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Wednesday, May 5, 1999

  • 'Learning Technology' centre coming
  • Ontario budget promises funds
  • Cool air for UW's buildings
  • The ownership of new ideas
  • Positions available, and more

'Learning Technology' centre coming

A new "Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology", dubbed LT3, is being set up to help teachers at UW make better use of the Web, the rest of the Internet, CD-ROMs and other technologies. A spinoff from the teaching resources and continuing education office (TRACE), which already does extensive work in the area of learning technologies, LT3 will soon get a home on the third floor of the Dana Porter Library.

An announcement from two of the associate provosts calls LT3 "a collaborative initiative to co-ordinate the university's innovations in applying technologies for teaching and learning". They say that LT3 will help in "making sustained, effective use of technology to enhance learning and teaching, and support UW's leadership role in innovative and strategic technology developments".

The announcement comes from Gary Waller, associate provost (academic and student affairs), and Jay Black, associate provost (information systems and technology). They called the creation of LT3 "a direct result" of recommendations in the 1997 "Building on Achievement" plan for UW's future.

"Almost all the staff required for the centre have been seconded from other units," says Black, noting that Tom Carey, associate director of TRACE, becomes director of LT3. "We are assigning a staff member from IST, and Distance Education and the Library are making significant staff contributions. Graphics is contributing design expertise for web-based course resources. We have genuine collaboration with a number of areas for our efforts to co-ordinate the way we support and disseminate innovations in applying technology for teaching and learning."

He said LT3 "will provide a focal point for engaging students with faculty in developing technology resources for teaching".

Carey calls LT3 "both an evolution from our current activities and an innovation in its own right. Many campuses are finding that existing models of staff support for learning technologies can't cope with the growing demand. We are experimenting with a new approach to addressing this support crisis for the faculties, through a Knowledge Co-ordination position. This is a new post for an expert in instructional design who will develop and support an online UW 'organizational memory' for best practices in learning technology innovation.

"We will also be extending UW's current leadership role with student/faculty teams to design technology-enhanced learning activities, including a new initiative to provide graduate teaching assistantships for work on department and faculty projects to apply learning technology."

LT3 will be based temporarily in the TRACE offices in Math and Computer while renovations are done in the Dana Porter Library. University librarian Murray Shepherd says he was delighted when approached about reorganizing library space to accommodate the new Centre. "Everybody wins in a collaboration like this. We'll have the opportunity to work with other staff areas and the faculty on developing innovative learner-centred activities."

Overseeing the activities of the LT3 Centre will be a steering committee with participation from students (Pascale Proulx, undergraduate in fine arts; Daniel Piché, graduate student in applied mathematics), faculty (Paul Guild, management sciences; Barbara Moffatt, biology; Geoff McBoyle, dean of environmental studies), and staff (Terry Stewart, AHS computing office) as well as Carey, Waller, Black, and Mark Haslett, associate librarian (information systems and services).

Ontario budget promises funds

Presenting his 1999 budget to the Ontario legislature yesterday, provincial treasurer Ernie Eves confirmed a 1 per cent increase in university funding for this year, and promised big funds for capital construction to help institutions expand.

"This is the biggest capital commitment to Ontario's colleges and universities since the early 1970s," said a pleased Robert Prichard, president of the University of Toronto and chair of the Council of Ontario Universities. And Andrew Boggs, speaking for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, called the announcement "a fantastic first step".

The Legislature isn't likely to turn Eves's budget promises into law before a provincial election is called. That announcement could come today.

"Universities and colleges are being provided with the capital funding they require to invest in the infrastructure necessary to accommodate growth in the student population in the coming years," said Eves in the official budget document. "The SuperBuild Growth Fund will spend $742 million for universities and colleges in 1999-00 to support construction of new classrooms, labs and other facilities needed to accommodate a growing student population. This spending will also help post-secondary institutions use existing facilities more efficiently to accommodate growth in student demand." He told reporters later that "it's time to do something serious about renewal of colleges and universities." The money is largely coming from the sale of Highway 407, the toll expressway north of Toronto.

The treasurer also announced extra money for the Access to Opportunities Program for enrolment expansion. Originally budgeted at $150 million in start-up money, it's getting an extra $78 million.

The 1 per cent increase in operating funds for 1999-2000 is what had previously been announced (and built into UW's own budget for the coming year).

The instant response to yesterday's budget was that Eves and premier Mike Harris are making generous promises because it's election season. The budget is "the most expensive campaign brochure in the province's history", said Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty.

Earlier, McGuinty had promised that if he heads the government following this spring's provincial election, he'll move to increase university funding in Ontario to the Canadian average within five years. Currently Ontario stands tenth among the ten provinces in per capita funding for higher education. "I will make higher education accessible and affordable again," McGuinty promised, adding that he'll have tuition fees cut by 10 per cent. (This year fees at UW are rising by 9 to 19 per cent.)

Howard Hampton, leader of the New Democratic Party, also said he would move university funding up to the Canadian average if his party took office. Hampton and McGuinty signed a "pledge" offered to them by a coalition of faculty and student organizations. Dave Johnson, the Progressive Conservative minister of education under Harris, said he wouldn't sign.

Cool air for UW's buildings

If temperatures this month are any indication, the summer's shaping up to be another scorcher.

"The pattern seems very much like it was last year," said plant operations director of technical services Dave Churchill. Air conditioning was turned on this week across campus, about the same time as last spring. In 1996, air conditioning began in late May; in 1997, in early June.

Churchill remembers other warm Mays, especially those before air conditioning was provided for convocation ceremonies, when the roof of the Physical Activities Complex was watered down to cool the crowds and people still fainted from the heat.

Back in 1983, the campus didn't chill out until June 11, but not because it was a cool spring. "Rules were a little more rigid in those days," Churchill recalls. With energy conservation a priority in the early 80s, air conditioning was not allowed before the end of May. "The rules have been relaxed over the years," he added, partly in response to concerns about lost productivity when people were too warm to work. "We respond to the demand now, whenever it gets hot enough."

The ownership of new ideas

A UW panel yesterday expressed serious concerns about a federal draft report on the commercialization of university research. About 50 faculty and staff came to hear the panel of eight, including vice-president (research) Carolyn Hansson, discuss the report, "Public Investments in University Research: Reaping the Benefits." The forum was sponsored by UW's Faculty Association.

The report itself was drafted by a national panel of experts for the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on Science and Technology and is now in a "limited consultation phase". Hansson said she's annoyed at the limited consultation on the report, created by a nine-member "blue ribbon" panel that includes Claudine Simson, vice-president for external research and intellectual property at Nortel Networks (who's to receive an honorary degree from UW next month); Tom Brzustowski, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (and a former UW provost); and Pierre Fortier, an executive of Innovitech Inc.

It's "secret as far as we're concerned," Hansson said. UW hadn't been sent a copy and had to request one through Jerry Gray, director of the technology transfer and licensing office, after he learned of its existence and that it was being circulated to a select few across the country.

Several members of the UW panel were troubled by the report's first two recommendations: that Canada's universities should "explicitly adopt innovation as their fourth mission, in addition to teaching, research and community service"; and that for a university to be eligible for research funding and commercialization support from federal sources, it would have to adopt a policy on "innovation" whereby all intellectual property created from research "will be owned by the university".

UW's current policy on IP states that the inventor or creator basically owns new ideas.

John Thompson, dean of science, told the panel: "We clearly have to have a clearer sense of what the government has in mind."

The report basically puts pressure on universities to "redirect their research activity" to facilitate commercialization of new discoveries, said panel member John Hepburn, chair of the chemistry department. He suggested that the report has a basic bias in favor of people who do applied research that can be turned "into goods and services," and, by definition, faculty members who commercialize research "do better community service than those who don't."

UW economist Jim Brox figured the report is telling universities to "create this research for free and then turn it over to the private sector to make a profit off of it."

FAUW president Fred McCourt said the report is also troubling because of its tone and implications about future research funding. If new federal policies are created about IP ownership that are contrary to UW's own policies, does that mean UW stands to risk its federal funding "because we're not complying"?

Faculty members Gino Tenti (applied mathematics) and Vera Golini (St. Jerome's/arts), and discussion moderator John Wilson (political science) urged the university and UW members to protest the contents of the draft report by writing the prime minister and area MPs. "We should not remain silent about our concerns," said Golini.

Positions available, and more

The regular weekly list of staff positions available has been issued by the human resources department and circulated to departments; it's also available on the Web. On the May 5 list: More information is available from HR at ext. 2524.

The Positions Available list, including brief descriptions and information about qualifications, comes out each Wednesday and is printed in the Gazette whenever the Gazette is being published -- but there's no issue this week. The Gazette is on a biweekly schedule just now; look for it again on May 26, June 9 and 23, and July 7 and 21.

"The bike centre needs volunteers!" writes Ted Harms of the library staff, a keen wheelman himself. "If you are knowledgeable about bicycle maintenance or just want to learn more, come out to the organizational meeting at the Bike Centre from 1 to 2:30 p.m. today (Wednesday). The commitment is only two hours per week and basic training will be provided. This is a great chance to become more familiar on how to fix and maintain bicycles. If you're interested in volunteering but can't attend the meeting, e-mail tmharms@uwaterloo to arrange an alternate time.

So, I can't count

I wrote in yesterday's Bulletin that in the winter term, there were 72 unemployed co-op students, and that "More than half the unemployed students were in first-year mathematics, where 34 out of 400 students didn't find jobs." My thanks to Don Burn of civil engineering, who pointed out that the average unemployed first-year math student at least recognizes 34 as less, not more, than half of 72.
The Bike Centre, room 101A in the Student Life Centre, is down the hall from the CIBC and Music In Orbit or through it's entrance in the southwest corner of the building, adjacent to the loading docks. The Bike Centre provides, at a minimal cost, the tools necessary for most routine bicycle maintenance and is open to all UW members. We'll be open for the spring beginning next week."

A seminar described as "an introduction to continuous optimization" is set for 4:30 this afternoon in Math and Computer room 5136. The idea, says an announcement, "is to introduce students to functional analysis and its applications to optimization. Much of the theory of optimization is motivated by problems in physics and engineering which can be formulated as optimization problems in vector spaces. This leads us to examine the underlying geometry of Hilbert spaces. . . . This seminar is open to everyone. Knowledge of multivariate calculus and analysis in R^n is recommended, but not required."

The Kitchener-Waterloo Record reported yesterday that mathematics student Matthew Crane has been charged with production of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and possession of a controlled substance, after an RCMP raid on a laboratory in an industrial mall on Victoria Street. The Record said police "seized buckets of chemicals that were being transformed into pills" for illegal sale.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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Copyright © 1999 University of Waterloo