SFU Newsletter
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November 2020 | View the web version of this newsletter


A message from the AVP, Learning & Teaching

As we look ahead to the last few weeks of the term, I hope you are all managing to stay resilient, and that there are some nuggets in this newsletter that can help you as you continue to support our students and each other.

This month, we present more stories about our amazing faculty members and their innovative ways to support student learning as we continue to teach remotely. We also have some updates on initiatives: the General Education Curriculum Review is currently consulting with faculty members (I will continue to provide updates both in this newsletter and on my website), and you may want to join the conversation about well-being in learning environments.

Another topic on many of our minds is academic integrity. The new teaching and assessment landscape we find ourselves in, coupled with extraordinary stress felt by our students, has led to an increase in reporting of academic dishonesty over the past several months. All of us have a role to play in supporting the fundamental principles of fairness and integrity that are at the core of any university. But how, when we are all feeling overburdened already?

We’ve started a new Academic Integrity Working Group comprised of students, staff and faculty that is working on short- and long-term solutions. One of our first actions has been to update the Academic Integrity website, specifically the resources for faculty. We’ve edited the material to make it relevant for remote instruction, included information on batch reporting, and provided additional guidance about evidence and penalties. It’s worth a look. The committee is also suggesting ways to improve the reporting process and how the university can better support faculty, students and the academic integrity advisors embedded in departments. We’ll also be making recommendations about exams and other forms of assessment. Stay tuned.

Thank you again, everyone, for all you do.

Elizabeth Elle, Associate VP, Learning & Teaching


Hasina Samji 

Fostering connection and practicing kindness

While preparing to teach her HSCI 432: Seminar in Epidemiology course this fall, Hasina Samji (assistant professor, health sciences) had to decide whether or not to deliver her lectures synchronously. She liked the idea of connecting with students in real time, but worried that students in different time zones or with poor internet access might have difficulty participating. Given the small class size and her desire to build community, she chose synchronous delivery, and the format seems to be working. It’s an example of how instructors are paying attention to both student learning and student well-being in their decisions about remote instruction. “We are all struggling with unanticipated anxieties and challenges,” says Samji. “Let’s be kind to each other if we can.”


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Can you teach dance remotely?

Rob Kitsos (professor and associate director, School of Contemporary Arts) teaches dance. The challenges of remote instruction for him and his students are clearly unique—for example, "[not] enough space for bigger movement" at home. Nevertheless, Kitsos has found a number of positives, from his observation that "students seem to feel more open to speaking on Zoom than in the studio" to the fact that he can now "use technology with more confidence and ease." Overall, he concludes, "I think we have gained more resilience […] It has forced us to look for new ways of motivating ourselves."


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"What I'm learning about remote teaching"

"Remote teaching is an entirely different animal than in-class teaching," says Nadine Schuurman (geographic information science researcher, geography). Even experienced instructors readily confess that they have scrambled to find new ways to engage with their students online. We asked five SFU instructors to share what they have learned about remote teaching. Here's what they said: Aida Osian | Lara Aknin | Tara Holland | Nadine Schuurman | Taco Niet


News Roundup

Faculty consultation: General Education Curriculum Review

SFU undergraduate students are required to complete a general education component, sometimes referred to as the WQB (writing-quantitative-breadth) requirement. The university has begun a General Education Curriculum Review to "explore a forward-looking vision for the general education component of the undergraduate curriculum." Faculty members are invited to share their input via facilitated conversations, an online survey, or tailored consultations within interested academic units. Visit the Faculty Consultation page to participate. Additional consultations for other members of the SFU academic community will begin in January 2021.

Join the conversation on well-being in learning environments

SFU Health Promotion, UBC Health Promotion and Education and BCcampus are hosting "Thriving Beyond Campuses: Well-being in Learning Environments," an online dialogue series on "how well-being relates to teaching practices and learning environments." The next session is a set of roundtables about "Promising Learning Environment Practices that Enhance Student Well-being" on Thursday, December 3. Register here.

Easier access to COVID-19 emails related to learning and teaching

The COVID-19 Updates section of the VP Academic's website now has tabs. That means you can filter the pandemic-related mass emails sent by academic leaders according to theme, including "quality learning." Take a look.


Selected Learning & Teaching Events

Mon Nov 23

How to Teach with Zoom: Intro Level

Tue Nov 24

Introduction to Canvas

Thu Nov 26

Grading with Canvas

Thu Nov 26

Virtual Lectures in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Mon Nov 30

Presentation Skills 3 – Better Presentations: Building Confidence and Connections

Thu Dec 3

How to Teach with Zoom: Advanced Level

Thu Dec 3

Roundtable Discussions: Promising Learning Environment Practices that Enhance Student Well-being