Winter term will be online: Provost’s letter

Dear members of the McMaster community,

While the fall term is only in its second week I want to update our campus community on the planning being done for the winter 2021 term. I have been leading a group with broad representation of academic and campus leaders who evaluated many options for the winter term. The President and Vice-Presidents (PVP) have accepted the group’s recommendation that McMaster extends this fall’s online delivery of academic programs into the winter term.

I realize that this will be disappointing to many. For those of you who are used to being on campus and interacting with colleagues, peers and students in person, the virtual environment presents additional challenges. For those of you who, like me, are new to McMaster, I understand the difficulties with building relationships and negotiating through our University virtually.

McMaster remains committed to making decisions based on the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. Every level of public health continues to stress the need to maintain physical distancing and anticipates the pandemic continuing for the foreseeable future. To keep our community as safe as possible, the winter academic term will be online with only a few exceptions where program requirements or the need for access to specialized equipment or facilities may still require some in-person campus time.

  • Classes for the entire winter term will be online.
  • With few exceptions, students will not need to be on campus to take courses. Students enrolling in programs with an on-campus component will receive additional information directly from their departments.
  • Faculty and staff are encouraged to continue to find alternate, online means to deliver programs.
  • The process used for the fall term to request use of labs and other specialized facilities, where essential to meet program requirements, will continue to be used with requests requiring approval from the Department Chair, Dean and the Provost or delegate.
  • Residences will remain closed but will continue to provide accommodation in exceptional circumstances and to support international students or others who need to quarantine
  • Decisions regarding research at the university will continue to be determined under the leadership of the Vice-President, Research

We recognize that COVID-19 has added an additional level of stress for many students, faculty and staff. By making the decision about the winter 2021 term as early as possible, we hope to provide as much stability as we can in what is a dynamic and unpredictable pandemic. We will continue to work closely with public health officials to monitor the pandemic and make the most informed decisions possible for the university.

We encourage everyone to reach out for any assistance they may need whether it is through the Student Wellness Centre or through employee support programs. This is particularly important for students who may be finding the online environment challenging. Please do not hesitate to speak to your professors or others in your department or Faculty or, for first year students, your Archway coaches and mentors.

Even in a normal year the beginning of term tends to bring with it some technical glitches no matter how much preparation and planning is done.  We are establishing a new group to help to ensure we are in the strongest position to address all of these issues and to continue to share solutions and best practices across campus. Co-chaired by the deans of Engineering and Social Sciences, the Virtual Learning Task Force will bring together the MacPherson Institute, technology experts and others to support the best possible online learning experience.

There are many questions that will still need to be answered and we will continue to share information and decisions as they are made. Please continue to check in regularly with the Daily News  and McMaster’s COVID-19 website for updates and information on services and supports.

Thank you to you all as we continue to face the pandemic together.


Susan Tighe