SFU Newsletter

March 2021 | View the web version of this newsletter

A message from the AVP, Learning & Teaching

We are a year into the pandemic and remote teaching, and are finally looking ahead to a return to our campuses and all the opportunities that will bring for our students and ourselves. I know we've all learned a lot about how to support our students using a kind of teaching many of us never expected to do, and I imagine there are aspects of remote teaching that will inform our practice in the future. This newsletter contemplates September 2021, and so we bring you stories about colleagues who are already teaching in person, as well as some of the heroes in IT Services who have made working and teaching remotely possible, and we introduce some initiatives around experiential education at SFU. There is also a link to the recent presentations by our colleagues in the Remote Teaching Forum 2021. And, I'm excited to say, we also celebrate our three 2020 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award winners—Victoria Claydon, Tiffany Muller Myrdahl and Carolyn Sparrey.

Looking forward to the day when I can see you in person rather than on a Zoom screen!

Elizabeth Elle, Associate VP, Learning & Teaching


In-person instruction: Some classes have already returned

If all goes well, the university could see a return to mostly in-person instruction by Fall 2021. However, some instructors and students were back on campus as early as Fall 2020, and in the School for the Contemporary Arts, a number of courses this semester are using a hybrid format that combines online learning with studio sessions. The sessions rely on stringent safety measures like reduced class sizes and taped squares on the floor to ensure physical distancing, but Steven Hill (associate professor, theatre performance), Mauricio Pauly (assistant professor, music & sound) and Marla Eist (associate professor, dance) say the benefits of returning to in-person instruction have been worth the effort for them and their students.


813,000 Zoom meetings: How IT Services handled the move to remote instruction

When SFU went to remote instruction almost exactly one year ago, IT Services faced the monumental task of supporting instructors and students as they moved online. That meant scaling up existing platforms like the Canvas learning management system while introducing new technologies like Zoom. At the same time, IT Services staff had to provide training and support for existing and new users. The department's own numbers give some sense of the scale of the effort; in the past year, to cite one example, SFU has hosted 813,000 Zoom meetings with more than four million participants. An IT Services representative recently spoke about this unprecedented time—and the lessons learned that will guide the department's work well beyond the end of the pandemic.


Three projects that support deeper learning experiences for students

SFU has initiated several projects recently to support deeper learning experiences for students inside and outside the classroom:

  • In early March, the Learning Experiences Transition Survey asked undergraduates about their priorities as the university prepares to return to more in-person learning. More than 6,000 students responded, and experiential learning ranked among their top three. Survey results will be posted on the AVPLT website within the next week or so, and consultation with graduate students about how to support their return to campus is underway.
  • A university-wide Experiential Education Inventory scheduled to begin in late May will create a resource to help students, staff and faculty learn about what curricular and co-curricular experiential education opportunities are currently available.
  • The FUSION Skill Development Program is a multi-university pilot project launching at SFU this summer that will offer students the chance to develop key skills (such as critical thinking/problem solving) for their post-university roles through self-directed online learning experiences.

Light at the end of the tunnel

On March 8, BC's provincial health officer advised all public universities and colleges to prepare for a full return to on-campus education in September. SFU has been working toward this goal since Fall 2020 and has already developed the SFU Covid-19 Go-Forward Plan to guide health and safety protocols. Additional planning will be done with input from the university community; a town hall for faculty and staff has been scheduled for April 13. Town hall details will be shared in the What's On faculty and staff newsletter.

Creative and caring: The 2020 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award recipients

Victoria Claydon (associate professor, biomedical physiology and kinesiology) emphasizes "experiential education, critical thinking and real-world connections" in her classes—and students have responded with enthusiasm. Tiffany Muller Myrdahl (senior lecturer, gender, sexuality and women's studies/urban studies program) teaches in two interdisciplinary programs and has been described as "the heart and soul of the teaching team" in both. Carolyn Sparrey (associate professor, mechatronic systems engineering) has earned praise for creating a comfortable learning environment that encourages student participation. In early March, all three educators received 2020 SFU Excellence in Teaching Awards. Read their stories.

Remote Teaching Forum 2021: Watch the presentations on video

In February, 19 SFU faculty members and instructors shared their approaches to online instruction at the Remote Teaching Forum 2021, organized by the Centre for Educational Excellence. The video recordings of those presentations, along with related resource materials, are now available in a dedicated Canvas shell.

A resource for inclusive and antiracist writing

The SFU Library recently posted an Inclusive and Antiracist Writing Guide for students developed by the Student Learning Commons on its website. Visit the overview page for a high-level summary and to download a PDF version of the guide.


Wed Mar 31

Improving Student Comprehension of Multiple-Choice Question Assessments

Tue Apr 6

Grading with Canvas

Thu Apr 22

Engagement in Your Lectures Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra: Advanced Level

March 24, 2021