People of SFU

A moment of recognition for a behind-the-scenes team

March 16, 2022
Some of the team at the Centre for Educational Excellence, who were honoured with a Staff Achievement Award for team performance. During the pandemic, the team at CEE helped instructors move their courses online. When the university returned to in-person instruction, CEE helped instructors transition in the other direction.

When the pandemic forced SFU to move to remote instruction in March 2020, instructors found themselves faced with the monumental task of teaching in an unfamiliar online environment, adapting course content on the fly, and learning to use technologies and platforms like Zoom that few people had heard of just days earlier.

It was a situation that called for emergency resources, targeted training, and empathetic support—and SFU’s Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) supplied all three.

Later, when the university began its return to in-person instruction, CEE provided support as instructors and students prepared for a second transition in the other direction.

“The pivot to remote learning and teaching was a huge disruptor for post-secondary education around the world,” says Elizabeth Elle, Vice-Provost, Learning & Teaching. “CEE had been in existence only about eight months in March of 2020. They did an absolutely amazing job supporting the SFU community with teaching in such a novel and unfamiliar way.”

The work wasn’t always visible, but clearly it was noticed, and on March 1, 2022, CEE was recognized for its exceptional behind-the-scenes contributions with a 2021 SFU Staff Achievement Award in the team category.

By the numbers

The nomination package for the award, compiled by CEE senior director Nanda Dimitrov, sketched the team’s activities with a few numbers:

  • During the pandemic period, CEE team members prepared hundreds of online courses and exams for delivery.
  • In the first year of the pandemic, they organized more than 350 campus-wide training workshops and 38 customized workshops for departments, serving more than 4,100 participants.
  • CEE’s Learning & Teaching Technology division, led by director Tim Loblaw, responded to more than 2,000 support tickets from 1,784 unique users.
  • A Canvas resource site for teaching assistants had 80,000 visitors up to October 2021. (The number has now reached 125,000.)

The nomination package noted that CEE created a hybrid, agile approach to faculty development that combined virtual workshops, in-person sessions, online resources and individual consultations in all modalities to make support accessible to faculty members and TAs on all three campuses and beyond.

Moreover, even while responding to the unanticipated challenges of the pandemic, CEE managed to introduce anti-racism and EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) initiatives to support faculty members as they prepared to engage their students in difficult conversations about identity, colonialism and racism in their classroom. The initiatives, launched under the leadership of I-Chant Chiang, director of CEE’s Curriculum & Instruction division, included the annual Inclusion in the Classroom Week and 40-plus workshops to support inclusive teaching.

In their words

A fuller sense of CEE’s impact during the pandemic emerged from the testimonials submitted by faculty members in support of the nomination.  

Shauna Jones, a teaching fellow in the Beedie School of Business, suggested that CEE helped advance the teaching mission of the entire university: “I think it is fair to say that SFU faculty increased their capacity and practice as educators through COVID-19, and CEE staff were by our side to help us do that.”

Paul Kingsbury, associate dean, undergraduate, in the Faculty of Environment, wrote, “CEE’s ability to provide swift answers and troubleshoot a massive number of wide-ranging issues … meant that our instructors were able to continue to deliver high-quality remote courses even amid an uncertain and devastating global pandemic.”

Nicole Berry, associate dean, education, in the Faculty of Health Sciences, stated, “Working with CEE continues to be hands-down my best experience in the university since COVID started.”

And Sheri Fabian, a university lecturer in the School of Criminology and a participant in CEE’s year-long Healing from Racism Journey series, described the opportunity to build a community of practice around learning to “integrate anti-racist pedagogies in our classrooms” as a time of “profound personal and professional growth.”

SFU’s annual Staff Achievement Awards recognize staff members for their achievements and contributions to the university or the community. The awards are a way to showcase some of the great work being done at SFU and in the community by inspired and outstanding staff members. Read more