Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Gold, Silver and....why did you bother turning up at all?

Teaching is (obviously) like an event at the Olympics.

Picture by lekkyjustdoit at

...So, it's only right to award GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE medals to recognise teaching achievement - isn't it?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pale Ale and Library books - there's just no demand for them...

"You're the fifteenth person who has asked for Whitbread* Pale Ale today - there's just no demand for it!!"

Today's HE students are demanding - and why not?  They (laregly) pay high fees for a programme of study that should lead to the award of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree - an entry ticket to graduate jobs that will help to pay back the student loans incurred.

So what do they demand?

  • Well informed, enthusiastic, capable teachers (note I did not use the term "lecturers");
  • Decent internet connectivity in buildings and wi-fi everywhere;
  • Teaching rooms that are fit for purpose in the 21st Century;
  • Lecture materials and support both on and off-line;
  • Lecture Capture of all teaching sessions (just in case);
  • Library access 24/7 and enough books for everyone...
the list goes on.

So Universities are caught in a market situation described by, amongst others, Economist Burton Weisbrod (strangely translates as Whit(e) Bread) in the 1960's  - potentially infinite demand by individuals who may or may not end up "consuming" the product or service but do have the capacity to do so - most often because the product or service in question is a "public good" provided comunally on which individuals can call (such as the NHS or Police).

Of course, planning, tracking previous behaviour and pilot experiments are all deployed by Universities to try to estimate actual demand.  But, research that shows that only 15% of students actually watch Lecture Captured lectures does not mean that it should not be available to 100% of students.  The fact that nobody visited the library at 11pm at a weekend reflected more about the doors being closed and the lights off than option demand.  Today's students are often fully functioning at 2 or 3 in the morning when all lecturing folks are tucked up in bed!

And top all that by the fact that failure to meet such high expectations leads to dissatisfaction (and University Quality is measured by student satisfaction) and you have a fine old mess.

Answers to this conumdrum on a postcard please...

*Also Whitbread no longer make it - but that would spoil a good line with facts!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

School Anthem

Help save our latest Dean,
Support our pressured Dean,
Please help the Dean,
Send him good REF impact,
TEF gold and Lectures packed,
Knowing he could be sacked,
Please help the Dean.

Picture by stockimages at

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

New NSS questions revealed

After years of NSS ( National Student Survey) manipulation by Universities in the UK whereby every institution can claim to be at the top of the league table for something...

ABC University, first in the West Country for communication changes to the course and teaching effectively. "Clearly the Air Raid Siren and Butlintz style Tannoy system installed on campus was well worth it" said Vice Chancellor Arthur Turnip.

XYZ University, first in the East Midlands for Universities beginning with X. "The University has always been alphabetically challenged, but the NSS gives a huge boost to our marketing efforts" said Principal, President and Leader for Life Zoe Z Zhou.

 ...FIVE new statements are added to the survey for final year students for 2017.  The motivation, I am sure, is to allow many more Universities to head up the tables in a marketing hyped league of their own:

Here's a sneaky preview of some of the questions that didn't make the final cut:

  1. My Halls food was different shades of goop
  2. My Vice Chancellor Photo-Bombed student events
  3. The culture on my course allowed me to stay in bed until noon every day
  4. Lecturers spoon-fed me the answers to exams

 to answer use a 0 - 5 Likert range to indicate satisfaction:


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Essay mills - a gap in the market.

Essay-mills are the latest in a series of phenomena designed by cheats to help students to fool themselves that they deserve the marks and award they are given. Whilst plagiarism has been with us for as long as academics have published their work the use of text-matching software and the ability to both buy and sell essays has been facilitated more recently by the Internet.

Of course teaching staff can reduce the incidence of cheating by designing new and unique assignments, using authentic assessments, writing their own case studies and, quite simply, by using different assignments every time.

Cheat Cloud by

But wait, there's a gap in the market here. Clearly, essay mills could extend their scope by recycling assignments to hard pressed academics! Why just sell the answers when you can re-cycle and sell the questions too?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

At last - a metric for Teaching Excellence in Business (TEB)

Detractors of the UK's latest attempt to control and manage education through the blunt instrument of  the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) must think again.  Of course excellent teaching can be measured!!

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) has proved to be a brilliant pre-cusror to TEF.  Excellent research has, undoubtedly been undertaken under its auspices, although some doubt if the REF panels would know it if they saw it.  Not me!!  Of course the best research is undertaken by the best (and highest paid) researchers who need to isloate themselves from the  day to day confusion and distraction of teaching and counselling students and managing cash cows for their respective Universities.

So, here are my ideas for "scoring" academics for Teaching Excellence in Business (TEB) - it follows an "unbalanced scorecard" framework and focuses on (almost) measurable data:

Someone just pointed out that I used TEB in a previous blog about a Chinese "Super bus" scam and that in French it stands for trop d'éléphants blanches.

So I'm seeking a new acronym.......

Friday, 9 September 2016

Ode to professors

Professors are magical creatures
Who possess superior features
And given the time
They make limericks rhyme
Which is more than can be said for ordinary lecturers