June 11: More details on fall courses and programs

To:  Dalhousie students
From: Frank Harvey, Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic
Date: June 11, 2020

Re: More details on fall courses and programs

As Acting Provost, it is an honour for me to be working with our academic community during this truly unique and important moment in Dalhousie's history. During this time, we recognize that our students, faculty and staff are learning, teaching and working in new ways, and I am confident that we can all work together to support one another.

I know many of you have questions about what you can expect this fall, and in the coming weeks you will be hearing more details from your deans, your professors, your supervisors and instructors, and the university in general. I wanted to reach out personally at this point to share more information on courses and academic quality. This memo has updates on:

Our top priorities this fall are ensuring the safety and well-being of our entire community, delivering courses that support degree progression and your continued development as learners, and continuing to provide a meaningful student experience. All of us at Dal are working to make sure your university experience remains one that is memorable and inspiring, allowing you to emerge from this extraordinary time even more prepared for the exciting possibilities your future surely holds.

Course delivery

As communicated by the President last month, the majority of Dalhousie courses this fall will be delivered online, with only select exceptions, to ensure your health and well-being.

  • In-person, on-campus instruction this fall will only be offered in programs where it is required to fulfill industry or field-specific accreditation requirements: Medicine, Dentistry, select Health professions, and the Veterinary Technology program in the Faculty of Agriculture. Students in these programs should contact their Faculty's Associate Dean Academic for clarification on specific courses and can expect to receive more details directly from your Faculty.
  • 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.
  • In all other cases, courses will be delivered online. This includes other accredited programs in Engineering, Architecture, Planning, and Management that are moving forward with online delivery formats and developing innovative ways to meet their respective learning experiences, designed activities and group interactions.

How online courses will work

This fall will be a different experience for many of us, but these short-term measures are essential to keeping our community safe and supported through this pandemic. 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.

We will provide information on how your individual courses will be conducted in the coming weeks through our Academic Timetable.  You can also expect to hear more details about your courses from your Faculty or your department/instructors/supervisors in the near future.

Safety for in-person learning

In those cases where in-person instruction or research will occur this fall, safety will be paramount. All learning will follow approved health and safety guidelines specific to the activities taking place, in adherence to overall institutional safety protocols. The current Dalhousie-wide protocols can be found here, but are subject to change based on the evolving public health situation.

Specific guidelines for individual in-person programs and courses will be shared from the respective Faculties.

Your student experience

Your university experience is about more than just courses. It’s also about the clubs, the organizations, and the friendships and connections you will make in our community. While this fall may be different than we had all imagined, our goal remains the same as always: helping our students to thrive here at Dal in all they choose to do.

We’re developing plans to support our online student community this fall with new virtual tools, as well as appropriate community activities delivered face-to-face, aligned with public health guidelines. We encourage you to register for our Together program that will be starting in the coming weeks. We want to help you build meaningful connections with new friends across your campus community, and we are working hard to ensure that no student is left behind, particularly those from our underrepresented populations.

Living on campus

We know many of you have questions about residence and living accommodations. We are happy to share that residences will be open in a limited capacity this fall. We look forward to sharing more details in the coming weeks, in addition to information about other services and supports for students.   

In closing

We look forward to welcoming you back to your studies this fall as you continue your academic journey with us. We are honoured to have you as part of our community and we are here to support you in any way we can to help you succeed.

Keep watching your dal.ca email for updates and look for a relaunched dal.ca/coronavirus website early next week with more details on courses, instruction and student life to come.


Frank Harvey
Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic