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The Lucky Fish

25 November 2011

InnovationChange

One of the interesting case studies used in Rogers' book The Diffusion of Innovations is the story of introducing clean water into North African villages. The women of the village resisted using clean water from a tap for other than ritual purposes until the 'high status' women in the village started using it for cooking. It illustrates the problem that innovations are not used even when, objectively and empirically, they are better than existing practice. Indeed, the women in Africa used all sorts of creative and implausible explanations as to why they would not change their water use habits. A Canadian PhD student has now come up with another great example of how innovators need to use existing preferences and desires to motivate positive change.

ACODE60 Learning Analytics Workshop

08 November 2011

Learning AnalyticsACODEEthics

ACODE 60's workshop was today and focused on the area of Learning Analytics. Although MOOCs seem to have overtaken analytics as the issue of greatest interest in e-learning there is a case to be made that analytics are a more significant challenge to institutions and their staff. Outside of the US at least, the public higher education sector in Western countries is experiencing a sustained focus on quality. Quality in this case is that measured by performance indicators as scrutinised by the funding agencies of government, and consequently as seen in funding bestowed or withdrawn. These indicators are increasingly dominated by student outcomes such as qualification completion, but also include measures of retention and success within a course of study.

ACODE60 Learning Analytics Workshop

08 November 2011

Learning AnalyticsACODEEthics

ACODE 60's workshop was today and focused on the area of Learning Analytics. Although MOOCs seem to have overtaken analytics as the issue of greatest interest in e-learning there is a case to be made that analytics are a more significant challenge to institutions and their staff. Outside of the US at least, the public higher education sector in Western countries is experiencing a sustained focus on quality. Quality in this case is that measured by performance indicators as scrutinised by the funding agencies of government, and consequently as seen in funding bestowed or withdrawn. These indicators are increasingly dominated by student outcomes such as qualification completion, but also include measures of retention and success within a course of study.

Australian Learning and Teaching Council

28 January 2011

Australian Government

The precarious nature of academic professional development is always lurking in the back of the minds of those of us working in the field. Last year seven of the eight New Zealand universities reviewed their development activities and Ako Aotearoa is preparing for significant changes in their future. So perhaps its not surprising to see Australia chop back as well:

"Funding for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council will be discontinued from 1 January 2012, providing savings of $88 million over four years. The Government remains committed to continuing to improve the quality of higher education in Australia, and is establishing new quality and regulatory arrangements for higher education through: a new national regulatory and quality agency, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency; a new National Register of Higher Education Providers; a new Higher Education Standards Framework; and the My University website."

Epitaph for Mark Laws

10 January 2011

Ako AotearoaeMM

I am very sad to learn of the death of Dr Mark Laws just before New Years. He apparently drowned while on holiday with his family. If any of his family read this I hope they will accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of someone who I regarded as a good friend and impressive New Zealander, as well as my regret that I was unable to make it to his funeral. Mark was someone I had a lot of respect for - his energy, passsion for Maori education, and sheer ability to make change happen.

Mark was Director of the eWananga Centre for Creative Teaching and Learning at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi and was leading and influencing the Wananga's use of technology in ways that will be missed for years to come. The Herald article listed some of the other projects he led, and he was also the recipient of a number of scholarships, awards and grants over the last decade, including the Inaugural FiRST Awards, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in 1999. He was constantly talking about others - the impact that the Wananga was having on the local community, Maori throughout New Zealand, and those students who were obtaining PhDs at the Wananga. He was most proud of their success and was constantly praising their achievements when I visited.

Mark and I met through our shared interest in technology and have been working together on the Ako Aotearoa change project. I will remember him as someone with the rare combination of skills, intelligence, good humour and a down to earth appreciation of the important things in life. Last time we met he was saying that his wife had taken up fishing with him and he clearly loved the sea and fishing for kai moana. I will very much miss him.

PhD Supply and Demand

03 January 2011

Qualifications

Recently I attended the graduation of a colleague. These ceremonies are clearly important to many students and their families and are one of the few rituals that remain in my life. This graduation was also special as Professor Sir Paul Callaghan was awarded an honourary doctorate and gave a speech to the graduates. He's a very good speaker and frankly addressed his terminal illness in a positive and honest way - very inspirational.

Technology, Learning and Teaching

16 December 2010

e-Learning

After the naivete of the Digital Native narrative its interesting to see a richer, more nuanced engagement with the impact of technology on learning and teaching start to emerge. The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a couple of articles recently which nicely capture range of issues that are being traversed in universities worldwide.

Student Workload - They're still not lazy...

11 July 2010

Student Workload

The problem with modern media, I've come to realise, is that they are driven by a strong sense of narrative, rather than analysis. Once a particular narrative is established, its hard to get a shift in the commentary. Blogs are clearly also driven by the same perceptions. Sadly, two new articles reveal that the student workload decline story is just not going away.

Why I am no longer a Scientist

27 June 2010

Science

One of the real pleasures I get from working in e-learning and academic development is the diversity of people I work with. Right now my colleagues include people with qualifications in English, Linguistics, Maori Studies and Statistics - while I have degrees in Molecular Biology and Computer Science. I have very few regrets about the path that has seen me end up in my current role, but from time to time I think about my formal training and wonder. Just recently Nature published articles on new ways in which DNA expression may be regulated and I was pricked briefly with the thought that I could have been involved in work like that - really advancing our understanding of the way the world works. Then I see posts like this one and remember why I am not a Scientist.

Student Workload

05 May 2010

Student Workload

Synchronicity is an interesting thing. At the IR Colloquium last week I shared some preliminary data from a project I have been conducting at Victoria looking at student workload. Today I wake up to hear National Radio talking about a supposed decline in student work on their studies - based on a recent analysis published in the US. The National Radio item appears to be based essentially on a post by Dave Guerin in Education Directions, which references an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education. The problem I have is that my data suggest that, rather than declining, student study workloads are consistent with the expectation that a full-time student will work a full-time week of 40-50 hours - just like any other professional.

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