Top Ten

March 17, 2015

Email addresses stolen in hack of ON Education Ministry website

The website for Ontario's Education Ministry was shut down for a week after a security breach led to hackers stealing 5,000 email addresses. The email addresses were from people who had visited the site to explore "workshop opportunities," said Ministry spokesperson Nilani Logeswaran, who added that no additional personal information was accessed. "The Ministry has contacted the affected individuals to tell them about this situation and assure them that although their risk is minimal, they should remain vigilant for any emails requesting their personal information," said Logeswaran. The addresses were reportedly posted to a public website for a brief time. ON's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) also took its website down as a precautionary measure. One security expert said that the risk involved with stolen email addresses is low, and that the Ministry acted responsibly by contacting the parties affected and notifying ON's privacy commissioner. Globe and Mail

Canada announces funding for national accelerator initiatives

Canada has announced that Ryerson University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) will receive up to $10.7 M over the next 5 years in support of the Zones of Incubation and Innovation initiative. The funding will be distributed through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program(CAIP). The joint initiative between the 3 institutions is intended to provide universities and community-based entrepreneurs involved with digital technology start-ups access to facilities, business development resources, and mentoring. "The Zones of Incubation and Innovation Network will play an important role in SFU's growing innovation agenda. We are pleased to be partnering with Ryerson University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology on this initiative and grateful for the financial support provided by the Government of Canada through the CAIP program," said SFU VP Research Joy Johnson. Canada also announced $2.7 M in funding for The Next 36, a national accelerator and incubator program that includes 9 Canadian universities as academic partners. Canada News Release | SFU News Release | Ryerson News Release

Canada invests in programs to support internationally educated health professionals

The federal government has announced that Canada will invest nearly $8.4 M to support initiatives that bring internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) into the workforce. Approximately 4.6 M Canadians do not have a regular family doctor, while there are 10,000 newcomers to Canada who are health-related professionals. The funding will support 3 initiatives that will be implemented through a collaboration between HealthForceOntario and the University of Toronto. Canada has also provided $150,000 to the Medical Council of Canada for a project intended to help international medical graduates prepare to enter the workforce. In a statement, Canadian Medical Association (CMA) President Chris Simpson welcomed the announcement, but warned that "actively recruiting from developing countries is not an acceptable solution to our physician shortage." Simpson noted that "it has been almost 4 decades since the completion of a national study of physician requirements," and said that Canada must become more self-sufficient in its efforts to educate and train physicians. Academica Group recently worked with multiple collaborators on a report that evaluated bridging programs for IEHPs. Canada News Release | CMA News Release

Georgian student councils contribute $7.2 M to fundraising campaign

The Students' Administrative Councils at Georgian College's Barrie, Orillia, and Owen Sound campuses voted unanimously in support of contributing $7.2 M over 10 years to the institution's "Power of Education" campaign. The gift represents the largest campaign contribution in Georgian history. The funding will support a number of student-oriented projects, including the creation of an online portal for students at all campuses; a new Student Service Centre, renovations to the Administrative Building, and a new sports field in Barrie; a Centre for Community Safety and Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in Orillia; and upgrades to fitness facilities and cafeteria technology in Owen Sound. "Our students take their education seriously and they have a vested interest in the resources that will accelerate their learning and college experience. I'm proud of them for leading the way in our campaign to transform the student experience," said Georgian President MaryLynn West-Moynes. Georgian News Release

Report suggests a gap in low-skilled Canadian workers

A report released last week by Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette says that a shrinking pool of low-skilled Canadian workers has contributed to the growth of the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program. Fréchette said that as more Canadians pursue PSE, fewer are willing to look for work in areas like child care, agriculture, or retail. "The main consequence of this shrinking of the lower-skilled labour force is that it is potentially harder for employers, at current wages, to find 'suitable' candidates, namely candidates whose skill level matches that of the position for which they apply," the report says. The report further suggests that offering higher wages for lower-skilled jobs would not help overcome the gap. The report does not offer a detailed regional analysis due to a gap in the dataGlobe and Mail | Full Report

Brock celebrates arrival of new statue

Brock University yesterday celebrated a new arrival on campus: a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Sir Isaac Brock, weighing in at 1.5 metric tons. The sculpture was crafted by artist Danek Mozdzenski, and took a circuitous path to campus that began in an Oregon foundry last week. It was transported by truck across the US and parts of Canada, a 4,000-km journey made more complicated by the fact that the statue's height meant that its route had to be carefully coordinated to avoid any low overpasses. Students, staff, faculty, and administrators donned red and gathered in Sir Isaac Brock plaza on campus to welcome the sculpture with a special ceremony. The artwork was made possible thanks to a $1 M gift from the late David S Howes, a former chair of Brock's board of trustees. Brock News Release |

Ryerson Students' Union releases report on campus food bank usage

A new study produced by the students' union at Ryerson University sheds light on use of the campus food bank. The Hunger Report was compiled by the Ryerson Students' Union (RSU) based on information gathered from members of Ryerson's Good Food Centre. The study found that over 2,500 people visited the food bank in 2013–14, a number that is on pace to increase this academic year, and that 422 members of the university community registered for food assistance due to food insecurity. 30% of food bank users were from Ryerson's Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science. "[That] really surprised us," said Andrew Silverthorn, one of the report's co-authors. "There's often a stereotype that engineering students come from very wealthy families. This kind of dispels that." Silverthorn speculated that the intensity of engineering programs may leave students with little time for part-time jobs. He further suggested that the increasing number of users of the food bank reflects the growing cost of an education. According to the report, students relying on government loans face an average annual budget shortfall of $1,500. "When you are choosing between textbooks and food, it gets really rough," Silverthorn said. RSU News Release | Metro News

Unionization on campus a reaction to corporatization

An article published by CBC looks at the recent push toward unionization at universities in BC and across Canada. Reporter Jason Proctor notes that within the last year, faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Victoria have all voted to unionize. Proctor says that the ongoing strike at UNBC is not just about a wage gap, but is also a dispute over a number of issues affecting PSE, including shrinking budgets, increasing corporate cash, and a debate over "the very nature and purpose of Canadian universities." Bill Bruneau, Professor Emeritus at UBC, suggests that the push toward unionization is a reaction to the "corporatization" of PSE. As the provincial government continues to cut funding for colleges and universities, institutions have been forced to rely more heavily on businesses and donors, which has in turn contributed to a shift in institutional priorities. Critics of corporatization say that it has led to too narrow an emphasis on universities as sources of skilled labour. "That's part of what universities do, but it's really a small part," said UNBC Faculty Association President Jacqueline Holler, who notes that universities are also supposed to "create citizenry." CBC

Greek organizations report growing numbers in spite of bad press

Membership in fraternities and sororities in North America is increasing, despite a recent spate of bad press. "Average chapter sizes are up, the number of chapters on campuses are up, and in terms of the different types of groups—culturally based groups from historically African-American to Southeast Asian to Latino—those chapters are growing," said David Stollman, a Phi Delta Theta member and founder of an anti-hazing support group. There were reportedly 114,330 new fraternity members in North America in 2013–14, up 45% from 7 years earlier. Meanwhile, the National Panhellenic Council, an organization representing 26 sororities in the US and Canada, reported 140,000 new members in the last academic year, a 75% increase over 7 years ago. Some commentators suggest that membership in Greek organizations appeals to goal-oriented millennials looking to establish a strong network of professional connections. Advocates of fraternities and sororities say that recent scandals represent "outlying behaviours," and that Greek organizations also perform a great deal of positive work in their communities. CBC

More rigorous research needed into student outcomes in online and hybrid courses

US-based nonprofit Ithaka S+R has published a new study that claims there are "no significant differences" in student outcomes between courses offered face-to-face and those offered in an online or hybrid format. The report, produced by analyst D Derek Wu, examined 12 recent studies of learning outcomes in online and hybrid courses. Wu notes that "there remains a dearth of rigorous research" in this area, and that just one of the studies he examined employed a randomized controlled trial. In total, 3 of the studies are described by Wu as being "more methodologically robust"; each of these found that students in online or hybrid courses performed no differently or only marginally worse than students in face-to-face sections. Wu argues that future research on the effectiveness of various modes of delivery should concentrate in 4 areas: cost implications, individual features' impact on outcomes; online upper-level and humanities courses; and long-term results such as graduation and retention rates. Inside Higher Ed | Ithaka Summary | Full Report