Top Ten

June 18, 2014

uCalgary receives $200-million for medical research

The University of Calgary has received one of the largest donations ever made to a Canadian university. Calgary-based investor and economist Geoffrey Cumming announced on Tuesday that he will give $100 million to help fund medical research and innovation at the institution; moreover, Alberta premier Dave Hancock announced that the province will match the historic donation. The funding will support research into brain and mental health as well as infections, inflammation, and chronic diseases. Cumming said, "this gift is about attracting more of the world's best researchers to Alberta and to inspire and challenge them to make significant medical advances of benefit to Alberta and to the whole world." uCalgary President Elizabeth Cannon added, "this combined support is helping foster world-class medical research in this province. The leadership both Geoff and the Province have shown by investing in our students and researchers is extraordinary." uCalgary will name the Cumming School of Medicine in honour of the gift. uCalgary News Release | Globe and Mail

Georgian, Lakehead plan ambitious expansion

Georgian College and Lakehead University will partner in a new initiative to expand undergraduate capacity in Barrie, Orillia, Simcoe County, and the greater Central Ontario region. On Monday, the 2 institutions presented to the City of Barrie plans to offer undergraduate spaces for 6,000 students in 50 degree programs by 2030. Georgian and Lakehead say they will be able to accommodate 2,000 additional students without needing to build new infrastructure. After that point, the institutions plan to build 2 new facilities. In downtown Barrie, they will create space for 1,000 Design and Visual Arts students and also develop an entrepreneurship hub and business incubator. They also expect to construct a new building on Georgian’s current campus in Barrie with space for 600 students in engineering, technology, environment, and science programs. “Our region has fallen behind on needed undergraduate degree education. We believe our plan resolves that dilemma immediately. Given approval, we could start tomorrow,” said Georgian President MaryLynn West-Moynes. Georgian News Release

McMaster breaks ground on new fine arts facility

McMaster University broke ground on Monday on its new Dr Robert and Andrée Rhéaume Fitzhenry Studios and Atrium. The facility, to be completed in early 2015, offers expanded classroom, studio, and display space and will also function as a reception area. The project was funded in part by a $3-million gift from McMaster alumnus Robert Fitzhenry, for whom the atrium is named. Fitzhenry made the donation, the largest ever to McMaster’s fine arts program, in honour of his late wife Andrée. “This is the single most powerful learning tool the School of Arts has ever had. It has the potential to redefine horizons for the Faculty of Humanities. It will be a new platform to engage both the campus and local community,” said McMaster’s Acting Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities, Ken Cruikshank. McMaster News

Ontario Online helps Queen’s offer 13 new online courses

Queen’s University is expanding its online course offerings thanks to the Ontario Online initiative. Queen’s was awarded 13 of the 68 courses allocated by Ontario Online to 19 Ontario PSE institutions. 12 of the courses were developed by Continuing and Distance Studies (CDS) at Queen’s with the Faculties of Arts and Science and Health Science, while the thirteenth was developed by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. The courses cover introductory topics ranging from anatomy to literary studies to economics. Queen’s will also pilot a new teaching assessment survey that will allow them to make adjustments and improvements to their online offerings. “All the quality indicators can be ticked off for these courses. We have activities to promote interactivity, our course design reflects current best practices and approaches, we have clearly articulated student outcomes, and more” said Brenda Ravenscroft, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning in Queen’s Faculty of Arts and Science. Queen’s News Release

HEQCO releases "cautious" report on competency-based education

A new report published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario evaluates the cost, quality, productivity, and accountability of competency-based education (CBE). The report urges a cautious approach to CBE in Ontario. The authors note that it is plausible that CBE is a more reliable approach to delivering job-related skills, but say that they “could find no evidence to support the argument that competency-based education provides a better platform for student success.” Nor did they find evidence that employers have more confidence in CBE grads than non-CBE grads. They also emphasize the many differences between PSE in Ontario and the US, where CBE has received vocal support, pointing out that there is a “very large market niche” for CBE in the US that does not exist to the same extent in Ontario. The report also notes several structural and cultural challenges facing institutions hoping to adopt CBE in liberal arts, humanities, and science curricula. It concludes with a number of possible ways to better link the connections between degrees, competencies, and job-readiness. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

New data on Canadian attitudes toward technology and education

A new report details Canadian beliefs and attitudes about the future of education. Most respondents were satisfied that the education system prepares them well for what they are doing today or will do in the future. However, respondents were divided when asked about flexible learning arrangements and technology. 33% said that the education system was “Good/Excellent” at allowing them to learn at their own pace, and 34% said it was “Good/Excellent” at adjusting to their individual learning styles and needs. 33% said that the education system was “Good/Excellent” at using technology as a learning tool, while 35% said it was “Poor.” 78% agreed that “universities & colleges should be incorporating more digital education.” 77% said they would consider taking a massive open online course (MOOC) as part of their PSE, and 79% agreed that “a MOOC outperforms traditional learning by being more flexible.” An overwhelming majority (82%) of respondents said that they’d like Canadian decision makers to focus more on preparing students to succeed in the work world, while 69% said they want to see more of a focus on making education affordable. PwC Report Summary | Full Report

Use and management of agents by Canadian institutions highly variable

A new report issued by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada outlines the use of education agents by Canadian schools. According to the report, the use of agents is common across Canada’s international education system except in Quebec, where administrators reported difficulties tapping into the demand for English-language education that typically drives international enrolment. The report also says that the recruitment and management of agents varies within Canada’s education systems. Institutions employ varying levels of regulation, with some using robust internal or provincial protocols and others relying on student complaints or feedback from peer institutions. Lesser-known institutions were more likely to depend on agents to build brand awareness than “super-league” institutions. Some respondents whose institutions depend on agents for enrolment expressed reluctance to terminate an agent’s contract even if misconduct occurred. Full Report

Udacity to offer "nanodegrees" for career advancement

Online education provider Udacity has announced that it will offer students “nanodegrees,” which VP Business Development & Partnerships Clarissa Shen describes as “a new type of credential for a modern workforce.” Nanodegrees are “compact, flexible, and job-focused credentials that are stackable throughout [a learner’s] career,” Shen said in a news release. Students will be able to complete a nanodegree in 6–12 months in order to help them qualify for a skilled job. Each degree’s curriculum will include hands-on training, a capstone project, and career guidance. Initially, Udacity will offer nanodegree credentials for careers in web development, mobile development, and data analysis. AT&T, who collaborated with Udacity in developing the nanodegree program, will offer up to 100 paid internships for students who complete programs and will furnish scholarships to qualified non-profit organizations. Inside Higher Ed | Udacity News Release

MOOC students mostly male, have PSE credentials

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released a number of high-level observations on the new data released by Harvard and MIT on massive open online courses (MOOCs). The data reveal that 76% of MOOC participants were male, compared with 43% of US college and university students. Most MOOC participants already had PSE degrees, though a significant number also reported having no more than a high-school education. The latter category figured most prominently in engineering and material science courses. Students as young as 12 participated in some courses, but social sciences courses and humanities courses skewed toward older students. African students were twice as likely to enrol in social science courses than in other courses, while South Asians favoured engineering and computer science. Only 3% of students looked at all of the content; less than 10% viewed as much as half the material. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Tennessee implements reverse transfer solution to award associate degrees

Tennessee community college students will soon be able to receive credit for associate degrees even after transferring to another institution. The state plans to implement AcademyOne, a software solution that facilitates “reverse transfer”—a process whereby community colleges can review qualifications for an associate degree of students who have completed requirements while pursuing a degree elsewhere. Approximately two-thirds of students who transfer from 2-year to 4-year institutions do so without completing their initial degree or diploma requirements; those who do not end up completing their bachelor’s degree are left with no credential at all. India Lane, AVP Academic Affairs and Student Success at the University of Tennessee, said, “students may not be aware that credits earned after transfer from a 2-year college can help round out their associate degree requirements. For transfer students, a reverse degree award provides a well-deserved stamp of accomplishment and appears to be a motivating factor to finish the 4-year degree.” Meanwhile, the initiatives will help colleges and universities improve their graduation rates. University Business