Daily News Fall 2021 updates for students: What we know and what we’re working towards


McMaster University will continue to host undergraduate academic activities remotely for the Spring/Summer/Intersession term with only a few exceptions for courses that need student access to specialized equipment.

Task Force Tables Virtual Learning Recommendations

Helping instructors improve virtual course content, directing instructors to use Avenue to Learn as a course hub, reducing the number of electronic learning platforms and creating more ways for students to interact with each other during class were among the 21 recommendations put forward by McMaster's Virtual Learning Task Force.
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Two recommendations - delaying the start of winter classes by one week and having the McMaster Okanagan Charter Group address mental health issues related to online learning and the ongoing pandemic - have already been adopted by the University.

"The fall term has been a whole new experience for instructors and students," said Provost Susan Tighe in announcing the task force. The task force was struck following the decision to move the winter 2021 term online. It's important that we take the time to identify concerns, find solutions to any problems and share information about best practices that we can use in the 2021 winter term."

The task force drew on the experiences of its 31 members from across campus, including Krista Madsen and Greg Atkinson from the Faculty of Science. The task force also incorporated the findings of several surveys, including Equity and Inclusion Office’s Winter 2020 Student Educational Experience Survey, the MacPherson Institute’s Fall 2020 Experience Survey and the Office of Community Engagement’s Fall 2020 Community Engaged Learning Survey.

"We recognize that the McMaster community's transition to the online teaching, learning and work environment occurred quickly and has not been without its challenges," wrote the task force in its report. "With the passage of time and the approach of the winter season, we are especially mindful of the mental health and well-being of our colleagues and students. These unprecedented times have pushed the Task Force to rethink what McMaster's commitment to academic excellence means by developing recommendations intended to alleviate students, faculty and staff feeling overwhelmed and provide opportunities to start the winter semester refreshed and prepared together."

The task force recommended that discussions regarding virtual learning continue in 2021 through the University’s Teaching and Learning Advisory Group which would include technology and pedagogical experts, instructors, and students.

The MacPherson Institute held a Faculty of Science Town Hall on Nov. 19 to share results from the Fall Experience Survey of students and faculty. The town hall also included Department and School-specific breakout rooms to discuss the results and share teaching and learning plans for the winter term. Among the key recommendations put forward by faculty and staff were:
  • Permission to reduce content coverage, assessments
  • Ensure that sessions are being concluded on time
  • Streamlining student communications and platform use
  • Balance asynchronous and synchronous delivery
  • Increasing communication within Departments
  • Continue to record sessions and make them readily available
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