COVID-19 FAQ

As the situation with COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, we recognize and understand that our faculty, staff, and students may have ongoing questions on how to proceed with their internships and other placements during this unprecedented time. Provided below are some Frequently Asked Questions and responses regarding COVID-19 and University of Toronto (U of T) operations.

1. How will COVID-19 impact the remainder of the Winter 2020 term?

To ensure the safety and well-being of the UTM community, all in-person classes are cancelled for the remainder of the term. Instructors may choose to hold online classes. Student assignments will also be submitted online. 

The University is collaborating with individual faculties to determine how best to proceed during the exam period and plan ahead for the summer session. For further details on this, as well as many other updates, please visit the official FAQ page for U of T.

2. What happens to students who are currently completing placements in the community as required by their academic courses?

While in-person classes have ceased, students are still expected to complete all required coursework, including placement-related activities. Where possible, we recommend that faculty supervisors work with their external partners to discuss the possibility of allowing students to work remotely or seek alternative solutions to support the successful completion of the course.

Regarding the health and safety of our students, it is important that we work closely with our external partners to learn more about the health and safety instructions and procedures in place at various organizations to ensure a safe working environment.

3. How are students undertaking clinical placements currently being impacted–especially those in graduate or professional school programs?

Most healthcare facilities have implemented a temporary suspension on clinical placements.  For those that require continuous commitment, students may only participate if the site has screening processes in place for COVID-19. Students are further required to use the proper personal protective equipment.  For updates on clinical placements, please visit https://medicine.utoronto.ca/restricted-duties-and-local-placements-faculty-medicine-clinical-learners.

4. Should staff, faculty, and students come to campus if they are feeling sick?

Any member of the UTM community with flu-like symptoms should stay home. Any person who has recently travelled or has had contact with someone infected with COVID-19 is recommended to self-isolate for 14 days.

If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms indicated by Public Health Ontario, please notify U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse immediately by email at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca if you test positive for COVID-19.

Students

Students are not required to have a doctor’s note or medical certificate for cold or flu-related absences or for self-isolation.

In order to receive academic consideration, students need to record all cold or flu-related absences or absences for self-isolation through ACORN. Some Faculties have alternate or supplementary requirements when reporting absences, so please contact your Registrar’s Office if you have questions. Student absences for other illnesses or reasons should continue to be documented through the Verification of Illness (VOI) form and normal Faculty processes.

Faculty & Staff
For the purposes of absences related to COVID-19, requirements to provide a medical note will be waived, to prevent additional strain on healthcare providers.

All employees who need to self-isolate (due to travel or illness) or work from home (due to immunocompromised status or childcare arrangements) should complete these request forms after speaking with their managers.

5. I would like to speak to an EEU representative. How can I do this?

As of Monday, March 16, EEU staff are not accepting in-person or drop-in appointments. Members of our community who wish to discuss an EL-related matter are encouraged to send an email to experientialeducation.utm@utoronto.ca or directly contact one of our staff. We will work with you to arrange a phone appointment.

6. I have other questions regarding COVID-19 and the University’s response. Where can I find answers?

The University of Toronto has created a central information hub for important messages and commonly asked questions about the coronavirus and its impact on the University. You can also submit questions through an online form. Questions will be routed to the appropriate office and staff will respond as soon as possible.

7. What platforms can students use to collaborate online (e.g. for ROP projects, group work, etc.)?

All UTM students have access to Office 365 through their UTmail+ account.  Once students log into Office 365, they can click on the question mark to gain access to help documentation for the tools for which they have access. Information on how to access their OneDrive Office 365 account is provided on the UTM I&ITS webpage.  As noted on the Office 365 webpage, if students have questions, they should contact UTM I&ITS:

UTM I&ITS Service Desk - Contact Information
http://uoft.me/servicedesk

Monday – Friday:  8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday – Sunday:  9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Email:  helpdesk.utm@utoronto.ca

Google docs is also a good option for students working on projects with external partners. However, this platform is not supported by UTM I&ITS.

Conference calls are a low-tech alternative to Office 365 if internet access, mobile capabilities or phone plans permit.

8. What platforms can faculty use to collaborate with students for ROP projects?

A user-friendly technological solution is to have the ROP faculty supervisor set up Teams on Microsoft Teams for the ROP group, which would provide a centralized place for all to share resources and be in contact. Faculty, staff, and students currently have access to this software as part of Office 365 at U of T.

Faculty supervisors can share documents with students (e.g., Excel, Word, etc.) using this platform for their ROP projects.  They can also share videos they create or upload using MS Stream.  Instructions are provided here.

All instructors have Quercus course shells for ROP projects and can share files and feedback with students through this platform as well.

9. Given the declared state of emergency in Ontario, is there any immediate short-term financial support for U of T undergraduate domestic and international students?

Emergency assistance grants are available for undergraduate domestic and international students impacted by COVID-19 and who need immediate short-term financial relief because of unexpected expenses.  Information regarding SGS emergency grants is available from the School of Graduate Studies.  

10. I am considering offering a “virtual” field-based experience in my course. Are there resources to help adapt Experiential Learning courses and experiences to a remote format?

Yes. Faculty and staff are encouraged to consult the following:

  • Tri-Campus Working Group on Remote Experiential Learning: Resources from this group are available via SharePoint. The documents uploaded to this platform offer guidance on how to modify internship classes, research projects, and other forms of EL to a virtual context.
  • Adapting Experiential Learning for Remote Delivery Webinar Series: Two sessions of this series focused on Field Experiences, and their session recordings and slides are available below: 
  • Visit The Centre for Community Partnerships website for more information on the adaption of community engaged learning courses.
  • The EEU has conducted an environmental scan of remote experiential learning courses across North America, which may also be of further assistance.
  • The Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN) has a page of COVID-19 Resources that may also be helpful, including TAHSN Principles for Virtual Learning.

11. Given the evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on our local communities, are students permitted to participate in fieldwork experiences?

It is possible for students to leave campus for field experiences, so long as the University Program has ensured that a) the site is appropriate for the intended learning outcomes and b) adherence to both University of Toronto and Public Health Ontario or relevant municipal (e.g. Toronto Public Health, Region of Peel Public Health) health and safety guidelines is ensured. The Program is responsible for advising students as to any requirements that must be abided by and students are responsible for abiding by these rules and those set by the site being visited. If a student’s circumstances are such that they do not feel able to participate in field experiences, they should contact Accessibility Services (for disability related accommodations) or their Program to determine whether and what modifications are available.

12. As a response to COVID-19, are there specific health and safety parameters for students performing field experiences, such as physical distancing requirements?

Programs and students are expected to work closely with external partners, in advance of the commencement of a field experience, to learn more about the health and safety instructions and procedures in place at the field experience location to ensure a safe working environment.

Coordinators of the field experience must inquire with the site directly regarding their health and safety processes. A resource providing helpful guidance on the appropriate questions to ask external partners is available by emailing placements@utoronto.ca and requesting access to the ‘Discussion Guide Checklist for Evaluating Non-Health Science Placements’. While this document was prepared for practicum/placement purposes, many of the questions will be relevant for field experiences as well.

For reference, the following resources detail the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario and the current policies in effect:

An Informed Consent Waiver Form must also be completed in advance of field experience activities. For the Form and further information, please visit: http://www.insurance-risk-mgmt.utoronto.ca/Guidelines/Off-CampusActivities.htm.

Students should not engage in field experiences (fieldwork) if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms indicated by Public Health Ontario and must notify U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse immediately by email at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca if they test positive for COVID-19. Students then may not visit the University or a fieldwork site until they receive clearance to do so from U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse (or are otherwise in compliance with U of T procedures, particularly those relating to on-campus activities).

13. What health and safety measures must be adhered to for fieldwork experiences?

We strongly recommend all students familiarize themselves with U of T’s Framework and Guidelines on Off-campus Safety, Guidelines on Safety in Field Research, Off-campus Safety Guidelines, and other related policies on Field Research Safety. Students are also encouraged to frequently visit COVID-19 Information for University of Toronto Students and to regularly check their emails and divisional websites for updated communications and announcements of COVID-19 related policy or procedural changes at U of T.

Students engaging in fieldwork should also follow public health best practices, including:

  • Wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently and after touching common surfaces
  • Avoid touching their face
  • Avoid congregating in groups, even during breaks
  • Maintain physical distancing as much as possible
  • Wear a mask and/or other PPE when social distancing is not possible or when required by the site
  • Wipe computer and workstation (if applicable) with disinfectant at the start and end of each day

14. What considerations should be made regarding modes of travel between the campus and fieldwork sites?

When considering travel options for course-related day excursions, please keep in mind the following:

  • Students may wish to explore options to address the need for using public transit to access sites. Course instructors may want to consider options that allow students to travel during off-hours when transit is less busy. Students should be encouraged to discuss these options with their instructor.
  • Students who are driving themselves with personal vehicles to sites for any course-related experiences should be explicitly made aware that, in the event of accident/injury, liability would be assumed by their personal insurance.
  • Students who are concerned about their ability to access an excursion should contact their instructor for options.
  • If an instructor is driving students to the site(s), the instructor’s personal vehicle insurance would also be responsible for any coverage in the event of accident/injury. It is important to note that it would be possible for passengers of the vehicle to sue the driver in such an event.
  • Due to government laws, U of T cannot put forth a waiver for any travel components with personal vehicles (ie. an instructor, or student driver, who is driving a vehicle with passengers cannot have the passengers sign a waiver in which they agree not to sue to the driver for any accident/injury).

We recommend consulting with a representative from the U of T Risk Management and Insurance Department regarding travel and vehicle insurance-related inquires. For resources on risk management and insurance, please visit: http://www.insurance-risk-mgmt.utoronto.ca/Claims.htm#GUIDELINES.

To support partners engaged in experiential learning, faculty and staff may refer to the Partners section of the EEU website.

    15. How can remote placements transition to in-person experiences once provincial guidelines deem it safe?

    Given that provincial guidelines are continually evolving around the pandemic, there are a number of items to consider when transitioning a remote placement to an in-person opportunity. 

    The University has put together a cohesive overview of the information students should know prior to participating in an in-person placement. This information includes training and compliance, best practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19, modification requests (both through Accessibility Services and at the Program level) and health and safety resources. This overview can be found on the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students – Placements Page.

    Faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to connect with Bridgid McNulty, Coordinator, Student Placements, in order to access any new documentation relating to in-person placements. 

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    For responses to common questions regarding experiential learning that are not COVID-19-specific, please visit the FAQ page hosted on the University of Toronto’s Experiential Learning Hub. Some answers may vary depending on the program you collaborate with, so further consultation with your division or academic unit is advised.