Wednesday, 27 April 2016

It wasn't like that in MY day...

Here's a post to complement the challenge of communication between Universities and staff posted earlier. It's about the communication between lecturers and students:

What the Lecturer says:
What the student hears:
Remember that you are “reading” for a degree
Google it
Make sure that you research this topic fully
Google it
Make sure that you catch up on missed lectures
Theres bound to be something on YouTube
A deadline is a deadline
You can have an extension
Please come and see me during my “office hours”
Drop in anytime
Next week we will have a guest speaker from industry
Ah, a long weekendat last
Plagiarism will be taken seriously
Voyeurism?  What did he say?
There are no “right” answers in real life
Keep pestering me and Ill give you the right answer
The only way to get a good degree is to work very hard
3 years of relaxation and theyll give me a certificatewhats not to like?
There are alternative courses of study if this one does not suit you
Google it

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

'Twas on a Monday morning the QA team came to call...

With sincere apologies to Flanders and Swann here's a music hall song - find the tune and original lyrics on YouTube:

'Twas on a Monday morning the QA team came to call.
The Q at UK Uni. wasn't getting A’d at all.
They surveyed all of the feedback loops to try and place the blame
And we had to call the learning team to shape them all again.
CHORUS: Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
'Twas on a Tuesday morning the learning team came round.
They formed and stormed, reporting back:
"Just look at what we’ve found:
The systems fail at every turn, but we’ll make sure they run".
Then they tinkered and they fretted and said: “It can’t be done!”
CHORUS: Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
'Twas on a Wednesday morning the head consultant came.
She called me Pre-Vice Chancellor, which isn't quite the name.
She couldn't see a work-around without a legal change
But for that we’d need widespread support, which she didn’t think was strange.
CHORUS: Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
'Twas on a Thursday morning the Minister flew in
He looked at all our workings and threw them in the bin.
He put his plan before us – and sent it in a Tweet
But before he’d drafted Bills and Acts he’d gone and lost his seat!
CHORUS: Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
'Twas on a Friday morning we sat and scratched our heads.
With professors and top admin staff we tore his plan to shreds
We crafted all new guidelines - but we found when we were done
We'd reinvented processes we had when we’d begun!
CHORUS: Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
On Saturday and Sunday we do no work at all;

So 'twas on a Monday morning the QA team came to call...

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Taking horses to water...

In this post I offer a helpful translation guide for those unfamiliar with academics working in Higher Education:

What the University says:
What the academic hears:
Ensure that your marking of exam scripts corresponds to FHEQ Level 6
You’ll know a pass when you see it.
Your teaching input is an important part of the student experience
Dont teach right up to 5pm as it wastes valuable drinking time.
Embed ethical standards in your teaching
Mention the failures of the banking system once in a while followed by the phrase “tut, tut, tut
Consider alternative assessment strategies
Set an exam that your PhD student can mark for you.
Cater for students with different learning preferences
Talk slowly and loudly
Ensure that your ILOs differentiate between FHEQ levels 6 and 7
Blah, blah, blah ACRONYM, ACRONYM
Be enthusiastic about your subject and your interaction with students
Tell a few jokes.
Contextualise your teaching to reflect real world issues
Mention the failures of the banking system once in a while followed by the phrase “tut, tut, tut
Consider podcasting key learning points in your lectures
Do nothing and this type of irritation will go away
Ensure that your students know when you are available for tutoring purposes
Be in the Dog & Duck every Thursday at 7pm.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Blended or Single Malt Learning?

At £15,000 for a 70cl bottle the BOWMORE 1964 46 Year Old Fino Sherry Cask  42.9% Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Distillery Bottling) is probably the most expensive single malt whisky on the Whisky Exchange website.  Compare this to the £12 - £15 blended whisky available through many UK supermarkets.  Blended is cheaper but, ahhhhh  the taste, rarity  and prestige of the single malt....

My family knows what I want for Christmas...

The same price disparity does not occur in studying for a degree.  Blended Learning is becoming more common on £9,000 a year undergraduate degrees from many providers  - but the single malt experience of, say, Oxford or Cambridge is priced at exactly the same level.

The error of effectively fixing prices is one that the last UK government must be blamed for but UK Universities are equally culpable for maintaining a high cost model of delivery and provision that now threatens their own solvency.

But is Blended Learning a low cost answer? Probably not.  However, the costs come up-front (that's called investment in the business world) and, what is more, require longer-term thinking and planning and staff with different skills.

So where will the investment in research of online and blended learning and innovative teaching come from to make UK Higher Education, once again, the leader in its field?

Answers on a Google form please...

Friday, 1 April 2016

From the archives for 1st April: UK Universities hit by DPI mis-selling scandal.

In the early 2020s UK Universities were hit by compensation claims running into the billions of pounds in respect of the ill fated Degree Protection Insurance (DPI) scheme that they had sold to unsuspecting consumers students..
The origins of the scandal appear in 2015/16 when vulnerable Universities were feeling the financial pressure of rising costs and dwindling revenues (due to fee capping and visa restrictions for domestic and international applicants respectively).
Scores of experienced teaching staff had deserted " research focused" universities for private practice or consultancy or early retirement leaving the higher paid "research active" staff to carry the burden of increased domestic student numbers and increased expectations of stellar learning opportunities.
So, enter left, the equally beleaguered Investment banks, seeking new outlets for their "jam today" products such as DPI.

DPI was a simple concept: for payment of a 10% fee premium (£900 on a £9,000 undergraduate fee - double for International fees! ...without anyone even blushing at the disparity...) students could claim on the policy for:

  • Failure of University to provide a chauffeur driven car from station / airport on arrival (£50)
  • Failure of University to explain why cheating in exams is not allowed (£100 - double if you get caught!)
  • Failure by the University to award a good mark for your essay, even when your mate thought it was worth a lot more (£200 on each occasion)
  • Failure of University to ensure that you got out of bed before 1pm in term-time (£50 per day)
  • Failure of University to force you to turn up to a lecture or seminar (£50 per occasion)
  • Failure of the lecturer to deploy very heavy hints regarding the exam questions (£100 per exam)
  • Failure to secure a £100,000 p.a. job in an Investment Bank (or similar) within 1 year of graduation.
DPI also carried a "no claim bonus" of up to 50% for subsequent years' premiums, making the scheme very profitable indeed for Banks and Universities alike.  The DPI policies were sold through University Finance offices on a commission basis.  Claims handling was concentrated in a call centre in rural Ukraine.

OFFSTUD, the Office of the Student Commisar, began to receive complaints from DPI buyers as early as 2014 - before the scheme started - and accelerated its investigation and report (due in 2030, perhaps).