With friends like these

Here’s a little grenade-with-the-pin-out that was rolled towards Australia’s university lecturers today by the Minister for Communications, Broadband, and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy.  Under the alarmist heading that Australian Universities Must Adapt, Senator Conroy popped this question: “What is a lecture worth if the best lecturer in the world at MIT is online for free for all to access?” Really—that’s it? After all we’ve heard about MOOCs revolutionising higher education, it comes down to this crude bit of cost-benefit…

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Learning from failure

The problem with edtech evangelism is that it assumes the most valuable lessons are learned from other people’s success. This is why our lives fill up with stories of exciting tools that have transformed this that or the other thing. Exhausting, really. Given the importance of failure to innovation, it’s interestingly rare to find blogs, lists, journals, or conferences focused on failure, in any field. The Ten Most Awful Mistakes in Online Course Design.  Ten Tools I’ll Never Try Again. …

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Flip this

Here’s an innocent little grenade-with-the-pin-out question rolled into the conversation about whether TED-ED has provided us with a whole new way of engaging students by moving content out of class time: on the same day, Plashing Vole is asking whether we shouldn’t be making attendance at conventional university lectures compulsory? It looks like exactly the kind of retro thinking that academics get accused of, given how much we hear about flipping, collaborative learning, students as producers etc.  It could be dismissed…

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The hardest part

OK, so here’s a quick follow-up on yesterday’s post about Blackboard’s complex rebranding of itself as an open source visionary. Phil Hill thinks this isn’t the key point, and I feel that he’s right. As I mentioned yesterday, Ray Henderson has issued a significant challenge to higher education, in the form of an offer “to solve the hardest problems in education, comprehensively.” Educators are really familiar with being the experience of being told that we have a problem that someone…

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Stuck in the middle

There’s something bothering me about the interesting project pulled together by Jeff Young at The Chronicle, intended to demonstrate that today’s college students are bored with yesterday’s lecturing tactics.  In January, Jeff asked students to video their thoughts on the traditional lecture experience.  Here’s his compilation of some of their responses: I don’t particularly disagree with anything the students say, and I really like that they took the trouble to video their thoughts and send them in.  Honestly, I think…

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People we like

Right at this moment I’m failing to feel sympathetic towards colleagues who’ve made university marketing communications their career. Please understand, if you’re in marketing, that none of this is personal. As an academic, I know what it’s like to have my professional practice be the topic of everyone else’s reformist idealism. And I do appreciate that my own employment depends on the work you do year round to ensure that there are students for me to teach.  In fact, I’m…

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Turtles hatching

Amid all the excitement about whether or not Apple have revolutionized textbooks, or reformed the whole planetary education system, or are just pressuring schools and families to buy iPads,* my colleagues are planning to launch three hundred first year university students into public blogging. Might as well do this while everyone’s busy looking the other way. It’s a complicated decision in terms of future digital waste.  And then there’s social risk. There are people who don’t want to be identified…

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Step right up

I’ve been asked why I’m so bothered by the invitation to sit in a dunk tank as part of our orientation activities for new students. Surely dunk tanks fall into the category of harmless fun? Don’t they? OK, here are a few reasons, without even beginning to think about their resonance among students who’ve had enough of high school because of the bullying and are hoping for something better from higher education. First, this is how they’re promoted: Does Dunking…

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… and the ugly

What to make of this morning’s news that a senior academic in an administrative position breached anti-solicitation guidelines at the University of Sydney? Well, first of all, it’s not as colourful as it sounds. Noirish images come to mind, but the reality is more pedestrian. Faced with the need to boost enrolments, a department with an elite reputation based on a restrictive entry requirement made the decision to fish outside their exclusion zone. More than 100 students who had made…

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Knockout personality

What a lot of brands are learning is that it’s not always necessary for an app to do something useful all the time. In fact, utilitarian apps are kind of boring. That’s not what consumers want from a brand they engage with. (“Adding brand personality to a mobile app is important“) It’s the eerily quiet week of the year for Australian universities. Across our campuses the Christmas decorations are being boxed up. It’s easier to park, and harder to find…

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