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Senate calls for a detailed action plan

TFFE final report
The TFFE report recommends the appointment of “a senior administrator to guide and facilitate a strategic approach to learning and teaching across all learning units at SFU.”

On December 9, 2015, Senate reviewed the final report of the Task Force on Flexible Education (TFFE) and approved a motion instructing the Vice-President, Academic, to return with a detailed action plan.

The report contains seven recommendations intended to foster flexibility in teaching and learning at SFU, along with “potential action pathways” for each recommendation.

The recommendations in their final form (taken from Section IV, Proposed Actions and Timelines, and grouped according to five “themes”) are given below. The full report is available here.

Theme: Designing engaging and responsive academic programs

Recommendation 1: Provide opportunities for community engagement or practical experiences within all SFU programs.

Theme: Fostering student agency

Recommendation 2: Create a foundational experience in learning for life for all SFU students.

Theme: Reinforcing connections between research, teaching and practice

Recommendation 3: Use research on teaching and learning to guide, develop and expand innovative teaching and learning practices across SFU.
Recommendation 4: Provide better professional development opportunities for all instructors.

Theme: Enhancing learning environments—both digital and physical

Recommendation 5: Proactively research and explore digital learning and teaching systems, and develop and implement a digital infrastructure for the creation and distribution of instructional resources across SFU campuses.
Recommendation 6: Create renewed spaces for student life and learning across SFU campuses.

Theme: Aligning educational research and service for the future

Recommendation 7: Appoint a senior administrator to guide and facilitate a strategic approach to learning and teaching across all learning units at SFU.

See the full report.

A student’s evolving perspective on open educational resources

Brady Wallace, with SFSS President Chardaye Bueckert, at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

By Brady Wallace

Brady Wallace is the Arts and Social Sciences representative on the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors. He is also the project lead of the SFU BC Open Textbook Working Group, a group committed to exploring ways to increase use of open content at SFU. It’s no surprise that he advocates the use of open educational resources (OERs), which offer instructors and students the chance to assemble digital course content at no cost. But it is interesting to hear how OpenCon 2014, a four-day conference on “open access, open education and open data” for students and early-career researchers, broadened his thinking about the value of the “open” philosophy in general. His reflections are especially relevant in the context of SFU’s search for more flexible and responsive ways to ensure accessible and relevant learning experiences for students. Brady can be contacted at

I’d like to share three key pieces of learning we took away [from OpenCon 2014] that would be relevant to the SFSS’s mandate of advocating and representing the interests of SFU undergraduates:

1. The opening keynote by the OpenCon organizing committee introduced the idea of open as a human rights movement advocating for equality. Open in this sense refers to greater accessibility to all publicly funded research. This immediately sparked my interest, as I had never thought of access to information as a human right. Being a post-secondary student in a developed country, I don’t often come across many of the barriers experienced every day by individuals around the world. Considering open in this context inspired me to start thinking of how our current BC Open Textbook Program could be expanded to focus not only on open educational resources, but also on the field of open access.

2. Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), discussed the advantages of OERs and the importance of institutions recognizing the advantages of pursuing open access. Allen shared an impactful statement: “At the end of the day, students cannot learn from materials they do not have access to.” In terms of our current campaign at SFU, we must not let up on efforts to save students money and enhance their educational experience.

3. Finally, Daniel Demarte from Tidewater Community College spoke about the “Z degree,” which he described as North America’s first zero-textbook-cost associate degree program using only OERs. According to Demarte, participants in this program are expected to save $1200 per year in textbook costs, have a reduced drop-out rate, and enjoy 100% access to all materials throughout their entire degree. His conclusion is that the use of OERs contributes to more students making it past the finish line. Through greater use of OER materials available through the BC Campus collection, I believe students at SFU could not only tap into greater savings, but also engage with more flexible content that professors could customize for their courses, in turn producing more engaged course materials, professors and students.

Prior to attending OpenCon 2014, my interest in the current advocacy initiative at SFU was narrow in scope. As a program holding the potential of untapped cost savings for undergraduate students at SFU, I valued the BC Open Textbook program and our advocacy efforts that point solely in that light. From collecting signatures from undergraduate students interested in greater uptake of BC Campus materials to posing questions at the SFU Senate regarding the University’s stance on the program, my outlook centered on greater cost savings. However, OpenCon 2014 served as an invaluable opportunity to enhance my knowledge in all areas of open. It was an inspiring weekend, revealing to me the true potential students have for influencing their surroundings. As Heather Joseph stated so eloquently, “We’re not the leaders of the future generation, we’re the leaders of the now.” Therefore it is time to assemble the masses from coast to coast, meet with our elected representatives, and ensure that open is a priority for everyone.

Public events:
World Cafes: Relevance, flexibility and the student learning experience at SFU

World Cafe

An invitation to SFU faculty members and instructors, staff and students on all three campuses

Burnaby World Café
Monday, January 26, 2015 | 10:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. (lunch included) | Diamond Alumni Centre
To register:

Vancouver World Café
Monday, February 2, 2015 | 1:30 p.m.–4 p.m. (refreshments provided) | Harbour Centre 1400
To register:

Surrey World Café
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 | 1:30 p.m.–4 p.m. (refreshments provided) | 3280
To register:

What does it mean to say that a university education is “relevant?” And what is the connection between relevance and flexibility in education? How can SFU provide more relevant learning experiences to its students? Share your thoughts about the directions in which university teaching and learning is—and should be—headed at one of three World Cafe style consultative events hosted by the Task Force on Flexible Education in January and February. The cafes will provide a forum for large- and small-group dialogue centred around five themes:

  • Relevance
  • Program design
  • Teaching approaches
  • Infrastructure and support
  • Student agency

This is your opportunity to contribute to the development of principles and practices that will shape the future of SFU. We are eager to hear from faculty members, staff and students on all three campuses. Register today!

SFU students open to open textbooks

SFU Student Texts

By Candy Ho

We’ve all got at least a few of those past course textbooks that have been collecting dust on our bookshelves or even in our basements; expensive paper weights – in the literal sense.

According to an article written by Max Hill, Features Editor for The Peak student newspaper, an increasing number of today’s students are finding ways to avoid amassing their own textbook collections by not even purchasing them in the first place. The impetus, he claims, is due to the perceived high prices of texts – some of which many students don’t feel will be worth their investment. Instead, he notes that over 50% of SFU’s students are turning online to the ever burgeoning private used/loaned textbook market.

However, Hill argues that a new movement is quickly gaining traction that may even thwart the best efforts of those looking to ‘recycle’ their texts to recoup some funds. Government agencies like BCcampus are “compiling a collection of free and readily available open textbooks designed for classrooms in BC and across Canada”  – that’s right; they’re completely free.

From the flexible education perspective, this not only means that faculty members can adopt and adapt open textbooks to suit their courses; but also, students can avoid the “to buy or not to buy” dilemma as they can access open learning resources right from the get go.

For more information about the BC Campus Open Textbook Project, please visit:

For more information on the Simon Fraser Student Society’s petition for an open textbook program, please visit: