COVID-19 Student FAQs
With 2020W Term 1 taking place online, we know that students have a lot of questions about how this may impact their courses, their degree plans, and their finances or assistantships. Below are some of the most common questions we have received from students. If you don’t see your question we encourage you to submit it using the form at the bottom of the page.
What is the Department doing to prepare for online teaching?
To prepare for online teaching, Mech is undertaking one of the biggest pedagogical projects we have pursued since the introduction of Mech 2. A task force of five faculty and two staff is leading a department-wide project into understanding, sharing, learning, and developing best practices for teaching online, from second year through to graduate courses. A Canvas course has been created for all instructional staff, department-wide meetings and workshops are being held, and summer online courses are being used to trial teaching technology options. Labs, in particular, have seen significant development, including the creation of lab-in-a-box activities for key courses. In total, including investments into additional TAs and academic assistants, lab-in-a-box activities and shipping, software, staff time, and other expenses, Mech is investing close to a quarter million dollars beyond normal teaching expenses into online teaching in term one.
Do I need to be in Vancouver to take classes online?
No, however you will need a stable internet connection and a computer capable of running a relatively current operating system. If you are registered in a course with a physical lab component (see “Labs” section), you must be able to receive international shipments so that you can receive lab apparatus. If you are in a project course, expect to have to coordinate with team mates on collaborative work online and be available to participate in voice or video conversations.
What computer hardware will I need?
You will need a computer with reliable internet access, a speaker and microphone (headphones with a microphone is fine), a webcam, and a way of scanning your work so you can submit it - either a scanner or a smartphone with a scanning app that produces .pdf files.
You will also need to be able to run the engineering software needed for your course (see “Resources” section), or be able to run a virtual desktop. We strongly recommend running software locally if at all possible. A table of courses : software : specs will be available soon. Note that some CAD software, particularly NX, require a GPU, and that some software (such as Solidworks) only runs on Windows.
How will lectures be managed for online courses?
Lecture format will vary depending on the course and instructor. Lectures may be live streamed through an online platform like Collaborate Ultra or Zoom, and recorded for later viewing by students who are in a different time zone. Students are expected to regularly keep up by either attending live lectures or by viewing video recordings within the time specified by the instructor (usually < 24 hrs). Videos may not be downloadable and may have to be viewed streaming from the host.
Will there be online office hours?
It is the expectation of the Department that all instructors will have some mechanism for students to contact them and ask questions, whether that be through pre-scheduled office hours, or office hours by appointment. Students should consult their course syllabi or contact their instructors if they have questions about what office hours are available for their online courses.
Will there be alternate office hours, lectures, tutorials, etc to accommodate students in other time zones?
While we recognize that not everyone who will be participating in online courses will be living in Vancouver, and while we will attempt to accommodate such students as much as possible, the nominal schedule for the course will be principally aligned with the Pacific time zone. We will, in general, not require you to participate in activities occurring between 10 PM and 6 AM in your local time zone, and will, as much as possible, attempt to provide alternatives to participating in such activities, but we cannot guarantee that alternative activities will necessarily be made available. In particular, synchronous learning activities (i.e., those in which the instructor or TAs are present at the same time as participating students) may not be offered at alternative times.
Will exams be centrally scheduled based on normal Pacific Standard time (as usual)?
Yes, exams will be centrally scheduled on Pacific Standard time, as normal. Many faculty will be offering asynchronous final exams for those for whom the centrally scheduled time would be the middle of the night. Please check your syllabus or talk to your instructor early in the term if you have any concerns about the timing of the exam based on your time zone/location.
Will there be labs for online courses?
All courses which normally have a lab will have some type of lab section. These will primarily consist of one of two types of lab: video labs and lab-in-a-box labs.
In a video lab, you will observe a video of a TA or staff member completing a lab exercise, then be given a data set to analyze and discuss. The goal of this type of lab is to ensure you can visualize the fundamental principles, theories, or applications that have been discussed in your lecture and/or tutorial.
In lab-in-a-box labs, you will perform experiments in your home under the guidance of a TA, faculty, or staff member. You will collect data, analyze it, and write lab reports. The goal of this type of lab is to ensure you can have a hands-on experience and get a real-world feeling / real-world feedback on what you are working on.
Which courses will have a lab-in-a-box?
Mech 233, Mech 305/306, Mech 368, and Mech 540B will have labs-in-a-box for term 2.
These will be boxes of equipment, apparatus, and consumables that will be used to conduct a lab or series of labs in your own home. The non-consumables need to be returned to UBC at the end of the term.
Students who live in Metro Vancouver will pick up their lab-in-a-box from outside the Main Mall entrance to KAIS 1180 between 7:15 am and 6:45 pm on December 17 or 18, or dates in January to be confirmed. Students who live outside the region will receive their box by courier by the end of the first week of January.
A survey was sent out to determine how you will receive your box - you will not receive one if you did not complete it. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you missed this important step.
Will lab-in-a-box labs need any items not included in the box?
Yes, lab-in-a-box labs may need items commonly found around the house, such as pencil and paper, tape, a water bottle to act as a weight, a ruler, etc.
For Mech 368, you will also need a computer with a USB port that can run Waveforms (https://reference.digilentinc.com/reference/software/waveforms/waveforms-3/start?_ga=2.98565407.1294234448.1593544292-163683142.1589557976), and a USB port that supports a MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board.
When do I need to finalize my registration for courses with a lab-in-a-box?
As we need time to prepare the boxes, it is essential that you finalize your registration as soon as possible. Late additions to courses with labs-in-a-box may not be possible, particularly if you are outside of Metro Vancouver.
How will Mech 2 be managed in an online format?
All Term 1 activities will be online only. Some content in Mech 2 will be moved between terms (e.g. hands-on content such as machining is moving to second term). We are arranging interactive content, such as tutorials, to be run in two time slots, so students in various time zones can attend. We will also be working actively to develop the strong Mech 2 community this year.
Will Mech 2 still start one week early?
Yes, Mech 2 will start on Monday, August 31, 2020. All term 1 courses in Mech 2 will be offered online.
How will capstone be managed in an online format?
Students will work in teams, so expect to have to collaborate online. In general, instructors will try to place students who are living in different time zones on teams that can accommodate these differences. UBC will provide collaboration software to help you work together and work with your instructor. The exact software is to be confirmed.
The instructors recognize it is not possible to replicate all of the same lessons that come from working through the fabrication, assembly, and field testing of your designs if prototyping is not possible. Regardless, they’re assessing a number of strategies to provide comprehensive learning experiences similar to what we’ve had in previous years. They will also be taking the opportunity to mirror what engineering currently looks like in many private-sector offices – that is, engineering teams collaborating remotely with online tools to design high-quality equipment and products.
What will happen to capstone if term 2 is online?
It is still unclear whether in person classes or working together in small groups will be permitted in Term 2. Should health and university regulations permit, we hope that departments will be able to configure courses so that limited on-campus lab and shop activities may be possible by then. Capstone will continue regardless of whether term 2 is in person or online. Teams will have equitable access to campus resources as constraints permit. If term 2 is online only, expect a reduced emphasis on physical prototyping and heavier emphasis on deeper technical analysis, simulation, and design in detail.
Can I defer capstone if it's not going to be in person this year?
Students can choose to drop MECH 454/7/8/9 from their STT for the current year and return in 21W to complete it; however it will extend their degree time by an additional year.
If you are unable to drop Capstone in SISC yourself, please contact email@example.com and one of our advisors will help you drop it.
What engineering software will be available to me?
We are working to ensure all software required for your courses will be available to you. It is likely that you will be asked to download and install software on your own computer, and then connect using a VPN to a UBC license server. This will require you to have a reasonably modern computer and a reliable internet connection. Some software, such as Solidworks, requires Windows. CAD software often runs best with a GPU, particularly NX (used in MECH 491). Specifications for which courses need which software and what each package needs to run will be available soon.
- Installing software on your own computer where possible will allow for the best experience (faster, always available, and not dependent on an internet connection). For a full list of software available to students, visit https://blogs.ubc.ca/labsos/software-listing/. For installation support you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://blogs.ubc.ca/labsos.
- If you are unable to install the software you need on your own machine, you can use LabStats to connect to virtual computer labs. LabStats can be accessed through a web connection using an HTML5-compliant browser, is MacOS-friendly, and allows you to access the more powerful computers in the PACE lab, Rusty Hut 123, or the NAME lab. However, there are a limited number of machines for department. Information on how to access LabStats is at https://blogs.ubc.ca/labsos/access-virtual-lab/; get the specific link for the Mech labs from your instructor or the email sent to you on September 23, 2020. Questions should be sent to email@example.com.
Where can I find support when I have problems getting software run on my own computer?
There is now the following website available to support students: https://blogs.ubc.ca/labsos.
If I'm in Vancouver, can I come in to use the Machine Shop or computer labs (or any other facilities)?
Engineering buildings are currently closed to all but those authorized to return to work. Accordingly, the machine shop and computer labs are not open for student use. Updates will be posted to technicalservices.mech.ubc.ca.
How will I get textbooks/note packs for my course?
Instructors are trying, where possible, to utilize online resources for students to access, such as ebooks or online materials available through the UBC library. Where textbooks are required that are not available free online, students should order their books as soon as possible through the UBC Bookstore. The UBC Bookstore is offering shopping online for ebooks (when available) or physical books which can then be shipped to your location, or curbside pickup may be available. Please check out their website for the most up to date information: https://bookstore.ubc.ca/online-orders-delivery-options.
How can I book an advising appointment?
All students with a UBC CWL can book an appointment with an academic advisor using the APSC PD Portal (https://pdportal.apsc.ubc.ca/students/student-login.htm). If you do not have a UBC CWL and would like to speak to an advisor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
Am I able to take 2 courses at the same time if they are both delivered in an online format?
Students will not be able to manually register themselves in 2 courses that have conflicting times. In order to be registered in courses that conflict with each other, students will be required to complete a conflict form, which includes sign off by both instructors of the courses that conflict. It will be up to individual instructors as to whether they will allow students to register in their course in conflict with another course.
Once you have completed the course conflict form, you should submit it to Engineering Student Services so they can register you into the course.
What is the procedure to defer/take a year off?
In accordance with the UBC Academic Calendar, continuing students in Applied Science who are in ‘Good Standing’ may take an Academic Leave (time away from UBC studies) of up to one full year or 12 months. Those who choose to take one year off will be automatically assigned an Eligibility to Return (ELTR) status on their account for the following academic year. Note that this does not apply to students who have been newly admitted to APSC.
Incoming students (either to Mech 2 or to Year 3 from the Camosun Bridge Program) are not permitted to take a year off without losing their placement in Mech.
Students interested in taking a leave of absence must complete a Leave Request form and submit it to the Department for Supervisor/Director/Department Head approval. Interested students should email email@example.com to be sent the correct form for their program.
Students interested in deferring their start of their graduate program until 2021W should contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to discuss available options.
Can I take the year off from courses and instead complete a year-long co-op?
Any students wishing to deviate from the typical class/co-op schedule should speak to both an academic advisor in the Mech Student Services Office and an advisor in the Engineering Co-op Office to discuss their options and review any risks that are associated with going off-cycle with their course scheduling.
If I can’t find a co-op job in the fall, can I take courses instead?
Yes, you may register in term 1 courses. Please email email@example.com or make an advising appointment if you would like assistance in planning your course schedule.
Can I lighten up my course load in the fall and extend my degree by one term/one year?
Yes, it is very common for students to extend their degree by one term or longer. We suggest that you email firstname.lastname@example.org or make an advising appointment so that an advisor can look at your specific situation and offer some suggestions on how to best lighten up your course load.
NOTE: this is applicable to undergraduate students only.
Will Cr/D/F be an option for term 1 2020W?
The option to allow students to use Cr/D/F in term 2 of 2019W was a decision made at the Faculty (APSC). Currently, we have not heard of any plans to allow this accommodation in the upcoming winter session.
Will you release extra seats for MECH technical electives as they are online?
As room capacity will not be a restriction in term 1, we have been able to increase the size of some courses, however there will still be capacity limits on courses to maintain best practices related to pedagogy and based on resource limitations. The SSC should reflect the up to date number of seats available.
How can I ask instructors to sign forms (such as registration forms or forms for the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) if I cannot come to campus?
Electronic signatures are accepted. Please email the form (in pdf format) to the instructor and request an electronic signature.
Do we have to pay full tuition and fees for the term if it's online?
Decisions around UBC tuition and fees are made at a university level and are not under departmental control. Please see https://students.ubc.ca/covid19/awards-loans-tuition-faq-covid-19?utm_source=covid19ubcca&utm_medium=FAQ&utm_campaign=WT1tuition#tuition2020 for the latest information about student tuition and fees.
Who should I approach for help if I have poor internet connectivity at home or do not have an appropriate computer?
If you need financial help for internet connectivity or a computer, please approach your Enrolment Services Advisor. Bursaries are available to help cover these costs for those with financial need.
Will graduate students still be able to receive their GRA stipends if they are working/studying remotely?
At this point in time, students who have a Social Insurance Number, a valid study permit and a Canadian bank account will be able to receive their stipends. It is important to note that supervisors may have changes to their financial positions and graduate student stipends will be contingent on sufficient research funds. Students will also need to discuss with their supervisors if completing their program remotely is appropriate for their research. For students without these documents, the University is exploring options but does not have a solution in place at this time.
Will I still be able to work as a TA if I'm living outside of Vancouver? Outside of Canada?
Depending on the requirements of the instructor, working as a TA outside of Vancouver may be possible. If the TA is working out of province—but within Canada—please inform our HR team at email@example.com. Due to insurance and liability, students are not permitted to work as a TA outside of Canada.
Can tuition be paid online?
Tuition and fees can be paid online via the Student Services Center (SSC).
Submit a Question
Do you have a question that isn’t in our FAQ? Use the form to submit it to our team for inclusion on this page, or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a direct response or if your question is time-sensitive.