Top Ten

March 30, 2020

Canadian higher ed helps fight COVID-19 through innovative engineering, tech solutions

Institutions, professors, and researchers across the country are creating innovative engineering and technological solutions to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgian College’s Research and Innovation team and University of Guelph Professor Scott Weese are working with local manufacturers to retool operations to create personal protective equipment and produce hand sanitizer, respectively. Staff and researchers at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design and Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry are developing ways to use 3D printers to create printed medical supplies. University of Alberta Professor Mike Lipsett and University of Calgary Professor Mark Ungrin have developed a template for a medical ventilator that can be constructed from readily accessible parts. Georgian | UoGuelph | CBC | Western | Calgary Herald (ON, AB)

Algonquin offers free online business classes amid pandemic

Algonquin College’s Learning Centre has launched free online courses to support the local business community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The college is offering virtual courses in subjects like Business Analysis in an Agile Environment, Project Management, and Business Relationship Management. Each course runs from two to four days and are free of charge except for fees for select books and exams. “We know businesses, employers and employees are being challenged like never before,” said Algonquin Executive Director of Business Development Doug Wotherspoon. “These online courses provide an opportunity to improve and develop our workforce during unprecedented times – a period in which many people are being asked to work from home or may be looking to update their CV.” Algonquin (ON)

CEWIL to host weekly virtual meetings, launches online resources for digital teaching

Co-operative Education and Work-integrated Learning Canada has announced digital meetings and a resource centre for the community. CEWIL will be hosting weekly digital meetings to allow their community and guests to share information amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization has also launched a COVID-19 resource centre, which includes tips for working at home, onboarding students remotely, and supervising students remotely. “We hope to provide a place to come together to have the comfort of like minded people, going through similar challenges,” reads a CEWIL statement CEWIL (National )

Time for universities to listen: Student calls on schools for cooperation, collaboration

“Students are experiencing overwhelming amounts of stress and pressure as they adjust to life in a pandemic, while also struggling to keep up with coursework,” writes Emily LaLonde, a third year student at Carleton University. The author calls on universities to expand contingency plans for students who are struggling to keep up with their coursework amid the pandemic, give students choices regarding assignment completion and grades, and include students in conversations regarding institutional changes. “It is time for our universities to listen,” concludes LaLonde. “As we tackle circumstances that coerce us unto isolation, let us move forward in a way that allows us to learn and to grow together.” Ottawa Citizen (ON, National)

CRTO calls for schools to fast-track graduation of final-year Respiratory Therapy students

The College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario has issued a call to schools delivering respiratory therapy programs to fast-track graduation of final-year students so they can help with the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization is also calling for retired or inactive registered respiratory therapists to return to work. Fanshawe College has responded to the CRTO’s call, indicating that 43 third-year students will be allowed to finish their studies online while working on the front lines of the pandemic. “I have all of the confidence in the world in our students,” said Fanshawe Coordinator of the Respiratory Therapy Program Julie Brown. “They have all of the skills they need to be a great help and many are jumping in today!" Fanshawe | CBC (ON)

Online instruction and the dangers of reproducing the digital divide: Opinion

“Even in our great cosmopolitan country, not everyone has equal access to the web and all its resources,” writes Marie-Eve Desrosiers. Although the author states that institutions have “made the right decision” in migrating classes online, institutions and instructors will do well to remember that some students cannot afford the technology to access online resources from home, and may not have access to the data plans and adequate connection speeds necessary to participate in online courses. Desrosiers notes that simply offering students with technical limitations different learning options is not enough as this will reproduce the “digital divide.” Instead, institutions and instructors might consider “adopting one low-tech strategy for all, assigning term papers and exams that are less reliant on access to online resources, for example.” Policy Options (National)

CAUT, UAlberta decry AB’s decision to proceed with funding cuts during COVID-19 crisis

The Canadian Association of University Teachers, alongside University of Alberta staff and students, are urging the Government of Alberta to rethink the implementation of funding cuts to postsecondary education during the COVID-19 pandemic. “To cut funding to the institutions that provide needed evidence-based expertise to deal with this pandemic – from research in vaccinology and immunology, to policies needed to address the social and economic fallout – is short-sighted and harmful,” explains CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. In a letter to University of Alberta’s Board of Governors, the Non-Academic Staff Association, the Postdoctoral Fellows Association, the Students’ Union, the Association of Academic Staff, and the Grad Students Association all call on the provincial government to “provide the university with the necessary flexibility to deal with the current crisis.” CAUT | Edmonton Journal (AB)

Doctors petition delay of certification exams

Over 2,000 doctors from across Canada have signed a letter asking the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to rethink the cancellation of oral and written certification exams. The letter proposes a one-time process where residents are either certified based on assessments of their training or through exams delivered in an alternative format, such as an online test. The college's current plan, is for the exams to be put off until September at the earliest, while residents who have already earned a medical degree and are working in teaching hospitals will be able to seek a temporary license from a province as long as they understand they must take the certification exam as soon as possible. CBC (National)

Fighting “Zoombombing”: Tips for protecting your online classes from inappropriate content sharing

Faculty are reporting that some online classes hosted via the platform Zoom are being disrupted by individuals bombarding sessions with inappropriate content. The phenomenon, called “Zoombombing,” involves the sharing of vulgar or offensive content that can be posted by a known or unknown user. Importantly, there are technological steps instructors can take to prevent such attacks. Zoom has published a blog post outlining such security measures, such as options for controlling participants' activities including disabling participants' video, muting participants, turning off file transfer and annotation options, or disabling private chat functions. "For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to change their settings so that only they can share their screen," said a Zoom spokesperson. "For those hosting private meetings, password protections are on by default, and we recommend that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining." Inside Higher Ed (International )

Stop-work order lifted, construction at MUN continues

The stop-work order issued to contractors building Memorial University’s science complex has been lifted as of Thursday. Service NL confirmed the ban is no longer in place at the site of the new Core Science Facility. "We take the safety of our workers and community very seriously and are following the mandated provisions of the government-issued guidelines regarding public gatherings and social distancing," said Marco Services Limited CEO Christopher Hickman. "We have also introduced stringent cleaning and safety measures to all of our sites across the country." CBC (NL)