SFSS campaigns for SFU to continue recording lectures

The Accessible Course Practices letter advocates for recordings to become standard practice at SFU

foreground is glass, background is empty classroom with green chairs and red writing on whiteboard

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

During the last week of August, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) published the Accessible Course Practices (ACP) campaign letter and an accompanying student survey to their social media accounts. This campaign calls for professors to provide student access to mandated recordings, and hopes to see this become a post-pandemic university standard. 

Kashish Mehta, SFSS councillor and ACP campaign chair, started the ACP campaign after being inspired by the SFSS’ previous campaign, Access for All. While the previous campaign focused on hybrid courses and decreasing COVID-19 outbreaks on campus, ACP concentrates on access to lecture recordings. 

“I started to question what could be done to ease some of the anxiety that students feel about returning to campus amid a pandemic,” said Mehta in an email interview with The Peak. “According to the student survey, which is still currently ongoing, the majority of the responses have been in support of the campaign.”

Mehta said the key motive of this campaign is to improve on what was already being done during the pandemic. She explained this “next step” could look different for each class. Professors who haven’t been recording their classes at all would take the next step by recording, and those who have been providing audio-only recordings could take the next step to video recordings. 

This would be for “folks who can’t make it to each and every class because of their commitments, like taking up more than one job due to financial restraints put on by the pandemic, or needing to stay home for personal as well as familial risks regarding COVID-19,” wrote Mehta. “It would be helpful for them to not have to compromise their education for situations they have little control over.”

Gabe Liosis, president of SFSS, gave a statement to The Peak about the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on student life through the delta variant and the fourth wave.

“This campaign advocates for policies and tools that we know will make post-secondary education more accessible and equitable for folks being impacted hardest by the return to campuses,” Liosis wrote. “We are in a really uncertain time — compassion is what we need to navigate through it together.”

A second accompanying survey was created for and sent out to SFU professors and instructors. Mehta claims faculty have expressed concerns about lecture material being released to third parties, technological logistics of recording lectures, lack of student engagement, and learning approaches that do not translate well to recordings. 

Elizabeth Elle, vice provost and associate vice president of learning and teaching, explained to The Peak in a statement that recordings are not always possible. Some courses have participation-based discussions, significant active components, or involve  sensitive subject material, she wrote. Elle added, “A safe space is created by not recording student responses.

“As we move through fall and into winter and spring, we will continue to encourage instructors to consider recordings and other mechanisms to support accessibility whenever possible,” wrote Elle. “We also recognize that there are reasons why recording is not the best practice for some courses.”

The ACP campaign letter states their willingness to work collaboratively on making sure faculty have the resources and support to make these changes. 

“I would like the opportunity to collaborate with faculty to come up with ways so that this campaign does not come in the way of student engagement and instead tries to enhance it,” Mehta said. “65% of the professors who are on board are doing it for student accessibility and convenience, which is really optimistic to see.”