Top Ten

October 18, 2013

WesternU opens Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine

Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry last week opened its new Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine, which will serve as “Western's hub for knowledge creation and translation in the realm of public health." The $17-million, 66,700 square-foot building houses the academic and research sides of the Department of Family Medicine and the new Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health; its inaugural class of 32 students is enrolled in a Master of Public Health (MPH) program. "Along with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, the MPH program taps into eight other Western Faculties as well as Brescia University College. It is an interdisciplinary initiative that will facilitate the training of our future leaders in public health and is a perfect complement to one of our oldest and most celebrated medical departments, Family Medicine," says WesternU President Amit Chakma. Western News Release

Outdoor research centre saved, but research limited

The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) may have been saved when the Ontario government pledged funding to keep it open, but a University of Alberta aquatic ecologist writes in the Toronto Star that scientists’ research at the outdoor research conservatory will be limited. Diane Orihel explains that the ELA, a region of 58 lakes in northwestern Ontario, allowed researchers to perform whole-ecosystem experiments, which help scientists determine cause-and-effect relationships in a controlled, but real-world, natural setting. However, when the federal government cancelled its legal agreement with the Ontario government, researchers lost the ability to perform these whole-ecosystem studies. Orihel adds that the “legal mess” that is keeping scientists from performing their studies should be sorted out. Toronto Star

uWindsor launches new ad campaign

The University of Windsor has launched a new advertising campaign that reflects the possibilities generated by learning and living on the university’s campus. Based on the theme “UWill,” the campaign includes print ads in publications across southwestern Ontario, commercials in movie theatres, posters in shopping malls, and radio spots, all sharing messages that promise an exceptional experience for students. The ads use the new uWindsor logo to form the letter “W” in the heading “UWill,” followed by a list of phrases such as “Achieve Your Goals” and “Work Hard and Succeed.” “Putting the new imagery front and centre represents both the university’s past and its future during its 50th anniversary year,” says Chief Communications Officer Holly Ward. uWindsor News Release

UNB Saint John provides new platform for reading scholarly articles

The University of New Brunswick has made its library of online periodicals available to students and researchers through BrowZine, a tablet app that allows users to select, browse, read and save selected journal articles on an iPad or Android device. The app unites articles from databases into complete journals, and then arranges them by subject on a virtual “library news stand.” Users can also email articles to others or send via social media. UNB Blog

Survey shows Canada’s skills gap widening

The shortage of skilled workers in Canada is increasing, according to a new study from global recruiting firm Hays PLC, which surveyed the skills gap in 30 developed countries around the world. The study ranks Canada ninth among the list of countries for the severity of its skills shortage, and its score has deteriorated in the past year. However, skills shortages are worse in Japan, the US, Germany, Sweden, and several other countries. The report also says that skills shortages are not directly linked to the state of the economy in any individual country, but explains that they are more closely connected to government policy, how effective institutions are in turning out graduates with the right skills, and how effectively employers train their workers. CIBC recently released a report that says the return on investment for PSE is narrowing due to the fact that too few students are graduating from programs that are high in demand. Globe and Mail | Survey Infographic

Facebook privacy options now allow teens to post publicly

Facebook last week announced that it has made a change that will allow users aged 13 through 17 to share their status updates publicly – up until now, this demographic could only choose to share a status post with “friends” or “friends of friends.” As a protective measure, Facebook will warn minors opting to post publicly that they are exposing themselves to a broader audience. The caution will repeat before every post, as long as the settings remain on "public." Kathryn Montgomery, an American University communications professor who has written a book about how the internet affects children, is worried that “unleashing teens to share more about themselves” to a public audience will allow advertisers to collect more personal data about minors, "who aren't aware that their movements and interests are under a digital microscope." Globe and Mail (Associated Press) | Facebook News Release

US universities identifying at-risk students to improve retention

Some American PSE institutions that participated in discussions on student data analytics at the annual Educause conference say they are seeing benefits of identifying at-risk students before they drop or fail a course, as opposed to after the fact. The University of Kentucky is one such institution; it rebuilt its university mobile app so that it could collect student information while also serving as the usual “digital gateway to the university.” uKentucky also pulls engagement data from the learning management system Blackboard Learn, and tracks when students attend campus events using an incentive system. In one example, should a student stop uploading assignments to Blackboard Learn, the mobile app could send an alert that could only be cleared once the student meets with the professor or an adviser -- and completes the work. Kentucky’s first- to second-year retention is up to about 81.5%, an increase of about 1.3%. Similarly, Purdue University recently launched software called Signals, which tracks students’ academic progress and sends them notifications about how they’re doing. Inside Higher Ed

US faculty social media use grows, concerns remain

Faculty members in the US have become "sophisticated consumers of social media," matching different sites to their various personal and professional needs, yet obstacles to wider adoption still remain, reveals a recent study. The annual survey of nearly 8,000 teaching faculty examined both the personal and professional impacts of social media. Some key findings include: 55% of faculty use social media in a professional context, up from 44.7% last year; only 41% of faculty use social media in the classroom, but this number continues to increase year-over-year; concerns remain about privacy, maintaining the classroom as a private space for free and open discussion, and the integrity of student submissions; and faculty believe that online and mobile technologies can be distracting, and say they result in longer working hours and increased stress. Pearson News Release | Study Webpage (registration required)

HarvardX to study how to personalize MOOCs

HarvardX, Harvard University’s open, online courses offered through edX, has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study how MOOCs might be made more personalized for individuals in online courses. Led by HarvardX Research Fellow Sergiy Nesterko and startup Project Lever founder Svetlana I. Dotsenko, the study will examine data from students enrolled in 17 HarvardX classes, including country of origin, education level, gender, age, usage of the course materials, and individuals’ learning outcomes and goals. “We want to...track how those goals manifest themselves in the students’ usage of courses, and ideally would see how those learning goals change over time and come up with a predictive system or a meaningful clustering of students,” says Nesterko. Earlier this year, a group of Harvard arts and science professors asked their dean for formal oversight of massive open online courses offered by Harvard through edX, citing concerns about the program’s cost and consequences. The Harvard Crimson

UK universities use fingerprinting to keep tabs on international students

Universities in the UK are using fingerprint scanners to make sure international students are attending lectures, reports Times Higher Education. The National Union of Students is condemning the move by both the University of Sunderland and the University of Ulster to install biometric monitoring systems on satellite campuses not used by British students. Sunderland Student Relations and Compliance Manager Ruth Davison says “the system had been installed because the site was “entirely international” and the Home Office required that all attendance be monitored.” Davison added that the prior swipe card system meant students could sign each other in or that cards could be lost. THE reports that there has been confusion over what checks are necessary to make sure overseas students are in the UK to study rather than work. Times Higher Education