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The virtual town hall with undergrads was held via WebEx on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

Overview: October Student Town Hall

College of Engineering Dean Suzanne Kresta and Associate Dean Academic Bruce Sparling held a virtual town hall Oct. 21 with undergraduate students to discuss Winter Term 2021 and online teaching and learning.

Dean Kresta and Dr. Sparling responded to a range of queries during the virtual town hall. Many students brought their questions and concerns to the meeting while others submitted queries beforehand via email. The questions and answers here appear in the order they were received and answered during the meeting. 

QUESTION: Are other engineering schools across Canada offering face-to-face (FTF) classes this winter?
ANSWER: Roughly 75 percent of Canadian engineering schools will have selected FTF experiences this winter. Twenty-five percent are remaining exclusively online.

QUESTION: Will USask Engineering offer any in-person courses in Winter Term 2021?
ANSWER: The college has requested in-person delivery for seven courses. The request is still under review by USask. It is possible that courses the college has requested access for could be withdrawn from the in-person delivery list.

Our criteria for requesting FTF courses was that the learning objectives of the course could not be met effectively except by in-person activities. Three are capstone design courses that involve fabrication of prototypes to prove the design. It’s not mandatory that every student in a capstone group take part in fabrication, it depends on what your group needs. Some groups may not require any fabrication.

If you have specific questions about why certain courses have been chosen, please reach out to your department for further explanation.

QUESTION: None of my Winter Term courses are on the list of classes that the college has requested face-to-face access for. Does this mean all of my classes will be online in Winter Term?
ANSWER:If your course is not on this list, you can be certain it won’t include any in-person component and you can plan to continue studying exclusively online.

QUESTION: My capstone design course is on the list. Does this mean I need to be in Saskatoon?
ANSWER: We wanted to ensure that people not living in Saskatoon had as much flexibility as possible. If you are able to come to Saskatoon and are comfortable being face to face, you can do that, provided your project requires some fabrication. If you are unable to travel, there are ways for you to engage with your capstone course that will not require you to be in Saskatoon. Please stay engaged with your Department Heads if you have questions and monitor your PAWS email for more information.

QUESTION: The deadline for confirming that I need a spot in residence was Oct. 19 but I’m still not sure if I need to be in Saskatoon. Can I get an extension to confirm whether I will be staying in residence?
ANSWER: Residence Services is aware of this issue and is making accommodations for engineering students. Please contact Residence Services if you need an extension. If you have a problem, please contact the Dean’s Office and Dean Kresta will help with your request.

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QUESTION: What should I do if I have an issue with how my course is being delivered?
ANSWER: First step: reach out to your instructor with a constructive request. What is one thing they could do that is achievable, and that would make a big difference for you. Keep it positive and respectful. Giving feedback is an important life skill. Remember what THINK stands for in terms of feedback (See image posted at left).

Second step: if you can’t resolve the problem, please reach out to your department head, who can reach out to the faculty member. We need to know about your concern for two reasons: first, to support you, and second, to ensure the faculty member is OK. 
It is perfectly fine to approach your instructor or department head as a group with a shared problem. That often helps us to better understand the best path to a solution.

QUESTION: I have two exams on the same day. The first one starts at 9 am and is a 24-hour exam; the same day I have a second exam starting at 2 pm. What can I do about this overlap?
ANSWER: Contact your instructor to let them know about this situation. The college is obligated to make accommodations for you. If you cannot reach a resolution, please contact Dr. Sparling for additional help.

QUESTION: Will access to the Engineering Building for the library and for study space be the same in Winter Term as it was in Fall Term?
ANSWER: Bookable study space in the Murray Library was recently opened up. We are not able to open the Engineering Library at this time. If you need access to the Engineering Library, please let us know so we can begin making those requests, but we need to fill up the availability in the Murray Library first because custodial staffing and heating costs are a consideration. Please let us know how access to the Murray Library is going.

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QUESTION: How has access to the Engineering Building changed for those who currently have permission to be there?
ANSWER: The building has been divided into several zones and people working in one zone are not allowed to access other zones. If you need to access the building in Winter Term for a class or capstone, you will be assigned to use a specific door to enter your building zone. This keeps you in a small cohort and reduces the possibility of COVID transmission because it stops people from mixing at doorways, where it is hard to physically distance and to keep surfaces clean. There is currently a limitation with building occupancy; it must be below 25 percent with physical distancing and masks used at all times. 

QUESTION: Will final exams be 24-hour exams or 8-hour exams? I've heard conflicting information about how long the exam period time will be.
ANSWER: We are making recommendations about exam lengths to instructors but the final decision is up to them. We have recommended that exams should be twice the duration of what the nominal exam length would be, with accommodations as needed. (For example, an exam that would usually be three hours long will now be six hours long.) We’re telling instructors they need to allow a cushion for technological problems and internet access. If you have concerns, please reach out to your instructor, reiterating what you heard here. If you can’t reach a resolution, contact your department head and then Dr. Sparling if necessary.

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QUESTION: Is the college open to pass/fail for design courses? It's very hard to promote group project responsibilties for group members over remote learning.
ANSWER: No, the college will not switch to pass/fail for design courses. It is working to get students access to Microsoft Teams for the Winter Term to allow students to connect and work together. We have requested clearance to open the Engineering Building to allow capstone teams to do fabrication. Dean Kresta said she’d be happy to work with instructors and with students to provide guidelines about how to promote accountability remotely. Accountability charters are common in the engineering profession today as global teams work together on projects around the world.

QUESTION: One of my classes has a final listed as closed book. What is the plan for these types of exams to ensure academic integrity?
ANSWER: The college will have students use the Integrity Statement again. Please speak with your instructor about plans for monitoring a closed-book exam and ultimately to ensure you understand their expectations for the exam. Dr. Sparling notes that having closed-book exams at this time is very difficult and suggests this reference may be a hold-over from an earlier course syllabus that was not updated. You can copy Dr. Sparling on your emails to your professors about this if you believe it will be helpful.

QUESTION: Will implementing these remote learning changes affect accreditation status for the college?
ANSWER: No. The college had an accreditation visit scheduled for this fall, but it has been postponed until next year. The CEAB is working to ensure that the stability of the accreditation system is maintainied during the pandemic. 

QUESTION: If there is no in person ring ceremony, will we be able to get a ring at all?
ANSWER: Please note, the iron ring ceremony is not connected to the college. More information is available on the Kipling Camp 4 website. You do need to attend a ceremony to receive a ring.

QUESTION: If my senior project is more like a study case project rather then building a prototype, does it still need to be face-to-face?
ANSWER: Some projects that you can choose are “paper” projects and others are “prototype” projects, so there will be some flexibility. The best thing to do is contact your instructor. Dr. Sparling notes from speaking with department heads there will be no expectation that you must show up for face-to-face activities for those design projects that require groups to fabricate or test prototypes. 

QUESTION: Will any Engineering courses be offered over the summer?
ANSWER: That list has not been finalized yet. We typically don’t offer Engineering courses over the summer with the exception of RCM 300 and a second-year mechanical engineering course, but the latter will depend on resourcing. We are hoping to run Field School and are having conversations about Survey Camp. What was offered in Summer 2020 is a good indication of what will be offered in Summer 2021. It’s expected that most summer classes usually offered by the College of Arts and Science will be available remotely.

QUESTION: It looks like fees are increasing. Is this set in stone since the majority of us are not able to use these services?
ANSWER: Fees are beyond the control of the college. If you have a specific question, please let us know.

QUESTION: Will time conflict overrides be available in Winter Term?
ANSWER: We can’t allow time conflict overrides if there are any overlapping synchronous components between classes. However, with remote learning and the asynchronous nature of many classes, some overrides will be possible. We are still collecting data and hope to have these decisions made by late November/early December. We approach these decisions carefully because they impact accreditation.

QUESTION: Can we expect remote delivery to continue in some capacity during Fall 2021 and beyond? The recording of lectures has been extremely helpful.
ANSWER: That is being discussed now and the more information you can provide us about your experience with online learning – good or bad – will be appreciated.

QUESTION: Where can I provide feedback about my online learning experience?
ANSWER: You may contact your instructor with feedback and copy Dean Kresta, Dr. Sparling or your department heads as you see fit. We will also be having mid-term course evaluations and are planning to do a general survey of students as well. We know students have had positive and negative experiences; we want to get the maximum benefit of online learning and avoid the pitfalls - and learn as much as we can from this experience ourselves. Our instructors are working hard and would appreciate any constructive feedback you can give them. If you have something positive to pass along, that would be appreciated. Don’t underestimate the value of positive feedback in building positive energy and in motivating people to give their best effort.

In addition to the images posted above, Dean Kresta also shared these slides during her presentation. Take care of yourselves and reach out if you need help.
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