U of M moving ahead with partial in-person return

Faculties maintain control over which courses will remain remote

Photo by Mohammad Arsalan Saeed, staff

In a Feb. 2 email to students and employees at the U of M, University president and vice-
chancellor Michael Benarroch and provost and vice-president (academic) Diane Hiebert-Murphy
announced that partial in-person teaching and learning will resume for some courses.

‍Rather than mandating the terms of any return, the U of M administration is leaving specifics in
the hands of faculties themselves.

‍“What we’ve done is ask faculties and schools to determine which of their courses need to come
back in-person in order for them to achieve the learning objective of those courses,” said

‍“They’ve been provided with some criteria, which is obviously going to prioritize the return based
on pedagogical considerations.”

‍These considerations include which delivery method meets learning objectives best.

‍“I think that we will expect to see some of the courses that do have some hands-on or really
applied learning components,” said Hiebert-Murphy.

‍These courses include many lab-based courses as well as those that would regularly have
applied components during non-COVID conditions, such as engineering and music courses.
The University of Winnipeg (U of W), meanwhile, has decided to continue the rest of its winter
term online.

‍University of Winnipeg Students’ Association president Kirt Hayer stated the U of W’s decision
falls in line with what a survey showed the majority of staff and students prefer.

‍“The university did conduct a survey of faculty and students and [approximately] 80 per cent of
students who took the survey […] decided that they wanted remote learning to continue until the
end of the term.”

‍Hayer noted there were classes being held at the U of W during the fall term, saying “there
weren’t too many concerns at that time.”

‍“The situation of course evolved after that. Generally, at that point in time, students were happy
to be in-person, but once the Omicron variant started spreading, a lot of people changed their
minds and would have preferred the second term to be online rather than in-person.”

‍UMSU president Brendan Scott said a survey of UMSU members showed similar results to
those from the U of W’s survey.

‍“Our UMSU survey had similar numbers, I will admit. The majority of [U of M] students do want
to remain online [though] not as [many] as U of W. The other end of it was, many students — an
overwhelming majority — stating that they felt safe returning to campus with the mandatory
vaccination policy and all the procedures the university outlined for returning.”

‍While the U of M will see many courses transitioning to in-person learning, some faculties —
such as the faculty of arts — are still having discussions about which courses can be brought
back in-person.

‍“They’ve indicated that they anticipate that the majority of their courses will remain remote,” said
Hiebert-Murphy. “There may be some courses that do decide to come back in-person for very specific reasons. So, they’re just making those final decisions at this point.”

‍“I think there may be some miscommunication in saying that the U of W is online and the U of M
is in-person,” said Scott, noting the situation is not that simple.

‍Meanwhile at the U of W, Hayer that there is a four-tier classification system for which classes
should get priority to be in-person instead of online.

‍“Even right now there’s some labs and classes […] that are in-person,” he said.

‍Hiebert-Murphy said what makes it difficult to make decisions about which programs should be
offered in-person at the U of M is the diversity of programs that are offered.

‍“For us, a one-size-fits-all across the university campus doesn’t work. We really need to have
those decisions made at the level of programs,” she said.

The U of M has extended the drop date for affected courses to Feb. 28, meaning if a student is
registered for a class that is shifting to in-person learning after the winter term break, the student may
drop the class by that date without financial or academic penalty.