Coronavirus is not a Black Swan

21 March 2020


The Internet is full of folk talking about the unprecedented pandemic we are all experiencing and how its "Black Swan" character has meant the necessity to be agile and develop responses in reaction to the new and unexpected demands it is making on our societies, systems and on Universities. We have all seen a flood of newly developed advice from experts, vendors, agencies and leadership teams aimed at helping academics, professional staff, students and the wider community respond effectively. These are in the main excellent and helpful crisis responses, its just a shame that so many are in response to issues and needs that were entirely predictable, easily able to be addressed by ordinary good organisational practice. This event is not a Black Swan, at best it was a Gray one, and we need to take a hard look at how we can be better prepared for the next one as well as real Black Swans.

Leadership and Sensegiving

09 January 2020


One of the great benefits of this time of the year is that there are more opportunities to read more widely and deeply. I have been influenced by Nicholas Carr's book "The Shallows" in holding myself to account for better reading habits, but the tempo of the year doesn't always cooperate with my good intentions. Anyway, I digress (another lovely consequence of the less frenetic context - one has time to digress even recursively...).

Seven Deadly Sins of University Change

01 January 2020


There's something about the start of a bright new shiney year that provokes a little reflection and consideration. It may simply be the rest giving spark to creativity, or the sense that the coming year is going to be another challenging one defined by ambiguity, uncertainty and change.

Change is almost always confronting and a natural, possibly even necessary, response is a form of displacement or avoidance. Its normal to deny troublesome knowledge, to reframe situations to avoid change. When this avoidance becomes habitual, it can enact itself as one of a set of organisational pathologies that I am going to describe as the Seven Deadly Sins of University Change.

Reform of Vocational Education Submission

09 April 2019

ChangeTertiary Education System

I was very excited when I read the Cabinet paper by Education Minister Chris Hipkins outlining his plans for a major change, dare I say it - a transformation, of the New Zealand vocational educational system. Although aimed at the failing Institutes of Technology and Polytechnic (ITPs) and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) this ambitious proposal has important implications for universities and for New Zelaand society as a whole.

The rest of this post is the text of my submission on the proposed review, joining the hundreds of others that have been made. One submission I found very interesting was from the Office of the Auditor General which I found very much in line with my own in raising concerns about the change process and the need for clear and effective leadership. Assuming the Minister creates a transition team as recommended by OAG the composition of that team will be an important signal of how he conceives this change occuring - I do hope it goes beyond solely the vested and established interests to find people with ambitions for the public interest in this new model.

The Blog is Back!

09 April 2019

I've finally had a moment to resurrect my blog on technology, the eMM, copyright and anything that stimulates my mind and can't be made PBRFable. I've brought across the old posts as I'm actually pleased to see how well most of them have aged. As time permits I'm going to revisit some of them to see what has developed since then.

Open eBook Tests

03 August 2013

AssessmentExaminationsStudent Workload

A question from a colleague sparked this posting. What happens when the traditional paper books used in such exams or tests become eBooks?

This is not a trivial question.

New technologies provide useful opportunities to revisit models of work that we think we understand and test whether our approaches and assumptions need to be reframed. The inevitable growth in the use of eBooks as replacements for paper textbooks raises some challenging questions for academics who use open book tests in their courses, and also provides a hint of a wider need for change in our conceptions of information use, learning and assessment.

Leadership and Collaboration

03 November 2012


A colleague at the University drew my attention to a recent article on being a PhD student in computer science, describing how to lead from below. Its a good article, filled with useful advice to PhD students learning how to engage with people in other roles. I also think it describes very well the approach that academics, e-learning support staff and innovators should be taking more generally in the university.

People Formally Known as Students

30 October 2012


Alison Byerly posts on an Inside Higher Ed blog the interesting issue of what we call people engaging with MOOCs, are they really students?

"If we allow the word "student" to lose its primary meaning as a person formally engaged in learning through enrollment in a school or college, a person toward whom that institution and its faculty assume some responsibility, then we undermine the case for colleges and universities as the place where students go to meet their educational goals."

Siva Vaidhyanathan on Copyright and Universities

27 October 2012


Siva Vaidhyanathan is an interesting and thoughtful scholar who often writes on copyright issues affecting higher education. His recent article summarising the outcome of legal battles between US Author's groups and Universities is an useful summary of the complex issues facing modern institutions attempting to comply with copyright law. At heart is the desperate attempts of the traditional, and increasingly irrelevant, publishing industry to somehow protect various distribution arrangements in the face of overwhelming evidence their time has past.

Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy

10 May 2012

Learning spacesNew Zealand Government

The Education and Science Committee have started an inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy. Rather than intending to write law, this is a chance for politicians to explore an area before developing policy.