Top Ten

October 11, 2006

Canadian Attitudes Toward Learning

The Canadian Council on Learning surveyed more than 5,000 Canadian adults about education issues. Over 80% see the connection between education and success in life. Almost 100% of Canadians feel that colleges should teach work-related skills, and that universities should provide general knowledge and help students prepare for further learning. Only about half of Canadians believe that PSE institutions have enough spaces for qualified students, or enough research funding. (See http://www.ccl-cca.ca/ccl/reports/SCAL/?Language=EN )

UOIT Takes Cash Donation

Ordinarily, I limit daily top ten news stories to donations or funding announcements of $10 million or more, but in this case I’ll make an exception. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology grabbed headlines Tuesday by replacing the ubiquitous oversized cheque with $2 million in cash, in a plastic case flanked by security guards. The donation, from horse-breeders Windfields Farm and the CEO of Tribute homes, is part of a 20-year commitment to help keep the university at the forefront of emerging technologies.” (See the Toronto Star article, http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1160474626380&call_pageid=968256289824&StarSource=RSS )

Concordia U RAs Unionize

  On Tuesday, the Public Service Alliance of Canada announced that more than a thousand research assistants at Concordia University in Montreal joined the union, with a 90% yes vote last month. 1,200 teaching assistants at Concordia are also preparing to vote on the same question. PSAC already represents 3,000 RAs and TAs at the Université du Québec à Montreal, and is in the process of organizing 6,000 more at Université de Montréal, and Université Laval. Union priorities include hours of work, safe working conditions, and job security. (CPAC media release at http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/October2006/10/c6493.html )

McMaster Library Innovations

  On Tuesday, McMaster University announced that it will radically transform its online library catalogue, becoming the first Canadian university to use Endeca software, like that used by Chapters and Home Depot.  Previous updates, says chief librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak, were “akin to putting lipstick on a pig.” Now, McMaster has “gone from swine to divine.” The transition will begin this month. (See http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/story.cfm?id=4274 )

Dal Library Survey Suggests Trends

  Last year the libraries at Dalhousie University conducted a campus-wide survey about library services which has led to a number of innovations. They have grown their electronic subscriptions and collections, and to provide easier access, introduced “Prowler,” which searches multiple databases simultaneously. Based on student requests, they have introduced new “Quiet Study Floors” in the library, which ban conversation and cell phones. They have opened or expanded Learning Commons areas to provide more computers and study space. They have added a virtual tour of the central library to explain its layout, and added new state-of-the-art copiers and microform readers. (See http://www.dal.ca/news/2006/10/05/libraries.html )

Ontario CGAs Launch Recruitment Website

Ontario’s Certified General Accountants hope to lure prospective students to www.nameyourneed.org with $2,500 in scholarships, digital video testimonials, Q&As about accounting careers, and a six-month advertising campaign in print and online. The website targets four groups: university students, college students, internationally-trained professionals, and current accounting/finance professionals. A key advantage is that “students earn a living while working towards their accounting designation.” (Media release at http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/October2006/10/c6421.html )

Second Life" for Distance Education

Some 60 schools and universities have bought virtual “land” for campuses at www.SecondLife.com, a virtual world created entirely by its users. “Avatars” of a Harvard law class meet on a replica campus, and anyone with an internet connection can join them for free. Teachers of architecture bring their students to SecondLife to build things that would be too expensive to create in the real world. Unlike traditional online education, "Second Life gives us the capability to really have a classroom experience with the students." They can even pass each other private text messages. Real-world businesses are finding SecondLife a valuable experimental space to try out new business models. Several US government agencies have constructed simulations of tsunamis and bioterrorism. (See http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1005/p13s02-legn.html )

Survey of US Certificate Student Market

  On Tuesday, Eduventures released results of a survey of 1,800 US certificate program students. Certificate programs, cheaper and quicker than degree programs, are growing in popularity, especially among young, single, mobile females looking to change jobs or advance their careers. “They are typically in their mid- to late 20s, with a sense of urgency.” Some of the most popular fields for certificate programs are in entertainment, business management and international finance. Many certificate students would like to count their credits toward a degree some day, although other are pursuing post-degree certification. (See http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/10/10/certificate )

86% of US University Websites Fail W3C

  A test of the top 124 US university websites found that only 17 complied with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) standards for accessibility to users with disabilities. Visually impaired users must rely on electronic screen readers, screen magnifiers or text-enlarging browser settings, while those with mobility impairments use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse.  Accessible websites are also more attractive to search engines. The W3C guidelines are considered the “gold standard,” and are used by Academica Group in its website accessibility and usability audits. (See http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6639 )

Florida College Enrollment Down

  The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida’s community colleges are teaching 4,300 fewer students this fall, part of a three-year downward trend. The loss of students is being blamed on two years of hurricanes, a good economy, and competition from a growing number of Internet and for-profit schools. (See http://www.palmbeachpost.com/storm/content/local_news/epaper/2006/10/07/s1c_COLLEGE_1007.html )