Top Ten

May 1, 2014

BC judge rules Capilano cannot cut programs without Senate consultation

A judge in British Columbia has ruled in favour of the Capilano University Faculty Association (CFA) in its contention that proper consultation did not occur before courses and programs were cut in the 2013–14 academic year. CFA had alleged that Capilano University made the cuts to programs in art, technology, and science “without effective input and consultation from the university’s senate” as stipulated in the University Act. Justice John Savage ruled that “the Capilano Board must seek the advice of the Capilano Senate and the Capilano Senate must advise the Capilano Board on the development of an education policy for the discontinuance of courses and programs before the university can discontinue any courses or programs, including those purported to be discontinued by the 2013/2014 budget.” The CFA commented that “this decision is significant for Capilano and the entire new university sector.” CFA News Release | Full Ruling

OPSEU pushes for co-governance, academic freedom for college faculty

A new report released by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) outlines what it describes as “serious challenges” to educators’ “ability to provide high quality education.” The report cites reductions in government funding, a lack of guaranteed academic freedom, an outdated workload formula, a push toward online courses, and a lack of full-time faculty as key challenges faced by college educators. The report goes on to recommend the creation of an “all-party select committee on Ontario post-secondary education” to address issues of funding, tuition, and student debt; the addition of articles on academic freedom to college faculty collective bargaining agreements; and the creation of a task force on college co-governance that would include members of the college faculty union, the College Employer’s Council, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and university administration. OPSEU News Release | Full Report

Venezuelan students denied access to tuition, living allowance

Venezuelan students at the University of Calgary are being deeply affected by strife back home. Students were notified that the Venezuelan Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange (CADIVI) had not made expected tuition payments. The CADIVI, established in 2003 to regulate Venezuelan citizens' ability to move funds abroad, oversees all money transfers out of the country in order to help stabilize its currency. Students pay their tuition, as well as a monthly living allowance, directly to CADIVI, who then transfers the payments to uCalgary; neither the tuition fees nor the living allowance have made it to Canada. Venezuela is currently facing a wave of anti-government protests in response to rapid inflation and goods shortages. uCalgary VP Enrolment/Registrar David Johnston said that the university is working with the students to find a solution. CBC

NSERC invests in collaborative big data cancer research

NSERC, Genome Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) yesterday announced $7.3 million in funding to facilitate collaboration between Canadian and international partners who are working to fight cancer. The money will be used to help develop “big data” analytic tools that can process massive amounts of genetic data. The funding will also contribute to the creation of the Cancer Genome Collaboratory, a cloud computing facility that will process genetic profiles provided by the International Cancer Genome Consortium. Select researchers will be able to beta test the tools in 2015, with the facility opening up to the broader community in 2016. The project will be funded through NSERC’s Discovery Frontiers initiative and is the result of an unprecedented, NSERC-initiated partnership between federal granting organizations including Genome Canada, the CFI, and the CIHR. NSERC News Release

1 in 30 students turn to stimulants as study aids

A survey of University of British Columbia students has found that 3.3% of undergraduates used un-prescribed ADHD stimulants. The use of such drugs is illegal without a prescription; however, students anecdotally reported that it is not difficult to find someone who has a prescription and is willing to share or sell their drugs. One student added that use of stimulants is common among students during exam season. Patricia Mirwaldt, Director of UBC Student Health Services, noted that there are potentially significant side effects associated with many ADHD drugs, including addiction. Mirwaldt added that there are currently no rules at UBC against using stimulant drugs as study aids, but that student health services departments from across BC will meet in May to discuss harm reduction of study drugs, among other matters. Approximately 2000 students responded to the National College Health Assessment survey. Vancouver Sun

uToronto cancels inner-city program for student teachers

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education has cancelled a program designed to help student teachers work with impoverished inner-city children. The program, run by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), helped student teachers reach out to inner-city children and their families and perform community work with local agencies. OISE explained its decision, saying that the “inner-city pedagogical approach should be made available to all elementary teacher candidates, to address diversity in classrooms.” Some Toronto District School Board trustees, however, argue that the program plays a critical role in ensuring that OISE-trained teachers have first-hand experience with impoverished urban youth. Toronto Principal Marguerite Campbell, who coordinated the program, commented that the move will have a major negative impact on those communities served by the student teachers, as well as student teachers’ ability to meet the challenges of working with inner-city youth. Toronto Star

Parents value higher education but aren’t effectively saving for it

Parents say that they are willing to pay for their children’s education, but data indicate that parental help plays only a modest role in covering students' PSE costs. The federal government’s figures show that Canadians have invested $35.6 billion in RESPs, contributing $3.6 billion annually. However, a survey commissioned by the Globe and Mail found that just 33% of Canadian young people said their parents saved in an RESP to help pay for their education. 46% said their parents had not saved in an RESP at all; the rest of the respondents preferred not to answer or did not know. 60% of students polled said that none of their PSE costs were covered by their parents' RESPs. Marc Cevey, CEO of HSBC Global Asset Management (Canada) suggested that parents may not be able to contribute as much as they’d like to RESPs due to conflicting priorities, such as mortgage payments or daycare costs; however, he added that the financial industry could do more to help parents plan. Globe and Mail

Study analyzes students’ perceptions of digital learning formats

A new study published in Research in Learning Technology unpacks what predictors most influence students’ perceptions of digital learning formats. The report found that individual characteristics such as motivation and orientation patterns had the greatest impact on how students rated the importance of technology formats. The study also found that students’ responses varied by faculty. Students in economic sciences found digital learning formats significantly more important than their counterparts in social sciences. Students who valued flexible course offerings, in particular, found digital learning formats to be especially important. Full Report

Scholars discuss how to engage policymakers

Scholars met at Tufts University on Tuesday to discuss the challenges they faced in engaging policymakers with their research. The event brought together academic and non-academic policy researchers to discuss a number of outreach issues. Though programs now exist to facilitate dialogues between academics and policymakers, participants suggested that internal disciplinary criteria can make it difficult to do the kind of research policymakers need or want to see. Others cited difficulties effectively translating academic research into more accessible formats. Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, noted that there is frequently a gap between what scholars can offer non-academic audiences and what they are able to effectively communicate. One theme that emerged from the conference was the importance of persistence: several attendees also encouraged academics to embrace social media platforms to reach out to interested parties. The Chronicle of Higher Education

ConnectEDU files for bankruptcy

Boston-based ed-tech startup ConnectEDU has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In September, the firm had received a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an online learning platform tied to the Common Core State Standards; however, it on Monday indicated that it would be unable to meet payments to its over 200 creditors, including The New York Times Co. and AOL. According to the bankruptcy filing, the company holds assets worth between $1 and $10 million, with liabilities in an amount between $10 and $50 million. Approximately 50 employees lost their jobs. In a press release issued to BostInnoConnectEDU indicated plans to “pursue sale and restructuring alternatives to enable the CoursEval business to exit chapter 11.” ConnectEDU is a tool designed to help students and advisors track performance in order to facilitate education and career planning. The company maintains a significant database of student information.BostInno | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Postscript: May 21, 2014

Ed-tech startup ConnectEDU, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has sold Academic Management Systems and its CoursEval software line to the North Atlantic Capital Corporation. Academic Management Systems developed CoursEval nearly 20 years ago; it is currently in use by approximately 300 colleges to evaluate courses and instructors. Brian Hopewell, VP of Academic Management Systems, said that the sale will “allow us to bring more resources to bear on innovation and growth.” The sale will require court approval in order to be finalized. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed