule of offerings, timetables, room scheduling, etcetera that anticipates a return to campus but in a way that embraces the notion of a ‘New KPU,’” Davis said in the video announcement.
A “New KPU” is referring to KPU having an increase in flexibility of classes, Sandy Vanderburgh, KPU Provost and Vice President Academic, says.
Since KPU has five campuses in three different cities and no campus residences, some students said they need more flexibility for their work and class schedules.
“The Student Success survey from fall 2020 indicated that our students want on-campus activity…on-campus experience. They want to connect with their colleagues and their friends and do those important things that undergrads need and want to do,” Vanderburg says. “They want more flexibility. We want to see how we can give that to our students.”
The deans are putting a schedule together for the fall semester, keeping the plan student-focused and based on what students need, Vanderburgh says.
“If it’s English 1100, as an example, let’s say there’s 10 sections of it, maybe putting two or three online or in a blended format might be a preference for some students so they can better fit their schedule,” Vanderburgh says. “Or it might be one course that they can do online, and then they could get all their other courses they need that maybe have face-to-face components.”
In an employee engagement survey, the majority voted for a blended online and in-person learning environment, and the fall semester is a period where the university will see what works and what doesn’t based on responses, he says.
“They don’t want to be totally online. They want to interact with the students and be on campus.”
Students might have a choice between online or on-campus or a blended format of online and on-campus learning for some courses. Students might attend on-campus every other week instead of every week. Or there might be some classes where the instructor is in the classroom, but students participate from home online.
“We’re not sure how much demand there is, but it’s something we’re definitely looking at,” Vanderburgh says. “Students should prepare for more flexibility in terms of how they plan out their schedules in their courses.”
Post-secondary institutions have to follow the Go-Forward guidelines created by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training as they make their plan to return to campus. Trinity Western University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of British Columbia have also announced a return to campus plan for the fall semester.
The priority focus for KPU will be on the safety and well-being of students and employees as they return to campus, Davis said in the video announcement.
“Be prepared that it might not be the same sort of environment it was pre-COVID,” Vanderburgh says. “There’s going to be more airflow through the rooms, we’ll have to find some way to be as efficient as possible moving people through hallways… so they’re not in large groups for long periods of time.”
Students will also have to wear face masks for safety when on campus.
“It’ll be obviously a different type of learning environment, but the faculty is so dedicated to the face-to-face settings and excited about being in all settings with the students,” he says.
KPU students can expect to receive an official notice of the plan in the coming weeks.