UBC Okanagan has been working hard, in collaboration with Interior Health and with students, faculty and staff, to offer a safe and in-person return to campus this fall. UBCO has introduced several health and safety measures that can be viewed here and is steadfast in its commitment to provide a rich, thoughtful and fulsome experience — both in-person and virtually — for all of its students.
At the same time, an outbreak was declared on July 28 for the Central Okanagan with steep increase in cases in Kelowna in the 20 to 40 age cohort. Accordingly, new public health orders were announced for the region on August 6. These orders were further extended on August 20 and remain in place until further notice. Public health orders and guidance continues to evolve, with the latest mask, vaccine and rapid testing requirements announced on August 27. UBCO is working to implement these changes but the testing program will take a period of transition extending beyond the first week of classes. This places the Okanagan in a unique position in BC with respect to COVID-19.
Travel restrictions, both internationally and domestically, as well as local conditions, are also creating increased barriers for students travelling to the region, meaning many students are unable to get to campus for the beginning of the fall term.
The situation has been further complicated by a particularly aggressive wildfire season, which has devastated many parts of the region and impeded travel and housing for many.
UBC’s Okanagan campus nevertheless remains open and will host a full complement of in-person student services this fall — from meeting up with friends for a meal, to studying in the library, to going to the gym.
However, in an effort to ensure an effective, inclusive learning environment, some programs and courses have decided to move more of their content online for a portion of the fall term.
This does not mean that all courses at UBC Okanagan will be offered online. Nor does it necessarily mean that all components of any given course will be online only. Approximately one quarter of UBCO courses are currently online or hybrid. And of those that are online, many are planning for increased in-person activities such as seminars or organized study groups. Most students should expect to engage and learn on campus even if some of their lectures are delivered virtually.
Online, hybrid and blended learning have long been part of UBCO’s resumption planning, as has increased flexibility to respond to evolving public health orders and recommendations. With instructors and faculties exploring more virtual learning options for the fall, students will have even greater choice and expanded accommodations to help address their individual challenges and circumstances.
UBCO has further initiated a campus survey to better inform the community of vaccination rates, and to help build confidence in the health and safety of our community.
At present, the UBCO human kinetics and nursing programs informed students on August 27 and August 30 respectively that they would be moving their lectures online in order to redouble efforts to offer smaller gatherings and in-person experiences, including labs, seminars, study support sessions, and practicums or placements. These smaller face-to-face learning experiences are critical components of a nursing or human kinetics degree and are expected to continue in person.
These programs work hand-in-hand with the health-care sector or other partners, and are particularly sensitive to the pressures that the pandemic has put on frontline workers and local communities. The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, their families, as well as that of the communities with whom they work so closely, is paramount. This is especially true for those that are not eligible to be vaccinated.
Other faculties and courses will be examining their specific circumstances on a case-by-case basis and will continue to do so. They have made adjustments to course delivery and may offer additional online options in the coming days. They will take many considerations into account, including student and faculty health accommodations, student travel, lecture size, course content, and student experience, among many others. Any changes will be communicated to affected students directly.
Faculties and instructors do not take these decisions lightly and in all cases, they are made in the best interests of fostering a learning environment that is most conducive to the overall success of our students.
UBC Okanagan is also conscious that the campus community has made preparations, and in some cases sacrifices, with the understanding that an in-person experience would be waiting for them in the fall.
To help students that may be facing hardship, UBCO has put in place additional financial support this year for students experiencing financial distress because of wildfires, COVID-19 or other factors. These funds, totalling $565,000, are available to provide one-time support for students unable to cover cost-of-living expenses related to on- or off-campus housing or food purchases, or for those facing unexpected and urgent costs. Applications for this fund are open until September 30. To find out more, please refer to the one-time financial support webpage. Students facing urgent financial need can also email Student Records & Financial Services at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about short-term emergency funding.
UBC has also created a technology bursary designed to financially help students who do not have the necessary technology essential to learning online or in a hybrid-delivery format. The bursary was intended to help students fill general technology needs such as a computer, a tablet, headphones, a webcam, a printer/scanner, specialized accessibility technology or internet access. UBCO has distributed $350k to support technology needs via the technology bursary to date.
Students are encouraged to contact their instructors directly for additional information about courses that may have shifted online. Faculty information can be found here.