OU Conf: VC keynote

Worried at being ‘introduced’ by Denise Kirkpatrick.

Scholarship in the C21st.  Making connections across all the PVC portfolios.  Building on the literature on scholarship.  Christine Borgman – Scholarship in the Digital Age – techs now a key part.  It’s “inconceivable that practices from 15 years ago are applicable now”.  Must invest more in staff development.

ICT isn’t just part of academic life, but part of life generally.  E Puny in Eur J Ed – new vision of ICT and learning is needed – including having fun.  (Are we having fun? I am – at least some of the time. Nice to have the VC say we should.)

Private sector challenge to universities.  Changes in Govt policy. Univs need to seek other markets.  Our brand not assisted by a proliferation of ‘open universities’ around the world, not with the same quality.

Competitiveness requires distinctiveness – a USP.  OU can claim quality of student exp at scale – upheld by NSS.  Can’t take for granted.  Harness tech to help.  Rep built on that, remains a strategic priority, need to work even harder to maintain.

Cost.  HE more central to the economy, and ‘massified’ – trying to share cost with beneficiaries and contain the costs, not always sensibly (ELQ!).  Tech has added to the cost so far but has the capacity to cut costs too.  Sharing content and even staff and services in much more constructive ways.  In our interests to engage with that sooner rather than later.

Clay Shirky – Here Comes Everybody – wow, the VC is reading the right stuff.

Bill Gates – increased demands for education have strained the system; but education is the cornerstone of economies.

Our mission never more relevant or urgent.  Our best minds must be focused on harnessing the new techs.

What other university would focus on knowledge media and devise new ones, harness them to improve learning and reach new learners? The very stuff of our scholarship.  Covers Boya’s scholarship aspects. [Rhetorical question but I think the answer is: most of them, to a greater or lesser degree.]

Fundamental shifts in HE including in staff resources.  HE undergoing radical shifts. Schuster and Finkelstein book – change is unprecedented – four megatrends.  One – changing nature of what academics do.  Foundations of economy are shifting radically.  Changing conceptions of role of univs.  Walter Perry unimpressed with quality of teaching elsewhere, wanted to do better with the OU.  Staff refocused on student learning, students more demanding.  Teaching and research more distant – some institutions claiming a ‘teaching’ mission, others ‘research’ – but with increasing cost of esp science research, will get worse. (Not sure this is entirely new – polytechnic/univ divide was that.) Unbundling of faculty functions – division of labour – teaching versus prep of materials – more teaching only.

Learning design! Role of staff in the design of the learning experience is important. Design and moderation of the learning experience is the key task of an academic – lot more complex and exciting now that lots of resources are available.  Role of teacher changing, not disappearing.  Can’t delegate this knowledge to one member of the course team.  An academic not engaged can’t appreciate the possibilities.

Unequivocal necessity for the OU to be world leader in four areas of scholarship related to new media.

Policies and practices need to be revisited and are being – Student Support Review, IET review, staff dev, promotion, hiring, induction, research mgt, more. Course offerings and research themes too.

Sum up: Scholarship in this univ in this century has to be irrevocably tied to the technology and knowledge media.  People are proud to be part of the OU mission, and understand that they have to engage with this, but concerned about ways of working and job satisfaction.  Has never met a person at the OU who doesn’t strongly identify with the OU mission.  To be the best in the world in open and distance learning.  Ask “Why not the best?” – drive from original OU.  New answers.  Our mission never more relevant and urgent.

Q&A time

Peter Matrell? Student. –  With all the innovations, are we making every effort to ensure disadvantaged students not comfortable with tech are going to be catered for?  Quality of service, should include costs for students – for students in Europe and outside are increasing horrendously.

VC – Cost is an issue. Tech shouldn’t be an add-on, make it work to reduce cost. Whole range of projects hopefully with that outcome.  E-business streamlining. We are quite an expensive organisation – not that expensive.  Can assure that students not familiar with tech or disadvantaged are protected fiercely by many around the univ, warmly held objective for all sorts of people.  Offer financial aid for hardware, have loosened up the criteria.  Not helpful to students to let them walk away from the technology.

Bob Lambourne, piCETL – Concern about our ability to take ALs with us.  They can be consumers of developments, but can they contribute to creating the innovations, rather than just delivering them.

VC – Staff devt issues are entirely non-trivial.  Not a mistake to have SD as one of ten priorities.  Challenge that many ALs are more than equal to.  Will happen over time with development, induction.

(Technology has collapsed here for getting questions in … so will be bits of paper)

AL from R02, German – Teaching via Lyceum, eTMA, now worried about the time that even keen techs spend on it.  All fully behind it but salaries don’t reflect the time required.  Any way that makes the contribution more financially viable?

VC – We are extremely sensitive to that.  Looking at role of the AL, very large review.  Part of it is exactly that.  Never going to be rich though, sorry.

Darrel Ince, HoComputing – Jeff Besos quote – you innovate in the best of times, you innovate in the worst of times, you should worry weekly that it’ll be closed down.  A lot of innovation – bottom-up, individual islands – don’t see a ton of top-down innovation.  Doesn’t like bottom-up innovation.  How can univ garner bottom-up stuff, start to do more top-down?

VC – It’s one of the distinguishing marks of a successful org – can migrate innovation across whole.  Student Support Review aim to take us on to new level with what’s the baseline – very best practice widespread.  People here are seriously resistant to top-down innovation.  God help the manager who does it.  Have to go with the culture of the organisation and find some balance.  Woe betide the VC who laid down the law esp wrt innovation – there are 1000 people who will tell you you’re entirely wrong and will fight you to the last ditch.  Hard.  Even OpenLearn innovation – most people love – when first mentioned, one person said “Over my dead body”.

Mariann Cantery? – OUSA VP Education – equal proportion of students resistant to technological change.  Plan to maintain less technological course for those who are resistant?

VC – Can’t say it’s in the plan – expensive, and two-tier university, not in students interest.  Migrate students, offer wide palette of possibilities.

Jonathan Fine – LTS and COLMSCT Ting Fellow – Print new forms of social interaction. Technology recent – big changes – Facebook big example.  How will impact university?

VC – It’s not in the future, it’s already happening.  Need to make it more universal.  (Does she know about our lovely OU Facebook apps, with thousands of users?  Possibly.)

Chris Pugh, Arts AL in R05 – Prisoners, have serious access problems.  Is the OU negotiating with HOme Office about this?

Will Swann – At next mtg of LTSS Cttee – considering report on offender learning steering group.  Online access is one of the major issues.  Lot of work in progress.

Lisa Carson, OUSA President – Fresh (?) from OUSA conference.  Resounding message about the initial support, and how daunting it is for students receiving the initial package – “What do I do with this?” – when it’s a brown package, but also when you get on to StudentHome and how it’s presented.  Knowing how to navigate it all is a very definite concern.  Is that being addressed?

VC – Acutely conscious.  Will?

Will Swann – Yes it is. Working on how to make our comms more coherent.  Plan – use student journey framework – let everyone see what everyone is sending to students. (Cool idea.) Across Student Services and Faculties.  Money from his back pocket in to study to pay students to collect everything that we send to them so we understand what we are doing.

Anne Howells, LTS – Using focus groups with students – ‘opening the box experience’ – involving IET and Marketing too – mostly around print, DVDs, but also watched students using their computers in their own environments.

Author: dougclow

Data scientist, tutxor, project leader, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist, online learning expert, and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in a wide range of contexts and industries.

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