Fall Term Teaching – Whither Online?


On this last day of teaching, I wanted to thank you all once again for your determination and hard work in making the transition to online teaching and learning a success.  Yes, there have been some bumps and bruises along the way, and we continue to address various issues, but in the grand scheme of things, the Faculty of Forestry has collectively risen to the challenge in more ways than I can count.  Most importantly, our students are very appreciative of our efforts, and in particular, our attempts to minimize the tremendous amounts of stress and anxiety that they are going through at this time.  Thank you, all!!!

I also thought I would broach the subject of Fall Term teaching with you and to try to provide some clarity on a question you probably all have.  Will we be teaching online in September?  Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer.  We haven’t even made a decision on Summer Term 2, let alone the Fall Term.

Decisions like this are way above my pay grade.  All I can say is that the Associate Deans, Academic are pushing back hard to try and get – at the very least – a commitment on the timing of such announcements.  I am guessing that we will formally hear about Fall Term teaching some time in May.

That said, when I read the tea leaves, all indications suggest that we will be teaching online in September – at least some courses, if not all.  The reason I am communicating this to you now is that we need time to prepare.  Yes, the transition to online teaching this term has been a remarkable success, but this was a pivot, a response to a very challenging set of circumstances.  If courses are offered online in September, then students will be fully aware of what they are getting into.  To that end, we will need to spend the time and resources to prepare a suite of courses that are not only functional, but pedagogically sound.  Please note that if you do spend the time and energy developing an online version of your course(s), this is not necessarily a one-off.  There is nothing to suggest that we can’t keep teaching some materials online once the pandemic is over.

So where does this leave us?  Well, I think we find ourselves in a ‘prepare for the worst, hope for the best’ situation.  The prudent approach would be to start thinking about a transition to online courses now.  Which courses can be taught online?  Which courses would be problematic?  What sort of training and support is required to create a suite of high quality courses?  What resources are available to implement these courses?  What will happen to enrolments?  How can we help our students to succeed in this setting?  What technologies will they need?  Should we develop a guiding set of principles for online teaching and learning in our Faculty?  Should we re-examine the way we look at workload and credit in these changing times?  And so on…

Lots of really tough questions, but in order to get a head start, we need to start asking them now.  My intent in this email was not to set off any alarm bells, but rather to start an open and honest conversation about how things may unfold and to afford you the opportunity of budgeting some time over the summer to prepare accordingly.  If we transition to online teaching in the Fall Term (completely or in part), my only hope is that we can work together to create courses that evoke the high quality of instruction that the UBC Faculty of Forestry has become known for around the world.

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts.  Let’s keep this conversation going.

Thank you, again.  Stay safe and well.


Posted in: ,

Related Articles