Remote Teaching Forum 2021

Engaging Students in the Disciplines

Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon

The Remote Teaching Forum 2021 is a virtual event for members of the SFU learning and teaching community. The theme this year is “Engaging Students in the Disciplines.” Come and hear five-minute presentations on teaching strategies and creative approaches to remote learning by SFU instructors. Then join your colleagues in facilitated roundtable discussions about technology-supported learning activities in the remote environment. It’s an opportunity for you to expand your remote teaching toolkit through conversation, sharing and inspiration across disciplines.


Click here for a PDF version of the schedule 

Click here to download instructions for joining a breakout room

10:00 a.m.

Opening remarks (Nanda Dimitrov, Senior Director, CEE)
Explanation of conference process (John Born, Manager of Educational Technology, CEE)

10:05–10:35 a.m. | Zoom Room A (Hosted by: John Born)

Presentation 1 | Fostering Student Voices, Visibility and Accountability through Hooks and Group Activities

Petra Menz | Department of Mathematics

Driven by the desire to create a virtual classroom where students actively learn, engage with each other, and explore the material through questions and curiosity, I constructed my synchronous Fall 2020 Zoom meetings centred around hooks and groups. Rich, unsolicited student feedback convinced me that this approach lent students a voice, gave them visibility, and made them accountable. In this presentation, I will share various ways of hooking a student audience right from the start of a virtual meeting, and how to use challenging activities and breakout rooms routinely as a strategy for nurturing learning. Furthermore, decades of educational research has shown that gestures are powerful tools of communication in learning and teaching. Therefore, I also employ a document camera as a tool to focus on hand gestures and manipulatives, which I will demo during the presentation.

Presentation 2 | Gamify the Learning Experience

Naghmi Shireen | School of Interactive Arts and Technology

In this presentation, I would like to share a few of the gamification strategies that I adapted to IAT 106—a first-year mandatory course. These became widely popular among students and encouraged them to have fun and learn at the same time.

Presentation 3 | Opportunities for Connection in Online Education

Tamara O’Doherty | School of Criminology

There are a multitude of opportunities to connect with students in online learning. In this presentation, I outline strategies I have incorporated in my courses (meet and greets, Q&As, surveys, Etherpad collaborations, informal chats) and provide a critical assessment of the successes and challenges associated with each.

Presentation 4 | Remote Embodiment? Pivoting “Embodied Humanities” Methodologies to Teach Eighteenth-Century Literature Online

Leith Davis and Teddie Brock | Department of English

I will present the results of my integration of “embodied humanities” media labs into my remote English 420 and 820 courses, including singing/listening to/writing ballads, making quill pens and using them to write, and making recipes from manuscript cookbooks in online archives.

10:05–10:35 a.m. | Zoom Room B (Hosted by Amanda Wallace)

Presentation 5 | Grace Period—Helping Students with Time Management

Atousa Hajshirmohammadi | School of Engineering Science

In this presentation I will share the very simple but effective concept of "Grace Period," which I use for online (Canvas) assignments. Based on students’ overwhelmingly positive feedback, this simple approach has proven to be highly effective in helping students with their time management and reducing their stress. Although originally intended to help students only, this approach has also been a time saver for me as the instructor!

Presentation 6 | Graphical Polls Using Shared Whiteboards

Tara Immell | Beedie School of Business

Take text-based polls to the next level by creating graphical polls. These polls both gather student input and illustrate class concepts. Examples include students indicating their height on a scale, plotting perceived brand quality vs. price on a grid, and many more which invite students to dynamically build class content.

Presentation 7 | Engaging Students With a “First Time Hearing”–Style Synchronous Learning Activity

Leanne Roderick | Urban Studies Program

I will share a synchronous learning activity that received rave reviews from students in my Fall 2020 remote classes. The activity combines analysis and play, promoting low-stakes “thinking on your feet” participation that is fun and interactive. Modelled off of popular “reaction”-style videos on YouTube, this strategy invites students to apply newly learned theoretical information to a case or real-world example.

Presentation 8 | Exit Tickets: Ending your Virtual Class with Intention

Sheri Fabian, Danielle Murdoch | School of Criminology

In this presentation we will discuss our use of “Exit Tickets” to foster instructor-student connections, assess student comprehension of content, and provide a welcoming space for students to give feedback on course design/delivery. We will share examples of prompts and reflect on our diverse use of this activity.

10:35–10:40 a.m. | Break

10:40–11:00 a.m. | Roundtables

11:00–11:05 a.m. | Transition

11:05–11:35 a.m. | Zoom Room A (Hosted by: John Born)

Presentation 9 | Virtual Classmate Connections and Participation in Zoom

Elana Varner | Department of Biological Sciences

In this presentation, I will share (1) how I established and used consistent breakout rooms (or teams) in Zoom to facilitate group work and peer connections among students and (2) how we used bonus marks to promote high levels of active participation. Both strategies were praised by students, especially the team breakout rooms, which we used to evoke some friendly competition!

Presentation 10 | Forming Human Connections in Asynchronous Video Lectures

Norbert Haunerland | Department of Biological Sciences

Engaging 575 faceless new students in an asynchronous class seemed like an impossible assignment. Yet, by interspersing animated lecture material with on-screen appearances—cycling up to SFU, hiking, singing, or bleeding poisonous spiders—as well as small tasks and research videos, we created a personal connection like in on-campus lectures.

Presentation 11 | Meme Creating to Engage Students and Evaluate Comprehension

Nicky Didicher | Department of English

In this presentation I will share an online meme-creating activity (using Imgflip) to increase student engagement and check whether students understood course concepts. Student feedback was positive for the synchronous activity, and I modified it to become a bonus question in the take-home final exam.

11:05–11:35 a.m. | Zoom Room B (Hosted by Amanda Wallace)

Presentation 12 | “Let’s Talk About It”: Help as Prerequisite for Extensions

Sarah Walshaw | Department of History

For history students, extra time on an assessment doesn’t necessarily lead to success. In Fall 2020 I invited students to meet for one-on-one help as a gateway to a penalty-free extension. This gave students timely and targeted help and generally led to reduced anxiety over asking for help.

Presentation 13 | Negotiating an Independent Scotland: Moving a Course Simulation Online

Clare McGovern | Department of Political Science

I use simulations of political negotiations to help students understand the trade-offs politicians have to make. Last semester, I used Zoom for a simulation of Scotland declaring independence. My presentation will discuss the challenges of moving online, what we learned about online negotiation, and the skills the students developed.

Presentation 14 | Student Pitching in a Remote Environment

Simon Ford, Emily Lam | Beedie School of Business

The Week 12 Class Demo Day is the pinnacle of the BUS 238 Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Innovation course. It involves multidisciplinary student teams pitching their ventures 12 times to 12 different judges. This presentation describes the benefits and challenges of facilitating this session in a remote environment.

Presentation 15 | Group Projects: “Having that Extra Social Interaction was Special”

Danielle Murdoch | School of Criminology

In this presentation I will share the group project included in my third-year seminar to (1) foster a sense of community among students and (2) assess their comprehension of course content. I will provide exemplars of their blogs, ebooks and newspapers, and lessons learned from the experience.

11:35–11:40 a.m. | Break

11:40 a.m.–12:00 noon | Roundtables

12:00 noon | Closing remarks

(Tim Loblaw, Director of Learning and Teaching Technoogy, CEE)

Call for proposals

Proposal submission deadline: Monday, January 11, 2021 | 12:00 noon

Submit your proposal online here

Event date: Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 noon

Download a PDF version of the call for proposals

Share your teaching strategies and creative approaches to online learning at the Remote Teaching Forum 2021. Our theme this year is “Engaging Students in the Disciplines.”

The Remote Teaching Forum is a virtual event for members of the SFU academic teaching community to expand their remote teaching toolkit by sharing technology-supported learning activities and describing how to facilitate them effectively in the remote environment. It’s an opportunity for conversation, sharing and inspiration across disciplines.

We are looking for instructors to share a short online learning activity or teaching idea, activity or approach using technology, and to then continue the conversation on ways to implement these pedagogy-driven activities across disciplines.


  • Presenters will share a 5-minute lightning talk describing a technology-based learning activity that they have used with their students.
  • The lightning talk will be followed by a facilitated roundtable discussion, where participants will have the opportunity to visit different tables of interest, based on the sub-themes listed below, to dive deeper into topics and network with others in open conversation.

The roundtables will centre around the following themes with both interdisciplinary and discipline-specific tables depending on the number of participants:

  1. Engaging students in the remote environment
  2. Assessment in remote learning
  3. Instructional strategies for effective time management online

Proposals will be accepted until Monday, January 11, 2021, at 12:00 noon.

Submit your proposal using this online form.