Winter and summer 2021 terms to stay mainly online

For most university students in Toronto, the odds of a triumphant return to campus anytime soon are slim. (Courtesy of Jordan Chu via Excalibur)

On November 27, York announced that both the winter 2021 and summer 2021 academic terms would remain online, applying the same approach to course delivery used in fall 2020 to the two upcoming terms. Certain circumstances may allow for limited in-person offerings, but these will be the exception, not the rule. 

“The same approach to course delivery approved for the upcoming winter term will also apply to the summer 2021 term. As guidance from public health authorities evolves, we will continue to explore opportunities to offer more in-person learning when it is safe to do so,” stated Lisa Philipps, provost & vice-president academic, in a November 27 statement.

York’s Deputy Spokesperson Yanni Dagonas cited safety and health as the motivation behind this decision, in light of the continued risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“York is guided by public health and government guidelines. Within those guidelines, our goal and first priority is to safeguard the safety and health of our community,” he says. “Our goal is to make the best use of our facilities to meet urgent needs of students, faculty, and staff in ways that put the health and safety of our community first.”

York is not the only Toronto university staying online for the winter term. Ryerson University and the University of Toronto have also confirmed that the majority of their courses will stay virtual for the remainder of the academic year. 

“In the midst of a pandemic, it has allowed me to feel safe as I do not have to take public transit nor do I have to interact with other individuals and worry about the spread of COVID-19,” says Maha Noor, a second-year nursing student. “

For the most part, it appears as though the winter term will remain almost exactly the same. However, Phillipps stated that opportunities may be somewhat expanded in the summer term, most likely due to improved weather.

“Our colleagues in Facilities are currently investigating the potential to use outdoor spaces on our campuses to modestly increase the opportunities for in-person learning in summer 2021.”

“Our colleagues in Facilities are currently investigating the potential to use outdoor spaces on our campuses to modestly increase the opportunities for in-person learning in summer 2021.”

Students who may be unable to attend any potential in-person course components on short notice need not worry; courses for which in-person activities are optional are also required to have a fully online track so no student gets left behind.

There is currently no information regarding what the fate of graduation will be under these circumstances. 

“No decisions have been made at this time regarding spring convocation,” says Dagonas. “We will communicate with upcoming graduates and our community when we have more information to share.”

As for the future beyond these two terms, the outlook remains uncertain.

“We are actively monitoring the rapidly evolving public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to inform planning for the fall 2021 term,” said Philipps. “As announcements on vaccine availability are made, we will continue to update our response during the winter 2021 term.”

Post-secondary students everywhere have expressed mixed emotions about the major repercussions of the shift to online learning. For some students, despite being a major change, it provides benefits.

“Online school has been an enormous change for students in regards to their environment, the way they are being taught, and the amount of content being given,” says Noor. “I feel it has been easy for me to complete as I am able to manage my time better, solely due to the time I save from not having to transit hours back and forth.”

“Though I do miss the structured in-person classes where I retained more information, I personally enjoy learning online more,” she adds.

On the other hand, students have cited heavy workloads and increased stress from online learning as contributors to feelings of major burnout. 

“I thought it would be an interesting change and I could finally work at my own pace. I thought that I would finally have enough time to do my notes, assignments, and readings — but I was definitely wrong,” says Sana Mohammed, a second-year nursing student at Ryerson. “Soon enough, online school started to become mentally draining, and it still is! Even though I am in the comfort of my own home, I am not comfortable at all.”

Similarly, a post on the unofficial York subreddit about feeling ‘horrible’ due to the effects of online school burnout garnered over a hundred upvotes. 

“I don’t get to see my friends and classmates, who were my support group during the school year, and I don’t get to see my campus,” says Mohammed. “I am stuck in my room all day, with no change of space. I mean, even if I go out for a walk, I know I am coming back to the same room, same desk, trying to catch up on my school work that I had previously thought I would have been ahead in,” she adds. “I realized that the environment I had during in-person school really motivated me to be successful in school and gave me that push, even when I did not feel like it.”

About the Author

By Sakeina Syed

Former Editor

Sakeina is in her third year at York University studying public administration and creative writing. She is committed to learning and writing about critical issues and uplifting marginalized stories. Outside of Excalibur, you'll most likely find her reading a book or collecting funny cat videos.

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