Top Ten

August 29, 2013

CNA seeks gag order on details of recent legal battle

The College of the North Atlantic has requested a Supreme Court hearing to place a gag order on anyone holding information on how much money was spent on legal services during a court case involving former CNA-Qatar employee Peter McBreairty. After CNA dismissed him in 2003, McBreairty accused the college of destroying documents related to his termination, citing access-to-information laws. CNA has now filed this latest request that would bar involved judges from disclosing information to the public, including the amount of public money the college is spending on external legal advisers, and the reasons for using their services. Lawyers representing the province’s information and privacy commissioner stated that the college’s request, if granted, would infringe on the open court principle. Lawyers are scheduled back in Supreme Court on September 12 for a hearing on the matter. CBC

UdeM pulls sports centre ads following criticism

The Université de Montréal’s Physical Education and Sports Centre has taken down a series of ads after they drew sharp criticism by many students and citizens. The ads showed sports centre members in workout or bathing gear next to the caption, “J'ai un beau gros complexe.” Tiago Silva, secretary general of the Federation of Student Associations at UdeM says the suggestive ads were “completely inappropriate advertising.” Once the centre saw the reactions to the ads, which were particularly numerous on Facebook, it took them down, saying it would replace them with ads that feature different messaging. TVA Nouvelles (in French)

uManitoba opens new medical Skills Lab

The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba has officially opened a new Skills Lab, a 3,000-square-foot teaching space that will expand the faculty’s ability to provide simulation-based learning. The Skills Lab will complement the existing Clinical Learning and Simulation Facility (CLSF); an 11,000-square-foot realistic hospital ward-like space. Simulation teaching is becoming more popular in medical schools, as it allows students to “practice real-life scenarios in a safe and controlled environment.” At the new Skills Lab, students will have the opportunity to practice various medical procedures, including suturing, blood collection for lab tests, and simple surgical and endoscopy techniques. uManitoba News

WesternU ready for first group of international students in English Language Centre

Western University’s new English Language Centre (ELC) will welcome its first group of 85 international students over the weekend. The students, mostly from Asia, with some from Angola, will study at the ELC for 4-16 months, depending on individual language proficiency. The program prepares students to study at WesternU, or its affiliated university colleges Brescia, King’s, and Huron. Many of the students will also stay on campus in residences, which may help their integration into Canadian academe and society, which has recently been pointed out as an issue for international students. The ELC will also facilitate research projects around student success, vocabulary development and academic acculturation. WesternU News

Students fail to meet provincial standards in math

Ontario’s grade 3 and 6 students are struggling with math, reveals new data from the standardized tests issued by Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office. 57% of grade 6 students and 67% of grade 3 students meet the provincial standard in math, down from 63% and 70% in 2008-09, respectively. Education Minister Liz Sandals pointed to the education of the teachers as a possible explanation, suggesting that strengths in arts could be affecting their ability to teach math. Others suggest the Ontario curriculum is to blame, as it focuses more on “real-world concepts” than it does on memorization. New research out of Concordia University supports a mix of real-world examples and abstract numbers; researchers found that when models were presented alongside fractions for the duration of the lesson, students did better than when models were presented quickly, then removed, for the lesson. Globe and Mail | Concordia News

Canada has disconnect in R&D funding

A new report prepared for the Council of Canadian Academies found that there is a disconnect between Canada’s “strong publicly-funded research and development activities at postsecondary institutions and the country’s comparatively weak investment in industrial R&D.” The report notes that the 2 types of research are “motivated by different incentives” and points out several areas where Canada could improve the transfer of science and technology knowledge into innovation. The report states that existing technology transfer processes are ineffective, indicated by low numbers of patents and licensing agreements by universities. In addition, the report highlighted the education levels of business managers, with only 35% with a university degree, compared to 53% in the US. The report did show that some areas are doing very well in research and development initiatives, including aerospace products and parts manufacturing, and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. Statistics Canada recently reported a decline in federal spending on science and technology. University Affairs | Full Report

UBC Okanagan professor compares classes of 1997 and 2017

University of British Columbia Okanagan assistant sociology professor Christopher Schneider has written an article about the differences between the classes of 1997 and 2017. He suggests that the 2 most important cataclysmic moments of the millennial generation zeitgeist might be the birth of Napster by Shawn Fanning in 1999 and Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg 3 years later – leading to a generation that is “growing up out loud.” “For much of this generation, real-time information and social interaction is a byte-sized affair in a digital and largely online world, where living out loud in present tense is what constitutes living,” writes Schneider. Accompanying Schneider’s article is an infographic that highlights some differences between the 1997 and 2017 classes: friends went from being “people you hang out with” to “requests you accept on Facebook;” privacy went from “locking your bedroom” to “a setting on your browser;” passé went from being “a trend from the past” to “a viral video from 2 minutes ago;” and the word “like” went from meaning “an abiding interest” to a “thumbs up button click.” UBC News

Scores in SJSU/Udacity trial MOOCs begin to rebound

The San Jose State University and Udacity have received encouraging data on the latest scores from students taking their trial MOOCs, following a decision by SJSU to “pause” its partnership with Udacity in the fall. Pass rates for the latest, summer trial courses, which were tweaked following the spring courses’ weak results, have increased to match, and sometimes exceed, the pass rates of face-to-face SJSU courses. The tweaks included opening enrolment to anyone who wanted to take the courses (the spring courses drew SJSU undergraduates and under-privileged high-school students). Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, says that half the students in the summer trials already held bachelor’s degrees and 20% had advanced degrees. “Given the difference in populations, trying to compare the pass rates for the spring and summer trials is probably not a particularly profitable exercise.” Nonetheless, SJSU has considered the results progress and plans to restart its trials with Udacity in January 2014. Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed

Family of deceased football player files lawsuit

The family of a Frostburg State University football player who died 2 years ago after sustaining head injuries during practice has sued the student’s former coaches, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and helmet maker Schutt Sports, alleging that "reckless disregard for player health and safety led to [Sheely's] tragic death." The lawsuit contends that Frostburg football coaches "created an environment where players would be punished if they disclosed their injuries" and that they "challenged players to play through pain to the point of risk." There has been much discussion in the media and PSE sector about the risks associated with head injuries in collegiate football. Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell has called for an outright ban on university football. Baltimore Sun

'MOOC' makes Oxford online dictionary

The word “MOOC” has been added to the Oxford online dictionary, defined as “a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.” “New words, senses, and phrases are added when we have gathered enough independent evidence from a range of sources to be confident that they have widespread currency in English,” says Angus Stevenson, head of dictionary projects at Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford Dictionaries adds approximately 1,000 new words to its online publication each year. Times Higher Education