Top Ten

March 28, 2014

McGill student associations call for sexual assault policy

Student associations at McGill University have sent an open letter to McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier, Deputy Provost Ollivier Dyens, and Dean of Students André Costopoulos, which calls for the creation of a formal sexual assault policy. The 8 McGill student associations who signed the letter say “rape culture and sexual assault on our campus warrant a stronger response.” In November, McGill announced that it would adopt several measures to address and prevent sexual assault, including hiring a full-time coordinator to expand programming and initiatives in collaboration with its student-run Sexual Assault Centre, holding a public forum in January on the issue of consent in sexual matters, and creating an annual “Dean of Students Forum on Safe Space” each fall to sensitize new students. “The signing parties are displeased with the McGill administration proceeding with the hiring of the coordinator position without adequate consultation of the student body,” says the letter. It goes on to recommend hiring a “sexual assault response coordinator” whose priority would be dealing with sexual assault, but whose position may also include harm reduction. Montreal Gazette | Open Letter

uAlberta to create peer-reviewed journal for high school research

The University of Alberta is working with Strathcona High School to produce a peer-reviewed journal in which grade 11 and 12 students can publish their research. The journal, tentatively named The Cornerstone, will be hosted by the University of Alberta Libraries’ open journal online platform, which already hosts 29 peer-reviewed academic journals by uAlberta researchers and faculty. “uAlberta Libraries is committed to disseminating new knowledge, and this project with Strathcona High School is an opportunity to take community knowledge and make it more widely available,” says uAlberta Chief Librarian Gerald Beasley. “We are proud to have established this publishing platform, and we are opening it up to any community group in Alberta.” The journal will also be open source, allowing the public to access its articles for free. uAlberta News Release

Algonquin to expand eTextbook program to 10,000 students, 120 programs

Algonquin College has announced that its eTextbook program, launched in 2013, will reach 10,000 students and 120 programs in 2014-15. The college’s eTextbook initiative aims to “provide 100% of the students with 100% of their resources 100% of the time,” and this year expanded to 34 programs, about 4,000 first-entry students, and 16,800 e-resources. In a study of the first 750 students who took courses using the eTextbook program, 87% of respondents said they intended to primarily use their laptop to access their eTextbooks; the vast majority said they did not intend to print or order a printed copy of their eTextbook. The college is also planning to give out eReaders to students in select programs as part of a pilot to determine whether the device benefits their studies. Algonquin News Release

Northwestern Ontario colleges partner to deliver Fleming GIS programs

Confederation College, Fleming College, and Northern College have partnered to allow students in Thunder Bay and Timmins to access Fleming’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programs in their own communities. The programs are full-time, 10-month postgraduate Cartographic Specialist programs that are traditionally offered at Fleming’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences in Lindsay, Ontario. Students will now be able to take the programs at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, ON, and at Northern College in Timmins, ON; the courses will be taught “synchronously,” meaning the Thunder Bay and Timmins students will join the Fleming classes online. “GIS is used extensively throughout northwestern Ontario in a variety of sectors including natural resources and health care,” says Confederation President Jim Madder. “This partnership allows students from northwestern Ontario to enrol in this excellent program right here at home and gain new skills that employers are looking for.” Fleming News Release

triOS named Gold Standard Winner in Best Managed Company awards

triOS College has been named Gold Standard Winner of a Deloitte Best Managed Company Award for “redefining PSE by listening to student and employer needs and delivering [on them].” Companies are named Gold Standard Winners after 3 consecutive years of maintaining Best Managed status. The 9-campus private Ontario career college says it has implemented strategies that allow for better communication with staff through webinars, its annual company meeting, and its “Above & Beyond Employee Recognition” program. triOS News Release

Apple to shut down Authorized Campus Stores in Canada

Apple has decided to shut down its college and university Authorized Campus Stores in Canada sometime in June; the company says the Apple-subsidized, on-campus stores are no longer financially viable due to the fact that students are more inclined to purchase Macs and other iOS products from online Apple Stores or major retail chains. While Apple has not confirmed a date for the closures, it said current Authorized Campus Stores have until May 31 to sell existing Mac and iPad stock. The move has sparked fire sales at such universities as the University of Victoria, where students can find considerable discounts on Apple products. Apple Insider

Royal Roads receives Chinese certification for training programs

Royal Roads University has received a certification from the Chinese government’s Certificate Training Channel program, which will allow the university to offer educational training opportunities in Canada for citizens of the People’s Republic of China. “This designation is significant because it not only legitimizes our standing with this important global partner, it recognizes our expertise in engaging adult learners,” says Royal Roads VP Global Advancement and Business Development Cyndi McLeod. According to Royal Roads' Asia Operations Office Director Connie Chan, there are only 15 approved Training Channels in Canada and 301 in the world. Royal Roads News Release

Concordia study warns against jumping into new teaching technology

A new study out of Concordia University reviews several studies on the use of new technology in PSE classrooms, and concludes that educators should not adopt these new technologies (such as wikis, podcasts, and online content management systems) without first examining how they will benefit students. The authors also say that pedagogy should “attempt to develop integrated pedagogical strategies that bridge the old-school instructivist lecturing and relatively newer constructivist styles.” To do so, the Concordia researchers recommend more workshops on integrating new technology into traditional pedagogy, and more studies into how various teaching techniques benefit students. Concordia News Release | Full Study

uToronto study reveals insights into teen substance use

A new study on substance co-use among teens by researchers at the University of Toronto suggests that students who smoke only marijuana outperform students who smoke both marijuana and tobacco. The uToronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health researchers surveyed 38,331 students in grades 7, 9 and 11; they measured poor academic performance as an indicator of problem behaviour to see if it was related to substance use or co-use. “Drug prevention programs should be aligned with student realities, which means acknowledging and addressing patterns of co-use,” says study co-author Maritt Kirst. “This study identifies which youth are most at risk and can help public health professionals tailor prevention programs accordingly.” The study also reveals that 92% of teen cigarette smokers also use marijuana, that 25% of teen marijuana users also smoke cigarettes, and that 90% of students do not use either substance. uToronto News Release | Study Page

American PSE institutions use big data to measure instructor impact on student engagement

US-based Civitas Learning is working with PSE institutions to use big data as a way of measuring the impact of faculty on student engagement. For-profit PSE chain Strayer University uses Civitas to evaluate instructors throughout a course by evaluating students’ “rate of change” in student engagement, which includes measures such as how often students contribute in class, or performance on homework assignments. “If instructors lag behind their peers in making progress with those indicators, the university reaches out to help get those faculty members back on track,” explains Strayer CEO Karl McDonnell. The idea of using big data to measure instructor impact on student engagement has generated controversy among some PSE stakeholders. American Association of University Professors President Rudy Fichtenbaum says he’s skeptical about the idea because “many factors influencing student engagement are out of faculty members' control, such as distractions students face outside the classroom.” Inside Higher Ed