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Business as Un-usual: Planning for Fall 2021

As an educator in B.C. post-secondary, how you plan for this fall semester can be a strategic, significant act of care for yourself and your students. Some big things are in play now: expectations for returning to campus, the ongoing public health situation, the heartbreaking discovery at the residential school in Kamloops, the individual circumstances of your students, and you. It’s a lot. But you aren’t in this alone —  we’ve gathered some ideas about planning for the fall so you can enjoy your time off this summer.

Post by the BCcampus editorial team

There has been a lot of buzz the past several weeks about returning to on-campus teaching in September. On March 8, 2021, Minister Kang issued a statement on safe return to campus for fall, and B.C. colleges and universities got to work hammering out details. Plans range from a 100% return to on-campus activities to various splits (e.g., 70% on campus, 30% online) and staged approaches. In some cases, certain subjects or programs are prioritized for on-campus return (e.g., sciences, engineering, visual arts, trades). Other institutions are considering offering one online section in large courses, with the rest on campus, perhaps giving students some choice or prioritizing spaces for those who are not vaccinated.

As for B.C. public health, the number of people vaccinated is rising, daily COVID-19 case numbers are declining, and the government has released a four-step restart plan. And while challenges could yet arise (variants, vaccine supply, a fourth wave, etc.), the hope and expectation is that current data trends will continue so that by September 7, it will be safer (epidemiologically) to gather indoors for work and school. 

But wait, there’s more. As many have observed, for these past 14+ months, we may have been in the same storm but not the same boat. This storm has brought into view —with terrible clarity— some deep systemic inequities in our institutions and communities, including in education. As well, we have all experienced more than a year of uncertainty, isolation, illness, loss, Zoom fatigue, stress, and grief. In other words: trauma. For many, this fall will be a time of post-traumatic stress, with new anxious moments as we figure out how to come back together and share air again. 

What we learned during the initial pivot to emergency remote teaching in spring 2020 can serve us now. So much comes down to the choices you, the instructors, make about your courses’ design. We have learned there are specific things instructors can do — and avoid — that significantly impact access and equity for students in classes.

Flexibility Removes Many Barriers

Consider:

  • How to add options around any course requirement that is place- or time-dependent (e.g., in-person attendance, live/unrecorded lectures, online or in-person proctored exams). Ensure all materials are available online.
  • Adding flexibility through online, blended, hybrid, and hyflex learning designs. Here is an overview of these course delivery modes. If you had to pivot online again this semester, what could you do now to make it easier? 

Specific Course Design “Hot Spots”

Early on, we noticed the same problems kept coming up during the pivot to online. We developed “challenges” for each of these, which are open resources that can be done as independent activities. Try our Challenge 1, which invites you to scan your course for trouble spots, or focus on one of these areas:

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress  

For many, the pandemic has been a traumatic experience, and we can expect this trauma to show up in our classrooms and boardrooms this fall. If you are not familiar with trauma-informed communication and practice, it will be helpful to learn a bit about it so you can respond with care and skill when it appears.

Specific Learning Opportunities to Support Educators Preparing For Fall 2021

This has been an intense, difficult year with lots of emotional labour and difficult learning. We have seen, heard, and worked with many educators who continue to adapt their practices and courses to best support students and their learning. Thank you for that leadership and care. And as your work continues into the fall, we hope it’s possible to get your preparations done early, so you have some time to fully unplug, rest, and restore.

Additional Resources


The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Lukas from Pexels

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