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Dear Multimedia Students,

I hope this message finds you well during this strange and challenging summer. We are looking forward to welcoming you back to (virtual) classes this fall here at McMaster. Over the past months, we have been working hard to figure out the best—and safest—ways to support your learning in the Multimedia program.

Below, I provide a bit of context and an update on how we will resource software, computer, and equipment needs for Multimedia courses.

Context
We want our Multimedia courses to be as informative and inspiring as they always are, despite being taught online. Our faculty have spent their summers learning about effective strategies for virtual teaching; participating in workshops and deep reflection on designing more inclusive and diverse syllabi; and applying this learning in the significant redesign of all our courses. I am very proud of how hard and imaginative everyone has been in preparing to teach this fall.

Working with Dean of Humanities Office and Humanities Media Computing (which administers our labs and equipment), we have also developed a plan for the technical side of our courses—something that is important to faculty and students alike, as we learned from the survey we sent out in late June.

Many, many thanks to everyone who completed the survey! We’ve taken your responses to heart as we developed our plans for software, computers, labs, and equipment borrowing for the fall 2020 term.

Computer lab
At this point, we are planning to have the computer lab in TSH 202B open on a limited basis, with cleaning and social distancing protocols in place. It will be available to Multimedia students who are able to safely travel to campus. We will send further information regarding computer lab access and use by early September.

We do recognize that not everyone will be able to go to campus. Instructors will construct assignments and evaluation so that use of the lab is fully optional. No student will be penalized for not being able to access the lab.

Software
Our major priority has been to ensure that all students have access to Adobe Creative Cloud. Adobe CC is needed for courses at every level of our program. As in past years, students will continue to be able to access this software in our Multimedia lab.

Students who are unable to access the Multimedia labs will need to purchase an Adobe CC subscription (https://www.adobe.com/ca/creativecloud/buy/students.html). The cost is $240 USD for the first year (the payments can be spread out into monthly payments) and $360 USD per year after that. We recognize this is a significant expense that not all students will be able to afford.

If it is difficult for you to purchase Adobe CC, please contact Student Financial Aid for Emergency Financial Support at your earliest convenience (https://registrar.mcmaster.ca/aidawards/emergency-financial-support/). You will need to fill out a financial aid form, install Microsoft Teams on your device (https://www.mcmaster.ca/uts/teams/gettingstarted.html), and contact the Financial Aid office for an online chat during their office hours. Dr. Sean Corner, the Associate Dean Academic of Humanities, has been in touch with the office. They have assured him that supporting students during COVID is a priority, that they are prepared to help students purchase an Adobe CC license, and that approved payments are usually made to students in around 3 business days.

If you have any problems accessing financial aid to purchase Adobe CC and you cannot use the Multimedia labs on campus, please contact our department at cmst@mcmaster.ca. Our goal is for every student to have access to Adobe CC, either through a license on their own computer or at a McMaster computer lab.

Of course, you may need other software for your courses. Our instructors will list any software requirements (and any associated costs) on their course outlines. Beyond Adobe CC, many instructors are planning to use free and open source software for their courses.

Computers
As we learned from the surveys, not all students own a computer that can run Adobe CC programs. If you are in this position—and you cannot access the Multimedia labs—please let us know (cmst@mcmaster.ca). We are working on a strategy to give surplussed computers to students in need, and we want to help.

Equipment borrowing
As mentioned in the survey, in fall 2020, equipment borrowing will only be in place for MMEDIA 4ST6 and MMEDIA 4F03. Our faculty and HMC staff are currently working on a plan to safely loan equipment on a reduced schedule. They will be in touch with more details by early September.

We regret that we cannot make equipment available to level 2 and level 3 courses as well. However, given the ongoing restrictions on visits to campus, and the priorities of safety for students and staff, we cannot expand borrowing at this point.

***
It goes without saying that this is not the fall term any of us could have imagined or wished for back in January! But this has not stopped our efforts to deliver the best learning experience we can to you and your classmates. Please reach out to me and your instructors with any questions or concerns.

As I have learned over the years, the hallmark of Multimedia students and faculty at McMaster is creativity, problem solving, and caring. With these skills, we will get through, we will learn, and we will grow… together.

Stay healthy and stay safe,
Christina

Dr. Christina Baade
Chair and Professor
Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia
McMaster University
email: chaircsm@mcmaster.ca