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UVic suspends classroom teaching due to COVID-19; will use other methods

The University of Victoria is moving away from face-to-face instruction for the rest of the term, asking instructors to find other ways to conduct classes and evaluate students.
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The measures are being taken in response to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's recommendation against gatherings of more than 250 people, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The University of Victoria is moving away from face-to-face instruction for the rest of the term, asking instructors to find other ways to conduct classes and evaluate students.

The measures are being taken in response to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommendation against gatherings of more than 250 people, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“At this time, universities are encouraged to continue to take steps to remain open while promoting strategies to prevent the spread of the virus,” president Jamie Cassels said in a statement posted Friday evening on the UVic website. “Yesterday, the [provincial health officer] provided new advice regarding the cancellation of large events and a more robust approach to social distancing. We are following that advice and, at the same time, ensuring that students are able to complete their term.”

Instructors are being asked to choose how best to complete their courses, he said. Options include emailing students with course content, posting slides or lecture notes online, uploading videos or using online learning platforms. Instructors are to let students know by Thursday.

The changes affect undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies courses.

Even though there won’t be in-person classes, the university campus remains open. Laboratories, administrative offices, libraries and recreation facilities are open, as are student residences and food services.

The university had previously announced that classes of more than 250 students would be cancelled, and that large campus gatherings were cancelled.

The University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University have also cancelled face-to-face classes.

Camosun College is cancelling indoor or outdoor gatherings larger than 250 people, including third-party events on college property.

“Information about COVID-19 is fast-changing, and this can mean that circumstances can change as quickly as information is received,” it said in a statement.

At Vancouver Island University, the cancellation of larger events includes the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s National Basketball Championship, which would have begun next Wednesday.

UVic is postponing any outbound, university-sponsored student travel until the end of May. Exceptions will be assessed case by case. The postponement also affects faculty and staff.

It has asked those in the university community with personal travel plans to international locations to consider postponement, pointing to Henry’s recommendation against non-essential travel out of the country, including to the United States.

Camosun has similarly suspended all work-related international travel, including to the United States.

Royal Roads University said a COVID-19 committee has been formed, and the university has developed protocols to respond to a possible case on campus or in the community. “If someone on campus or in the community does contract the disease, we will shift from planning mode to response mode and work closely with public health officials.”

Frequent cleaning with “hospital-grade” disinfectant is ongoing, Royal Roads said.

jwbell@timescolonist.comc