Thursday, 14 June 2018

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Copenhagen Business School was my 15th different Business School visit in the last 12 months - quite a feat as most of my job is undertaken by video conferencing!  CBS is an excellent School and particularly gets my seal of approval (yes, I know, they didn't ask for it nor do they want it, really).

So what does a School need to do to earn this unsolicited accolade?  Let me tell you...

My focus here is not the Business School as an entity but as a physical presence - perhaps a building or a series of spaces. So, in my view, a Business School that is fit for purpose in today's environment should have the following features:
  • Space
That's it??

Well, of course, there's different types of space.  And here's a few I've seen on my travels:
  • Teaching space - flexible
  • Social space - everywhere
  • Quiet space - in unexpected places
  • Collaborative space - with resources to facilitate e-collaboration and F2F
  • Flexible space - teaching
  • Private space - but few closed doors
  • Technical space - for video, on-line, webinar - and all fully supported
  • Outer space - space outside that is served by wi-fi
  • Thinking space - possibly the same as quiet space but that's just me...
  • Meeting space - almost any of the above
  • Bookable space - when certainty is needed
  • Comfortable space - including standing space
  • Sleeping space...
Of course, for its stakeholders, there will be different priorities.  Those of space efficiency, space to hide, space to meet and space to work are some of the different top priorities of key players.

And my favourite of all? - well, the last one I have visited as it adds to my picture of  the ideal Business School.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

There's Virtual Gold in them thar' hills!

The creators and propagators of such cyber-currencies as: BITCOIN, LITECOIN, ETHEREUM, ZCASH, DASH... owe a lot to Higher Education. Not because the question "What is money" is a very common one that basic economics addresses but because Academics and Universities have been using a virtual currency for many years.

The currency? Academic Goodwill.

Let us rehearse the properties of money by comparing cash with academic goodwill, defined here as that warm glow of satisfaction following a successful PhD examination at (obviously) a different University to your own.  The warm glow is often extended during the period between the viva examination and receipt of the Princely sum of (as much as ) £200 for almost a week of your time:

Academic Goodwill
a medium of exchange

Cash is generally accepted by most in society – except bus drivers (exact change please) and internet retailers (that’s a USB port, not a coin slot grandma…)
It is divisible, easily recognisable and now fully washable.

PhD examination can be a series of bi-lateral exchanges between colleagues in cognate areas of study.  You pass my student and I’ll pass yours.
a liquid store of value

Apart from notes going out of circulation in order to issue currency with pictures of the Duchess formerly known as Megan Markle on the obverse, cash retains its nominal value and is easily turned into, well, cash.

If that liquid is Scotch or Gin then the External PhD Examiner is an excellent storage vessel.  Some academics have a very limited capacity before they begin to spout nonsense, others show no difference in this capacity even after a few swift ones.

a unit of account

We do tend to value what we can measure and even more so if that measurement unit has a £, $ or € sign.

The number of PhD supervisions and even examinations on an academic CV can often be used as evidence of scholarship and reputation for such vaguely defined areas like promotion criteria.

a standard of deferred payments

Net Present Values reflect the value to the lender of payment deferment.  Lenders give up current liquidity for a price (interest).

Storing up goodwill here on earth may make a nice insertion into your obituary in the Times Higher.  There’s no longer deferment than that…

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The price for sheep

A few years ago a ferry company, operating in the Western Isles of Scotland, thought to encourage local farmers to take their sheep to market via ferry by heavily discounting the price of a crossing if sheep were transported.

Farmers enjoyed this boon but when it came to taking a holiday with their families they would have to pay full price for the crossing.

Scottish farmers are amongst the canniest in the world and so, when it came time to load up the family car for a holiday on the mainland, they also loaded one sheep.  The price for the crossing was at the discounted price - they were transporting a sheep, after all.  Each sheep was left with a friend on the mainland and transported back home when the holiday was over.

The ferry company abandoned its offer...

A few years ago a well known University, operating in the USA, thought to encourage prospective students to take up degrees by offering FREE courses on the World Wide Web.

Massive numbers of On-Line students enjoyed this boon, but when it came to taking up a full degree, they would have to pay full price.  Few were either prepared or even able to do this.

On-Line students are amongst the canniest in the world and so, when it came time to use their MOOC studies to populate their CVs with the results of their studies at Stanford, Harvard and the like, they argued that employers should take note of their learning, their skills and their on-line alma mater.  It mattered not that they had studied for free and had not obtained a specific certificate.

Please make up your own ending to this story...

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Hard won freedoms in Kyiv

Never underestimate the freedom most of us have to moan about "the system".  This entire blog is an example of my own mild frustration but also of a genuine hope that those with some vision will take lessons and build on them.

This was my hope when I revisited Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.  I was scheduled to give a seminar on Global Quality Standards in Business Education and Innovation in Assessment Design.  But earlier in the week I visited parts of Kyiv City Centre and saw the impromptu memorials to the ordinary Ukrainians shot by snipers as they protested against corruption in High Office during the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014.
One of the first rules of presentation is to know your audience.  This consideration affected me greatly as I was advising educational "revolution" to an audience who knew the real cost of rocking the national boat.

I do hope that that the innovation and revolution I propose is not too racy for the educational establishment, that it is seen to be a plea for a focus on learning, rather than on teaching, and that it centres on student engagement rather than simple student attendance at lectures.

From a managerial viewpoint, too, a focus on student learning can (not always) but can result in less resource being devoted to "contact time".  The difference being that "contact time" is richer and more challenging and enjoyable for everyone.

Now just who would have benefit in maintaining the status quo and looking backwards instead of forwards as the Ukrainian authorities did in 2014?

Thursday, 17 May 2018

It ain't Rocket Science!

Ah, well, this week's title may be misleading as this concept can actually be used in Rocket Science.  More specifically in the teaching of Rocket Science.

The concept is "Constructive Alignment" or, in the words of a TV Ad "It does what it says on the tin".

The recipe is quite simple:

  • Take an Intended Learning Outcome (ILO)
  • Announce the ILO to students before any learning activity starts
  • Design an interesting assessment that tests whether students have achieved the ILO
  • Create opportunities for students to explore the issues surrounding the assessment
  • Administer the assessment
  • Benchmark against agreed and communicated criteria (i.e. mark)
  • Provide feedback on the students' performance against the agreed criteria
  • Reward yourself with a glass of scotch in the warm glow of satisfaction that your students have developed useful lifelong skills.
So, how do folks get it wrong so often?
  • The ILO is written and communicated via the module specification linked to the VLE that students rarely enter.
  • The exam is written (more likely cut and pasted from previous exams in the subject)
  • The essay questions, so skillfully crafted, test rote learning, memory, and handwriting
  • The lectures take place where the knowledge of the Professor almost gets transmitted to the students
  • The students revise (which assumes that they have "vised" in the first place) and "sit" the exam
  • Marks are awarded on the basis of "I know a first when I see one"
  • Feedback is only available after students complain
  • The scotch bottle is already empty.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Quod latine sonat bonum (It sounds good in Latin)

Academia is great at coming up with grand-sounding names for quite ordinary things.  It is even better and more mysterious if the word or phrase can be expressed in that wonderful (but dead) language LATIN.

I've recently helped to create a Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP) for Student Engagement.


VCoP - a group of teaching-focused academics from UK and Australia happy to share experiences and collaborate over a video-conferencing system.

Latin Translation for Virtual Community of Practice: Practice of Rectum Community (thanks Google).

P.S: This celebrates the 150th post in this blog.  Unless I hear from my reader to the contrary I'll continue to post..

Friday, 4 May 2018

Share that Jimmy!

Spending a couple of days in Glasgow without seeing or experiencing a Glasgow Kiss (how lovely) is quite a feat - even better if you can spend it in the company of hundreds of like-minded academics willing to learn, share, encourage and elevate the discussion of teaching in Business Schools to the highest level.
The annual Chartered Association of Business Schools Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Conference (CABS#LTSE) was held in Glasgow this year.  It attracted record attendance.

The conference had its origins in the era of Subject Centres - Business, Management, Accounting, and Finance (BMAF) and, in my opinion, has retained that friendly, sharing atmosphere that BMAF created.

For those who shared - well done.  You have entered into the spirit and ethos of the exercise.

For others, whose ambitions run to higher things such as promotion, publishing in pedagogic journals and even getting teaching recognised as a core activity in their own institution's strategy...  Bad luck, you are bound to be frustrated.

Just have a wee dram.