Top Ten

March 24, 2020

International students completing field-work, research abroad face uncertain future

International students of Canadian universities that are conducting research abroad are facing uncertainty regarding when they can return to Canada. Universities Canada President Paul Davidson estimated that hundreds of students are in this type of predicament. “There are international students who have rented apartments in Montreal or in Vancouver and just happened to be away doing field work at the time,” explains Davidson. “So, is there a way we can get them home?" Contradictory messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair have reportedly caused confusion as Trudeau stated that temporary residents are not exempt from border closures, while Blair stated such individuals will be allowed to enter Canada. The federal government has announced that student visas will not be impacted as university classes move online nor if school semesters are extended. The Standard (National)

Trent launches Aquatic Research Program

Trent University has launched the Trent Aquatic Research Program to understand and reduce the impact of human behavior on freshwater conservation in the Kawarthas and Haliburton. The program aims to train the next generation of aquatic scientists, as well as educate the community. “This [program] allows us to manage the [aquatic] systems better, and hopefully reduce harm and lead to a solution,” said Trent Professor Paul Frost. “We need to invest in science.” Frost stated that the program will allow for a proactive approach for anticipating problems in local freshwater bodies. Trent (ON)

Provinces roll out differing strategies to address K-12 learning

Schools across the country are rolling out online learning programs and implementing mandatory passes to address learning challenges for K-12 students amid school closures. The Government of Alberta, for example, has announced that schools will “offer at-home learning opportunities, either through online means or through other accommodations, such as course packages and telephone check-ins.” The Government of Ontario has instituted a similar plan with the launch of the Learn at Home online portal that will provide families the resources necessary to continue education at home. The Government of Prince Edward Island is also launching online educational activities to be posted on school boards’ websites. In a different vein, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced that all K-9 students will go onto the next grades, while the Government of Saskatchewan has announced it will assign all K-12 students a 50% grade, even if they are failing. AB | ON  | CBC (1) | CBC (2) | CBC (3) (National)

Institutions implement temporary changes to letter grade system

Two postsecondary institutions in Alberta have announced that they are instituting changes to the letter grade system of evaluation. The University of Alberta has temporarily suspended the letter grade system. Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the winter semester will be assigned credit, no credit, or incomplete on their transcripts. UAlberta notes exemptions to the grading scheme may be established by the deans, and the deadline for students to withdraw from classes will also be extended. Alternatively, the University of Calgary has announced that students will be allowed to either accept their final grades, or opt for a “credit received/fail” note on their transcript. Undergraduate students will still be required to achieve a grade of ‘D’ or better to qualify for a “Credit Received” (CR), and graduate students are required to achieve a grade of ‘B-‘ to qualify. CBC | Calgary Herald (AB)

How Ottawa’s Centre for Journalology is tackling predatory publishing practices

Predatory journals – those that deviate from accepted editorial procedures—are not only detrimental to an academic career, but can contribute to the production of low-quality research, writes Alex Gillis. In this piece, the author explores the efforts of the Ottawa Centre for Journalology to inform scholars about and decrease the number of predatory publishers. The centre is developing a portal for educational resources in multiple languages, tracking the number of publications in predatory journals by discipline and geography, and creating a digital tool to determine the likelihood that a journal is predatory. “We envision something that might provide an initial rating of a journal, and then, if it’s of interest, something to perhaps click to obtain details on how the rating was obtained,” says centre investigator Kelly Cobey. “Not only will it [the digital tool] be free and easy to use, but its development, including updates, will be fully transparent.” University Affairs (ON)

CPSPEI alter licensing provisions in response to COVID-19

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of PEI has implemented emergency licensure provision to approve more medical licenses in response to COVID-19. The changes include removing interprovincial barriers and expediting renewals for retired physicians. CPSPEI President Matt Kutcher told CBC that the college used to meet twice monthly to approve license, but now members will meet daily to approve license requests as they come in. "We're certainly not opening the doors wide to let anybody in who has a medical degree," said Kutcher. "The intent is really just to look at some of the standard operating procedures and say OK, well what can we do to make all of this go a lot quicker." CBC (PE)

MB announces cuts to postsecondary funding with new budget

The Government of Manitoba has released its provincial budget, which reportedly introduces a 1% reduction to the operating grant received by the post-secondary education sector. The University of Winnipeg states that this is the third year that public funding of postsecondary institutions in the province has been reduced. The Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Program is receiving a $4.8M increase, as well as making $41M available to postsecondary students for interest-free loans. UWinnipeg | Thompson Citizen (MB)

Dal researcher receives funding top-up for COVID-19 research

A Dalhousie University researcher has received another funding boost for his internationally-collaborative research on identifying persons most susceptible to COVID-19’s severest effects. The Government of Nova Scotia announced a $600K contribution on top of the $1M already received from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and $250K from the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation. David Kelvin’s research focuses on biomarkers that will help medical professionals predict which patients are most likely to develop a severe illness. “Due to the extraordinary nature of the issue, the significant health risks to Nova Scotians, and the considerable economic consequences already being felt here and around the world, we need to be nimble and act decisively to support urgent frontline research," said Research Nova Scotia CEO Stefan Leslie. “Now more than ever, it’s important we unite around a common mission.” Chronicle Herald (NS)

Tips for remaining “market ready” while working from home

“As we begin rethinking our day-to-day work, the way we find new work deserves another look, too,” writes Stephanie K Eberle. In this piece, the author outlines tips for keeping oneself “market ready” while practicing social distancing: identifying current connections; updating one’s brand; and defining, making, and maintaining new connections. “Self-isolation does not, however, mean complete detachment from humanity,” concludes the author. “Remaining intentional and active now can turn downtime into a strong network when our community convenes once again.” Inside Higher Ed (International)

Fédération says not all courses can be delivered online

The Fédération des cégeps has announced that not all courses can be transitioned to online delivery, but schools are doing what they can to save this session’s work from a distance. The Fédération argues that internet connections are too weak in some areas of Québec to allow online education and that not all students or instructors have the appropriate equipment at home to participate in such initiatives. However, QC Mister of Education Jean-François Roberge said that instead of teaching online, instructor may choose to communicate with students via email regarding readings or forthcoming assignments. Journal de Montréal (QC)