Top Ten

March 27, 2014

Security measures not followed in case of missing student loan records

Canada’s Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier has released the results of an investigation into the case of a hard drive containing 584,000 student loan records that was lost last winter, reporting that the drive had been left unsecured, without password protection or encryption. The commissioner’s report also says that employees were unaware of the sensitivity of the information contained on the drive. "Protecting personal information cannot be ensured by having policies on paper. Policies must be put into practice each and every day and monitored regularly," says Bernier. Employment and Social Development Canada spokesperson Eric Morrissette says, “The department has taken action to prevent future incidents including: reviewing the ways that employees handle Canadians’ data and fixing any gaps that allowed this to happen, updating network security practices to prohibit external hard drives, and providing more mandatory training for all employees on the proper handling of sensitive and personal information — and the new security policies." CBC News

Northern Alberta PSE institutions sign MOU for increased student access

A group of 7 Alberta PSE institutions have signed an agreement that aims to improve access to PSE in the northern parts of the province. The institutions’ presidents have discussed perceived access barriers and ways to enhance overall PSE system efficiency. The collaboration has resulted in “strategic objectives related to seamless transfer, student mobility and access to quality education programming in remote areas.” “This [agreement] will allow us to reach into partner institutions and potentially deliver their own programs, diplomas, certificates and degrees right here in our community,” says Keyano College Board Chair Kara Flynn. "It allows our students a broader complement of programs and allows us as an institution to do that far more cost effectively than we could do on our own.”  The agreement was signed by Athabasca University, Grande Prairie Regional College, Keyano College, Lakeland College, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Northern Lakes College, and Portage College. Keyano News Release | Fort McMurray Today

Former NB premier tells faculty to lower salary demands

Former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna says universities should be viewed as “profit centres, not cost centres,” that the province’s professors should lower their salary demands, and that the province should be able to legislate faculty back to work in the event of a strike. McKenna, now a Bay Street businessman, shared his vision of PSE in NB with guests at a dinner this week honouring outgoing St Francis Xavier University President Sean Riley. "If our universities in Atlantic Canada are engines of growth, then we need every part of the engine to be working together," says McKenna. "And we've had 3 strikes in the last year…this is at a time when our resources are so very limited." The former premier also called on the government to rethink capping tuition, saying, “cut-rate tuition fees equal cut-rate education.” CBC News | Globe and Mail

Canada Budget Officer points out skills-gap data flaw

A new Parliamentary Budget Office report says some studies claiming that there is a skills shortage in Canada are inaccurate, and that Finance Canada’s jobs-shortage claims, found in its “Jobs Report,” have been thrown off by including data from online classifieds website Kijiji. According to the Globe and Mail, the Conference Board of Canada had found the same issue with using Kijiji for its data on job vacancies, and has removed it as a source. As a result, its skills-shortage trend line has become “a generally flat line” compared to the “Jobs Report,” which claimed that Canada’s labour market has a job-vacancy rate that has been “increasing steadily since 2009.” Kevin McQuillan, Deputy Provost at the University of Calgary who has written a paper challenging claims of a Canadian labour shortage, says online postings have been posing a challenge to job-vacancy data gathering for some time. “We haven’t really gotten on top of this new way of hiring that’s done in online postings, [where] the same notice of a job appearing on multiple sites, or social media. So counting that can be difficult,” says McQuillan. Globe and Mail

VIU launches Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation

Vancouver Island University has opened a new Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation, which aims to provide leadership and education through advanced research and public dialogue around pre-Confederation Treaties and the challenges of reconciliation. “The critical project of treaty implementation and reconciliation requires a deep and shared understanding of the history of Crown-First Nation relations and a clear and shared view of what is required for reconciliation today in its fullest and proper form,” says the centre’s Interim Director Douglas White. The centre will support advanced research, symposia, publications, and the facilitation of dialogue regarding Pre-Confederation Treaties and reconciliation. VIU News Release

iClicker technology shown to have little benefit in HEQCO study

A recent study from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) finds that the use of iclickers, which allow instructors to receive real-time responses from students during lectures, in an undergraduate course at McMaster University did not improve students’ understanding of course concepts or influence test grades. The test group was an Introductory Psychology class of 3,000 students, who were given 3 different teaching methods: a traditional lecture; a pen and paper lecture, where students wrote down answers to questions to be posted the day before each quiz; and iclicker lectures, where TAs were able to provide students with the results immediately. Students did not enjoy using the iclickers, and very few students recommended their use, explains HEQCO. “Not having enough time to learn how to use the technology properly, students were more focused on the iclicker itself, than on the concepts being taught,” the authors report. The report recommends that iclickers be used regularly or not at all, citing the amount of time required to set them up. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

COU report shows benefits of experiential learning

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has released a report, Bringing Life to Learning, which reveals that PSE students who participate in co-ops and work placements earn more than their peers, enjoy higher full-time employment rates, and are more likely to pay off their debt within 2 years. The data come from Statistics Canada’s most recent National Graduates Survey. The report also states that “in an increasingly competitive job market, experiential learning makes students workplace-ready, setting them up for career success.” COU President Bonnie M Patterson says in the near future 60% or more of undergraduates will take part in a co-op or other experiential learning placement. “[With experiential learning,] employers get to test new talent and are brought new ideas and fresh perspectives that can lead to significant improvements at their businesses or organizations. Students gain hands-on experience and discover what types of careers and organizations would be a good fit for them,” says Patterson. COU News Release | Full Report | Toronto Star

Study suggests shorter shifts don't help medical residents, patients

New research out of St Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto suggest that shorter shifts for medical residents do not improve patient care and can actually make their exam scores worse. Residents’ shifts at some hospitals have been scaled back due to the widespread opinion that long shifts lead to medical errors and poor patient outcomes. “What seems a counterintuitive result makes sense when you think about residency as specialized training that involves thousands of hours of observation and requires people to be able to work when fatigued and under pressure,” says report author and uToronto residency program Director Najma Ahmed. He adds that “following a patient’s journey from admission with a symptom through analysis, treatment, surgery and recovery” cannot be achieved in an 8- or 10-hour shift. In Ontario, residents work 24-hour shifts every third or fourth shift, and work for 10-12 hours during the shifts in between; in Quebec, shifts have been capped at 16 hours. Toronto Star

JoVE seeks to make video-based academic journals the norm

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) is a video-based scientific journal that aims to mitigate barriers to efficiently communicating research procedures among scientists. “It’s a really typical problem in science: you read the paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal coming from a top research university and you cannot reproduce what they wrote there,” says JoVE Co-founder Moshe Pritsker. “It’s really problematic because that’s oftentimes the only way to advance with your work. This is a problem that video publications can solve.” Since its launch in 2006, JoVE has published more than 3,500 step-by-step scientific demonstrations in 9 different categories; more than 900 institutions have contributed to the journal, including the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, McGill University, Harvard University and John Hopkins University. Pritsker envisions also using the video approach in such disciplines as economics, psychology and sociology. University Affairs

XanEdu, AcademicPub merge custom courseware services

Custom courseware platforms XanEdu and AcademicPub are currently merging to respond to a growing demand for online educational material solutions. “We know that the custom materials component is growing at a double-digit pace and textbooks are declining at a double-digit pace,” says XanEdu CEO John DeBoer. “The market hasn’t shifted all the way to that level yet at this point, but it’s moving in that direction....everybody’s trying to gain access to that as quickly as possible.” The merger will mean that the company can offer either full-service custom courseware services, or do-it-yourself online services; it is also working with “early adopters” to offer corporate training materials. AcademicPub in 2012 announced agreements with Simon Fraser University and York University to provide affordable print and digital textbooks and other course materials to students. Inside Higher Ed