Top Ten

May 12, 2014

uSask formally opens new health sciences building

University of Saskatchewan President Ilene Busch-Vishniac formally opened the university’s new health sciences building last week. The facility is the largest capital building project in uSask history and the grand opening has been a decade in the making. The project was funded by over $300 million from the provincial government as well as $10 million in donations from Leslie and Irene Dubé, for whom a library and lecture hall will be named. The building features classrooms, laboratories, clinical learning resources, collaborative learning spaces, as well as a library specializing in the health sciences. Its completion means that most of uSask’s health sciences programming can be offered under one roof. uSask News Release | Global

Donation to uAlberta will help make construction industry greener

A $10-million gift from an Alberta home builder will establish the Nasseri School of Building Science and Engineering at the University of Alberta. Reza Nasseri, founder of Landmark Homes, made the donation so that researchers at uAlberta can study ways of making residential construction greener, safer, and cheaper. “My motivation is to lower carbon emissions and waste associated with residential construction, to increase sustainability and to improve the quality of homes being built,” said Nasseri. “I want to make sure that this technology advances. If you push technology, you can cut the cycle of change down to 10 years or less. Now we have a school where we will educate people and develop technologies to reduce waste and produce better homes.” Nasseri has already made efforts in his own company to reduce its carbon footprint; whole sections of Landmark homes are built in a manufacturing plant in Edmonton before being moved and assembled on-site, reducing waste material, fuel use, and CO2 emissions. The new school in the engineering faculty will involve students and researchers from several engineering fields. uAlberta News Release | Edmonton Journal

CICMH launches online mental health community website

The Center for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH) has launched a new website to help campus mental health practitioners better support the needs of Ontario’s college and university students. The website offers a resource database that covers a wide variety of topics, including accessibility, crisis prevention, mental health training, and peer support. The web site will feature free monthly webinars on key mental health topics, as well as an interactive map of mental health initiatives across the province. As part of the website, CICMH launched a new Campus Mental Health Community of Practice platform to foster collaboration between mental health practitioners in Ontario’s PSE sector. This platform offers members access to experts and a way to share programs, policies, and practices across institutions. Mental health has become a point of priority for many PSE institutions. CICMH

Telfer, Aussie university partner for defence-focused MBA program

The University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management has partnered with Australia’s Queensland University of Technology to offer a 3-year program in Complex Program Leadership and Strategic Procurement. The Complex Program Leadership program will emphasize creative thinking, project organization, and crisis management skills; the Strategic Procurement course will offer students instruction on international contract law and IP strategy and management, focusing especially on the defence and security sectors. Telfer Dean François Julien says the partnership will help “address a regional and national need.” The program will be delivered through a hybrid model, combining web-based learning and an international study tour, and will be accessible to candidates anywhere in the world. The program will also include 6 one-week residential sessions over 3 years. Ottawa Business Journal | uOttawa News Release

New consortium to tackle Alzheimer’s research in Quebec

The Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS) and Pfizer Canada have pledged $3.7 million to the creation of a consortium and to the funding of 6 individual research projects aimed at the early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The funds, provided through the Pfizer-FRQS Innovation Fund for Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, will establish the Consortium pour l'identification précoce de la maladie d'Alzheimer – Québec (CIMA-Q), which will bring together more than 90 researchers in the field of Alzheimer’s research. The consortium will receive $2.5 million over 3 years. The 6 individual research projects will each receive up to $200,000 and are led by researchers at multiple PSE institutions in Quebec. "The consortium and the innovative projects will tackle health issues that are of major importance to Québecers and mobilize multidisciplinary teams of expert researchers in the province's leading institutions," stated Vratislav Hadrava, VP and Medical Director, Pfizer Canada. FRQS News Release

Advice for making teaching evaluations more useful

A recent Slate article on teaching evaluations has once again prompted discussions on how to make their results more meaningful to faculty and administration. In her piece, Rebecca Schuman argues that teaching evaluations are unreliable measures of quality. Chronicle of Higher Education contributor Jonathan Malesic offers 4 suggestions on improving their value: supplement evaluations with other measures, such as student competencies and skills after the course; understand the specific limitations and capabilities of the evaluation instrument being used; acknowledge that evaluation scores tend to correlate with students’ expected grades; and stop saving evaluations for the end of the course. Slate | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Need-based grants increase likelihood of degree completion

A new US study has examined the effects of different funding models on low-income student degree completion rates. Need-based grants increase chances to complete a degree within 6 years, while unsubsidized federal loans significantly reduce the chance of obtaining a degree in that time. Low-income students were between 2.52% and 2.82% more likely to graduate for every $1,000 in additional need-based aid they received. State need-based grants were also found to have a positive impact on likelihood to graduate, but did not make as much of a difference as federal aid. Merit grant aid from state or institutional sources or other grants were not found to have a significant impact on the likelihood of degree completion. Per the report, the benefits of supporting need-based funding can provide a long-term economic benefit at the state level while unsubsidized loans have a negative economic impact. American Educational Research Association | Full Study

Udemy raises $32 million in latest fundraising round

Udemy, a “global marketplace for learning and teaching online,” has raised $32 million in Series C financing to expand its product with additional content. The funding round was led by Norwest Venture Partners and brings the company’s total financing to $48 million. The firm has grown its revenue by 300% over the last 12 months and claims to serve over 3 million students. It offers 16,000 courses, adding approximately 1,000 every month. The site boasts that it offers students the ability to choose what they learn and how they are taught, and offers instructors a way to monetize their expertise. The funding will go toward the company’s international expansion as well as the development of new tools to help instructors engage with their students, such as analytical aids. Udemy recently partnered with LinkedIn and other MOOC providers to create a "Direct to Profile Certifications" program. Inside Higher Ed | Udemy News Release

Competency-based ed faces financial aid challenges

A new report outlines some of the challenges schools implementing a competency-based education (CBE) model face when it comes to US financial aid frameworks. Present federal financial aid models, the authors say, are designed around traditional, credit-hour based structures of education. Because CBE students are assessed on competencies rather than the time spent in a given course, it can be difficult to determine their enrolment status for financial aid purposes. Because CBE courses lack designated start and end dates, they can also create problems for disbursement schedules. Moreover, measures of “satisfactory academic progress”—requirements that must be met to retain access to aid—typically rely on GPA, which CBE systems do not use. The report offers a number of recommendations to ameliorate these challenges; however, the authors urge careful testing and planning to determine the best course of action before any full-scale implementation of new financial aid regulations takes place. Full Report

uMichigan sets up nap stations for students

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has launched an initiative designed to help students that spend long hours in the library studying for final exams: nap stations. The pilot program at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library is designed for students who live off-campus; the napping stations have a 30-minute limit and include lockers for student to keep valuables while sleeping. The university’s Central Student Government proposed the stations and library staff supported the idea. Power-naps have long been viewed as valuable performance-boosters, with benefits to student’s academic performance, levels of alertness, and overall mental health. Other schools across North America have taken similar approaches; Indiana University, citing benefits of naps on overall health, created a nap club that provided space for midday naps. The Chronicle of Higher Education