Top Ten

August 21, 2014

MRU begins construction of new library

Mount Royal University has officially broken ground for the new Riddell Library and Learning Centre (LLC), a 16,000-square-metre stand-alone facility that will provide students with a variety of innovative ways to access resources and data. The Riddell LLC will have 34 group-use rooms and 1,500 student spaces, as well as a creator space, an innovation lab, and a data visualization studio. The library’s collection will also be expanded, with enhanced data files and audio/media resources. MRU President David Docherty said, “the Riddell Library and Learning Centre will meet the needs of 21st century students, providing better access to resources in spaces designed to inspire learning, exploration and collaboration.” The centre is named for the Riddell Family Charitable Foundation, which contributed significantly to MRU’s Changing the Face of Education fundraising campaign. The $100-M library project was partially funded by the Alberta government, who committed $85.8 M. MRU News | Calgary Herald

UBC receives $2.6 M for global fisheries initiative

The University of British Columbia has received $2.6 M from the Paul G Allen Family Foundation for its Sea Around Us project. The Sea Around Us initiative is led by professors from UBC’s Fisheries Centre and over its 2-year mandate will help provide countries in West Africa, East Africa, the Arab world, and South Asia with accurate and comprehensive fisheries data to better inform policy makers and nongovernmental organizations regarding ocean resources and effects on local economies. “This generous support will help UBC fisheries researchers work with countries to better understand the industry’s impact on marine ecosystems and its social and economic benefits,” UBC President Arvind Gupta said. There are 4 main problem areas identified: increased public transparency of access agreements for foreign vessels to fish in a country’s waters; improving inadequate methods for recording or estimating fish catches; improving poor policy and management environments for local small-scale fisheries; and illegal fishing by foreign fleets. UBC News Release

Immigrant employment projects get funding from MB, Canada

The governments of Canada and Manitoba have teamed up to provide $1.1 M to Employment Solutions for Immigrants for 2 projects designed to help immigrant youth reduce barriers to employment. The first project will help 120 immigrant youth gain life and employability skills through workshops and work placements. The second project will provide 20 immigrant youth with job placements in high-demand fields such as manufacturing, transportation, and health care services. “These programs offer newcomer youth with a much better chance of entering the Canadian workplace, not only with enhanced preparation and increased confidence, but also in a field and at a job level that is on a par with their existing skills and experience. In short, these programs set up newcomer youth for career success,” said Executive Director of Employment Solutions for Immigrants Loraine M Nyokong. Canada News Release

NAIT partners with uAlberta on security services

The University of Alberta and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology have entered into a partnership that will see NAIT protective services managed by uAlberta’s Protective Services (UAPS). “It’s just to bring them up to the standards and the policy and the procedures that UAPS has,” said Grace Berry, Acting Director of UAPS. Berry said that part of UAPS's role will be to expand the roles that education and awareness play in policing. “It’s really about providing a service to the community, rather than just being law enforcement,” she said. While the 2 services will remain separate from one another, they may collaborate on major incidents. NAIT says that the partnership was necessitated by the institution’s rapid growth. “There is going to be this period of campus expansion and the U of A has that experience managing a large institution,” said NAIT spokesperson Frank Landry. Metro News

New app helps researchers stay on top of recent findings

ScienceScape, a new platform developed by University of Toronto biomedical physics student Sam Molyneux and his sister Amy Molyneux, a web developer and technical project manager, will help researchers keep better track of developments in their field. ScienceScape, Amy says, is “like a Twitter for science.” The platform organizes thousands of newly published biomedical research articles according to various criteria, allowing users to quickly determine what research findings are most important to their own work. Researchers can also use the platform to share papers with collaborators. The project emerged when Sam, who was working on bone cancer research, found that there was little awareness in his field of new publications. The software, Amy says, is based on algorithms that “teach themselves to read papers the same way scientists read them.” The siblings plan to continue to improve ScienceScape with their team of data scientists, and believe that that it will in time be useful in other research fields, as well. uToronto News

Durham SMA emphasizes focus on high-growth industries, contribution to economic diversification

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) signed between Durham College and Ontario emphasizes the college’s broad-based strengths and support for all learners, especially those with special needs and from at-risk backgrounds. The college is also cited for its strategic and collaborative relationship with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and its contribution to the economic diversification of the Durham Region. The SMA identifies as areas of institutional strength Durham’s programs targeted at high-growth industries and sectors and its close work with industry and employers on identifying and responding to labour market needs. The SMA further notes that Durham provides 22% of all OntarioLearn courses as well as extensive experiential learning opportunities and hybrid course delivery options for students. 5 areas of proposed program growth are identified in the SMA: business, accounting, financial management, and materials management; media arts; agriculture/culinary/hospitality; health; and skilled trades and technology. Durham SMA

OCADU SMA highlights creative entrepreneurship, learning experiences

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) signed between Ontario and OCAD University highlights OCADU’s training of entrepreneurs in sectors including information and communication technology, health sciences, design studios, consultation services, and cultural industries, as well as its focus on creative entrepreneurship through its relationship with the Imagination Catalyst. OCADU is also cited for its close alliance with the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Film Board of Canada, and the Toronto International Film Festival; the SMA emphasizes OCADU’s important role as a cultural and economic resource to the community through its galleries, laboratories, public facilities, and incubators. The SMA further notes the many patents and products generated by OCADU. OCADU’s focus on experiential and studio-based learning are also highlighted, as well as its small class sizes, its student-faculty ratio, and the research opportunities afforded to students. The SMA identifies fine art, design, digital futures, and visual and critical studies as areas of proposed program growth. OCADU SMA

PSE and business need to collaborate more to create prosperous "educonomy"

A writer in Fast Company magazine says that the education economy—or “educonomy”—will play an increasingly important role in US politics and society over the next decade. He urges the US to better integrate its education system with employers and job creators, and presses for more PSE/business collaboration on internship and job opportunities that will provide graduates with meaningful experiences. For most college students, the purpose of college is to earn a job, not a degree. Without significant changes to PSE based on that assumption, he says, the US economy will continue to suffer. Business creation will be essential for economic growth over the next decade, and only a close relationship between educators, employers, and entrepreneurs can reverse a deficit between the number of new businesses compared to the number of “dying” businesses. Fast Company

New study finds that international students from Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia are least satisfied

A new satisfaction survey of 60,000 international students studying in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia finds that they are mostly satisfied with their experiences. However, the data also indicate that satisfaction levels vary by country of origin and that having a disproportionate number of international students from a single country can have a negative impact on integration. Respondents were asked to rate their overall satisfaction on a scale from 1 (“very dissatisfied”) to 4 (“very satisfied”). The average satisfaction level was 3.09 and 3.08 for undergraduate and graduate students, respectively. Students from Europe reported higher levels of satisfaction, while students from Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong reported the lowest levels. The data also show a correlation between the ratio of first-generation students within the international student population and a lower overall satisfaction rate, possibly due to factors including financial disadvantages, predatory recruitment practices, or less-informed decision-making. The report also identifies those qualities in an institution that international students value most. Inside Higher Ed

Automated grading programs effective as proofreaders

Several recent studies have found that automated essay grading programs, or robo-graders, can be extremely effective as proofreaders and writing tutors. These programs are designed to grade essays and exams, but have been criticized as being unable to discern meaning and as being capable of being manipulated. But, when used as a proofreader that provides feedback on written material, robo-readers are having positive effects on students’ writing and rates of revision. In one study, when students were required to submit their work to the robo-grader first, they were more willing to go back and revise papers based on feedback from the robo-grader than they were when offered feedback from a professor. Researchers suggest that the individualized and impersonal nature of the feedback contributes to the students’ reactions. “It’s the very non-humanness of a computer that may encourage students to experiment, to explore, to share a messy rough draft without self-consciousness or embarrassment. In return, they get feedback that is individualized, but not personal — not 'punitive,'" reads a summary. Hechinger Report