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Monday, January 22, 2001

  • Courses get 'value added' from web sites
  • Entrepreneurs' club cultivates success
  • The rules about faculty dismissal
  • And now, the rest of the story

Courses get 'value added' from web sites

More than a third of all UW courses had some "web presence" by last summer, according to a study done by Vivian Rossner-Merrill (below) and Morag Malcolm of UW's LT3 teaching technology centre.

[Head] A first report on their findings appears this month in the Teaching Matters newsletter published by the teaching resource office. More extensive articles are coming in professional journals, says Merrill.

"There are no value judgements here," she said emphatically, explaining that the study is basically a census of how many courses were using the web and what they were using it for. The finding: out of 1,907 courses offered last year, 681 had some "presence" on the web. That's 36 per cent. Figures varied from a high of 60 per cent in mathematics and 57 in applied health sciences to a low of 16 per cent in environmental studies.

Rossner-Merrill and Malcolm say they developed a coding scheme to record how the web was being used in each case. That included coding pedagogical and technological uses of the web, student learning resources, student technical support, access to course pages, and page maintenance.

The most basic use of the web for courses is to present syllabi, and this is the only use of the web in the majority of cases for courses in AHS and Arts. Other Faculties make greater use of the web for student, web and course resources. Few courses go beyond this level of pedagogical web use.

The primary technical use is for text (principally syllabi) and asynchronous communication (principally email). A large proportion of the courses examined in most Faculties also employed links to other web sites. Few courses went beyond this. We have conducted similar analyses by instructor rank and by gender.

Is there a conclusion? "Simple technologies can be very powerful," says Rossner-Merrill. She particularly points to the use of "conferencing" software such as WebBoard as something that makes a huge difference to a course: "it brings value-added to teaching, in ways that nobody could have predicted."

The researchers are working on articles that will go into more detail about what they found, she said, and they'd like to extend their studies to include information from other universities as well as Waterloo.

Meanwhile, though, she warns that the findings are just "a snapshot" because things change fast. "While some [course sites] are up, others are down for revising; new ones are added while others are discontinued; some are password protected, thus only their presence can be noted; one course may have two or more instructors, each with their own section, and several courses may be taught by one instructor; and some are alluded to but too difficult to find. For these reasons, we make no claim to accuracy."

The teaching resource office maintains a web page with links to course web sites, listed by faculty and department.

Entrepreneurs' club cultivates success

Waterloo students must want to make money: some 400 of them have joined the new Entrepreneurs' Association of UW since it was formed in September to help students "obtain the knowledge, contacts, and resources necessary to turn ideas into profitable ventures".

The EAUW is sponsoring several prominent speakers this term, as well as a monthly "idea exchange for the entrepreneurial community", under the title "ideasONTAP". It promises "cheap beer, free food and free-flowing ideas".

The first ideasONTAP is to be held January 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Johnny Fiasco's on University Avenue. Co-sponsoring the event with EAUW is a corporate partner, ideaPark Ventures, which is already presenting similar series in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

The ideasONTAP sessions will be held the last Monday of every month to facilitate networking among aspiring entrepreneurs, organizers say. A regular feature will be the "elevator pitch" -- where members get one minute to sell their ideas to the group, as if they were on an elevator "with someone like Bill Gates, someone with cash and looking to invest it," according to a description on the EAUW web site.

EAUW says its mandate includes "facilitating talks and lectures by successful entrepreneurs", and several of them will be on campus this term: Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of RIM, on February 1; Gregory Brill, president of Infusion, on March 7; Jim Tobin, CEO of Itemus (and former CEO of Hummingbird, founder of BCE Emergis), on March 15. All the talks will be given at 5:30 p.m. in Davis Centre room 1302.

Also planned is a conference for entrepreneurs, sponsored jointly with the University of Western Ontario and tentatively scheduled for March 9.

Membership in EAUW for both UW students and faculty is free, thanks to "generous corporate sponsorship", say the organizers, who include science student Albert Nazareth and electrical and computer engineering student Zafrin Nurmohamed.

The rules about faculty dismissal

People have been asking whether and how a UW pure mathematics professor might lose his job, following his sentencing last week on a charge of aggravated assault.

The case of Vladimir Platonov has been headline news several days in a row in The Record, and on Saturday the emphasis was on whether he'll continue to be a Waterloo faculty member now that he's under a two-year conditional sentence. During that time he is required to stay in his home from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. and meet a number of other conditions, such as not owning a firearm or a passport.

Platonov had originally been charged with attempted murder in a 1999 attack on his wife, Valentina, who is now divorcing him.

In imposing the conditional sentence, judge Robert Reilly drew attention to Platonov's scientific reputation as well as his lack of any criminal record or previous incidents of spouse abuse. As he spoke for more than an hour in passing sentence, he referred to a psychiatrist's testimony that the attack must have come in a "moment of madness". Platonov, who is now 61, came to Waterloo in 1993 from the University of Minsk in Belarus, and is an internationally known researcher in algebra and algebraic geometry.

Senior UW officials have not commented on whether they will seek to fire him from his post as a full professor in the pure math department. Dismissal (or other discipline within the university) would come under the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement between the university and the faculty association.

From the sections of the Memorandum dealing with dismissal of a tenured faculty member:

Just cause for dismissal . . . includes but is not limited to: a serious breach of criminal law; violent behaviour or threats of violence against a member of the University community; a serious breach of ethical behaviour . . . ; violations of ethics in respect of scholarship, teaching, or collegiality. Any of the above must be of such a serious nature as to render the Member clearly unfit to continue to hold a tenured appointment at the University of Waterloo.

The Member's Dean shall promptly investigate any concerns or allegations about a Member if the Dean reasonably believes that a situation warranting disciplinary measures may exist. The Dean shall inform the Member as soon as may reasonably be possible both of the nature of the allegation and if an investigation is being undertaken. The conduct of all or part of such investigations may be delegated to appropriate persons, including the Member's Department Chair. . . .

The Dean shall convene a meeting within twenty-five working days of the date of notice to afford the Member an opportunity to make oral and/or written submissions before any disciplinary measures are imposed. . . .

Where the disciplinary decision in 8.12 is dismissal for cause and where the Member chooses to contest the decision, a formal grievance shall be submitted to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost (VPA&P) in accordance with Article 9. The VPA&P shall act as a committee of one to decide the matter on behalf of the Board of Governors. The decision of the VPA&P may be taken to external arbitration. . . .

Although there have been one or two dismissals for other reasons, the last time UW terminated a faculty member as the result of a criminal conviction was in 1983, when history professor Leo Johnson lost his job when he went to prison for a number of sexual offences involving children.

And now, the rest of the story

A blood donor clinic runs today through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Student Life Centre. "In just one hour," says a note from Canadian Blood Services, "you could save as many as four lives. Please help by giving blood." Donor appointments can be made at the turnkey desk in the SLC.

The bookstore is holding a "Giant Book Sale" today and tomorrow in the Davis Centre "fishbowl" lounge. The lure: "fiction, non-fiction, classics, self-help, how-to, reference guides, and more, all discounted up to 80% off".

There's big news coming on campus tomorrow, according to the UW news bureau, with establishment of the multi-million-dollar J. W. Graham Information Technology Trust and the opening of the J. Wesley Graham History of Computer Science Research Collection. Wes Graham was the "father of computing" at Waterloo; the trust is a fund that will perpetuate his name and support students in the field of information technology. The launch of the trust, and the collection, is scheduled for 5:00 tomorrow afternoon in the Dana Porter Library.

Also tomorrow, the Women in Mathematics Committee presents "Learning in the Information Age: Teacher Centered Approach?", a talk by Ana Maria Andrada of the Centro Blas Pascal for research and development in computer science and education, in Buenos Aires. Her talk tomorrow is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Davis Centre room 1351.

And 3:30 tomorrow afternoon brings a forum sponsored by UW's Heritage Resources Centre: "Planning for the Alleviation of Poverty in Urban Areas". The forum brings together people from a variety of disciplines to discuss issues relevant to poverty in urban areas. Location: Environmental Studies I room 221.

This year's Hagey Lecture, by author and historian Michael Ignatieff, will be given Wednesday evening at 8:00 in the Humanities Theatre. There may be a few tickets left, as I was saying on Friday. The next day -- Thursday -- Ignatieff will still be on campus, and will give a student colloquium (10 a.m., Math and Computer room 5158) under the title "Putting Cruelty First". Admission is on a walk-in basis.

If we make it to the weekend, one place to celebrate on Friday night will be the University Club, which is announcing a South African wine tasting: cocktails at 6, dinner at 7, tickets $75 per person from the club at ext. 3500.

UW's local ACM programming contest will be held this Saturday. It's a three-hour individual contest, run in the format of the International Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, in which UW's teams score high year after year. "Come out," organizers say, "and try your skill against members of Waterloo's team that will represent us at the world finals in Vancouver this March. Everyone from the UW community (local and remote) is welcome. Free pizza and post-mortem following the contest (local participants only). Please register on the web."

Weekend men's basketball score: Waterloo 86, Laurier 71. The Warriors are now 2-3 in league play, and head to Hamilton for a Wednesday night meeting with the McMaster Marauders.


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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