Top Ten

October 23, 2014

uOttawa, La Cité locked down in wake of Parliament Hill shooting

The University of Ottawa and La Cité collégiale were locked down yesterday in the wake of the shootings in Ottawa. An emergency alert from uOttawa told students, faculty, and staff to remain inside classrooms and offices pending further updates. The campus community was further instructed to close and lock doors, silence cell phones, turn off lights, and stay away from doors and windows. The lockdown was lifted shortly before 4pm. At La Cité, individuals were able to leave campus but not enter. Carleton University remained open, with classes continuing as scheduled; however, the institution advised students coming to campus from downtown to remain at home. One Canadian soldier as well as one suspect were reportedly killed in the Parliament Hill attack, with other victims taken to hospital. Details surrounding the shooting were still emerging at press time. Everyone at Academica Group extends their deepest condolences to all victims of the attack. CBC | uOttawa Emergency Page | La Cité Tweet | Carleton Statement

Seneca faculty union “outraged” as college cuts partial-load faculty

The Toronto Star reports that members of the faculty union at Seneca College were “outraged” to learn of plans to replace 140 unionized partial-load positions at the college with non-union jobs. Seneca’s VP Academic Joy McKinnon told the Star that the cost savings “were not the primary driver”; rather, the move was made in order to cut back on a high number of class hours offered for some courses. “Quite frankly we were concerned it was too much work for students so we’ve reduced the number of [class] hours to be normalized with other colleges,” she said. McKinnon also said that Seneca has agreed to create 28 new full-time faculty jobs in the next 2 years, the result of a union grievance settlement. She said that the additional full-time positions mean less need for contract faculty. Jonathan Singer, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union at Seneca, said, “it’s distressing for our members; they’re outraged at this treatment and I know many excellent faculty will not be able to return because they can’t afford to live on so few hours.” Toronto Star

George Fallis says that Canada needs to diversify, differentiate education offerings to students

In a contribution to Academica Group’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum, York University professor George Fallis argues that thanks to a policy of expansion over the last 50 years, Canada has achieved universal higher education, defined as a PSE participation rate of above 50%. Accordingly, Fallis says, it is time to ask whether the system is now large enough. He notes that further expansion will be difficult given demographic shifts, and argues that the labour market does not need additional PSE graduates. Fallis says that instead of pursuing further growth, PSE institutions should diversify the range of programs offered, as well as pursue a policy of differentiation. Fallis’s piece has generated a robust response on the Forum, with some commenters pointing out that while there may be less need for growth, there may yet be a need for better representation of some groups, as well as cause to focus more on adult continuing education. Rethinking Higher Ed Post

BC Civil Liberties Group defends anti-abortion group's right to demonstrate on campus

The pro-choice BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is joining with a University of Victoria anti-abortion group to protect the latter’s right to hold a “choice chain” demonstration. The 2 groups have united in response to UVic’s decision last year to prohibit the event, in which anti-abortion protesters were to stand on public sidewalks to hand out pamphlets, holding large signs with photographs of aborted fetuses. “In the association’s view, free speech is fundamental to the very nature of a university education. It’s a recurring problem across campuses and not just around abortion,” said Craig Jones, a lawyer representing the BCCLA. In cancelling the club's booking of space for the event UVic cited a 2011 UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) decision. The BCCLA says that UVic should have considered the group's right to freedom of expression; however, Nitya Iyer, a lawyer representing the UVSS, says that the Charter of Rights should not apply to universities in this context. Victoria Times-Colonist

UBC launches innovative peer wellness-coaching program

UBC has launched an innovative new peer wellness-coaching program designed to help students proactively deal with challenges and stressful situations. The peer wellness-coaching program, reportedly the first of its kind in Canada, trains student coaches to offer guidance and support to fellow students. The 2 students meet once face-to-face and develop a wellness plan with regular follow-ups via an online messaging portal. The program is meant to assist students before they reach a crisis point, by helping them establish coping methods; coaches can also refer students to other resources if the student is “clearly struggling.” “There’s not a lot of stigma attached to accessing a peer service, especially if it’s a coach. It’s perceived as being proactive, and it has a very positive connotation. The coaches are there to facilitate a process that allows their peer to identify their goals and then help them work towards those goals,” said Patty Hambler, Associate Director, Student Development & Services and co-developer of the program. UBC News

New logo and visual identity at BrandonU

Brandon University has released details of its new logo and visual identity. The new logo is a derivation of BrandonU’s ceremonial coat of arms, with simplified elements and text that suggest a more modern identity. The logo consists of 2 books to represent the acquisition and distribution of knowledge, wheat to signify local agriculture, a lantern to symbolize wisdom and intellect, and a chevron to symbolize hope, support, and opportunity. The overall visual identity has been designed to “convey a sense of welcoming and innovation.” President Gervan Fearon said, “the new logo speaks to Brandon University’s focus on being a leading, innovative and engaged University. The logo was developed out of extensive consultation across the University community and we are pleased with the feedback. We are confident that our alumni and members of the BU community will find it inspiring.” The new visual identity will be rolled out over the course of the academic year. BrandonU News Release | BrandonU Visual Standards Guide

HEQCO study finds little benefit to in-classroom competition

New research published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) looks at the impact of competition on student success, focusing in particular on large classes. Researchers examined the performance of students in randomly assigned, rotating competition conditions over 4 semesters. Students competed for bonus credit that could be used to re-weight their final exam. The researchers found that, contrary to their initial hypothesis, competition did not affect student performance on weekly tests. The researchers suggest that this does not mean that their hypothesis is incorrect; rather, they believe that the results show that more must be done to produce positive effects from competition. Moreover, the researchers say that breakdowns in communication may have also affected the results of the experiment. HEQCO News Release | Full Report

Report on "expectations gap" between students, post-grad life

Globe and Mail article looks at the gap between students' expectations for their university education and what institutions are able to offer. The report notes that youth unemployment sits at around double the national average, with an even higher rate of underemployment. The figures have led to finger-pointing from all sides. In any event, the article says, there is a significant gap between students’ expectations and the labour market, but no easy answers. While many have emphasized the importance of hard skills training as a path to post-graduate employment, others, such as Quest University President David Helfand, say that it is risky to conflate education and job training. Some data suggest that what employers are really after are so-called soft skills, which can be difficult for students to learn and for employers to teach. Moreover, as Janet Lane, Director of the Centre for Human Capital Policy at the Canada West Foundation points out, “there is no such thing as a ‘job-ready’ graduate. Everyone needs training.” The article goes on to highlight how some institutions across Canada are trying to meet these challenges. Globe and Mail

AthabascaU profs advocate networked learning models in new book

A new book from faculty members at Athabasca University says that “holistic technologies”—technologies that “celebrate the creative partnering of human beings and harness the enormous amount of information on the web”—will rise to challenge traditional approaches to education. Jon Dron and Terry Anderson advocate networked learning models, where answers are derived from interaction and contributions from multiple participants. They further suggest that, in order to facilitate the pedagogical possibilities of networked learning and holistic technologies, education institutions must make changes including offering courses of variable length, turning to competency-based assessments, and doing away with disciplinary silos. Dron and Anderson have implemented their approach in a social learning platform at AthabascaU called The Landing. AthabascaU News Release

Wearable technology to have major impact on learning and teaching

Campus Technology has published an interview with Emory Craig, Director of E-Learning and Instructional Technology at the College of New Rochelle, and Maya Georgieva, Associate Director for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at New York University’s Stern School of Business, in which they discuss the future of wearable technology in education. Craig describes "wearables" as a “continuation of the smartphone industry,” but says that “they change everything,” offering new insights into how minds and bodies function. Craig says that wearables will enable new forms of feedback that could revolutionize teaching across a variety of disciplines. Georgieva says that educators are already experimenting with Google Glass, the Narrative Clip, and Oculus Rift, and that they have great potential for online teaching and learning, as well as for students with disabilities. She encourages institutions not to force technology into learning, but to offer space to play. Significant challenges remain, though, and Craig emphasizes that IT departments will have to plan carefully to adapt to these disruptive technologies. Campus Technology