Top Ten

July 19, 2013

Olds Alberta gets giant broadband boost

The Alberta town of Olds, population 8,500, is getting a huge 1,000-Mbps boost, thanks to a not-for-profit partnership between Olds College, the City of Olds, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Olds Agricultural Society. When the town realized that it couldn’t attract technology-based businesses, the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development came up with the plan to run new fiber cables through town and connect to Alberta’s “Supernet.” Roughly 60 homes are currently connected to the high-speed network, which offers enough bandwidth to stream at least 5 high-definition videos at the same time, and the Olds Institute expects to have 100% coverage by 2014. Olds College is benefitting from the one-gigabit boost as well. The college announced this past spring that it would offer the highest bandwidth per student in the country, allowing it to also introduce a new mandatory course in entrepreneurship that is offered in the form of an iPad game. CBC

Dal launches Institute for Big Data Analytics

Last week, Dalhousie University officially launched the new Institute for Big Data Analytics, a first-of-its-kind in Canada and possibly North America, according to Dal officials. The institute will operate as part of the faculty of computer science and will build on work already being done in the department. In addition to conducting research, the institute will offer training programs and will partner on projects in various data-rich sectors, including science, technology, and health care. Big data is a term that refers to very large sets of data that are collected and analyzed to identify “hidden patterns and intelligence.” Computer science students will have the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge big data research, as well as work on industry-relevant problems. Stan Matwin, Canada Research Chair in Visual Text Analytics, will lead the institute as director. Dal News | Halifax Chronicle Herald

College of the Rockies and Ktunaxa Nation partner to offer in-community training

A new partnership between BC’s College of the Rockies and the Ktunaxa Nation will allow community members to receive training for various careers in their home communities. The “Bridging to Education and Employment” program will have 4 pathways to employment: health careers, trades, tourism hospitality, and internal economy, with participants eligible to pursue several levels of certification, including transferable COTR credits. The goal of the program is to enhance career prospects and employability opportunities while offering traditional knowledge and culturally relevant teaching. The program will be open to people of Aboriginal heritage, over 18 years old, not currently receiving EI benefits or attending school. COTR News Release

VCC launches redesigned website

Vancouver Community College has launched an overhauled website this week. Using vibrant colours and dynamic photos, VCC has redesigned the site to be highly visual and convey more energy. The site content has also been updated, and features an expanded events calendar, live social media feeds, videos, and enhanced information pages for VCC’s courses and programs. The site is also designed to be a primary marketing tool. The college has also launched a new ad campaign around both the url as well as the tag line “Go ahead. Get Skilled …” VCC Website

Language barriers lead to lack of sexual education for young immigrants, study

A new study conducted by the University of British Columbia’s School of Nursing has discovered that immigrant adolescents may be missing key information about sexual health and safety due to language barriers. The study found that most of the adolescents were not sexually active for cultural reasons, but of the 12% that were engaging in sexual behaviour, one in 4 consumed alcohol or drugs prior to having sex, and almost half of the girls did not use condoms during sex. Researchers noted that the East Asian adolescents came from cultures where formal sexual education is not provided, and that many parents would feel uncomfortable discussing such topics with their children. Researcher Yuko Homma suggests the need for community-based organizations to partner with schools to provide education in native languages, as many immigrant adolescents are more sexually active as they “adapt to Western norms.” Globe and Mail

PSE grads less likely to be "doing what they do best" (US study)

Americans with a PSE degree are generally less engaged on the job than those who have completed some higher education or none at all, according to a 2012 poll of more than 150,000 American adults. 28.3% of PSE graduates say they are engaged on the job, or “involved in and enthusiastic about their work,” compared to 29.6% of people who finished some college and 32.7% of people who didn’t go beyond high school. “This is not a statement about liberal arts, it’s not a statement about community college, it’s literally about higher education in general – that there’s something about the process and the experience that is preventing graduates from getting to a place where they’re doing what they’re best at,” says market researcher Brandon Busteed. They were also asked whether or not they agree with the statement: "At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day." Inside Higher Ed | Study

US institutions look to open-source for remedial education

At a time when the momentum of free online courses has begun to slow, and institutions like San Jose State University have decided to take caution before forging ahead with MOOC plans, several community colleges in the US feel there is an effective use for online, open-source content: dealing with remedial education. Rather than using MOOC content as a substitute for regular class offerings, 2-year American colleges have been using the material for supplementary guides and resources for remedial classes, or for the placement tests that students must take. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College earlier this year developed a free online math course, and about half of the remedial course’s material includes Khan Academy lectures. The course is designed to encourage potential Cuyahoga students to brush up on their math skills. Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana has created 5 free online courses that all match up with remedial courses in math, English and reading. Inside Higher Ed

New Iowa student-learning reporting law stirs controversy

A new law in Iowa, which requires the state’s 3 public universities to formally monitor and report on student learning at the course level each year, has caused controversy from faculty. The universities must create and use "formative and summative assessments" for each course and submit a plan for using those assessments to improve student learning. Herman Quirmbach, a state senator who is also a professor of economics at Iowa State University, stressed that the measures weren’t designed for accountability, and said that this is about faculty being engaged in student learning.” Some faculty aren't convinced, however, saying that the additional plans and reports will be time and energy taken out of time for its “core mission of teaching and research." Other professors say they already monitor student learning and that reporting would just be more paperwork. The law so far focuses on courses that enrol more than 300 students, and will cover more and more courses each year as the plan is rolled out. Inside Higher Ed

Charities need updated websites to attract young donors, study

Data shows that the millennial generation believes it can make a difference, but according to a new report, young donors are turned off by outdated websites and organizations that give more information about the organization than the cause they are fundraising for. The report, released last week, surveyed 2,600 young donors on the frequency and amounts of donations, and on their reactions to the websites of charitable organizations. The survey found that 63% of donors are making small donations of up to $100, but that they are willing to make small donations more often. Not surprisingly, 84% of young donors prefer to give via a website, but if the website is outdated, or doesn’t provide compelling information and/or graphics about the specific cause they are supporting, donors are turned off. Chronicle of Higher Education | Achieve Report

Copyright lawsuit creates controversy in India, internationally

As the school year gets underway in India this month, tensions are high over the popular practice of photocopying textbooks for course packs. The University of Delhi and Rameshwari Photocopy Services, one of dozens of photocopy shops that surround the university, are being sued by 3 of the world’s top academic publishers, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Taylor & Francis, for producing thousands of bound course packs a year. According to the publishers, this photocopying “violate[s] various copyrights, hurt[s] their bottom lines, and reduce[s] residual payments to the academics.” Indian students and educators insist that in India a majority of PSE students cannot afford even one textbook, never mind the dozens that are needed for the school year. In March, several hundred authors and academics, including 33 authors who are named in the suit, signed a letter to the publishers asking for the lawsuit to be dropped. Copyright infringement was a contentious topic in Canada in 2012 before the Supreme Court of Canada added the “fair dealing” provision to the Copyright Act. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)