Nova Scotia

Saint Mary's University moves fall semester online

Saint Mary's University in Halifax will shift classes online this fall due to COVID-19 restrictions, a move that follows many other Nova Scotia universities.

All courses will move online, but on-campus 'enriched learning' or other activities might take place

Saint Mary's University will move all classes online this fall due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Robert Short/CBC)

Saint Mary's University in Halifax will shift classes online this fall due to COVID-19 restrictions, a move that follows many other Nova Scotia universities.

On Friday, Robert Summerby-Murray, the university's president, announced the school would transition to online courses and programs for the fall semester.

"Our ability to move people, thousands of people around our campuses, is simply not going to be possible in the fall with the current public health situation," he said.

He said online course development is underway now, while the school is also running seminars and webinars over the coming weeks to help instructors and students be more successful in the new virtual environment.

Summerby-Murray said many of the larger SMU class sizes are around 150 people, but the real challenges around physical distancing happens in corridors and people moving through various buildings, not necessarily classroom seating.

The university is providing more than $1.5 million in additional student financial support through scholarships and bursaries this year, Summerby-Murray said, and working closely with the Saint Mary's University Students' Association (SMUSA) to understand student needs.

Orientation

Although orientation will be quite different this year, Summerby-Murray said SMUSA will start to roll out online events and meet and greets with incoming students in July.

They are also launching Jump Start 2020, a program of online meeting that allow students to meet instructors, academic staff and fellow students before the fall semester begins.

Summerby-Murray said that includes a new peer system, where upper-years are matched up with a new student "buddy" to help them navigate their new environment at SMU virtually.

While all academic courses and programs will be offered online, the university said in a release it would support opportunities for in-person, on-campus participation in "enriched learning and student life activities" in a safe environment. 

What other universities are doing

Other Halifax institutions — Mount Saint Vincent University, University of King's College and Dalhousie University — have already announced the move to online classes this fall.

But at Dalhousie, some programs like medicine, dentistry and agriculture will be offered in-person, but in an environment that abides by Nova Scotia's public health protocols.

NSCAD University has also said they will be delivering courses through "predominantly" online modes.

Elsewhere in the province, Cape Breton University will offer all of its classes online this fall, while Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., is looking to develop a "hybrid plan" of both in-person classes and virtual ones.

With files from Maritime Noon

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