Top Ten

July 7, 2014

NSERC invests $9.8 million in graduate training programs

Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) has announced a further $9.8-million investment into experiential learning programs from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through its Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) initiative. The funding will go to 6 research teams at 5 Ontario institutions to develop job-related training programs for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. CREATE focuses on 4 key areas: environmental science and technologies, manufacturing, information and communications technologies, and natural resources and energy. Recipients also receive industry support to ensure students get hands-on training related to their field of study, including internships. “CREATE's team-based approach to training provides graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with access to the knowledge and expertise of some of Canada's top researchers. At the same time, it provides them with important experiential learning opportunities,” said Janet Walden, NSERC’s Chief Operating Officer. NSERC News Release

Canadian researchers sign MOU with medical marijuana company

Canadian medical-marijuana growing company Tweed Marijuana Inc has signed an MOU with Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa to address the lack of concrete research into the benefits and long-term impacts of medical marijuana use. “With the new [Canadian medical marijuana] regulatory system in place, producers and researchers now have the stability to undertake research not possible in the past,” said Tweed CEO Chuck Rifici. Tweed will work with researchers at Ryerson to determine what affects the quality of medical marijuana, and with researchers at uOttawa to determine active ingredients in medical marijuana and how different strains affect different ailments. “There is an exceptional opportunity to really start to understand the complex effects of active ingredients in marijuana,” said uOttawa professor John Arnason. Ottawa Citizen

Olds College breaks ground on new residence

Olds College held an official groundbreaking ceremony for its new student housing facility, Centennial Village, on July 3. The residence will offer students single, private rooms, with private bathrooms and wifi, as well as conference space and a fitness room. “Centennial Village will give students who attend Olds College a more comfortable living environment that will feel more like home,” said Kathy Kimpton, VP of Students and Support Services. The facility will accommodate 450 students, and is an entirely private enterprise, with College Housing (Olds) Co responsible for the design, construction, financing, operation, and management of the new student and conference facility. Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2015. Olds College News

Athabasca to offer first-in-Canada online architecture BSc

Athabasca University and Architecture Canada | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) have officially launched what is reportedly the first online bachelor of science degree in architecture. The program is designed to be flexible, including a part-time option, and emphasizes the relationship between academic study and practical work. Barry Johns, Chancellor of the College of Fellows of the RAIC, said that “the philosophy behind this program is very unique. It’s a work-study program, so it enables people with experience in practice, for example in construction or an architect’s office, to connect to the academic world of architecture.” Students can complete the academic portion of their studies entirely through AthabascaU or transfer a relevant diploma and complete the program as a post-diploma degree. Lisa Carter, Dean of AthabascaU’s Faculty of Science and Technology, said, “this is a remarkable program that will allow aspiring architects to break down education barriers they’ve had in the past.” AthabascaU News Release

Alberta invests in training child-protection workers at uCalgary

Alberta is contributing money to train new social workers and develop a child-intervention curriculum at the University of Calgary. The province’s contribution of $1.3 million will in the short term enable 25 more bachelor of social work students to complete their degree online, with an eye toward increasing this number to 100 by 2017. The funding also creates space for 25 new master of social work students. In addition, Alberta is contributing $100,000 to help develop child protection education within the social work curriculum. “Ensuring the protection and well-being of our children is one of the most important responsibilities of society as a whole,” said Alberta Premier Dave Hancock. Calgary Herald

Giving students options on evaluation method improves achievement

A new report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has found that offering students choice in how they will be evaluated can improve their performance and their perception of the learning experience. The report follows a study in which third-year psychology students were offered a choice between traditional examinations and differentiated evaluation (DE), in which they had the choice of several term project options. Students who chose DE and were performing below the class average improved their scores on the final exam more than those students who did not select a term project. Students also reported positive perceptions of the DE options, and said that it alleviated some of the stress they experienced writing traditional examinations. They said that the DE option added to their workload but felt that it better allowed them to showcase what they had learned. HEQCO Report Summary | Full Report

Literacy nonprofit Copian closes after funding cutbacks

Many Canadian literacy advocates were dismayed and upset to learn that Copian, a non-profit literacy organization that provided resources and an online training centre for libraries, readers, and other groups, had been closed after 25 years of operation due to a lack of adequate government funding. In a response to one Canadian literacy advocate who questioned the closure, a representative of Employment Minister Jason Kenney said that Copian had been warned about the funding cuts 3 years ago and that “our government is committed to ensuring that federal funding for literacy is no longer spent on administration and countless research papers, but instead is invested in projects that result in Canadians receiving the literacy skills they need to obtain jobs.” Many literacy advocates are marshaling support to convince the government to restore Copian’s funding; Copian’s website now includes a message asking supporters to raise awareness, contact government representatives, and make donations to support the organization. Toronto Star | Copian

Medical researchers turn to crowdfunding

The difficulties that Canada’s medical researchers face when looking for funding is highlighted in a recent article in the National Post. According to one woman involved in medical research: “the odds of actually winning a grant application? You’d do better if you were just tossing a coin.” Crowdfunding campaigns have become increasingly popular for all kinds of higher education projects, but for medical researchers that do not have access to government funding, these campaigns can provide start-up money to get research off the ground. In some cases, success in a crowdfunding campaign can lead to funding from other organizations interested in the project, as many “high risk, high reward” research studies are unable to secure initial funding from government or pharmaceutical companies when they are considered too speculative. A new study out of UBC found more than 100 crowdfunding campaigns that helped get early-stage research projects going. National Post

Professional students benefit from peer mentoring

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Physiology Education indicates that even in professional programs, students who sat at the back of the classroom tended to be less likely to recover from a poor performance on an initial exam than those who moved toward the front. The study, conducted in a first-year Dental Physiology class consisting of 120 Doctor of Dental Medicine students, examined students in a collaborative, active learning environment. The authors speculate that students who failed an initial quiz but moved to another area of the classroom benefited from the example of more engaged students. Conversely, those who voluntarily sit at the back may reinforce each other's misconceptions about course material or poor study habits, or may lack the confidence or initiative to seek out additional help when needed. The authors suggest that their research confirms the importance of peer mentoring in professional education environments. Full Report

Internationalization benefits PhD students

Attendees at the European University Association’s annual meeting on doctoral education in Liverpool, England heard from several speakers about the importance and benefits of internationalizing doctoral training. Alastair McEwan of the University of Queensland, Australia told audience members that international doctoral students not only helped his institution overcome a reduction in domestic doctoral students, but “are absolutely critical” to research output and are “a very cost-effective way to promote international linkages.” He added that international doctoral students also provide considerable knowledge about other cultures which, he said, is a critical transferable skill and can enhance PhD graduate employability. Barbara Knuth of Cornell University, meanwhile, spoke of the difficulties faced by universities and international students in navigating complex immigration regulations. She added that institutions need to do better at encouraging students to stay post-degree. Internationalization has been a point of emphasis for the Canadian government; however, some argue that significant changes to the nation’s international education policy are needed. Times Higher Education