Preparing High School Students for University


By Fiona Clyne

One should enter higher education fully cognisant that one will proceed on a path towards  higher order analysis and thinking enabling one to contribute in society and ultimately instill changes in one’s environment for the betterment of humanity as a whole (Cote & Allahar, 2011). Reflecting back on my past, I perceived university as a means to employment. I had a consumer-product mentality (Calingo, 2013). I was not provided with the necessary insight of the demands of what a university education would entail. I did not have the right mind-set because I was not prepared (Cote & Allahar, 2011).

How did I develop my erroneous reasoning? Was I misdirected? Actually, I was not directed at all. I explored careers, volunteered, visited university campuses and attended school marketing campaigns; however, this did not provide adequate insight into university. I was the first generation to attend university; my parents had no knowledge of what was involved and could not help me in this regard. My teachers and counsellors did not provide any guidance or direction. I had no concept of the demands of higher education; this became quickly evident upon entering first year. In addition to having the stress of being away from home and being independent, it was overwhelming trying to maneuver a new environment, manage responsibilities and handle the workload.

The academic skill set needed in university is more advanced than in high school (Jansen, & van der Meer, 2012).   The structure provided in high school to nurture the learning process disappears in university giving way to a highly independent environment (Gibney, Moore, Murphy & O’Sullivan, 2011). Although I graduated, I wonder what would have made my transition from high school to university easier. Cote & Allahar (2011) emphasized the responsibility high schools have in preparing students for university and purported that change should be instilled by teachers as they have the closest proximity to student related issues. Perhaps if I received more support and guidance from my teachers and counsellors, I would have had a more accurate perception of the expectations of university.

Aside from one’s residence, students spend a large amount of time in school; guidance from teachers/counsellors to provide information and insight is crucial in preparing students for their future. Despite this, few high school students utilize guidance services or find them to be effective in future planning (Bloxom, Bernes, Magnusson, Gun, Bardick, Orr & McKnight, 2008). Bardick, Bernes, Magnusson & Witko (2004) found that students gravitate to people they trust for advice, thus teachers and counsellors need to be proactive and build stronger relations with students in order increase approachability.

Students need the support and direction from their teachers/counsellors to provide a realistic insight into university.  Attending a university marketing campaign and finding out about courses or programs is not an adequate portrayal of the academics and demands. Research shows that students who receive support in high school are able to adjust better in post-secondary pursuits (Hudley, Moschetti, Gonzalez, Barry, & Kelly, 2009) and are more successful in graduating (Walker, Downey & Cox-Henderson, 2010).

High schools have a vested interest in preparing students as they are accountable to the taxpaying public and the government. Universities also benefit from retaining their students as it impacts funding, future employment for staff and campus creditability (O’Rourke, 2013). Therefore all parties, students, high schools and universities have a stake in ensuring students are prepared for the pursuit of higher education. Educators need to identify and implement specific protocols to support high school students with gaining insight into academics at a university level. The role of parents and universities in this process should also be examined in order to promote a holistic support network for students. Moving from high school into university can be a stressful. Having an awareness of what to expect enables one to feel more prepared and can ease this transition.


Bardick, A. D., Bernes, K. B., Magnusson, K. C., & Witko, K. D. (2004).  Junior high career planning: what students want.  Canadian Journal of Counselling, 38(2), 104-117.

Bloxom, J. M., Bernes, K. B., Magnusson, K. C., Gunn, T. T., Bardick, A. D., Orr, D. T., & McKnight, K. M. (2008).  Canadian Journal of Counselling, 42(2), 79-100.

Calingo, L. M. R. (2013).  The arms race in higher ed: From both sides now.  Huffington Post.

Cote, J. E., & Allahar, A. L. (2011).  Lowering higher education:  the rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.

Gibney, A., Moore, N., Nurphy, F., & O’Sullivan, S. (2011).  The first semester of university life; ‘will I be able to manage it all?’.  Higher Education, 62(3), 351-366.

Hudley, C., Moschetti, R., Gonzalez, A., Su-Je, C., Barry, L., & Kelly, M. (2009).  College freshmen’s perceptions of their high school experiences. Journal of Advanced Academics, 20(3), 438-471.

Jansen, E. P. W.A. & van der Meer, J. (2012).  Ready for university? A cross-national study of students’ perceived preparedness for university.  Australian Educational Researcher, 39(1), 1-16.

O’Rourke, C. (2013). Every student counts.  In M. Kompf, & P. M. Denicolo (Eds.), Critical issues in higher education: The future of learning and teaching  (pp. 67-81). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishing

Walker, D.A., Downey, P., & Cox-Henderson, J. (2010).  REAL camp:  a school-university collaboration to promote post-secondary educational opportunities among high school students.  The Educational Forum, 74, 297-304.



Higher Education at Brock University: An Inclusive Environment for International Students?


By Amanda Marino

The Master of Education International Student Program (MEd ISP) exists within the Administration and Leadership in Education specialization at Brock University. The ISP is designed to support individuals in a learning community, however it is available for full-time, course-based or MRP students only, and runs for 14 months in a cohort program (Brock University, 2013). International students are seldom permitted to enroll in courses outside of their cohort, and may be integrated in classrooms with Canadian students only during summer courses. The concerns that I will be exploring comprise of the exclusion and segregation of international students, the benefits and limitations of separating the programs, and how we can improve our institution by creating a more inclusive learning environment for all.

The Issue of Segregation

By isolating international students in cohorts, I strongly feel that there is a lost opportunity for all students to be engaged and integrated into one another’s culture. Why are we not providing international students with a choice to be integrated, separated, or a mixture of both? Have we even asked them what they want?

The Ontario government expresses the need for more international students in order to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and fuel new demands for accountability and quality in education (Stewart, 2010). However once admitted, are international students being treated fairly? Can we confirm that a quality education is being achieved for all?

Thus, not only are international students faced with paying double the tuition costs, as outlined in the Brock University graduate calendar (Brock, 2013), but they must also adapt to the learning and living styles of a new culture. In addition to this, we are not providing international students with the freedom to choose their learning path, and are therefore creating more barriers within our programs and between our cultures.

Drawbacks of the MEd ISP

Segregation can act as a barrier to the adaptation process, contribute to anxiety, and generate negative perceptions of the Canadian culture (Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2013). International students face challenges integrating into Canadian academic environments, and experience isolation, alienation, marginalization, and low self-esteem (Chase & Guo, 2011). The effects of segregation may be experienced by both international and Canadian students because an understanding and appreciation of one another is not established. In my opinion, the strict restriction of course selection is discriminatory, and limits the abilities of international students to adapt and fully integrate into Canadian culture. In essence, we are missing an opportunity to promote cross-cultural understanding, respect for cultural diversity, and awareness of global issues (Chase & Guo, 2011).

Benefits of the MEd ISP

On the contrary, although there are many negative aspects in segregating international students, there are also many benefits. Restricting social relations to only international students may increase levels of confidence in cultural identity, and creates an essential support system (Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2013). Furthermore, belonging to a community of learners that is going through the same emotions, challenges, and experiences creates a safe space for all (Brookfield, 1999). Therefore, it is important to recognize that some prefer to be separated as a coping mechanism, and others truly benefit from the integration.

Areas for Improvement

It is my firm belief that international students at Brock University should be given the opportunity to be integrated into all courses within the MEd program, if it is their desire. Choice and flexibility within the program creates an inclusive learning environment. Perhaps in the first semester of study, international students would remain in their cohort in order to build relationships and establish a sense of community. Then, students should be free to decide the courses in which to enroll. In addition, the institution and/or peers of the MEd program could provide extra help and guidance, or perhaps even design a series of workshops to assist international students with questions regarding academics, funding, work, language, and culture.

In conclusion, “Ontario must create teaching-oriented institutions that provide student-focused education, with more options for a diverse student population at a more affordable cost” (Clark, Trick, & Van Loon, 2011). We must address the issue of exclusion within our institution in order to provide and support an inclusive, diverse, and meaningful learning experience for all students


Brock University (2013). International Students. Retrieved from

Brookfield, S.D. (1999). What is college really like for adult students? About Campus, 13(6),10-15.

Chase, M., & Guo, S. (2011). Internationalisation of higher education: Integrating international students into Canadian academic environment. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 305-318.

Clark, I.D., Trick, D., & Van Loon, R. (2011). Time to consider a new type of university. University Affairs, 24-27.

Rose-Redwood, C.R., & Rose-Redwood, R.S. (2013). Self-segregation or global mixing?: Social interactions and the international student experience. Journal of  College Student Development, 54(4), 413-429.

Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Retrieved from


Three-year degrees or four? What’s more?


By Megan Poirier

A case of near extinction

Over the last decade, three-year degree programs in Ontario universities have been declining. As of 2011, only forty-four of these programs exist at eight of Ontario’s universities (HEQCO, 2012). Signs of the programs’ eventual fate arose with the elimination of grade 13 in the 1980s, followed by the eradication of OACs in 2002 (HEQCO, 2012). With one year less of secondary education, Ontario universities lacked confidence in student preparedness for higher education, which resulted in the inability to sufficiently prepare students for receiving a bachelor’s degree in three years (HEQCO, 2012). Moreover, a shift in post-secondary credentials occurred wherein there was an increased interest in students pursuing graduate studies where a four-year degree is the minimum entry requirement (HEQCO, 2012). However, just as it seemed that three-year degrees would become an entity of the past, in 2012, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities proposed resurrecting the previously phased-out university degree programs, albeit with modifications, to be implemented between 2013 and 2015 (Rushowy, 2012a). In order to accurately make an informed decision regarding the implications arising from this provincial proposal, exploring both perspectives of the ongoing debate is a necessity.  

What’s the debate about?

Within the province, the ongoing debate regarding three-year university degrees is focused on two key issues: time and cost.

In the early 2000s, a need for more time was a key factor which supported the reduction in the number of three-year degree programs (HEQCO, 2012). However, in a post-OAC Ontario, time is of the essence, prompting the Ministry to re-evaluate the decisions made less than a decade earlier. In an era with smaller job markets and increased competition, re-vamped three-year degree programs offer the opportunity to obtain an Honours degree in three years rather than four (Rushowy, 2012a). The shorter programs would have a heavier, compressed workload with options to attend school year-round and earn more than half of credits online (Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, 2012; Rushowy, 2012b). Ultimately, the objective is to increase educational productivity, resulting in students entering the workforce a year early (Henighan, 2012).

Opposition to the shortened degrees is profound. Firstly, it is argued that nearly half of the province’s students currently require longer than four years require a traditional Honours degree (Henighan, 2012; HEQCO, 2012; Rushowy, 2012b). In addition, numerous Ontario universities, such as the University of Guelph, currently offer a trimester system which allows students to graduate more quickly (HEQCO, 2012). However, very few students opt for compressed degree programs for fears that the heavier course load would be too academically and financially challenging (Henighan, 2012; HEQCO, 2012). Lastly, it is argued that entering the workforce a year early will not benefit individuals in Ontario’s current highly competitive employment climate (Dehaas, 2012).

One of the most prominent reasons behind the Ministry’s decision to implement shortened degree programs is the financial savings for both students and tax payers (Dehaas, 2012; Rushowy, 2012a). On average, students would reap the financial benefits of paying for one year less of tuition, allowing them to pay their student loans back sooner (Dehaas, 2012). Additionally, it has been projected that taxpayers across the province would save approximately $8,500 annually (Dehaas, 2012). However, opposition argues that the cost savings are inaccurate because there would be substantial costs associated with redesigning courses and programs (Rushowy, 2012) in addition to the expense of rewriting the collective agreements for all faculty at the universities that would confer the shortened degrees (Henighan, 2012). Furthermore, the heavier, compressed workload would make it challenging for students to maintain any employment and earn an income throughout the duration of the degree (Rushowy, 2012b).

The bigger picture

Indeed, the implications associated with the time and cost-related issues of shortened degrees are profound. However, the issue of quality transcends all realms of post-secondary education in Ontario. Despite arguments in favour of the changes, many students and stakeholders question the value of three-year degrees versus four, with both groups favouring the latter (HEQCO, 2012; Rushowy, 2012b). Moreover, it is argued that three-year degrees would make Ontarians ‘intellectually malnourished’ (Henighan, 2012) due to the insufficient time to develop analytical or critical thinking skills (Rushowy, 2012b). Consequently, in the current labour market where 21st century skills are requirements, students graduating from shortened programs would be at a ‘competitive disadvantage’ (Henighan, 2012).

Colleges to the rescue?

Many of Ontario’s colleges have been given permission to grant three-year degrees since the initial decline of the same programs at the university level (Colleges Ontario, 2012). Instead of attempting to bring these programs back to universities, should the province focus of granting colleges with the sole ability to grant three-year degrees?


Colleges Ontario (2012). Empowering Ontario: Transforming higher education in the 21st century. Toronto, ON: Colleges Ontario. Retrieved from

Dehaas, J. (2012, February 27). Students and taxpayers could benefit from a fork in the road. Macleans Online. Retrieved from

Henighan, S. (2012, March 1). A three-year degree will shortchange students. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2012). Changing times, changing places: The global evolution of Bachelor’s degree and the implications for Ontario. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from

Ministry of Training, Colleges, & Universities (2012). Strengthening Ontario’s centre of creativity, innovation, and knowledge: A discussion paper on innovation to make our university and college system stronger. Toronto, ON: Government of Ontario. Retrieved from

Rushowy, K. (2012a, February 22) Ontario universities should offer three-year degrees, classes year-round and more online learning, says provincial report. The Star. Retrieved from

Rushowy, K. (2012b, February 23). Most Ontario university students prefer four-year bachelor degrees, survey finds. The Star. Retrieved from


Higher Education 2.0


By Ken Piercey

Rarely does a day go by that I haven’t checked Facebook and my email account. The same is true for most of today’s students, the digital natives. Students today learn through multitasking, videos, interaction, and creation methods not well supported in the far too common large student lecture hall (Prensky, 2001). We are entering a workforce that will require increased use of technology and collaboration with teams to solve increasingly complex issues. Simply knowing information is not enough anymore. With Wikipedia boasting over nine million articles (Eijkman, 2008) and Youtube posting seventy million videos a day (Skiba 2007) students need to know how to filter out the useless from the useful. The answer to future education may well be the incorporation of web 2.0 technologies.

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 technologies are the social side to the Internet; it encompasses wiki’s, blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites (Parker, & Chao, 2007). These technologies have made collaboration online cost effective, simple to use, and accessible virtually anywhere (Parker, & Chao, 2007). Parker and Chao (2007) connect the use of Web 2.0 technology to meeting cooperative and constructivist learning theories. Competencies students gain in these learning environments include: connecting meaning to learning, intrinsic motivation, increased self direction, conflict resolution, research skills, communication skills, advanced problem solving, time management, challenge and debate, respect for others, and digital competency (Fernández, Pulido, & García-Ruiz, 2014).

What are the challenges with using web 2.0?

Integrating these technologies is not without its challenges. Cochrane (2014) identified six critical success factors for implementing web 2.0 technologies and expanded on two in particular. The first is the need for technological and pedagological support. Teachers and students need to be trained on the use of the technologies as well as the change from a pedagological learning style to more of an andragological (more self directed) and ultimately heutalogical (constructing new knowledge within a community) style. In a number of longitudinal studies a lack of ongoing support and training led to the majority of web 2.0 projects failing. The second critical success factor was the scaffolding required to shift the pedagogy. Obtaining buy in from teachers and students in the ontological shift from teacher as the authority of knowledge and student as the passive learner to student as active learner and teacher as facilitator proves to be a great barrier. This shift requires introducing students to web 2.0 technologies gradually and increasing its use as the student’s progress through their programs. The instructors require ongoing mentoring until they are proficient in the use of web 2.0 technologies.

Is there proof that it works?

The answer is not really.  There is little empirical evidence to show the effectiveness of web 2.0 technologies. Two studies that I found identified that the use of web 2.0 technologies in higher education may not produce the competencies in students that many articles claim they will. Thomposon, Gray, and Kim (2014) found that students evaluated after a class in which web 2.0 technology was used described the experience as an more individual focused than collaborative. Students felt they were engaged cognitively as individuals, they were self motivated, and felt they did not share ownership of the work they created. Fernandez, Pulido, and Garcia-Ruiz (2014) had students rank four teaching modalities by the competencies acquired using each modality in relation to collaborative and constructive learning competencies. The students ranked the use of web 2.0 technology as number three behind peer tutoring and problem based learning.

Now What?

There is a definite need for further research into how and which web 2.0 technologies could or should be integrated into higher education curriculums. For now we should consider these tools to be added to alternate teaching modalities that support constructivist and collaborative teaching modalities.


Boulos, M. N., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC medical education, 6(1), 41.

Cochrane, T. D. (2014). Critical success factors for transforming pedagogy with mobile Web 2.0. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 65-82.

Eijkman, H. (2008). Web 2.0 as a non-foundational network-centric learning space. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 25(2), 93-104.

Fernández, N. G., Pulido, P. C., & García-Ruiz, R. (2014). Competency training in universities via projects and Web 2.0 tools. Analysis of an experience. RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 11(1), 61-75.

Grosseck, G. (2009). To use or not to use web 2.0 in higher education?. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1(1), 478-482.

Parker, K., & Chao, J. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of e-learning and Learning Objects, 3(1), 57-72.

Skiba, D. J. (2007). Nursing Education 2.0: YouTubeTM. Nursing Education Perspectives, 28(2), 100-102.

Thompson, C., Gray, K., & Kim, H. (2014). How social are social media technologies (SMTs)? A linguistic analysis of university students’ experiences of using SMTs for learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 21, 31-40.

Game Time Decision! The Case for Gamified Learning in Higher Education


By Sarah Moore

This semester I had the opportunity to complete an internship at a private Canadian eLearning enterprise that specializes in developing online learning management systems (LMS) solutions for a wide range of learners, including higher educational institutions. It was through this internship that I became intently aware of and interested in the growing market demand for game-based learning solutions. Through this blog, it is my intention to briefly introduce and discuss the topic of gamified learning, and the ways in which it provides opportunities to enhance students’ experiences.

What is gamified learning anyways?

The term gamification refers to the use of game elements in non-game applications (Muntean, 2011). Previously, gamification has enjoyed popular success in the commercial realm, promoting products and business brands by increasing the user’s experience, loyalty, and engagement (Lee & Hammer, 2011; Dominguez et al., 2013).  With the ability to strongly support user engagement and motivation, many educational practitioners and researchers have worked towards applying the principles of gamification to educational contexts, specifically online learning environments, to help address the challenges of student isolation and lack of content engagement (Liaw, 2008).  As gamified learning is gaining academic momentum and quickly becoming a popular learning tool for higher ed. institutions, this topic warrants critical attention and academic inquiry.

Gamification: The New Educational Revolution?

Upon reviewing the research, there are many educational advantages associated to incorporating gamification in online learning environments. Central to Lee and Hammer’s (2011) research, gamified learning is beneficial because it motivates students and has a positive influence on their cognitive, emotional, and social development.

1. Cognitive Development

According to Koster (2005), gamified learning provides challenging and complex activities that require students to utilize their prior knowledge to explore new concepts and progress through difficult tasks and challenges. For example, scenario-based learning helps support students’ cognitive development. Leaners work through a series of problems that provide multiple pathways of progression, or possible regression, based on their response. Challenges are tailored to different levels, and as the learner masters the content, they are rewarded and advanced to higher levels of difficulty to expand their skills. As Locke and Latham (1990) report, games that provide multiple pathways and degrees of success allow learners to develop their own learning goals through each activity, thus directly supporting their motivation to pursue and advance their own learning. For post-secondary application, the use of scenario-based learning games provides learners with the opportunity to apply course theory to real-world examples. McGrath & Bayerlein’s (2013) research indicated that students who participated in scenario-based learning found the online gaming environment informative and engaging, and saw their performance rates increase.

2. Emotional Development

Regarding emotional development, students also benefit from gamified learning through success and failure. Positive emotions are associated to students receiving in-game rewards by overcoming challenges and progressing through levels. In contrast, gamified learning also involves students not progressing until the correct learning is achieved. When students fail, they are given immediate feedback, and often provided a formative tip to guide their learning. As Lee and Hammer (2011) state, learners begin to view failure as an opportunity to improve and learn. Thus, students are able to learn from their mistakes, and grow from positive feedback as they become more interested and engaged in their learning progress.

3. Social Development

Lastly, learners are also able to socially develop through adopting and exploring new character identifies and making decisions based upon their assumed identity roles (Squire, 2006, Gee 2008). Additionally, group-learning modes allow students to work towards a collective goal and co-construct knowledge from each other, or compete in learning competitions to achieve the best score (Dominguez et al. 2013).

Gamification: is this just trend?

Although there are many research studies supporting the use of gamified learning in higher education, it has encountered criticism. Radoff and Robertson identified a lack of storytelling, a central gaming element, while others have argued that gamification provides a false sense of achievement (Sweeney, 2013). Additionally, gamification can prove to be costly, time-consuming, and require technical multimedia development (Lee & Hammer, 2011).

The gamification of e-learning undoubtedly provides a unique learning opportunity that encapsulates student engagement and motivation. While I do support the inclusion of gamified learning in higher ed., additional research is still required to analyze the impact on student performance. Gamification is also not a cure-all for boring courses. Educators should ensure gamified learning is implemented for the right reasons, and that it meets the needs of the learners and the school institution. After all, “gamification does not imply creating a game. It means makes education more fun and engaging, without undermining its credibility” (Muntean, 2011, 328).


Domínguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L., Pagés, C., & Martínez-Herráiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 20–20.

Koster, R. (2005). A theory of fun for game design. Scottsdale, Arizona: Paraglyph Press.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Liaw, S. (2008). Investigating students’ perceived satisfaction, behavioral intention, and effectiveness of e-learning: a case study of the Blackboard system. Computers & Education, 51(2), 864–873.

McGrath, N., & Mayerlein, L. (2013). Engaging online students through the gamification of learning materials: The present and the future/ in 30th Ascilite Conference. Retrieved from

Muntean, C. I. (2011, October). Raising engagement in e-learning through gamification. In Proc. 6th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL (p. 323-329). Retrieved from

Sweeney, S. (2013, August). Game On? The Use of Gamification in e-Learning. Retreived from

Squire, K. (2006). From content to context: Videogames as designed experience. Educational Researcher, 35(8): 19-29.

Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 16.

Additional Resource

Johnson, L., Adams, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. & Ludgate, H. 2013. The NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. NMC. Retrieved March 1, 2014 from