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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.

The TFFE submits its final report to the VPA

TFFE final report submitted
The final report of the Task Force on Flexible Education concludes more than a year of consultation and deliberation.

The final report of the Task Force on Flexible Education (TFFE) was submitted to the Vice-President, Academic, at the end of June.

The document outlines the role and activities of the task force, presents the findings of a community consultation and environmental scan, and showcases exemplars of flexibility at SFU. Most importantly, it contains recommendations intended to foster flexibility in teaching and learning at SFU.

The seven recommendations in the final report are slightly modified versions of those contained in the April 9 draft report and, as before, they are grouped into five themes as follows:

Designing engaging and responsive academic programs

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

Fostering student agency

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

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 advancement opportunities for teaching-oriented instructors.

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.

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.

The full report will be reviewed by the Vice-President, Academic, before it is submitted to Senate or released more widely. However, a Summary of General Benefits of a Flexible Education Strategy for SFU from the report is available now.

The TFFE releases its draft recommendations

TFFE Status Update
Members of the SFU academic community are invited to comment on the draft recommendations contained in the April 9 TFFE status update.

On April 9, the Task Force on Flexible Education (TFFE) released a status update report for discussion by TFFE members. The report contained seven draft recommendations designed to guide SFU’s response to “the growing diversity of its students and the resulting call for programs [and services] that accommodate their varied needs.” The recommendations were developed after a university-wide consultation process involving faculty members, students, administrators and staff. They build on SFU’s tradition of innovation and reflect the TFFE mantra: “Relevance is the goal, flexibility is the enabling strategy, and responsiveness is the practice.”

The recommendations are grouped into five themes that were identified by the task force:

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

Fostering student agency
Recommendation 2
: Create a foundational program on lifelong learning for SFU students.

Connecting teaching with research and practice
Recommendation 3
: Use research on teaching and learning to guide effective teaching practices.
Recommendation 4: Provide better advancement opportunities for teaching-oriented instructors.

Building infrastructure and support systems for engaged teaching and learning
Recommendation 5
: Create a digital infrastructure for instructional resource development and distribution.
Recommendation 6: Create renewed spaces for student life and learning across SFU campuses.

Aligning educational services for the future
Recommendation 7
: Realign the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD), and Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE) under a single operating structure.

Particular initiatives to support each recommendation are proposed in the full text of the draft report. The TFFE invites all members of the academic community to view the status update and respond to the proposed recommendations before May 15. Contact information for the task force is available from the TFFE website.

A student’s evolving perspective on open educational resources

OpenCon
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 artsrep@sfss.ca.

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.

A TFFE discussion paper considers the benefits of an infrastructure for digital educational resources

E-reader
Digital resources can have advantages over printed textbooks in areas such as cost, accessibility and flexibility. A new TFFE discussion paper proposes an integrated infrastructure for the delivery of digital course content.

By David Porter

Throughout the community engagement process for the Task Force on Flexible Education (TFFE), we’ve encountered many exciting initiatives across the SFU campuses. Some of them deal with the future of teaching resources, textbooks, digital instructional resources and e-books.

We’ve noted student interest in open textbooks and a desire to lower textbook and instructional resource costs associated with taking courses. We’ve noted the Bookstore’s interest in changing its delivery model for instructional resources, too. And, we’ve had discussions with the Library about its interest in supporting open access and open educational resources at SFU.

In an effort to consider these interests collectively, the TFFE team has written a short discussion paper that explores whether a new digital infrastructure for teaching and learning resources would be of benefit at SFU, and we’re inviting input on the draft discussion paper.

Read the discussion paper >>

Student focus groups: If I ran SFU …

Student focus groups

What’s missing from your SFU educational experience? What would make it better?

Greater flexibility in putting together your program? More spaces for group work on campus? Weekend classes?

We want to know.

The Task Force on Flexible Education is looking at ways to respond to the changing educational needs of SFU students. We would like to hear what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as your ideas for making things better.

Whether you are an international student, a mid-career professional, a “traditional” student straight out of high school, or someone completely different, your experience will help us shape the way the university offers courses and programs and how it supports  learning.

Come to a student focus group in March to define a vision and identify concrete actions. You’ll get the chance to make a difference, and we’ll show our appreciation to you with a FREE meal and a $10 dining gift card.

Sign up for one of these dates:

Wed, March 4 | 5:30–6:20 p.m. | West Mall Complex 2501 |
Wed, March 11 | 12:30–1:20 p.m. | West Mall Complex 2220 |
Tue, March 17 | 1:30–2:20 p.m. | West Mall Complex 3513 |

To register: Click here
Questions? Contact tffe@sfu.ca

“Relevance is the goal. Flexibility is the enabling strategy. Responsiveness is the practice.”