Top Ten

November 10, 2014

Sheridan partners with Brampton on new public MakerSpace

Sheridan College has partnered with the City of Brampton to create the MakerSpace Creative Hub at the city’s downtown library. The new Hub provides space and support for the community to learn about and experiment with 3D manufacturing equipment, architectural modelling software, and robotics. The Hub will operate as a free drop-in centre, with faculty and students from Sheridan’s engineering department and Castlebrooke Secondary School’s robotics club holding regular workshops. Visitors to the Hub will have opportunities to learn more about manufacturing and mechanical engineering tools and technology. The “next generation of creations are going to emerge” from this type of community centre, said Sheridan President Jeff Zabudsky. Brampton Guardian

PSE delegations travel to China to strengthen agreements

The Associate Director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, Jia Wang, recently travelled to China to sign a new agreement with the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs. The MOU is designed to help senior scholars and policy experts collaborate and exchange ideas on issues such as trade and investment. “We are the one and only research centre in Canada focusing exclusively on the study of China and China-Canada relations,” said Wang. uAlberta also signed several more agreements with Chinese PSE institutions to facilitate knowledge sharing and research collaboration. Dalhousie University’s President, Richard Florizone, has also travelled to China recently to sign an MOU with Nanjing University. Florizone visited several other institutions that have agreements with Dal, before delivering a paper at the Beijing Academic Forum. “From our student population, to our faculty members’ research, China and its universities are increasingly becoming key partners in the Dalhousie story,” said Florizone. uAlberta News | Dal News

Less stigma around seeking mental health support on campus, but challenges remain

One challenge faced by on-campus mental health support providers is overcoming stigmas that may prevent people from seeking help. Staff at Disability Services for Students at the University of Saskatchewan, however, say that they see signs of growing understanding and acceptance. Maxine Kinakin says disability services now serves 1,258 students, compared to 250 just 13 years ago. More than half of that number are individuals seeking help with a mental health diagnosis, she said. But even as Kinakin has observed “a shift in how we are all working together,” stigmas still remain. She notes that the problem is particularly acute among students studying for the professions, who worry that seeking help may affect how future employers will perceive them. Some students are also concerned about classmates learning of their situation. Kinakin says that uSask helps students find mentors in professional colleges to show them that they are not alone. She also emphasized that students should be aware that accommodations do not give anyone an advantage; rather, they ensure everyone can start from the same place. StarPhoenix

All course syllabi in Laurier’s English and film department will now include territorial acknowledgement

The Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University has taken an unprecedented step towards recognizing the traditional Indigenous territory on which the university’s campuses are located. The department unanimously agreed on a proposal to include territorial acknowledgement on all future departmental class syllabi; the statement will read: “We acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples.” Jean Becker, WLU’s Senior Advisor for Aboriginal Initiatives, expressed pleasure with the new initiative, noting the importance of protocol such as territorial acknowledgement. Department Chair Ute Lischke stated, “in many of our classes at Laurier we critique power dynamics and including this acknowledgement on our course outlines certainly helps to raise students’ awareness about the continuing nature of colonialism. Such a statement will also help students to think about our own personal relationship to this history.” WLU News

Private member's bill renews calls for better labour market data

The introduction of a private member’s bill in parliament on Thursday that would restore the long-form census has prompted a number of articles on the importance of data for understanding issues including labour market needs and unpaid internships. Bill C-626 calls for the reinstatement of the mandatory long-form census, recommends that the Chief Statistician be responsible for formulating policies around the census, and proposes a consultative process for appointing the Chief Statistician. Ryerson University professor Murtaza Haider says that implementing such a proposal is critical to overcoming the paucity of meaningful data available to researchers and policymakers. He says that the National Household Survey is plagued by a high non-response rate, leaving it vulnerable to self-selection bias. In another article, the Globe and Mail collects the opinions of several economists and analysts who also call for improvements. The contributors to the piece highlight the need for more detailed data on job vacancies; they also call for detailed surveys that can be published more rapidly, for an improved labour force survey on employment and income outcomes of graduates, for more information on adult education and training needs, and for more information on persons with disabilities, among other recommendations. Globe and Mail (Analysts) | Globe and Mail (Haider)

Varied policies on cell phones in business classrooms

Policies on cellular phones in classrooms can vary dramatically between institutions and even within programs. The issue isn’t simply that the students using the device are inattentive, but also that phone usage can distract other students who are trying to learn. Some faculty members insist on an outright ban; others ask students using their phones to put them down; and others simply make a note of the behaviour when weighing grades. The University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business has banned both phones and laptops outright unless the professor rules otherwise, though MBA students are given more leeway. Professor Rebecca Grant says that most students there are thankful for the policy and rarely challenge it. Some professors are finding that the lure of mobile devices has had an impact on the way they teach. “It was easier to get your point across 15 years ago,” said Queen’s University professor Kathryn Brohman. Now, she says, “we call [teaching] ‘edutainment.’” Globe and Mail

Mainstream calls for change in PSE often shallow, reductive

An article by York University PhD candidate Melonie Fullick examines the ways in which calls for change in education typically get reported. Fullick, who researches PSE policy and its effects on universities, says that mainstream coverage of many issues tends toward a “shallow narrative of universities as institutions that simply have not changed, either over the course of the last century or even since Medieval times.” She argues that such reporting ignores the vibrant work being done in PSE teaching and learning; she also says that calls for changes in pedagogy often ignore the background of what makes change succeed or fail. Moreover, the problems cited in such work frequently reflect changes that are taking place on campus even as they criticize a lack of change. “Universities already have changed … It’s just that they’ve never changed enough for the present moment. Thus we keep charging them with the task of changing more … for a broadening range of purposes,” Fullick writes. A better question, she says, isn’t whether institutions will change, but how they will change, and for whom. University Affairs

Harvard secretly photographed 2000 students for attendance study

Harvard University is under fire following revelations that students were photographed without their knowledge or consent as part of a study on classroom attendance. The study, conducted by Harvard’s Initiative for Learning and Teaching, took pictures of seats and used a computer to count whether or not they were occupied on a minute-by-minute basis. 2000 students in 10 lecture halls were photographed. The administrators behind the study said that subjects had not been notified for fear of introducing bias into the study. Faculty members whose classes were monitored were informed that their classes had been monitored after the study had completed. The images were destroyed, and all faculty members informed at that point agreed to allow the data to be used for research. However, the project only came to the attention of the broader university community at a Tuesday faculty meeting. Peter K Bol, VP for Advances in Learning at Harvard, said that a university review board had been informed about the project beforehand and had concluded that “the study did not constitute human-subjects research.” Harvard President Drew Faust said that she is taking the matter “very seriously” and that the case will be reviewed. National Post | Boston Globe

Admin should not treat faculty as the enemy on assessment

Faculty should not be thought of as the enemy when it comes to making improvements to assessments of student learning, says an article in Inside Higher Ed. The article argues that while a minority of faculty may resist change without any good reason, administrators too often treat assessment as a neutral activity, reducible to the simple collection of data. However, when assessment is used to determine faculty effectiveness and to assess whether or what students are learning, it becomes a practice of management, not pedagogy. Such a move marks a significant shift in power, the article says; moreover, the demand that assessment data be used to modify programs can have a significant impact on program curricula in which faculty have invested significant time and resources. The article argues that a belief in the neutrality of data-driven assessment can lead to a condescending attitude toward faculty, when what is actually needed is collaboration with faculty and an awareness of why faculty members’ may be critical of some assessment measures. Inside Higher Ed

Libraries have major role to play in future of MOOCs

Libraries are in a unique position to support the future of blended and online learning, write Irene Gashurov and Curtis Kendrick for Campus Technology. Gashurov and Kendrick argue that libraries are well positioned to provide the kind of institutional support and physical infrastructure needed to help students engage with online courses. Libraries can also take a leadership role in addressing the impact of massive open online courses (MOOCs) on privacy, content sharing, intellectual property, and accreditation. The article points out that libraries are already exploring ways in which MOOCs can be used for professional development and self-directed continuing education. Libraries are playing an especially critical role in providing MOOCs in the developing world and among other communities with limited access to education. Librarians, Gashurov and Kendrick write, “are in the best position to confront these challenges because they are well-equipped to understand technology’s broader implications and its impact on teaching, learning, and scholarship.” Campus Technology