Fall semester will likely be online for Manitoba post-secondary students, universities say

An entire group of first-year university and college students will begin their post-secondary education not in crowded lecture halls and noisy campus centres, but from their bedrooms and parents' basements.

U of M, U of W, Red River among schools planning for remote learning extension through fall 2020

The University of Manitoba released plans Wednesday saying it is preparing to deliver all of its courses online in the fall. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

An entire group of first-year university and college students will begin their post-secondary education this fall not in crowded lecture halls and noisy campus centres, but from their bedrooms and parents' basements.

Several Manitoba post-secondary institutions suggest they're planning for a fall semester with closed campuses and classes delivered almost exclusively online, while preparing for the less likely scenario they'll be able to get students back into classrooms in a phased approach.

Beyond Manitoba, Montreal's McGill University and the universities of British Columbia and Ottawa have all announced similar plans recently to keep courses online in the fall.

The University of Manitoba revealed elements of its fall plans Wednesday that include its proposal to deliver all courses online.

Some in-person exceptions at U of M will be made in September, said Janice Ristock, the U of M's provost and vice-president (academic) in a statement. That includes an optional extension of the fall 2020 semester into early January 2021 for any students who critically need in-person instruction, said Ristock.

Like the U of M, Red River College and the University of Winnipeg haven't released robust plans for what fall will look like, but those institutions fully expect their students will be mainly learning remotely as well.

The University of Winnipeg hasn't released many details about its fall plans, though it fully expects most courses will be online. (Justin Deeley/CBC)

Both are planning for some campus learning experiences, said spokespeople with the institutions.

"We anticipate the majority of our educational programs will be offered through alternate delivery, with some in-person, on-campus activities, including research," said a U of W spokesperson.

All spring and summer coursework at St. Boniface University is going online, a spokesperson said, though the French school is still working on its fall plans. A representative with Brandon University said the same.

The University of Manitoba Students' Union said it acknowledges online-only learning can have a negative impact on the learning experience, though it supports any move that will keep students protected.

UMSU does have concerns, though, about the 10 per cent of students on campus who it says don't own their own computer or have internet access in the home.

"We fully acknowledge the gravity that COVID-19 has on students and the post-secondary landscape, especially for those without access to the resources needed to continue their studies in this new reality," said UMSU president Jelynn Dela Cruz in a statement.

"While we — as 25,000 students — have a large role to play in flattening the curve, we're asking our provincial and federal public health officers to make student accessibility and resources a priority."


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform Manitoba journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC.


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