A guide for new faculty and instructors at SFU

Part 1: Overview of teaching and learning at SFU

1. Welcome and overview

Welcome to Simon Fraser University. Congratulations on your new role with the university. You are joining an institution that opened its doors in 1965 and now boasts more than half a century of achievement, including a tradition of teaching excellence.

Whether you have been hired as a research or teaching professor, a sessional instructor or a lecturer, your job will involve teaching students. SFU has a strong commitment to quality teaching, as is reflected in both the university’s vision/mission and the institution’s overarching academic outcome statements.

See the SFU vision/mission >>
See SFU's overarching academic outcome >>
Download the SFU Academic Plan, 2013–2018 >>

The priority placed on teaching is reflected in student comments about their SFU experience. In the 2014 Undergraduate Student Survey, produced by SFU's office of Institutional Research and Planning, 87% of respondents indicated that they are satisfied with the quality of teaching at SFU.

See the results of the latest Undergraduate Student Survey >>

In the Maclean’s 2017 Ranking of Canadian Universities, SFU ranked #1 as the best comprehensive university in Canada for the eighth time in nine years.

You are joining a team of dedicated and gifted educators who can help you to develop your own practice and who can model excellence in teaching. For example, Veselin Jungic from the Department of Mathematics was one of only 10 professors chosen from across Canada to receive the 3M National Teaching Fellowship in 2015.

Read about Veselin Jungic's 3M National Teaching Fellowship >>

If you have been hired into a faculty position, teaching is only part of a multi-faceted and complex role that you are undertaking. This guide is intended to help ease your transition into your new position by orienting you to the teaching aspects of your role and supporting you in your early days as an instructor at SFU. You will find information to help you through your first year of teaching, and the guide will point you to resources to help you develop your teaching practice.

Although we will give you a general introduction to teaching at SFU, your department or program will most likely have unique requirements and practices that you should also familiarize yourself with. If you are teaching at the Surrey campus, you can also refer to the Faculty and Staff Orientation Handbook available from the Surrey Campus Services and Resources webpage.

We hope that you will find the information and resources in this guide useful. If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, please contact us, and we will find an answer for you as quickly as possible—and add it to the guide if appropriate. If you notice any outdated information, broken links or other problems, please let us know as well.

Best of luck as you embark on this new phase of your career at SFU.

The Teaching and Learning Centre

2. Teaching and learning support network

Throughout your teaching career, you may find yourself teaching undergraduate or graduate courses, both of which could include leading seminars, supervising labs, teaching in a large lecture hall or leading students through educational experiences outside the classroom. In all of these different situations, you will be involved in course design, leading, supporting and facilitating learning experiences, developing assessment tools, mentoring students, grading their work and in some circumstances working with teaching assistants or colleagues who are teaching the same course.

Whether you are new to teaching, are inheriting someone else’s course, or are teaching a topic that is outside your area of expertise, the prospect of embarking on teaching a new course can be daunting. You are joining a community that is committed to supporting and assisting you on this journey. Some of the educational resources available to you are listed below. As you continue developing your teaching practice, these same resources will be available to help with professional development in whatever direction you would like to grow as a teacher.

Teaching and Learning Centre

The Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) exists to support instructors with course design, teaching practice and other pedagogical initiatives. Every Faculty has a designated educational consultant available to discuss ideas or challenges that you may experience with your classroom practice. Educational consultants have pedagogical expertise as well as knowledge about the subject matter of the individual Faculties.

Educational consultants

Applied Sciences (FAS): Vivian Neal
Arts and Social Sciences (FASS): Michael Lockett
Beedie (School of Business): David Rubeli
Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT): Sarah Turner
Education (EDUC): Cindy Xin
Environment (FENV): Janet Pivnick
Health Sciences (FHS): Barbara Berry
Science: Daria Ahrensmeier and Cindy Xin
School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT): Barbara Berry

Members of the Learning Technology team at the Teaching and Learning Centre can help you with immediate needs through their Canvas support portal. Call the portal hotline at 778.782.9607 or email learntech@sfu.ca for same-day assistance. To book appointments for individual consultations, see the contact information on the Learning Technology web page. If you are unsure whom to contact, direct your inquiries to the team's manager, Lynda Williams (604.250.7029 or lyndaw@sfu.ca).

The Educational Media team is staffed by a manager, a visual designer, a media designer and an interaction specialist. If you have ideas for incorporating media into your teaching, the team can help you to conceptualize your project and can provide training so that you have the skills to undertake the project with confidence.

Presentation skills: The Teaching and Learning Centre's teaching enhancement specialist offers voice and presentation skills workshops and voice and speech training consultations to boost your confidence and effectiveness in meetings and the classroom. Offerings include private one-on-one sessions, workshops and low-stress practice groups.

Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching and Research (CELLTR): CELLTR provides SFU students, staff and faculty with teaching and learning services that support them in SFU’s multilingual and multicultural environment. CELLTR embraces a holistic and proactive approach to English language teaching and learning and academic literacy development, and aims to conceptualize, deliver and promote a comprehensive range of English as an Additional Language (EAL) support services across the university. For more information, visit the CELLTR website or sign up for the centre’s mailing list.

Library: Liaison librarians are subject specialists who can help you find resources for your course. They can also work with you to tailor introductory or customized library research workshops, presentations, guides and handouts for your students. The liaison librarian assigned to your department can be found here.

Other library resources for faculty can be found on the library's Services for Faculty webpage.

Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE): If you are interested in developing an online course, CODE’s course production teams can help with the design, development and delivery of the course. For more information, see the CODE website.

Faculty resources: Every Faculty has an assigned Faculty Teaching Fellow (FTF), a faculty member who takes a leadership role in teaching-related initiatives within the Faculty. Check the Teaching and Learning Centre’s Teaching and Learning Links webpage for the FTF in your Faculty.  Some Faculties such as the Beedie School of Business and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have additional dedicated resources to help with the development of teaching practice.

3. Teaching culture and initiatives at SFU

SFU’s mission is “to be the leading engaged university, defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting edge research, and far-reaching community engagement.” This mission rests on three pillars of “engaging students,” “engaging research” and “engaging communities.” Engaging students is defined as “equipping students with the knowledge, skills and experiences that prepare them for life in an ever-changing and challenging world.”

You will find, therefore, that much of the conversation around teaching at SFU is focused on how best to engage students. Understanding and responding to student current realities, needs and long-term goals, focusing on learning-centred teaching, and fostering and celebrating innovation in education are all part of teaching practice at SFU.

How can we engage students in large classes that are often lecture-based? How do we provide students with learning experiences outside the classroom setting so that learning is connected to the outside world and becomes relevant and meaningful? These are some questions that are being discussed within the teaching community at SFU. Conversations with colleagues or the educational consultant for your Faculty are good starting places for entering into dialogue about ways to make your teaching practice more engaging for students.

The President’s Goals and Objectives for 2014–2015 include several priorities related to teaching and learning, as follows:

  • Further improving course access for undergraduate students
  • Creating educational goals for academic programs
  • Expanding co-op and other experiential learning opportunities
  • Developing a flexible learning strategy
  • Improving English language support for EAL learners
  • Assisting the Province in implementation of BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint while developing an associated strategy to ensure that SFU meets its training targets for high-demand occupations, improves the quality of labour market data used in curriculum development and planning, and increases support for students transitioning into the workplace
  • Continuing implementation of the SFU Aboriginal Strategic Plan. Priorities include increasing the numbers of Aboriginal students, faculty and staff; enhancing Aboriginal student services; and fundraising for the construction of a First People’s House and Economic Incubator

The university has launched a number of teaching and learning initiatives rooted in these priorities, the overarching institutional mission and student requests for flexibility and improved course access. Below you will find links to some of these initiatives. Looking at the Teaching and Learning News blog will also give you a sense of the focus of conversation about teaching and learning at SFU.

As you begin to talk about course design and teaching practice with your colleagues, you will likely hear reference to specific initiatives and requirements related to your teaching practice. Below are some links that will provide you with more detail on these requirements.

4. Statistics on students, faculty members and academic units

Institutional Research and Planning provides a wealth of information about all aspects of university life, including the characteristics of the student population, information about the student experience as well as their needs and interests, and a demographic breakdown of the faculty and staff population. Here are some key statistics from 2014–2015:1

StudenT statisticS

Student population in 2014–2015 (undergraduate | graduate)

  • Full-time enrolment: 15,815 | –
  • Part-time enrolment: 13,987 | –
  • Full-time equivalent enrolment: 22,875 | 3,357
  • % on student visa (fall 2014): 16.9% | 28.3%
  • Average credit load (fall 2014): 10.7 | –
  • Average age: 21.9 | 32.6
  • % female (fall 2014): 53.9% | 57%

Understanding the background, concerns and realities of your students will help you to design your course and plan your in-class activities as well as helping you develop an understanding of the challenges your students may be having.

Pathway to SFU

  • B.C. grade 12: 40%
  • Non–B.C. high school: 10%
  • B.C. college transfer: 32%
  • University transfer: 5%
  • Degree holder: 8%
  • Mature: 1%
  • Other: 4%

Country of origin for international students
(International students make up approximately 20% of SFU's student population.)

  • China: 57%
  • Korea: 7%
  • Hong Kong: 6%
  • Taiwan, United States: 3% each
  • India, Indonesia, Japan: 2% each
  • Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia: 1% each
  • Self-identify as a visible minority: 53%
  • Self-identify as indigenous/aboriginal: 2%  

Students’ English-language skills3

  • Speak at least one non-English language at home: 59%
  • Speak no English at home: 12%
  • Identified as English as an Additional Language (EAL) students: 41%

Course load and other commitments:

  • Full-time students: 48%
  • Employed: 53%
  • Involved in co-op at some point in their program: 25%
  • Involved in volunteer work: 71%3
  • Have dependants: 14%
  • Varsity athletes: 320 across 17 teams

Home life

  • New Canadians are more likely to live with their parents and commute.
    Students in residence:
    • 31% of undergrads are international
    • 48% of grads are international


  • Stress and anxiety are the top two factors cited as impacting academic performance.
  • 52% of students indicate that they experience more than average or tremendous stress (slightly higher than comparator schools).
  • Some stress factors:
    • 76% of students who work 10–29 hours per week indicate that working has had a negative influence on their academic performance.
    • 52% of students have debt (average $21,000).
    • 13% indicate they would perform better in their classes if they had English language support.

Note: SFU’s Healthy Campus Community initiative strives to improve campus life for students, faculty and staff to enhance health, well-being and success.

Student goals in coming to SFU3

1.  Get a good job
2.  Train for a specific career
3.  Fulfill their desire for knowledge
4.  Meet new friends and have a good time
5.  Prepare for graduate or professional school

What would students most like to see improved at SFU3?

1.  Student life/Campus community
2.  Facilities
3.  Course availability, variety and scheduling

Note: Improvement of instructors and TAs ranked seventh on the Top 10 list of suggestions.

Faculty statistics

(Statistics for 2014–2015)4

Distribution by rank

  • Professor: 372
  • Associate professor: 340
  • Assistant professor: 105
  • Instructor: 0
  • Senior lecturer: 109
  • Lecturer: 31
  • Laboratory instructor: 1
  • Laboratory instructor II: 1
  • New hires: 30

Distribution by gender

  • Female: 35%
  • Male: 65%

Distribution by age

  • 25–34: 4%
  • 35–44: 24%
  • 45–54: 32%
  • 55–64: 27%
  • 65–74: 13%

Educational Offerings

(Statistics for 2013–2014)5

Average class size

  • Undergraduate: 61
  • Graduate: 16

Who teaches courses

  • Undergraduate courses:
    • Tenure-track faculty: 58%
    • Teaching appointments: 42%
  • Graduate courses:
    • Tenure-track: 80%
    • Teaching appointments: 20%


1 Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics are compiled by Student Affairs from SFU’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning, SFU Student Services, the Canadian University Survey Consortium 2008 and the National College Health Assessment 2010.
From Fingertip Statistics
From 2014 Undergraduate Student Survey (response rate of 20.9%)
From SFU CFL Profile – 2010/11 to 2014/15
From Department Profiles – SFU Overall Summary

5. Organization of SFU

Spread over three campuses (Burnaby, Surrey and Vancouver), SFU is comprised of eight Faculties, 51 centres and institutes, 28 research institutes, and numerous community and inter-institutional partnerships.

  • The original and largest campus sits on Burnaby Mountain. Opened in 1965, the distinctive architecture, designed by Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey, is surrounded by the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area.
  • Surrey campus is integrated into the community and has a strong community engagement focus. All eight Faculties have representation on the Surrey campus, including specialized programs for first-year students.
  • The downtown Vancouver campus is spread over six buildings in the core of the city. The Vancouver campus is an integral part of the cultural events of the city as well as playing a role in urban design and decision-making.

Governance and structure of SFU

Part 2: In the classroom and beyond

6. Preparing the class

What do I need to prepare for my class?

It can be helpful to meet with a colleague who has taught your course previously to get some advice and perhaps even practical help in the form of lecture notes, assignments or exams that you can use for inspiration. Aside from the actual course content, there are several administrative and technical things you may need to prepare (see the checklist below):

Checklist: What to do before your first class

  • Prepare your course outline (or check that it has been prepared for you).
  • Find your classroom to make sure that you will be on time for your first class, and to ensure that you plan your class with those surroundings in mind.
  • If you plan to use any technology in your classroom, even if it’s only the projector or a microphone, contact Audio/Visual Services and/or the Teaching and Learning Centre’s Learning Technology team to request an orientation and to find out if you need to book equipment.
  • If you plan to use any learning technology that requires set-up (e.g., clickers or an online homework system), set it up and test it to make sure it works. Your students will likely ask for the access code and/or link in the first class.
  • Check to make sure that you have access to your course in the Canvas learning management system. Consider launching your Canvas course before the semester starts to avoid receiving large numbers of emails from students inquiring about administrative and technical details related to your course.
  • Make sure you know who the audience for your course is, including the background knowledge you can expect (other instructors or your TAs may be a useful resource).
  • Meet with your TAs before the first tutorial to talk about your and their expectations and about how you will work together, and to fill out the TUG forms.
  • Prepare (at least) your first class, including all the practical information for your students such as textbooks, grading scheme, etc.—and something that will capture their interest.

How do I prepare my course outline?

Course outlines are edited and published automatically with the Course Outlines Administration App (Outlines app). The app uses information from SFU databases to automatically fill in the necessary information six months before the term starts. You can view your outlines online. If your outline requires editing, you can use the Outlines app to make your changes. The outline will be made public about 10 weeks before the term starts, which is when registration opens.

Note that some departments prefer to have staff edit and publish the outlines.

Many instructors choose to provide a more detailed outline (usually called a syllabus) to their students, which includes, for example, a schedule listing the topics for each day as well as the associated assignments and readings. You can also include a more detailed description of your instructional methods or your classroom expectations.

Do I have to write learning outcomes for my course?

British Columbia has no general policy about learning outcomes, and SFU encourages but doesn’t currently require learning outcomes at the course level.

At the program level, SFU requires educational goals, which are defined by individual academic units for each program. This process is likely different from the implementation of learning outcomes you may have seen in other places: In June 2013, Senate approved a plan to include educational goals development and assessment as part of each department’s external review cycle—which means that departments are currently at different stages in their development. The educational goals assessment process is supported by the Teaching and Learning Centre and has its own website at educationalgoals.tlc.sfu.ca.

Some academic units also participate in accreditation programs offered by external organizations, which determine the learning outcomes for the program. In that case, make sure to ask your department Chair about what requirements apply to your courses.

Do I have to use Canvas (SFU’s online learning management system)?

You are not obligated to use Canvas, but most instructors find it quite useful. Many instructors use it to post their lecture notes. The gradebook in Canvas is a useful tool for tracking grades and informing students about their progress in the course. You can post your assignments in Canvas and use it to create quizzes that enter the marks automatically into the gradebook. Canvas can be used for discussions with your students or for collaborations of groups of students using Etherpad or Google Docs. You can even use course analytics to see how your teaching strategies are working for your students.

If you haven’t used a learning management system before, we recommend you ask the Learning Technology (LearnTech) team in the Teaching and Learning Centre to give you a quick introduction. You can also use the videos and documentation available on the SFU Canvas support website.

In many departments, you will find colleagues who are expert Canvas users and can help you with technical questions, and more specifically with tips on how to use Canvas in your program. They might even share some course components—or whole courses—with you.

What does WQB mean?

WQB stands for “writing, quantitative, breadth.” Those are designations given to specific courses that are designed to teach students writing skills and quantitative reasoning, or that provide breadth in the student’s education. If you are teaching one of these courses, it should already have the necessary content and assignments to address these goals built in.

How do I choose my textbooks and other course materials?

If you are teaching a required course, maybe a large first-year course, the textbook has probably been chosen by the department for this course and cannot be changed, to ensure consistency between different offerings of this course. If you are teaching an upper-level course that is not required, you have more freedom to choose your course materials. In any case, it is always a good idea to discuss your ideas with your department Chair or a colleague who has taught the course before, to make sure you are aware of what is considered standard in your academic unit.

If you use a standard text along with previously used course materials like assignments, make sure that the materials refer to the same text edition that your students will be using. If you are free to choose a textbook, keep your students’ finances, as well as sustainability, in mind. For example, you might want to consider an electronic text instead of a printed text, or you might want to use an open access book (for example, from the BC Open Textbook Project) instead of a text sold by a publishing company.

When and where do I order course textbooks?

The SFU Bookstore has a link to useful resources for faculty with information about course requisitions, including submission dates for fall, spring and summer; custom materials; and library resources, e.g., how to put course readings on reserve. Many academic units have staff members who place book orders for the entire unit. Also, contact the publisher regarding the process for obtaining a desk copy of the textbook for the instructor.

If you are teaching a course with a standard textbook and arrived at SFU only shortly before the term, it is possible that your order has already been put in. Check with the undergraduate Chair or departmental manager about book orders.

Where do my students buy their textbooks?

If your students buy their textbooks at the SFU Bookstore, they can use a convenient link at sfu.collegestoreonline.com that helps them find the required books for their courses. If your students ask you about buying their books online or used, you should let them know that used books or different editions may not include all the supplementary materials they need, such as access codes for online assignments.

What do I have to consider if I want to create my own course materials?

“Custom courseware” refers to materials written—or assembled—by the instructor for use in an SFU course. These materials packages can be produced and sold at cost by the bookstore (which will take care of the copyright authorization). You can find more information at the Document Solutions website. To develop content for your custom courseware, you may wish to make use of the resources offered by the Teaching and Learning Centre.

The SFU branding requirements for print and web communication are available online. You are not required to use the standards for teaching materials, but if you choose to use the logo, etc., you are asked to follow the instructions given on the website.

How do I deal with copyright issues for my course materials?

Copyright questions can arise when you and your students use or reproduce printed or digital content for a course. The university maintains a copyright website at copyright.sfu.ca with detailed information and resources designed “to help employees and students manage their rights and obligations under Canada’s copyright law.”

The university also has a copyright officer who “provides leadership, education and advisory services, and can help with obtaining permissions and handling complaints.” If you can’t find the copyright-related information you need on the website, contact the copyright office at copy@sfu.ca.

How should I plan the assessment (exam format, marking scheme, etc.) for my class?

If you are teaching a required course, your marking scheme should be consistent with those of previous years. If your course is new, or is not a required course, you have more freedom, but it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with what is considered standard practice in your academic unit.

If you would like to learn more about how to create a marking scheme that is tailored to your learning outcomes, or if you would like help with developing grading rubrics for your assignment, your Faculty's educational consultant can help you. You should also discuss your ideas with your department Chair or a colleague who has taught your course before.

Do I need to book any rooms in advance?

Often midterms or review sessions are scheduled during regular class time and therefore are written/facilitated in your regular classroom. If you do need to book a room, ask your department manager how to do so. Especially for large classes, it may be necessary to book a room that
 has more seats than the one you usually teach in. There may also be faculty or departmental guidelines for the ways in which midterms are handled. For example, certain departments may hold midterms on certain nights of the week. Note that midterms outside of regular class time have to be scheduled in SIMS in advance; otherwise the instructor needs to get all students to agree to the timing.

For final exams, rooms will be booked for you if the exam is scheduled by the Office of the Registrar.

What equipment is available in the lecture halls and seminar rooms? Is there technical support?

Audio/Visual Services provides computers, data projectors, sound systems and other related A/V equipment to SFU’s lecture theatres and classrooms. Additionally, equipment loans are available for classes, department meetings and conferences. Each campus has an A/V website that provides information on the equipment available in each lecture hall, seminar room, etc., and instructions for making reservations. In some lecture halls, you can have your lectures recorded upon request.

If you intend to use a whiteboard or a blackboard, check to make sure that your room is equipped with one. We strongly recommend that you bring your own dry-erase markers or chalk, since these are usually not supplied. Ask your department manager if you can take them from the supply cabinet in your department.

You should visit the classroom in which you’ll be teaching ahead of time to ensure that you know what equipment you will have at your disposal.

I'm teaching an online course. What do I need to consider?

If your course is offered through CODE, this unit will provide support for you. If not, or if just a part of your course happens online, the Teaching and Learning Centre will be able to provide you with support for pedagogy and technology, just as it does for all face-to-face courses.

7. Teaching the class

What are the most important things I should keep in mind for teaching?

Be consistent. When preparing your course and throughout the term, first think about what you want your students to know, or be able to do, after taking your class. Then think about how you can find out if your teaching strategy was effective, and design your assessment (exams, homework, presentations, etc.) accordingly. After that, think about how you will teach your class so that your students are not just “exposed” to what you want them to learn, but have enough opportunities to practice and get feedback.

Communicate. Explain to your students why you are doing what you are doing, and what you expect them to do, and why. You may need to repeat this information several times throughout the term. Clarifying your expectations does not mean “teaching to the test,” but explaining what your students are supposed to gain from the assignments, etc. You should also communicate the standards you are aiming for as well as providing clear statements about what you consider to be collaboration, as opposed to plagiarism.

Focus. When you are teaching, focus on your students and your interaction with them. That is sometimes easier said than done when you are juggling grant deadlines, research issues in your lab, or theses that need to be read. If you allow yourself to get distracted by issues like these, your students may think you don’t care about them, and they won’t notice your passion about the subject you are teaching. Most students are quite forgiving when it comes to a new instructor not being perfect—unless they get the feeling that the instructor doesn't care. Being prepared for class, demonstrating your passion for the subject matter and caring about your students’ learning experience will all take you a long way toward having a successful first year of teaching.

Know your audience. A large first-year service course requires a different approach than a small graduate seminar course, quite obviously. You should also keep in mind that students may be different than you with regard to motivation, previous education and expectations. Additionally, the student population at SFU reflects the diversity of the population in Metro Vancouver and may be much more diverse than what you may have experienced at other universities.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help: Your department, the Teaching and Learning Centre, and other people around the university are there to give you practical, technical and pedagogical advice and support.

Can I get help with designing my assignments and exams?

In many departments, your new colleagues will generously share their course materials with you if you ask them. Some departments even keep the files nicely organized for all faculty to access. You can also ask your department manager for copies of old exams, since final exams are kept on file for a year. Whenever you would like to use material prepared by someone else (not just exams, but also assignments, etc.), make sure to obtain the author’s permission first. If you have permission to use old exams, keep in mind that at least some of your students will likely have copies too, possibly from a friend who took the course previously or from a website. So it will be important to change up the specific questions used. You could also make one or more of the old exams available to your students for practice to give them an idea of what your exam will look like.

How creative can I get with my exam design?

Whenever you would like to do something new in your class, think carefully about where it stands in the curriculum: If you are teaching a required course that is a prerequisite for other courses, especially a first-year service course, it is important to be consistent with previous (and future) iterations of the course. That means your course content has to be largely the same, so that your students are prepared for courses building upon yours, and the assessment methods need to be similar to allow for comparison between different years. If your course is not required and is not one of the core courses of your program, you have more freedom in designing and delivering it.

Do I have to submit the exams? When do they have to be prepared?

Well before the end of the term, ask your department manager about relevant deadlines and procedures, which differ in each department. Keep in mind that for large courses, instead of just making photocopies, you will have to have your exam printed, which requires additional time.

What do I need to know about invigilation of exams?

Exam procedures, including information about large/multi-section courses, student identification, entrance and exit, etc., are outlined on Student Services' Exam Procedures webpage.

While these rules are mandatory only for the final exams, you might find some of them useful for your midterms. Therefore looking at the website early in the term could be helpful.

How should I inform students about their grades?

If you use the Canvas learning management system for your course (a practice that is strongly recommended), your students can see the marks they have obtained in the course to date at any time in the Canvas gradebook (unless you change the settings to hide some grades). You or your TAs can enter the grades from assignments by hand or using a spreadsheet.

Keep in mind that timely feedback on their grades is very important for your students  so that they know how well they are doing in the course, and can learn from their assignments for future assessment.

Some external learning technologies are set up to enter the marks into Canvas automatically. Ask the Learning Technology team in the Teaching and Learning Centre whether this applies to the technology you want to use. If you are using iClickers, you should upload the students’ iClicker marks after the first few weeks at the latest to allow them to check that their iClicker works properly. Ideally, uploading should happen immediately after first use of the iClickers so that any technical problems can be addressed quickly.

General information about grading systems and policies, including conversion between GPA and letter grades, can be found in the Academic Calendar.

When it comes to conversions between percentages and letter grades, each department and even individual instructors have some leeway. Other aspects of “grading culture,” such as whether and how to scale grades, also vary between departments. You should ask the person who signs off on your grades, such as your department Chair, for recommendations.

How long do I have to keep midterms, exams and records of grades?

The Grading and Reconsideration of Grades Policy states:

2.2.5 The Instructor is responsible for maintaining clear records of the marks given, to weight those marks to establish a final grade, and to ensure those records and any student work retained (exams, essays, etc.) are kept for at least one year following the end of the semester. Where a student requests the reconsideration of a grade, the Instructor is responsible to retain records and student work for one year following the final resolution of that reconsideration. Such records and material will be available to the Department Chair on request, and are to be filed with and retained by the Department for the subsequent semester(s) that the instructor is absent. Upon request, a student shall be given access to his or her own work, as well as information about the evaluation, grading and weighting of it.

2.6.1 In a course which includes a final examination, the marked examinations shall be retained by the Instructor. If the Instructor is to be away from campus, all student work that was kept as well as records used to establish a final grade are to be filed with and retained by the department for at least one year following the semester in which they were written. Should a request for the reconsideration of a grade still be pending longer than one year later, the marked examinations and other student work kept for that course will be retained as long as it is pending plus one year after a final decision or resolution is reached.

Make sure that, besides these formal requirements, you also follow what is considered standard in your department, e.g., returning midterms to the students, but keeping final exams.

Where do I have to submit my course grades?

All grades must be entered online through SFU’s PeopleSoft Student Administration system (SIMS). The instructions for downloading class rosters and uploading grades are available on the SIMS website. Remember to save your grades after uploading.

Your students will be able to access their grades once they have been approved by the head of your academic unit (typically) and sent to Student Services.

Grade submission deadlines for final exams: Make sure to ask your department manager about the due date for submission of final grades.

As a general rule, for classes with no scheduled examinations, grades are due 96 hours after the last day of classes. For classes with scheduled examinations, grades are due 96 hours after the examination. If the due date falls on a weekend, the deadline for grade receipt is 8:30 a.m. on the following 
Monday (see Examinations (Policies and Procedures) in the Academic Calendar).

An instructor can request a grade submission date extension from the advisor for her or his course, if necessary, to avoid multiple grade changes later. 
Deferred grades are due at the end of the first week of classes of the following semester.

What do I have to know about privacy regarding student grades, etc.?

The university’s policy on Retention and Disposal of Student Exams or Assignments has some general information, but it does not address specific questions about the use of learning technology. Since British Columbia has one of the most rigorous privacy laws in Canada—the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)—it is important to ensure that your handling of student data is in agreement with this Act.

If you are using the Canvas gradebook to store your students’ grades, you are meeting privacy requirements. If you are using technology that stores your students’ grades elsewhere, you should check with the learning technology specialists from the Teaching and Learning Centre to make sure that you are addressing privacy issues properly. In many cases, asking your students to fill out a consent form will be sufficient, but you should talk to your educational consultant about the details of this solution.

What should I do when a student misses a final exam?

According to the Examinations guidelines in the Policies and Procedures section of the Academic Calendar,

“Students who miss exams because of illness or for compassionate reasons must communicate with their instructor (see DE grade).”

The DE, or deferred grade, is defined in the Academic Calendar as follows:

“A deferred grade is a temporary grade assigned at the end of the term for incomplete course work. A deferred grade will revert to a letter grade or notation. The DE notation can be issued in two circumstances.

A student must request a DE within 24 hours after the final examination date or final course work is submitted on the basis of documented medical or compassionate grounds. Within four days the student must also submit a physician’s certificate or other document substantiating the request for deferral. Failure to submit supporting documents may result in an F grade.

The course instructor decides to defer submitting a final grade pending completion of further work by a student or students.

All unchanged DE notations will be converted automatically to F after the end of the first week in the following term. In exceptional cases, an extension may be granted by the instructor and must be approved by the department Chair and submitted in writing to the Office of the Registrar with a final deferral date. Normally, the maximum extension allowed is the end of the term following the original deferral. DE is a temporary grade that will revert to a letter grade or notation.”

Note that if a student misses the final exam but doesn’t contact the instructor, he or she earns, according to SFU policy, an N, which acts like an F.

The linked policies (above) also explain what to do in case of “examination hardship” for the student, defined as three or more end-of-term examinations scheduled within a 24-hour period, or an examination at one location (e.g., the main Burnaby campus) followed immediately by an exam at another location (e.g., the Surrey campus).

What should I do when a student misses an assignment?

There are no strict policies for missed assignments. If a student has a valid doctor’s or counsellor’s note, many instructors will decide that he or she does not have to make up for an assignment. Sometimes students would like to make up for missed term work, for example to improve their grade. You are not obligated to create another assignment for them, but if you can spare the time, your student would probably be grateful. If you cannot offer a make-up assignment, you may simply adjust the marking scheme for this student accordingly. You should talk to your colleagues to find out what the departmental culture around this practice is.

In some cases, you may get a request from an SFU student athlete to be exempted from an assignment because she or he has a competition scheduled, or from a student who participates in a competition related to his or her studies. You are strongly encouraged to support these students by allowing them to make up for the missed assignment or exam. It is also possible for student athletes to take midterm exams on the road, with the exam given to the coach in a sealed envelope and administered during travel. The student athletes, in turn, are requested to inform their instructors about any scheduled absences at the beginning of the term. You are encouraged to contact the Faculty athletic representative to discuss any questions you may have and to get help in minimizing additional work for you, such as additional time for invigilation.

How will the student evaluations of my classes be done? Can I ask my own questions?

SFU is in the process of implementing a new online system for student evaluation of teaching and courses (SETC). The project has its own website at sfu.ca/setc. Two pilots ran in summer of 2015, and more are planned for fall 2015, with full rollout by 2017. If you teach in a department that is participating in the pilots, you can expect an online tool that typically consists of eight institution-wide questions, four questions contributed by your Faculty, another four from your department, and up to four more that you can contribute.

If your department is not yet using the new tool, the department manager will likely provide you with printed student feedback forms. In this case, you are responsible for administering the evaluation in one of the last classes of the term. You will be required to leave the room while the students fill in the forms and you will have to ask one of the students to return the forms to the department manager.

Make sure to confirm the procedure for your department with your department manager.

If you are interested in collecting feedback from non-student sources as part of your professional development, contact your educational consultant in the Teaching and Learning Centre. She or he can visit your class several times during the term and/or conduct an evaluation to give you the chance to identify and address possible issues before the student evaluations are done.

Some departments may also do (informal) peer evaluation, i.e., class visits by colleagues. This practice provides an added dimension to the feedback you receive. You may also request evaluation by the department Chair.

What do I need to do if I get sick and cannot teach? Or if I cannot make it to campus?

If you are unable to teach your scheduled class, notify your students by email or through Canvas as soon as possible and advise the department Chair and manager so that a notice of class cancellation can be posted on the classroom door.

In winter, the Burnaby campus is sometimes closed for a day or two because of poor weather conditions. While the climate in Metro Vancouver is usually mild, the street conditions on the mountain can get surprisingly bad, and people have been stuck on campus overnight. Sometimes the campus stays open, but the buses are cancelled. For weather and road updates, listen to a local radio station or check SFU’s road report webpage, Facebook page or Twitter feed.

The university’s Unscheduled Cancellations of Classes Policy explains the conditions, procedures and communication strategies for cancelling classes at each of the three SFU campuses.

8. Technology

What learning technology is available to me? Is there support available?

The lecture halls and classrooms are typically equipped with data projectors, sound systems and other related A/V equipment. The big lecture halls are also equipped with computers, and in some of them you can even have your lectures recorded. Information about this kind of equipment is listed on the A/V Services website for each room on all campuses. Note that A/V equipment needs to be booked in advance for classroom use. You should place a standing order for equipment that you plan to use regularly.

The technical support for these systems is provided by A/V Services. We recommend that you request a quick introduction to the equipment in your classroom before the term starts, at least if you will be teaching in a large lecture hall. If you have technical problems during your class, you can call A/V Services on the direct line that is available in many classrooms, and they will usually arrive within a few minutes to fix the problem.

In addition to these built-in technologies, there are many others you can use, such as learning management systems like Canvas, student response systems like iClickers, online homework systems like LonCapa, or educational media like videos. For all these options, keep in mind that any technology you might want to use should be integrated in your course in a pedagogically meaningful way so that it supports student learning. Contact your educational consultant, the Learning Technology (LearnTech) team or the Educational Technology (EdMedia) team at the Teaching and Learning Centre to find out what options are out there and how to use them best.

The LearnTech team supports instructors with a wide range of issues, including the use of Canvas, Turnitin and iClickers, and also provides information about the application of privacy laws to instructional contexts using learning technology, e.g., through use of consent forms. Contact the team at learntech@sfu.ca or 778.782.9607.

What do I need to do if I want to use iClickers?

Before getting started, you should find out if your students are already using iClickers in one or more of their other classes, i.e., if they already own an iClicker or are required to buy one for another class. While iClickers have been shown to be very helpful for student learning—and for the instructor—they are also getting more expensive every year. If your students require the iClicker for only one course, you may want to reconsider requiring iClickers.

If you have decided to use iClickers, make an appointment with Christina Drabik, the iClicker specialist at the Teaching and Learning Centre. She will provide you with the hardware and an introduction to setting up and using the system. Then talk to a colleague or your educational consultant to find out how best to use the iClickers in your program.

If you have decided against iClickers, you can have students interact with you during class in other ways; e.g., with quizzes in Canvas or with other commercial products such as TopHat. Contact the Teaching and Learning Centre for suggestions.

9. Working with TAs

Are there general rules or policies for working with TAs?

The policies governing working conditions for TAs can be found in the collective agreement between the SFU Board of Governors and the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU), which represents teaching assistants, tutor-markers and sessional instructors. 

At the beginning of the term, you will need to fill out a Teaching Assistant Time Use Guideline (TUG). This form lists the tasks for each of your TAs along with the number of hours they are expected to spend on each task. These forms are nonbinding, but help you plan your TAs’ workload and set expectations. We recommend that you ask a colleague for help when you fill the form out for the first time to ensure correct completion. You are expected to review your TAs’ workload about five weeks into the term and to adjust the TUG form if necessary.

What do TAs typically do?

Teaching assistants at SFU lead tutorials, supervise labs, answer student questions in drop-in tutorials and mark assignments and exams. Often they will have more direct interaction with the students than you, the instructor. Their work is crucial for undergraduate education at SFU. Since TAs are typically graduate students, they have to juggle teaching with research for their theses and taking classes, so it’s important not to expect an unrealistic time commitment. On the other hand, they will learn many transferable skills from teaching, and they have a big responsibility for the undergraduate students’ learning, so it’s important for them to take their TA job seriously.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of TAs, tutorials, etc., have a look at the Guide for Teaching Assistants at SFU.

Will I get to choose my TAs?

Typically, the department manager or someone else in the department will assign the TAs. There will likely be a selection process unless there are not enough grad students to fill the positions. The collective agreement governing TAs outlines a priority system that must be used in the selection of TAs. If you would like to work with a specific graduate student whom you consider highly qualified to be a TA for your course—or if there is a graduate student whom you consider a poor fit for your course—your department manager will certainly appreciate your input. But there is no guarantee that your wish will be fulfilled, since all the TAs’ schedules need to be matched with all the course schedules.

Is there general support or training for TAs?

If your department offers an orientation session for new TAs, you should strongly encourage them to attend. New and experienced TAs can also participate in (or present at) TA/TM Day, a free, one-day orientation event with multiple sessions offered by the Teaching and Learning Centre in cooperation with the Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows and the Teaching Support Staff Union at the Burnaby campus each September and January.

All TAs are guaranteed up to six paid hours per contract for professional development (those six hours are included in the TUG sheet). You should encourage your TAs to make use of the learning activities indicated above to help them prepare for their teaching responsibilities.

How can I ensure that my TAs do a good job?

Depending on how experienced and skilled your teaching assistants are, they will need more or less guidance. Instructors have an important role to play as mentors for TAs in guiding them and helping them develop as instructors.

Beyond pointing them to the Teaching and Learning Centre programs mentioned above, you should have regular meetings with your TAs to ensure that they understand your expectations and your practices for grading, etc., and to give them an opportunity for feedback. Consider meeting with your Faculty's educational consultant before the term starts to work out the details for supervising your TAs.

You may also want to let graduate students who are interested in developing their teaching skills, perhaps in preparation for a career in post-secondary teaching, know about the Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning or the Instructional Skills Workshops, both offered by the Teaching and Learning Centre several times throughout the year.

What can I do if a TA doesn't do a good job?

There might be various reasons for poor TA performance. Your TAs might be overworked and need some help with time management. They may not know what is expected of them, in which case you can help by clarifying your expectations. Your TA may have problems interacting with students, perhaps because of a language barrier or because of cultural differences. In that case, you could recommend a speech session at the Teaching and Learning Centre and also have a conversation about expectations and communication in different cultures. Maybe your TA’s knowledge of the course material is insufficient; this type of problem is obviously more difficult to fix within the limited timeframe of a term.

To find out why your TA isn’t as effective as you would like, you can ask your educational consultant to observe your TAs during their tutorials or labs to assess their work and find out what kind of support they might need. She or he can work with you and the TAs to improve their work, even in the case of strong TAs!

How will my TAs be evaluated?

In many departments, TA evaluation is integrated into the course evaluation done by students. Aside from this, the instructor is typically responsible for evaluating TAs. Depending on how your department handles TA evaluations, you may receive an evaluation form together with the TUGs at the beginning of the term to keep the evaluation criteria consistent. Since the evaluation will be an important part of the TAs’ teaching dossiers, they need to know the criteria for evaluation at the beginning of the term, should be made aware of any problems that arise during the term, and should have an opportunity to respond to the completed evaluation before it is submitted.

10. Interacting with students

How can I get my students to be engaged in my classes?

Student engagement depends very much on your audience, your teaching method, your personality, your course content and even factors like time of day and the setup of your classroom. In short, there is no magic bullet. For example, students taking a first-year service course are likely to be less enthusiastic about the course than students taking a fourth-year seminar course in their field of interest. For most classes, active engagement methods will be necessary to engage students, but any activities need to be designed to work with the course content. Whatever you do, it is important to communicate to students that you care about their learning. Their perception of your engagement sets a baseline for your interactions with them.

Since the answer to this question depends on so many factors, we recommend you ask your educational consultant for a teaching observation to find out if and how your students’ engagement could be improved.

What can I do if students stop attending my class?

If you notice that a particular student has stopped attending your class, you can try to contact the student to find out what is going on. Experience shows that most students appreciate their instructor’s interest and will ask for your advice once they learn that you actually noticed their absence. See below for tips on what to do if a student struggles academically or personally.

If you notice that a large number of your students have stopped attending class, it might be a sign that your teaching strategies are not working for them. In that case, ask your educational consultant for a classroom observation and for a consultation on your strategies. She or he can even do a small focus group with your students—early in the term, so you have the opportunity to adjust your teaching before the students fill out the course evaluations.

What can I do if a student keeps interrupting my class?

The first step is to determine why the student is engaging in this behaviour. Is it a need for your attention, a need to show off in front of other students, or is there a mental health issue behind this behaviour? Behaviour issues can be delicate. If you are uncertain about the root of the problem and how to handle it, we recommend you ask for help from someone, perhaps from an experienced colleague you consider a mentor or from your educational consultant.

What can I do if the same student is always answering my questions to the class?

Make sure the student knows that you appreciate his or her enthusiasm, but that it is important for other students to contribute as well. Try to find out why it is always just one student (or a small number) who interact with you: Are the other students disengaged or just shy? Sometimes you can tell from your students’ facial expressions that they have something to say, but need some encouragement. They may be encouraged to contribute if you address them directly. Make it clear that saying something wrong is acceptable. People learn from mistakes!

A great way to avoid the barrier of reluctance altogether is to use student response systems such as iClickers. With a system of that kind, students don’t need to reply to your question in front of a large group. Their responses are displayed anonymously. Allowing peer discussion before they submit answers will help students learn through discussion. Seeing the distribution of responses for the whole class also helps students evaluate their own level of understanding in relation to that of their peers.

I have difficulty communicating with some students in my class because of a language barrier. What options do I have?

If you notice that your students have problems understanding you because of your particular accent, for example, consider booking an appointment with the voice specialist at the Teaching and Learning Centre. If you have problems understanding your students because of their accents or lack of proficiency in English, refer them to the resources on the Student Learning Commons website.

In addition, the Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching and Research (CELLTR) will soon be offering English as an Additional Language (EAL) programs.

What does it mean when a student asks me to sign a form from the CSD?

The CSD is the Centre for Students with Disabilities and provides, among other things, disability-related information, support and counselling to the SFU community. Students with a documented disability can register with the CSD to request “academic accommodations to offset the effects of their disability on academic life” (see Centre for Students with Disability). You are welcome to contact the CSD for more information on their work; for example, how they determine a student’s eligibility for accommodations and what these accommodations might be.

What can I do when I see a student struggling academically?

You can suggest to your student that he or she contact Academic Advising, with the option of booking an appointment, drop-in advising or using instant messaging.

If your student has declared a major, he or she should contact the program or departmental advisor rather than Student Services. 

Students can also find many helpful resources on the Student Learning Commons website, including learning strategies, materials on writing, time management advice and much more.

What can I do to support and recognize an excellent student?

A variety of grants, scholarships, etc., are available for undergraduate and graduate students, depending on their field. Contact your department Chair to find information relevant to your discipline. In addition, the Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows has a Scholarships and Awards webpage with information about  various funding sources, including Mitacs internships and the President’s PhD Scholarship, as well as Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs).

For general information on financial aid, undergraduate student loans and grants, you may wish to refer your students to the Financial Aid and Awards and the Undergraduate Student Loans and Grants sections of the Student Services website. 

What can I do when I see a student struggling personally?

In some cases, you can make your students feel better simply by being available for them and talking to them. A number of studies have shown that students today feel stressed out more easily or more often than previous generations. In some cases, simply talking with your students may lift their spirits because it shows them that you have an interest in their well-being.

In other cases, your students might need professional help. You can refer them to Health and Counselling Services as a first contact.

To prepare yourself to deal with a student in distress and to learn how to identify levels of concern, we strongly recommend that you visit the Students in Distress webpage.

Do I have to allow students to record my lectures?

SFU’s intellectual property policy is available here.

Although this policy is listed under research, the definition of intellectual property explicitly includes educational materials as well. While in theory any recording of a lecture should be subject to the consent of the lecturer, it is hard to control in practice what students record on their mobile devices.

What should I do if I suspect that a student has cheated on an assignment or exam?

To avoid this situation, take a proactive approach and refer your students to the Student Services webpage on academic integrity, which offers a clear introduction to the topic. This would be especially helpful for those students who are not quite sure what academic honesty is.

If you do suspect that a student has cheated, talk to your department manager or a colleague immediately to find out how your department proceeds in those cases. You should also make yourself familiar with the procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty or misconduct, which are outlined in the policies webpage.

In general terms, if you suspect a student has plagiarized, he or she is entitled to information about the alleged wrongdoing and is entitled to provide a response. Academic dishonesty may be resolved by informal means, depending on the extent of the misconduct, the impact of that misconduct, whether the act was deliberate, whether the act is isolated, and any other pertinent factors. Every academic unit has an academic integrity advisor or chair. You should consult this academic integrity advisor before reaching a resolution with the student.

Informal measures may include issuing a warning, requiring the work to be redone, assigning a low grade, or assigning a grade of zero for the assignment. Formal measures may result in failure in a course, denial of admission or readmission to the university, forfeiture of university awards or financial assistance, and suspension or expulsion from the university.

What do I need to do if a student appeals his or her grade?

In general, a student will be advised to contact the instructor—you—to resolve the issue. In some cases, the solution will be easy; for example, when there has been a technical issue with the student’s clicker grades not being recorded properly. If you agree with the student’s request, you can get a grade change form from your department manager, fill it in and submit it. 
Other cases may be more complicated. If no successful resolution is reached, the next step is a written appeal. You may wish to consider finding a mentor in the department with whom you can consult on issues like this, especially if you have limited teaching experience. If you do speak with someone else about the situation, consider carefully what information you may share and what has to be kept confidential.

The policies on reconsideration of a grade are outlined in section 2.5 of the Grading and the Reconsideration of Grades policy webpage. As with other grading-related issues, your department manager or colleagues can help you with information about how these procedures are implemented in practice.

What can I do in the (unlikely) event that there is a medical emergency in my class?

In some of the large lecture halls in Burnaby, you will find a direct line to Campus security. Otherwise, you can reach security at 778.782.4500 (Burnaby campus), 778.782.5252 (Vancouver campus) and 778.782.7511 (Surrey campus). In Surrey, all classrooms and labs have a wall phone with a direct line to Campus security.

When you call them, security staff will come by, assess the situation and call 911 if necessary.

11. Professional development and resources

Where can I learn more about teaching?

The Teaching and Learning Centre offers workshops and individual consultations on teaching practice, learning technology, creation of educational media and presentation skills, as well as scholarly resources on teaching and learning in general and for specific disciplines. Event dates and application deadlines are listed on the Teaching and Learning Centre website. Here are some examples of recurring events:

The three-day Instructional Skills Workshop, offered several times throughout the year, is “designed to strengthen novice to expert instructors' skills through intensive, yet practical, exercises in learning-centred teaching.”

The eight-week EdMedia Protégé program enables participants to create, use and distribute media in an educational context. The program combines group sessions, one-on-one consultations and online exercises.

If you are a pioneer in learning technology applications and willing to share your expertise with colleagues, you may wish to join the invitation-based mailing list for “The SFU Experience of Learning Technology.” Contact Robyn Schell (rmschell@sfu.ca) to inquire.

You can also sign up for free to the Wiley Learning Institute Online Library, which offers professional development resources such as workshops, book chapters and webcasts for higher-education faculty and administrators. For more information, contact Derra Truscott, TLC program assistant, at tlcevent@sfu.ca.

Where can I learn more about course design?

The TLC offers a four-day workshop on course (re-)design, called Rethinking Teaching, every year in late April or early May. Space is limited, so you should apply early.

Can I do research on my teaching? Who can help me with it?

More and more instructors at SFU are becoming curious about the impact of their teaching and doing their own quality assurance/quality improvement studies. (If you do actual education research, you will need ethics approval from the Research Ethics Board). If you would like to start your own project, ask your educational consultant for suggestions on collaborators and potential funding sources. For example, you may want to apply for a Teaching and Learning Development Grant in order to hire a research assistant to help you with data collection and analysis.

12. Work/life balance

Any tips for balancing research, teaching and the rest of my life?

“Balancing” is the crucial word here. When you care about teaching and about your students, it can easily take over your life. Many academics are perfectionists, but there is no such thing as perfection in teaching. There is always room for improvement. Your students will appreciate you doing your best, but if you burn out, you are of no use to them. It might be helpful to remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can draw on the experience of your colleagues and on existing resources.

If you aren’t interested in teaching, consider the reasons. Do you feel uncomfortable when you teach? If so, your practice will improve with experience and as you seek feedback from students, colleagues and experts. If you feel that teaching takes time away from your research, keep in mind that teaching is not only an equally important part of your job, but also contributes to educating the next generation of young researchers in your field and provides visible success much faster than a research project—and you will inevitably learn from the process.  

No matter what approach you take to teaching, a very important goal is for you to enjoy the experience. At the Teaching and Learning Centre we are available to help you to reach your teaching goals in ways that will increase your appreciation and enjoyment of teaching.

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A Guide for New Faculty and Instructors at SFU by the SFU Teaching and Learning Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Useful links


A glossary of common terms

  • AQ: The Academic Quadrangle, a building that serves as the hub of the Burnaby campus.
  • Canvas: SFU's widely used institutional learning management system.
  • CODE: The Centre for Online and Distance Education, which handles fully online courses.
  • Engagement: The key emphasis of the university's vision. SFU calls itself "the engaged university" and promotes connections between research, students and the community.
  • Educational goals: All SFU departments are required to define program-level educational goals as part of their external reviews.
  • Harbour Centre: One of six buildings forming SFU's Vancouver campus. Many downtown meetings and classes take place here.
  • SETC project: The Student Evaluation of Teaching and Courses project is implementing an online course evaluation system.
  • SFUFA: The SFU Faculty Association is the organization that represents full-time faculty members. Faculty recently voted to unionize.
  • TSSU: The Teaching Support Staff Union represents sessional instructors, teaching assistants and tutor-markers.
  • VPA: The Vice-President, Academic, who has overall responsibility for teaching and learning at SFU.