COVID-19 UPDATE FROM THE AVP GRADUATE STUDIES | Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies

COVID-19 UPDATE FROM THE AVP GRADUATE STUDIES

 

UPDATE FROM THE AVP GRADUATE STUDIES, MARCH 23, 7:23 PM

Dear University of Guelph Graduate Students,

All of us who oversee graduate studies at the University, from those of us in the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to your supervisor, course instructors, Graduate Program Coordinator, Graduate Program Assistant, and College’s Associate Dean, appreciate that this a challenging time, with many of you simultaneously working at a more fevered pitch and feeling the inevitable stress associated with trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic personally. 

Please be sure to take care of yourselves and each other.  You have undoubtedly developed useful practices in this regard, and external guidance is already plentiful, and so I will not give you further guidance except to say:

Adding to my communication of Mar 17, this email serves to provide you with an update on three matters (of varying relevance to each of you): the completion of your current graduate courses; planning for forthcoming thesis defences; and planning for PhD Qualifying Examinations.  With so many unknowns and so many issues to address, we are trying our best to develop and communicate plans in the order in which they are needed, and in response to expressed concerns from the graduate studies community.  Please anticipate further communications very soon, one of which will, of course, focus on your options for the summer semester.

Completion of current graduate courses

As you are aware, the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have led to significant changes to the structure and delivery of your courses for the remainder of the Winter 2020 semester. Your instructors have been authorized to make adjustments following University Policy on Academic Disruption.  These adjustments have been designed to provide you with options in recognition of the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on all of us, including your ability to cover original course material and be assessed on the learning outcomes. 

More specifically, a revised grading structure and extended drop date have been implemented for the Winter 2020 semester.  Final Grades that have been received in the Office of Registrarial Services will show on WebAdvisor beginning April 30, 2020.  Grades will continue to be updated on WebAdvisor as they are received until May 6, 2020. At that time, you may choose one of the following options:

  • keep final awarded numeric grade;
  • assign a satisfactory “SAT” provided you achieved a passing grade (The “SAT” designation does not affect your semester average or your cumulative GPA; you will receive credit for the course); or 
  • drop the course.

You will have until Wednesday, May 20, 2020 to decide whether to retain the numerical grade, opt for a “SAT” designation or drop the course. To request a “SAT,” you will use an electronic form provided by the Office of Registrarial Services. To drop a course, you will do so through WebAdvisor.  It is important that you look into future program requirements before making decisions regarding dropping a course versus taking a “SAT” designation or retaining the numerical grade.  These instructions will also be posted on WebAdvisor and CourseLink.

In addition, please note:

  • Students with a current request for academic consideration should note these are being reviewed by your instructor as faculty and staff continue to work remotely. 
  • New requests for academic consideration related to the format of course delivery, grading scheme, or a revised final examination should be sent to your instructor. A decision to request academic consideration must be made before dropping a course.
  • The credits from a “SAT” designation will be counted in the cumulative credit total.  
  • A “SAT” designation will count toward prerequisites in the same manner as a numerical grade.
  • A “SAT” designation will be sufficient to satisfy Provisional status.
  • The University will work with departments where there are numerical grade requirements for specific courses.

We understand that you may have questions or concerns regarding changes to the remainder of your courses.  To address these in an effective and efficient manner, we ask that you follow the directions below.

  1. If you have questions about the general approach taken by the university to finish the academic year or are having difficulties with online delivery, please see the Academic FAQs, on the University’s COVID website (news.uoguelph.ca/2019-novel-coronavirus-information/).
  2. If you have specific questions about your course(s), including course material, assignments, exams or grade weightings, alternative delivery and particular accommodations, please contact your instructor.
  3. If you need to request Deferred Privileges for your course, because you cannot complete a final term assignment/test or final exam, please contact your instructor.

Planning for forthcoming thesis defences

While we previously announced that forthcoming thesis defences should proceed through use of communication technologies, it became evident that further direction was needed.  To that end, guidelines have been developed for your Graduate Program Coordinators to use.  Here are the key elements of those guidelines for forthcoming thesis defences.

  • For those of you who have moved to a point in your research where you are ready to defend, we commit to seeing you though the defence procedures in a timely way. Wherever possible, master’s and doctoral thesis defences that have already been scheduled should occur via web/teleconference (e.g., WebEx, Microsoft Teams).  In this regard:
    • it is the responsibility of your Department to facilitate the web/teleconference-based defence;
    • remote thesis defences should adhere to the normal requirements and procedures as much as possible;
    • thesis defences are usually open to the public, but this requirement can be relaxed under the circumstances to reduce internet bandwidth (please discuss with the chair of the examination committee how audience streaming and/or questions will be handled during your remote defence); and
    • at the discretion of the chair of the examination committee, a defence in progress may be stopped and rescheduled if technical difficulties prevent the student, chair or more than one examiner from participating.
  • Given the challenging circumstances for both students and faculty, either party may request that a thesis defence be postponed (up to 4 weeks). To request that your defence be postponed, please contact your Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • Students who request to postpone a scheduled defence, or whose defence is postponed for reasons beyond their control, and thus cannot complete their degree requirements in Winter 2020 must register for the Summer 2020 semester. The deadline to register without late fees is April 26, 2020
  • If you are blocked from registering as per the program duration policy, submission of a Plan of Study or Appeal for Extension of Maximum Program Duration is not required if your defence has been scheduled or if you have already submitted your thesis to the department for defence. If this applies to you, please contact your Graduate Program Assistant for guidance in removing the registration block.
  • If you are at or nearing maximum program duration and blocked from registering, were planning to submit your thesis to the department for defence in early-April, and are now unsure of whether or not that deadline can be met, we strongly recommend that you submit an Appeal for Extension of Maximum Program Duration by April 9, 2020 to be considered at the next Admissions and Progress (A&P) meeting on April 16, 2020.
  • The deadline to pay tuition with personal funds has been extended to May 29, 2020. Students who expect to pay via payroll deduction, scholarships or OSAP loans must submit a Graduate Settlement Form by April 26, 2020.
  • Requests for tuition reduction or relief for those students who face delays in scheduling defences past May 29, 2020 will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Please contact your Graduate Program Coordinator to this end.

The above guidelines aim to maintain the academic integrity of our graduate programs without causing undue stress to you or to faculty under the current circumstances. Of course, your health and wellbeing is of utmost importance; if you are feeling unwell, your defense should be postponed.

Planning for forthcoming PhD Qualifying Examinations

While we previously announced that PhD Qualifying Examinations (QEs) should proceed through use of communication technologies, it became evident that further direction was needed.  Here too we want to meet the expectations of PhD students who are ready to complete their QEs.  At the same time, we recognize that QEs may be delayed with fewer implications for student progress.  Here are the key elements of the guidelines for forthcoming PhD QEs.

  • Wherever possible, QEs that have already been scheduled should occur via web/teleconference (e.g., WebEx, Microsoft Teams). In this regard:
    • it is the responsibility of your Department to facilitate the web/teleconference-based examination;
    • remote QEs should adhere to the normal departmental requirements and procedures as much as possible;
    • at the discretion of the chair of the examination committee, an exam in progress may be stopped and rescheduled if technical difficulties prevent the student, chair or more than one examiner from participating.
  • Students or faculty may request that a QE be delayed. To request that your QE be delayed, please contact your Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • For QEs that involve written, closed-book exams, your Department will work with OpenEd to develop a protocol for remote QE proctoring.

The above guidelines aim to maintain the academic integrity of our graduate programs without causing undue stress to you or to our faculty under the current circumstances. Of course, your health and wellbeing is of utmost importance; if you are feeling unwell, your QE should be postponed.

Before signing off, I must acknowledge that I regret that this email, and its guidance, hasn’t reached you sooner.  I appreciate that many of you are looking for answers to questions that seem to multiply with each day that passes.   As I said above, we are trying our best to develop and communicate plans in the order in which they are needed, and in response to expressed concerns.  Please stay tuned for more.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Graduate Program Coordinator, who is well-positioned to address some concerns and relay others to your Associate Deans, me and my office colleagues.

Sincerely, Ben

Ben Bradshaw | Assistant Vice-President (Graduate Studies)
Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies | University of Guelph
University Centre | 50 Stone Rd E | Guelph, ON | N1G 2W1
 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE FROM THE AVP GRADUATE STUDIES, MARCH 17, 9:15 AM

 

Dear Graduate Students at the University of Guelph,

 

By now, you will have received a new (March 16) communication from the President to the campus community, which is also available via the University’s COVID-19 update page (see https://news.uoguelph.ca/2019-novel-coronavirus-information/).  Given the nature of graduate studies, some questions remain unanswered, which I will seek to address here.

 

As noted in the President’s communication, faculty and staff are now being encouraged to work from home where operationally possible.  Further, faculty and researchers are being asked to think though how they might temporarily postpone, limit or adapt research-related activities as necessary.  Consistent with this message, all graduate students should no longer seek to, nor agree to, work in a University research lab until instructed otherwise.  I appreciate that, for some labs with essential operations, a transition period of a day or two might be required to achieve this end; please work with your supervisor to enable this.

 

Graduate research will continue as it is able, consistent with the many known practices for mitigating the spread of the Covid-19 (see https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/public-health-measures-mitigate-covid-19.html).  More specifically:

  • Those of you completing thesis-based research should, in partnership with your supervisor via remote communications, review your research plans to address how to adapt research-related activities if necessary.
  • Thesis defences that are scheduled for the rest of this week and the weeks that follow can proceed, though accommodations should be developed to move the defences online (e.g. https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/webex).
  • PhD Qualifying Examinations can similarly proceed online if you and your committees wish, though these are more easily delayed to a later time.
  • Travel to off-campus field work sites, so long as they are within Canada, is still allowed.  Such travel should be done only if deemed necessary and should follow standard protocols (e.g. (https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/system/files/new-field-research-safety-plan-form-_jan11_.pdf).

 

If you are an international graduate student, please note that a mass communication to international students encouraging immediate return to your home countries was mistakenly sent to you as well (rather than just international undergraduate students as was intended).  We apologize for that error.  A correction can be found here

 

I appreciate that other graduate-specific issues remain unanswered, including for issues such as the recovery of expenses incurred by some you for now cancelled conferences and our plans beyond April 30, 2020.  These too will be addressed in due course.

 

Many thanks for your patience.  Please stay healthy and reach out to us if you need help.

 

Ben Bradshaw | Assistant Vice-President (Graduate Studies)
Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies | University of Guelph
University Centre | 50 Stone Rd E | Guelph, ON | N1G 2W1
519-824-4120 Ext. 58460 | 
ben.bradshaw@uoguelph.ca