By Catherine Murnane | Jan 31 2012Free academic e-books for five American universities400 students from various disciplines across five American universities will be given the opportunity to use free e-books as part of their academic studies. This pilot initiative, which has already proven successful in schools such as Indiana University, aims to provide a straightforward, cost-efficient way for students to attain access to academic reading materials.The Associate Vice-President of the University of Virginia, Michael McPherson, welcomed not only the economic, but also academic advantages of using e-books instead of printed textbooks. Mr McPherson noted that through the use of e-books, “instructors can annotate portions of the text for all students to see, and can enable students to share their annotations with the class”.Students involved in the scheme will be provided with e-texts formatted by McGraw-Hill, which can then be accessed by the Courseload reader from any computer, smartphone or tablet. The Courseload software also allows for students to print a hardcopy of the e-text for a fee, should they wish to do so. Should the pilot scheme prove successful, the universities involved will consider introducing this model on a permanent basis, with students paying a discounted fee for access to the software and the materials it provides.The students taking part in this pilot scheme are currently studying at the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Virginia, Cornell University and the University of California Berkeley.UCLA keeping theft at bay In response to high rates of laptop theft at the University of California, Los Angeles, a new, free and updated form of security has been introduced to protect students from further theft.The decision was made in response to statistics released by the University’s Police Department, UCPD, which stated that 160 laptops had been reported as stolen by students in 2011.This security software is made up of a variety of new features, such as a GPS tracking system, which is activated and controlled by the individual student themselves. When a laptop is stolen, the owner can activate an alarm on the laptop, which causes a siren to resonate from the sound system when it is turned on.The owner also has the option of locking down their laptop from another computer if they feel that their personal information is at risk.The new software provides for laptops that are mislaid by displaying the owner’s contact information on the login screen, in an attempt to assure the return of the laptop to its original owner.Though the new software can be downloaded free of charge by students and staff alike, the university will pay $5,000 a year for its upkeep. This fee is currently being covered by the Office of Insurance and Risk Management, who are expected to continue covering the costs for the next number of years.Mr Adams is confident that as the number of users of the software increases, the less UCLA will be targeted by thieves.UBC Vancouver seeks to strengthen its non-academic misconduct policy UBC Vancouver has begun to implement new procedures to ensure that their students act responsibly not only in their studies, but also socially. The decision was made in light of the success of a new approach to discipline, which has already been implemented on the campus of UBC Okanagan.This new approach to discipline bypasses the formal hearing procedure that exists under the current model, providing students with the opportunity to accept responsibility for their actions themselves. Students will now liaise with a representative from the Vice President’s Student Office, where they will be given the opportunity to consider ways to make amends for their actions. University Counsel at UBC, Hubert Lai, is confident that ninety per cent of cases will be capable of being dealt with under this model.However, more severe cases will also be provided for under the newly created ‘President’s Non-Academic Misconduct Committee’. This committee, whose members consist mainly of students, will take on a much more investigative approach into the issues at hand than the previous hearing committee, which took on a ‘prosecutor – defender’ format.Although the majority of academics at UBC have welcomed the new procedures, students have expressed concerns that under these new procedures, those who display more remorse will be shown more leniency. "Who knows if they will be stimulated to do exactly what they did again?", questioned a fourth year student at the college.It is hoped that the new policy will be formally introduced in September 2012.