Today is June 1st. Admitted students have until midnight tonight to accept their offers of admission to Waterloo Engineering programs. I will likely receive a few e-mails tomorrow from students who did not confirm their offers in time or who now regret their decision to study at another university. Unfortunately, once the deadline passes, there is not much that I can do.
Based on our results so far, it appears we have had another successful year of admissions. We are a bit above target but this is normal at this time of the year. There are always a few students who do not meet offer conditions, a few students who ultimately decide to not come to Waterloo Engineering, and a few students who defer their offers. We have to exceed our targets slightly at this time to meet our November 1st targets for grant funding.
There is greater uncertainty this year given the global pandemic. It may be the case that some students will not be able to afford Waterloo Engineering due to financial difficulties. It may also be the case that a few more students defer their offers of admission this year.
A deferral is a personal decision that should not be taken lightly. While it may seem like a great idea at first glance, here are some things that you should consider prior to requesting a deferral:
- Tuition and incidental fees increase every year. A deferral will mean that your education will likely cost a bit more. While you may also earn more on your co-op work terms, tuition increases often exceed the pace of inflation.
- Taking a year off studies can make it difficult to return to your studies. You will need to find a way to maintain your knowledge of Calculus, Physics, and other high school subjects that are required for Waterloo Engineering.
- If you defer your studies, you are not allowed to take courses at any other post-secondary institution. This would include courses at both colleges and universities.
- If your classmates do not defer, your classmates will be a year ahead of you. They will likely graduate before you do if you defer.
- The sooner you graduate, the sooner you can start enjoying the benefits of a Waterloo Engineering degree. There are likely to be some great engineering jobs available in 5 years.
Some students are justifiably worried about online classes in the Fall. There certainly have been some terrible implementations of online classes in high schools and universities. I’d like to believe that these are anomalies. While I have heard of some courses in other faculties simply providing course notes for self-study, this is not the plan for Waterloo Engineering. We expect to deliver a rich online experience for our students with a combination of live sessions and pre-recorded sessions for most engineering courses. We are already making this a reality for our students enrolled in courses this term.
I have been teaching a course this term. I have been splitting my normal lectures into micro lectures implemented as videos no longer than 20 minutes. My notes are being completely rewritten for an online context with more details being provided. My assessment techniques are being modified to fit within an online context with weekly quizzes and timely feedback. My labs are being replaced with online project activities that include group work. My online course is probably better aligned with our expected learning outcomes and I fully expect my students to learn more from my online course.
Our students are finding the switch to online learning a bit challenging but many students have given positive feedback. The biggest complaint our students have is that most faculty members do not have access to a professional grade microphone. I am working on acquiring one but they are in short supply.
In a normal course, students have the ability to skip lectures when they are really busy. While students who skip lectures miss out on some lecture material, it often saves them time and they still do well by the end of the course. In an online context, it is more difficult for a student to skip a video lecture. Most of my students are watching all of my lecture videos. In a normal course, only 70% (or fewer) of my students would typically attend all lectures. This might be one of the reasons why online courses seem to consume more student hours.
In terms of preparation for future courses, I expect the students in my online course to be slightly better prepared if they can handle the workload. I have done my part by shrinking the lecture videos to the core topics. Without student questions, I can cover the same material in about 2/3rds of the time. A 1 hour lecture appears to require about 40 minutes of lecture videos to complete.
As the Fall 2020 admissions cycle comes to an end, I am looking forward to spending some time relaxing in my backyard. I will leave you with a few photos of my gardens that I took over the past week.