Top Ten

March 25, 2020

Canada suspends federal student loan payments for six-months

The Government of Canada has announced that students with federal student loan debt will be automatically enrolled into a six-month loan holiday program. The holiday only applies to the federal portion and does not address any provincial or territorial payments to private financial institutions. "This situation is so fluid we would not rule out [extending the pause further]," Employment and Workforce Development Minister Carla Qualtrough said. "As the situation becomes more complicated and becomes more serious, there's never going to be a point we don't consider extending anything that we announced today." The Canadian Federation of Students is also calling for further help for unemployed students and for international students without equivalent health coverage. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations applauded the move and called on provincial and territorial governments to follow suit. CBC (National)

RMC announces classes will continue, receives complaints from union

Royal Military College has announced that classes will continue at its Kingston and St-Jean campuses, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. CBC reports that the Union of National Defence Employees has received complaints from workers about the training courses’ continuation and has questioned the wisdom of the department’s decision to keep the doors open. "Training at entry-level institutions such as the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), which are core functions for the [Canadian Armed Forces], will continue to operate in order to minimize the long-term impact on our force strength and to our key defence functions," said department spokesperson Jessica Lamirande, who added that training is limited to “essential core activities” for the time being. Professors and civilian support staff are being “encouraged to self-isolate while not on campus.” CBC (ON)

Challenging misinformation; promoting trust in science: Opinion

“Fear, uncertainty and opportunistic marketing” are all playing a role in driving the COVID-19 “infodemic,” writes University of Alberta Professor Timothy Caulfield. However, the author argues that a growing distrust of science, experts, and health care institutions are also contributing to the spread of misinformation about the virus. Why is this the case? asks Caulfield. According to the author, the spread and acceptance of COVID-19 misinformation is facilitated by politicians that put forth a “distrust-the-science” message, and industries that leverage distrust to sell health products and practices. “The issue of trust is complex and health-care providers and scientists are still relatively respected voices,” explains Caulfield. “But there is no doubt that even a modest increase in suspicion toward these key institutions can help fuel the spread of harmful misinformation.” Folio (AB)

Lakehead, Biitigong Nishnaabeg partner on land-based program

Lakehead University and Biitigong Nishnaabeg, a northwestern Ontario First Nation, have announced that they are collaborating on a master’s level, land-based program. Part of the pilot program includes learning how to harvest and process wild rice, and the first cohort primarily consists of teachers at Endzhi-gkinoohmaading, the elementary school in Biitigong. "As soon as the kids are out on the land their demeanour just completely changes,” said Endzhi-gkinoohmaading teacher Amy Michano, “and just having something like this, having it validated just means so much more to them because now we can actually prove to say that this is invaluable." "We've sort of jumped in with I think a lot of trust on both sides," said Lakehead Chair of Graduate Studies & Research in Education Paul Berger. "The instructors and the lead people in the community decided that rice harvesting could be part of that. And we did the risk management stuff incredibly quickly and boom they were on the land." CBC (ON)

Pandemic brings attention to labour divide on campus

As students and professors have been told to stay off campus and move to online learning, support staff at US institutions – such as custodians, cafeteria workers, security guards, and IT specialists – have been expected to report to work as usual. The Chronicle writes that the outbreak of the virus has highlighted what many see as a labour divide on campus between the “knowledge workers” and the “support workers.” “The administration sends the message that we’re all in this together,” said one residence-life staff member, “yet it feels like there is a divide.” Some workers expressed frustration that administrators’ “default expectation be that staff members work on campus,” and others stated that it felt as though “we’re being treated as expendable.” The article highlights how many institutions have taken an evolving approach that has increasingly limited face-to-face interactions expected of staff and described how some departments have worked with administrators to help develop alternative methods of work. Chronicle of Higher Ed (International)

Camosun instructor moves charitable final project online with success

A Camosun College marketing instructor has developed an innovative way to allow students to complete an in-person final project in a new digital learning environment. Anne Borrowman has adjusted the original assignment for her Marketing 420 course so that students could create an online auction in support of VIDEA, with all monies raised going to Women for Change, an organization in Zambia that supports youth education and development. The experiment has thus far been successful, with the project receiving many high value donations from businesses. “Basically, the situation was out of our hands and we were disappointed at first that the event we’d been working on all term was cancelled,” said Camosun marketing student Alisha Evans. “But we as a team discussed what we could do to take our losses and move forward and we started thinking that hey, maybe we can reach more people and have a bigger impact with an online auction rather than a normal event.” Camosun (BC)

Placements, clinicals, convocation ceremonies postponed or cancelled at several schools

Universities and colleges across the country continue to adjust educational plans and celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brandon University has announced that traditional spring Convocation ceremonies will be postponed and campus libraries are now closed. St Clair College also announced that it has cancelled all placements and clinicals until further notice. Institutions in Montréal have announced a number of measures, such as UQAM’s suspension of courses and labs until at least the end of March and Université de Montréal’s recognition that courses requiring internships or labs “might have to be extended to May 22 or even later.” BrandonU | St Clair | Montréal Gazette (National)

EdTech opens up platforms to postsecondary institutions

Riipen, a Vancouver-based company that enables online work-integrated learning, has announced that it is making its platform free to all academic institutions to support the transition to online learning and virtual internships. Publisher JSTOR has announced expanded access to free content and text to participating institutions where students have been displaced. MindFuel has announced that it is offering its K-12 STEM educational resources at no cost to all Canadians, including its Wonderville English, Wonderville French, and Codingville platforms. Rice University’s OpenStax has announced that students and faculty can access many materials and services without cost through the end of the semester. Riipen | JSTOR | Nation Talk (Mindfuel) | Houston Chronicle (BC)

How to organize a memorable, educational hackathon

Last year, more than 100,000 students gave up their weekends and their free time to learn something new,” said Major League Hacking Co-founder Jon Gottfried. Those students were participating in hackathons: invention competitions that bring people together to solve interesting problems with technology. According to Gottfried, there are eight factors that contribute to making any hackathon a memorable and educational experience for students: choose a technologically appropriate venue; allow students to participate in determining direction; organize food and prizes; market the event; recruit volunteers; find sponsors; make the event special; and measure your results. “Having their [students’] perspective and support and involvement makes it a much better experience and much more memorable,” said Gottfried. Campus Technology (International)

5 guiding principles for approaching higher ed learning amid COVID-19

Instructors and students need more than syllabus adjustments to aid in the transition to online learning, writes Brandon Bayne. To this end, Bayne has created a list of guiding principles for higher ed during the COVID-19 outbreak that are divided into five main categories. “I don’t think any of this is particularly unique to me. This is something that I had been taking in from my colleagues, many of them in religious studies, but also other colleagues that I have seen in a different pedagogy group,” explained Bayne. “I’ve been marinating different folks’ insights and recommendations. And I thought this would be my little thing that I would give back.” Chronicle of Higher Ed (International)