FAQs on the Fall 2020 Semester



Student life


Food, Shopping & Transportation


International Students




What will my classes look like this fall?  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines issued by our government around physical distancing and hygiene practices, VIU will be using a hybrid model of education delivery this fall. In order to prioritize the safety and well-being of all students and employees, all British Columbia (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 this course delivery model by program/faculty document for more details. 

 What is a hybrid model of education delivery?

A hybrid model takes advantage of the best features of both face-to-face and online learning. At VIU, our professors, program chairs and deans are hard at work planning what this will look like, and 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. 


Will courses taught by alternate delivery be offered as live classes or recorded lectures?

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. 


What about trades and other hands-on courses that rely heavily on skills-based competencies? 

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. 


Will I be able to do this from outside Nanaimo/outside of Canada?

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


Will I still have to write an in-person final exam? 

Similar to our Spring and Summer sessions, each instructor will determine how learning will be assessed at the end of the semester, with consideration of COVID-related guidelines put forward by VIU, our federal and provincial governments, and the public health office, which limit large gatherings. A diversity of student needs ‒ including varying levels of access to technology, different time zones, etc. ‒ are being considered. More details will be available through your instructors in the fall. 


Will I still have access to support services like advising, counselling, the library and information technology services? 

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 what's opened and closed at VIU, which is updated on a regular basis, for information on how to access all of our support services. 


How will I get my textbooks and other supplies?

While our physical bookstores are currently closed, our online store is open for business with new items added to the website each week. The Campus Store is offering free shipping within Canada for course material web orders and a store pick-up option for web orders. Many instructors are exploring e-book options. More information regarding the Campus Store.


Will co-ops and internships still happen? 

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 after June 8, 2020. 


When will VIU open for in-person classes?

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. 


What is VIU doing to make technology available to students?

VIU is working on a plan to ensure students have reasonable access to the technology and other equipment they need to complete their programs. More information on the current equipment loan program is available here. Full details on the enhancement of the loaner equipment program as well as other supports such as on-campus Internet access and a student workspace strategy will be posted here by the end of July.

What are the technology requirements for taking classes online?

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:


  • 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


How will I make friends and have fun at VIU this fall? 

Different groups on campus, including our Fun@VIU committee, are organizing fun virtual events for everyone, from Zoom Zumba, to coffee chats, to online workouts and Q&As with some of our staff and students. Expect these opportunities to grow and get even better for the fall semester. Check out VIU Events and the VIU Students’ Union’s mobile phone app to get an idea of the kinds of activities we are doing to stay connected and have fun. 



Am I going to be able to stay in Residence or a VIU-sanctioned Homestay?

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 actively engaged in planning for the fall, 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.

What measures are being taken to ensure student housing is safe?

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:

Is VIU’s Residence Homestay program accepting applications for Fall 2020?

Yes. To apply please visit:

I live in residence and think I may have flu-like symptoms. What should I do?

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.

What do I do if I believe my Homestay student or another member of my household may be sick?

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 https://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.

Do I need to self-isolate if I am coming to VIU from abroad?

Under the Quarantine Act, all travellers to Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days. The VIU Residence will be offering spaces for students to complete the quarantine period. The 14-day quarantine must be completed at VIU Residence if students are planning on living in VIU Residence or in the VIU Homestay Program. Students need to apply to submit their Quarantine (Self-Isolation) Request Form in consultation with the Residence or Homestay Office. Students planning to live in off-campus housing may be eligible to apply to quarantine on campus or through other means.

The cost of the program is between $50 and $60/night plus applicable taxes based on the needs. The cost of the quarantine period will be invoiced to the student and must be paid upon arrival. To apply visit residences.viu.ca/residence-forms.

Do I have to complete my quarantine in VIU Student Residences?

Students planning to live in Residence or a VIU-Sanctioned Homestay are required to complete their quarantine in the Student Residence.

Students planning to live in off-campus housing may be eligible to apply to quarantine on campus or through other means, and are required to follow the Federal and Provincial guidelines and requirements around quarantine.

Please also review the VIU Quarantine (Self-Isolation) Resource Guide and Expectations, and consider the following steps:

  1. Find out if you can travel to Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19/travel-restrictions-exemptions.html
  2. Look at your options for quarantine that are not residence: Email ie.housing@viu.ca for hotel options in Nanaimo
  3. Please read the guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control regarding self-isolation: www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/self-isolation
  4. Review the Dos and Don’ts Self Isolation Sheet from the BCCDC Arrival Plans
  5. All travelers must submit a B.C. self-isolation plan and complete the federal Arrive CAN application for approval prior to their return to BC, or upon arrival. Please print a copy of the Mandatory Self Isolation Plan for BC and bring with you.

Are there alternative accommodations available for students looking to live off-campus in the Nanaimo community?

There are several options for students looking to live off-campus. Long-term accommodation options can be found on Places4Students.com 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! 


Will food and other services/retail be open on campus? 

Yes, we currently have a limited convenience store in Building 300 (the Upper Cafeteria) at the Nanaimo campus. At the Cowichan campus, Gibby’s Cafe is offering take-out services. For all campuses, nearby shops and restaurants are also offering take-out and delivery options. We expect more food and other services to be open on all campuses by the fall. More details to follow.



Do I still have to pay my Student Activity Fee (Ancillary Fee)?

Yes. Services and supports are still being offered through alternate means. We are excited to offer new interactive online services.


Are tuition deadlines the same? 

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


Will I be financially penalized for switching to another institution?

We would love you to stay at VIU and hope you will reconsider. If your plans do change, however, your VIU tuition deposit is non-refundable. If you are a continuing VIU student and were not required to pay a tuition deposit, you will not incur any financial obligation to VIU if you officially withdraw from all classes before the Fall Semester begins.


When do I have to decide and pay for the Fall 2020 semester?

Registration for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 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.   

  • Continuing students ‒ the usual deadlines apply and can be accessed here. For most undergraduate academic programs, Fall Semester fees are due on September 22. Trades/Vocational programs, and Graduate programs often have earlier deadlines, which would be included in your offer of admission.
  • New students, or students who have switched to a new program, are asked to pay a tuition deposit by the deadline included in your offer of admission. 
  • Trades/Vocational and Graduate programs often have earlier deadlines, which are noted in your offer of admission.



I am hoping to come to Canada for the Fall 2020 term. Can I?

Please check the IRCC and CBSA websites to see if you are eligible for a study and/or visitor permit to come to Canada as well as if you might qualify for entry to Canada given COVID19 related restrictions for non-essential travel.  VIU will also update this page soon with more information for those students requiring face-to-face components at VIU this fall.

Can I defer my start date for when you offer in-person classes?  

In many cases yes. Please see the specific COVID-19 International COVID-19 International refund and deferral policy, updated May 11, 2020. 


If I defer to January 2021, will in-person classes be offered then?

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. 


Can I still come to Canada to live while studying online?

Great question. We will welcome students to Nanaimo as soon as Canadian Borders are open and travel arrangements can be made. We rely on provincial and federal guidelines. As soon as we know more, we will let everyone know. 


If my program is completely online and I stay home, will classes be offered at an appropriate time that considers the different time zones?

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 available by June 8, 2020.


Do I need a study permit to take online classes?  

The hybrid model of delivery is a temporary measure during COVID-19. All international students attending VIU face-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 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 IRCC 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.


Will I still qualify for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP) if my program is fully online?  

Programs lasting 2-4 years have more leeway in taking online courses. As long as you do not take more than 50% of your courses online, students should meet this requirement. Students planning on taking one-year programs are encouraged to defer to a future start up.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada clarified the following about programs starting in the fall semester:

Post-Graduate Work Permit Program eligibility will not be affected for international students whose fall 2020 courses will be online due to COVID-19. This is in line with guidance provided to students already studying in Canada or whose program had a spring or summer start date.

Students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada and complete up to 50% of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

In addition, they will not have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.

 More information is available on the IRCC COVID-19 PGWPP Rules page. 

I am in my home country. Can you help/support with my VISA/StudyPermit/eTa application?

Since 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, Immigration Advisors are able to assist you in your study and work-related applications.


I applied for my study permit and I am waiting for feedback. Can you help expedite the process?

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


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my country has locked down the borders and I may not be able to travel to Canada. What am I supposed to do? 

Travel restrictions are not unique to your country; Canada has also implemented travel restrictions. However, there are some exceptions. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada states: “If you’re an international student who has a valid study permit or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, and are outside the United States, you are exempt from the travel restrictions.”


I got an acceptance letter from VIU and applied for a study permit. In case borders are still locked because of the pandemic, how do I ask for a refund from VIU?

Although traveling and face-face class delivery might not be an option until further notice, VIU and other BC institutions were successful in finishing our spring (January to April) semester online. This positive experience will continue for the fall semester. We encourage you to consider online courses before requesting a refund. The other option, depending on your program, is to defer start-up to the following year or semester.


Will I be financially penalized for switching to another institution since VIU is changing its method of delivery?

We would love you to stay at VIU and hope you will reconsider. However, if you choose to cancel or withdraw please see our COVID-19 refund and deferral policy, updated May 11, 2020.


Can I start classes somewhere else and then transfer to VIU once you open for in-person classes?

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.


When do I have to decide and pay for the Fall 2020 semester?

  • Continuing students ‒ the usual deadlines apply, which are available on our Registration important dates page. If you wish to be considered for exceptions based on extenuating circumstances please contact iefinance@viu.ca.
  • 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


I am an international student and I need a letter for immigration purposes explaining that my program of study was affected by COVID-19, can I get an official letter from VIU?

Yes. Please contact study@viu.ca.


What are the current travel restrictions? 

All Canadians are asked to avoid non-essential travel outside the country until further notice. Learn more by going to the Global Affairs Travel Advice and Advisories homepage. 

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.

I am interested in an Education Abroad trip. Are these still happening?

All VIU-sanctioned employee and student travel outside of Canada, including to the United States, is restricted for the foreseeable future. This restriction will be reviewed by August 15, 2020.

What is VIU's policy on travel outside of Canada? 

All VIU-sanctioned 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 term. Spring 2021 restrictions will be reviewed no later than August 15, 2020.
  • VIU-sanctioned travel outside of Canada, including to the United States, involving employees, is restricted until December 31, 2020, 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 by August 15, 2020. 

VIU also 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 the 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. 

I am affected by travel restrictions and cannot return to Canada. What should I do? 

If students are unable to return to the University as a result of the travel restrictions, they should contact their department program and indicate the following information:

  1. Full name
  2. Program
  3. If they are a student who lives in residence
  4. If they are a homestay student

Program Chairs will work with students for the best outcomes possible.


What is the Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been identified before in humans. A new coronavirus was detected in December 2019 and named 2019-nCoV and is the cause of illness originating in Wuhan, China. This virus is now officially called COVID-19. 

What is the risk?

From the Public Health Agency of Canada: 

COVID-19 is a serious health threat, and the situation is evolving daily. The risk will vary between and within communities, but given the increasing number of cases in Canada, the risk to Canadians is considered high. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to reassess the public health risk, based on the best available evidence as the situation evolves.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Symptoms are similar to several respiratory illnesses and include fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache. Most cases are considered mild to moderate with a subset experiencing more severe symptoms including shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

Are there any presumed or confirmed cases of Coronavirus on campus?

At this point in time, VIU has no cases presumed or confirmed.

What can I do to protect myself? 

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 HealthLinkBC or BC Centre for Disease Control.

What is VIU doing to prepare?

In mid-March, VIU transitioned to alternate course delivery and assessment and will remain in a hybrid model of education delivery for Fall 2020. See these Fall Semester FAQs for more details. 

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.

What is VIU doing to help prevent the spread of illness? 

This website and FAQ has been developed to provide information on stopping the spread of any illness. We have additional resources on hand 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.

What if I have a non-medical question regarding COVID-19? 

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 7:30 am to 8 pm and offered in more than 110 languages. 

I have to self-isolate for 14 days. What do I do? 

Visit the BC Centre for Disease Control's Self-Isolation page for detailed instructions. 

Should we be cancelling events on campuses? 

All events and public gatherings hosted on VIU campuses or sites are cancelled or postponed until June 30, 2020. A review to possibly extend this recommendation will be conducted no later than May 15, 2020. Wondering what to do in place of a physical event? Visit campusevents.viu.ca for some virtual event inspiration. 

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