Top Ten

February 4, 2015

Little risk of outbreak after Acadia student dies of meningitis

An Acadia University student succumbed to bacterial meningitis on Sunday, according to Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief public health officer. The woman was brought to a hospital in Kentville, NS in critical condition on Saturday and passed away the following day. "Sometimes infectious diseases can be extremely rapidly progressive and despite the best medical attention we're not able to be successful in treatment," said Strang. Doctors are currently trying to determine what form of the disease afflicted the young woman so they can effectively vaccinate those with whom she may have come in close contact. Acadia University spokesperson Scott Roberts said that the institution is working with the local health department to share information on the illness; so far, there have been no indications that any other persons have been affected. "At this point it's a single isolated case in time on the campus. For the general campus community there's no increased risk," said Roberts. Last week, a Halifax-area high school student also died from meningitis; however, health authorities say that there is no known link between the 2 victims. Academica Group extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of the students. Vancouver Sun (CP) | CBC

Postscript: February 12, 2015

A second Acadia University student has been diagnosed with meningitis. The student is reportedly doing very well at a local hospital. Nova Scotia Public Health has determined that because the student lives off-campus and was isolated during the incubation period, there is little concern that any close contacts will require medical evaluation or treatment. Officials said that should this case prove to be the same strain that afflicted a student who succumbed to the illness this past weekend, they will initiate a vaccination campaign on campus. Test results are expected to return from a national lab today. Acadia News Release | CBC | Globe and Mail

New agreement facilitates apprentice mobility across Canada

A new agreement signed by Canada's provincial premiers will allow apprentices to more easily move between provinces and territories as they complete their training. Under the new agreement, apprentices' hours worked and technical training will be recognized across Canada, allowing them to continue their training outside of their home province. The plan builds on the Atlantic Apprenticeship Harmonization Project, as well as agreements signed between Nova Scotia and Alberta and New Brunswick and British Columbia. "Having all provinces and territories on the same page will mean that our qualifications will be properly recognized and help us get closer to our final goal of achieving our Red Seal certification," said apprentice electrician Tiffany Parker. NS News Release

McGill inaugurates Research Institute at MUHC

McGill University celebrated the opening of the $310 M Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) on Monday. The new facility was funded by contributions from the province of Quebec and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), as well as donations to MUHC's Best Care for Life fundraising campaign. RI-MUHC comprises the Centre for Translational Biology, which conducts genetic research on diseases; the Centre for Innovative Medicine, reportedly the only facility in Canada that will enable hospital patients to participate in clinical research without having to leave the facility; and the Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, which carries out population research and examines the effectiveness of health interventions on society as a whole. "Biomedical and research facilities, combined with renovated labs and redesigned care units at the Glen and the Montreal General Hospital, will redefine how our researchers and students conduct cutting-edge research, with the ultimate goal of advancing 21st-century medicine," said RI-MUCH Executive Director Vassilios Papadopoulos. McGill News | CFI News Release | MUHC News Release | Montreal Gazette

Vancouver firm converts luxury hotels into international student residences

A company called CIBT Education Group has purchased a 17-storey luxury hotel in downtown Vancouver with the intention of renovating it into housing for international students. The conversion is just one of several that the company is undertaking: it has 3 similar projects in development with 9 more in the planning stages throughout Vancouver and Richmond. CIBT CEO Toby Chu said that the need for international student housing in Greater Vancouver is desperate given Vancouver's low vacancy rate. According to figures from 2011, approximately 100,000 foreign students live in the Greater Vancouver area. The renovated Viva Suites hotel will offer 200 beds, a fitness centre, an electronic library, a TV lounge, and a free shuttle service to area institutions. The company will also provide an airport pickup and shuttle service, a hot meal service, IT support, social activities, and academic counselling. Rent will range from $900 to $2,500 per month. Vancouver Sun | The Province

uWaterloo criticized for staying open after heavy snowfall

The University of Waterloo is defending itself from critics after it stayed open when all other elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools in the region were closed due to heavy snowfall. Some students said that they felt that conditions were unsafe and that it was unfair to expect students to make the trip to campus. The city received up to 30 centimetres of snow by the time Environment Canada ended a winter storm warning for the region at 10:45am on Monday. Provost Ian Orchard said that the university carefully monitored weather conditions and that "in our judgment it was safe for students, staff, and faculty to get to and move around the University of Waterloo." University policy stipulates that campus will close when weather "would pose a significant danger to students, staff, and faculty, or would prevent large numbers of them from coming to campus or returning safely to their homes." Western University and Fanshawe College in London also remained open in the wake of the winter storm that affected much of southern Ontario, though area elementary and secondary schools were closed. CBC | The Record

MRU unveils redesigned website

Mount Royal University has unveiled its redesigned website. The MRU website has been enhanced with a modernized look and feel, simplified navigation, and a renewed emphasis on the institution's students and faculty. The site, a joint effort between MRU's Information Technology Services and Marketing & Communications Departments, also features a responsive design to accommodate a wide range of user devices. "Our refreshed website significantly enhances the experience of visitors to the site. The visual impact is quite striking; navigation is easy and the layout is clean. The design is as open and inviting as Mount Royal itself," said VP University Advancement Carole Simpson. MRU News Release

uCalgary, UBC students team up to launch textbook trading site

Students at the University of Calgary have launched a new website that facilitates the trading and selling of used textbooks. The site was founded by commerce student Ian Feil, who said he felt dissatisfied by on-campus buy-back options. Feil said that he and fellow student Tom Larose noticed that many students were using Facebook to trade books, and teamed up with students at UBC to launch the MyUniTrade website this month. The site connects buyers and sellers and helps them arrange a meeting. The site is currently focused on students at uCalgary, but Feil said that he and his team plan to expand to reach other institutions as well. He also hopes to add an online payment option in the future, and is considering hosting a marketplace for tutoring services. Metro News

BCcampus examines potential of competency-based training for trades

BCcampus has published a new white paper that explores the fit between competency-based education and trades training. The paper focuses on "Competency to Credential," described as "a high-level concept created by BCcampus and intended to help overcome challenges within sectors that use competency frameworks ... for teaching, learning, and credentialing." Competency to Credential is designed especially for horizontal competencies that are common across a range of disciplines or credentials. Specifically, the authors consider the application of this approach in 2 phases of a pilot program targeting certification challengers within the professional cook trade. The authors found that the Competency to Credential approach was linked with an increase in Red Seal certifications, and also identified a correlation between the amount of time spent using the available training modules and candidates' success rate on the written exam. The researchers believe that their pilot provides evidence to support the use of the Competency to Credential concepts to ease the transition to competency-based education in some trades. BCcampus Blog | White Paper

Calgary high school students seek exemption after tech glitch disrupts exam

More than 1,400 students in Calgary have applied for an exemption after a technical glitch last month affected their ability to write an English diploma exam. Computer systems crashed as thousands of students signed on to write the test, prompting the province to allow students to apply for an exemption to the essay portion of the test. AB Education has also offered to waive fees for students who elect to rewrite the exam. Calgary's Catholic School District said that 29% of its students writing the exam were affected by the error. Centennial High School Principal Matt Christison said that some students took the problem in stride, completing the exam with pen and paper, while other struggled. "This is very high-stakes testing. A lot of students need this mark to get into postsecondary," he said. Christison also noted that the glitch points to a larger issue: many schools are not prepared to deal with the technical requirements of mass, electronic testing. "Our networks were built for other things. They were built for us to do things internally," he said. CBC | Metro News

UBC's sailbot to make history with solo trans-Atlantic journey

UBC's 66-person sailbot team of engineering students is preparing to launch a 5.5-metre-long, autonomous seafaring boat that they hope will become the first such craft to make a solo trip across the Atlantic. If all goes according to plan, the boat will leave the coast of St John's in August, embarking on a 3-week, 2900-kilometre journey to Dingle, Ireland. The voyage will be a difficult one: the vessel, which has not yet been officially named, will have to battle treacherous weather, freight traffic, fishing nets, and even icebergs. However, it will be buoyed the sailbot team's record of success: in 2012, they finished first in 3 international sailbot regattas. The boat is powered by solar panels and includes on-board navigation and obstacle-avoidance technology, such as thermal imaging technology that should help it avoid other vessels and icebergs. "When we go over to Ireland and we're out there, waiting for it to come toward us, and we see it coming toward the finish line, that's going to be the moment. That's when the champagne comes," said co-captain Kristoffer Vik Hansen. Globe and Mail