Eduvation Blog

Fairest of them All: Escaping Reality

Good morning!

Yesterday I had a busy afternoon with the university marketers roundtable, and then to cope with the ongoing bleakness of political news, I thought it might be the perfect time to escape into a virtual reality instead of this one!

Ontario’s 24 colleges launched their ambitious Virtual Fair yesterday, and it continues today (9am-1pm EST). Check out my detailed photoblog for a quick taste, and decide if you want to check it out “in person.”

I’ve already written 2,000 words in that blog, so I’ll try to keep this newsletter brief!


Pandemic Update

COVID19 is surging in the midwestern US, and “the coming months look grim” because no matter who wins the presidential election, Donald Trump will be leading America’s pandemic response through its deadliest period. A new Mount Sinai study concludes that 20% of New York City has been infected, and the fatality rate there is close to 1% – 10x deadlier than the flu.

The Netherlands has seen an explosion of COVID19 infections, prompting the government to finally reverse its anti-mask position – and the royal family to fly off to vacation in Greece. And Denmark is killing ~15 millionmink at >1,000 farms, out of concern that they harbour a mutated coronavirus that could potentially interfere with the effectiveness of a vaccine for humans.

Here in Canada, an expert committee has recommended that the eventual vaccine be prioritized for the elderly and those at-risk, frontline healthcare and long-term care workers, those maintaining “essential” services, and those at high risk of infection, in that order. In Quebec, cases in K-12 schools have risen to 20% of the province’s cases. There are 93 Montreal schools with active outbreaks

Chances are you’re already aware, but Ontario is still on its “winning” streak, setting a new high for COVID19 cases: on average, 972 per day for the past 7 days. The government has established a system of 5 alert levels for the province’s 34 health units: Green (Prevent), Yellow (Protect), Orange (Restrict), Red (Control), and Grey (Lockdown). Ontario’s registered nurses are not the only ones concerned that this plan will allow far too long a lag before imposing measures to control outbreaks, and represents the premier caving to pressure from his caucus.

And oh – just in case one pandemic isn’t enough for you, Canada’s first confirmed case of a rare swine flu variant (H1N2v) has arisen in Alberta.

“This is guaranteeing a really disastrous outcome. The way it’s been implemented is ham-fisted and frankly dangerous.”Colin Furness, Infection Control Epidemiologist, uToronto


CdnPSE Updates

Bishop’s U Senate supported a motion by the Student Council last week, extending the Pass/Fail grading option through the Fall 2020 semester. Senate also decided to extend the WDL deadline to the final day of class, and that no student will be required to withdraw because of Fall 2020 grades.  uBishop’s

College of New Caledonia has announced that “things will look the same in the next term as they do now” – mostly online with some essential F2F classes.  CKPG

Confederation College announced yesterday that it will continue using a hybrid delivery model throughout the winter 2021 semester.  Confed

McGill U plans to introduce more in-person classes during the Winter 2021 term, and prioritize study hubs and spaces for group work, since there have been no cases of COVID19 transmission in its academic or workplace settings since March. (There were, however, 2 outbreaks in residences this fall, and a total of 31 cases reported overall.)  Montreal Gazette

Quest U has reached an agreement to sell its campus to Primacorp Ventures, and lease the facilities back. The university keeps its pedagogical autonomy, while removing millions of debt from its balance sheet. Primacorp, which claims 40 campuses across 5 provinces, will provide Quest with “services for student recruitment, marketing, fundraising and other support.”  Squamish Chief

SaskPolytech will finally begin resuming some in-person classes today, after the ransomware attack that knocked the institution offline this past weekend. Online classes remain cancelled “out of an abundance of caution.”  Global

“The University believes that the Senate’s decision aligns with Bishop’s beliefs and values about a student-centered approach to a liberal education. We are in the middle of a global pandemic: nothing about this semester is normal or easy for anyone.”Miles Turnbull, VP Academic & Research, Bishop’s U



Ontario College Fair Goes Virtual!

Normally, the Ontario College Information Fair (OCIF) fills an exhibit hall at Toronto’s Exhibition Place with thousands of prospective students, parents, and recruiters from Ontario’s 24 public colleges. It’s a highlight of the recruitment cycle, and one of North America’s largest higher ed fairs. But in 2020, the COVID19 pandemic made such an event out of the question. (The Ontario Universities Fair, normally held in late September, was cancelled entirely.)

So you have to hand it to the colleges; they boldly decided “the show must go on!” and opted for a really ambitious VR approach using VirBELA, a 3D immersive virtual platform that allows participants to design their own avatar, move between rooms, chat by text or voice, access embedded web browsers and engage in impromptu conversation.

I only had a few hours to spend “in world” yesterday, but nonetheless I thought I would share some observations and screen grabs, so you can scoot over and check it out yourself! (The last day of the OCVF is today, Nov 5 2020, from 9am-1pm EST).

Check out my blog, where I describe some effective practices, some advantages and affordances of the medium, some weirdnesses and some major technical glitches. I also suggest 4 questions that might determine whether it was a worthwhile experiment.

If you attended or worked at the OCVF, what was your experience? What details can you add?  Eduvation Blog


Thanks for reading!  Be safe and stay well,

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