The most frequently asked questions about online learning

These are some of the most commonly asked questions from students, and we will continue to build this list. Please contact us if you have questions that aren't answered below. 

Will academic resources still be available via distance?

Yes! Many of the academic resources that were previously offered in-person are now available virtually. Learn more about services and supports available online.

How will online courses work and what improvements are being made to the online experience?

This fall will be a different experience for many of us. What’s not changing is the high-quality academic experience you expect from Dalhousie, delivered by our outstanding faculty and instructors. We are working to ensure that when you return to on-campus, in-person learning, you won’t have missed a step.

As with in-person learning, every online class will be different, based on the subject matter and individual teaching style of the instructor. But all courses will be delivered based on common principles for online learning:

  • Accessible and Inclusive: Courses will be universally accessible, meaning that all students, including those living with disabilities or in different regions of the world, will have equitable access to course content, learning activities and assessments. We are also exploring ways to address any socio-cultural and economic consequences of online instruction for students in keeping with Dalhousie's equity, diversity and inclusion priorities.

  • Flexible: Most courses will be primarily “asynchronous” (pre-recorded content) so that students can watch or listen at their own pace and on their own time. “Synchronous” (live) course components may be included as well, but professors will work to ensure that students in different time zones are not disadvantaged.

  • Interactive: Courses will be designed to encourage students' interaction and engagement with each other and with the instructor. Interaction may be synchronous (live) and/or asynchronous (through discussion boards or other means).

  • Clear communication: Instructors understand the special importance of clear communication in an online environment. Most courses will begin with an orientation/welcome module that will introduce the course and its components. Courses will also include weekly announcements and a weekly calendar.

  • Instructor presence: In most courses, instructors, tutorial leaders and teaching assistants will be available asynchronously via email and synchronously via online office hours. Students are encouraged to bring their questions and concerns about the course to the instructor, and to attend online office hours for additional support on the assigned content. 

  • Supportive: Students will continue to have access to support and student resources in the transition to online learning. Course-specific supports will be provided by the instructors and teaching assistants. Students will also be supported in their research needs through the Dal Libraries (library@dal.ca) and with any technical concerns through the Helpdesk (support@dal.ca).  

We are also providing additional training and resources to support professors and instructors in honing their online teaching capabilities and learning new ways to bring their curriculum to life, in a virtual environment.

How will professors hold office hours this fall?

Your professors will provide this information on the course syllabus. There are lots of ways for professors to stay in contact with you: an open meeting room that you can join at designated times, virtual meetings by appointment, emails, and other creative solutions.

Where can I find my syllabus?

Your syllabus will be available on your class Brightspace site. As soon as your professors activate their sites, you will be able to access this information.

Where can I find information about individual courses?

Information about individual courses will be available in the coming weeks through the Academic Timetable. You can also expect to hear details about your courses from your Faculty or your department/instructors/supervisors in the near future.

How do I access my textbooks?

Information about textbooks and how to access them will be included on the syllabus for each of your classes. The Dalhousie Bookstore has details on what books are required for many classes, but the syllabus is the official source. Visit the Dal Bookstore’s website and click on Textbooks.

Depending on the course, textbooks sold through the Dal Bookstore may be available in a variety of formats – physical textbooks, digital books, rental or even loose-leaf.  For classes using a physical textbook, if you are in Halifax or Truro, you can arrange for curbside pickup or delivery from the Dalhousie bookstore. In other areas, delivery from the Bookstore may be available, or you can order from another supplier. (If you don’t purchase from the Dalhousie Bookstore, please check the title, authors, year, and edition carefully.)  For more information and instructions on how to access your course materials refer to our Bookstore FAQs.

Is any help available if I need to upgrade my internet connection or technology?

For the coming academic year, students in financial need for technology support can apply to the Undergraduate Bursary program.

The Dal Libraries are also offering equipment loans for students within reach of the Halifax or Truro campuses. Student Affairs will also be distributing a list of mobile hotspots to assist students who may not have reliable home internet service. Your Dalhousie login account gives you access to a service called eduroam, which provides high-speed wireless internet connections in 106 territories worldwide.

Are there online library tools?

Yes! Online library tools are available for Dalhouise libraries and King's library


Who do I contact about academic accommodations in relation to remote learning?

If there are aspects of the remote temporary teaching design, and/or remote temporary teaching environment, that result in barriers to your inclusion, please contact the Student Accessibility Centre to explore possible accommodations. 

I'm a grad student who needs to use my lab space. How do I get access?

Graduate students who require access to labs to complete research must coordinate with their supervisor and the lab Principal Investigator to return to campus in line with safety protocols outlined in the May 22 memo from Dr. Alice Aiken, Vice-President Research and Innovation.

How will we have labs online?

Science lab instructors and coordinators for labs have been working hard over the summer to develop online programming for both the lab and lecture components of their courses. They are meeting regularly to discuss strategies while also modifying the learning objectives to fit online learning and finding the appropriate resources to help you during this time. We are extremely confident that labs will be comprehensive and great learning experiences. Where we believe that certain lab components cannot be feasibly offered online, you will get exposure to key components important for progressing through your degree program.

Classes that would typically be held in computer labs will provide you with a way to access the software remotely, either by installing it on your own computer or by accessing a virtual remote computer using a tablet or your own computer.

What is the status of International Learning Experiences (ILE) for this year?

As the health and safety of students, faculty and staff continues to be of highest priority, all incoming and outgoing International Learning Experiences are cancelled for the summer and fall terms (June through December 2020). This includes student exchanges, study abroad, international field courses, co-ops, and international research, with some very specific exceptions that must be approved by the Faculty Dean and the Provost.  

Students may be able to defer their summer or fall ILE to the winter term, or to next year – we encourage students to discuss their options with their department and the International Centre.

This decision was informed by Dalhousie’s International Travel Policy which restricts student travel to international locations with a Global Affairs Canada travel advisory of level 3 or 4. Currently, there is a worldwide level 3 travel advisory.  

Students travelling to their home countries to complete a work-term or participating in a joint program may be granted an exception.

Will there be a campus orientation in the fall?

Yes! Student Affairs is organizing a campus orientation that will include both synchronous and asynchronous activities. Many Faculties are also holding orientations.  You will be receiving information about these orientation events as it becomes available.

When will we know about the winter term?

An announcement about the winter term will be made in August.