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Thursday, June 6, 2002

  • Associate VP pushes 'broader change'
  • Ontario promises full-size dollars
  • Sybase CEO visits; other events
Chris Redmond

Wanna learn something?

[Mug shot]

Police are looking for this man following two case of indecent exposure on campus -- one last Wednesday afternoon on a north campus walkway, one Monday morning in parking lot B. He's described as 5 feet 6, 180 pounds and "slightly overweight", and anybody with information is urged to call UW Police (888-4911) or the Waterloo Regional Police (653-7700 ext. 333).

Associate VP pushes 'broader change'

How hard should professors be pushed into adopting "learning technology" for their courses? It's a question that gets asked, at a time when 48 UW courses are now being taught over the web but the most popular classroom technology is still calcium carbonate on a blackboard, and it came up briefly at Tuesday's meeting of the UW board of governors.

"The difficulty is getting to the critical mass where the faculty within each department can support themselves," said Tom Carey, who recently took on the new position of associate vice-president (learning resources and innovation). He gave the board a 20-minute report on the work of the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, which he heads, and answered some questions.

One board member asked him whether the university has "goals" for how widely and deeply computer technology should be used in teaching. "I do have goals," Carey said, "but I've avoided stating them publicly." He did say that in general LT3 is striving for "narrow change in a large number of courses, broader change in a growing number of courses".

After all, he added, the way a university works is that individual professors have enormous latitude to decide how they want to teach and how they want to divide up their effort: how much into changes in teaching technique, how much into updating course content, how much into new research directions.

A board member from the business world observed that the university can't, or shouldn't, leave the adoption of computer technology entirely to individual decisions. "Institutions have to take the initiative," agreed UW president David Johnston, who's nationally famous as an advocate of learning technology ("the finest leader in the country in this area", Carey called him).

But one of the faculty representatives on the board suggested caution. Mieke Delfgaauw of environmental studies, who's practically the poster child for web teaching and other computer technology, said UW has to recognize "the uniqueness of each kind of teaching" and not impose requirements.

Although enthusiasts like to point to the achievements of Acadia University in Nova Scotia, where "the Acadia Advantage" means laptops are in use across the university, the fact is that there are a lot of unhappy professors at Acadia, Delfgaauw said, "because that was imposed. I kind of like being here, and building together!"

Carey said UW's administration sees so much importance in teaching technology that "this year my budget went up by about 60 per cent," and eight co-op students are working for the summer helping professors, one by one, introduce technology at particular points in their teaching.

He also reminded the board that UW is part of an Ontario-wide consortium that will trade "learning objects", snippets of interactive computer action that help students learn a single concept or practice a single skill. Two such "objects" developed at UW have now gone through the consortium and been adopted on another campus, he said. "It was human nutrition here, and they're actually being used in courses about horses at Guelph!"

[Two thinkers nearby]

Mica sparkles as the newest monolith in the Peter Russell Rock Garden catches the sun. The sample of mica-rich muscovite quartzite from Red Bridge near North Bay, Ontario, was donated by the family of John Roorda, a member of UW's first graduating class in civil engineering (1962) and then long-time faculty member and chair of the civil eng department, who died in 1999.

Ontario promises full-size dollars

The Ontario government is promising "full" funding for additional students in the province's universities this year, the board of governors was told on Tuesday.

Ian McPhee, the vice-chair of the board, said he had represented Waterloo at a dinner meeting with universities minister Dianne Cunningham in mid-May, and got the good news: "The government's intention is to fully fund all of those students -- she was very interested in getting that message across."

In saying that, Cunningham was echoing a hint given in the provincial throne speech earlier in the month. It's a vital issue, because universities have been expressing worries that they can't expand enrolment unless the government is prepared to pay the bill. The University of Toronto, in particular, said at the end of April that it "would not be able to implement its plans for doing its full share in solving the so-called double cohort enrolment boom" without full funding.

In 2001-02, the fiscal year that just ended, enrolment growth was so far ahead of the growth in funding that university leaders were talking about "47-cent dollars" provided by Queen's Park.

For 2002-03, the year that's now begun, UW's budget tentatively provides for "75-cent dollars" -- that is, extra funding that's 75 per cent of what it would really cost to pay for new students at the same rate as previous enrolment.

With the recent promise from Cunningham, "the implication is that we'll get 100 cents on the dollar on the growth portion of our enrolment," provost Amit Chakma told the board of governors on Tuesday. He said that would mean an extra $1.2 million in grants this year beyond what's currently shown on the income side of the budget.

But, Chakma added, "I for one will not be counting on that 100 cents," not until the government's assurances turn into a written promise and then a cheque.

Bob Truman, UW director of institutional analysis and planning, said yesterday he would interpret Cunningham's promise as meaning there will also be some money arriving for the extra costs incurred in 2001-02, even though that fiscal year is now over. He's estimating that UW is owed $1.7 million for the past year. And, like Chakma, he's not counting the money until he sees it.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the UW board of governors . . .

  • approved a $6.5 million contract to Melloul Blamey Construction for the expansion of Engineering III building. The project will provide 44,000 square feet of new space, a bit more than originally planned, to include some room for the new mechatronics program. Total cost, including furnishings and design, is budgeted at $8.2 million, of which the Ontario SuperBuild program is providing half.

  • gave the okay to a new $25-a-term fee for the Society of Independent Studies, after hearing that IS students voted unanimously (8-0) to accept the fee. Other fee changes: Federation of Students, up from $27.31 per term to $28.02; the "student-coordinated plan" that included the expansion of the Student Life Centre and the Columbia Recreation Complex, up from $28.44 to $28.98; Imprint, down from $4.10 to $3.30.

  • was told that former UW president James Downey has agreed to be the first director of the planned new Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education. Approval of WatCACE is expected at this month's meeting of the UW senate. The centre will sponsor research into the effectiveness of co-op education, which has been central to UW's way of doing things since Waterloo introduced co-op to Canada in 1957.

  • agreed to let the board's executive committee make a decision on its behalf when a recommendation comes forward from the nominating committee for dean of applied health sciences, likely later this month.

    Announcement due on multimedia lab

    Media have been invited to an announcement at the University Club this morning (11:15) involving Toronto-based Leitch Technology Corporation and "the establishment of an advanced multimedia communications laboratory" at UW. "Multimedia communications," the UW news bureau adds, "involves the seamless integration of the telephone, television and computer and is predicted to dramatically change everyday life and the world economy."

    Sybase CEO visits; other events

    [Chen] John Chen (left), chairman, chief executive officer and president of Sybase, Inc., will speak today about his journey to become CEO of a nearly $1-billion company. Chen's talk, "Journey of a Successful High-Tech Businessman", focuses on what he has learned as a high-tech executive. He will address an audience of students and faculty, as well as local entrepreneurs, at 4 p.m. in Davis Centre room 1350. The company is a big one internationally, with a particular local presence because some years ago it absorbed UW's earliest spinoff company, Watcom. "Sybase covers all the database bases," according to MSN Money, which explains that the firm is also involved in other kinds of software, online banking and consulting services.

    It's the third day of the Commuter Challenge, which urges people to reduce their reliance on their cars. I haven't seen any word on the friendly competition between UW and Wilfrid Laurier University in this respect, but I can report the results of yesterday's Daily Bulletin poll, in which I asked, "How did you get to campus?"

    The Challenge winds up today.

    Several hundred United Church of Canada ministers, youth workers and congregational leaders are expected on campus today through the weekend for "Breakthrough", a conference on "mobilizing and motivating the church for mission in an emerging new Canada". Participants are mostly living in the Ron Eydt Village conference centre and attending workshops on such topics as music ministry and "living the gospel in the world". An opening worship service and theme address are scheduled for tonight in the Physical Activities Complex.

    (Missing from the list of conferences at UW this summer, by the way, is the Christian group Women Alive, which used to just about take over the campus for an annual weekend. "With decreasing numbers over the past decade, it was becoming too expensive to use our facilities," says UW conference coordinator David Reynolds. "They are going to continue their conference at a local hotel. They have promised to come back if their numbers climb back to the 1,500-delegate range.")

    "Understanding Pesticide Risks" is today's session in the cancer control seminar series, starting at 12:30 in the Clarica Auditorium, Lyle Hallman Institute. The speakers are Sharon Campbell of UW's Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation and Steve McColl of the health studies and gerontology department.

    A workshop on "business etiquette and professionalism" is scheduled for today as part of the career development seminar series. It starts at 2:30; the career resource centre in Needles Hall will have details and a sign-up sheet.

    The senate undergraduate council will meet at 1:30 today in Needles Hall room 3001.

    Announced for tomorrow: a "trade show" of what's available from Basics, the people who provide business products for offices across campus. It'll run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Davis Centre lounge.



    June 6, 1989: A $2.5 million microelectronics research lab opens in the new Davis Centre, replacing the old lab in Carl Pollock Hall.

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