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Message from the President about Fall 2021 Plans

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since our campus closed and we’ve been dealing with a global pandemic that has profoundly impacted our lives. But I have to say I’ve been so impressed by our collective creativity and resilience in facing the challenges of the past 12 months.

We are now turning our attention to the fall. I know all of you – especially our students – want to know what the fall experience will look like. With the roll out of the vaccine program, there is a sense of optimism as we anticipate being able to offer a greater range of in-person activities by September 2021.

Planning for the fall
Academic leaders are now busy planning for a return to some in-person learning, and our facilities will re-open when we are able to do so safely. Our plans and decisions take into consideration that physical distancing, wearing of masks, contract tracing, and other measures will still be in place in September, although these may become more relaxed as more of the population is vaccinated.

We are prioritizing your safety as we re-introduce critical material practices, access to shops, studios and specialized technology, opportunities for collaboration, and a return to community we know you have all missed over the past year. At the same time, we want to retain the elements of access, flexibility and engagement that online learning, meeting and doing business have provided us.

This is the first in a series of messages the University will be sending to you throughout the spring, and we will share additional details as they become more concrete. However, students should begin making plans to be in Toronto in time for September classes. Please read on for more information.

Course offerings for fall and winter
Faculties are planning to offer a range of remote, partially remote and hybrid courses for Fall and Winter. Our strategy is as follows:

  • Continuing to offer some remote (fully online) courses will keep the number of people on campus limited and provide options for students who do not want to attend campus.
  • Partially remote courses will include a required in-person component. These courses will include the use of specialized shops, studios or technology, or other safe, small group activities. Our planning assumes that physical distancing protocols will be in place, which means the number of students in a given space, at one time, will be limited. Instructors will have options and guidelines for organizing the in-person components of their course.
  • A few new hybrid courses are being developed. These courses are designed for flexibility – accommodating both remote and in-person learners.

Will students need to be in Toronto for the Fall term?
Course planning and scheduling is now underway and we expect to release the Fall/Winter course calendar in July.

In the meantime, students should begin making plans to be in Toronto in time for September classes.

Some classes will include a requirement for students to come to campus; most will benefit from the use of campus facilities, being in the same time zone as peers and faculty, and formal and informal experiential learning opportunities in Toronto.

As we all know, the pandemic is an ever-changing situation and it is difficult to predict how things will look in September. That is why contingency plans for all courses will be included in the course calendar. If required, we will scale back the number of partially remote classes. This may mean returning to remote delivery or, in some cases, course cancellations.

What about students who cannot return to Toronto?
We recognize there may be some students who continue to face health or travel restrictions that prevent them from attending in-person classes in September. We do expect to provide a range of fully remote course options for Fall 2021. So, students can continue to study from a distance.

The Government of Canada has made allowances for international students to maintain their eligibility for the postgraduate work permit if they are studying remotely for the Fall term. And we will encourage instructors to provide flexibility on any in-person requirements for the first couple of weeks of the Fall term as students are still getting settled.

In the meantime, students can enter Canada to begin their studies provided they quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and follow all requirements of the Public Health Agency of Canada. OCAD University has a quarantine program approved by provincial and federal governments. The details are available on our website.

Will staff be working on campus this fall?
While the majority of our staff continue to work remotely, we will be working throughout the spring and summer to determine models for remote/flexible working and service delivery beyond May 31, 2021 (this was established as our latest extension of the Work from Home program). Staff can expect to hear more about this in the coming weeks.

Gradual Opening Info Fair: April 20 to 23
As we plan for a return to campus after one year of working and learning remotely, we want to ensure you are all aware of our preparations as well as our safety protocols. That is why we are organizing the Gradual Opening Info Fair so you can learn more about these plans and ask questions. The GO Info Fair will include synchronous sessions for faculty and staff with subject matter experts, and a follow-up with asynchronous awareness materials for all members of the community. More details and invitations are coming soon.

We will continue to provide you with updates, and I look forward to the time when we can gather on campus and feel the great vibe of OCAD U.

 Stay safe!
Ana Serrano
President and Vice-Chancellor