Category Archives: Flexible Education

Truly engaged: My SFU experience

Raisa Crisologo
Raisa Crisologo is working with the TFFE team as part of a student advisory committee. For her, flexible education is about balancing learning with personal and professional development.

By Raisa Crisologo, BBA candidate, 2016

Flexible education – what does it really mean? I define flexible education through three aspects of what I believe are critical components of a flexible university education: balance, creative learning, and personal development. These three characteristics embody the kind of education that every educational institution should strive for.

Balance is a key aspect of flexible education. In terms of flexible education, this means that a university education should allow students to learn at their own pace, and in the way that works best for them. The university should be open to various types of learning structures, such that students are able to fit other spheres of their life (e.g., social life, family life) around their education. This means that students should have enough time to finish their degree, as well as have ample time to fulfill work commitments, to become involved with organizations, and to participate in social events and activities.

Flexible education should be innately a creative learning experience. This means that there is not just “one way” of learning or of teaching a concept or an idea, but that there are different ways of doing so. A flexible education caters to various styles of learning – it essentially provides students a variety of avenues, methods, and learning techniques that allow them to learn in the best and most efficient way possible.

Lastly, flexible education should provide room for personal development, either through workshops and conferences, or through co-curricular components. A flexible education should include various opportunities for students to develop and grow into the best version of themselves. A great university produces responsible social citizens who are passionate about what they do, and are community-oriented. This to me is the mark of a stellar university. Thus, flexible education should provide room for students to personally grow and develop the necessary skills that they will need outside of university.

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: http://bccampus.ca/open-textbook-project/.

For more information on the Simon Fraser Student Society’s petition for an open textbook program, please visit: http://www.sfss.ca/university-relations/open-textbook-program-petition

The publication of self in everyday life

John Maxwell and Suzanne Norma
John Maxwell (left) and Suzanne Norman have developed a course that helps students understand and take control of their online presence.

By David Porter

For Suzanne Norman and John Maxwell of SFU’s Publishing program, the “publication of self in everyday life” should be a core piece of the university experience for all SFU students. Their vision is a liberal arts course that complements academic programs and provides students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of accomplishments that matches their areas of interest. Their PUB 101 course, titled, not surprisingly, “The Publication of Self in Everyday Life,” does precisely that.

“It’s the kind of first-year course that everybody in university should take. You take an English course to insure you can read and write. You take this course so you’ll know how to operate online, know what’s beyond your keypad and know how to take responsibility for it,” says Maxwell.

PUB 101 is part of the Print and Digital Publishing Minor, an increasingly popular choice for students of Communications, English, Business, and from SIAT (School of Interactive Arts and Technology) who are looking to build skills and increase their employability. It’s an example of a flexible learning experience that provides students with new digital publishing skills as well as the know-how to build a professional portfolio of their own.

For Suzanne Norman, who currently teaches the course with Juan Pablo Alperin, the strength of the course is its requirement for students to manage their digital presence end to end: “The PUB 101 course is about taking responsibility for public presence—taking ownership with no parental guidance.”

Maxwell agrees: “The whole idea of portfolio assessment could be given to students in its entirety. It’s their responsibility. They should completely own their own stuff.”

Rowland Lorimer, founding director of SFU’s Master of Publishing program, gave PUB 101 its direction by suggesting to Maxwell and Norman that they build on Erving Goffman’s ideas from The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and provide a modern outlet for personal expression for students of the digital era. Maxwell and Norman found ideas for such an outlet in the DS106 and A Domain of One’s Own projects designed by Jim Groom and Alan Levine.

Norman emphasizes that “the most important part of PUB 101 is peer learning. If you end up in publishing … you need to work with people you don’t know, contractors and designers, sometimes temperamental creative types … so you need to be able to work and share and teach each other.” These are life lessons embedded within the flexible learning experience that PUB 101 provides.

Introduction to the Task Force on Flexible Education

Bill Krane, special advisor to the Vice-President, Academic, is chairing the TFFE. He believes it will have an enormous impact on the direction of teaching and learning at SFU.
Bill Krane, special advisor to the Vice-President, Academic, is chairing the TFFE. He believes it will have an enormous impact on the direction of teaching and learning at SFU.

“The TFFE will take a holistic view of SFU’s teaching and learning environment. ”

Almost 50 years ago Simon Fraser University, dubbed BC’s “instant university”, began offering a distinctive learning experience to its students. Underpinning its unique suite of initial programs was the trimester system, which allowed students to attend classes year round if they wished, or space their programs over a longer period than the four-year norm. This flexibility became a hallmark of the SFU educational experience and attracted many students who either wanted to study part-time or whose circumstances required them to combine work and study.

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Jamie Mulholland on flexible education

Jamie Mulholland
For Jamie Mulholland, a senior lecturer in mathematics, flexible education has meant experimenting with a flipped-classroom model that allows him to interact more meaningfully with his students.

Jamie Mulholland,  a senior lecturer in mathematics, and recipient of the 2011 Teaching Excellence Award, is renowned within the SFU community for his flipped calculus courses. Flipped classrooms are one example of flexible education—students watch lectures posted on Jamie’s YouTube Channel, while class time is spent solving math problems. Jamie began this initiative with the help of educational consultant Cindy Xin, and colleague Veselin Jungic. “We were all on it from day one so it’s equally as much their baby as it is mine,” says Jamie. To shore up the technical side he took the Ed Media Protégé Program and worked with Adam O. Thomas, a videographer from the Teaching +Learning Centre.

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