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Chronicle of Higher Education: How Is Covid-19 Changing Prospective Students’ Plans? Here’s an Early Look

Many students are rethinking their intentions to enroll at a four-year college this fall, according to a new survey. Most still planning to do so aren’t expecting to end up at their first choice.

Pivot to online raises concerns for FERPA, surveillance

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 03/25/2020 - 00:00

Most colleges and universities across the country have pivoted to remote learning in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe.

While the sudden change is necessary, some privacy experts worry about the unintended consequences.

Ensuring the software colleges are now using doesn't violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is one key issue, according to Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum. Another issue is the potential for increased surveillance of students as colleges switch from in-person classes to virtual ones.

Data Collection

FERPA is technology neutral, according to Leroy Rooker, a senior fellow at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Colleges are allowed to use contractors and consultants for services -- including for online instruction -- but the contracts need to include stipulations to protect student privacy under the law.

Most importantly, if the vendor collects any data on its users, the college has to be the owner of that information. This means that the data can only be used or redisclosed at the college's direction.

Colleges should be thinking about whether any FERPA-protected information will be revealed in their pivots to remote learning, said Joanna Lyn Grama, associate vice president at Vantage Technology Consulting Group.

"Is there FERPA-protected information that the online provider is potentially creating or storing that's distinct from the school's?" Grama said.

Metadata could be another area of concern, she said. While that data might not be personal information under FERPA, it could be a tool for someone to get personal information.

If colleges are operating under existing contracts with these companies, Grama said, they're likely safe because they took the time for review before the pandemic hit. If they're creating new contracts, those agreements likely are short term, which will give colleges a chance to go back and review them to ensure they're compliant once things settle down.

Some have concern over Zoom Video Communications Inc., a web-conferencing platform that many faculty members are now using to connect with students virtually.

Zoom does not sell its data to anyone and is compliant with FERPA, according to emailed responses the company sent to Inside Higher Ed.

"We take our users’ privacy incredibly seriously. Zoom only collects user data to the extent it is absolutely necessary to provide technical and operational support, and to improve our services. Zoom must collect technical information like users’ IP address, OS details and device details in order for our service to function properly. When user data is used for service improvement, it is completely anonymized and aggregated immediately upon collection in order to protect users’ identities and privacy," said Jay Clarke, senior privacy program manager at Zoom.

‘Coronavirus Is a Selling Opportunity’

The pandemic also raises broader questions about privacy.

"In some ways, you're inevitably going to have more monitoring of students in order to verify attendance," Vance said. If institutions choose to track how much work students are doing to ensure they're meeting credit hours, or are verifying identification of students for attendance and using tools like facial recognition, it would greatly affect surveillance of students.

But institutions don't have to go that route, according to Bill Fitzgerald, a privacy researcher at Consumer Reports.

"When you don't trust your students, surveillance is what you fall back on," Fitzgerald said.

Instead of testing students in ways that require surveillance to prevent cheating, colleges could instead encourage faculty to use project-based learning and portfolio-based assessments, which require students to truly engage with the work and are more difficult to cheat, he said.

Colleges should be wary of companies that might take advantage of the situation right now to increase surveillance through potentially unnecessary software to monitor students' online work.

"There are people who, right now, are thinking about ways that the coronavirus is a selling opportunity," Fitzgerald said.

Now is not the time to hastily adopt new technology, Fitzgerald said. Rather, it's the time to return to the basics, figure out what works the best for the most people and ensure students are getting the basics they need in order to learn.

"I don't think that anything is etched in stone, but I think we need to embed good practices now," he said.

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College leaders chip away at growing list of urgent coronavirus response tasks

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 03/25/2020 - 00:00

To give a glimpse into the virtual meeting rooms of college leaders responding to the new coronavirus, Larry Ladd, a senior consultant at AGB, laid out a hypothetical.

“Let’s say you’re a president,” he said. “You have to keep the urgent and the important both balanced in your head -- and that’s not easy to do.”

“Urgent” matters, according to Ladd, are decisions leadership teams have to make within hours or days, such as determining where students will ride out the remainder of the semester, migrating classes online or canceling them outright, managing staff and payroll, and monitoring liquidity.

“Important” decisions, relegated to tomorrow or coming weeks, include refunding room and board costs, planning for summer terms, nailing down fall enrollments and hiring for open faculty and administrative positions. Very little can be tabled indefinitely.

“There isn’t much that goes on at a college or university that isn’t related to the financial condition of a place,” Ladd said. In other words, if any thread comes loose, the entire institutional fabric threatens to unravel.

It’s been about two months since the first cases of coronavirus were detected in the United States. Since then, most colleges have either suspended classes or moved entirely online. Some have shut down campuses entirely, while others are operating essential services only. Questions about room and board and tuition refunds are beginning to be answered, and job security for college employees, particularly hourly workers, is up in the air at many institutions.

In the past months and still today, college leadership teams have been working long hours to tackle the next most important thing.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, broke down leadership’s priorities into three groups: student and personnel safety, systems resilience, and continuing the work of the college.

“This is the Maslow’s hierarchy of disaster recovery,” he said.

Student and personnel safety drove the decision for many colleges to close or move to remote teaching. Systems resilience includes bringing large-scale communications software online and making sure students, staff and faculty members are equipped with phones, computers and internet access. Now, many leadership teams are tying up loose ends in step two and moving into step three to determine how to keep the college operational through the duration of the outbreak.

At the University of San Francisco, “The president's cabinet has been meeting by Zoom every day,” said Donald Heller, vice president for operations and former provost at the university.

Prioritizing issues is like “trying to juggle all of the balls [at once],” he said. “You can’t just put a bunch of things aside and focus on just one thing.”

‘A League of Its Own’

Scott Cowen, former president of Tulane University and senior adviser for Boston Consulting Group, saw Tulane through the storm and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The new coronavirus is nothing like a natural disaster, he said.

“This is in a league of its own,” he said. “A natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, for example, is localized in one part of the country. [In this case] everybody is going through the same thing, so no one is going to have a competitive advantage because everyone is suffering.”

The University of San Francisco pulled together a COVID-19 response team from already existing infectious disease and emergency management teams.

For most colleges, planning for outcomes is difficult because there is no precedent, according to Ladd.

“There are no models, there’s no historical experience,” he said. “You compare this to a traditional recession like we had in 2008, Hurricane Katrina like we had in 2005 … but in all of those cases, you knew when things were going to get better.”

Mitchell says there’s little across-the-board guidance because every institution will approach their responses differently.

“As much as we and other people would love to be able to put out a kind of checklist … you can't do that,” he said.

All Hands on Deck

As campus operations slow or close, some colleges are reassigning employees to areas with greater need at the college.

“Admissions people don’t have anything urgent in respect to current students and faculty, so you can have them planning” for different contingencies, Ladd said. The CFO may be tasked with worrying about liquidity and revenue, while budget teams are building out financial models for a variety of scenarios in the coming months.

Libraries at the University of San Francisco are closed, Heller said, and the university is looking at how librarians can help out in other areas.

Some colleges, particularly large universities with research hospitals and other services, may be staffing up to sanitize dorms and campus buildings.

“For some institutions there have been hiring accelerations,” Mitchell said. “We’re seeing a lot of institutions spending more money keeping people safe and sound.”

Financial Aid Needs Ratchet Up

A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour poll shows that 18 percent of adult respondents -- excluding those who were not employed or retired prior to the outbreak -- said that they or someone in their household has been laid off or had work hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Twenty-five percent of respondents making less than $50,000 a year said the same.

“Family incomes are going to plummet for a large number of families,” Ladd said. “Suddenly, students or parents are going to the financial aid office right now and saying … ‘I need help.’”

Colleges could recover some financial aid costs that will no longer be applicable after room and board refunds, but likely more students will need additional aid.

“We are absolutely concerned about that,” Heller said. “And we’re concerned at what impact this will have on our fall enrollments, particularly because we’re so dependent on international students … We don’t know if they’ll be able to come, if they will be able to get visas to get on a plane.”

The University of San Francisco is tuition-dependent, and 13 percent of undergraduates are international students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Room and board refunds will leave a multimillion-dollar hole in its operating budget, according to Heller, and an increased need for student aid will pile on financial pressure.

What’s Being Set Aside?

It’s likely more and more colleges will implement hiring freezes in the coming weeks. Brown University announced Tuesday that it would suspend faculty and staff hiring for the current year and the fiscal year beginning July 1, effective immediately.

Heller said USF has introduced a hiring “slowdown.” Mitchell said he’s seen searches for senior-level positions, including presidencies, put on hold.

When asked whether colleges would kick capital improvement down the road, Ladd, Heller, Mitchell and Cowen each chuckled and said, “Yes.”

“Cash is king,” Cowen said. “You want to stockpile as much cash as you need in reserves because you don’t know how long this will last.”

New development on campuses is a low priority at the moment. It may be one of the few areas of campus operations that can be set aside.

“When you get into the big-ticket items that were on the drawing board … they may gather dust for a while,” Mitchell said.

Presidents and other college leaders are not immune to the human impact of the coronavirus.

“Our presidents are running on adrenaline,” Mitchell said. Their commitments to their institutions are “driving people, keeping them up for the 24-hour cycles that they need to be up. But everybody’s tired, everybody’s fatigued.”

On Tuesday, Harvard president Lawrence Bacow, 68, announced that he and his wife tested positive for the virus and are continuing to isolate themselves at home. John Garvey, 71, president of Catholic University of America, said he tested positive on March 19, and he is quarantined at home with no symptoms.

The University of Texas at Austin's president, Greg Fenves, 63, said his wife, Carmel, tested positive on March 13. He also announced last week that Brent Iverson, dean of UT Austin’s school of undergraduate studies, tested positive for coronavirus.

When asked how the University of San Francisco leadership team is holding up, Heller said that “morale is pretty good.”

“Certainly people are stressed out, and it’s challenging to work remotely and not be able to see each other face-to-face,” he said. “Everybody realizes … that this is the opportunity to step up and do everything we can to protect our students and protect our staff.”

Cowen hopes college leaders will learn from the outbreak and therefore be better prepared for the next one.

"Out of every great tragedy, everyone has an obligation to somehow get lessons learned," he said, "and to respond to those in such a way to make the institution, the United States and the globe better."

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Survey gauges the state of the online education landscape pre-coronavirus

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 03/25/2020 - 00:00

When it started to become clear that institutions would have to end in-person instruction and begin teaching students remotely because of the coronavirus crisis, whom did presidents call first? Probably their institution's chief online officer, the highest-ranking official responsible for whatever they do in terms of distance or digital learning.

A new survey of those officials, released this week by Quality Matters and Eduventures -- respectively, a nonprofit group focused on ensuring quality in online education and a research and advisory group -- was conducted in spring 2019, well before COVID-19 was on any of our radar screens. As is true for most surveys being released these days, the data for this one, "The Changing Landscape of Online Education, 2020" (CHLOE for short), must be read in light of the fact that the coronavirus has dramatically changed the environment for online learning like so many others.

But the data still provide some potentially useful insights into the current situation by giving a sense of how well prepared campuses were, on various fronts, to respond to the current imperative that they conduct most of their instruction virtually.

The answer, not surprisingly, is a mixed bag.

About 70 percent of respondents to the CHLOE survey said that they did not require students to take training or orientation in studying online before they took a virtual course. That varied significantly by sector, as the graph below shows, with regional private institutions being most likely to require such training and public institutions of various kinds (flagships, regional publics and community colleges, which collectively enroll most of the nation's students) being among the least likely to require it. Four-year institutions with low online enrollments and what the study calls enterprise institutions, which tend to have large online operations, were in between.

"Given the known difficulties of students adjusting to online study, we considered the figures for required online student orientation … as surprisingly low," the report's authors write.

With dropout rates for online education being higher than for face-to-face courses, the findings were surprising, wrote one of the authors, Ronald Legon, executive director emeritus of Quality Matters. He wondered why institutions wouldn't take the extra step of requiring students to prepare for online study.

Much talk and a fair number of horror stories circulating on social media in recent weeks focused on whether college faculty members are prepared for the sudden, required move to virtual classrooms. The CHLOE survey suggests that a majority of them have at least had some training, unlike their students, as noted above.

About 60 percent of chief online officers said their college or university required faculty members to engage in some formal training before teaching online. Such training is most common at community colleges and four-year colleges with low online enrollments. It is less so at flagship universities and at enterprise institutions.

The survey also asked the online learning leaders whether their institutions had teaching and learning centers that provide support to faculty members for using technology or innovative practices in their classrooms. More than three-quarters did, with some reporting multiple such centers, as seen below.

Those data collectively show that most institutions aren't prepared to flip a switch and move all their learning into truly online settings, said Legon. That perhaps explains why most colleges -- for this spring semester, at least -- are generally embracing a very low-technology form of remote learning, involving Zoom or other video platforms and various tools for communicating about assignments and assessments.

"That seems to me the only thing sensible that can happen right now, to use our online tools for communication, to put out material and assignments, to accept back results and perhaps give exams online," Legon said. But as the weeks pass, if colleges remain shut down physically, the pressure on institutions will grow to "actually design and build structured online courses that use the online tools as effectively as they can," he said.

It will be important for colleges to signal clearly to students and professors that the brand of virtual education most of them are seeing right now isn't the sort of high-quality online education that is possible when it is designed thoughtfully with help from professionals and well-trained professors.

The brand of virtual instruction that most professors and students are doing on the fly right now could damage perceptions of online education, Legon said. Based on it, "those who have only a limited understanding of online learning, or have avoided it all together, are likely to be disappointed, frustrated and perhaps confirmed in their belief that this is not a viable alternative to traditional classroom education."

If the current situation lingers, and colleges are forced to continue to offer most or all of their instruction at a distance into the fall, how well prepared will most institutions be to produce truly high-quality online courses across the board?

This year's CHLOE survey finds that a majority of instructors at most colleges produce their online courses either by themselves or with optional support from professional instructional designers at their institutions. Legon noted that previous iterations of the survey have shown that most colleges have relatively small numbers of instructional designers, with the typical community college having no more than one or two such positions.

What would happen if colleges tried to hire instructional designers in large numbers to try to ramp up high-quality online offerings in a hurry for the fall? "I don’t think there’s a pipeline that could respond," Legon said. "That's a real problem if you're trying to do this at scale."

Other Findings

Nearly one in four chief online officers (24 percent) said their institution had at least one contract with a company that provides assistance on creating and managing online programs, called online program managers, or OPMs, up from 12 percent in 2017. Officials cited student marketing and recruitment as the most common areas for which they sought outside help, but about half of those that used online program management companies said they were involved in online course and program development, too.

Online and Blended LearningTeaching and LearningTechnologyTransforming Teaching & LearningEditorial Tags: Online learningImage Source: Istockphoto.com/michaeljungIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: The State of Online Education, BC (Before Coronavirus)Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0

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UKCISA names int’l student ambassadors

The PIE News - Tue, 03/24/2020 - 06:47

A group of ‘exceptional’ international students have been selected to take part in the UK Council for International Student Affairs’ #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors program.

Launched in 2019, the program aims to connect international students to an “exciting network” of emerging global talents and future leaders through their experience studying in the UK.

“It was a very competitive process, so huge congratulations to all those who have been selected”

The first cohort of 10 students come from countries spanning the globe, including India, Botswana, Germany, US, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Nigeria and China.

The scheme is part of UKCISA’s wider #WeAreInternational campaign which aims to promote the value of international students on UK campuses.

“I’m delighted to announce that our #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors program is now underway,” said UKCISA chief executive, Anne-Marie Graham.

“It was a very competitive process, so huge congratulations to all those who have been selected for the program.

“UKCISA is leading the development of a new chapter for the award-winning #WeAreInternational campaign, broadening the campaign’s reach and celebrating international students from schools, colleges, universities and study abroad programs.”

Graham explained that the program aims to empower international students to be key partners in shaping a quality student experience so that they can use their knowledge of studying in the UK to influence policy and lead the #WeAreInternational campaign.

Student ambassadors include Abdullah Umar Zulaidi who is currently a second-year student at Newcastle University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics and Yunyan Li, a second-year PhD student in Social Policy at the University of Bristol.

“I’m thrilled to introduce you to our first cohort of #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors,” she said.

“These inspirational students have demonstrated great determination and drive to develop their own skills by representing their peers, and are passionate about ensuring that the lived experience of international students is understood by policymakers at national and institutional level.”

A full list of student profiles can be seen here.

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Global: student visa application services halted

The PIE News - Tue, 03/24/2020 - 02:59

The US State Department suspended visa application services – including those for student visas – at its embassies in most countries last week, with services for citizens remaining open and emergency visa services available “as resources allow”.

A total of 8,742,068 immigrant and non-immigrant visas were issued by US foreign posts in 2019, of which 398,357 were F (student) or M (vocational student) visas.

“Depending on the situation, this [closure] can be adjusted to an even later date”

On its online visa application service portal, the US lists the first available appointment to apply for a student visa in Beijing as “November 29, 2020”, although stakeholders told The PIE News they are hopeful this will be adjusted in the future.

Despite the World Health Organisation continuing to “advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions”, many countries around the world have issued travel restrictions, including major study destinations such as the US, Canada, China and Australia.

However, this has now extended to multiple countries halting visa services, which could lead to a backlog that impacts students wishing to study abroad later in the year.

According to VFS Global, the visa processing company that operates visa services for 64 governments around the world, services have shut down for visa for many EU countries including popular study destinations such as Ireland, Denmark, France, Finland, Switzerland and Belgium.

Embassies and visa services are so far unable to give a date as to when normal visa services will resume.

“Our consular desks are closed until at least April 6,” explained a spokesperson from The Embassy of the Netherlands in China. 

“Depending on the situation, this can be adjusted to an even later date.”

But not everyone is shutting down. The Ukrainian Embassy in China told The PIE students can continue to apply for visas “without any restrictions” and some countries are still offering reduced services. Ukraine is currently home to over 75,000 international students.

“INZ’s Beijing, Mumbai and Manila offices are temporarily closed. INZ remains committed to minimising the impact on visa processing times. The Palmerston North Office in New Zealand remains open for student visa processing,” explained Immigration New Zealand.

“Their priority is to process applications from students already in New Zealand who may have visas expiring soon. They will process other applications as resources allow.”

Canada and the UK have closed visa centres in many places, including cities in China and India, but remain open in other areas.

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English Australia says sector needs rescue package of AU$87m

The PIE News - Mon, 03/23/2020 - 19:32

COVID-19 is “decimating” Australia’s English language teaching sector and without immediate government support, many high quality colleges in the country will be forced to close, the CEO of English Australia has warned.

Posting on the English Australia website, Brett Blacker explained that the association of English language schools had written directly to Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison on March 22, requesting the provision of a rescue package totalling AUD$87 million.

“As a sector 100% reliant on foreign nationals the impact is clear. We need support and we need it now”

He said the package consists of eight points including concessional loans for eligible ELICOS businesses; grants for businesses to provide courses online; payroll assistance grants; and a sector support payment to help English Australia support members, business owners and students.

It also includes a request for a waiver of student visa fees and the removal of Austrade service fees to access data and marketing assistance.

Blacker said he has also held discussions with senior officials for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment related to the requests.

“As a sector 100% reliant on foreign nationals the impact is clear. Our message is clear. We need support and we need it now,” explained Blacker.

Ian Pratt, the managing director of Lexis English which has six centres in Australia and employs 330 people, told The Australian the business had suffered “massive cancellations”.

Pratt would not estimate how long the business could hold out, but he said the private part of the English tuition sector was facing extinction in a matter of weeks.

“Industry-wide, I’m hearing people saying two weeks, I’m hearing people say six weeks,” he said, adding that it would not be easy to restore the industry after a collapse.

“We have very highly trained staff and, when we lose them, it’s going to be spectacularly difficult getting them back,” he said.

Despite many countries introducing school closures as a means of slowing the spread of coronavirus, schools in Australia are not currently required to close.

“I spoke with senior officials at DESE, who confirmed that education is considered an essential service and therefore colleges may remain open,” Blacker said, adding that all colleges need to comply with requirements for closing if a case of COVID-19 is identified.

He said that colleges may choose to teach remotely “if this is deemed the most appropriate action in your circumstances”.

“DESE has also confirmed that colleges can deliver courses to students that are not in Australia if circumstances require. Colleges will need to follow the advice that has been previously provided… and [ensure] the learning outcomes can be achieved,” Blacker added.

“When we lose [the staff] it’s going to be spectacularly difficult getting them back”

He noted that the Department of Home Affairs has not yet advised on visa processing and whether it is still processing visas since the ban was imposed on all foreign traveller from entering Australia as of March 20.

“I have already stressed my view that they must continue to process visas to ensure we are in a position to recover in the future,” Blacker continued.

“We face the greatest challenge that our sector has ever faced, but our sector is incredibly capable and resilient.

“English Australia will do everything in its power to make sure that our sector survives,” he added.

Earlier in 2020, DESE released a snapshot of international students who studied ELICOS as part of a study pathway, with figures showing mixed results for the sector in 2019.

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Canada makes major concession on entry for international students

The PIE News - Mon, 03/23/2020 - 09:56

International students will be exempt from Canada’s travel ban as long as they have a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit prior to March 18, when the travel restrictions took effect.

This is a major concession from Canada for its sizeable international student community – it is also making concessions for its temporary foreign worker program. Full details of the exemption are expected to be detailed early next week, according to the IRCC communique.

“These international students and faculty are valued members of our university communities, and are contributing to Canada,” Universities Canada president Paul Davidson said.

“We are very pleased to see that the government recognises this and is ensuring they will be able to return to Canada.”

Foreign students are now anticipated to travel to Canada as planned for spring-term (May) enrolments, according to Canada-based Gautham Kolluri, who runs global education counselling firm CIP Study Abroad and has many Indian student clients.

“I am hoping that institutions can come up with some support”

But he said that students would need assistance from the colleges they were enrolled with to help them navigate logistics from airport pick-up to organising accommodation, especially for an initial 14-day isolation period.

“I’m looking into booking furnished homes and hotels,” he told The PIE News, explaining that his agency is already an exception in terms of organising interim housing for students as they arrive. “Most students have nobody out here,” he said.

“It’s very difficult logistics that we have to co-ordinate now,” he said. “If the government has advised that students have to stay self-isolated for 14 days…for new students…we have no understanding how to do it. I am hoping that institutions can come up with some support.”

Asked if some students would decide not to enrol, Kolluri said he felt those who had already made the financial investment would decide to travel anyway, despite it being unclear now how they would access the studies they have paid for.

“I don’t see any students really saying, sorry, we are not interested, we are going back, especially from India – the largest second-largest market for international students,” said Kolluri.

“They will come. I talk to thousands of students every month through our social network. It’s a very big commitment for students and their parents’ financial commitment and also given their interest to study abroad – especially given that this would lead to post-study job opportunities and permanent resident pathways. This is a very important decision for the students.”

Lane Clark, president and CEO of the Canadian College of English Language (CCEL) and Canadian College, told The PIE that he and his staff were “relieved” by the government’s decision even though operations have already moved online.

“We are happy to hear that, when it is safe to reopen, students will be able to arrive and attend classes,” he said.

“I have never seen something this impactful on this industry and truly hope we will all come out intact on the other end. There have been many localised issues over the years, however this is a complete standstill, the magnitude of which has the power to shift our entire industry.”

A spokesperson for the University of Alberta added that they were also pleased to see the regulations clarified by the IRCC and will continue to support all its students as the world “adjust[s] to the ever-changing realities of this global pandemic”.

The exemptions also include all temporary foreign workers, with particular mention being made of seasonal agricultural workers, those working in fish/seafood and caregivers.

I don’t see any students really saying, sorry, we are not interested, we are going back”

Workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will also be able to work for two years, instead of just one.

“Our government will continue to take the measures necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians, including putting in place social distancing, isolation and travel restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” commented Marco E L Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

“Today’s announcement will ensure both a robust response to addressing the spread of the virus and that our farmers, fishers and other producers have the workers they need, when they need them, to strengthen Canada’s food security and provide other vital services.”

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IB May 2020 exams will no longer be held

The PIE News - Mon, 03/23/2020 - 06:57

The International Baccalaureate exams set for May have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, impacting the plans of more than 200,000 students around the world.

In a letter to sent schools and examiners on March 22, the IB said the examinations, which were originally scheduled for between April 30 and May 22 for diploma program and career-related program students, would no longer be held.

“The IB with considerable advisement from stakeholders… has determined the most responsible and ethical way forward”

The two-year IB diploma program, aimed at pupils aged between 16 and 19, provides an internationally accredited qualification for entrance into higher education institutions.

According to the organisation’s website, as of March 2020, there were 6,966 programs being offered worldwide, across 5,263 schools in 158 countries.

“Our students, their well-being and their progression in future stages of life have been at the forefront of our thinking as we respond to this extraordinary pandemic,” a statement on the website explained.

“As an organisation, it is critical for us to ensure that the options we provide our global community of IB World schools are based on compassion for our students and teachers and, fairness for the difficult circumstances our students and educators are experiencing,” the statement read.

“We are grateful for your patience and consideration. As a result, the IB with considerable advisement from stakeholders across the globe including schools, students, universities and official bodies has determined the most responsible and ethical way forward.”

In a list of FAQs, the IB said that moving the date wasn’t an option as creating examinations for over 200,000 global students each year takes a considerable amount of work, with the work beginning at least 18 months before the date that students will finally sit the exam paper.

“Behind this process, there is also a large infrastructure of printing, posting and scanning the papers. These companies carefully schedule their work to ensure they can support multiple assessment bodies across the world throughout the year.

“If we moved the examination session these companies may not be able to support the IB,” the organisation explained.

In addition, it said the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting different parts of the world at different times and is a rapidly evolving situation.

“Currently, there are schools globally who are not affected and whose students are preparing to take their examinations in May, while for other schools, it is not yet certain that they will be open for the exams.

“Even if we were able to move the examination session, we may find the same problem as now, with some schools able to sit the exams and others not.”

“The student will be awarded a diploma or a course certificate which reflects their standard of work”

Information about the Middle Years Program eAssessment examinations due to be held May 11-22 will be provided next week, the statement explained.

“Depending on what they registered for, the student will be awarded a diploma or a course certificate which reflects their standard of work.

“This is based on student’s coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigour and quality control already built into the programs,” the statement concluded.

Full details will be sent to schools by March 27.

The post IB May 2020 exams will no longer be held appeared first on The PIE News.

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Economist, North America - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 08:48

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Mr Guaidó, who is the speaker of the National Assembly, last month began a new round of street demonstrations against Mr Maduro’s regime, which will now presumably stop. They are a shadow of the massive protests that followed his proclamation as “interim president” 14 months ago, when Mr Maduro began a second term after a fraudulent election. In theory the opposition remains committed to ousting Mr Maduro and calling a democratic presidential ballot. But sweeping American sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry have so far failed to break the regime. Talks between government and opposition broke down in September. That leaves the opposition with a dilemma.

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The bright orange...

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