From Catherine Dauvergne | Planning for learning continuity in the spring term

January 07, 2022

Dear colleagues,

Before we begin the spring term next week, I want to share context about how we are using this brief period of remote learning to plan for in-person learning continuity in the spring term.

As you know, Joy Johnson, SFU president and vice-chancellor, announced on Dec. 23, 2021 a temporary shift to remote learning from Jan. 10-23. We did this to give students, faculty and staff time to plan for what we knew would be an unusual start to our spring term. Our expectation is to be back to in-person teaching as soon as we can.

As we learn more about the latest COVID-19 variant Omicron, we know this is a different phase of the pandemic and our approach must also be different.

COVID-19 will continue to circulate in the broader community and needs to be managed for years to come. Vaccination remains the single most important thing all of us can do to protect ourselves, as well as using layers of protection to limit the spread on our campuses.

What is changing

Due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, COVID-19 is becoming more common. At the same time, symptoms, so far, appear to be less severe than earlier variants.

As a result, Public Health will continue to work closely with us to manage possible outbreaks, while individual cases not related to a local outbreak will be self-managed. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be responsible for notifying close contacts, unless informed otherwise by Public Health. You can find these new guidelines from the BC CDC on our Return to Campus webpages. I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with these changes as we continue, as always, to keep our campuses safe.

Flexibility and academic concessions

Consider the need for flexibility during the spring term as we may see higher than normal absences due to short-term illness among students, faculty and staff.

If you are an instructor:

  • Consider what you can do to prepare should you become sick for a short period of time.
  • Build some flexibility into your syllabus that will help you meet the educational goals of your course even if you have to miss a class or two.
  • Please plan with the goal of making things easy for yourself, your students, and your teaching assistants. It has always been OK to miss a class or two, thinking about this possibility in advance will make the ups and downs of the term easier to address.
  • If you are sick, follow existing sick leave policies. Faculty can find more information here.
  • Think of ways to make it reasonably easier for students who can’t be there in person due to short term-illness. What can you do in advance that will not create the need to make up duplicate assignments or add significantly to your workload. Recording lectures may be useful as it creates flexibility for students who are unwell. You are not required to meet every request students make, but rather to have a plan in advance of how to address missed classes.
  • Contact the Centre for Educational Excellence if you need support.
  • Keep in mind our process around academic concessions as this was developed specifically for unexpected situations.

Mental health resources

I want to remind everyone about the consequences of going through a pandemic. None of us can know for sure how much the past two years have affected the mental health of the people around us. Let us err on the side of compassion, including with ourselves, and seek to better understand each other in all our interactions.

If you or someone you know needs help coping, SFU has a number of mental health resources, tools and information for faculty and staff. Visit the Human Resources website for more information.

If you personally would like extra support, please feel free to connect with our Wellness & Recovery team via email at or our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider, Homewood Health.

Thank you for all you do to keep our campuses safe and our learning experiences fulfilling for students.


Yours truly,


Dr. Catherine Dauvergne, QC
Vice-President, Academic and Provost
Simon Fraser University