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USask Classes May Stay Online Through 2021, University President Says

Students attending the University of Saskatchewan may be learning from home during 2021, University President says, Peter Stoicheff.

While no official announcements have been made yet, Stoicheff told CBC Saskatoon Morning that it seems unlikely that classes will be in person during the spring and summer sessions.

"Starting in May, it looks like we'll be in the same kind of situation," Stoicheff said.

Studying from home can even extend into the fall.

Stoicheff said that whether or not students return to campus will depend on the availability, distribution, and efficacy of the vaccine.

"I can't predict with certainty, but I think by [May] we should be able to make an announcement about what fall will be like."

Ideally, he said the university would like to make the decision on the fall session in May because it will give students and faculty time to plan.

"Anything much later than May would be very problematic for our thousand or more teachers who will be really anxious to know if they are teaching their programs, doing all their teaching and all their research in person or remotely."

Classes for most students have been taught online since March and will continue to be online during the winter session.

Online change is a 'big change'

In 2020, the university moved 26,000 students from face-to-face classes to remote learning.

"It's been a big, big change," Stoicheff said.

The pandemic has had a financial impact on the university, due to the loss of income from food and room services, as well as a weak stock market where the university has investments, Stoicheff said.

And yet the switch to online courses did not affect enrollment as much as the university predicted.

Stoicheff said the university expected a 15 percent drop in enrollment, but instead saw a two percent increase.

Global reach

Moving online means that students have missed the social aspect of getting a college education, and some researchers were unable to return to their labs.

But Stoicheff said there has also been progress, including the development of better online systems that will help people in remote communities access post-secondary education.

"Suddenly, we have the ability to allow many, many more people to access a lot of the things we do, including our programming. And indeed, that's true for people all over the world."

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