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Seneca joins collaborative national network supporting student mobility

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Toronto, Sept. 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Seneca has taken the next steps in its digital adoption strategy by joining Canada’s official credential wallet and national network led by the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC). Called the ARUCC National Network, it provides students with the ability to access and share official, digitized transcripts, credentials, badges and microcredentials — anytime and anywhere.

Pioneered by ARUCC and powered by Digitary’s global digital credentials platform, the Network is unique in scope and moves Canadian higher education to the forefront of innovation by providing a trusted credential engine built for learners. By joining, Seneca will unite with other Canadian colleges and universities that have collaborated to create this national credential wallet and trusted, online document exchange platform.

The Network is the first of its kind in Canada and will provide three million learners nationwide with a secure, permission-based platform for accessing and sharing their official documents and credentials. The initiative supports student mobility as they transition into, between and beyond postsecondary institutions in Canada on their educational journey into the workplace. The Network also protects them, institutions and government from increasing document fraud. 

Other key features of the ARUCC National Network include:

  • 24-7 access for learners
  • bilingual service and support in French and English
  • ability for learners to access, view and share their verified and official transcripts, credentials, badges, microcredentials and documents in a digitized format
  • ability for Canadian postsecondary institutions and higher education partners to work together with the network to exchange official documents — with permission of the learner

“Providing secure, verified digital credentials to our students is incredibly important and hugely valuable in supporting them as they embark on their future employment,” said Sharon Kinasz, Seneca’s Registrar. “We are delighted to join the ARUCC National Network powered by Digitary as we embrace digital adoption and enhance our sustainability practices at Seneca. Our enhancing supports for our students, graduates and alumni demonstrate Seneca’s dedication to supporting the learner’s experience through innovative digitization.”

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Seneca and extend the benefits of trusted digital credentials through a secure, national platform — the very first of its kind for Canada,” said Joanne Duklas, ARUCC’s Executive Lead. “Our ultimate mission for the ARUCC National Network is to deliver a portable credential wallet to the three million postsecondary learners across Canada. Powered by Digitary technology, we are supported by global digital credentials experts who are skilled at implementing scalable, national solutions that make sense for students.”

“Digitary has always been learner-focused in everything that we do, and we strongly relate to ARUCC and Seneca’s mission to enhance the experience and digital capabilities offered to students. In providing effective digital solutions and verified academic credentials, we can support learners’ global mobility and their journey through employment,” said James Murray-Beckman, Digitary’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re delighted to welcome Seneca to the ARUCC National Network powered by Digitary and will continue to support ARUCC and its partners to extend the digital capabilities to all learners across Canada.” 

About Seneca

Combining career and professional skills training with theoretical knowledge, Seneca provides a polytechnic education to 30,000 full-time and 60,000 part-time students. With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough and education partners around the world, Seneca offers degrees, graduate certificates, diplomas and certificates in more than 300 full-time, part-time and online programs, now most of them virtually. Seneca’s credentials are renowned for their quality and respected by employers. Co-op and work placements, applied research projects, entrepreneurial opportunities and the latest technology ensure that Seneca graduates are highly skilled and ready to work. Learn more about Seneca.

About the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC)

ARUCC provides leadership in the post-secondary education field and service to its member institutions nationally and internationally, helping foster the advancement of registrarial practices and learner focused service delivery in Canada. Learn more about ARUCC.

About Digitary

Digitary was launched in Dublin, Ireland in 2005, and has grown to become a leading online platform for certifying, sharing, and verifying academic credentials. Learner-centric since the very start, Digitary enables millions of learners to share their verified academic achievements online, securely, quickly and easily. Digitary is now used by organizations in over 135 countries. Learn more about Digitary.

Caroline Grech
Seneca
media.relations@senecacollege.ca

Joanne Duklas
Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC)
info@aruccnationalnetwork.ca

Catherine Stanley
Digitary
catherine.stanley@digitary.net

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Education

Ford says supporter will not get special treatment in school accreditation process

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Premier Doug Ford says the government isn’t giving any special treatment to a prominent social conservative whose Christian college is seeking permission to become a university.

The government recently introduced legislation that, among other things, would give the Canada Christian College the ability to grant university degrees in arts and sciences.

The college is run by Charles McVety, a prominent Christian activist and controversial supporter of the premier ever since Ford ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership.

Ford says the college will be evaluated by an independent agency that will decide if it gets the ability to call itself a university before his government’s legislation takes effect.

Former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne denounced the legislation today, saying the province should not “extend the mandate” of McVety.

McVety, who did not immediately respond to request for comment, was an active opponent of Wynne’s move to update Ontario’s sex-education curriculum when she was in office.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.

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Learning about residential schools in elementary grades ‘non-negotiable,’ education minister says

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Despite the recommendations of hand-picked government advisers, Alberta elementary school students will learn about residential schools in a new curriculum, the education minister says.

“We are absolutely committed to facing reconciliation and to ensuring that the truth about residential schools, about that content, is in our K-6 curriculum. That is non-negotiable,” Adriana LaGrange told reporters at the legislature on Wednesday.

However, she wouldn’t say at what grade level she thinks those lessons should start.

Leaked documents obtained by CBC show that advisers recruited to revise drafts of the incoming K-4 social studies curriculum crossed out any references to harm done to Indigenous people by European settlers.

In the documents, an unidentified adviser writes that negative effects of the arrival of Europeans in Canada is “too sad and upsetting” for fourth graders. The documents suggest students begin learning about them in Grade 9 or high school.

The adviser, or advisers, also say lessons should cover residential schools in the broader context of “harsh schooling.”

“The ugliness of Dickensian schooling, boarding schools, 19th-century discipline methods and residential schooling that applied to some Indigenous kids can probably best be saved for later when learners are more mature and less emotionally vulnerable to traumatic material,” the documents said.

The documents also said the problems of residential schools applied to “a minority of children.”

The recommendations are counter to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, which compelled all schools to teach children in all grades about residential schools, treaties and the contributions of Indigenous people.

This summer, the Alberta government hired 17 advisers to review existing drafts of a new curriculum and provide suggestions. The social studies adviser is Chris (C.P.) Champion, a history writer and former staffer to Premier Jason Kenney when he was a Conservative Member of Parliament and cabinet minister. He is currently a visiting fellow at Queen’s University.

LaGrange’s press secretary has previously said Champion was one of several people who authored the leaked social studies documents.

LaGrange would not say which of the recommendations she plans to include in the new curriculum.

“Advice is advice,” she said. “No final decisions have been made.”

Other suggestions a ‘major loss’ for francophones: scholar

The Opposition NDP called for the government to fire its advisers.

NDP Indigenous relations critic Richard Feehan says the UCP government should fire its curriculum consultants that are making recommendations he says are racist. (CBC)

Indigenous relations critic Richard Feehan said the government knew what kind of advice it would get when it selected its consultants.

“You always bring people to you who you think will give advice you think you will take,” Feehan said. “In this case, they seem to have brought people to them who seem to have this racist attitude toward Indigenous people.”

Also missing from the suggested curriculum are any references to the history of francophones in Alberta, said Raphaël Gani, a PhD candidate who is studying francophone perspectives in the province’s social studies curriculum.

“For francophones, it’s a major loss,” Gani said.

The current social studies curriculum was written alongside francophone and Indigenous contributors, he said. None of that collaboration is evident in the draft of recommendations, he said.

“The dream is now over,” he said. “To work as equal partners is not the way this program has been made.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association issued a statement saying the organization has lost faith in the government’s curriculum redesign process. The United Conservative Party government previously tore up an agreement that made the association a partner in writing curriculum.

The recommendations are “regressive and inappropriate” and highlight the risk of cutting teachers out of the process, the statement said.

LaGrange said working groups of subject-area experts, which include teachers, will have a chance to review curriculum proposals later this fall.

She said she will release the elementary school curriculum to the public in early 2021.

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Manitoba looks to Tennessee model in efforts to tailor post-secondary education to labour market

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Premier Brian Pallister is looking at the example of an American state that pioneered performance-based funding for post-secondary institutions, as Manitoba seeks a new way to finance higher education.

The premier met with the University of Manitoba’s new president, Michael Benarroch, in September. The premier expressed interest in following the lead of Tennessee, says Benarroch, but perhaps not that of other Canadian provinces that have explored performance-based funding, like Alberta and Ontario.

“Interestingly, the premier said in our conversation that he didn’t want to make the mistake that some of the other provinces have made — he didn’t want this to be a hammer,” Benarroch told a U of M senate meeting on Oct. 7.

“And he referred to, as our [economic development] minister has done … the Tennessee model, which is one that shows up in the United States as the ideal of these kinds of models.”

Benarroch later urged his colleagues to explore what Tennessee has done.

“We can help to influence government’s direction as they move forward with this,” Benarroch said in an audio recording of the virtual meeting, which CBC News requested from the university.

Michael Benarroch took over as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba earlier this year. (Alia Youssef/University of Manitoba)

In the last year, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government has repeatedly signalled it wants to tailor universities and colleges to more closely meet labour market needs, but hasn’t explained what that might look like.

If Manitoba emulates Tennessee’s policy, it wouldn’t be the only jurisdiction.

A majority of American states have developed post-secondary funding models based on performance — rather than enrolment numbers — since Tennessee started doing so in 1979. The use of the model has varied significantly, however, and been discontinued in some cases. 

Tennessee bases about 83 per cent of its post-secondary funding allocation on a set of weighted outcomes and “quality standards,” and the remaining 17 per cent on fixed costs, according to a state document.

The lion’s share of funding is based on outcomes like graduation rates, the number of degrees awarded, the number of credit hours obtained and the certificates and degrees granted per 100 full-time students. Lower-performing schools receive a smaller grant.

MacGregor Obergfell studied Tennessee’s approach as a former research intern with the New America, a public policy think tank.

“It can work, but you have to be very careful with how you develop it,” he said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

A funding model incentivizing graduation rates and certain majors may stop some students from applying, Obergfell said.

“If they’re not set up in a way that really makes sure that the institution is still a place that is accepting of students and is there to help them succeed through enrolment to graduation, they can actually be counterproductive in practice.”

Disadvantaged students prioritized

Tennessee’s financing model has been evolving, in part, to address these criticisms. The funding formula can be revised every five years, and a premium is now placed on advancing students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As well, institutions can weigh some metrics as more valuable, depending on their priorities. 

The financing model is also helped by a suite of other initiatives to encourage enrolment, Obergfell said, including free community or technical college for some residents and a campaign to get post-secondary credentials for 55 per cent of Tennesseans by 2025.

An outcomes-based model “has to be incorporated with other programs designed to increase access” for students, he said.

Scott Forbes, president of the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations, said these policies yield minimal, if any, benefits, but come at a significant cost.

“The universities, if they’re penalized for having lower participation rates, lower graduation rates, lower retention rates … simply change their entrance standards,” said Forbes, referring to research that found these models tend to exacerbate challenges for low-income and minority applicants.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister told University of Manitoba administration that he likes the Tennessee approach to post-secondary funding. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Forbes said any outcomes-based model would require an influx in new funding, but he isn’t confident the Pallister government will follow suit. Manitoba post-secondary institutions have faced funding freezes, and in one year, a cut

Benarroch said in an interview he recognizes the trepidation over a new financing model, but he believes it can help.

“I think as you become more informed and more aware of how it works, some of that fear dissipates,” he said, adding that any system should account for differences between institutions.

“You begin to realize that in places where this has been implemented and implemented well that, in fact … it can help to improve outcomes over time.”

In an email, the province wouldn’t discuss its meeting with the U of M, but said it would prioritize accountability in any outcomes-based funding model.

It’s also reviewing the approaches in Alberta and Ontario, which haven’t implemented their models yet because of the pandemic.

“The Tennessee model was established in the 1970s to fund institutions based on performance instead of enrolment numbers, and it includes easy-to-understand metrics that capture each school’s uniqueness and an external review committee to ensure the metrics are fair and effective,” the statement said.

“We are working to develop a model and funding metrics that best fit Manitoba’s needs and will involve our seven publicly funded colleges and universities throughout the design, development and implementation process.”

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