Top Ten

March 4, 2014

uOttawa students resign after “sexually graphic” Facebook conversation about student union president surfaces

A group of 4 University of Ottawa Student politicians have resigned from their positions after uOttawa student Federation President Anne-Marie Roy spoke out against “sexually graphic” Facebook conversations about her. Roy, who was sent an anonymous email containing the Facebook messages, says the “sexually graphic banter” shows that rape culture is prevalent on Canadian campuses. The conversation included “references to sexual activities that 5 individuals said they would like to engage in with Roy…as well as suggestions that she suffered from sexually transmitted diseases,” reports the Canadian Press. Four of the students wrote a letter to Roy apologizing “for any hurt they caused her.” They also wrote that “the comments were never threats against Roy and were a private conversation between friends that never should have become public." Roy then brought copies of the conversation to a meeting of the student federation’s board of administration, composed of student representatives from various faculties. This led the conversation’s authors to threaten legal action against Roy if she didn’t stop sharing the Facebook conversation and destroy her own copy. Four of the students have since apologized and resigned from their student union positions. Ottawa Citizen | National Post (Canadian Press) | Statement by Roy | uOttawa Statement

UBC downgrades 5 varsity teams following review

The University of British Columbia has released the results of a 6-month review of its sports teams. The university will downgrade its women’s softball program and 4 small ski teams to “competitive clubs,” maintaining 24 of its 29 varsity programs. The 24 remaining varsity teams fall into one of 3 categories: those most ready to excel, ongoing varsity, and teams that need more time to develop new models of community support. Community supporters throughout the course of the review pledged a total of $4.8 million to help strengthen the various teams. The teams slated to receive enhanced support include men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and volleyball, and men’s football. The changes will take effect in September 2015 following a year of transition. UBC News Release | Vancouver Sun

eCampusAlberta reaches 100,000 online learners

eCampusAlberta has announced that it has served 100,000 online learners since its inception in 2002. “Since the first student logged-on to eCampusAlberta, the consortium has seen unprecedented growth, including double-digit percentage growth of registrations in each of the past 9 years,” says eCampusAlberta Board Chair Sharon Carry. The consortium connects students to more than 900 online courses and 70 programs offered by 19 Alberta PSE institutions. It also offers professional development for online educators, and researches, develops and shares quality standards with member institutions. eCampusAlberta recently partnered with the Open Educational Resource Foundation in the international online network, OER University. eCampusAlberta News Release

uSask extends strategic plan by one year

The University of Saskatchewan’s Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) has decided to extend its current integrated plan, Promise and Potential, by one year, to 2017, citing “much left to accomplish and an agenda dominated by TransformUS.” The plan was released in March 2012, just as Ilene Busch-Vishniac took office as the university’s president. “There will be connections between the TransformUS implementation plan and the objectives of [Promise and Potential],” says uSask Assistant Provost of Institutional Planning and Assessment Pauline Melis. “And from a planning perspective, we need time to figure out all of the implications. There are a lot of moving parts and we need to catch our breath.” uSask News Release

Canadore signs collaboration agreement with Irish institution

Canadore College has signed a partnership agreement with Ireland’s Limerick Institute of Technology that will allow the institutions to share best practices in student exchange programs, curriculum development and joint research activities. The partners will also look at collaborative programs that could lead to joint credentials. “The partnership between Canadore and LIT covers a lot of ground,” says Canadore President George Burton. “Canadore is eager to work with LIT, an institution who puts its students first, in a country where the Irish Government has identified education and industry supports at the top of their national priority list.” Canadore News Release

Alberta to adopt “discovery learning” education model

The Alberta government is planning what the National Post says “may well be the most dramatic overhaul of Canadian school curricula in modern times,” replacing the traditional “textbooks-and-chalkboard” model with a “discovery learning” system. Under the new model, students would be left to learn on their own, with little teacher guidance; it is designed to “craft engaged thinkers, ethical citizens and entrepreneurial spirits." “We’re preparing [students] for a future we can’t imagine, and giving them the tools to succeed in work that doesn’t yet exist,” says a promotional government video. While many jurisdictions are working on similar types of curricula, several critics of the model have voiced concerns. “In my view, it’s misguided to use [discovery learning] as your central paradigm with young children; children need structure and input,” says University of Manitoba math professor Robert Craigen. Alberta is proceeding with the overhauls despite these objections. Premier Alison Redford promised this week that the reforms would be “exciting” and “transformative.” National Post

UoPeople gains American accreditation

University of the People, a non-profit institution that offers free classes to people around the world, has gained accreditation by the Distance Education and Training Council in the US. The university, which was founded in 2009 by Israeli-born entrepreneur Shai Reshef, does ask students to pay a registration fee determined by the gross domestic product of their country of residence, along with a $100 administration fee for each exam they sit. However, those who cannot afford the fees can apply for a range of scholarships. “Accreditation is critical to UoPeople’s mission, attesting to the quality of education for our prospective students and their prospective employers,” says Reshef. “We have pursued this stamp of approval since day one, and are confident it will help pave the way for greater adoption of alternative models in education across the globe.” Times Higher Education

Pearson issues profit warning for second year

The Pearson publishing company has warned its shareholders that its earnings will fall in 2014 to $1.24 a share, a 13% downgrade versus consensus. The education publisher, which also issued a profit warning in 2013, cites decreasing enrolments in American PSE institutions and changing US curricula for the decline in profits. Pearson has already begun to lower its reliance on physical textbooks, focusing on online learning and digital textbooks. CEO John Fallon is assuring shareholders that the company will adapt to the changing education landscape. Globe and Mail

US initiative aims to double study abroad enrolment

The American Institute of International Education (IIE) has launched a new national initiative, “Generation Study Abroad,” which so far has seen 150 US PSE institutions pledging to increase their study abroad participation rates. The initiative’s goal is to double the study abroad enrolment, to about 600,000, by the end of the decade. Just fewer than 10% of US undergraduates currently study abroad during the course of their degrees. “We believe that being part of a larger initiative like this will really provide the networks and resources to support efforts of campuses to increase study abroad,” says IIE Deputy Vice-President for International Partnerships Daniel Obst. IIE wants to identify at least 500 American universities that are committed to significantly increasing their study abroad participation rates. Canada’s recently-launched International Education Strategy included a $13-million investment in Mitacs, which includes in its programming initiatives to help Canadian university students obtain placements in academic institutions overseas. Inside Higher Ed

Colorado law allows 2-year colleges to grant 4-year degrees

Colorado has passed legislation allowing its 2-year PSE institutions to offer 4-year degrees in career and technical fields, following suit with 21 other states that have passed similar legislation. “Many specialized technical jobs increasingly require bachelor degrees for career advancement. However, most career and technical courses are not offered at and/or do not transfer to 4-year institutions,” says a Colorado Community College System official. “This creates situations where students need to take 6 years of higher education to earn a bachelor’s degree.” Community College Daily