FAQs on VIU's 2020-21 Academic Year

Due to COVID-19, Vancouver Island University has moved to a hybrid model of education delivery to minimize the risk of exposure to our students, employees and the broader community. Below we answer the most frequently asked questions about how courses, services and supports will be delivered during the 2020-21 academic year. Do you have a question that isn't answered here? Email UniversityRelations@viu.ca. Please also see Cleaning Practices During COVID-19.

Academics

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines issued by our government around physical distancing and hygiene practices, VIU has adopted a hybrid model of education delivery. In order to prioritize the safety and well-being of all students and employees, all BC public post-secondary institutions have been asked to follow an alternate delivery model that reduces on-campus delivery. Program chairs or instructors will contact registered students directly with a breakdown of what this will look like on a program-by-program or course-by-course basis. Please see course delivery model by program/faculty for more details.

It will involve a combination of online technologies for the theory portions of learning, with any hands-on, experiential and/or skills-based components of courses designed in a way that ensures the safety of students and instructors and follows public health guidelines.

This will vary depending on the program or course, but for many courses, it will likely be a mixture of both. A diversity of student needs - including varying levels of access to technology, different time zones, etc. - are being considered.

As noted above, VIU will be using a hybrid model of education delivery this fall, including for trades and other hands-on programs and courses. This means any essential skills-based competencies in shops, labs, etc. will go forward with stringent health and safety protocols to ensure the well-being of students and employees.

The short answer is yes, depending on the program/course. Please see course delivery model by program/faculty for more details.

Each instructor will determine how learning will be assessed at the end of the semester, taking into account public health guidelines. A diversity of student needs - including varying levels of access to technology, different time zones, etc. - are being considered.

Yes. VIU will continue to deliver all of its high-quality, student-focused services. One-on-one access to our counsellors, advisors, success coach, tutors, librarians, research assistants and much, much more are available via alternative formats. Please check out Accessing Services and Supports, which is updated on a regular basis, for information on how to access all of our support services.

While the Campus Store's physical bookstores are currently closed, our online store is open for business with new items added to the website each week. Many instructors are exploring e-book options.  Find your course materials by checking out the course list. Here are some more instructional videos to help you through the process:

If you are placing an online order to pick up at our Nanaimo store, please note that it will take 24 to 48 hours for your online order to be processed and available for pick-up. Thank you for your patience!

The VIU Students’ Union office (Bldg 193) has opened to allow students to buy and to sell used textbooks and purchase monthly or by-semester bus passes. Current hours of operation are Tuesday to Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm. For quickest service and to limit contact students are encouraged to purchase textbooks and passes online in advance at ShopVIUSU.ca

Yes, many of them will continue in an alternative format. Each program will determine what works for their requirements. Please contact your instructor or program chair for more details. 

Universities and other public organizations across British Columbia are awaiting direction from provincial and federal governments and the public health office. Based on directions from the Public Health Officer so far, it looks like it will be a phased approach to delivering in-person learning and on-campus services. As soon as we know more, we will let everyone know.

VIU will have COVID-19 Safety Ambassadors at all three campuses this fall. Our new Ambassadors can answer questions about VIU's health and safety protocols and help people to follow the guidelines that are in place to keep our community safe. Part of their role will also be to help check in visitors coming to campus as well as employees and students making unscheduled visits. You’ll recognize them by their bright yellow safety vests and/or identifying name tag. On the Nanaimo Campus, the Ambassadors can be found in the quad near the Library, and we will also have three Ambassadors roving the campus. At the Cowichan and Powell River campuses, they will be at the reception areas.

Technology

VIU is working on a plan to ensure students have reasonable access to the technology and other equipment they need to complete their programs. Learn more about the equipment loan program

Online and Hybrid courses at VIU may use one or more of VIU’s learning technologies: VIULearn, Zoom, VIUBlogs and VIUTube. In order to be successful using these tools, all students and instructors must have access to technology that meets or exceeds the specifications below. These specifications are minimum requirements. Please note that many of our learning technologies are supported and updated by software vendors. These vendors may adjust the specifications they support at any time. 

  • An Internet connection:
    • This can be wired, wireless or mobile (3G, LTE)
  • Connection speed requirements for Zoom:
    • 800kbps/1.0Mbps (up/down) for high-quality video
    • For gallery view and/or 720p HD video: 1.5Mbps/1.5Mbps (up/down)
    • Receiving 1080p HD video requires 2.5mbps (up/down)
    • Sending 1080p HD video requires 3.0 Mbps (up/down)
    • Speakers or headphones and a microphone 
    • A webcam 
    • The latest version of a modern web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari)
  • Note: some features of VIUTube require a computer (rather than tablet or mobile phone) and Web RCT, which is not currently supported by Safari

Supported operating systems and hardware requirements:

Computers

  • PC: Windows 7 or 10 (64 bit or higher)
  • Mac: macOS X with macOS 10.12 or later
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Storage: 2 GB available harddrive space
  • Processor: Quad Core 2Ghz or Higher (i5/i7 or AMD equivalent)
  • Screen resolution: 1024 X 768 (100% scale) 

Tablet/Smart Phone 

  • Surface PRO 2 or higher running Win 8.1 or higher
  • Windows 10S is not supported. Windows 10 tablets must have Windows 10 Home, Pro or Enterprise
  • iOS and Android devices with the latest major operating system release

Housing

VIU Residences and the VIU Homestay program both remain open and occupied. The residence facilities and our homestay families are following public health guidelines, including ensuring single occupancy, enhanced cleaning standards and physical distancing measures. Residence is working with the Public Health Office to ensure we have a robust plan in place that follows the most current guidelines to ensure the safety of residents and the resilience of the community in the event of an illness. Priority will be given to current residents, and then to new students who qualify for the first-year guarantee.

VIU Residences and VIU Homestay have taken additional safety recommendations in consultation with local public health authorities and government regulations. For the most up-to-date recommendations please visit our websites at:

If you have symptoms or are returning from international travel, you should contact call HealthLinkBC by dialing 8-1-1, or phone your primary care provider. Please call all health care providers in advance to notify them you will be attending the office. If you are an international student enrolled in Guard.me through VIU there is additional information about accessing their mobile doctor service. This information is found on the Guard.me site.

If you experience symptoms or are returning from international travel while living in residence, please contact the Residence office at 250-740-6640 or at residence@viu.ca so we can support you while you self-isolate.

If a household member (including homestay student(s)) are experiencing any symptoms of illness, they should review these instructions and guidelines from the BCCDC.

  • The homestay family shall assist the student using a COVID-19 self-assessment tool, such as by visiting BC.Thrive.Health or calling 8-1-1, and seeking medical attention, if necessary.
  • Please contact the VIU Homestay office at homestay@viu.ca with any questions, advice and next steps.
  • If your student is attending The High School at VIU and not attending class, the Host Family must call to inform the high school at 250-740-6317.

International students on Guard.me insurance have access to Guard.me Mobile Doctor. This program allows your student to connect with Canadian doctors on Maple, a telemedicine company, as a part of their health benefits. Maple provides access to doctors, Canada wide, on the phone, tablet or computer anytime, anywhere.

There are several options for students looking to live off-campus. Long-term accommodation options can be found on Places4Students  or other external sources such as Nanaimo Rentals and Nanaimo Housing Rentals Facebook groups. If you are hoping to find a place to live without making any long-term commitment, you can choose from a number of Hotels/Hostels in the Nanaimo Community. Contact IE.Housing@viu.ca to discuss your options!

Food, Shopping, & Transportation

On the Nanaimo Campus, VIU Food Services is operating a grab and go outlet in the Campus Store (Building 305 – the Library) this fall called the Mount Benson Market. Hours of operation will be Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4 pm. The Food Services menu includes a range of snacks, sandwiches, wraps, salads, bowls, frozen meals and more. Meal plans will not be available this year under this new model, which aims to minimize face-to-face contact. Students or parents can purchase gift cards online to the Campus Store, which work for all in-store purchases, including food. For any students required to self-isolate, frozen meal delivery, which includes a hot dinner and packaged breakfast and lunch, will be available throughout the fall. 

The Students’ Union Pub in Building 193 is opening this fall! New hours are 10:30 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday. Eat in (just make sure to follow the health and safety guidelines), or pick up an order to go!

The Discovery Room is open Wednesdays and Thursdays for lunch (12 pm - 1 pm) and Thursdays and Fridays for dinner.

Visit the Campus Store COVID-19 updates page for more details on buying books and other supplies. 

The Upper Cafeteria seating area will remain open for students as an additional study space on campus. Capacity will be limited to 50 people. While no food service is taking place, the microwaves will be available to heat up food.

For other campuses, Food Services are not available within the facilities; nearby shops and restaurants offer a range of takeout and eat-in options.

Yes. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, VIU has temporarily suspended the annual parking pass at the Nanaimo Campus. Only short-term parking options will be available (a one-month parking pass is the longest option), and parking fees will be reduced for everyone. Learn more about Parking Pass adjustments

Payments

Yes. Your Student Fees support the overall student experience and VIU is committed to providing the best possible experience for you in a hybrid learning environment. Where limited face-to-face services are not possible, services and supports are still being offered through alternate means. Specifically, your Student Fees fund:

  • Efforts to assist students with ongoing Mental Health & Wellness initiatives by improving access to supports such as Counselling and the Medical Clinic
  • Student Engagement activities (including social strengthening activities and virtual engagement opportunities for students to meet and connect)
  • Athletics and Recreation programming (including virtual and some limited face-to-face opportunities)
  • Increased options to assist students with technology challenges such as loaner laptops
  • Sexual Misconduct Education initiatives
  • Student Success initiatives improving access to such support as Peer-Supported Learning, the Tuition Waiver program, and the Co-Curricular Record

Yes. See tuition deadlines for domestic students for more details; international students can go tuition deadlines for international students for more details. 

Questions about how to pay your tuition and fees? Visit How Do I Pay? for answers.

Registration for Fall and Spring courses takes place in May for academic classes, and we encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity then because many classes are expected to fill up early.   

International Students

While our programming remains mostly online for the winter (January to April) term, we are excited to share that the Canadian government has announced changes that will make travelling to Canada to begin your studies at an approved institution like VIU, whether they are online or face-to-face, easier.  

Returning international students, or international students who meet the eligibility requirements for entry to Canada can request a letter from international admissions. The letter does not guarantee entry into Canada. All students entering are subject to CBSA review and are required to quarantine (self-isolate) for 14 days. VIU is offering two quarantine options:

Note: VIU will only be able to provide letters of travel support for students staying in one of these two Quarantine (Self-isolation) options. If you are planning to make your own arrangements to self-isolate in a private residence or a local hotel, please ensure you have reviewed the guidelines from the Government of Canada on what constitutes a suitable place of quarantine.

Before making any travel arrangements it is important for you to: 

The VIU Quarantine (Self-Isolation) Resource Guide includes important information about  Federal and Provincial legal requirements and VIU’s expectations regarding quarantine (self-isolation). It is updated with current immigration information, COVID-19 expectations, pre-arrival planning, travel requirements, accommodation options and more. Please carefully read this guide so you are aware of the information/documents that you must submit to VIU and to Canadian Government agencies. 

The Government of Canada has announced that, effective January 7, 2021, all air passengers five years of age or older will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before travelling from another country into Canada. Read more about the Government of Canada announcement.

For more information and resources on planning your quarantine (self-isolation), please visit the VIU Self-Isolation Program website

Universities and other institutions across British Columbia are awaiting direction from provincial and federal governments and the public health office on returning to a face-to-face delivery model for learning and other services. As soon as we know more, we will let everyone know.

A diversity of student needs – including varying levels of access to technology, different time zones, etc. – are being considered. More specific details on what our hybrid delivery model looks like on a program-by-program basis will be communicated by your instructors. You can also see our VIU Course Delivery Model by Program and Faculty page.

The hybrid model of delivery is a temporary measure during COVID-19. All international students attending VIU face-to-face must have a valid study permit. We highly encourage you to apply for a study permit as soon as possible. We recognize that some immigration services such as biometrics might not be provided, or accessible in your country. Note that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) indicated there is an automatic extension to submit biometrics for 90 days starting from the date of the biometrics instruction letter. Moreover, IRCC encourages you to contact them via web form if you are unable to submit biometrics within 90 days. Be ready and ahead of other applicants in preparation for your future travel plans.

We are pleased to share that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced new measures that will provide more flexibility for international students. The new measures will allow international students to complete up to 100% of their programs online from outside of Canada, while still remaining eligible for a post-graduate work permit.

This means that if you were hoping to work in Canada after graduation, you can still do so even if your program was online and you did not travel to Canada to study. Marco E.L. Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said: “Our message to international students and graduates is simple: We don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

To learn more, please read the updated Post-Graduate Work Permit eligibility information and bookmark our COVID-19 updates for international students page to stay up to date with what’s happening at VIU.

Since VIU’s immigration advisors are not able to encompass the specific requirements of VISA Applications Centres (VAC) of each country, unfortunately it is not possible to provide support outside of Canada. Once you are in Canada, our Immigration Advisors are able to assist you in your study and work-related applications.

Unfortunately, Immigration Advisors or VIU employees are unable to intervene in expediting applications.

Travel restrictions are not unique to your country; Canada has also implemented travel restrictions. However, there are some exceptions. See the IRCC and CBSA websites for details about exceptions.

Yes, depending on your program of study. If you have already applied to VIU please contact Study@viu.ca for details specific to your situation. If you are considering VIU but have not yet applied please contact WorldVIU@viu.ca.

  • Continuing students: The usual deadlines apply, which are available on our tuition deadlines for international students page. 
  • New Applicants: This depends on your program of study. Your deposit deadline is listed in your letter of offer. If you need to request an extension, please contact Study@viu.ca.

Travel

To protect Canadians from the outbreak of COVID-19, the Prime Minister announced travel restrictions that limit travel to Canada. Until further notice, most foreign nationals cannot travel to Canada, even if they have a valid visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA).

These restrictions stop most non-essential (discretionary) travel to Canada. Learn more about non-essential travel.

For inbound travel to Canada for educational purposes, restrictions continue to be updated regularly and we recommend checking Global Affairs Canada for the most updated information that relates to international students.

For more details on travelling to Canada to study for the spring (January to April) semester, see:

All VIU-sanctioned, non-essential employee and student travel outside of Canada, including to the United States, is restricted for the foreseeable future.

  • For VIU-sanctioned international travel involving students, the recommended restriction is for the entire Fall 2020, Spring 2021 and Intersession 2021 semesters.
  • Restrictions beyond Intersession (Summer) will be reviewed in March 2021.
  • VIU-sanctioned travel outside of Canada, including to the United States, involving employees, is restricted until August 31, 2021, or until the Government of Canada's Official Global Travel Advisory asking Canadians to "avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada” has been lifted. This restriction will be reviewed in March 2021.

VIU encourages employees and students to consider delaying or cancelling all personal non-essential travel outside of Canada, in accordance with ongoing travel advisories. Individuals should monitor and follow Government of Canada/host country travel advisories, as well as their own insurance providers’ policies for regular updates. If students or employees choose to travel internationally, including to the United States, for personal reasons they must self-quarantine for 14 days at their own cost:

  • Employees can choose to take leave without pay, use vacation time and may be able to work from home with their supervisor’s approval. 
  • Students who reside in VIU Residences or VIU Homestay will need to check if they are able to self-isolate there. If they are unable to, they will have to find their own accommodation for the self-isolation period, which would be at their own cost.

Virtual opportunities exist for students; however, all non-essential outbound international travel is currently on hold (see VIU's policy above). 
The VIU Education Abroad office continues to support VIU students in planning for future international mobility programs. Weekly drop-in sessions are offered and individual appointments are available upon request by email (EdAbroad@viu.ca). Learn more about VIU Education Abroad program updates and drop-in Zoom sessions.

VIU students may apply to participate in virtual exchange programs, field schools, internships and summer programs, where available. These experiences provide interesting opportunities to explore new perspectives from home while earning credits that can be applied towards VIU degrees. 

The Education Abroad office continues to also support Inbound Exchange students, who may participate in programs, through virtual or hybrid delivery where available.

Contact EdAbroad@viu.ca for more information.

General

If a VIU community member is diagnosed with COVID-19 Island Health will manage the response, including communicating about potential public exposures. At this point, Island Health will work directly with the ill person to determine if there is a risk to the public. They are also responsible for contact tracing.

VIU will support this process by providing information to support contacting employees and students who may have been exposed if there is a case in our community. If Public Health is able to identify all high risk contacts, then there will not be a public notification as one of the key priorities is to respect the privacy of individuals. 

Island Health will post a notification if they are unable to identify all contacts who may have been exposed. If this was to happen at the university, Island Health will work with VIU to ensure guidance is provided to those who need it, including whether or not a broader announcement needs to be made to our internal community. 

All public exposures are now being reported by the BCCDC

If you have any questions please email Safety@viu.ca.

As usual, continue to practice good hand washing techniques and hygiene practices:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.
  • Dispose of tissues appropriately.
  • Avoid contact with sick people and stay at home or in your residence room if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. 
  • Clean high-touch surfaces such as electronics, computer keyboards and phones frequently.
  • Practice social distancing – maintaining at least one metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid shaking hands.

For further information on how to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, visit: 

In mid-March 2020, VIU transitioned to alternate course delivery and assessment and will remain in a hybrid model of education delivery until further notice.

VIU campuses remain open and key buildings, including the library and the cafeteria commons, remain accessible (for example, the Library Commons will remain accessible via student/employee card fob), although VIU is ensuring we are supporting our community to minimize the risk of transmission.

VIU has also cancelled all events and gatherings on our campuses, closed the VIU Gym and the university cafeterias. 

Employees have moved to a work from home model if possible. If not, additional precautions are being implemented to support the provincial and federal governments' social distancing guidelines. 

VIU has plans in place, which tie into our emergency response structure, that cover illness outbreaks and will work with public health officials and will follow their lead and direction.

VIU is following all travel advisories and guidelines issued by the federal and provincial governments. More details in questions below.

This website and FAQ has been developed to provide information on stopping the spread of any illness. We have additional resources on and washing and cough/sneeze etiquette. We have increased cleaning at our locations and we are following all provincial and federal recommendations including self-isolation guidelines and travel restrictions. As mentioned above, VIU is transitioning to alternate course delivery and assessment to help meet the provincial government's guidelines around social distancing.

The provincial government has developed a non-emergency line for those with non-medical questions related to COVID-19: 1-888-COVID19. This will be staffed from 7:30am to 8pm and offered in more than 110 languages.

Face coverings are required in all indoor public spaces in all VIU buildings where people circulate freely. Please see our updated mask guidelines for the most up-to-date information regarding the wearing of non-medical masks at VIU facilities.

All new approvals for events and public gatherings hosted on VIU campuses or sites are on hold indefinitely. This will be reviewed after the Province lifts the order on gatherings and events. Wondering what to do in place of an in-person event? Visit VIU Events for some virtual event inspiration.