All posts by mq20061604

Ian is the Director of the Learning and Teaching Centre at Macquarie University and the President of the Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development.

What is the future of teaching?

Today I sent out an email to those who have registered for the Learning and Teaching Week  panel debate and audience questions on, ‘What is the future of teaching?’ The email asks for questions to challenge the panel to think about both the ways in which teaching is currently practised and the ways in which it might change or be improved in the future.

It’s not too late to register. You can submit a question to before midday this Friday the 19th September to go into the draw to win a $100 voucher for JB Hi-Fi. Please mark your email ‘Panel Debate’ and let us know if you will be willing or not to read out you question in person to the panel.

The panel membership includes undergraduate and postgraduate students, the Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching), university teachers, a Principal from a local high school and an independent Human Resources consultant.


Lost in Translation

Automated language translation has been long anticipated.  Moving beyond text-to-speech technology Microsoft last month announced its intention to include built-in voice translation for Skype and Lync and to create a standalone Windows translator app.  Using Deep Neural Network algorithms the translation software brings tother the technology that underpins the Cortana personal assistant with text-to speech and machine translation.  The machine learning algorithms mean that the translation software will learn over time and become increasing discriminatory and accurate in language translation.

Continue reading Lost in Translation

Are you satisfied?

Line drawing that says one hundred percent satisfaction guaranteedIn my two previous posts I’ve reflected on data and evidence following changes to fee structures and increased competition within the UK higher education sector.   I’ve suggested that therein are indication of the consequences to some of the changes currently facing us here.  Currently I’m fascinated by the impact of the National Student Survey (NSS) on UK university practices.  As the Australian government moves toward more output measures of experience and impact – what might we expect to happen? Continue reading Are you satisfied?

Why do students hire us?


Is a question posed by Clayton Christensen and colleagues in a 2011 report, Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education.  Disruption has since had much attention in the media and literature; the hiring function somewhat less.

So why do students hire their chosen universities?  In a recent Gallup-Purdue study of 30,000 U.S. graduates it was found that which university you attend (large, small, elite or not) makes little difference to your workplace engagement and overall well-being.  What matters is the experience you have – or not. Continue reading Why do students hire us?

Quality and the market

In the report, Dimensions of Quality, Graham Gibbs (former Director of the Oxford Learning Institute at the University of Oxford) synthesised significant research over the last 30 years or so that identified valid success factors in undergraduate education.  It attempted to identify what data we should take seriously when making judgements about the quality of learning and teaching and associated resourcing.  Much more than input and output, what mattered most were process variables – what institutions do with their resources for the students they have.

In late 2012 he published another report, Implications of ‘Dimensions of Quality’ in a market environment, which considered how institutions are variously responding to demand driven, data based markets as they attempt to improve market share, quality and value for money.

Sound familiar?

Both reports draw evidence form the USA, Australia and elsewhere, but the higher education system Gibbs was most interested in was the UK’s.  So as the Australian sector increasingly focuses on the market to drive quality, is there anything we can learn?  Probably.

Implications found that reputation still dominates even though this is an invalid indicator of educational quality and institutions with already high reputations have a vested interest in resisting the introduction of more valid indicators.  It found that quality assurance in most institutions overlooked the most crucial indicators of quality, namely: class size, who does the teaching and the contact students have with them, learning resources, feedback, collaborative learning, and belonging and engagement.

Gibbs went on to look at the practical consequences of the data market and the ways in which institutions are reacting.  He observed a retreat from the unitised system toward program level organisation and assessment; quality enhancement focused at the team level (along with reward and recognition for leadership in teaching and learning); new processes for institutional change (including things like changing the students’ role from consumers to partners); a focus on hygiene factors and service delivery; promotion of institutional distinctiveness; and a re-built emphasis and systemic infrastructure for teaching (one that aligned things like recruitment, initial training, promotion, resources, library, priorities, etc.)

If, as the Minister for Education expects, the market will drive quality I believe these two reports offer much in providing us with a glimpse of a possible future, its opportunities, and mistakes to avoid.  There is more in them than I can summarise here and I leave it to you to consider where we are and will be in the years hence.