SFU Newsletter
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September 2020


A message from the AVP, Learning & Teaching

Welcome to the new academic year, and our new learning and teaching newsletter! Our aim is to keep you informed about initiatives around teaching and curriculum that are coming out of the Provost's office; to highlight the amazing work being done by you and your colleagues; to remind you of services offered by the Centre for Educational Excellence and our IT group; to let you know about what Student Services, the Library, and others are doing in support of student learning; and to generally provide a broad forum for what is happening in Learning and Teaching at SFU.

These days "what is happening" is our continued pivot to remote instruction. I can't thank all of you—faculty, sessionals, TAs and staff—enough for your amazing work in support of student learning. I recognize that many of you are tired and stressed due to your herculean efforts since March, but I have never been more proud of your dedication than in these past months, and I've been grateful to have the opportunity to share stories of your dedication and innovation with others both inside and outside SFU. This newsletter links to a selection of faculty experiences during the pivot and over the summer term, and I hope we can highlight more of your great stories in future issues.

One of the things I've heard over recent months is that instructors and students feel they are in separate silos in terms of the information they receive. I'm hoping that this newsletter will start to break those silos down by providing you with more awareness about supports for students and student perspectives.

In addition to the newsletter, we now have an expanded AVPLT website with information about the university-wide learning and teaching initiatives I’m leading. Click the red button below to have a look.

Thank you again, everyone, for all you do.

Elizabeth Elle, Associate VP, Learning & Teaching


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Six faculty members talk about the highs and lows of moving to remote instruction

Nienke van Houten (Health Sciences) said, "They really valued my clear and upfront approach." Nicky Didicher (English) confessed, "I'm finding my job less exhilarating." Mark Lechner (Health Sciences) counselled, "You have to be OK with things going sideways." We asked six faculty members about their experiences in moving to remote instruction this past spring and summer. The tales they told were filled with ingenuity, frustration, hard work and—in every case—exceptional commitment to students. Read their stories: Kevin Lam | Sheri Fabian | Sarah JohnsonNicky Didicher | Mark Lechner | Nienke van Houten


News Roundup

Remote instruction resources for instructors, TAs and students

The Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) spent the summer filling two Canvas courses—one for instructors and the other for teaching assistants—with remote instruction resources such as how-to documents, video tutorials and templates. A third Canvas course, called Student Success in Remote Learning and created collaboratively by CEE, Work Integrated Learning, the Student Learning Commons, Student Engagement, the Office of Student Conduct, the SFU Library and IT Services, contains resources and strategies to boost student well-being and academic success. All three courses can be accessed from the CEE website, which also hosts an expanded Remote Teaching Support section. Visit the CEE website.

What are your students thinking?

Instructors and staff members have been seeking ways to understand how students are coping with remote learning. Here are several sources that offer insight into what students are thinking and feeling:
• The Student Online Learning Experiences (SOLE) survey, a university-wide survey conducted in June and July, provides answers based on the responses of more than 4,800 students.
• Student videos, like My Life as an Online University Student by Livleen from SFU's Beedie School of Business, offer personal accounts of the transition to remote learning.
• The Student Services Bulletin is an excellent way to stay in touch with the news and information students are getting.

Students can find social connection by joining the HIVE

For students, one of the challenges of remote learning is social connection. That's especially true for the 4,600+ undergraduates who are new to SFU this fall. Student Services has responded by establishing the HIVE (Home for Interactive Virtual Engagement) program, which connects new students with small online groups of peers who share similar social interests, programs of study or other characteristics. The groups are led by more than 250 volunteer "welcome leaders" who initiate icebreakers and social activities and answer students’ questions throughout their first term. One early participant commented, "Going into university with some new friends helps to alleviate the anxiety I had whenever I even thought about post-secondary." Learn more about the HIVE program.

IT Services announces a single phone number for general support

IT Services believes in the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, SFU! In August, ITS consolidated 11 phone numbers into a single number for all general support inquiries. To make the number easy to remember, the final four digits echo SFU's Burnaby address: 778 782 8888. The change is part of an ongoing effort to make access to IT support simpler and more consistent, particularly at a time when many SFU community members are connecting to systems remotely and using unfamiliar services. Visit the IT Services Help page.

Invite a librarian to join your Canvas course

SFU's Canvas learning management system allows course authors to assign different roles within each course—Students and Teachers, obviously, but also TAs, Designers and Observers. Now there is a new role specifically for Librarians. By embedding librarians in their Canvas courses, instructors can provide students with a direct connection to discipline-specific research experts. In addition, the main navigation bar in Canvas now includes a "Research Help" tab that connects students to the AskAway online research help chat service staffed by experts from SFU and other BC post-secondary institutions. Learn more about both services.

A reminder: Where to find the latest COVID-19 bulletins

The Office of the VP Academic maintains a list of all email announcements related to COVID-19. Access the list (SFU computing ID required).


Selected Learning & Teaching Events

Mon Sep 28

How to Teach with Zoom: Intro Level

Thu Oct 1

Presentation Skills 1 – Breath, Posture and Pauses: Your Allies for Presenting Online

Fri Oct 2

Student Learning Commons Open House

Mon-Wed-Fri Oct 5-7-9

Remote Instruction: Three-day Intensive Workshop