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


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


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


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.

Changing Realities

14 March 2010


An EDUCAUSE Review article late last year considered the impact that changing economic realities were having on universities, and more specifically the IT operations. In reading this article I was struck by the relevance of the advice when reformulated to address learning and teaching, not just technology.

Are Too Many Students Going to College?

13 November 2009


I've always been a supporter of a differentiated tertiary education system in New Zealand, designed to provide different educational experiences for different student needs and social outcomes. The current Government's approach of forcing differentiation by reducing access to University education is not one I would have chosen, driven as it is by cost reduction and a panic about school leaver unemployment. To date, the debate has been framed as one of encouraging the pursuit of higher qualifications - moving people from certificates to diplomas and then on to degrees, rather than gaining multiple low-value pieces of paper. A more fundamental challenge is whether the current sector is going to be able to change in ways that meet our social and economic needs for the future - rather than asking whether too many students are going to university, we should be asking whether any students need to be going to university?

Copyright's Moral Panics

31 October 2009


A moral panic is a type of mob hysteria that generates witch burning and idiotic laws banning paople from access to the Internet. Unless you buy into some serious conspiracy theories about organised religion, at least the witch burners have more basic integrity than the media distribution companies. France has recently made the serious error of trying to save a doomed industry's business model, the UK and New Zealand seem to be teetering on the edge of the same fatal mistake. Cory Doctorow, no friend of copyright maximisers, has just published his response to the UK Mandelson proposal in the Times, we in New Zealand need to be rehearsing these same arguments to get out politicians to listen to New Zealanders, not Sony, Viacom and others desperate to save their outdated businesses.

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