Archive for October, 2012

Curtain Uni does something sensible to maintain it’s business. Teaching Only positions.

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The Australian Financial Review had this in the Education section about Curtain’s  recent in principle Enterprise Agreement.

“Up to 20% of academics will not be doing research.  They will be employed and promoted based on their excellence and innovation in teaching”

The emphasis is mine.  The big one –  ‘promoted’.

There will also be research focused roles, and the traditional teaching /research mash up (which for some academics is a bit like expecting Ricky Ponting to also open the bowling).

This seems like a sensible mix.  From a business survival perspective it is a no-brainer.  In most faculties ‘bums on seats’ pay the bills.  Putting more support behind the people that keep the business afloat would seem to make sense.

Of course the devil is in the detail (e.g. how far can people be promoted).  The info in the article is a bit limited and  I don’t have a link  as the AFR is behind a paywall.  When I find coverage in a more a sharing/caring site I will update this post.

Weekend Funny – The nature of the problem

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

The basic problem with tablets (both Android and Apple) is they are a square pegs and our requirements are more of the round variety.


MOOCs – Can everyone please settle down

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I was trying to maintain the Mooctober silence (“It is no longer anything to do with those who are interested in education and technology.  It is a monster, and I refuse to be a part of the forces that are feeding it.” David Kernohan) but with five days to go I have failed.

I have been following the whole xMOOC froth from it’s earliest appearance and there seems an inverse relationship between the level of excitement in people and their actual relevant knowledge and experience (e.g. pedagogy, instructional design, elearning resource development, commercial education awareness).

Here is my MOOC quick guide.

1. There are 2 types of MOOC.  xMOOCs – the old style computer based training (CBT) type (Coursera, Udacity and others) which we researched to death and largely left behind in the 90s, and the new style (more pedagogically sound) cMOOCs which are more focused on collaboration and communities of practice.

2. xMOOCs = short courses

3. xMOOC certificate = certificate of participation in a short course

4. Free online short courses have been around for years.

5. People like free online short courses.  They have a dabble and leave when they have had enough. (Big numbers for ‘free stuff’ isn’t a relevant measure of anything).

6. The current online CBT xMOOC courses will likely disrupt the short course market.

7. All universities have been able to deliver free online courses for years via WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle etc.  They just didn’t make business sense.  Free doesn’t feed the faculty.

8. The current US commercial players are all backed by millions of venture capital dollars which they will need to pay back.  Someone, somewhere will have to pay, eventually.

9. The Edx model if different from Cousera and Udacity.  It’s uni based and services internal students first then makes the digital resources available externally.  It has $60 million in donations behind it.

10.  If you don’t want to embarrass your institution your need to be thinking about development costs of about $80,000 per unit.  At present the only business case an Australian uni could make for involvement is in marketing.

11. xMOOCs only make money if universities forget about differentiating their teaching and learning and student experience (i.e. use the existing fee stuff and provide no staff) and get into the fee based RPL/RCC/Exam Centre business.  Or offer a premium, add on, person based tutoring service.  Or get into the fee based online short course market.  Effectively take the ‘Open’ out of the MOOC (MOCC – Massively Online Closed Course).  If you are running with Udacity or Coursera they will take a cut.

10.  We already have a framework for flexible fee based degrees.  It’s called Open Unversities Australia.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to increase our investment in a known local provider, with a proven track record, and an actual business plan?

13. xMOOCs are only disruptive in Australia if universities feel forced to change their business model (or if the Gates Foundation goes international).

xMOOCs may become a standard tool in our teaching kit bag (or more likely in in our marketing kit bag) but if they take off, or if we decide to commit to them, there are issues we need to consider.

Here are a few to ponder.  What happens..

  • If I can get a local degree (for all intents and purposes) just by sitting a fee based exam?
  • If I can get a Stanford degree (for all intents and purposes) just by sitting a fee based exam in Melbourne?
  • If the content and activities are all online, what is the new role of the academic?   What are the EFT, teaching, industrial and research implications?
  • If we piggyback off existing free MOOC material?  What does that do to the value of our brand?
  • If a university (with no market track record in computer based training) rushes in and drops a chunk of cash for a digital resource and it’s awful, or it just doesn’t generate enough return?  What does that mean for more pedagogically based digital projects in the future?
  • If I can do a fee based online short course through any unversity that gets me credit for half a unit that other unversities are obliged to recognise.

I think the main value of the current xMOOC hype is that more people are considering the value of digital resources in higher ed.  It has opened the discussion.  It’s now up to us to getting involved and leverage and redirect that enthusiasm to achieve some practical sensible outcomes.  If we don’t, then when the bubble bursts (or booms) we might find that real pedagically based teaching actually takes a step backwards.

What technology do students want – ECAR has the unsurprising answers

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Who are ECAR?

“ECAR has surveyed undergraduate students annually since 2004 about technology in higher education. In 2012, ECAR collaborated with 195 institutions to collect responses from more than 100,000 students about their technology experiences. The findings are distilled into the broad thematic message for institutions and educators to balance strategic innovation with solid delivery of basic institutional services and pedagogical practices and to know students well enough to understand which innovations they value the most.”

Here are the key findings of the 2012 Study

  • Blended-learning environments are the norm; students say that these environments best support how they learn.
  • Students want to access academic progress information and course material via their mobile devices, and institutions deliver.
  • Technology training and skill development for students is more important than new, more, or “better” technology.
  • Students use social networks for interacting with friends more than for academic communication.

I think the main use of these surveys for those working in the field is not that they provide any new insights, but they provide a recognised, researched document that we can use to back up our actions and planning.