All posts by jason toal

Students as entrepreneurs of learning experiences

Venture Connection
Student participants of the SFU Venture Connection program and the winners of the 2014 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize, an annual competition that recognizes entrepreneurial excellence at Simon Fraser University.

By Candy Ho

Can learning entrepreneurial skills be considered a form of flexible education? If you ask Dr. Michelle Unrau, Program Manager for SFU’s Venture Connection (VC) program, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Similar to the Co-operative Education program, VC serves as a co-curricular element that students can apply to, and complete in addition to their regular studies. However, its uniqueness is embedded in its sole focus on entrepreneurial development.
Its non-traditional learning model includes a mentorship approach that utilizes multiple industry experts to provide tailored, just-in-time advice to student entrepreneurs. Going beyond the bricks and mortar of the institution, its notion of learning space is also non-traditional, as the “classroom” is typically a coffee shop or a student’s place of work.

Students learn and apply entrepreneurial theories by going through steps of creating, testing, launching, and growing a business. They receive ongoing support to engage and network with business people in their area, and to even talk to potential customers. They find themselves faced with answering questions like: Should they conduct market research to determine the feasibility of their business idea? What about mastering their five-minute business pitch in front of potential investors? Lead generation? Business model canvas? All of these activities require students to actively conduct research, and interpret data to inform their business decisions.

Like most educational settings, VC is not aiming to only develop successful outcomes; instead, learning through challenges or unexpected situations that may at first appear as setbacks or even failures are also highly valued. “VC has truly become the place where students can gain skills and confidence to apply theoretical learning – in a safe environment – and actually ‘do’ entrepreneurship,” says Unrau.

For more information on SFU’s Venture Connection program: click here

Flexible education: World Cafe event

World Cafe

Greetings SFU Community Members!

The Task Force on Flexible Education (TFFE) is inviting you to an exceptional event, our very first World Café. Given your unique and valuable perspective, we believe that you can make a major contribution to this exchange and opportunity to shape the future at SFU.

This event will bring together passionate students, staff, faculty and instructors from across the university, who have an interest in the future of flexible education at SFU. Using a simple and flexible World Café format, the morning will consist of large and small group dialogue that will examine and explore some interesting key principles in flexible education, and what they might mean to the future of SFU, including:

  •  Learning-centred approaches to program design and delivery, impactful pedagogies, and effective support systems are hallmarks of the SFU student experience.
  • Innovative and effective teaching and learning methods are practiced and supported at SFU.
  • Recognition of context and culture within and across disciplines is a key component of an SFU education.

 
Event Details:

Date: Monday January 26th, 2015
Time: 10:30am -1:30pm
Location: Diamond Alumni Centre, Burnaby Campus
Refreshments will be served

This event is open to all members of the university community. Due to space restrictions, and for logistical and catering purposes, please confirm your presence by registering at the following link: Register Here

We sincerely hope that you will be among our participants.

* Future events at Surrey and Vancouver campuses will take place in February 2015, and will be announced in early 2015.

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.

Sometimes you need to build your own learning system

Hellenic Studies
André Gerolymatos (left) and Costa Dedegikas of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies developed and built a custom learning management system for Greek-language training.

By David Porter

For André Gerolymatos, a professor and director of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies, the problem was straightforward — how do you build a system for Greek-language training that is engaging, productive and works on the mobile devices that today’s students consider everyday-carry equipment? In solving the problem, Gerolymatos and his colleagues in Hellenic Studies, illustrated the role of faculty and departments in spearheading innovation and flexibility at SFU.

“We were facing a serious challenge in offering Greek language in a university with a very small population of Greek speakers, in a city that has a very small Greek population to begin with,” says Gerolymatos.

To address the challenge, he worked with Costa Dedegikas, the centre’s technology manager and leader of a team of software engineers that recommended a modular approach to designing an online learning system that could host the language lessons. The design approach they took was future-oriented, allowing the learning system to be used with emerging technologies, with other languages, and in other kinds of courses.

After working with experts to obtain feedback on their Greek-language system, a funding partnership with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation enabled the team to take the learning system a step further, and this meant making a big decision, said Dedegikas:

“Go with an off-the-shelf learning management system (LMS) or build an innovative platform that pushed the boundaries of existing LMS environments.”

The Hellenic Studies team developed its own lab at SFU with a view to staying on the cutting edge and maintaining its modular approach to instruction. The team also included learner profiles and data analytics in the competency-based system, an environment that provides both students and instructors with a real-time picture of achievement.

Gerolymatos and Dedegikas have begun to work on improved technology through an SSHRC grant for a new mobile-enabled system that will contribute to language preservation and instruction for First Nations communities. The new system will also work for other courses and languages, and it is currently being used at SFU for mobile-enabled history courses that include archival video.

The critical design decision for the Hellenic Studies team was user engagement. Its systems had to work for the faculty and instructors who teach the courses, and they had to work for students and demonstrate that learning was happening. To ensure success, the team took an inclusive, iterative, design-based approach to implementing, testing and improving the system.

Gerolymatos and Dedegikas believe they have built an innovative niche technology that could also be used successfully by other departments at SFU and beyond.