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Archive for the 'SFU communications' Category

Upcoming workshops and more for faculty, instructors and TAs

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

The LIDC is offering demonstrations, hands on workshops and drop-in sessions for WebCT instructors and teaching assistants. Consult the LIDC calendar for details and dates.

Update on WebCT maintenance

Monday, April 28th, 2008

WebCT at SFU is currently undergoing maintenance, but should be up again by noon (Monday, April 28th, 2008).

WebCT offline this weekend (April 26 and 27th)

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

We will be installing some updates for WebCT this weekend. To accommodate these updates, WebCT at SFU is expected to be off line from 12:01AM, Saturday April 26th, until 11:59PM, Sunday, April 27th (48 hours).

You may notice some changes to some of the WebCT tools, and some previously reported issues are now resolved.

Import and export library items
The media library tools can be used to create glossaries or collections of images. In the BUILD tab, you can now open individual collections and import or export them. For information on formatting glossary entries in an Excel spreadsheet, use the internal Help function in WebCT and search for “Formatting Entries for Import”

Individual language settings
All WebCT users at SFU will now be able to set their language settings to either English or French. This will change only WebCT generated text.

Resolved issues
Mail forwarding
If you have set the WebCT mail tool to forward to your external email account, it will now do so consistently.

Resource item in Syllabus Tool
Items that are added to the “Resources” area can be noted as either “recommended” or “required.”

Course menu truncated titles
In the drop-down course menu, titles are no longer truncated.

Search tool
The search tool is reported to work in this new upgrade. SFU requires a patch to make this work, and the WebCT administrators here are actively working with Blackboard to implement a fix prior to our summer semester.

Non-supported browsers
Users who are on non-supported browsers or java versions should only get the warning pop-up window once (instead of each time they move to a new page in WebCT).

Plan for the Summer 2008 semester

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Request new course container
Get ready for the new semester planning: beat the early semester rush and request your Summer 2008 WebCT course container now. Use the course request form found at: http://webct.sfu.ca – please check that you have the correct section number (for example, D100, D200…) as this will ensure that your students are automatically enrolled in your WebCT course container.

A few basics
Start by uploading your syllabus into the course container so that your students have something to to refer to if they lose their paper copy. If you are going to use the Grade Book, then create the appropriate columns. As the semester unfolds, you can either enter the grades in WebCT or export the Grade Book to a spreadsheet format, and import grades as needed. You can add lecture recordings, RSS feeds and You Tube videos as well. There are instructions in SFUs wiki.

Help with WebCT tools and development
The LIDC will be hosting some WebCT workshops in early May. These are suitable for faculty, sessional instructors and TAs. Keep an eye on the LIDC calendar (http://www.lidc.sfu.ca/) and your email in box for the schedule. There are also self-help materials at http://wiki.sfu.ca/webct or you can email instructional_support@sfu.ca with specific questions or for a quick introduction to the WebCT software.

How did the semester go?
Take a moment to consider how the previous semester went. Is there anything you’d like to streamline? Use more frequently? Are there any in-class activities or information that can be transferred to the online environment? Did you link to or upload sufficient content for the students?

Use the Date rollover
Do you use the calendar tool, the assessment or assignment tools? All WebCT tools that have dates can be easily updated all at once using the date rollover function. In your new course container, go to the TEACH tab. Click on the Instructor Tool “Manage Course” and choose the option “Date Rollover.” Follow the instructions there to adjust either all dates or individual dates. Note that if you have old calendar items (from previous semesters) it can impact the calculations.

Course planning
You may wish to try something new this semester.

  • Reflective practice: a “journal” topic (found in the discussion tool) may enable you to encourage weekly reflection.
  • Group Work: The “group manager” tool can create custom or automatic groups, and provide a private group forum in the discussion or chat area for group members.
  • Self-tests: The “assessments” tool can be used to create either quizzes or self-tests (ungraded, and for immediate feedback).
  • Surveys: Why wait until the end of the semester? The “assessments” tool can also be used to survey your students at the beginning of the semester to assess their prior knowledge, or mid-semester to find out what they are thinking and for some formative feedback.

DST and time changes in WebCT

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

The recent move to Daylight Savings Time (DST) has resulted in a slight timing inconsistency in some cases in WebCT.

Any time-stamped activity created between March 11th to April 6th will be 1 hour behind.

Here are a few examples.

  1. If an assignment has a due date of March 24 at 2pm, and a student logs in at on March 24th at 1:55pm and submits the assignment, in WebCT it will be time stamped for 12:55pm.
  2. Any discussion postings made between March 11th and April 6th will be time-stamped one hour prior. So the posting that I made at 1:30pm today was time-stamped in the discussion area as 12:30pm.
  3. All calendar entries that you have created should be correct, because calendar entries are manually created by you, not time-stamped by the software.

These time-stamp irregularities will only occur until April 6th (when the clocks used to change). After much discussion, we think we have diagnosed the problem and the repercussions. There is a patch, but that would change all due dates in WebCT, so it was decided that this communications would cause the least amount of disruption.

Recent WebCT performance

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The recent WebCT performance issues appear to have been resolved. SFU
staff have been working closely with the WebCT vendors ( Blackboard and Oracle) to identify and resolve the issues and have implemented several changes. So far this week, stability and performance appear to be back to normal and expected levels.


The issues arose this semester due to increased use, which put new pressures on the system. (The numbers of courses and students have reached new highs.) Resolution was complicated by the fact that some of the symptoms were intermittent. Staff are continuing to work to anticipate future growth and take all possible measures to ensure stability in the coming semesters.

Add lecture recordings to your WebCT course

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Create a seamless link between large class lectures and your WebCT course container to provide learning opportunities for students outside the classroom.

If your lecture hall lectures are recorded, you can now place a quick link to the recording in your WebCT course. Check here for instructions: http://wiki.sfu.ca/webct/index.php/External#adding_SFU_lecture_recordings


  1. Open the BUILD tab in your WebCT course container
  2. Add the WebLinks tool (go to Manage Course, click on Tools, select “WebLinks” and click save).
  3. From Home Page or any Learning Module or Organizer Page, Expand “Add Content Link” drop down menu
  4. Select “Web Link”
  5. Click “Create Web Link”
  6. Enter a title (e.g. SFU Digital Lectures)
  7. Enter the URL: http://podcast.sfu.ca/mylectures

WebCT performance

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

The WebCT performance issues that you may have experienced this last week have been addressed.

Due to the increased number of courses in WebCT for Spring08 semester, the size of the database and activity increased to levels previously unseen. The increased activity resulted in poor performance, to the point WebCT became unavailable during peak times.

Projections and plans to accommodate future growth are being reevaluated.

Slow response time?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

There continues to be some performance issues with WebCT at SFU – some pages are taking longer than usual to respond. The WebCT administrators at SFU are aware of this, and are continuing to work on this problem as their number one priority.

Section numbers now in WebCT Grade Book

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Section numbers such as tutorial or lab numbers now appear in the WebCT Grade Book automatically.

The column is titled “Section” and will be all the way to the right in your grade book. To reorder your grade book columns, consult the instructions here: http://wiki.sfu.ca/webct/index.php/Student_grades#Navigate_and_customize_the_grade_book
If you do not wish this column to appear in the Grade Book, click on the action link next to the column titled “Section” and choose “hide column” from the drop down menu.

Finding and sorting by section number in the Grade Book

  • Sort by section number: click on the column title, and choose “sort column” from the drop-down menu.
  • Use the “Find Members” function in the “Grade Book Options” drop down menu to find specific section members. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Column”, and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102). Click on “run query” to show results.
  • If you manually change a section designation (e.g., a student registers in D105, but attends the D108 section) in the grade book, the symbol “^” will appear in front of it. This will not impact the students registration – only how it appears in WebCT.

Selective release of content according to section number
If you have a folder on the home page of your course, you can use the selective release to share it only with specific sections.

  • In either the Build or the Teach tab, click on the “Selective Release” button found under the Designer or Instructor tools.
  • You will see a list of folders – click on the button “set release criteria” for the appropriate folder.
  • Choose “Add Grade Book Criteria.”
  • You will get a pop-up window. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Criteria”, set the “Condition” to “contains” (this is the most general option – other options may suit you better), and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102).

Selective release of discussion topics according to section number
If you are using the discussion tool, you can use the selective release to share individual discussion topics with specific sections.

  • Open the discussion tool, and create the topics you require.
  • Click on the action link next to the topic you wish to release.
  • Choose “Set Release Criteria” from the drop down menu.
  • Choose “Add Grade Book Criteria.”
  • You will get a pop-up window. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Criteria”, set the “Condition” to “contains” (this is the most general option – other options may suit you better), and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102).