Top Ten

July 3, 2014

Concordia UC receives permission to change its name

Concordia University College of Alberta has received permission to officially change its name to Concordia University of Alberta. The designation of ‘university,’ Concordia UC said in a press release, verifies “the nationally and internationally recognized quality of Concordia’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs, as well as Concordia’s commitment to research.” The institution added that university status will support and enhance the faculty-led research culture, as well as benefiting students and alumni. Concordia UC News Release

Canadore signs partnership to create aerospace testing centre

Canadore College has partnered with Swiss Space Systems (S3) and the city of North Bay to provide S3 and future partners with testing facilities for the aerospace and aviation industries. Canadore has received $4 million in funding—$2 million from FedNor and $2 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund—to establish the Advanced Composites Fabrication, Repair and Test Centre. 80% of the facility will be used for industry research and innovation, with the remaining 20% used for student activities. S3 will conduct drop tests and mock-up test flights on small, suborbital shuttles and satellite launching systems at the facility. “In the name of our College, I’m very happy to see S3 coming to our region to work with our Aviation Campus which will provide the company with specialized expertise and support,” said Canadore President George Burton. “We trust that this partnership will lead to a long-term collaboration, a collaboration beginning with the forthcoming drop test campaign.” Canadore News Release |

New eLearning Rubric for members of eCampusAlberta

eCampusAlberta has launched a new online resource designed to help instructors and administrators at member institutions self-assess existing and future online courses. The eLearning Rubric has 6 categories of standards—Web, Course Information, Resource, Organization, Pedagogy, and Technology—and ranks entered course information as Essential, Excellent, or Exemplary. A ranking of Essential indicates that the course meets all necessary minimum standards, with courses ranked Excellent or Exemplary consisting of the minimum requirements plus advanced standards that contribute to the efficiency of a learner’s online experience, and enhance accessibility for learners, respectively. A report provides a summary of the results, allowing instructors to identify areas that do not meet minimum requirements and to update and enhance the rubric. “The eLearning Rubric is designed to make it easier for all members of the consortium to meet or exceed the quality standards—and provide the best possible learning experience for students,” said Barbara Armstrong, Quality Manager, eCampusAlberta. eCampusAlberta eZine | eLearning Rubric

Ottawa launches initiative to promote collaboration in electronics manufacturing

The federal government has announced the launch of the Refined Manufacturing Acceleration Process (ReMAP). The initiative aims to unite academic partners, research organizations, and private firms to share resources and knowledge required for developing technology for use in the electronics sector. ReMAP already has more than 25 network partners, including Concordia University, McGill University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, and Western University. “Working together, large industries, start-ups, and small and medium-sized enterprises will help build and strengthen a manufacturing ecosystem, compounding the creation of further intellectual property and jobs at every point on the value chain to complement Canada’s existing infrastructure,” said Irene Sterian, Executive Director of ReMAP. Industry Canada News Release

Outgoing UBC president identifies 5 challenges facing universities

Outgoing UBC President Stephen Toope has identified what he sees as the 5 primary challenges facing Canadian universities. Toope says that universities must adjust to new ways of teaching and learning, as well as changing student expectations. He adds that Canada must continue to compete aggressively for top researchers in order to stay at the forefront of international knowledge production. Toope emphasizes the critical role universities play in developing citizens who are also job-ready. “I am quite worried that the discourse confuses the nature of university education for the development of specific skills for the first job. I am particularly worried about the denigration of the humanities and, to some extent, social sciences,” Toope said. Toope also suggests that universities need to help students develop better inter-cultural fluency, and also urged PSE institutions to better reach and include aboriginal people. “We simply can’t afford, as a society, not to have this part of our population properly educated,” he said. Globe and Mail

The Economist anticipates “a welcome earthquake” in US PSE

An article in The Economist highlights 3 “disruptive waves” that will cause “a welcome earthquake” in US PSE: a funding crisis, a technological revolution, and increased demand for re-training throughout workers’ careers. The article recounts the many financial difficulties faced by colleges in the US, noting increasing pressure from notable politicians for universities to lower their costs. Rising costs, it says, are colliding with growing demand for retraining and continuing education, as well as automation and a reduced number of jobs that accept a “middling level of education.” Massive open online courses (MOOCs) will rise to meet the demand, the article says, thanks to their lower costs. Blended learning options will allow universities to reduce costs while still providing the social capital that comes with a university degree, and may enable flexible pricing for free basic courses and expensive, bespoke offerings. The article closes by warning institutions to maintain “the personal touch” even as they proceed toward a more digital approach to education. The Economist

More MBA grads considering alternative career paths

More MBA grads are looking beyond traditional, “well-worn” career paths. An article in the Globe and Mail highlights the experiences of several MBAs who were able to take the skills they developed as students in unexpected directions. One graduate, who now works in community relations for a mining firm, noted that her degree helped her hone her problem-solving and analytical thinking abilities. Another graduate, now a restaurateur, said that his degree gave him a “different mindset” that has helped his business succeed. Michelle Sparkman Renz of the Graduate Management Admissions Council said that “more non-traditional sectors are seeking business graduates for the managerial hard and soft skills they bring to the table.” Many business programs are now focusing on specialized educational opportunities to appeal to students who are looking for different opportunities. Globe and Mail

ALEC drafts legislation for $10,000 degrees

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a private nonprofit organization comprising conservative state legislators and private sector partners, has drafted model legislation that “would require all public four-year universities to offer bachelor’s degrees costing no more than $10,000, total, for four years of tuition, fees, and books.” Per the legislation, dubbed the “Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act,” a minimum of 10% of all degrees at these institutions would be required to be made available at this price point. The draft suggests that universities could achieve this price point by taking advantage of web-based technologies and competency-based education programs. The ALEC model legislation provides a template for laws that could be customized and introduced by US politicians. The draft is not yet official ALEC policy but is scheduled to be discussed at an upcoming annual meeting of the organization. Inside Higher Ed | ALEC Annual Meeting Agenda

US PSE system not as competitive as many Americans believe

While some US universities consistently rank among the world’s best, Americans are too confident in the strength of their PSE system, writes Kevin Carey, Director of the Education Policy Program at the nonpartisan New American Foundation. Carey says that Americans have historically shown deep concern over growing knowledge and skills gaps between US K-12 students and their international peers, while taking comfort in US PSE institutions’ performance in global rankings. However, international rankings frequently ignore students’ education in favour of institutional research output. According to Carey, data that instead look at adult literacy and math skills, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for the Assessment of Adult Competencies, tell a different story. Here, the US frequently falls to the bottom even when the results are controlled for PSE degrees. Carey warns that these results should be cause for real concern about the US’s long-term prosperity. New York Times

FIRE files free speech lawsuits in US

A series of lawsuits launched in the US are challenging perceived limits to campus free speech. The Philadelphia-based nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) is coordinating lawsuits on behalf of student organizations at Iowa State and Ohio universities, a faculty blog critical of administration at Chicago State University, and a student at Citrus College in California. An Ohio University student who was told that the language on his t-shirt was “inappropriate” said that “our big hope is to stand up for student speech across the country and send a message to universities.” FIRE has typically focused on dispute resolution and publicizing incidents, but its President Greg Lukianoff says that such tactics are “just not enough.” Universities, on the other hand, say that such lawsuits mischaracterize policies and responses that are intended to maintain civility on campus. USA Today