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Questions & Answers

Fall term

We know there are very real concerns regarding the evolution of the pandemic over the course of the next two terms and what that could mean for the health and well-being of every member of the McMaster community.

  • Classes for the entire fall and winter terms will be online.
  • With few exceptions students will not need to be on campus to take their courses.
  • Students enrolling in programs with an on-campus component will receive additional information directly from their departments.
  • Faculty and staff are encouraged to continue to find alternate, online means to deliver programs.
  • The process used for the fall term to request use of labs and other specialized facilities, where essential to meet program requirements, will continue to be used with requests requiring approval from the department chair, dean and the provost or delegate.
  • Residences will remain closed but will continue to provide accommodation in exceptional circumstances and to support international students or others who need to quarantine
  • Decisions regarding research at the university will continue to be determined under the leadership of the Vice-President, Research

While we’re encouraging those who can stay home to stay home, we know some people will need to be on campus. There are steps you need to follow before coming to any McMaster campus:

There are things you need to do before coming to campus:


Masks are mandatory in every indoor public space at every McMaster campus. At the main campus, you can get a mask from the Campus Store’s service window, which is located by their exterior doors on the south side of Gilmour Hall.

Exemptions to this requirement include those who should not wear a mask for health reasons or religious considerations.

Go to the registrar’s office site for information addressing a wide range of academic, financial and admissions questions around the fall and winter 2020/2021 terms.

We are investing significantly in the online experience to assist faculty in developing high quality online programs that continue to provide students with opportunities to interact with each other and their instructors.

As well, we are enhancing support for all students with particular emphasis on student well-being, mental health, technical assistance, and ensuring accessibility.

Check out our campus life page for ways to build your virtual community.

Facilities that are currently closed or have services available online will remain so. Mills and the Health Sciences libraries have made bookable study space available for students who need a distraction-free environment and/or consistent wifi in order to learn. Mills also offers a dedicated Graduate Thesis Completion Study Space.

While the David Braley Athletic Centre is closed, The Pulse is offering free online fitness classes. Info on classes, intramurals and outdoor activities is available on the MacMoves website.

To help ensure that first-year students are welcomed into the McMaster community, and are able to find friends and mentors, we have developed the Archway program, which will bring together small groups of students with coaches and mentors to create a memorable and successful first-year experience. Archway will continue throughout the fall and winter terms to ensure a positive virtual campus experience for our first-year students.

With physical distancing limitations still in place in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McMaster’s fall convocation will now be held online.

The celebrations will take place on November 19, 2020 at 12 p.m. (EST).

Graduands will receive an email in their email accounts on November 19 with a link to the online ceremony as well as a Class of 2020 website that includes congratulatory videos, messages, profiles and more.

Specific details will be emailed to graduands in the coming weeks on what to expect on graduation day, information on accessing the graduand portal and how to opt-in to receive a digital diploma.

More information on convocation can be found on the Registrar’s website.

It isn’t surprising that some students are asking why tuition rates are not being reduced even though learning for the fall is moving online.

Your education is a significant investment. Our investment in and commitment to delivering the very best teaching and learning to our students is unchanged; in fact, at McMaster we are investing significantly in the online learning experience by bolstering our resources to better serve our students and faculty. We hope this information helps.

Isn’t it cheaper to teach online?
No. Designing virtual classrooms and online opportunities for students needs instructors, technology and experts to deliver the high-quality experience our students expect and deserve. Plus there is still all of the marking, academic advising, office hours and support that we want to provide.

How can online learning cost the same or more?
The same number of instructors who have been engaged in the teaching mission of the university will be working this fall, alongside sessionals, teaching assistants and others — all of whom help us provide excellent teaching at McMaster.

In addition, the university is investing considerably to bring in more people specifically skilled in digital learning to help instructors develop courses, learn the best technology and help students understand and take full advantage of our learning systems.

That extra resourcing includes redeploying staff so that each Faculty is assigned educational developers to provide training and consultation on pedagogy, course design and educational technologies, and hiring more educational developers to bolster these teams. We have also recruited graduate students as educational development fellows who will support course design efforts and teaching development.

Other than my courses what does tuition pay for?
Almost all of the services students normally receive continue to be available. Here are just a few:
• The library has invested in a new service that makes more than 800,000 books from the collection available online along with ongoing subscriptions to journals and other resources for students
• For this fall’s entering class the new Archway Program is putting every student into a small group of 30 students along with a staff mentor to help guide them and keep them involved throughout the year
• A number of Faculties are developing special programs to help students get ready for online learning including the new Ember program in Engineering, the DeGroote StartUp Experience and the Student Transition Education Programming in Social Sciences (STEPSS)
• Supervision for research projects, upper-year thesis projects and graduate work continue
• For health professional students, requisite experiences in clinical education, such as simulation, must be arranged and clinical placements must be organized and supervised
• Health and mental health services continue to be available to all students
• Career services will continue to run online programming to help students prepare for their careers, as well as co-op and career counsellors within faculties
• Academic advising offices within Faculties will continue to offer personalized guidance to all students for their academic success
• The Equity and Accessibility Office is ready to help with online programs and confidential services and support
• Emergency financial support, along with scholarships and bursaries, are all part of the financial services available to students
• Free student access to computer programs like Microsoft Office and Teams and access to professional research related software

While most university-delivered services are continuing to provide services online (for example, the Student Wellness Centre), supplementary fees will be adjusted appropriately for any service where access has been reduced due to the Covid-19 situation. Fee amounts charged by student union/associations are the responsibility of those organizations and are not controlled by the university.

Prioritizing health and safety will significantly limit the availability of residences on campus. Spaces will only be available to approved students on an exceptional basis.

  • Labs and other specialized facilities will only be available in very limited cases. Faculty and staff are encouraged to continue to find alternate means to deliver these types of programs or to redistribute courses so that work requiring access to labs or other types of facilities can be completed at a future time.
  • A process for programs to request use of labs and other specialized facilities, where essential to meet program requirements, is in development and requests will require approval from the Department Chair, Dean and the Provost’s Office.

Student life

Students who may be experiencing financial emergencies as a result of the COVID-19 situation can find support and resources through the Registrar’s Office. Students can seek financial assistance to help with money for food, rent, university, travel or other expensesVisit the Registrar’s Office website for an online chat with a Student Services Professional (available Monday to Thursday, 10 am to 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm).

For general information on OSAP, Auradata, student accounts and student services, please visit the Registrar’s Office website. For specific questions on the 2020-2021 academic year (fall and winter terms), there are questions and answers on this page.

If you are a student who needs support, please consider using the self-service options.

Our academic success page has a number of academic resources, including links to faculty and school contacts.

International Student Services offers support for international students, and can answer questions about how COVID-19 might affect your visa, travel plans or housing. They can be reached at (905) 525-9140 x24254 or Please be advised that they are dealing with a large volume of calls and emails, and will respond to everyone as soon as possible.

There is information for international students regarding the fall and winter terms on the Registrar’s Office website.

Other information for international students can be found in our international students section.


Admissions work continues. Learn more about the admission process at the registrar’s office web page.

Specific questions and answers about the 2020-2021 academic year are on this page.

The Admissions office has turned off the applicant telephone support line, but has assigned more staff to respond to your questions on Facebook and Twitter.

Faculty and Staff

For information on the university’s return to research, please go to Research and Innovation’s return to research pages.



All areas of the university should ensure that any employees who can work from home are able to do so. Supervisors will help find ways that services can be maintained online or on the phone.

There are a number of technological supports available to help facilitate working remotely, or to enable connectivity without the need for group gatherings. Further information about such tools is available as part of the IT Continuity Tools & Services.

HR also has a full guide and more resources on their Working Remotely webpage.

The university is reimbursing expenses for supplies required for employees to work effectively at home. Allowable expenses, as approved by a supervisor, range from office items such as stationery and printer cartridges to overcharges for cellphone and internet use. More information can be found on the university’s Financial Affairs site.


Supervisors should reference the updated Supervisor Guide that offers helpful advice for what they need to know about COVID-19 and the workplace. You can find it, along with other resources, such as guidelines for conducting virtual interviews and tips on managing a team in this environment, on the Human Resource Coronavirus Update page and the Working Remotely resource webpage.

As always, if you are ill, you’re encouraged to stay home and use the sick time provisions applicable to your employee group (e.g. your collective agreement or policy).

More information for employees is in the Step by Step Guide for Faculty and Staff.

If you are a supervisor, please review the Step by Step Guide for Supervisors During COVID-19.

Learn more about staying healthy.

Phishing has become a significant problem in the current situation. Please be extra diligent when dealing with email and vigilant about not opening any attachments or files that may be cause for concern. You can find more advice at the Office of the CTO’s website.

Teaching and instruction

There are a number of technologies available to help you in your planning and many people and services to support you in using these technologies.

Other resources include:

  • Echo360  – For livestreaming or pre-recording your lectures
  • MacVideo – For pre-recording your lectures directly in Avenue to Learn
  • Microsoft Teams – For livestreaming, use of back channels for Q&A or follow-up conversations, collaborative work, virtual office hours, and pre-recording of lectures, introduction & explainer videos.

All campus community members currently have access to Microsoft Teams

  • Contact UTS at for support on how to set-up Microsoft Teams
    • Contact Christa Morrison, Digital Pedagogy Specialist at for support for how to use Microsoft Teams with your teaching
  • WebEx Meetings -For web and video conferencing to hold real-time lectures, virtual office hours, meet with groups of students or for students to collaborate with one another in small groups.

The MacPherson Institute has a dedicated Instructional Continuity Site that supports instructors with technology related to online-supported learning. They are also offering ongoing training and workshops for instructors.


Symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing

Many of these symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza. Should you experience these symptoms and have recently travelled internationally, avoid contact with others and call Hamilton Public Health for advice.

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands


Continue to practise good hand washing techniques and hygiene practices. This includes:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Don’t go out if you are ill

As with any virus, those with symptoms should stay home and do their best to avoid close contact with others. If symptoms escalate, contact your healthcare provider. Students in residence should inform residence staff. For staff, please report your absence promptly to your supervisor as is the normal practice.

Use the provincial government’s self-assessment tool if you think you were exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms.

Two COVID-19 assessment centres have now opened in Hamilton. These are not drop-in centres but are by appointment only. For information on how to access these Centres please go to Hamilton Public Health’s website.


If students are unable to return to McMaster as a result of the travel restrictions, they should contact International Student Services.

Employees should contact their supervisor or Human Resources if they are affected by travel restrictions and unable to return to Canada.



The federal government is advising against all non-essential travel outside Canada. To monitor the latest travel advice, check the Government of Canada’s latest travel advisories.

Anyone arriving in Canada must quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Canadians who are abroad should sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad.

Have a question that hasn’t been answered in our FAQs? Let us know, and we’ll do our best to get an answer. Contact us at We can’t answer every email, but we will consider all questions for our FAQs so please keep checking this page for updates.