C/O Georgia Kirkos

After a year of online school, McMaster gives professors the opportunity to teach courses in-person once again

For the past year, McMaster University has been completely online, with libraries and residences closed and classes taking place on Zoom and Microsoft Teams. However, as of this fall, not only has McMaster’s campus opened up, but many students now also have the opportunity to take classes in person once again. 

“It was really left up to the instructors to decide how they wanted to offer their classes in the fall because we wanted to make sure that they felt comfortable,” said Associate Dean of Social Sciences Tracy Prowse. 

Prowse explained that, in the faculty of social sciences, professors were first given the option to choose between online and in-person learning in February of this year, amidst the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who did choose to offer their classes in person were given the option in August to switch to a virtual platform instead, depending on their level of comfort with the current situation. 

“There were a very small number of courses that were originally scheduled to be in person that were shifting online,” explained Prowse. 

Prowse added that decisions to shift courses back online were made in August, so that course outlines could still be posted by mid-August, allowing students to prepare for the year. 

Maureen MacDonald, dean of sciences, offered perspective on how decisions about in-person learning were made within the faculty of science.

“We did, of course, consult with the professors about their preference and we took that tremendously into account, but it was a larger conversation about the learning outcomes and the learning experience and we did try to construct it so that every science student would have the potential to have at least one in-person learning component this term,” explained MacDonald.

“We did, of course, consult with the professors about their preference and we took that tremendously into account, but it was a larger conversation about the learning outcomes and the learning experience and we did try to construct it so that every science student would have the potential to have at least one in-person learning component this term.”

Maureen MacDonald, Dean of Sciences

For courses that are taking place in person this year, numerous safety measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As MacDonald explained, along with public health measures such as masks, McMaster Facility Services ensured that all McMaster buildings had appropriate ventilation. 

Further, as Prowse explained, any course that is a degree requirement must be accessible online as well. This means that, for these required courses, lectures must be recorded and uploaded to Echo 360 and assessments must take place virtually as well. 

“[With] any in-person class that is required for a degree, the instructor also has to ensure that a student could take that [class] virtually,” said Prowse. 

“[With] any in-person class that is required for a degree, the instructor also has to ensure that a student could take that [class] virtually.”

Tracy Prowse, Associate Dean of Social Sciences

MacDonald stated that the return to some level of in-person learning will hopefully benefit students at McMaster, citing the importance of personal connection with peers and instructors. 

MacDonald also highlighted the unique significance of in-person learning for the sciences. 

“For science, we really believe the tactile component of experimentation, of physically trying to conduct an experiment or manipulate something in a discovery-based format, does lead to an enhanced learning,” said MacDonald. 

“For science, we really believe the tactile component of experimentation, of physically trying to conduct an experiment or manipulate something in a discovery-based format, does lead to an enhanced learning.”

Maureen MacDonald, Dean of Sciences

Although the plan for the winter semester is contingent on COVID-19 restrictions, Prowse stated that students should expect a return to in-person classes. 

“It’s just been really nice to see students on campus. Even if a lot of their courses are still virtual or online, it’s still nice to see people,” said Prowse.

Image courtesy of Georgia Kirkos

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