Tablets, tablets everywhere

Ferdinand von Prondzynski, VC at Robert Gordon University, is asking why universities have been relatively slow to mainstream the innovative teaching practices that will match the speedy uptake of mobile and tablet devices by their students.  As he puts it, technology-enabled learning shouldn’t be “the preserve of nerds”. The need to break out of the nerd enclave is critical for any institution hovering on the brink of committing to an enterprise-wide LMS contract. This is going to cost so much that…

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Open all hours

Ben Wildavsky has a message for Australian universities.  He’s the author of The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World, just out from Princeton U. Press. He’s keen to promote the benefits of free trade in higher education, not least of which is that “knowledge is not a zero sum game”, and that if we create more of it in one country, we don’t lose it in another. Somehow this is calling to mind the joke about…

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Houston, we need to talk about content

One of the features of Australian life that surprises visiting American students is that we’re watching the same movies and TV shows they just left back home, only with the neat variation that ours are seasons out of date. So they arrive at the airport having been told to expect novelties of all sorts (usually, some variation on kangaroos in the suburbs, laid-back anti-authoritarianism, a funny accent, and sharks), to find that they’ve stepped back in time to their own…

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Way, way down in the weeds

A colleague sent me a link to the coverage of a “senior US intelligence official” describing Osama bin Laden as a micromanager, a news story that’s probably clogging up inboxes all around global higher ed at the moment. This was the bit that caught my eye: “He was down in the weeds as far as best operatives, best targets, best timing.” “Down in the weeds” is a phrase we don’t hear much in Australia. Language Log has put together a lovely inventory…

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Online charlatans?

Today the Sydney Morning Herald has lent its editorial elbow to the effort to figure out whether online learning represents the end of traditional university teaching, in much the same way that the Buggles taught us back in the 70s that video killed the radio star. They way they tell it, defeat is inevitable: In cyberspace, the ivory towers of academia are undoubtedly crumbling. Thrilling stuff.  It’s like that middle section of The Lord of the Rings where everything has gone…

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Blue skies, nothing but blue skies

Last week we were all invited to a meeting to engage in “blue sky thinking” in relation to the future positioning of the university, and our Faculty in particular. While this made some colleagues testy, for all sorts of reasons, I thought it was potentially worth a try—although also ambitious to imagine that a largish group of people who don’t get many opportunities to meet and talk would be able to come up with big ideas that are both achieveable…

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Letting ourselves go?

A Canadian study of health issues affecting early career academics suggests that they may be sacrificing physical exercise in order to try to secure an inside lane position on the cinder track that leads to tenure. The study hints that if they’re doing this, they’re “letting themselves go”, and the point is touchingly made with an illustration of a bulging (male) waistline. Remedies include taking part in a charity fun run or “park[ing] your car far away to get a little…

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Online learning in the iron triangle

We’re hearing from every direction that online learning is going to be the solution to the coming bricks and mortar shortage. This week, Swinburne DVC(A) Shirley Leitch writes that: If we are to meet the target of 40 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds holding a bachelor degree by 2025, we need to move beyond bricks and mortar to learner-centred solutions. I’m not so sure that these two things are simple opposites.  My daughter is at the stage…

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Bursting point

There’s a conversation building about whether we’re wise to look at higher education through the lens of the economy, given that nothing much looks good through the bottom of that dirty glass. Markets achieve extraordinary results using the levers and pulleys of scarcity, rivalry and desire, but this volatility doesn’t always help the big public institutions that deliver other kinds of social and cultural benefits, like education. So we half-protect these familiar institutions of public life from the market in…

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Waiting to engage

‘Student engagement’ is a feel-good term.  We don’t really know what it is, but we want more of it. Like anything we want more of, we need to think of ways of measuring it, so that we can check that we’re tracking in the right direction. In Australia and New Zealand, we measure it with the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), which matches closely and deliberately to the US National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), so that we can…

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