Advice to Members for Pivoting to Online Instruction in Spring 2022

In an email to the University community on Dec. 22, 2021, President Mike Mahon announced that most courses at the University of Lethbridge will be offered online from Jan 5 through Jan. 21, 2022, in response to the growing threat of the Omicron COVID virus. This change was made together with the Universities of Calgary and Alberta.

In contrast to other Universities in Canada, however, the U of L announced that it will not delay its start date, although “professors [i.e. ULFA Members] will be afforded some flexibility should they need it during the first week (January 5-7) as they work through this transition.” 

Since the University is also quite correctly encouraging staff, faculty, and students to take advantage of the relatively short Christmas break to recuperate from what has been a very tough year, the decision not to delay the start of the academic year leaves ULFA Members with a maximum of two working days to adjust their syllabi before classes begin on Jan 5: Dec. 23 and Jan. 4 (the University will be closed from Dec. 24 through January 3). 

The “flexibility” mentioned by President Mahon refers to this problem. While some members will find it relatively easy to adjust their syllabi to the new policy, others may require more time for thought and coordination with others, including using the working hours of the first week of classes.

Either way, Members are not required to work on their syllabi over the holiday break. During the previous pivot, many Members worked extra hours in order to ensure a smooth transition to online delivery. This was because the pivot was an unplanned response to an emergent situation. The current pivot is a planned response to a known health situation and Members have the right to effect this change during their working hours. 

In some cases, making the change during working hours may mean that it is necessary to distribute the revised syllabus later than is normally the case (e.g. at the second planned class rather than the first).

The important thing is that any delays, changes, or cancellations be communicated as promptly as possible to students, who are also dealing with great uncertainty. In keeping with the need to maintain work-life balance, Members should also refrain from asking students to do anything during the Christmas break.