SIAT instructors embrace online learning tools

May 25, 2020

Due to the risks posed by COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, SFU recently announced that the university will be continuing with a predominately remote teaching and learning model for the fall 2020 semester.

The uncertainties of what remote learning looks like has caused some anxiety for students but instructors and staff in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology have been hard at work to execute an effective remote teaching model and implement supports that address student concerns.

“What students don’t get to see is how much work is going on in the background by SIAT faculty members to learn from each other in terms of what works well for online teaching,” says Dr. Carman Neustaedter, Director of SIAT. Faculty members having been taking part in workshops put on by SFU’s Centre for Education Excellence and sharing resources amongst each other to perfect their online teaching methods. Some have drawn on past experiences with online teaching from earlier in their careers.

“It has really been amazing to see so many faculty members engaged in the conversation, asking questions, and really being there for each other and their students.”   

Delivery model

Throughout the transition to remote teaching and learning, SIAT instructors have embraced online learning tools and are continuing to hold labs, lectures, workshop sessions, and extended office hours, albeit these are now all done online through technologies like Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate.

“We’ve worked really hard to refine the curriculum to make sure that students can get the skills and knowledge they need to meet their degree requirements,” says Dr. Alissa Antle, instructor of IAT 432 Design Evaluation.

While some instructors have retained a live class model using Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate, others have switched to an asynchronous method where lecture content is delivered by video or audio podcasts and paired with downloadable power point slides. Using this model, students are able to work through the core course material at times that best suit them before coming together and connecting as a group and in smaller breakout groups.

For instructors like Dr. Neustaedter who had already been using a flipped classroom model where students listen to prepared podcasts and meet in class weekly for discussion and technology demos, the transition was simple. “The idea of this model is to give students flexibility while learning. Now, since the pandemic, instead of meeting in person for discussion, we are meeting online using tools like Zoom. Students have loved this approach because it puts the learning in their hands in ways that match their lifestyle and learning needs,” explained Dr. Neustaedter.

Collaboration tools

Instructors have also embraced collaboration tools to effectively provide feedback and enable discussion among classmates. One tool being used is Slack, an asynchronous private chat software where students can ask questions and connect with classmates. SIAT instructors have been making themselves available to students through Slack, email, and other online tools outside of regular class time to accommodate the needs of students.

Transitioning courses online has even resulted in greater collaboration between students and instructors. IAT 339 Web Design and Development instructor Paul Brokenshire noticed that students have been more confident in asking questions during lectures by using text and chat functions. This has allowed him to address more student concerns and provide more support and resources for students.

In looking forward to the fall semester, SIAT has implemented all the supports and teaching methods for students to have the same quality experience as in-person instruction. “Teaching methods being used in SIAT are just as effective as they always have been,” says Dr. Neustaedter. “We have fantastic instructors who understand online teaching and remote learning and who are there to support each and every student.”