Thursday, 28 January 2016

But we've always done it like this...

One of the most frustrating things I hear when discussing change is the response "but we've always done it like this..."

Ways of doing things are a product of environmental and resource factors as well as competition (what others are doing) and those convinced that change is needed - for efficiency, effectiveness, cost, responsiveness or other reasons.  But what if the change required is to something as fundamental as the culture of an organisation or sector such as a University or Higher Education?

Cultural change starts with the individual, it cannot be imposed from above without considerable disruption and fall-out.  The following diagram helps to illustrate the steps needed to begin the shift to a change in culture that impacts strategic as well as individual decision making.

But what do we need to do to win the hearts and minds of HE staff to encourage them to learn new skills, to change their approaches to teaching, to effect changes in institutional priorities in investment - systems can be IT based, classroom based, curriculum based order, over time, to create cultural change?

The economist in me shouts - "incentivisation!"  How can we encourage the brilliant minds that inhabit our Universities to use more of their capacity for cerebral activity to consider innovative teaching methods, new ways of learning that reflect changed student abilities and expectations and to begin to effect real change in the experience of tomorrow's students?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Business School Ethics

A number of UK Business Schools have signed up to the UN Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) and, no doubt were sincere in progressing towards ethical dealings with their students, their partners and in providing opportunities to explore ethical issues as part of teaching.  In particular, if the "six principles" of PRME are not explicit enough, the signatories also sign up to the following:

"We understand that our own organisational practices should serve as example of the values and attitudes we convey to our students."

So, look at similar postgraduate degrees in Accounting / Finance / Marketing or Management in different PRME members (I won't name the ones I have looked at) and wonder why tuition fees for non-EU students are higher (often double) than those for domestic and EU students.

For some PRME signatories the fees are the same (at the higher non-EU level) whilst others retain an historic distinction between domestic and EU and International students - despite the fact that the argument of UK government HE funding for domestic and EU students has long since evaporated.

I simply ask - is that ethical?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Fifteen minutes of fame

In 1968 Andy Warhol forecast that "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes".
Since that time, the internet, specifically social media such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc. have given ordinary people the opportunity to strive towards Andy's prophesy.  And some really do take the quote as a challenge!

Today's HE students have grown up as "Generation Y digital natives" surrounded by a plethora of images, personalised messages, "Channels" and with the opportunity and encouragement to see this as a legitimate source of information, news and entertainment.
So, the expectation of today's students is that their experience at University will, at the very least, acknowledge the fact that their preferred means of communication is digital, their learning preferences are moving from the face to face and towards the on-line and that high quality images are the norm.

Enter...Lecture capture.

For many years the technology to "capture" lectures has been available and is installed in many lecture rooms across the world.  Akin to YouTube it provides video and audio (sometimes with an unflattering image of the lecturer, taken from an ill positioned camera) of lectures and should have many advantages for today's students - even if their first language is the same as the lecturer and they have no particular learning needs.

Some lecturers use "capture" to achieve their 15 minutes of fame - others consider, deeply, the implications for traditional classroom teaching and wonder if the demands of students for full value in exchange for their life of debt will outweigh or overtake the important discussion that we must have: When is lecture capture beneficial to learning and when is it a problem?

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A Recipe for: Old-Fashioned Fudge

Old-Fashioned Fudge Ingredients
1 group of conflicted Universities
5 years of Tory government
0,000’s of students, steeped for a number of years in a mixture of high expectations and lower accepted standards
000’s of academic staff, schooled, reluctantly, in jumping through hoops of regulation
1 pinch of fear
1 lack of understanding
ADD media hype to taste.

Old-Fashioned Fudge Directions

  • In a mid-sized economy with a relatively low heat, immerse the University in a cauldron of politics.
  • Add in the inflated expectations of tens of thousands of students.
  • Stir continuously until mixture simmers.  (You will know when the mixture is done when a small fall in NSS satisfaction scores to 90% is seen as a failure).
  • In a separate vessel gently warm the academics, a chosen few at a time, stirring regularly until they are totally confused (using the Johnson Scale of Bemusement). If you don't have a Johnson Scale, you will know your mixture is done when a handful of the mixture forms a soft lump when dropped into the cold water of a pay freeze.
  • Remove from heat as soon as mixture has reached desired temperature and degree of flaccidity.
  • Add in the pinch of fear that TEF could be worse, but do not stir.
  • Allow mixture to cool until Universities have a uniform appearance.
  • Pour the mixture into the public domain by way of League Tables and “quality” scores then beat it with a wooden spoon – just because you can.
  • Allow mixture to stand until cool and hard.
  • Turn fudge out of the vessel and into the dustbin.