Dean’s statement on the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 Terms

Posted on July 30, 2020

Dear students of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,

As we draw closer to September, I’m happy to report that our plans for the Fall term, as well as the Winter 2021 term, are becoming clearer.

One thing we are learning from this issue is the many challenges around predicting the evolution and consequences of a pandemic.

Flexibility, adaptability, and lateral thinking are all key attributes of excellence in engineering. Your ability to adapt to these circumstances, and your understanding as we adjust and refine our plan in parallel with substantial programming modifications, is much appreciated.

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has arrived at a plan that provides the best possible quality of education to our students, follows the best guidance of public health officials, and gives us the flexibility we need to adjust should things shift in unexpected directions.

The essential information is we are anticipating remote delivery to our undergraduate students in the Fall semester, and on-campus delivery of experiential small-group work in the Winter semester.

The exception to this is graduate students, who may have lab or research work that requires them to be on campus for the Fall 2020 semester as well. We encourage graduate students who have not yet heard from their departments to get in touch with their graduate coordinators.

Some of our students have made plans to return to the campus this fall, either in residence or private accommodations. We welcome them back to Queen’s, but want to assure students who choose to pursue their education remotely in the Fall 2020 term that they will receive the same excellent quality of instruction as those who join us here in Kingston.

We are looking forward to welcoming all our students back in Winter term, as FEAS proposes to offer a “blended” delivery model to our students in the Winter 2021 semester.

A blended model is one that offers course content online (lectures, seminars, readings), but delivers experiential learning in person. This is a proven educational delivery method that’s been used successfully by FEAS and other Queen’s departments in the past, pre-pandemic. It allows students to “go to class” on their own schedule, while maximizing the utility of in-person instruction by dedicating it to direct work with instructors: lab work, active learning, tutorials, group design projects, fieldwork, etc.

We will, of course, be complying with Public Health directives and advice to ensure a safe environment for all in-person activities.

Over the summer, we have consulted with our departments to identify course elements that require face-to-face instruction. These include some core courses in all years that are necessary for degree progression, and form part of the program learning outcomes needed for CEAB accreditation, capstone experiences, group design projects, prototyping activities, field activities, and more.

We are also innovating in how we deliver our programs; in the Fall semester, some CHEE and GEO classes will be offered as split six-week intensives in the first semester, either in the first six weeks or last six weeks of the Fall term. Similarly, we may break lab and fieldwork out as short-term intensive work in the Winter term.

Of course, this is a plan that is still being refined. We don’t have the answers to all the questions yet (nor are we even sure of what all the questions may be!), but each day sees more details falling into place.  

As announced by the university, Queen’s will be prioritizing residence space for first-year students with on-campus learning requirements, but has not been able to offer its traditional guarantee of a residence space for all first-year students due to public health requirements. We will continue to update our first-year class on this situation through the coming months. We will place incoming students as space becomes available.

The university is hopeful that we will be able to accommodate everyone in residence by the Winter term.  If spaces are not available for all students by the beginning of the Winter 2021 term, our programming will be adjusted to ensure remote students receive the full benefit of Queen’s Engineering courses.

We have already launched some resources for our first-year students, including a digital version of the campus orientation program SOAR, and our QEng Prep bridging program – an innovative way for incoming students to assess their knowledge of math, physics and chemistry and then improve their skills with free online courses from Queen’s Engineering before starting school.

There’s more to come, and we will be in touch with further announcements in August as we finalize some truly exciting projects to help us navigate a successful return to school.

This has been the result of a tremendous amount of work, dedication, and especially ingenuity and flexibility from all our staff and faculty – who have also been impacted significantly by this pandemic. I thank them – and you – for your hard work, patience, and understanding as we work together to overcome obstacles and thrive in these challenging circumstances.

Dean Kevin Deluzio