The Provost at McGill University has now officially announced that courses this fall will be offered primarily through remote delivery platforms. The Faculty of Medicine has been working for many weeks to prepare for this eventuality. We will deliver high-quality curricular programs that maximize student engagement and knowledge acquisition. The Faculty is focused on refining remote teaching and learning, blended learning, safe clinical and laboratory training and we also have an eye toward the long-term future of the education that we offer.

The University has created a Task Force on Remote Delivery led by Chris Buddle (Associate Provost, Teaching and Academic Programs) to develop principles and guidelines for remote teaching. As part of their work, the Task Force is gathering information from faculties in collaboration with Leigh Yetter (Interim Executive Director, Analysis, Planning and Budget) and the enrolment team regarding any resource needs (e.g. software, videography, instructional design) that can be supported centrally to maximize benefit across the University.

Each faculty has a lead assigned from Teaching & Learning Services (TLS) who acts as a liaison to this Task Force. Maggie Lattuca (Manager, Online Program Development) is our TLS lead for the Faculty of Medicine with back-up from Adam Finkelstein (Associate Director, Learning Environments). We are working closely together to communicate our resource and faculty development needs as they emerge.

Maggie will be organizing a series of faculty development webinars on topics including:

Foundational knowledge on ->

  • Planning for remote delivery
  • Planning assessment for remote teaching

Additional ‘how to’ sessions on ->

  • Preparing course content
  • Setting up your course to be engaging and interactive
  • Creating assessments
  • Managing myCourses

Look for dates and times for these webinars in Med e-News. Alternatively, Maggie and her team are willing to develop more customized sessions for your department or group to address very specific needs.

As Vice-Dean, Education, I am working with Faculty leaders to ensure that particular requirements for remote delivery of all our educational programs are met. The Faculty has three primary groups of learners that need to be considered:

I. Biomedical Sciences – Undergraduate degree programs

Undergraduate programs in the basic sciences are part of the new School of Biomedical Sciences under the leadership of Alba Guarné (Associate Dean, Biomedical Sciences). These students are registered in the Faculty of Science but the programs are administered by our biomedical science departments (Anatomy & Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Physiology).

Given this unique synergy between the two faculties, an inter-faculty working group involving leaders and faculty representatives are collaborating in preparation for remote delivery this fall. Specifically, this group is considering strategies to: optimize student engagement, enrich the learning experience (e.g. mentoring groups, near-peer learning, small group learning), and expand assessment schemes. An important component of the biomedical sciences programs are laboratory and research courses; as such, alternatives to in-person laboratory sessions (and specific on campus activities) are being considered. These discussions are being supported by Terry Hébert (Assistant Dean, Biomedical Sciences Education) and Education Champion representatives from each of the biomedical science departments.

II. Graduate programs in the Faculty

A working group with representatives from across the Faculty of Medicine was struck mid-April under the leadership of Aimee Ryan (Associate Dean, Biomedical BSc, Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs). This group is clarifying the needs for remote delivery of graduate courses. They are carefully monitoring enrolment of graduate students and have focused extensively on the gradual, safe reintegration of graduate students into biomedical science research laboratories on campus; of note, they have provided input into the processes and documentation needed for these activities. There have been extensive interactions with graduate students to better appreciate their needs and concerns.

III. Health Professions Programs

Each of our five health professions programs (Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Language Pathology) have transitioned well in terms of remote delivery of courses. In planning for the fall term, they will promote active student participation using features available on Zoom along with online learning strategies developed with TLS support. For our new Campus Outaouais MDCM program, we are ensuring that faculty development from TLS is offered in French and that the myCourses platform is translated.

The major focus at this time is on the urgent need for in-person clinical skills training and simulation education, as well as clinical placements/clerkship. There are many hands-on training requirements for competency as health professionals, which are needed prior to clinical placements. A working group led by Leah Moss (Senior Advisor to the Dean) with representatives from our five professional programs—as well as Dentistry, Genetic Counselling and Social Work—are developing principles and requirements for the safe re-integration of students on campus for in-person clinical skills training.

In addition, each of the professional programs have developed contingency plans for clinical placements. The Medical program is hoping to re-engage students into the health care system mid-June and the other professional schools are aiming for placements beginning in June/July, if feasible.

The Schools have explored other alternatives including virtual placements and telehealth. Nonetheless, on-site clinical placements/clerkship training are required for accreditation and professional development of core competencies. Samuel Benaroya (Associate Vice-Principal and Vice-Dean, Health Affairs) and I are working in partnership with the Directors of Education and the Directors of Professional Services of the McGill University Health Centre and the CIUSSSs to optimize reactivation of clinical placements/clerkship.

“You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

These are extraordinarily difficult times. We must meet many personal and professional challenges simultaneously without reassurance of imminent better times ahead. It is essential that learners guide us in this process of ensuring our vision of educational excellence. Program leaders have communicated regularly with their student bodies (town halls, email/newsletter updates) and will continue to do so as more information becomes available.

The enormous collective efforts to fulfill our educational mandate could not be achieved without close collaboration and teamwork across programs, disciplines and faculties with support from University leadership. It is becoming increasingly clear that – despite these challenging times – we are coming together as a community in new and important ways. We will continue to work together to improve teaching and learning as our “new normal” crystalizes. We will do our utmost to ensure that educational experiences thrive moving forward.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt                  

Annette Majnemer, OT, PhD, FCAHS

Vice-Dean, Education, Faculty of Medicine