Top Ten

February 12, 2014

Online drinking game has PSE institutions, students concerned

A new online drinking game, “NekNomination,” that has been growing in popularity has university officials warning students about the risks of binge drinking. The game involves participants posting videos of themselves online drinking heavily in an unusual situation and then daring their friends to do the same within 24 hours. The game, which originated in Australia (where “neck” is slang for drinking), has been blamed for the deaths of 2 young men in Ireland. Students across Canada are reporting that the craze has caught on amongst their peers. Queen’s University Health Promotion Co-ordinator Kate Humphrys calls the game “dangerous and concerning,” and reports online discussions reveal many students say “it makes them uneasy and uncomfortable.” Some PSE students are attempting to make NekNomination into “NiceNomination,” creating videos of themselves doing something nice like giving food and warm clothing to homeless people. Even the person who runs the NekNomination Facebook page said “Neknomination was fun while it lasted but even I admit it has gotten out of control. This will be Neknominations last post.” Globe and Mail | Toronto Star| NiceNomination Video Example

Student, labour unions boycotting uOttawa budget consultations

Some student and labour unions at the University of Ottawa say they won’t participate in this year’s university budget consultations because they believe their recommendations weren’t heard last year, reports the Ottawa Citizen. Graduate Student Association (GSAED) External Commissioner Seamus Wolfe says none of the recommendations put forward by the union during last year’s consultation were accepted by the university. Isabelle Hétu, President of the union that represents teaching and research assistants, says “it’s not that we don’t want to be part of the budgetary process. We just don’t want to be part of a show that everyone knows the ending to.” uOttawa spokesperson Caroline Milliard says these decisions by the unions are “disappointing,” adding that “we strongly believe that [student] involvement strengthens the budget process and helps ensure that the budget adopted serves the best interests of the university.” Also joining the boycott are the unions for full- and part-time professors, support staff, maintenance workers, and informational technology workers, according to Hétu. Ottawa Citizen

Algonquin wins bid for 2 new campuses in Saudi Arabia

Algonquin College has won its bid to operate 2 new campuses in Qatif, Saudi Arabia–one male- and one female-only. Following the announcement, Algonquin’s board of governors approved the creation of the 2 campuses. Algonquin opened a male-only campus in the country last fall; college officials assured those critical of the move that they were working on securing more campus bids so they could teach women in Saudi Arabia as well. “The college was determined to ensure we balanced our current presence in Saudi Arabia with the addition of a female campus. We are thrilled that today’s announcement will allow us to offer our unique brand of Canadian education to both Saudi women and men,” said Algonquin President Kent MacDonald. Subject to Ontario government approval, the new campuses are expected to generate over $20 million dollars in net revenues for Algonquin, spread over the 5 years of the contract. Algonquin News Release | Ottawa Citizen

Georgian pitches Orillia for $10-million campus expansion

Georgian College’s Orillia, ON campus has asked city council for $10 million over 10 years to expand the campus by 32,000 square feet, which would see the addition of a social entrepreneurship centre and a community-safety institute. Campus Dean Mary O’Farrell-Bowers says the college has invested $21.25 million in Orillia over the past decade without asking the city for any money. Georgian has already expanded by adding to its campus a veterinary facility, a fitness centre, labs and 2 residences. It has also made improvements to campus accessibility and landscaping. The expansion is expected to bring up to 500 additional full-time students to the college, adding to Georgian’s economic impact by $5.2 million, bringing the college’s annual economic impact in the city to $31.2 million. Orillia Packet & Times

STMU launches “grow” marketing campaign

Calgary’s St Mary’s University College has launched a new “grow” marketing campaign to highlight its welcoming environment, with the tagline, “Our welcoming environment will encourage your growth.” STMU explains that the campaign “captures the fact that when students feel welcomed in their PSE environment, they will grow and flourish on both academic and personal levels.” The ads, which will appear in newspapers, magazines, Calgary Transit ads, billboards, television, radio, and online, feature a regular-sized professor and an “incredibly tall” student—symbolizing the student’s growth. STMU developed the campaign strategy around research with students, staff and faculty, which revealed that many students choose the institution because of its caring and welcoming learning environment. STMU News Release | Campaign Landing Page

Canadore to launch Aboriginal-language mental health program

Canadore College has been chosen by the Mental Health and Innovation Fund (MHIF) and Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to develop the first Aboriginal language-specific Mental Health First Aid program in Canada. MHFA materials are being translated into Ojibway and Cree, First Nation-specific case studies are being compiled, and Canadore employees are being trained to deliver the new program and educate additional trainers. Canadore hopes to have the program ready to deploy in First Nations communities and front-line staff at PSE institutions by September 2014. “Our work at Canadore’s First People’s Centre (FPC) provides us with insights into the mental health challenges facing Aboriginal communities across Ontario and beyond. The new Mental Health First Aid program is an important step in providing new tools to help people in crisis,” says FPC Director Mary Wabano. Canadore is also celebrating an 80.6% Aboriginal student retention rate, with 20% of the student body of FNMI ancestry. Canadore News

Ontario law schools fees increase with new LLP program

Ontario law school students are seeing an increase in fees associated with becoming a lawyer, reports CBC News. Students who spoke to CBC said they “expected to pay slightly more than the approximately $2,600 graduating students paid in 2013,” but said they actually must pay nearly $5,000. The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) says the increase is partially due to a new alternative to the mandatory post-graduation training, announced in November. Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa now offer this alternative program, the Law Practice Program (LPP). "The Law Society's Articling Task Force recommended the creation of an additional pathway, as well as changes to articling, and has from the beginning noted that a fee increase would be necessary to cover the costs of enhancements to the articling program, as well as the introduction of the Law Practice Program," reads an LSUC statement. CBC

Harvard to offer exclusive MOOCs to alumni

Harvard University in March will launch HarvardX for Alumni, 7 exclusive MOOC “segments” that will include some new material developed specially for graduates. Aimed at reconnecting alumni with their alma mater, Harvard’s new offerings may also include opportunities to interact directly with professors, reports The Harvard Crimson. Council for Advancement and Support of Education President John Lippincott says “MOOCs fit naturally into universities’ efforts to rekindle relationships with potential donors.” “Offering major donors access to MOOCs on subjects of particular interest to them would represent a quantum leap from a faculty member giving a 30-minute talk at a campaign dinner,” says Lippincott. Chronicle of Higher Education

32% of US for-profit alumni say degree wasn’t worth it

A new survey reveals that alumni of US for-profit PSE institutions are “ambivalent” towards their experience at the university, with 32% saying the degree “really wasn’t worth it.” The survey report, by non-profit research group Public Agenda, says current and former for-profit students are satisfied with the quality of their institutions, but that they consider the financial burden of these schools high. Alumni in particular aren't certain their degree was worth it. The report also says that many employers see no differences between for-profit and public sector institutions, and some are actually unfamiliar with for-profit schools. The research was funded by the Kresge Foundation and is based on representative surveys with employers, current for-profit undergraduates, for-profit alumni, and prospective students between the ages of 18 and 55. Public Agenda Summary | Full Report

Academics analyzing teaching methods to find what works

PSE scholars at many institutions are working on understanding what makes good teaching by observing classes and documenting what is happening using quantitative methods, reports Dan Berrett in a Chronicle of Higher Education article. University of British Columbia Science Teaching-and-Learning Fellow Brett H Gilley visits classrooms and collects data “that paint a picture of an individual professor’s practices, which can be compared with the norms of a discipline or type of course and used to improve his or her teaching.” Similarly, Karen K Inkelas, Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at the University of Virginia, documents what happens in classrooms, connecting her data points from what faculty do to what students learn. Matthew T Hora devised the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol with Joseph J Ferrare, a fellow researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The protocol is the tool on which many other observation tools are based. Chronicle of Higher Education