Deciding to Open University Campuses Will be Harder Than Closing Them

Wed Apr 15 22:04:41 2020 EDT (-0400 GMT)

A texture ball over a map of the Toronto area

In Ontario, local communities around universities will be empowered in influencing the decision to re-open university campuses because of the autonomy each university demonstrated when closing campuses.

On March 12, 2020, Alex Usher amusingly offered to “eat his hat” if Ontario universities did not close campuses within a half-hour of the provincial government closing primary and secondary schools. Over an hour later it was clear that he was wrong.

Mr. Usher noted the next day (while seeking a palatable hat) that in Alberta universities closed their campuses’ in tandem with Public Health Alberta’s announcement. In contrast, Ontario universities each made their individual decisions – all arriving at the same outcome.

These decisions were both contextual and procedural, though there was a different outcome in Alberta and Ontario. Without being privy to dialogues between parties, one can speculate in all cases this was a decision procedurally left for each institution, but in the Alberta case, the context suggested a coordinated response. In the Ontario case, the autonomy and authority of the institutions was prioritized through the new context and each institution decided to close their campus within roughly the same week.

In the end, the national “stay at home” movement took over and states of emergency were declared before these decisions could be meaningfully contested.

Universities are likely to find that their on-campus stakeholders (matriculated students, staff and faculty, etc.) will have differing levels of urgency measured against different senses of risk and these concerns may or may not be aligned with off-campus community stakeholders who will likely make different assessments based on issues like travel-based infection vectors or contributions or burdens to local economies.

An unlikely collation of landlords and international students could arise, as might other new collectives.

Pro-opening groups are likely to be opposed by local populations who prioritize reducing vectors for (re)introducing COVID-19 into their community over university finances or othered students’ degree completion.

Local communities around Ontario universities will likely be relatively empowered in contesting this decision based on the demonstrated provisional nature of the closures.  Universities in Ontario have procedurally established their decision-making authority and autonomy from government and the larger public, which will signal to strong local voices and collectives that these decisions are not beyond their influence or directly tied to decisions or authorities external to their localities.

Given the time and opportunity, Ontario universities will have one more chance to demonstrate that these are indeed larger decisions as the fall term nears and they might do well to coordinate likely declarations of continuances of campus closures and online instruction for the fall term.

Approaches to Medical Students During a Pandemic

Wed Apr 15 21:24:38 2020 EDT (-0400 GMT)

Texture ball as Corona morphologyThe credentials universities and related regulatory bodies confer have a value in the achievement, rigour and knowledge they symbolize or imply. But perhaps these concepts are for a time when the public need is equal to supply, a pandemic introduces an imbalance.

Universities around the world have suspended large gatherings to reduce transmission, many medical or nursing schools have donated supplies that will go unused during this suspension, or have concluded that the supplies are of greater value to public health than public education (Apablaza, University Affairs).

In Italy, medical students’ mandatory licensing exams have been postponed for nine-months and 10,000 medical students have been injected into the Italian medical system dispensing treatment to less-serious patients. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has moved forward final exams by six weeks to allow 1,300 students to graduate early (Cole, Newsweek).

In Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons has indefinitely postponed residents’ final written exams because of social distancing concerns and dropped the oral exam requirement. Training placements that were to end June 30, 2020, can be effectively extended by the granting of restricted provisional licenses (Ormsby, The Toronto Star).

In early April 2020, 2,500 Canadian medical staff signed a petition urging Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce, CEO of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, to fast-track the certification process for residents, noting the issuance of the restricted provisional licences are insufficient and advocating to drop the requirement for the postponed written exam.

Canada’s 2020 medical residents are well-positioned to argue that the context of these students’ extended residencies or provisional licences, during a pandemic on a scale not seen in one hundred years, not only negates the need for a final written exam but may make these new medical residents and provisional licence holders more qualified than past newly licenced physicians and surgeons. This is certainly a question for subject experts to decide, but the discipline’s relationship to public health and its new context has increased the contestability and the multiplicity of actors.

As the pandemic and lockdown continue I am watching for answers to a number of questions:

  • How do we evaluate decisions such as these that potentially diminish the traditional measures of the educational attainment and credentials, but amplify impact?
  • Will contributions to research into COVID-19 be deemed sufficient public contribution?
  • Will continuing and potentially competing for research be tolerated?
  • Will material and labour donations influence public perception of universities’ role in a pandemic?

Comparing Ontario University Strategic Mandate Agreements

Wed Jan 8 23:14:10 2020 EST (-0500 GMT)

As part of my Masters of Education, I completed an independent study, the subject of which was reviewing all of the current Ontario Universities Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs).

The most interesting part: The SMA2 Metrics Power BI dashboard.

Why? It seemed to me like I might be the first person to read all the SMA2s and compare them (apples to the Ontario mean of apples in 2017). So I read them all, interpreted them, submitted to my supervisor, got a good mark, and now I want to share the data collected because it seemed silly to me that Ontario had system-wide metrics a no system-wide report.

Questions like “What are the top three planned areas of growth for Ontario Universities?” should be a simple web search with an insightful result, not a one-hour web safari.

It’s all posted at

I’m a PMP

Mon Sep 23 22:37:16 2019 EDT (-0400 GMT)

I’m a Project Management Professional!

My PMI websiteToday in an exam centre in Mississauga Ontario I completed and passed my 4-hour exam to become a PMP.

It’s been a long road, but mostly because I took my time. I first want to give my thanks to the people and employers that supported me through the process: Thanks University of Toronto and Brock University!

Here’s the story, working backwards

Today I wrote the exam at a Pearson VUE exam centre.

The wait time between submission and confirmation was less than 3 seconds, but felt like 10 seconds or more because I really had to pee! That was one of a few things that didn’t quite go to plan (though, that was an identified risk, I just could only come up with a mitigation contingency plan, not avoidance). I also found myself pressed for time throughout, which was not the case when I practiced. I had hoped to review questions I had flagged, but ultimately did not have time, though I did more on from those questions thinking I gave my best answer.

It was the culmination of a lot work (see below) but rather anti-climatic as I got the news in the exam room, while responsibly being quite for other exam writers… then I got my print out…signed out and unlocked my stuff… peed… and headed to my car and texted the good news and my thanks.

My hand covered in the blue ink that rubbed off from my notesInteresting, I was expecting to be given paper to make notes with, but that’s not how it worked at this location. Instead, they gave me a laminated notepad and a blue fine-tip Sharpie to make notes with. My hands are now marked in blue as if with indelible ink after I voted in a developing-world election.

Qualifying to Write

I have my 4-year degree: Honours in Communications Policy.

I’ve got my experience hours – actually, that was subject to an audit when I applied. They say it’s random, but I think when I Ieft a pre-populated zero in a few of the forms for hours spent I triggered the audit because all the proportions were way off. I noticed it in the confirmation, was allowed to re-submit, but still subject to an audit. Thanks to those that helped with that.

There’s also the requirement for 35 hours of instruction. I got mine through an online course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, it also happened to be good follow-up quality control on the Toolbox Renewal/Quercus project. I did well in the course and on the progress and final exams, but they were open-book and I attribute my success to my open-book exam strategy more than my internalization of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) etc.

My Study Plan

I appreciated many of the “I Passed” descriptions on reddit, but many of those descriptions are of 2~3 month experience, it’s a proven model.

As I’m currently a part-time Masters of Education grad student, in this last year I’ve transitioned jobs, and my wife and I have a pair of active kids; my study plan needed to fit around all of those activities.

Here’s My slow-burn Study Plan

  1. Practice questions
    I bought the Pocket Prep’s 800 question PMP exam prep. Doing at least 10 questions a day helped me learn AND helped me understand, I needed to commit more to memory, so…
  2. More instruction
    I completed Linked Learning’s Cert Prep: Project Management Professional (PMP).
    I did this over some evenings, lunch hours and flights. The handouts, quizzes and practice exam were great. I’d recommend the course, especially because many employers, local library systems, and all Ontario publicly-funded post-secondary institutions currently offer free access to LinkedIn Learning (Credit to Learning’s salespeople!).
  3. Squeezing in more studying
    Audiobook.  I bought the audiobook Phil Martin’s Simple PMP Exam Guide
    It’s dry! But, I listened to it when I’d go for a run, and occasionally when I’d drive (but I realized it took a little too much of my cognition while driving). Also, Tarek Yehia PowerBI dashboard on all the ITTOs.
  4. Iterate
    I kept doing Pocket Prep quizzes. Grew my own notes, and adapted some of Edward Chung’s notes (thanks!). I practiced writing out formula’s and the 49 PMBoK Processes, and I also built a 446 question quiz in Sakai matching all of the PMBoK’s terms to their definitions and practiced that.

And that’s how I passed and became a PMP

I recommend project management as a discipline to anyone else who might have graduated with a not-so business-ie degree. Project management is a transferable framework for management itself and is also contained within a temporary endeavour. If you’re interested in becoming a PMP, go for it! There’s also the CAPM credential, or other project management courses and certificates offer this.

Pictures from the family trip to Florida

Tue Oct 16 15:16:55 2018 EDT (-0400 GMT)

We had a great 5 full days at Disney World Florida and then a full day (two nights) at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center.

Disney World Florida 2018

Kennedy Space Center