Top Ten

September 18, 2014

SIAST evacuates Palliser campus after bomb threat

The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology was forced to evacuate its Palliser campus in Moose Jaw on Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat, the second threat in 3 weeks. The school was evacuated at around 9 am, allowing local police to conduct a sweep of the campus and grounds before declaring there was no immediate threat. The campus reopened at noon. Police are not revealing the manner of the second threat, but do believe it is connected to a threat received August 25, which was reportedly a handwritten letter. Sgt Cliff Froehlich of the Moose Jaw Police Service noted the rare occurrence of bomb threats in Moose Jaw and suggested that the threats may involve someone from outside the city. "We're concerned about these. It upsets the day and the administration and the students at SIAST," said Froehlich. Regina Leader-Post | SIAST campus updates | Global News (1) | Global News (2)

uAlberta President says cancelling TransformUS will hurt other institutions

University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera warns that the University of Saskatchewan’s decision to move away from its TransformUS plan could have a negative impact on other universities. Samarasekera says that the plan was informed by a critical need to prioritize some programs while cutting others. This, she claims, is the only way Canadian universities will be able to compete internationally given governments' inability to provide above-inflation funding increases. “They’ve set themselves back and potentially affected the ability of other university presidents and administrations to take risks, because they took some risks and they got slapped down,” Samarasekera said in an interview. She notes that at uAlberta, they have had to deal with funding constraints by increasing the average required for admission, which she says is costing the institution talented students. Samarasekera also spoke about recent requests from some Alberta schools, including uAlberta, to increase tuition for certain programs. “We have a perverse system where we’ve kept tuition low for everyone,” she said. “As a result we are restricting our ability to increase the quality of the programs … Often times, when you keep tuition low, what you can’t cover are things like co-op opportunities, like extracurricular activities.” Globe and Mail

Many universities face enrolment declines, while some colleges see increases

Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) statistics for 2014–15 show an overall 2.8% decline in high-school direct enrolments, from 72,680 in September 2013 to 70,589 this year.  Still, some individual institutions saw significant increases, notably the University of Guelph-Humber (a hybrid college-university), which saw a 19.3% increase in direct enrolments, and Western University, which saw an increase of 11.1%. Non-direct enrolments across Ontario universities increased, in part to compensate, from 21,966 in September 2013 to 22,981 this year. These figures include a 26.5% increase at uOttawa, a 28.2% increase at Brescia, and a 13.6% increase at Guelph-Humber. Enrolment has also declined at two Manitoba universities: the Winnipeg Free Press reports that total numbers are down at both uManitoba and uWinnipeg, although international enrolments are at an all-time high. On the other hand, the University of Regina reported an enrolment increase for the sixth consecutive year, and Red River College reports a 4.3% increase in full-time enrolment this year. Some Ontario colleges have likewise reported enrolment increases: St Lawrence College says that it has hit an all-time high enrolment of 7,000 students, while St Clair College says that it will surpass 8,500 full-time students this year. Fleming College has also reported an increase of 3%. OUAC Data | Winnipeg Free Press | Windsor Star | SLC News Release | RRC News Release | Fleming News Release | uRegina News Release

UBC receives funding from province for additional speech-language pathology spots

The British Columbia government has committed $3.4 M to allow UBC to increase the number of seats in its speech-language pathology program, with $2.5 M allocated to startup and planning costs and an additional $932,000 set aside for annual operating costs. The MSc program will be able to increase its first-year spaces from 23 to 36, helping to address the demand for speech-language therapists in northern and rural BC while reducing wait times for infants and children in need of assessment. Speech-language therapists diagnose and help treat a number of issues, including articulation problems, stuttering, voice problems, language delays and disorders, and swallowing and feeding disorders. “This funding addresses the province’s urgent need for professionals with the skills and experience to diagnose communications disorders, provide treatment, and collaborate with educators, health-care providers, social workers, families and caregivers. UBC is eager to expand its capacity to respond to this very pressing public need,” said Gavin Stuart, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and UBC’s Vice Provost Health. BC News | UBC News

George Brown launches new project to encourage green construction

George Brown College has announced the launch of the new Building Information Modeling (BIM) Technology and Processes Adoption Support project, which will help small- and medium-sized construction firms adopt and adapt BIM technology and processes. Use of BIM technology allows construction companies to be more efficient and sustainable in all stages of building development, and to apply more green technology to building construction. The initial project, which received federal support of $100,000 from the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), will allow industry representatives to participate in workshops and training sessions, with the opportunity to be admitted into the new Graduate Certificate in Building Information Modeling Management to be launched in January 2015. “BIM is becoming a crucial asset as the construction sector looks for cost-effective ways to be sustainable on every job site. But the costs of BIM adoption … are often out of reach for smaller companies. Facilities like our BIM Lab can help fill that gap, giving Canadian businesses access to training, expertise and technology,” said Clint Kissoon, Chair in the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies. George Brown News Release

Canada invests over $1 M in College of the North Atlantic

Canada has announced over $1 M in funding for College of the North Atlantic. The funding will help the college improve its training capabilities, enhance its programming, and improve its outreach capacity. Some of the funding will go toward the Institute for Cultural Tourism at CNA’s Bonavista campus, to help develop its executive-level training programs in destination development and culinary tourism. Close to half of the funding will go toward CNA’s Port aux Basques campus to introduce new technologies and equipment and improve training capabilities in its non-destructive testing program. Another significant portion of the funding will be invested in the Prince Philip Drive campus in St John’s. This will fund an industry engagement project through CNA’s Manufacturing Technology Centre and will help develop outreach capacity and support services for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the manufacturing and processing sectors, as well as going toward the purchase of new equipment and facility upgrades. CNA News Release

uToronto library system among top 3 in North America

The University of Toronto’s library system has been recognized by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) as one of the top 3 in North America, trailing only Harvard and Yale. The results continue uToronto’s consistent record of success in the ARL rankings; it has finished in the top 5 each year since 2002–2003. uToronto was the only Canadian institution to finish in the top 10 of the ARL rankings. The University of Alberta finished 18th, UBC 24th, and McGill University 30th. Université de Montréal, the University of Calgary, the University of Ottawa, and York University also featured in the top 50. The rankings are based on total expenditures, though the complete list also tabulates salaries and wages of professional staff, total library-materials expenditures, and the number of professional and support staff. uToronto News | Complete Rankings

Former Ontario Premier registers as D2L lobbyist

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has registered as a lobbyist for Waterloo ed-tech firm D2L. D2L CEO John Baker said that McGuinty will serve as a “special adviser” to the company. “He’s an innovative thinker who continues to have a major impact on global education systems—well beyond Ontario’s borders. I know he’ll continue to tackle the challenges facing education and work to pioneer new ground on our behalf,” Baker said. McGuinty’s filing with the Ontario Lobbyist Registry, submitted last month, says that the former politician will work “to enhance the presence of Desire2Learn education technology in Ontario’s schools, colleges, and universities.” The filing also indicates that the firm has received $3 M from the Ministry of Education and $14,000 from the Ministry of Transportation this fiscal year. In Ontario, former premiers and cabinet ministers are prohibited from lobbying the government until a year after they step down from office; McGuinty stepped down as an MPP 15 months ago. The Record

Researcher argues that completion metrics are not meaningful for MOOCs

A new article in Forbes argues that completion rates should not be the focus of educators evaluating the success of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Researcher Matthew LeBar says that while some have argued that MOOCs’ low completion rates undermine their credibility, students can nevertheless benefit significantly from MOOCs even without completing or participating in all aspects of a course. Some students, LeBar points out, use MOOCs to supplement rather than replace traditional courses. MOOCs “do not and should not provide the same services as classroom courses,” argues LeBar. He adds that many students who enrol in MOOCs do not do so to obtain a certificate or degree but to develop professional skills, benefiting more from the knowledge acquired than they do from the credential that is earned. Forbes

Urban Outfitters apologizes for offensive Kent State sweatshirt

Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters has apologized in the wake of a public backlash against the sale of a Kent State University sweatshirt that appeared to be covered in blood stains. Kent State was the site of a 1970 shooting in which members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed student protestors, killing 4. Upon learning of the shirt, Kent State said “we take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.” Urban Outfitters said that it “sincerely apologizes for any offence our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused … We deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.” The company also said that the sweatshirt was not intended to depict blood stains but was “sun-faded.” It further claimed that the holes near the stains in the shirt were the result of age and wear and were not intended to represent bullet holes. Toronto Star (1) | Toronto Star (2) | National Post