Top Ten

March 3, 2016

ON free tuition plan fuels ongoing debate

Writing for the Ottawa Citizen, Madeline Ashby applauds Ontario's plan to offer free tuition for  students from low-income families, adding that some of the world’s most innovative countries like “Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and other European nations have offered similar arrangements for years.” Antonella Artuso of the Toronto Sun, however, says that the new scheme will be bring more negative effects than positive ones. She points out that Ontario will pay for the new tuition deal by cancelling the “popular tax break” that has allowed nearly one million students to collect tuition and education tax credits for 2015. In an article for Maclean’s, Evan Solomon places himself between these two poles, writing that while the free tuition deal might be a good start for ON, it fails to recognize or address a host of non-financial barriers that still prevent many students from entering PSE. Ottawa Citizen | Toronto Sun | Maclean’s

UNB ordered to reinstate women’s varsity hockey team

The New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board has ordered the University of New Brunswick to reinstate its varsity women’s hockey team and to revisit the University’s Gender Equity Policy. The decision is the culmination of a dispute that began in 2008, when UNB announced that six of the then 14 varsity sports teams on the Fredericton campus would be reclassified as club teams, including women’s hockey. In March 2009, a complaint was filed under the New Brunswick Human Rights Act alleging that the reclassifying of the women’s team and not the men’s team was an act of sexual discrimination. The final decision requires UNB to immediately begin the process of reinstating the team, revisit its Gender Equity Policy within the coming year, and pay $5 K in general damages to Sylvia Bryson, who first filed the complaint. CBC | UNB | Lethbridge Herald (CP)

Canada “not superior to the US” when it comes to campus racism, write Toronto Star contributors

Canadians might like to think that racism is not a major problem in their country, but this is simply not the case, according to Sefanit Habtemariam and Sandy Hudson, founding members of the Black Liberation Collective-Canada and current students at the University of Toronto. While the media might focus on stories like the recent controversy at the University of Missouri, the authors insist that “Blackface, a lack of representation, the slow death or complete erasure of programs that focus on black people and thought; these are issues above the 49th parallel, and it’s time we recognize it and do something to fix it.” They support their claims by highlighting instances of backlash against black student protests—including racial slurs and outright threats—that position racism as a problem in Canada that requires concerted efforts to address. Toronto Star

uToronto startup receives $4 M for cancer-analyzing software

The University of Toronto startup Pathcore has received a $4 M investment from the US-based National Cancer Institute to develop and implement Pathcore’s technology. The money will be used specifically to develop Pathcore's tissue analysis software through six major cancer centres in Canada and the US, with the hope that this software will significantly reduce the time traditionally needed to detect cancer in medical samples. “We free pathologists from counting cells, searching for those hard-to-find areas through a microscope, and doing other repetitive tasks that software can do faster and better,” said Pathcore Co-founder and CEO Dan Hosseinzadeh, "ultimately, that means improved patient care.” uToronto

NorQuest, Lakeland partner on technology training project in Tanzania

NorQuest College and Lakeland College are partnering with the Vocational Education and Training Centre in Tanzania to create opportunities for disadvantaged learners to access pre-technology training. The three-year project is being conducted as part of Colleges and Institutes Canada’s (CICan) Improving Skills Training for Employment Program (ISTEP) in Tanzania. “We look forward to our role in providing input into the development of infrastructure and programming that will support Tanzanian adults with barriers, giving them access to post-secondary programming and ultimately transition to the workforce,” said NorQuest Vice President of External Affairs Joan Hertz. Lakeland Vice President, Academic Michael Crowe stated that he was pleased that Lakeland will be working with NorQuest on this project. Lakeland | NorQuest

How do you judge how “productive” faculty are?

“Questions about faculty productivity are nothing new,” writes Vimal Patel for the Chronicle of Higher Education, “but the growing use of metrics to assess faculty activity has raised the stakes at a time when colleges already face growing pressure to demonstrate accountability and compete with peer institutions.” Many US schools, for example, have now turned to third-party organizations to develop metrics intended to assess the peer-reviewed publications, journal citations, federal research grants, and other accomplishments of their faculty members against those at peer institutions. However, faculty have criticized these metrics for not incorporating enough input from scholars themselves, leading Patel to conclude that “the debate over how meaningful those [productivity] data are won’t be settled anytime soon.” Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

One year after Everest’s sudden closure, nearly 80% of former students compensated

It has been one year since Ontario suspended operations at 14 campuses of Everest College, and to date, nearly 80% of affected students have been compensated, reports The Record. The statement of compensation comes from ON’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, which first suspended the college’s operations due to ongoing concerns about its finances. Ministry Spokesperson Tanya Blazina reportedly said in an email that to date, 2,201 of the roughly 2,700 affected students have applied for refunds or completed their training elsewhere. The compensation provided thus far has been valued at $11 M. The Record

MITT gives Manitoba students head start on trades education

The Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology has partnered with the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine to offer specialized shop classes in French, reportedly forming the first French postsecondary trades education option west of Ontario. MITT currently gives francophone high school students the opportunity to gain “Hands-on” experience, and will reportedly offer “red seal” Level 1 trade certificates to Grade 11 and 12 students. Chantal Simard, senior French technical education consultant for MITT, says that this is “the equivalent of a year of post-secondary study, and it won’t cost them a thing." MITT is reportedly in the midst of a major expansion and plans to build a residence that will house francophone and Aboriginal communities that wish to study at its Winnipeg campus. Maclean's 

Students forced to choose between textbooks and food

Students are “forced to choose between textbooks or food, groceries or graduation, they experience poverty, hunger, and homelessness,” writes Clare Cady for the Chronicle of Higher Education. “It isn’t a choice students should have to make, and colleges need to do a better job of making sure it’s one they don’t have to.” Using a number of studies on US students experiencing hunger, Cady explores the links between attending postsecondary education and going hungry. Many schools have opened food banks on their campuses, and Cady encourages them to build on these efforts through initiatives such as resource centres. “For those who argue that these actions are enabling, I say yes, they are,” she says, “We are enabling people to get an education.” Chronicle of Higher Education

Addressing gaps in MOOC research

The vast majority of existing empirical research on MOOCs has been performed in North America, write George Veletsianos of Royal Roads University and Peter Shepherdson of the University of Zurich, and this research often provides little insight into how MOOCs might operate in different contexts. The study also found that while many research papers have been published on the subject, nearly half of them have been cited zero times. A very small number offer any qualitative insight into the lived experiences of MOOC users or instructors. The report concludes with recommendations for further research on MOOCs, which include looking more closely at instructors’ experiences and examining how MOOCs impact different types of learners. IRRODL

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