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Friday, April 11, 2003

  • How UW's investments are doing
  • German profs put courses online
  • CFI grant celebration, and more
Chris Redmond

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How UW's investments are doing

It was a bad year for investments, but UW's losses are smaller than many other institutions are suffering, says the vice-president (administration and finance), Dennis Huber.

[Huber] Huber (right) told UW's board of governors last week that the endowment funds -- totalling some $77 million -- are invested in "a relatively conservative asset mix", with more than half the total being in fixed-income bonds and much of the rest in "high-quality, high-yield (dividend) Canadian equities".

The result: as financial markets sagged through 2002, the funds' value fell by 6.7 per cent. (In the last quarter of the year, there was actually an upturn.) The University of Toronto, meanwhile, is reporting that it lost 9.6 per cent last year.

At UW, the $77 million represents about 400 separate sums of money that are supposed to provide interest to support various activities, such as scholarships and chairs. The goal is a large enough return that UW can spend 5 per cent each year ($3.85 million on a $77 million total) without reducing the value of the principal.

But in 2001-02, as the effects of a weak market were felt, a reserve fund built up in times of good returns was used up. And in the current year, "the expendable rate was reduced to 2.5 per cent," Huber said.

It could be worse. At the University of Saskatchewan, departments have been told there won't be any money from 110 of its endowment funds to spend next year.

The vice-president reminded the board that, besides the endowment funds, UW has two other categories of investment:

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  • German profs put courses online

    Two first-year language courses have become "task oriented, student-centred products", says a feature on the web site of UW's LT3 technology centre this month.

    The LT3 spotlight for April shines on Mat Schulze and Grit Liebscher of the Germanic and Slavic studies department, who have been collaborating on a project that they began with LT3 director Tom Carey some time ago. "At that time," the feature says, "they had received a Wes Graham award, and Tom agreed to help them with the online development of courses."

    Both instructors took one of the earliest LT3 workshops, which are still titled "The New Classroom: Engaging Students with Online Activities". Through the workshop, the feature goes on, they "began morphing German 101 and 102 into online formats with student-centred learning. Over time, and in close conjunction with Les, they developed the courses into two task oriented, student-centred products.

    "The new versions of German 101 and 102 now require only 1 hour per week of student classroom time instead of the previous 4 hours per week. This metamorphosis has occurred due to the student's interaction with materials prior to meeting with the instructor. Now, instead of coming in cold to new material at a lecture, the students learn the materials through task completion prior to meeting face to face with the instructor. Now face to face time can be reserved for answering questions about material and discussing materials and tasks with students who are already familiar with the information."

    A pilot program is currently running with the new courses -- 101 last fall and 102 in the winter term, just ended.

    Schulze points out that they both feel that the work doesn't end there -- research must also occur for the greatest benefit to be obtained. He is very interested in "computer assisted language learning", and the two faculty members will be collaborating on research. Says the profile: "Research in the new pedagogical methods allowed by technology will reward faculty when promotion and tenure meetings can see the effects of their work."

    He points to the LTI grant they received from LT3 as a source of funding for a related project -- a database for the creation of quizzes for students. These quizzes would assess student's comprehension of fundamentals, to find out in advance whether they are prepared for a successful completion of an assignment. The database for this project was partially developed by a co-op student last summer, and there's quite a bit of work left to do before it is ready for implementation in the course.

    Schulze also has developed a grad course in collaboration with Vivian Schoner of LT3: "Issues on Learning, Teaching and Technology". After a long preparation period this course has been offered once as German 695 and Russian 695 jointly. Now, Schoner is working with Mavis Fenn of St. Paul's College in an effort to offer a new version of this course as a graduate course from St. Paul’s for all faculties. "Mat hopes this will meet with success, since it offers so much for students interested in learning, teaching and technology."

    CFI grant celebration, and more

    UW will host an event this morning at 10:00 in South Campus Hall to celebrate "New Opportunities" research grants for 57 UW faculty members from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. CFI president David Strangway is expected to be among the guests.

    The final day of this year's graduate student research conference, postponed from last Friday, is happening today (in the Arts Lecture Hall, not the Davis Centre as originally scheduled). The noon-hour keynote address by Keith Hipel of UW's systems design engineering department has been cancelled, but at 11:30 there will be a talk by Fred Fedosoff of Materials and Manufacturing Ontario, about support for graduate research from the Ontario centres of excellence, including his own.

    Michael Jackson will be on campus today. Jackson, "an independent consultant" working on the analysis and structure of software development problems, will give a seminar at 10:30 a.m. (Davis Centre room 1302) for the Institute for Computer Research. Title: "Concerns: Separations and Compositions".

    A special sitting of the English Language Proficiency Exam -- the result of confusion after the scheduled ELPE was cancelled by last week's storm -- is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. in PAS (Psychology) building room 2082. Anyone planning to take the test tomorrow should call ext. 2837 in advance.

    [Technophile logo] Off campus, but of interest to many UW people, will be a one-day exhibition downtown tomorrow. Kevin Stumpf, known widely as "the Nostalgic Technophile", will show off his remarkable collection of early computer hardware -- consoles, card sorters, control panels and other artifacts. The display will be open from 10:00 to 4:00 tomorrow at the old Lang [Walk for MS] Tannery building (door #6) on Joseph Street in central Kitchener. Donations to the House of Friendship will be accepted by way of an admission fee.

    The second annual Systems Design Engineering Banquet ("connect with alumni, faculty, and fourth-year students") will be held Saturday night in the Festival Room, South Campus Hall. . . . A Graduate Student Association bus trip to the Toronto Wine and Cheese Show tomorrow has been cancelled for lack of interest. . . . The Super Cities Walk in support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society will leave from Federation Hall on Sunday morning. . . .


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