Weekly Update – May 29

May 29, 2020

Weekly Update – May 29

Updates from JCAA

We met with the university administration this week in order to discuss basic requirements regarding the upcoming Online Fall term. We were informed that network bandwidth was increased by 30% in anticipation of the increased load on our servers (in March). No further bandwidth increase is anticipated at this point for the Fall as it was claimed that the current capacity was and will be adequate for online teaching requirements. It may be possible to increase it further when the time comes. VPN infrastructure was increased by about 80% and we have been assured that there shouldn’t be any limitations on people accessing private networks. We understood that there was a performance enhancement to cuLearn although we are not sure what this entailed. We were informed that the new LMS (Learning Management System) that is to replace cuLearn will not be functional until sometime in May 2021. One of the advantages of a new LMS is that, being externally based, we can have 24/7 support as part of the contract. Unfortunately for us at this time, the whole academic year 2020-2021 will be supported by an antiquated but “updated” system over which we have little to no control.

During the Fall term there should normally be someone at the Service Desk during the hours of 8:00am to 10:00pm. Unbeknownst to us, we were informed of the existence of a so-called Duty Manager, i.e., someone that is/will be on-call from 10:00pm to 8:00am for after-hours assistance with major network disruptions and such things. Apparently, after 10:00pm any calls to the Service Desk get rerouted to campus safety who then, in turn, may contact the Duty Manager. No information on time delays between a call and any associated problem resolution was available.

On the question of synchronous (i.e., real time, or face to face in a virtual setting) vs asynchronous modes (i.e., saving notes, video clips, etc. onto the system) of delivery were told that it is believed that asynchronous modes of delivery would lead to a generally lighter burden on our servers. However, the university appears not to be concerned with the possible scenario whereby 90% of our teaching is done synchronously. We understand that recent tests have shown that Big Blue Button behaved particularly well under extreme scenarios and that more tests will be performed this summer to reinforce this. Since Zoom is cloud hosted those instructors using Zoom would not be affecting university servers, but some support is available from TLS or the Service Desk. We were informed that the university had over 450 Zoom licences available for this Fall and that more could be ordered without any trouble, by just contacting tls@carleton.ca. On the other hand, unlimited licenses are available to users of Microsoft Teams as a video communication platform, aside from Zoom or others. The university is offering frequent workshops at convenient times on preparing for an online Fall term. In particular, we should be seeing templates on class preparation in cuLearn, Design Intake Forms, and course development workshops that engages faculty in course design.

CUASA specifically raised questions about resource materials, including minimum tech requirements for working from home, as well as accessibility support for members who require adapted resource materials beyond those being provided in the general workshops. We have been informed that information on the minimum tech requirements for faculty to teach online is forthcoming, and that any faculty who require adapted materials (visual, audio, etc.) that is not already AODA compliant should contact TLS directly and identify the type of materials needed. TLS is still working with the Paul Menton Centre on issues of accessibility for best practices.

As for Teaching Assistants (TAs), the University has no plans to reduce TA support this fall. Indeed, the University is looking into plans to have international students fulfill their duties online, off campus, and still be on Carleton’s payroll.

When it comes to research, it is unfortunate that the document entitled “Principles and Procedures for On-campus Research at Carleton University” appeared without any prior consultation from your Association. We asked the Employer to meet with the persons responsible for this research continuity document and were told that they would take this request “under advisement”. In the end, the people involved did not appear to discuss the document in question and so, this morning, CUASA has asked again that a special meeting be held to discuss this research item as the only topic on the agenda.

Shared Online Projects Initiative

CUASA has learned from our colleagues at the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) and Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) that Carleton University has been engaged in discussions with the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University on a “Shared Online Projects Initiative”. This SOPI is supposedly “to establish innovative cross-institutional collaboration” under COVID-19 by having instructors develop online modules and/or courses that can be shared and reused at another institution.

We have waited patiently to hear from Carleton University about this, but to date CUASA has not been consulted by the University regarding this initiative. We know that APUO and QUFA were given the opportunity by their administrations to provide feedback on the SOPI document, an opportunity that Carleton has not felt necessary to provide to CUASA. The fact that we had to learn about its existence from other faculty associations shows that Carleton has been engaging in discussions behind closed doors and has been purposely leaving CUASA out of discussions that affect our members.

We are thus sharing the draft we received from our colleagues at APUO with CUASA members and are asking that you share any feedback you have on it so we can bring it to the next JCAA meeting. You can find the draft here. Please share your thoughts by emailing cuasa@cuasa.ca.

Summer Teaching Evaluations

We have heard from members who have expressed concern about summer term teaching evaluations being conducted online as opposed to the written option guaranteed in the collective agreement. Written evaluations are not an option at this time, and thus CUASA is in discussions with the University on a Letter of Understanding for teaching evaluations under COVID-19. CUASA is still waiting for the University to respond to our counteroffer on the LOU. However, we wish to remind members that if their summer teaching constitutes as an overload to their regular teaching duties, those evaluations do not count and can never show on your retrospective teaching evaluation reports. If your summer teaching is part of your regular load, you will be covered by the LOU once it has been finalized. We hope this will happen soon, given that early summer term courses will soon be open for evaluations.

CUASA Business and Events

Reconvening the AGM

Yesterday, May 28, CUASA Council concluded a vote in which an updated, balanced budget was passed. Thus, we are giving notice that the April General Meeting will be reconvened to present the updated budget to the membership for approval. The AGM will reconvene next Thursday, June 4, from 1:00-3:00pm via Zoom. Connection details and updated documents will be sent next week.

Nominations for Steering Positions

We are still accepting nominations for the following Steering positions:

  • External Relations Officer
  • Communications Officer
  • Chair, Equity
  • Chair, Nominations and Elections
  • Chair, Internal Affairs
  • Instructor Representative

Information on the nominations process can be found on our How to Volunteer page. The work of the Association continues, despite the current environment we find ourselves in. Remember that our Association is only as strong as its membership, so we count on the time and commitment of our members to achieve our goals. Some of these positions come with a course release subject to the availability of funds.

Call for Volunteers

We are seeking volunteers to represent CUASA on the Carleton University Pension Committee (please see Terms of Reference for Pension Committee Appointees) and the Salary Adjustment Commission (please see Appendix E of the collective agreement). If you’re interested in one of these positions, please contact cuasa@cuasa.ca.

Carleton Community Announcements

Congratulations to CUPE 4600 Unit 2

CUASA sends our congratulations to CUPE 4600 Unit 2, representing Contract Instructors, on their tentative agreement with the University.

Solidarity with CUPE 4600 Unit 1

We also extend our solidarity to CUPE 4600 Unit 1, representing teaching assistants, student assistants, and research assistants, who announced this week that the University had filed for conciliation with the labour board.

Support for Online Teaching

Teaching and Learning Services is hosting online workshops on teaching in an online environment. Topics include different tools that you can use for your online courses, including Zoom, BigBlueButton and Kaltura Capture, as well as pedagogical workshops that can help with the course design process. TLS is also hosting a Welcome to My Online Classroom workshop series led by instructors, for instructors, with a specific focus on sharing ideas, strategies and approaches to teaching online. Click here for more information and to register.

Academic Community at Large

Remote teaching during COVID-19

From CAUT: “As institutions now focus on longer-term planning, decisions about the 2020-21 academic year, including the mode of course delivery, should be made in consultation with academic staff associations, and respect collegial governance processes and collective agreements.”

Read the full statement here.

Unions and Joint Health and Safety Committees must be involved in planning for return to campus

OCUFA, along with other members of the Ontario Universities and Colleges Coalition, sent a letter to Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton saying that unions and Joint Health and Safety Committees must be involved in planning for return to campus. Read the letter here.

Working together to build a vibrant future for Ontario’s universities

From OCUFA President Rahul Sapra: “The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant and unprecedented challenges for faculty, academic librarians, staff, and students at Ontario’s universities. We carry on as best we can, while keenly feeling the loss of community and face-to-face interaction. This pandemic has made clear the importance of in-person learning and exposed and exacerbated many of the inequities that have longed plagued our institutions of postsecondary education.”

Read the full statement here.

Survey of Post-secondary Staff on the Impact of COVID-19

CAUT has launched a survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the working lives of staff at universities and colleges across the country. The survey is open until June 8 to those who were working at one or more Canadian post-secondary institution (universities, colleges, and polytechnics), in March of this year. It consists of approximately 30 questions—some multiple-choice and some open-ended—that should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Access the survey here.

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