October 27th, 2021
Accessible Course Practices Campaign – Open letter
To: SFU Administration, SFU Faculty Deans, and all SFU Faculty,
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) is launching an initiative to standardize the recording of lectures across all Simon Fraser University (SFU) faculties. In order to make education more accessible and enhance the student learning experience, the SFSS believes that an educational institution can always do more to promote its purpose of providing knowledge. Students should be given the right to choose how they receive their education and SFU, as an equitable university, should support their needs.
The pandemic has forced students and staff alike to adapt to a new normal and the sudden change in the professional environment has not been easy for anyone. The student body as a whole commends SFU for taking immediate action in adjusting to a remote learning environment halfway through the Spring 2020 semester. Lecture recordings have genuinely enhanced learning by accommodating both domestic and international students. This approach has shown benefits compared to purely in-person teaching. We believe that traditional practices employed in lectures need to be modified to assist alternate methods of teaching and to allow students to personalize their university experience. Giving students the choice between attending in-person or remotely using lecture recordings is the best possible means of giving us safe, reliable, and sustainable education.
The SFSS has surveyed SFU students to know and understand their opinions about the majority in-person approach this semester as well as their opinion about having lecture recordings available to them. The approach of returning to campus has caused 79% of the students surveyed to feel some levels of anxiety and approximately 96% of the surveyed students are in support of this initiative and would like to see lecture recordings made available to them starting this term (3). Various student groups and equity-seeking groups at SFU have also expressed that there are advantages to having recorded lectures to combat the unique challenges they face while accessing their classes. The student body at SFU is diverse and each of us faces barriers to education that can be eased by having the choice to pick their lecture delivery method.
Following are some of the concerns that the SFSS and its constituency groups and student groups have:
- Working students and students who are parents have family and work commitments that may interfere with their class schedules. At times, they may have to make the choice between sustaining themselves and their families and their education
- International students who can not make their way to Canada due to travel constraints or family obligations in their home country have to worry about maintaining their full-time status if they want to be eligible for a post-graduation work permit even when most of their required courses are only offered in-person
- Student-Athletes are at a disadvantage as they have to miss lectures because of travel, games, or injuries while they represent SFU at athletic competitions
- BIPOC students have to miss cultural events and festivals while attending colonial post-secondary institutions
- Students with disabilities can not always reliably attend class or face barriers at participating and engaging in their classes
- Students who are unwell have to either choose to attend their classes by compromising their mental and physical health further or they miss important lecture content, which puts them at a disadvantage
Most of these constraints would not be an issue if lecture recording were standardized across all SFU Faculties. Though the above list does not encompass all the students that face barriers to education, more equitable methods of lecture delivery will be of benefit to the entire SFU student population. Unfortunately, another survey aiming to understand the choices and perspectives of SFU instructors reveals that approximately 64% of the instructors at SFU will be continuing the practice of lecture recording post-online-learning phase of the pandemic (4). The remaining 36% of instructors attribute their unwillingness to record lectures and make them available to their students to concerns about student engagement, copyright issues, and lack of technical support (4). Most of these concerns can be tackled with support from SFU administration and other staff. Despite having the ability to do so, if these practices are not adopted, this would show that SFU has been unable to evolve from the experiences during the pandemic, which causes us to be stuck with inequitable means of teaching and learning.
Our society has seen immense technological advancements in the last two decades, and it is about time that these advancements are reflected in the post-secondary classroom. Many Canadian Universities, including the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, and Carleton University. have been experimenting with lecture-capture technology (2). The Panopto program for lecture capture at Concordia University has received positive feedback (2). A study performed by the Queen’s University of Northern Ireland shows that having lecture recordings available does not have any effect on classroom attendance (1). In fact, lecture recordings could promote the reinforcement of lecture material and allow students to have an easier time understanding difficult concepts. Having lecture recordings could also allow students to be more engaged in class as they will not be preoccupied with having to take notes during class time, as they will be able to do that anytime in their own time. This would maintain SFU’s claim as Canada’s engaged University. The instructors could also benefit from lecture-capture technology as they will be able to check when most students access the recordings and what recordings are accessed the most. This information would allow instructors to be more comprehensive and diligent when teaching or delivering certain lectures.
Upon considering the concerns mentioned above and the merits of having lecture recordings, the SFSS and the signatories of this open letter, call on SFU and SFU faculty to answer to following demands:
Calls To Action for SFU :
- Provide the facilities, technology, and in extension, the ability to record or live stream lectures. This entails technological, accessibility, and educational material for instructors.
- Providing licensing resources to instructors to protect their intellectual property from being circulated on third party websites
- Incentivize instructors by providing tenure reviews or other incentives for instructors that standardize lecture recordings in their classrooms and agree that the University will not use the lecture recordings without the instructors’ permission
Calls To Action for Faculty:
- Provide lecture recordings to all students whether it is with only audio, audio & video, or with previously recorded lectures alongside captioning with accessible font options
- Encourage other instructors in your department to standardize lecture recordings in their classrooms
As a community dedicated to promoting learning and accessibility for all, it is essential for us to commit to this change. It would be one of the steps in the right direction to make lecture recordings available. SFU has successfully been able to support alternative methods to teaching other than in-person lectures in the past year. Seeing as this is doable for the majority of the classes on a large scale, there is no reason to refrain from combating barriers to education and enhancing the personal learning experience for students. Therefore, the Accessible Course Practices Campaign hopes to see this practice standardized across all SFU faculties.
- McGowan, A., Hanna, P., & Anderson, N. (2015, September 11). Video Lecture Capture: Student Engagement. Queen’s University Belfast. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/publications/video-lecture-capture-student-engagement
- Sorensen, C. (2015, November 19). Unwind, pause, replay: How recorded lectures are changing academia. Maclean’s. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.macleans.ca/education/unwind-pause-and-replay-2/
- Accessible Course Practices Student Survey. http://websurvey.sfu.ca/survey/406218773
- Accessible Course Practices Instructor Survey. https://forms.gle/mZkK3oPtEFbEAtkQA