Top Ten

March 31, 2020

Institutions, students provide food, care packages

Institutions and students are stepping up to support vulnerable persons within campus and local communities amid COVID-19. The University of Lethbridge, for example, reoriented its Campus Care Parcels program for students experiencing food insecurity so that volunteers and participants could still engage while practicing social distancing, while Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts department donated food that would have been used in students’ labs and cafeteria meals to the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank. Two Carleton University students have relaunched the Lotus Project, an initiative to provide street survival kits for houseless persons in the area, and Brescia University College is helping the London Food Bank develop a virtual food bank website to help facilitate food donations and pick-ups. ULethbridge | Okanagan | CBC | Global News (BC, AB, ON)

AB extends start date for postsecondary funding model until end of May

The Government of Alberta has moved back the start date for the new postsecondary funding model that would see the implementation of significant funding cuts. The new funding model, which was supposed to come into effect April 1st, has seen heavy criticism from Alberta postsecondary institutions generally, as well as in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. AB Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said that the new performance-based funding arrangement will be delayed until the end of May. However, Council of Alberta University Students chair Sadiya Nazir argued that the delay is not long enough and worries the new funding agreements “will encourage schools to make choices that aren't in students' best interests” CBC (AB)

Canada ranks in top category in new report indexing global levels of academic freedom

The Global Public Policy Institute has released a report on global levels of academic freedom in 2019. The index relies on assessments of five measures: Freedom to research and teach; freedom of academic exchange and dissemination; institutional autonomy; campus integrity; and freedom of academic, cultural, and political expression. Countries are divided into one of five brackets based on their overall academic freedom score. Notably absent from the ranking are countries like the United States and Australia, which did not have enough data collected. “We encourage substantiated, scholarly debate on the data, as well as additional expert assessments in future rounds of data collection that allow for a retrospect evaluation of the situation,” conclude the authors of the report. Inside Higher Ed | GPPi (International)

U of T prof launches free online course on mental wellness during COVID-19

A Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough has launched a free online course to help participants manage their mental health during the COVID-19 crisis. “Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COIVD-19” is available on the Coursera platform and aims to provide the tools necessary to deal with increased isolation and the loss of normal professional interactions. The course walks participants through understanding and managing the effects of anxiety and isolation. “To really feel better and to really manage your anxiety, I think it’s really important to really understand what it is, how it comes about,” said course creator Steven Joordens. Global News (ON)

UPEI kinesiologists offer free online ergonomic consultations for those now working at home

University of Prince Edward Island Kinesiologists are offering free online ergonomic consults for individuals on Prince Edward Island working from home. Offered in 20-30 minute video conferencing segments, the consultations aim to educate participants about ergonomic best practices and provide suggestions on how to work as safely as possible during this period. Specifically, the kinesiologist will review workers’ existing equipment, furniture, and work habits, and discuss strategies to optimize well-being while working from home. UPEI (PE)

Universities, colleges donate PPEs, ventilators, campus space to support local hospitals

Canadian postsecondary institutions are donating medical supplies, equipment, and space to support local hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools, including the University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph, have donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to local hospitals. Conestoga College and Algonquin College have also donated PPEs and ventilators, with Conestoga also supplying local hospital beds, stretchers, mattresses and other equipment. The Ontario Veterinary College and Portage College have offered to loan their ventilator equipment. Trent University and Trent Health Services have donated PPEs to the Peterborough hospital alongside testing kits, while St Lawrence College is donating ventilators to local health facilities and offering access to campus spaces. CBC | Lakeland Connect | Global News | Ottawa Citizen |The Whig Standard (ON, AB)

Students eager to help with COVID-19 efforts petition for conditional licensing, offer services

Medical and nursing students continue to suggest ways they may be of service during the COVID-19 pandemic. A nursing student at McMaster University recently started a petition for early nursing certification, allowing fourth-year students to hold temporary certifications without having to take their registration exam. Currently, the College of Nurses of Ontario is granting temporary certifications to recent graduates, but not to those in their fourth year of training. Meanwhile, approximately 100 medical students at Memorial University have offered to start contact tracing, identifying, and contacting persons who may have come in contact with a person with COVID-19. "We have a pool of skilled and educated people who we could put into that and maybe even double the capacity almost overnight," said NL Health Minister John Haggie. "We're working through some of the logistics of that.” Global News | CBC (ON, NL)

Teaching remotely while caring for, schooling one’s own children

“Having both children and an academic career is already challenging,” says Julie Sievers, “but now many professors are juggling at least three jobs.” According to Sievers, academics working amid the COVID-19 pandemic still have their regular researching, teaching, and service jobs; are now taking a crash course in online instructional design; and are providing full-time childcare and, in some cases, schooling. Amid all the frustrations and anxieties, therapist Andrew Gardner-Northrop recommends that academics working from home with children “focus on what you can control, like how to teach online, not the fact that it must be done.” Although this is a much lower bar than what academics typically set for themselves, it must be done, adding “they should [also] be setting [the bar low] for their students this semester.” Chronicle of Higher Ed (International)

King’s to offer Minor in Analytics and Decision Sciences

King’s University College’s School of Management, Economics, and Mathematics (MEM) has been approved to offer a Minor in Analytics and Decision Sciences. Beginning Fall 2020, the interdisciplinary minor will allow students to focus on the intersection between data and decision making, alongside the acquisition of foundational knowledge in matrix algebra, calculus, business, cognitive science, and philosophy. “An enhancement of career skills of graduates will be a major byproduct of introducing this minor and many of the courses are designed to draw links to government agencies, local businesses, not-for-profits, and various community groups,” said King’s Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Mathematics in MEM Joseph Turnbull. King’s (ON)

An “early perspective” on how COVID-19 will affect the future of teaching, learning

“After years of slow drift toward online learning, we just made a sudden leap forward,” writes Gary Hepburn, Dean of Ryerson University’s Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education. In this piece, Hepburn offers an “early perspective” on some of the shifts that have been happening in Canadian higher ed. For example, the author argues that faculty have and should continue to embrace online technologies as a means to engage students. Hepburn also suggests that changes in learning structures will usher in a new era of the “student consumer,” and thinking about faculty with previous experience in online learning, the author argues that such professionals need to flexible and accepting of what others are bringing to the conversation. “Faculty and instructors, students, online learning professionals, and our institutions will all need to adapt to and sort out the new order,” concludes Hepburn. Medium (National)