Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Students as Scholar not Customers

Professor Paul RamsdenGreetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Paul Ramsden, Chief Executive of the UK Higher Education Academy, is discussing changes to the way universities plan courses and reward teaching staff. Professor Ramsden's paper "The Future of Higher Education - Teaching and the Student Experience" is available online, along with appendices and bibliography. He will give another talk tomorrow.

Much of what Professor Ramsden discusses is applicable to Australia. Professor Ramsden commented that the Australian response to the Bradley Report was more radical than its UK equivalent. He asserted that students need to feel part of a community of scholars, rather than just customers of service delivery. He went on to show a graph from the Bradley Review which showed that Australian students were much less satisfied with what they get from education than UK students. This is worrying particularly where Australian universities are relying on international students who can choose to go to another country.

Professor Ramsden asserted that a revolution in education was needed. One area for improvement was better description of course and more relevant assessment. Traditional descriptions of degrees are of little value, as are transcripts. He propose a higher education achievement report. None of this seems new or radical to me after having to prepare a golbally accredited professional course for the ACS which is described in terms of a standard set of skills for the profession.

Professor Ramsden pointed out that for many years teaching was seen as important but little had been done about it. However, apart from saying this was worrying, he did not appear to have any solutions to propose.

Professor Ramsden described overspecialisation in curriculum as a "disease". He called for more cross disciplinary work. He also argued for an international perspective. This seems like a solved problem to me, as I have international students in my Green ICT course. Some of these students are in Australia, others online around the world.

Professor Ramsden said that UK students have the expectation unviersity will be like school, with a spoon-fed program with lots of staff contact, whereas they should expect to learn to read and research themselves. He commented that he was worried by Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), which may reduce the scope for student input into courses.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indian university to deliver via 3G to millions of students

Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) have announced an MoU with Ericson 3G mobile education delivery. Students of IGNOU will get 3G Mobile access for about Rs 25 (52 US Cents) more than a normal course cost. SMS is already used for course management. 3G will provide web pages, assignments and video clips. This will also be used for students with hearing and speech impairments.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 identified cost as a factor holding back the use of 3G Internet applications for education. But it is not clear if the low charge mentioned by IGNOU covers all the communication costs.

The students will most likely use a laptop (or netbook) with a 3G modem in it, rather than a smart phone for education. This might be used with devices similar to the Lanyu LY-EB01 $US98 netbook.

I met Professor Uma Kanjilal, Director of the School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) when she visited ANU earlier in the year. What was impressive was the scale of IGNOU's operations.

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