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Connecting people and crossing artificial divides: An interview with Elizabeth Elle
By Centre for Educational Excellence staff
In May 2019, Elizabeth Elle, associate vice-president, learning & teaching, announced that three of SFU’s teaching support units—the Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching and Research (CELLTR), the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE) and the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC)—would merge to form the Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE, pronounced “see”). A fourth unit, the Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD), which operates SFU’s highly regarded Teaching and Learning Development Grants and other grant and fellowship programs, will be integrated into CEE when its current funding agreement concludes in 2020. The Learning & Teaching News recently caught up with her to ask about the plans for the new centre.
CEE: CEE was officially established on July 15, 2019. Could you remind us why you made the decision to merge three of SFU’s primary teaching support units?
EE: There were several comprehensive studies on teaching support at SFU that recommended the change: the Task Force on Teaching and Learning (2010) and the Task Force on Flexible Education (2015) are two recent examples. Bringing the units together gives us an opportunity to align people by their skills, rather than by the artificial dichotomy of online versus face-to-face support, and so to provide more collaborative and comprehensive support for SFU instructors.
CEE: How would you describe the overall role or purpose of CEE?
EE: We are here to help instructors, programs and Faculties do their best for our students.
CEE: What types of services will CEE provide?
EE: We support the development of best practices in teaching, whether that is in the classroom or online; work with faculty on thoughtfully integrating technology into their teaching; and help departments and Faculties with setting and assessing their educational goals. We also provide support for decolonizing teaching, multilingual classrooms and best practices around assessing one’s own teaching practice. Basically, if it has to do with teaching, we have people who can support you!
CEE: Will faculty members and instructors notice anything different in the way services are delivered compared to the past?
EE: Absolutely, especially people who are new to working with us. In some cases it wasn’t clear how to connect with us for help, if you didn’t already have a relationship with one of our staff. We’re working on making it easier to connect through a web portal. We’re also taking a new approach to supporting projects as well as individuals, that will allow us to work on larger initiatives with Faculties and the university.
CEE: What do you think is the most exciting opportunity as a result of this merger?
EE: Connecting people! We are sharing ideas across that artificial divide of face-to-face versus online education. It’s a continuum, and best practices cross over; so members of CEE are all learning from each other, and that means we are in a better place to support instructors.
CEE: What is the one learning and teaching change you would most like to see in the next 12 months?
I think we do great work, but we don’t take enough of an evidence-based approach to measuring our impact. I look forward to gathering more information about the effectiveness of CEE, and working with the broader community on the services you’d like to see us provide.
But it’s hard to limit this answer to one thing. I also look forward to working with SFU on advancing blended education, on improving our learning spaces, and furthering the initiatives around curriculum and students in our Academic Plan. There is lots of exciting work to be done and CEE is ready to do it!