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Monday, December 10, 2001

  • Co-op department sends out survey
  • Interviews won't all be 'continuous'
  • New head for counselling
  • A bank of 'learnware objects'
  • It's a winter week -- weally!
Chris Redmond

Chanukah: lights, freedom, oil, the dreidel

[Yellow blooms on bare branches]

Winter wonder: Somebody called on Friday to tell the world that the forsythias are in bloom outside the General Services Complex, and my colleague Barb Elve promptly got a picture to prove it. I don't know how well they survived the nippy weekend, but there's been no snow, certainly, and none is in sight. And Christmas Eve is two weeks away.

Co-op department sends out survey

All UW's co-op students will be surveyed by e-mail about the workings of the co-operative education system, the co-op and career services department has announced.

A thousand still jobless

A memo from the co-op department says that as of Thursday, there were 1,038 co-op students still without a work term job for January to April. "Although few on-campus interviews remain to take place within the next two weeks, CECS will continue to pursue job opportunities for those students without employment. Students will be contacted by telephone or e-mail to make arrangements for resulting interviews that would likely take place at the employer's location or via telephone."
Olaf Naese, communications officer for the CECS department, said the survey was promised in an agreement between CECS and the Federation of Students earlier this year. A "review of the service delivery mechanisms" of the co-op program was one of the conditions for student funding of the new CECS building, which is now under construction.

Says Naese: "A crucial part of the review is to ask co-op students, through an online survey, to provide their opinions on a number of areas with regards to co-op and CECS. Results of this survey will give CECS direction for improvement."

He said the survey will be e-mailed by today to all co-op students who are currently on a work term as well as those who are in 4A on campus. "Students who do not receive it and are interested in completing the survey should contact Sandra Shantz at 888-4567, ext. 5480 or by e-mail at slshantz@uwaterloo.ca."

Students who will be on a work term in winter 2002 will be e-mailed the survey in March, he said.

The message is going to the e-mail address shown for each student in UW's central directory database, UWdir. Students who use e-mail addresses other than what they are listed under in UWdir should update it in the database so that they will receive the survey "and so the University can continue to contact you if necessary".

Interviews won't all be 'continuous'

Changes to the co-op job process next year will not introduce "a giant continuous phase", the director of co-op education and career services has promised.

[Lumsden] "Let's dispel the rumour," CECS head Bruce Lumsden (left) writes in a long document answering questions submitted by readers of the uwstudent.org web site. "A pure continuous process like the one currently in use following the rank/match is not being contemplated."

In his answers to the ten questions, Lumsden gives some background about why changes are under consideration at all. "CECS must attempt to satisfy the needs of two customers or the process will not work," he writes. "While you as students obviously have opinions that represent your position, employers have their opinions too. Seldom are the two in agreement. Not only must CECS find a compromise that each group can live with, but it must also try to resolve logistical problems that arise from an increase in enrolment of 26% over the past six years. As well, a fluctuating economy and an increase in competition from other co-op education programs sharpen the need for change.

"We are trying to resolve the regularly-occurring situation that, despite the number of students without jobs at the end of the initial interview phase, there are typically 1,000 or more jobs that did not match with a student. For example, the interview period this fall produced 1,041 jobs not filled and 1,500 students without employment after the computer match on November 12.

"We are looking for a way to get more students into interviews so that fewer jobs go without a match. Of the 3,322 students going through interviews this fall, 500 students did not get an interview, yet 614 students received more than 5 interviews. 100% of the job offers were made to 36% of the students."

Lumsden says clearly that "there is not going to be a 'giant continuous phase'." What's happening, he says, is that "We are looking at different models that will address some major problems with the existing process. These need to be fixed in order to handle the increase in the number of co-op students. . . . One option is a series of interview/rank/match cycles that would yield faster and more frequent student/employer matches than the existing Initial interview phase, but not as fast as the current Continuous interview phase.

"An advantage to students of more frequent cycles is the possibility that once a student is presented with an offer of employment by an organization they wish to work for, they can accept the job at the end of that particular cycle, discontinue the interview process and concentrate on school. The current system does not permit this. CECS has received many requests from students to let them out of interviews early because they have found the job that they want."

"Shorter, more frequent cycles would smooth out the process. Instead of all students having to wait a long time to find out whether or not they were matched with a job, there would be a more gradual achievement of employment. This would result in more students being selected for interviews sooner in the overall process."

Employers will appreciate a faster turnaround, he says: "Two and a half months can elapse before an employer finds out whether or not a student was matched with their job. . . . Many other co-op education programs follow a pure continuous-style system, where employers find out the success of their interviews the next day."

One of the questions posed to Lumsden deals with spacing out interviews, and he says it's not true that companies will fight for spots at the beginning of the interview period. "If a different process were to involve shorter match cycles, these would be have to be managed. One way to do this would be to hold 'feature weeks' that, for example, emphasized particular job types, students, etc.

"Not all companies necessarily want to or are able to interview early. Jobs arrive at CECS at all times throughout the term because clearance to hire students is granted by their organization at different times. A more flexible process would allow an employer to submit a job at any time."


New head for counselling

Tom Ruttan (right) becomes director of the counselling services department on January 1, succeeding Jack Williams, who is retiring.

"Tom has been a counsellor with the department since September 2000," writes Catharine Scott, associate provost (human resources and student services), "and prior to coming to Waterloo spent several years managing a community-based mental health clinic for the Waterloo Region HSO Mental Health Program. His Bachelor and Master's degrees are from the University of Waterloo and his doctorate in Psychology is from the University of Windsor."

In another memo, Scott writs, "Counselling Services is particularly blessed with a wonderful and talented staff and I am very pleased that we have been able to appoint someone from within the department to this team leadership position."

A bank of 'learnware objects'

Federal funding, teachers' ingenuity and technical support from UW's LT3 learning centre have led to the creation of CLOE -- rhymes with "snowy".

It's the Co-operative Learnware Object Exchange, a collaborative project of eight Ontario universities to "develop an innovative infrastructure for joint development of multimedia-rich learning resources", according to Peter Goldsworthy of LT3.

To put it another way, CLOE is a bank, or pool, or library, or database of small pieces of software that can be used in teaching particular ideas or information in some university course. The jargon phrase is "instructional bottlenecks": difficult spots in a course, where students can be helped by a computerized demonstration or exercise.

As faculty members at UW and elsewhere develop such software, LT3 can make it available through CLOE to people teaching similar courses at other universities -- and vice versa.

Says a web page: "The key innovation in CLOE is the creation of a virtual market economy for engaging multimedia to support online learning. Each institution will develop multimedia learning resources to address instructional challenges shared by the other partners. Each institution will contribute educational multimedia to the co-operative exchange and use resources developed by the other institutions in return. The virtual market will encourage collaboration across institutions to pool ideas and co-ordinate development: the most successful resources -- those re-used the most -- will provide the most exchange credit for the institutions developing them. Resources only used by the original developers will not accrue exchange credits, so a substantial incentive for collaboration is built into CLOE."

The eight partner institutions are Guelph, Lakehead, McMaster, Ryerson, Waterloo, Western Ontario, Windsor and York.

Says Goldsworthy: "The exchange can be as large as the eight universities can accommodate with their available online learnware objects, and upcoming new learnware objects.

"The learnware objects will be available to all faculty and online developers (like DE's WebDev group) at all member institutions. To begin with, the repository will reside at Waterloo, but eventually our hope is for the Ministry of Education to host the CLOE server."

Last month, through local MP Andrew Telegdi, the federal government's Office of Learning Technologies announced a $180,000 grant to get things rolling. Goldsworthy says the grant will be spent on the limited co-design and co-development (between institutions) of learnware objects, and on developing case studies of the process of co-design and co-development of the learnware objects, and other related project costs.

"Currently," he says, "LT3 is also developing the database for CLOE. We've just finished usability testing and will begin to implement the changes usability pointed out over the next few weeks. Then the database will be opened up to all CLOE partners for evaluation, followed by the entering of learning objects from all partners into the database. Finally it's our intent to have each institution enter all learning objects from new online courses as they are created."

It's a winter week -- weally!

Exams continue (as demonstrated by the dozen students who were up early today and lined up outside the Dana Porter Library before its 8 a.m. opening time). And the winter term will be here before we know it. Reminder for students who plan to be on campus in January: fee payments are due December 14 (this Friday) if they're made by cheque. You get two weeks longer -- to December 27 -- if paying by bank transfer.

A note from the Student Life Centre indicates that there will be a "Red Cross Table Sale for International Development" there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, tomorrow and Wednesday.

There's a special presentation today in the "LT3 Dialogue series" organized by the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology:

The Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies is in the process of designing a new on-line beginners' German course. This web-based course relies on a task-based model (T5 developed by LT3) and offers the student a variety of interactive learning objects. Students are supported by an on-line study guide -- a computer program that uses information from a variety of databases (with student data, tutorial content, exercises) to offer the language learner contextualised help. Professors Mat Schulze and Grit Liebscher will discuss the proposed architecture of the learning system and address didactic and technical challenges language learning in a "computational environment" poses. Discussion will follow.
The session runs from 3 to 4 p.m. in Dana Porter Library room 329.

Meanwhile, everybody's waiting for Paul Martin, the federal minister of finance, to bring down a budget later today. Different people are waiting for different things; university leaders are mostly waiting for some news about funding for "overhead costs" of research, a provision that could bring millions of extra dollars to institutions like Waterloo. This morning's Globe asserts that Martin will announce such funding despite the competing demands of security and defence, economic stimulus and tax relief.

Back on campus: the health services department will be closed tomorrow from 11:30 to 2:00 on account of, guess what, a "We apologize for any inconvenience," says supervisor Ruth Kropf.

Also tomorrow, the teaching resource office has the second presentation of its workshop on "Understanding the Learner", 9 a.m. to noon. The number to call for last-minute information is ext. 3132.

Wednesday brings a Waterloo tradition: caroling in the lobby of the Modern Languages building, 12:15 p.m. It'll be the 17th annual event, led by Jake Willms, who began them when he was assistant to the dean of arts, and has continued them now through several years of retirement.

Here's a note from the direction of the psychology department:

My name is Rebecca Shultis. I am a research assistant for the Centre for Child Studies at the University of Waterloo. We are in need of parent volunteers to bring their children into the centre a.s.a.p. We need two male children, one 4 years and 5 months of age and one 4 years and 11 months of age, to participate in short, game-like studies.
Interested parents are asked to call ext. 5416 for more information.

And finally . . . 'uwstudent.org' is reporting that "The Waterloo Campaign referendum results have been invalidated by the Referendum Appeals Committee" after a complaint that official background information about the proposed project was changed during the on-line voting period. "Since students voted on two different questions," says Friday's ruling, "an accurate determination of student opinion cannot be ascertained, thus invalidating the results of the Referendum." But I understand that that isn't necessarily the end of the story. The referendum asked students whether they would accept a $13.80-per-term fee to pay for expansion of the Student Life Centre and Columbia Icefield.


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