Top Ten

November 11, 2014

Atlantic provinces take steps to harmonize apprenticeship training

The federal government and the Atlantic provinces have teamed up to harmonize apprenticeship training in 6 high-demand trades: carpenter, welder, metal fabricator, steamfitter-pipefitter, plumber, and industrial electrician. Apprentices in these areas will now benefit from consistent training, certification, and standards; as well, increased mobility will help address labour shortages across the Atlantic region. The initiative is part of the Council of Atlantic Premiers’ Atlantic Apprenticeship Harmonization Project, which has already harmonized apprentice training for bricklayer, cook, construction electrician, and instrumentation and control technician. Nova Scotia has recently created an industry-led Apprenticeship Agency and has passed legislation that allows students to receive apprentice training in other provinces while remaining registered in NS. Additionally, both NS and New Brunswick have signed agreements with western provinces to improve mobility and recognition of work experience. Canada News Release | NB News Release | NS News Release

More international students are choosing Canada

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander last week announced that Canada is on track to welcome a record number of international students this school year. According to preliminary reports, Canada has so far issued 103,999 study permits to foreign students, an 11% increase over 2013, and a 26% increase over 2012. More than half of these students are coming from China (29,414), India (13,758), South Korea (7,284), France (7,045), and the United States (4,847). “Our government is proud that Canada continues to be a study destination of choice for international students. International students generate an estimated $8 billion in economic activity in Canada each year and thousands will remain in Canada permanently, putting their education and experience to work and contributing to economic and job growth in Canada,” said Alexander. In January, Canada released a new International Education Strategy that aims to increase the number of international students in Canada to 450,000 by 2022. Canada News Release

New online tool will help BC apprentices find employer sponsors

British Columbia’s Industry Training Authority has launched the Apprentice Job Match Tool, an online resource designed to help apprentices connect with employers. Apprentices will be able to use the tool to help find an employer sponsor, considered to be one of the biggest challenges to a successful apprenticeship education. It is hoped that the tool will help increase continuation and completion rates for apprentices in the province. The Apprentice Job Match Tool will be hosted on the WorkBC site, which sees more than 20,000 daily visitors and hosts over 10,000 job postings. “Helping apprentices find employer sponsors is critical to improving apprenticeship completion rates and ensuring industry has the skilled labour it needs to take advantage of our growing economy,” said Shirley Bond, BC Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour. Friday’s launch coincided with BC’s inaugural Apprenticeship Recognition Day. Camosun College News Release | BCIT News Release

Schools need to measure social and emotional well-being, not just test scores

A York University professor says that more must be done to address student stress from kindergarten through graduate school. Stuart Shanker says that policymakers focus too narrowly on test results, and do not pay adequate attention to other matters such as life satisfaction. “Life is very complex; our children are exposed to stressors in everything from video games to junk food, and anxiety is one of the biggest problems in elementary schools, high schools, even post-secondary,” he said. Shanker is part of a campaign to help parents and schools reduce stress among students. This initiative hopes to introduce means to measure how well schools foster social-emotional skills, citizenship, physical health, and creativity. “It’s abundantly clear to me that social-emotional learning is the critical factor in how well a school does and how well a child does,” said Shanker. Addressing these needs, he says, can help students stay in school longer and perform better. Toronto Star

Experts suggest later school start times for teens

Teenagers operate on different sleep cycles than adults and young children, yet the majority of school schedules require teens to wake with the dawn in order to arrive at school on time. Several recent studies suggest that teens would be better equipped for school if they could sleep just a little longer in the morning; the American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, recently called for high school and middle school students to start school no earlier than 8:30 AM. Currently, 40% of US teens start school before 8 AM. Experiments with later school start times have shown that students are more alert, achieve better grades and test scores, and have less risk of depression. In Canada, Toronto’s Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute has allowed students to start at 10 AM for the last 5 years. After 2 years, early reports showed improvement in English and math, and students reported getting more sleep and finding it easier to get to school on time. A 2010 article in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that even an extra half hour of sleep could benefit teens. Globe and Mail  

Web widget designed to help journals, researchers promote their work

A Canadian company has created a new web widget to help medical researchers manage the volumes of publications available to them. TrendMD was founded by Toronto-based physician Paul Kudlow. “What’s the point of publishing something if there is no guarantee that your intended audience will see it?” Kudlow asked. Publishers can add the TrendMD widget to online articles for free; it will then recommend to users links to additional studies elsewhere in the same journal. The journal generates additional revenue with every click. Sponsors can also add content to the widget, though it must pass a review from an in-house team. A scientist could, for instance, pay a set amount to see their article accessed a certain number of times. “We want to ensure that every piece of scholarly content gets in front of the right audience, so that it has the best chances of generating the impact it deserves,” said Kudlow. “In some cases we may grow the audience by 10,000 people that otherwise would have never seen their work.” CTV News

Op-ed describes university rankings as flawed intellectual shortcuts

In an op-ed for the National Post, former York University Dean of Education Paul Axelrod argues that university rankings are “endemically flawed.” Rankings "have some entertainment value, they pander to our hunger for simple bromides, but they shouldn’t be used by families anxiously planning their children’s academic futures,” writes Axelrod. He points out that rankings depend on a somewhat arbitrary weighting of various figures that may or may not actually reflect an institution’s quality. He notes that citation counts, for instance, often depend on a non-comprehensive list of journals that is dominated by American publications. Such counts also typically omit books, which remain the scholarly standard in the humanities and social sciences. Axelrod also says that reputation scores are often based on guesswork; he cites one ranking that awarded high placement to a non-existent law school. Rankings, Axelrod suggests, are little more than a “tempting, but risky, intellectual shortcut.” Axelrod has commented on the shortcomings of university rankings previously. National Post

Predatory journals being used to promote pseudoscience by “fringe activists”

Google Scholar’s ambition to be a comprehensive resource is being exploited by “fringe” researchers, warns the University of Colorado’s Jeffrey Beale. Beale says that because Google Scholar indexes so-called “predatory journals”—a term coined by Beale—some individuals and groups use these publications to disseminate questionable research that would never pass peer review and that may be ideologically motivated. This research may include alleged documentation of alien sightings, promotional material for untested medicines, and unproven hypotheses on issues such as vaccination and climate change that contravene scientific consensus. “Because predatory publishers perform a fake or non-existent peer review, they have polluted the global scientific record with pseudo-science, a record that Google Scholar dutifully and perhaps blindly includes in its central index,” Beale said. He adds that the practice can be damaging to legitimate scientific research, which builds on previous findings. “When junk science is published bearing the imprimatur of science, later scientists may inadvertently use that work as the basis of their work, threatening the integrity of their results,” he said. Ottawa Citizen

Survey suggests that US business students receive less emotional support than those in other majors

A new study from Purdue University has found that business students receive less emotional support than students in other areas of study. Just 9% of business students who responded to the survey strongly agreed that they “had a professor who inspired [them] to learn,” “had a professor who cared,” and “had a mentor.” In contrast, 18% of arts and humanities majors and 15% of social sciences/education majors strongly agreed with all 3 statements. Business majors were also the least likely to strongly agree with each individual statement. Respondents who graduated between 2000 and 2014 reported a higher level of emotional support than the overall average. The researchers who conducted the survey suggest that this lack of support could have lasting consequences, perhaps affecting business majors’ subsequent well-being and employee engagement. Business Week 

MOOC 2.0 focuses on collaboration, sharing rather than “top-down” education

Just as massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a familiar part of the PSE landscape, educators in South Korea are poised to launch a new delivery model that is being described as “MOOC 2.0.” These new kinds of MOOCs seek to challenge the traditional, top-down university curriculum with a more collective approach to education. MOOC 2.0 advocate Yoonil Auh is a professor of instructional technology at Kyung Hee Cyber University, an online affiliate of Kyung Hee University. Auh says that MOOCs run the risk of propagating a “type of neo-colonialism,” as they are typically created and disseminated in English and controlled by European and American companies. In contrast to this “top-down” approach, Auh says, “the stance of MOOC 2.0 is that higher education should find ways to address the needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid while being sensitive to culture.” MOOC 2.0 serves “as an academic mediator” that facilitates the exchange of knowledge between students; Auh describes it as “mindware, open to all” that provides a structure for sharing information. MOOC 2.0, he says, “is an educational movement supported by technology.” University World News