Top Ten

December 11, 2013

uSask releases program and services prioritization reports

The University of Saskatchewan has released 2 reports by task forces that ranked almost 900 programs and services at the university, part of the TransformUS plan, to come up with $25 million in savings. The programs and services have been recommended for one of 5 actions: given "enhanced resourcing;" maintained with current resources; kept with reduced resources; restructured for efficiency or effectiveness; or phased out subject to further review. uSask will be gathering feedback from faculty, staff and students over the next 8 weeks, and then a committee will develop an implementation plan by the end of April. Final decisions on the committee's implementation plan will be made beginning May 1. uSask President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said in a statement that she expects some changes to take effect in 2014-15, while others may not be implemented until spring 2016 and beyond. CBC | Academic Programs Report | Support Services Report

OUSA releases new recommendations for student access policy

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has released an updated policy paper on student access that “offers OUSA a strong platform for continuing [its] advocacy work in this area.” The paper outlines the following additions to its access policy recommendations: strengthen guidance counselling in K-12 to include at least one practitioner qualified to help students determine their best PSE pathway, and to have all students in Grade 9 have a careers-focused meeting with a guidance counsellor; remove course streaming in Ontario high schools, which evidence suggests may be replicating patterns of inequality; and establish strategies for a “system-wide focus on access,” including a centralized agency to help institutions meet enrolment goals, access agreements formed by each institution, collecting more demographic data, and dedicated funding to improve participation rates. OUSA News Release

uSainte-Anne launches strategic plan focused on student success, engagement

Nova Scotia’s Université Sainte-Anne has released its new strategic plan for 2013–18, with the theme, “An institution focused on student success and engagement.” The plan identifies 5 strategic outcomes, and identifies incremental goals for each, including: student recruitment, student success, community engagement, brand recognition, and a culture of excellence in research and development. “This plan is the product of a tremendous process of collective reflection. Its development was based on consultations with our student population, our staff, our alumni, and our various partners,” says uSainte-Anne President Allister Surette. Strategic Plan

Twitter as a substitute for research citations?

A study published by researchers at the Université de Montréal reveals that the number of Twitter mentions an academic work receives does not correlate with the number of citations it receives, as suggested by studies in the past. A previous study from the University of Toronto found that “highly-tweeted articles were almost 11 times as likely as less-tweeted articles to be highly cited,” reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The new uMontréal study involved some 1.4 million articles from more than 5,000 journals, and finds no “meaningful” correlation. The uToronto study that suggested Twitter metrics could be a “supplement or even an alternative to citation counts,” examined 55 articles in a single journal. However, the uMontréal researchers do report that Twitter is increasingly being used to disseminate scientific articles. Between 2010 and 2012, there was a 20.4% increase in articles Tweeted. uMontréal News Release | Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Facebook partners with NYU to create AI lab

Facebook has announced a partnership with New York University to create a new centre for artificial intelligence, aiming to harness the social network's huge collection of data. The lab will focus on "machine learning," a type of artificial intelligence that involves computers "learning" to extract knowledge from large data sets. Yann LeCun, Director of NYU’s Center for Data Science will lead the new lab. "The goal here is to use new approaches in AI to help make sense of all the content that people share so we can generate new insights about the world to answer people's questions," says Facebook CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg. CTV (AFP)

US student invents paperless exam

University of Pennsylvania student Alex Rattray has come up with a solution to the traditional hand-written exam that leads to sore hands and tedious marking – a desktop application that allows institutions to securely administer quizzes and tests in class via computer. The Emerald paperless exam, which is still in beta mode, has been used by more than 500 high-school and PSE students in Philadelphia, New York City, and Dallas. The Emerald team has received $500,000 in seed funding from Dorm Room Fund, a student-run investment fund launched in the fall of 2012. Rattray, along with fellow students Pulak Mittal and Lauren Reeder, expects to begin negotiating contracts for a paid product in the spring, with a target of securing deals with 20 to 100 institutions. Chronicle of Higher Education

Cell phone use linked to lower PSE grades, more anxiety

Frequent cell phone use by college students is tied to poor academic performance, anxiety and unhappiness, according to a study out of the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University in Ohio. The researchers surveyed more than 500 students about their cell phone use, comparing their responses with their grades and results of clinical tests they took for anxiety and life satisfaction/happiness. The study also linked higher GPAs with increased happiness, unsurprisingly, while more anxiety was linked to less happiness. The researchers note that the study “was not designed to determine cause and effect, so no matter how good the statistics, they cannot show for certain that it is cell phone use that leads to anxiety, poorer grades and reduced happiness.” Medical News Today

MOOCs a balance of “credentialing” and “educating”

A MOOC professor for Northwestern University, pondering the importance of credentials in demonstrating learning, decided to ask his students what they think their completed course will mean for their prospects. Out of the 1,196 students in 87 countries who received a "statement of accomplishment" on Owen Youngman’s Coursera course, 800 students responded to his post-course survey. 73% of respondents said "I plan on listing my participation in a résumé, CV, or online profile." When collecting qualitative responses on the subject on a discussion board, students expressed mixed responses. “As an employer, I would not recruit anyone based on MOOC certificates, but I would accept that someone who has them has a genuine interest in further education," said one student. "Work is scarce and every little bit helps, so that's the main reason I'm focusing on getting a certificate. The efforts are the same, but the proof of them will help me along," said another. Youngman concludes that students themselves see value in "discipline and diligence" gained from MOOCs, and asks rhetorically whether employers will see that value as well. “[It’s] a balance of "credentialing" and "educating" that I am happy to embrace,” says Youngman. Chronicle of Higher Education

China dominates in first THE BRICS, emerging economies rankings

Times Higher Education has recently released its first-ever rankings of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and Emerging Economies university rankings. China has 4 universities in the list’s top 10 institutions, with Peking University and Tsinghua University at numbers one and 2, and 3 Turkish universities are in the top 10. The best represented countries overall are China (23) Taiwan (21), India (10), Turkey (7), South Africa and Thailand (5 each). Although they were among the 23 nations considered, no universities from Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru or the Philippines made the list. The BRICS and Emerging Economies ranking used the same methodology as THE’s World University Rankings. Times Higher Education