Thursday, 22 February 2018

HE ideas: Who is working in the workshop?

My teaching timetable is made up of time slots for "Lectures", "Tutorials", "Seminars" and / or "Workshops".  Nobody ever defined these for me and so I have used my own experience and that of others to differentiate between these "learning sessions".  Every time I update the taught module for its next outing I am asked to specify the total hours given to each type of activity.

I do note that my institutional "workload model" does differentiate between these by allowing TWO hours preparation for each Lecture hour; ONE hour for each seminar or workshop but only a nominal time for preparation for tutorials as these are known to be "repeat business" for the tutor.

A tactical teaching-avoider might well label every student interaction as a "Lecture" in order to claim the greatest workload hours for the least actual input.  You may think that, but I could not possibly confirm it.

The problem is that a standard TWO-hour "Lecture" could well house elements of :

Seminar - where students discuss key points.
Tutorial - where students apply concepts to examples
Workshop - where students participate via role play, case study, presentation etc. to their own learning and that of their peers

and even...

Lecture - where students listen and take notes to acquire new insights.

So, next time I design a course or module and need to specify the different hours for these activities I'll be ticking the box "Other".

Thursday, 15 February 2018

HE Explained: Reputational risk

In a number of industries, Brand and Reputation are paramount.

These industries are mostly consumer-facing ones - retailers, for example.  Not that image is everything, however, low prices can beat brand image at certain times in the economic cycle.


This issues of Brand, Trust and Reputation are even more acute when the industry provides intangible services such as banking.

Banks suffer from being hated by many.  They are a "necessary evil" or, in marketing terms a "distress purchase" - nobody wants a loan, they want the yacht, sports car, holiday or house that a loan can make possible.  The cost of the loan is a focus in a competitive market but it is the benefits that it brings that the borrower really wants.

In Higher Education, we ask, what features of our Universities really make the "brand"?

  • Ivy covered walls?
  • Extensive sports facilities?
  • Prominent graduates (not necessarily the bulk of successful hard-working ones)?
  • Eye-catching logos?
  • Awards and League Table Positions?
OR is it
  • The teaching?
  • The student experience?
  • The relevance?
  • The "care"?
....and, exactly who is the audience?  what market is University BRAND directed at?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

HE explained: Are you not edutained?

Back in olden times, when I was interviewed by my University for my current post, I was asked by one of the panel members:

"How would you approach giving a lecture?"

I explained (without using words like "Learning Outcomes" or "Knowledge Base" or "Research Informed") that I would consider what my students already knew and then build on that, deconstruct what they believed, where necessary, and offer anecdotes from my time in industry to illustrate the point and to pique interest.  I proceeded to use one of my (I thought humorous*) anecdotes as an example.

"Ah", said the interlocutor, "You're an Entertainer!"

I did not know at the time whether this comment was a good sign or not but as I got the job I felt that it had not harmed my chances too much.

Those were the days, of course, before mass Higher Education changed the game from one of intellectual challenge with the comfortable sharing of industry insights with highly interested students to crowd control with Absenteeism, Lecture Capture, Trial by student feedback and Peer Observation.

How would I answer the same question today?

Well, I'd probably use those buzz words that I was ignorant of before.  I'd carefully plot how my own research and experience would underpin the content of the lecture.  I would outline how the "ILOs" would shape the content, structure, planned interactions and I would consider ways in which the students could remain engaged for the whole lecture session.

If students fail to detect spontaneity, it is no surprise.  Failure to adhere to the lecture schedule, to dictate which chapters of which book (singular) related directly to that week and a lack of support notes and links on the VLE can all reduce feedback scores, too.

So, if students do not feel entertained, it may be that lecturing has become a job, rather than a passion.

*The anecdote?
My subject was consumer lending and the need to be as fully informed about the client and the context as possible before making a lending decision.  The client in question wanted a loan to pay off past debts (not a good sign).  Repayment would come from a bequest from a wealthy relative.  I needed to check up some basic details - was there such a bequest and how much did it amount to?
"Oh yes" said the family solicitor I was authorised to contact, "The problem is that his aunt isn't dead yet!"

Thursday, 1 February 2018

HE explained - The Lecture

At this time of year, academics are gearing up for the coming term or second-semester teaching.  Spare a thought for the students who will be subjected to a lecture, designed 20 years ago, updated each year or two as data loses currency, and showing little or no recognition of the learning environment of today.

But what is the purpose of a lecture?
Oh, yes, if we speak in the tongues of HE professionals, each lecture should have Learning Outcomes (LOs) linked to the overall LOs of the module or course.  LOs, typically, begin with a phrase like:

"By the end of the lecture students should be able to....."

Note that:  students should be able to....So, the purpose of a lecture is to achieve learning or change or development, in students.

Not to: bemuse, confuse or belittle students or to minimise time spent, or flatter the ego of the lecturer.

Instead of blowing the dust off that 20-year-old lecture, why not re-think it from the perspective of the student rather than the lecturer?

It might even catch on...