Archive for October, 2010

Outsourcing Resource Development

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

This article got me thinking.  It’s largely about the increasing involvement of publishers in the primary service delivery in Higher Education.  What I have realised is I’m a bit conflicted by the issue of outsourcing content development.

Outsourcing Plus

“With budgets tight and the commercial market flush with companies willing to take on various tasks that come with running a university, it has become relatively common for institutions to outsource parts of their operations to outside companies.”

How do we get high quality teaching resources.   Running an in-house multi-media / instructional design / resource development unit is expensive.  The lead in times are long, the workload expectation of involved academics is high, and it takes some pretty slick project management skills to create a good learning resource in an environment that sometimes doesn’t understand good teaching practice (i.e. a large part of the Higher Education sector).

Buying in something a bit generic but cheaper seems like a reasonable option.

If they free up time for academics to work contemporary and current cases into their lectures, or evolve their lectures into problem based workshops then I think you can make a case for it.

If (and I think this is often the case) it just means shortened prepration time for the same “summarize the chapters in a big room” approach, then from a learning outcome and financial perspective what has been gained?  The content has to be paid for, the academic has to be paid, the quality of teaching is the same.  If we use off the shelf, prepackaged material (quiz questions, chapter summaries, lecture powerpoint slides) is there a risk of the tail wagging the dog?

The publishers can generally produce content resources of a higher techinal quailty, and the learning related elements are generally well designed.  They can do this by producing “mass market”, generic material.  The material used at one university would be identical (except for the logo in the corner) to that presented at any other local university or TAFE.  If our approach to teaching is primarily based on the delivery of prepackaged content how do we differentiate our brand.  Will students have to consider which publisher a university is aligned with before making a decsion?

Is content really the issue anyway?  Should we be putting our resources somewhere else.  Pretty much any research you care to look at says basically:

  • Good resources, poor teacher = poor outcome.
  • Poor resources, good teacher = good outcome (unless the teacher gets so pissed off they leave).
  • Good resources, good teacher = great outcome.

Overall, is this a smart use of time and money or an abrogation of responsibility?

How would we (and our prospective students) view the comercial outsourcing of a large chunk or our research activity?

Good beginings

Friday, October 8th, 2010

This is a good blog post from presentation guru Garr Reynolds about how to engage your audience (ie students) by getting their attention at begining of your presentation (i.e. lecture in a 200 seat theatre).

Start your presentation with PUNCH

The primacy effect, when applied to presentations, suggests that we remember more strongly what happens at the beginning of a presentation.”

Perhaps we could also apply this to the first lecture of the semester.  Don’t start with the boring “house keeping” (you can do that at the end – refer to it and put it online), start with something interesting, something to grab their attention.  Start them on the learning journey.