Today's Top Ten

March 27, 2020

Researchers at Dal, UMantioba moving to test COVID-19 vaccine, treatments

Researchers at Dalhousie University and the University of Manitoba are preparing to enter trials for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Dal researchers are moving forward with testing a vaccine that uses a genome of DNA from SARS CoV-2. "We're working as hard as we can to move this as fast as possible," said Dal Professor Alyson Kelvin. "We have other vaccines in the pipeline in case this isn't the best vaccine that we can put forth." Meanwhile, UManitoba researchers are testing if hydroxychloroquine — a drug approved by Health Canada to prevent and treat malaria since the 1950s — can be repurposed to reduce the severity of COVID-19. "The idea is to reduce the severity of symptoms," said UManitoba Professor Ryan Zarychanski, "and also reduce the transmissibility of the virus and reduce community spread, which can help keep our population more healthy and reduce the burden that we're expecting on the healthcare system." CBC (1) | CBC (2) (NS, MB)

American survey of student affairs leaders reveals student mental health, well-being are priorities

An American survey of student affairs leaders at postsecondary institutions has revealed that student mental health and student well-being are the two main issues that occupy these leaders’ time at both public and private institutions. The survey, which was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, found that 78% of student affairs leaders said that the number of campus visits to mental health professionals had "increased a lot" in the last five years. Other notable findings include: student affairs leaders at public institutions spend more time on issues of hunger and homelessness than their private counterparts; the majority of student affairs leaders believe their college’s president is familiar enough with student affairs to make good decisions; student affairs leaders believe that visiting liberal speakers are treated with respect more often than conservative speakers; and while student affairs leaders say white students are treated well by other students on campuses, a smaller percentage say the same for Black students. Inside Higher Ed (International)

UWinnipeg researchers roll out literacy, numeracy tool for early home learning

University of Winnipeg researchers have launched an online learning tool to assist parents in preparing children, ages two to eight, for skills in literacy, numeracy, and wellness. The program, ToyBox, is a collaborative endeavor, drawing on the work of students at two different Winnipeg high schools to develop images for the program, and the app itself. Although the app version of ToyBox is set to be released later this year, an email version was fast-tracked amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Program founder Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk said childcare centres are already reaching out about the tool. “One preschool just asked me if they could have the strategies to share with parents now that their centre is closed,” she noted. UWinnipeg (MB)

Over 90,000 QC students sign petition to suspend winter session, recognize credits

Students studying in Québec have launched a petition calling for the suspension of the winter 2020 session, and for institutions to recognize credits earned without final grades. The petition highlights the unprecedented pressures that students are facing that could affect their educational performance, such as loss of income and care for dependents. As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 90K signatures, and has already been sent to the Minister of Education and Higher Education, as well as the rectors of several universities. The Université du Québec à Rimouski has reportedly already chosen to suspend the winter 2020 session and credit all the courses for which evaluations have taken place. Journal de Montréal | La Presse (QC)

UManitoba, UWinnipeg students advocacy yields retention of student transit pass

University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg students have succeeded in their efforts to save the universal transit pass (U-Pass) that allowed students to access public transportation at a discounted rate. Originally introduced in 2016, the U-Pass was funded through student fees and gave students unlimited access to public transit services from September through April. During discussions for Winnipeg’s new four-year budget, however, the city had planned to scrap the program and instead bring in a low-income bus pass and transit fare for children under 12. However, citing student advocacy, the city decided to reverse the decision, but with the caveat that students will have to pay more for the pass. UManitoba | Global News (MB)

UAlberta, NAIT students petition for more options amid blanketed pass/fail grading changes

Students at the University of Alberta and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology have launched petitions regarding the institutions’ decisions to temporarily shift to a pass/fail grading system. The UAlberta petition states that “this change will erase the hard work of students who have exerted their intellectual might all semester to achieve their desired mark.” The petition then proposes that the school allows students the option of accepting their grade or opting for the pass/fail option. The NAIT petition raises similar concerns, emphasizing that the change will affect graduating students’ GPAs. NAIT fourth-year student Deanna Bauder told Global News that this is her final semester and the grading system change will not allow her to graduate with honours. Global News | DH News (AB)

Honest communication with students is part of the solution for academic dishonesty: Opinion

“Students are most tempted to act dishonestly when they feel anxiety and pressure,” writes Thomas J Tobin. Normally, students do not act on such temptations, but the current shift to online learning could see students facing increased anxiety and pressure, explains the author. For Tobin, the best thing that faculty can do to mitigate the anxiety and stress that underpin dishonest behaviours is “to offer students options, voices, and choices.” Toward this end, the author suggests that faculty engage in practices that will lower time or due-date pressure, as well as grade anxiety, while increasing student-faculty communication. “Explicitly tell students that you are open to hearing about the challenges they face, and give them multiple avenues for making contact if things don't go as planned,” the author explains. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Construction of MUN science building halted over COVID-19 compliance worries

Service NL has issued a stop-work order to the contractors building Memorial University’s core science building. Occupational Health and Safety officers visited the site Monday in response to concerns of the number of workers in one place. The evaluation resulted in the stop-work order that will remain until the employer, Marco Services Limited, provides a site response plan. In an email to CBC, Marco CEO Christopher Hickman said that he expects the order to be lifted today. However, workers argue that there needs to be clarity over which types of construction are essential and should continue during the pandemic. CBC (NL)

Things you should know before beginning your own higher ed podcast

“There’s no shortage of faculty who are breaking out of academe’s confines to reach a whole new audience through their podcasts,” writes Jenna Spinelle. Podcasting may seem that more attractive to higher ed professionals who are looking for new ways to promote their work, build leadership in their field, and make new connections. However, as an experienced podcaster, Spinelle encourages intrepid podcasters to consider their ability to deliver consistent content, ability to engage an audience, and whether they have a marketing strategy before taking the plunge. “Podcasting takes effort, but it’s also a lot of fun and can be both personally and professionally rewarding,” concludes the author. “Do your homework, but don’t be afraid to jump in and take the plunge.” Inside Higher Ed (International)

Former university track coach Scott-Thomas handed lifetime ban from Athletics Canada

Former Guelph University track coach Dave Scott-Thomas has been given a lifetime ban by Athletics Canada amid investigations of complaints of inappropriate relationships with athletes. "Mr. David Scott-Thomas is subject to a lifetime ban from Athletics Canada during which time he shall not coach or train a member of Athletics Canada or a member of any affiliated club or association," Athletics Canada said in a statement. “This order takes effect immediately.” Although complaints against Scott-Thomas have not been proven in court, a former middle-distance runner came forward in a Globe and Mail article last month alleging Scott-Thomas groomed her for a sexual relationship when she was 17. Times Colonist (ON)