Top Ten

May 22, 2014

uManitoba partners with Magellan on satellite facility

The University of Manitoba has partnered with the Canadian government and Magellan Aerospace to create the Advanced Satellite Integration Facility (ASIF). Magellan will provide $2 million and 6,000 square feet of space for the project, while Western Economic Diversification will contribute $2.4 million. The initiative will also lead to the creation of a research chair in satellite development at uManitoba, to be in place by spring 2015. The facility itself is expected to be completed this summer; equipment will be commissioned by next spring. Red River College is also expected to participate in the project in the future, as will Manitoba high schools. “There are already a number of collaborations between the university and Magellan both in the space and satellite side as well as aviation-related. The facility and the creation of a research chair will drastically expand that scope of co-operation,” said Jonathan Beddoes, Dean of Engineering at uManitoba. Winnipeg Free Press | Magellan News Release

MUN partners with ROM to retain whale skeleton

Memorial University of Newfoundland has signed an agreement with the Royal Ontario Museum that will allow the skeleton of a blue whale to remain in NL and be displayed at MUN in the future. 2 blue whales washed up on the shores of NL in late April after dying in unusually thick ice offshore. The ROM originally planned to treat both whales and transport them to Ontario, but the costs involved proved prohibitive. The agreement with MUN will see ROM dismantle and treat both whales, but one will remain in NL to be further treated, under the advice of ROM researchers. The treatment process takes several years, so there is not yet a clear timeline for the display of the whale skeleton at MUN. “This is a rare opportunity,” said Mark Abrahams, Dean of the Faculty of Science at MUN. “Having the remains of a blue whale displayed at the university is a great teaching and learning opportunity for our students, staff and visitors.” MUN News | CBC | Globe and Mail (1) | Globe and Mail (2)

Report finds changes in teaching evaluation practices

A new study released by the American Association of University Professors reveals significant changes to faculty evaluations since the year 2000. The authors of the report emphasize 3 broad trends that emerged in the research, which compared a survey of 538 academic deans to base results from a 2000 study. First, the use of systematic student ratings has increased both in prevalence and in importance when making personnel decisions. Second, self-evaluation and classroom observation are becoming more common assessment practices. Finally, while department chairs and deans continue to play significant parts in evaluating teaching, their role has diminished in favour of committee-based evaluation. The authors note that it is unclear whether these changes correlate with any improvement in assessment practices, though those surveyed indicated their belief that improved evaluation practices would lead to improved teaching performance. (Meanwhile, several Ontario colleges are working with Academica Group to pilot an improved Teacher Evaluation tool, emphasizing the utility of the assessment for faculty. The results from this pilot will be available sometime in summer.) Education Dive | Full Report

New student-developed program maps campus accessibility

A student at McMaster University has created a mapping system that charts the accessibility of McMaster’s campus, and hopes that the system can be used at other campuses. Called Campus Accessibility Mapping Project (CAMP), the mapping system uses the colours red, yellow, and green to relate to users whether a route or building is easily accessible or best avoided. Creator Nick Schoenhoff has plans to develop an app in the future that would provide real-time updates, such as routes blocked by snow. Schoenhoff hopes to make the first days on campus a little easier for those with accessibility issues. "You show up for orientation and they hand you a map," he said. "That's hard enough, but imagine if you're in a wheelchair." Hamilton Spectator

Douglas uses near field communications to reach commuters

Douglas College in Vancouver is using near field communications (NFC) technology as a means to share student stories with commuters on their mobile devices. Douglas has turned its mural at the Vancouver City Centre SkyTrain station into a digital hotspot. When a passerby holds an NFC-enabled device close to the mural, they are instantly connected to profiles of students featured in the advertisement. Douglas has also rolled out NFC-enabled posters at bus shelters across Vancouver. Dave Taylor, Douglas’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said “we’re always looking for new ways to share the great stories about our students and graduates. And with mobile technology being so pervasive, NFC is an exciting and convenient way to share those stories with people on the go.” Douglas News Release

Dalhousie shares seed collection with students and community

Dalhouse University’s MacRae Library is re-purposing its card catalogues to house a new seed library. The library, located at Dalhousie’s agricultural campus in Bible Hill, lets patrons choose from approximately 875 packets of seeds to grow in their own gardens. In exchange, borrowers donate a portion of the seeds harvested from their crop back to the library. The collection includes more than 86 varieties of plants organized by the level of skill required to save the next generation of seeds. So far, approximately 5,000 seeds have circulated from the MacRae collection, which is reportedly the only seed library in Canada funded entirely by a PSE institution. Seed library coordinator Jolene Reid said, “folks have been saving seeds for thousands of years … But for the last few generations, it’s a skill set that’s kind of disappearing.” University Affairs

Forthcoming report finds that interns are primarily female, often underpaid

A new report from researchers at the University of Victoria and the Canadian Intern Association says that the majority of interns are women and make less than the minimum wage. The report comes as several provinces, including Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Alberta are critically examining the prevalence of unpaid internships. Claire Seaborn, head of the Canadian Intern Association, said that a lack of federal data makes it difficult to determine the exact number of unpaid internships in Canada. The new report, however, found that 83% of interns surveyed said that they earned less than the provincial minimum wage or nothing at all. Most of the survey’s participants were female; the authors of the report point out that many of the industries that rely most heavily on unpaid interns, including media, entertainment, and journalism, are female-dominated. Seaborn also noted that government funding for internships is frequently targeted at traditionally male-dominated STEM fields. Toronto Star | CTV

Aboriginal students policy paper released by OUSA

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has released a policy paper on Aboriginal students with several recommendations designed to improve education outcomes. OUSA notes the connections between low high school completion rates and low PSE completion rates, and therefore recommends that the federal and provincial governments invest in Aboriginal K-12 education both on- and off-reserve. OUSA further recommends that the provincial government work to better integrate Aboriginal content into Ontario school curricula and all teacher-training programs. Other recommendations include the removal of the federal cap on funds for Aboriginal education; expansion of the Aboriginal Bursary program; targeted funding for Métis learners; sustainable, long-term funding for Aboriginal student centres; dedicated career services for Aboriginal students; and institutional transformations to “ensure Ontario’s universities provide a welcoming environment, that values Aboriginal cultures and systems of knowledge.” OUSA is also calling for an evaluation framework that will determine the impact of recommended initiatives. OUSA News | Full Report

CBU prof encourages honour codes as a way to reduce plagiarism

A Cape Breton University professor is asking Canadian universities to consider adopting honour codes as a means to limit plagiarism. Todd Pettigrew says that simply educating students on how to cite sources properly will not solve the issue, noting that plagiarism is rarely an honest mistake that stems from a lack of knowledge. Rather, he says that educators must convince students that cheating “is beneath their dignity.” Existing plagiarism polices are too easily overlooked or ignored by students; however, “moral reminders” have been shown to be an effective means to encourage honourable behaviour. Pettigrew says that he has used a “statement of originality” effectively in his own classes, and points to Quest University’s “Honour Principle” as one possible model for universities to follow. Maclean’s

Law School Admission Council revises accommodation policies following lawsuit

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) will no longer flag the scores of students with disabilities who received extra time to write the LSAT. The decision comes in the wake of a lawsuit that alleged that LSAC’s policy to identify students who took extra time violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. LSAC defended its former policies even as it announced the changes; in a statement, it noted that “professional testing standards support LSAC’s practice of annotating such LSAT scores.” LSAC further announced that it will “streamline” its process for reviewing requests for accommodations from students with disabilities, and agreed to rules for “automatically granting most testing accommodations” that a candidate has previously received for standardized admissions exams. LSAC will also pay a $7.73 million penalty as the result of the lawsuit. Inside Higher Ed