Leitch Review of Skills

Have just been to a meeting where we discussed, inter alia, the Leitch Review of Skills and its potential impact on the OU.

For those of you who’ve not had a chance to read it cover to cover, the general gist is – surprise, surprise – that the UK needs a lot more skills.  At all levels.

How this is to be achieved varies by level.  The Review urges shifting much more Government resource in to basic and intermediate level skills.  It also says there should be far more at degree level and above, but says that the expansion here should be funded by employers and individuals.  The Review also says that offerings from HE providers must be much more “demand-led”.

The OU’s Council – our ultimate governing body – looked at all this, and I’ve seen the briefing paper they had and indirectly heard their response.  It seems pretty smart.  As I understand it, it goes:

a) The OU is pretty well connected with employers already – though of course we can do better;
b) Don’t for one moment assume that there will be a sudden huge flood of new money in to HE from employers – there won’t; and
c) Note that the Government has yet to set out a timetable for implementing the Review – assuming it decides to do so.

There is a lot of potential for exciting stuff post-Leitch, but there’s a lot of problems too.  (I’m particularly skeptical of the role they envisage for Sector Skills Councils, for one thing, although at least it’s not recommending a whole new machinery for doing that job.)  I think we’ll need to wait and see before anything dramatic arrives.

Joining things up in my head, I think that the Leitch push to be more demand-led, more bespoke, and more cost-effective (all at the same time!) cries out for a Web 2.0-style mass customisation operation.  How we do that at scale, though, is a huge challenge.

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Neologism corner: Twittorial

My strong suspicion is that the educational impact of Twitter will, largely, be like text messaging: learners might use it a lot as part of what TRAC would categorise as administration in support of teaching, but it’s not likely to be a major new pedagogical medium. Sure, it’s many-to-many, but it’s many-to-many broadcast, not many-to-many interactive. Great for learning about what your mates are up to at the moment but not so helpful for learning about tensor fields. But I’ve been wrong before.

So, I hereby coin the word Twittorial – or perhaps less trademark-challengingly – twittorial, to meaning an educational experience mediated or strongly influenced by microblogging. Not quite sure what an effective twittorial would look like, although I suppose you could turn the concept slightly on its head and use it to describe a Twitter-related HOWTO.

If the word ever takes off, you saw it here first. I can’t find a single mention in search engines. I offer it up freely under a Creative Commons attribution license (the new name for academic good manners): do what you want with it but make it clear where you got it from.

Death of Peter Knight

My boss, colleague, and friend, Professor Peter Knight, Director of the Institute of Educational Technology, died suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with him. He gave me huge amounts of support and encouragement. His public management style and mine were somewhat different, to say the least, but we worked very well and effectively together as complements. He taught me so much, and there was so much I had yet to learn from him that I never will now. I will miss him profoundly.

It’s hard to come to terms with, and we’re still somewhat in shock. A lot of my time this week has been spent managing the situation, as part of the senior management team in the Institute, and I expect it’ll stay that way for a while yet. I’ve been very struck by how supportive, professional and capable my colleagues are.