SFU Newsletter
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January 2021 | View the web version of this newsletter


A message from the AVP, Learning & Teaching

As we continue learning and teaching remotely, I know some of you are struggling, many of you are innovating, and we are all learning new things. This month, our newsletter highlights how we can better support academic integrity, something I know we are thinking about in new ways as we assess students online. A working group of faculty, students and staff made a number of recommendations last semester, and you can find improvements to the academic integrity website as a result. Below, we’ve linked to interviews with faculty and students to provide perspectives and advice. I hope it's useful to you!

And if you haven’t already, do check out the Student Online Learning Experiences survey. The survey was run last summer, but we’ve added additional analysis of the open-ended comments. I hope it can help you as you continue to support students learning remotely. And, stay tuned for more about the General Education review—we anticipate adding more information to the website as we analyze the surveys completed so far and add consultations with students, alumni and other stakeholders. I hope we can provide more info in our next newsletter.

As always, a big thank you for all you do.

Elizabeth Elle, Associate VP, Learning & Teaching


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A different perspective on academic integrity

Dan Laitsch (associate professor, Faculty of Education) thinks the emphasis on enforcing academic integrity through deterrence is all wrong. He argues for an approach that addresses what he considers the fundamental “drivers of cheating”: a competitive environment that prioritizes grades over learning; a misguided view of fairness that calls for all students to “do the same work at the same time in the same way” without taking into account individual needs and interests; and the limited work capacity of both instructors and students, which leads to decisions based on managing workloads rather than maximizing learning. He has implemented a radically different approach to learning, assessment and academic integrity in his own classroom. 


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“Painting the bigger picture” of academic integrity

University lecturer Kathleen Burke (Beedie School of Business) regularly discusses academic integrity in her business ethics course. And while she recognizes that the “temptations” to cheat might be greater during remote learning when instructors are not physically present as students write tests and exams, she addresses the subject as she always has—by seeking to broaden her students’ perspectives on dishonesty and cheating and by communicating expectations clearly. For Burke, the significance of the discussion extends well beyond her classroom: “The stakes just get bigger as we go further down the road of life.”


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Three students talk about academic integrity

Felipe Patarroyo Singh (sustainable energy engineering), Galvin Huen (honours biomedical physiology) and Sam Yi (criminology) are undergraduate members of SFU’s Academic Integrity Working Group. They recently shared their views on the prevalence and causes of academic dishonesty and what instructors can do to foster academic integrity in their classrooms, especially within the context of remote instruction. All three agree that instructors can make a difference. “I have had a positive experience with professors who took a little time to write reassuring messages or explicitly stated expectations in a guiding manner,” says Huen. “I would like to thank the instructors who spend time doing this, as I can assure you these messages do a lot for us as students.”


News Roundup

A clear no to Examity

Last semester, the university conducted a pilot of Examity, an auto-proctoring software that “locks down” the browsers of students to prevent internet access during remote exams. The software also records students and uses artificial intelligence to identify “suspicious” behaviours that could indicate cheating. Although interest in some sort of auto-proctoring solution to enforce academic integrity remains high, the evaluators concluded that Examity “meets neither our expectations nor our needs.” In fact, almost all pilot participants discontinued their use of Examity after an initial midterm. Some faculty members are now exploring Zoom proctoring as an alternative. Read more about the Examity decision.  

Turn on live transcription for your next Zoom meeting

IT Services has announced the availability of live transcription, a beta feature that enables automatic speech-to-text transcription, in Zoom. When the feature is enabled by the meeting host, participants see real-time captions during the meeting or webinar and can download a full transcript of the presentation or discussion afterwards. It’s a valuable accessibility option and a huge time-saver for note-takers. Find out how to use it.

How can institutions and Indigenous peoples work together?

On Tuesday, January 26, the Centre for Educational Excellence will welcome three outstanding Indigenous scholars/senior administrators from the University of Calgary, Carleton University and York University for a 90-minute Zoom discussion titled “How Do Institutions and Indigenous Peoples Work Together in Decolonizing and Indigenizing Teaching and Learning Practices?” All three scholars are among the first generation in roles that are breaking ground for effective reconciliation work within their institutions. They will share how they have collaborated with faculty, staff and students to transform learning and teaching practices. Register here to participate.

Remote Teaching Forum 2021: Engaging Students in the Disciplines

SFU instructors have adopted a variety of creative approaches and teaching strategies for remote instruction. Come to the Remote Teaching Forum 2021 on Tuesday, February 9, to hear 16 five-minute presentations by faculty members on their technology-supported learning activities. Then join the conversation in facilitated roundtable discussions. See the list of presentations and register.


Selected Learning & Teaching Events

Tue Jan 26

How Do Institutions and Indigenous Peoples Work Together in Decolonizing and Indigenizing Teaching and Learning Practices?

Tue Feb 9

Remote Teaching Forum 2021: Engaging Students in the Disciplines

Fri Feb 26

Application Deadline: Rethinking Course Design: A Four-day Workshop for Faculty (April 29–30, May 3–4)

Fri Mar 12

Application Deadline: Instructional Skills Workshop (April 22–23, 26–27)

Fri Mar 12

Application Deadline: Instructional Skills Workshop (April 29–30, May 3–4)

January 20, 2021