February 19, 2020

Watch the video: Faculty members discuss SFU's new instructor-led online course model

By Jackie Amsden

Faculty members who have worked with SFU's new instructor-led online course model described their experiences at a Teaching Matters session in January. A video of the panel discussion is now available online.

On January 20, 2020, Sheri Fabian (criminology), Danielle Murdoch (criminology), Jessica Hunter (education) and Amanda Watson (sociology and anthropology) shared their experiences teaching in SFU’s new instructor-led model of online courses at a Teaching Matters panel discussion.


Under the new model, instructors rather than tutor-markers are responsible for facilitating online courses.

The intention is to provide online students with more direct and meaningful engagement with instructors. A comment by Murdoch suggests that this goal is being met: “[What surprised me was that] I actually knew my students’ names by the time the exam came around—despite being in an online course.”  

A new set of challenges for a new way of teaching

One of the biggest topics the panellists addressed was what challenges instructors should expect in navigating this new learning environment.

For those new to teaching online, the loss of adaptability was top of mind. Watson recalls thinking, “I like ad libbing in my teaching. How am I going to commit to a fixed structure?”

She needn’t have worried.

“After two weeks I was struck by the quality of the discussion. So there is something lost, something gained.”

Instructors with previous experience in teaching online at SFU noted the increased workload associated with both designing and running an online course.

“Whatever amount of time you think it’s going to take, triple it. Then add some more,” said Fabian.

Similarly, the panellists emphasized the increased logistical complexity of scheduling out-of-town exams.

Tips from the early adopters

For SFU instructors approaching the new model for the first time, the panellists offered a number of tips:

  • Before launch, practice answering your own discussion board questions, so that you can get a practical sense of the word count needed. And try to keep that number consistent for all posts to simplify things for students.
  • Get access to a lightweight student account in Canvas, so that you can check the student view more accurately than via the student view setting.
  • Include a quiz focussed on the syllabus as a way to compel students to learn how to navigate the course.

To learn more, view a video recording of the full panel discussion on YouTube. Note that you will need an SFU computing ID to access this resource. 

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