Thursday, 15 February 2018

HE Explained: Reputational risk

In a number of industries, Brand and Reputation are paramount.

These industries are mostly consumer-facing ones - retailers, for example.  Not that image is everything, however, low prices can beat brand image at certain times in the economic cycle.


This issues of Brand, Trust and Reputation are even more acute when the industry provides intangible services such as banking.

Banks suffer from being hated by many.  They are a "necessary evil" or, in marketing terms a "distress purchase" - nobody wants a loan, they want the yacht, sports car, holiday or house that a loan can make possible.  The cost of the loan is a focus in a competitive market but it is the benefits that it brings that the borrower really wants.

In Higher Education, we ask, what features of our Universities really make the "brand"?

  • Ivy covered walls?
  • Extensive sports facilities?
  • Prominent graduates (not necessarily the bulk of successful hard-working ones)?
  • Eye-catching logos?
  • Awards and League Table Positions?
OR is it
  • The teaching?
  • The student experience?
  • The relevance?
  • The "care"?
....and, exactly who is the audience?  what market is University BRAND directed at?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

HE explained: Are you not edutained?

Back in olden times, when I was interviewed by my University for my current post, I was asked by one of the panel members:

"How would you approach giving a lecture?"

I explained (without using words like "Learning Outcomes" or "Knowledge Base" or "Research Informed") that I would consider what my students already knew and then build on that, deconstruct what they believed, where necessary, and offer anecdotes from my time in industry to illustrate the point and to pique interest.  I proceeded to use one of my (I thought humorous*) anecdotes as an example.

"Ah", said the interlocutor, "You're an Entertainer!"

I did not know at the time whether this comment was a good sign or not but as I got the job I felt that it had not harmed my chances too much.

Those were the days, of course, before mass Higher Education changed the game from one of intellectual challenge with the comfortable sharing of industry insights with highly interested students to crowd control with Absenteeism, Lecture Capture, Trial by student feedback and Peer Observation.

How would I answer the same question today?

Well, I'd probably use those buzz words that I was ignorant of before.  I'd carefully plot how my own research and experience would underpin the content of the lecture.  I would outline how the "ILOs" would shape the content, structure, planned interactions and I would consider ways in which the students could remain engaged for the whole lecture session.

If students fail to detect spontaneity, it is no surprise.  Failure to adhere to the lecture schedule, to dictate which chapters of which book (singular) related directly to that week and a lack of support notes and links on the VLE can all reduce feedback scores, too.

So, if students do not feel entertained, it may be that lecturing has become a job, rather than a passion.

*The anecdote?
My subject was consumer lending and the need to be as fully informed about the client and the context as possible before making a lending decision.  The client in question wanted a loan to pay off past debts (not a good sign).  Repayment would come from a bequest from a wealthy relative.  I needed to check up some basic details - was there such a bequest and how much did it amount to?
"Oh yes" said the family solicitor I was authorised to contact, "The problem is that his aunt isn't dead yet!"

Thursday, 1 February 2018

HE explained - The Lecture

At this time of year, academics are gearing up for the coming term or second-semester teaching.  Spare a thought for the students who will be subjected to a lecture, designed 20 years ago, updated each year or two as data loses currency, and showing little or no recognition of the learning environment of today.

But what is the purpose of a lecture?
Oh, yes, if we speak in the tongues of HE professionals, each lecture should have Learning Outcomes (LOs) linked to the overall LOs of the module or course.  LOs, typically, begin with a phrase like:

"By the end of the lecture students should be able to....."

Note that:  students should be able to....So, the purpose of a lecture is to achieve learning or change or development, in students.

Not to: bemuse, confuse or belittle students or to minimise time spent, or flatter the ego of the lecturer.

Instead of blowing the dust off that 20-year-old lecture, why not re-think it from the perspective of the student rather than the lecturer?

It might even catch on...

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The web, the web, my kingdom for the web

In the world of business there have been many notable casualties on our High Streets - casualties of recession, downturn or a change in the environment that they did not see coming (or saw it and preferred to do nothing).

Such brands and household names include:

Woolworths (general merchandise)
Borders (books)
Choices UK (video hire)
Virgin Megastores UK (recorded music, video and games)
Littlewoods (Clothing / department store)
Office World (Office supplies)
Focus (DIY)
BHS (Clothing and homewares).... the list goes on.

One thing that each of these, now defunct companies, had in common was a poor or even absent on-line offer.  The rapid growth in the technology that opened up the High Street and empowered consumers was responsible for many retailers "catching up" or just "giving up".

Now, what other large consumer facing industry is there where major players with household names and long histories of educational excellence that has served the nation well for many years but where some major players are seriously behind the curve with technology?

Answers on a Student loan application form please......

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

HE ideas: Medieval Time Travel

Tomorrowland, Dr. Who and Back to the Future are all examples of Science Fiction that borrow ideas from H.G.Wells' The Time Machine - one of the first novels of its kind.

Each story, in its own way, faces the dilemma of potentially changing the future by acting on information gained through time travel in the present or the past.

Without a DeLorean, Tardis or handy Wormhole, however, few of us can know, with certainty, what the future will bring.  The further into the future we step, the more uncertain things become.

And yet educators prepare young people for future careers that neither they nor their students can possibly know will exist.  Employers have been heard to say that they have to get their new recruits to "unlearn" what they absorbed at University, technical subject knowledge becomes out of date, although basic concepts do remain longer until they are challenged.

So what learning pervades?

Our ancestors, the ancient Greeks, Romans and Medieval Universities across Europe had it - Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.  The combination of expressing thought, thinking and then using the product to persuade, teach, and motivate others.

In order to prepare our students for the future, our Time Machine should visit the past, understand how the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) can be moulded to today's educational demands and then prepare programmes of study that contextualise these virtues in Art, Engineering, Management etc.

Oh, you're already doing that?  Bravo!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sabbatical blog: Sharing good practice in Sydney

A Business School Dean (who will remain nameless) once described UK Business Schools as a "cottage industry" - each University building its own solution to common problems in its institutional shed.
In Australia, a problem shared is a problem halved (or even decimated).  Let me explain:

The annual ANZQAN meeting of accreditation directors and managers from the Universities in Australia and New Zealand, held in November at the University of Sydney, was a case in point.  Business Schools face the same hurdles and uncertainties as they prepare for accreditation or re-accreditation by AACSB or EFMD, in particular.  Each accreditation body has its own priorities and rules to follow and "rival" Business Schools can learn from the experiences of others - and they do.

What an excellent example of co-operation and sharing - benefitting not only each individual institution but also the accrediting bodies as administrative and senior appraiser time is spent on key issues rather than on peripheral details.

Cooperation with competitors -everyone wins.  Now, just where could that principle be used in the UK?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

HE explained: Acronyms

Higher Education abounds with Organisations, Institutions, Faculties, Programmes of Study and even courses that are known to their audience via an acronym.
  • DfE - Department for Education
  • UCL - University College London
  • BBS - Birmingham Business School
  • AFM - Accounting and Financial Management
  • HRM - Human Resource Management

A good, memorable acronym, in any field of endeavour, needs to have the following qualities:

  1. Brevity
  2. At least ONE Vowel (some of the above do not qualify)
  3. Pronounceability as a word  (not simply saying the letters)
  4. Unable to shock your granny (Bradford University Maths Society was always a favourite)
Happily, my acronym for acronyms is BAPU.

Hang on....that's the acronym of the British Association of  Paediatric Urologists.

Or am I taking the Programme In Social Science?