U of C aims to bring 30% of students to campus, Mount Royal may abandon in-person classes

Mount Royal University is looking at moving most classes online in the face of continuing physical distancing restrictions. The University of Calgary is aiming to allow 30 per cent of students on campus.

Some other Canadian universities have decided to move fall classes primarily online

Calgary's universities announced plans Thursday for planned reopenings. The University of Calgary is aiming to have approximately 30 per cent of students on each campus at any given time, while Mount Royal University is preparing for a fall semester without any in-person classes. (David Bell/CBC)

Calgary's two major universities revealed Thursday what classes might look like in the fall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The University of Calgary is aiming to allow approximately 30 per cent of its students to attend each campus at any given time, while Mount Royal University is preparing for the possibility of moving classes online next semester. 

The Alberta government has not yet given post-secondary institution a timeline for reopening, MRU president and vice-chancellor Tim Rahilly said in an email to professors Thursday. 

University of Calgary

An email sent to students and staff by U of C president Ed McCauley on Thursday said instruction during the fall term at the school will be provided through both face-to-face and online learning.

"We have arrived at this approach after review of public health guidelines, consultation with public health experts and consideration of our unique circumstances," McCauley said.

Priority for the 30 per cent of students allowed on campus will be given to small classes and labs, tutorials and seminars, along with other experiential learning opportunities, McCauley said. All other classes will remain online.

"Combining delivery methods means students who wish to have face-to-face opportunities can safely have them. Those who wish to stick with remote learning in these times can build their schedules accordingly," McCauley said. 

"Faculties are now making recommendations on course offerings that reflect this approach. Specifics as to which components of which courses will be in person or online will be available in June."

Mount Royal University

In-person classes so far are still suspended at MRU as part of the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. In order to allow professors to fully prepare for September, Rahilly said the school is moving ahead under the assumption classes are likely to be taught online or through alternative methods.

"We anticipate that it will be some time before post-secondary institutions receive direction on a return to face-to-face learning and activities," Rahilly said in the email to profs and students.

"Nevertheless, our read is that it's highly likely post-secondary institutions will continue to provide alternative delivery formats in the Fall 2020 semester. We could wait to get a definitive answer, but that will not give all of you — students, instructors and staff — time to prepare."

The news comes as most of the province begins to reopen select businesses and services. The cities of Calgary and Brooks remain under full COVID-19 restrictions as these communities continue to see the bulk of the province's cases and deaths.

Some other Canadian universities have decided to move fall classes primarily online.

Mount Royal is reserving its final decision on class format until June 30, Rahilly said in a statement to CBC News.

"Ultimately, the health authorities and the Government of Alberta will advise us on what we need to do in light of COVID-19," he said.

Meeting requirements

In the email, Rahilly encouraged instructors to evaluate if their alternative delivery plans will meet learning outcomes and accreditation requirements, in particular courses that typically require face-to-face interaction.

He said the school would not restart in-person classes if the Alberta government lifted restrictions partway through the semester.

Timothy Rahilly is the president and vice-chancellor at Mount Royal University, located in southwest Calgary. (Helen Pike/CBC)

That would be unfair, he said, to students taking online classes from outside of Calgary and to students with health conditions that would still prevent them from attending in person.

"There are many other scenarios where a quick switch disadvantages some over others," Rahilly said.

Mount Royal University recently extended mandatory unpaid leave to an unspecified number of employees whose job tasks, the school said, could not be performed remotely.

With files from Rachel Ward, Joel Dryden and Diane Yanko


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