Top Ten

July 11, 2011

Harvard Facebook researchers accused of breaching student privacy

The public release of the 2006 Harvard University study intended to build a data archive for social-sciences research using Facebook profiles was halted due to privacy infringements, leaving its creators scolded by some scholars and harming social-network research because of the apparent impossibility of anonymizing its data. The projects leaders used Harvard students as research assistants to gather data, gaining privileged access to certain profiles. Information on students was gathered from 1,700 profiles to feed a team of 5 sociologists interested in how race and cultural tastes affect relationships in order to overcome the lack of data available for social-network research. Since the public release ceased, the projects research team has received more than 200 requests for the data from researchers, and is still receiving one or two inquiries each week.  Chronicle of Higher Ed

$113 million in expansions opening at Conestoga College

Next month, Conestoga College’s school of health, life science and community services will open a new $22-million wing on its Doon campus. This expansion will increase the number of programs to be offered by Conestoga in partnership with other organizations and institutions, and allow enrolment to grow from 3,000 to 4,800 over the next few years. Conestoga is also set to open a $91-million building across the 401, to house 3,000 students in food processing, engineering and information technology areas later this fall. With the completion of these projects, Conestoga will have grown to 10,000 students.  The Waterloo Region Record 

Algoma University moves administration into new building

Algoma University has begun occupying its newest building on campus, the Bioscience and Technology Convergence Centre, with its official opening scheduled to take place later this fall. Both Federal and Provincial Government funding helped pay for the new facility, which will help AlgomaU enhance its research capacity and develop new academic programs. Construction of the centre began in the fall of 2009. All occupants are expected to be in place by the end of August.  Algoma News

New residence for Northern College Kirkland Lake campus

Newmarket-based property management company Sandstone Management has acquired the former Teck Pioneer Residence in Kirkland Lake, and will be converting it into a residence specifically for Northern College students. The upstairs wing will be ready to house 27 students this September. The facility is a 15-minute walk from Northern College’s Kirkland Lake Campus, and will include some single, double, and suite-style rooms. Expansion to the other wings of the building will occur as the need increases.  Northern College News

Lakeland College launches new websites, Facebook contest

Lakeland College, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, has just launched a family of redesigned websites, featuring a new visual identity and slogan (“Live the Learning”), display banners, and simplified navigation using “mega menus.” Every page of the site includes calls to action and social media buttons. A centennial site has been added for 2013, as well as redesigned alumni and library sites. Since mobile traffic on the site rose from .02% in June 2010 to 11.7% in June 2011, Lakeland has also launched mobile versions of the site with automatic redirects. Lakeland has even launched a Facebook contest to find broken links on the new site.  Media Release  |  Centennial Website

Additional grants boost persistence only for most at-risk students

A study of 1,500 Wisconsin undergraduates with Pell Grants (and therefore financially needy) has concluded that additional grant funding has little significant effect overall, but boosts persistence for the most at-risk by as much as 30%, and actually decreases persistence by 16% for those less at risk.  An additional private grant of up to $1,750 per semester, for up to 10 semesters, improved persistence after three years from 55% to 72% for those categorized as most at risk (based on parental education, ACT scores, etc.). Yet for those students categorized as most likely to persist, the additional funding actually decreased persistence from 94% to just 79%. The authors suggest that federal Pell Grants should be increased for students facing the most obstacles to completion.  Chronicle of Higher Ed  |  Inside Higher Ed  |  Read the Report (PDF)

UofT tops QS world rankings for social sciences

The University of Toronto has ranked near the top of the pack in the QS Top 200 World University Rankings for Social Science faculties, capturing top spot for a Canadian university for sociology (#11), statistics and operational research (#8), politics and international studies (#19), and accounting and finance (#17). McGill University and the University of British Columbia were also top contenders for Canadian universities in all categories. Rankings are based on academic reviews, reputation of schools and the number of journal citations per professor.  QS World Rankings for Social Sciences

Rankings based on price of campus parking

Next to textbook prices and bland cafeteria food, the biggest complaint of most Canadian postsecondary students is the price of parking on campus. Now, Maclean’s has released a quick ranking of the cheapest and most expensive university parking passes in Canada. Apparently, the priciest parking can be found at Ryerson University ($1017), followed by McGill University ($990) and the University of Toronto ($760). (In all cases, the rate is for an 8-month parking pass in the least expensive student lot). At the other end of the spectrum, penny-pinchers will prefer to park at Memorial University ($25), St. Thomas University ($75), or the University of Prince Edward Island ($82). Josh DeHaas observes that it can cost less to park for 8 months at a maritime university than to park for a weekend in Toronto.  Macleans OnCampus

Wikipedia gaining academic respectability

If you still assume that Wikipedia is a pariah in PSE classrooms, you’re 5 years out of date in your thinking. For the past 4 years, Wikipedia has proactively sought to recruit profs and students as editors, and about two dozen universities now incorporate editing Wikipedia entries as formal class assignments. The US National Archives now has a “Wikipedian in Residence.” Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have released software tools to track Wikipedia entries needing improvement, assign them to students, and grade their contributions. Last week, the Wikimedia Foundation even hosted an academic conference, the “Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit.”  Not only do students reportedly produce great content, but in struggling with faceless editors online, they develop “thick skin and sharp elbows” – which can be invaluable in many career paths, not least in academia.  Inside Higher Ed

Epidemic of sanctioned cheating alleged in Indonesian high schools

The Economist reports that Indonesian high school teachers may be ordering their students to cheat on exams – casting doubt on the grades of millions of graduates each year. (Schools in Jakarta have reported 100% pass rates for the May exams.)  In early June, a concerned mother blew the whistle and was driven from her home by an angry mob of fellow parents. (The school headmaster and 2 teachers were subsequently fired.) In recent weeks, similar reports have surfaced at other schools. Teachers say they are under enormous pressure to pass everyone on the national tests, to maintain their school’s reputations and state funding.  The Economist