Students discuss professor accommodations for remote learning

An anonymous thread suggests SFU expectations differ per department

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Rotundra at West Mall Centre
PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Michelle Young, Copy Editor

On January 20, executive member of the Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance (DNA) Vivan Ly started a Facebook thread to learn about hybrid options for classes. It reported some professors moved their classes online after seeking permission from SFU, and asked whether hybrid or remote learning would be a possibility for students who wanted it. 

Students anonymously shared their experiences. While there were many reports of professors providing hybrid and remote accommodations, others suggested there was less flexibility within their departments. 

“One of my professors said she does not think she is allowed to record in-person lectures (department rules) so as to discourage lack of participation. There are over 100 people in the class and it’s a writing class where participation isn’t really necessary,” wrote one student. Others stated their courses were required to be fully in-person. 

According to SFU, requests from staff and faculty to work from home will be approved “on a case-by-case basis” by their supervisor. 

Another student alleged the School of Communication has “explicitly told their professors to not encourage hybrid.” The Peak reached out to Carman Neustaedter, dean of the faculty of Communication, Art and Technology for comment but did not receive a response by the publication deadline. 

There were also reports of the department of psychology allowing hybrid learning as an exception. The Peak reached out to Peter Hall, dean of the faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for more information. 

“The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, including the department of psychology, neither prohibits nor encourages delivery by ‘hybrid’ means, defined as the addition of remote delivery to an in-person course. Some instructors may decide to add remote delivery to an in-person course but their decision is based on several factors, including the nature of the course material, the type of student engagement expected, and the availability and reliability of classroom [Audio Visual] technology. Workload considerations are also relevant to the instructor’s decision, and we do not expect instructors to work unpaid hours.

“At the same time, we know that instructors of in-person courses are doing everything they can to support students, by for example, recording and uploading lectures, and posting notes to Canvas. In this regard, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is funding technical support for instructors and a note-taking program.”

The Peak reached out to vice-president academic and provost Catherine Dauvergne for clarification on university-wide hybrid policies. 

“Instructors were asked at the beginning of this term to consider what they can do to ensure continuity and meet the educational goals of their courses should they become sick for a short period of time [ . . . ] A hybrid option is not always appropriate though, nor do all SFU learning spaces have this technology. Another option could be recordings, where it would not add significantly to instructor workload and where it makes sense for the course content, but there are also other ways to be flexible as well.” 

On an individual level, Dauvergne said students can refer to SFU’s services for academic concessions or additional support. Academic concessions “are normally given at the discretion of individual instructors,” and refer to unexpected circumstances that require a student to miss a class or “being unable to complete graded work or exams.”

The Peak also reached out to various sources to clarify the approval process to move a course remote, but did not receive response. 

In response to in-person learning, DNA released a statement calling on SFU to “change the policy of in-person teaching to provide a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes,” and support professors in doing so, among other demands.