Top Ten

April 11, 2014

Loyalist College student dies after overnight practicum shift

A Loyalist College student has died in a motor vehicle accident while on the way home from an overnight work practicum for his college program. Aaron Murray was completing a 140-hour unpaid work practicum for his protection, security and investigations diploma, travelling from his home in Trenton, Ontario to Peterborough’s Trent University where he was working as a campus security guard for the practicum. Although the cause of the crash is still under investigation, Murray is reported to have been tired often, as he balanced school, paid work, the unpaid practicum, and life as a new father to a 3-week-old son. "He was a wonderful young man who made many contributions to the college community," said Loyalist College President Maureen Piercy. Murray’s death has raised questions of safety and compensation issues around unpaid practicums and internships. Loyalist held a memorial in Murray’s honour this week. The Record

Ayaan Hirsi Ali no longer to receive honourary degree from Brandeis University

Brandeis University in Massachusetts has revoked a decision to bestow an honourary degree in social justice on Somali-born women’s rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Often critical of Islam, Ali has published several books and lectures frequently on the topic of Islam and women’s rights; however, Brandeis officials have stated they were unaware of her history of controversial statements. Ali is a “compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights,” Brandeis said in a statement. “That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” The decision is partially in response to a letter signed by 85 of the 350 faculty members at Brandeis, as well as a student-created petition signed by more than 6,000. Ali has expressed doubt that the university was not aware of her earlier comments, suggesting the institution gave in to demands to have her “silenced.”National Post | University Business

Discover Trades BC rebrands to include technology sector

Discover Trades BC, an online resource led by the Trades Training BC consortium of PSE institutions that promotes trades training in the province, has expanded and re-branded itself to highlight the growing number of jobs that combine trades and technology. The new Discover Skills BC site, a collaboration with Skills Canada BC, provides students, parents, and educators with information and resources about training opportunities and jobs in the trades and technology sectors.” Jim Reed, President of Trades Training BC, stated, “More and more there is an overlap between trades and technologies. Discover Trades BC was a terrific resource for students, parents and educators, but it was only half of the equation. The new site, with both trades and technologies combined, is a one stop shop for students, parents and teachers.” An online video contest for BC secondary students to show off trades or technology that excite them has been launched to highlight the new Discover Skills BC site. Discover Skills BC News Release

2014 Killam Prize winners announced

The Canada Council for the Arts has announced the 2014 Killam Prize winners. Often considered the Nobel Prize of Canada, the Killam Prize recognizes individuals “who have boldly and consistently pushed the boundaries of our understanding of the world,” said Joseph L Rotman, Chair of the Canada Council. “Each has aspired to excellence in their chosen disciplines and to improving the lives of people around the globe through their research and scholarly pursuits.” The winners are: Sajeev John, a physicist and pioneering theoretician from the University of Toronto; Andreas Mandelis, an engineer who specializes in diagnostic applications of lasers in applied physics at uToronto; James Miller, an historian at the University of Saskatchewan; Francis Plummer, chief scientific officer of the Public Health Agency of Canada and an HIV/AIDS researcher at the University of Manitoba; and Fraser Taylor, cybercartography pioneer at Carleton University. The recipients each receive $100,000. Canada Council News Release |Winnipeg Free Press | uSask News Release | uToronto News Release | uManitoba News Release | Carleton News Release 

Co-op programs continue to grow in Canada

Following up on a recent report by the Council of Ontario Universities about co-op programs in Ontario, a University Affairs article explores the rapid growth of co-ops in Canada, questioning “whether the rapid expansion can continue without compromising the quality of students’ experiences.” A 2013 report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, using research conducted by Academica Group, discovered that although students considered co-ops and other work-integrated learning programs very valuable, over half of college students and 9% of university students reported participating in unpaid co-op programs. A growing number of organizations and individuals are calling for more oversight from the province around internship and co-op placements to ensure workplace safety for students. "Not all internships are created equal," said Josh Mandryk, co-chair of Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams. "We have serious concerns about the broad exclusion from minimum wage for any and all internships through post-secondary programs.” The COU report also warned that a future challenge will be to ensure that there are enough co-op placements to meet the growing demand. University Affairs | The Charlatan

Childcare Initiative launched at uManitoba

The University of Manitoba has launched a Childcare Initiative that will explore the university’s childcare needs and established best practices and business models around childcare and early learning care services. A 2013 report by a uManitoba childcare working group highlighted several areas that could be improved, such as the lack of available childcare spaces on- and off-campus. “Access to high quality licensed childcare is essential for student success and to reconcile the work and family needs of our staff and faculty,” said uManitoba President David Barnard. “Through the Childcare Initiative, we hope to garner a better understanding of the issues faced by parents in our student, staff and faculty communities, and explore meaningful ways to address those issues.” It is estimated that 11% of students and half of staff and faculty at uManitoba are parents. uManitoba News

Report finds Chinese students are different, not deficient

The growing number of international students in North American PSE classrooms is a much discussed topic in the PSE media, but according to a new report, many of these students, and particularly those from China, are depicted in a “discourse of deficit” that focuses on the challenges these students face without offering contextual or cultural background information. The report looked at the experiences of 18 Chinese students at US 4-year institutions that had no prior education experience outside of China, showing that many of the students’ issues – with writing, critical thinking, speaking in class, and understanding cultural references – were related to educational and cultural expectations in China. According to the report, these students spent a large amount of extra time on assignments and preparing for class, and all of them had attended writing workshops. The result of this work was a greater sense of cultural and intellectual competence on the part of the students, highlighting the importance of support servicesfor international students. "Above and beyond, it is pertinent to understand that abilities, attitudes, behaviors, and values are not static but can change in response to different contexts," reads the report. Inside Higher Ed

MOOCs go bricks and mortar

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become increasingly popular in countries around the globe, with Coursera alone registering more than 7 million users – more than the entire university population of the UK and France combined. But students in these MOOCs, which are essentially designed around independent, self-guided learning, are becoming more interested in learning with others. Learning hubs, where students meet to take MOOCs together, have popped up all over in many different forms. Some are more formal, where students follow online lectures and assignments together, and others are casual meet-ups where students discuss topics and assignments with others taking the same MOOC. Some learning hubs, like one in Moscow, Russia, recruit experts to answer questions and act as mentors. Traditionally, MOOCs have very low completion rates, but according to Coursera’s coordinator of international development, completion rates for students attending learning hubs is much higher, between 30-100%. BBC

Postscript: May 2 2014

Coursera will create 8 “learning hubs”—brick-and-mortar classrooms where students can meet, collaborate, and receive in-person instruction and tutoring from course facilitators. One of the new hubs is slated to open at Brainstation in Toronto, while 2 will be located in the US. The first US location will open at Dominican University of California, followed by another at the New York Public Library. Other locations will open in South Africa, Ukraine, China, Italy, and Mexico. Coursera says that the learning hubs see a higher success rate than online-only teaching options. The completion rate in the brick-and-mortar environment tops 30%, compared with just 6.8% average for all courses offered by Coursera partners. Inside Higher Ed

Yale student told to gain weight or face expulsion

A Yale University student has won her battle with the university and will no longer have to force herself to eat junk food. When 92-pound Frances Chan visited Yale’s medical centre for a lump she found, she was accused of having an eating disorder and was threatened with expulsion after university doctors told her she was dangerously underweight. Chan explained to the medical staff that her size was a natural result of her Taiwanese genes, but she was told her weight could kill her and was urged to put on weight. Chan began to avoid exercise and eat poorly and often in an attempt to gain weight, but after only gaining 2 pounds she gave it up. Yale has now accepted that she does not have an eating disorder, reports the National Post. Chan said it was “right for Yale to monitor students for weight issues, but criticised the ‘blind’ reliance on the BMI as the primary indicator for physical health.” National Post

Coalition works to improve data standards for non-degree programs

The Workforce Credentials Coalition has been formed by 20 US states in order to create joint data standards and data sharing agreements for non-degree credentials, like industry certifications. The foundation is working to develop “a unified data framework between colleges and employers,” as, currently, data is limited on whether students are meeting industry-specified competencies. On a similar note, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a report this week, “Credential Data Pioneers: Forging new partnerships to measure certifications and licenses,” that examines states and schools that have forged data-sharing agreements with certification bodies and licensing agencies to improve non-degree programs. Inside Higher Ed | Report