Top Ten

July 12, 2013

Controversy over copycat anti-rape posters in Edmonton

Members of Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE), an anti-rape group based out of the University of Alberta, are upset that someone has “perverted” a social media marketing campaign designed to bring awareness of the impact of drinking on sexual assault risk. The original campaign, “Don’t be that guy,” depicted men and women in social scenes, often consuming alcohol, with blunt messages like “It’s not sex when she’s wasted. Sex with someone unable to consent = sexual assault.” The copycat posters, with the tagline “Don’t be that girl,” have changed the messages to suggest that women make false accusations of rape due to regret over behaviour choices. SAVE members see this is an attempt to put the blame back on women, and state that the copycats are perpetuating the “myth” that false accusations are prevalent “when they’re not.” The copycat posters have shown up in downtown Edmonton and on the uAlberta campus. Maclean’s

Math and sciences popular, until students get their grades, research finds

PSE students flock to math and sciences, but change to other subjects in large numbers after finding out how hard they are, according to a report by researchers from Western University and Berea College in Kentucky. The researchers surveyed 655 students entering Berea College in the fall of 2000 and 2001, asking them about their majors 12 times throughout each year they were in school -- the first time prior to starting university. The researchers found that more students dropped out of math and science majors and fewer students switched into them than any other area of study, including professional programs, social sciences, humanities and business. They found that this wasn’t because students weren’t prepared for the amount of work, but that they were dissatisfied with their grades. “Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected,” says Todd R. Stinebrickner, one of the researchers. “What they didn’t expect is that even if they work hard, they still won’t do well.” Wall Street Journal

Facebook launches full social search tool

Facebook this week rolled out its new "Graph Search" tool, which has been in the beta stage since January. The social search tool allows users to unearth information about their Facebook friends, such as friends of friends who enjoy a certain hobby, or nearby bars that a user’s friends enjoy. The search function revealed that Facebook users have been sharing quite embarrassing or controversial information through their search queries.  A recent study found that today’s teens are sharing more personal information about themselves than they have in the past, but at the same time, they are more aware of their audience and are using privacy settings and network controls to determine who sees this information. Facebook has reminded users that they can change their “who can see my stuff” settings to enhance security. CTV News

Lethbridge College partners with local homebuilders

Lethbridge College has launched an innovative partnership with local members of the Canadian Home Builders Association to increase funds to the Trades and Technology Renewal and Innovation Project (TTRIP), part of the college’s “Possibilities are Endless” Campaign. Participating builders have agreed to donate the proceeds from 2 homes a year for 5 years to the project, which will see improvements made to the trades building on campus. The value of any donated material or service will also be donated to the fund. In the spirit of collaboration, Lethbridge College will donate a $2,500 tuition credit to the home buyer of each of the homes. Interest in involvement has so far been high enough to warrant creating a waiting list for homebuilders. Lethbridge Herald 

Students not happy with campus meal plans, study

A new report released by a US food service research company has determined that more Canadian students are seeking nourishment off-campus. Only 20% of students purchased a campus meal plan in 2012, compared to 30% in 2011, with 58% of students purchasing food and/or beverage from off-campus venues at least once a week. Some key findings of the research suggest that students are not happy with food offerings on campus and that they wish there were more options for using their meal plan. According to a spokesperson from the research company, "menu variety in particular is key to boosting student patronage. Our year-over-year data indicates that there's an increased demand for unique items, ethnic offerings and customization opportunities.” Canada Newswire

Blackboard announces new MOOC platform

Blackboard, the company that many PSE institutions use to manage online courses or online aspects of traditional courses, has announced that it will create a new MOOC platform that would be free for existing Blackboard customers. The company has already offered several MOOCs on a system called CourseSites, but the new platform will include features to help institutions run courses for large numbers of students. Users will also be able to make some connections between their on-campus courses and their free open courses, if they choose to. The Chronicle of Education points out how Blackboard is late to the much-hyped trend in MOOCs, and Blackboard’s teaching and learning president addresses this; “We watched really carefully, and we thought about doing something sooner. This is one of those times when we said this is a watch and develop, not jump on it.” Blackboard also announced that 15 additional institutions plan to offer MOOCs using Blackboard’s software starting this fall. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed

Coursera raises $43 million

Coursera, one of the largest MOOC platforms, announced this week that it has raised $43 million in new investment money to expand its user base and continue developing its software platform, including $10 million towards global expansion. A senior manager from the International Finance Corporation, one of the investors for the global expansion, says that “the global demand for education is a vast problem that probably cannot be met by building enough universities and finding enough qualified instructors,” and that this is where Coursera will be helpful. The announcement comes at a time when many PSE proponents are wondering if the MOOC hype is just a passing trend. Inside Higher Ed

Facebook causes students to fail classes, say students

Students in Dalhousie University’s engineering program are blaming Facebook for their poor performance, reports CBC News. 10-15% of first-year engineering students are failing classes, and some are pointing to Facebook as the cause, as an addicting distraction. A special summer program at Dal, called “Refining Your Skills” teaches these students skills such as time management, and reminds them of the reasons they wanted to attend school in the first place. Estimates suggest up to 24 hours per week are being wasted online and on cell phones, instead of being used for scholarly pursuits. CBC

Report recommends changes to US career, tech education

As Canada deals with a perceived skills gap that has many stakeholders touting the benefits of more work-integrated learning, a new US report sees both strengths and failings in the country’s career and technical education (CTE) programs. The report says that there is an “exceptionally rich” variety of these types of programs in the US, and that labour market returns from CTE programs are good, on average. However, the authors also say that this diversity of programs may lead to confusion for students, leaving them wondering which programs are high quality and worth the investment. The authors are also concerned that there is a lack of strong accountability in such programs; that any accountability that does exist is “relatively weak and fragmented.” The report recommends: strengthening quality assurance measures for CTE programs, creating more CTE programs at the high-school and adult-learning levels, building better centralized articulation frameworks, and strengthening workplace and career guidance. Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report

Humanities grads play large role in economy, UK study

As PSE stakeholders worry about the declining demand for the humanities, a new UK report suggests that graduates of philosophy, literature, and related programs “play a significant role in the British economy.” The University of Oxford report is based on an analysis of the employment history of 11,000 graduates who matriculated at the university from 1960 to 1989. The data shows that the number of graduates with degrees in English, history, philosophy, classics, and modern languages who were employed in finance, media, legal services, and management rose significantly from 1960 to 1989. Asked whether the report provided evidence of the strength of a humanities education or just “the power of an Oxford diploma to open doors,” Oxford humanities division head Shearer West emphasized that “the study was just a pilot, without comparative studies to assess it against, and therefore doesn't provide a full answer to that question.” She did point out, however, that a section of the report, which asked students qualitative questions about their experiences, supported the view that it was the unique soft skills gained from a humanities education that had made the difference in their careers. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription required) | Full Report