Top Ten

April 21, 2014

19-year-old Western student arrested in CRA breach

RCMP have arrested Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes, a 19-year-old computer science student at Western University, in connection with the security breach of the Canada Revenue Agency’s website. Solis-Reyes has been charged with one count of unauthorized use of a computer and one count of mischief in relation to data. The security breach was possible because of website vulnerability caused by the Heartbleed bug; the CRA reported last week that 900 SIN numbers had been stolen. The CRA has said its own investigation into the breach found no evidence that other infiltrations took place either before or after the reported breach. Solis-Reyes turned himself in to police, and is scheduled to appear in court in Ottawa on July 17CBC |Financial Post | Toronto Star

Colleges receive almost $40 million for applied research initiatives

Last week, Minister of State for Science and Technology Ed Holder announced almost $40 million in funding for colleges in Canada to support applied research and development (R&D) projects in partnership with industry. The grants are provided through the College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program and the College-Industry Innovation Fund (CIIF), and will fund 18 multi-year projects focusing on building local innovation capacity in areas such as forestry, manufacturing, green buildings, and wastewater treatment. A portion of the funds will allow colleges to purchase specialized research equipment. “These investments help businesses tap into the talented people at Canada’s colleges, to stay at the forefront of innovation. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the ability of colleges to help businesses innovate, stimulating our economy and training the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Janet Walden, COO of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). NSERC News Release

St Thomas More College adds classroom and study areas in historic expansion

St Thomas More College in Saskatoon has added 20,000 square feet of office, classroom and study space in its largest expansion effort in half a century. “This historic expansion enables us to more effectively deliver the transformative learning experience for which STM is already well known,” said STM President Terrence Downey. He added, “However proud we are of our beautiful new facility, it is simply a means to a much greater end: the provision of exemplary scholarship and obligation to provide a dynamic student-centered intellectual experience for those who come to study here.” The expansion has been funded by the college’s ongoing “Creating More” campaign, which also enabled STM to add an endowed chair in Catholic Studies. STM News Release | Global

SIAST updates online learning system

The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology has adopted the Desire2Learn (D2L) Integrated Learning Platform and enhanced its online learning technologies, incorporating social tools and improved mobile capabilities. “The new platform is pivotal to advancing SIAST’s strategic goals of maximizing student success and leveraging educational innovation,” says Arnold Boldt, AVP, Academic and Research. The improved technologies will allow SIAST to offer enhanced student learning opportunities, with expanded access to programming. SIAST News Release

Universities must play a role in attracting and keeping talent in Atlantic Canada

The Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) is urging its members to team with governments and the private sector to take action attracting and retaining international and out-of-province students. The organization issued the call in response to new reports from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) and the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy. The former report shows that the number of international and out-of-province students in Atlantic Canada is growing rapidly, while the latter argues that building a better economy is required to maintain this talent. The AAU says that universities can help by providing a highly trained talent pool for businesses in the Atlantic provinces. However, moving forward will require strong partnerships between universities, governments, and the private sector. The AAU cites the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program as one opportunity for further collaboration. AAU Policy Paper | MPHEC Report | Nova Scotia Commission Report

Canadian PSE institutions form new partnerships to benefit students

The King’s University College in Edmonton has recently signed an agreement with The Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies that will allow students to more easily access field-based environmental education programs offered by Au Sable. As a sustaining partner, The King’s UC will be able to add more than 20 new courses to its curriculum offerings in biology, chemistry, and international development. The King’s UC students can now take Au Sable’s university-level program for academic credit. Ontario’s Seneca College has also recently formed a new partnership, with Amadeus Training Services, that will provide Tourism and Travel Services students with a highly customized curriculum. Vic Pynn, COO of Amadeus, said the “new partnership will deliver quality education to students and deliver more travel professionals to serve the needs of the industry and travelers into the future.” The King’s UC News Release | Au Sable News Release | Amadeus News Release

International grad school enrolments climb but observers remain cautious

A new report from the US-based Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) indicates a growing number of international students are applying to U.S. graduate programs, driven mainly by an increased number of applicants from India. The same report found that the number of Chinese applicants fell by 3 percent. The authors suggest these numbers are cause for concern. Chinese graduate applications had steadily increased over several years before a decline last year. Observers had hoped that a decline last year was an aberration. Meanwhile, the uptick in Indian applications may not be sustainable. Indian application numbers have historically been erratic, and Debra W. Stewart, President of the CGS, suggested that changes in UK student-visa regulations, as well as the rupee’s weakness against the US dollar, may be contributing factors to this year’s numbers. Overall applications rose by 7%, primarily in engineering, business, and physical and earth sciences programs (including computer science and mathematics). Inside Higher Ed The Chronicle of Higher Education

Economic value of degrees highly variable

Students who expect a strong financial return on their education investment should look to engineering as a safe bet. A new American study has calculated the value of a degree based on total cost and annual return over 20 years. Hard subjects like engineering yielded the most reliable return, while the value of arts and humanities courses varied widely depending on the institution from which the degree was obtained. The study, The Economist reports, brings into relief the need for greater transparency around degree ROI. As online options become increasingly viable and brick-and-mortar costs continue to increase, universities will have to reevaluate their value propositions or face considerable challenges attracting financially minded students. PayScale College Salary Report | The Economist

For-profit adjunct-centric open learning firm wins approval in Vermont

Vermont has approved Oplerno, a for-profit “open learning organization” that claims to offer its instructors “complete control over the creation, content, and ownership of their courses.” Oplerno’s courses can now qualify for college and university credits, though approval will still be at the discretion of individual institutions. Oplerno’s instructors design and maintain ownership of course content; moreover, they are able to set  the price for a course and earn 80% to 90% of generated revenue. 80 faculty members have already signed on. Oplerno, whose name stands for “open learning organization,” hopes to offer as many as 100 courses by 2014 in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The Chronicle of Higher Education |Oplerno

K-12 students become less engaged over time

A new study of K-12 students in the US has found that K-12 students become increasingly disengaged as they progress through school, with a negative impact on their overall quality of life. According to the report, “emotional engagement is the noncognitive measure most directly related to academic achievement.” Moreover, nearly half of those students surveyed lacked hope in the future. The report further noted that teachers play a critical role in staving off disengagement. 63% of students who strongly agreed that they had “at least one teacher who makes me excited about the future” qualified as hopeful, 70% were engaged with school, and 72% were considered thriving. However, only 31% of K-12 teachers were found to be engaged in their job. The study evaluated students’ levels of hope, engagement, and well-being. The survey was completed by over 600,000 students in grades 5 through 12. Gallup Full Report