December 2019 | View the web version of this newsletter

If you build it, will they come?


When David Maxwell (lecturer, archaeology) was asked to develop a new research methods course, he began contemplating the idea of using waste from SFU’s four-stream recycling stations as a focus. But he was leery of devoting too much time and energy to the unconventional approach without some indication that it would appeal to students. His very sensible solution was to involve them in the course development process, first by surveying students in nine courses to gauge interest in the idea and then by piloting a waste-sorting exercise in an existing course. The results were encouraging. Interest was high, and the sorting activity was far less off-putting than he had feared (“It mainly just smelled like ketchup”). Maxwell is currently completing his course design with high confidence that the effort will be worthwhile. Read more about his course development process.

Another chance to talk about classroom furniture—online


More than 120 members of the SFU community offered insightful feedback on classroom chair and table options at a showcase organized by SFU’s Learning Space Design Committee on December 3–5. If you weren't able to attend, you still have the option of viewing furniture photos and submitting your feedback online until January 15, 2020. Don't miss out on this chance to participate in the My Classroom initiative to “transform our learning spaces into flexible, integrated and connected spaces” for students and instructors. Go to the furniture slideshow and feedback form.

"My students didn't look like they were having fun"


Three more podcasts were released in early December as part of the TA/TM Stories series. Episodes 4 to 6 feature interviews with a tutor-marker, a sessional instructor and a teaching assistant respectively. In episode 4, Michelle La (sociology and anthropology) speaks about the challenges of "Creating Connections in Online Courses." In episode 5, Medha Satish Kumar (Beedie School of Business) begins her "Confessions of a First-time Sessional" by acknowledging that she initially and, it turns out, mistakenly believed that "being a nice person would mean automatically that you are a good teacher too." Finally, in episode 6, titled "From Bored to Active," Guillermo Santa Cruz (educational psychology, pictured) describes how he changed his approach to tutorials after realizing that "my students didn't look like they were having fun." Listen to the new podcasts.

An upgraded Canvas Gradebook is coming in January


For many instructors, the Gradebook in SFU's Canvas learning management system is a valued course administration tool. On January 3, 2020, SFU's existing version of the Gradebook will be replaced by a new version that promises to make grading and course administration even more efficient. One of the most attractive features is a new "grade detail tray" that permits graders to click through all assignments associated with one student or, alternatively, all students associated with one assignment and view or modify any student's grades, submission status and comments. View a summary of new and upgraded features.

Presentation slides from the 5th Annual DEMOfest are now available

Faculty members and instructional staff from across SFU spoke about their successes and setbacks with technology-supported teaching approaches at the 5th Annual DEMOfest on November 19. Presentation slides from the event are now available online. Find them here.


Friday, January 10: Grad students—don't miss SFU's biggest orientation event for teaching assistants and tutor-markers! Join your peers at the 24th Annual Spring TA/TM Day for informative sessions and a free lunch. Download the Schedule at a Glance (PDF) or browse the full program online to plan your day.

Monday, January 13: Come and hear A Panel Discussion on Instructor-led Online Courses—the first session of the Spring 2020 Teaching Matters Seminar Series.



It's beginning to look a lot like …: Signs of the season were everywhere at SFU's Winter Warm-up on November 26 and 27. Plus, we have an illustrated holiday wish just for you—take a look! >>

Win a $10 coffee card!

The university will be closed from December 25 to January 1. That means we all get a holiday break from:

a. Monday to Monday.    b. Wednesday to Wednesday.    c. Friday to Friday.    d. Sunday to Sunday.

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER BY DECEMBER 16 for a chance to win a $10 coffee card.

The correct answer to last month's question was (b) To supervise the writing of an exam.

Congratulations to Elena Caselli (French), our November winner!


FRI, JAN 17 | Application deadline | Instructional Skills Workshop (Wed–Fri, Feb 19–21)
| Application deadline | Rethinking Course Design: A Four-day Workshop for Faculty (Thu–Fri, Apr 30–May 1, Mon–Tue, May 4–5)


24th Annual Spring TA/TM Day | Fri, Jan 10 | SFU's biggest orientation event for teaching assistants and tutor-markers

Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning | Fridays, Jan 10–Apr 3 | For grad students and postdocs. Gain skills, confidence and a teaching credential

Teaching Matters Seminar Series | Up next:
A Panel Discussion on Instructor-led Online Courses | Mon, Jan 13 | Faculty members will describe their experiences with SFU's new instructor-led online course model
Every Mathematics Class is Online: Students' Use of Internet Resources for Self-directed Learning | Mon, Jan 27 | Ander Erickson (University of Washington Tacoma) will discuss how undergrad students use online math resources

Instructional Skills Workshop | Wed–Fri, Feb 19–21 | An internationally recognized lesson-planning framework

Rethinking Course Design: A Four-day Workshop for Faculty | Thu–Fri, Apr 30–May 1 & Mon–Tue, May 4–5 | Design or redesign your course in a supportive environment

Visit the Centre for Educational Excellence website to see how we can support your learning and teaching activities.