Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sex and Degree Classification

Had to pass this one on - a report in today's Observer discusses a survey by the student newspaper at Oxford University, relating sexual activity to the discipline studied and also the relationship with final degree classification.

History students are supposedly the most sexually active while at university, followed by PPE and English Lit students.

Students who have the most sex are likely to get a 2.:1 or 2:2, whereas the less active are more likely to get a first or fail.

15% of students said they had yet to lose their virginity.

Having discussed the issues of gender balance on our own campus with students, and looked at comments they have made in student surveys, I can have a pretty good guess who the 15% might be!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cheating has always been around in schools and universities - but the internet is making it far worse | Marcel Berlins | Comment is free | The Guardian

A short comment piece from The Guardian on cheating and plagiarism.
Surely the solution is to design cheating out of the assessment.
Testing knowledge and understanding outside of a closed book exam is
asking for trouble. The higher order learning outcomes - enquiry,
analysis, application- can be assessed in assignments that demand
indidual creativity without sole recourse to Wikipedia et al.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, May 18, 2009

Committee of Enquiry into the Changing Learner Experience

This committee has produced a report titled Higher Education in a web2.0 world, which was looked at in one off my meetings today (the Information and Knowledge Board). Full report can be found at (published 12th May 2009)

The background findings of the report are under heading of:
  • Prior experience of HE learners
  • Learner Expectation
  • web2.0 use in HE now
Critical issues are classed as:
  • immediate and fundamental - the digital divide, information literacies,
  • ongoing drivers for change -tradition, environmental factors, diversity in the learner population, a richer educational experience, practice in schools, open source materials and online universities, skills development
  • fundamental over time - the role of the tutor
The conclusion of the executive summary states:

"Higher education has a key role in helping students refine, extend and articulate the diverse range of skills they have developed through their experience of Web 2.0 technologies. It not only can, but should, fulfil this role, and it should do so through a partnership with students to develop approaches to learning and teaching. This does not necessarily mean wholesale incorporation of ICT into teaching and learning. Rather it means adapting to and capitalising on evolving and intensifying behaviours that are being shaped by the experience of the newest technologies. In practice it means building on and steering the positive aspects of those behaviours such as experimentation, collaboration and teamwork, while addressing the negatives such as a casual and insufficiently critical attitude to information. The means to these ends should be the best tools for the job, whatever they may be. The role of institutions of higher education is to enable informed choice in the matter of those tools, and to support them and their effective deployment."

I was interested in the short section on Open Source Materials and Online Universities - commenting on the amount of online content available, the committee felt it not unreasonable to foresee a situation with a small number of international purveyors of HE, and that students may choose to use these, or go overseas for study. This links to my thoughts on Jeff Jarvis' book "What Would Google Do" (see earlier in this blog). What a University must do is to define itself not as a provider of information and knowledge, but as something else (doing what you do best, and linking to the rest). Indeed the committee report does go on to say that the idea of a university as a place to go to is firmly embedded in the national consciousness (but for how much longer?) but that they should develop their potential to ensure continuing relevance and centrality to society.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A bit more on the Guardian university league tables

As well as the overall table (in which Staffordshire showed a huge gain over last year), and which does not take account of research, the Guardian has also published tables of subject areas. Not all of our Faculty's disciplines can be seen (entertainment technology awards, for instance, are not easily identifiable form the headings used), but here are the ones we can see:

Computer Sciences and IT 54th out of 100. This places us above Brookes, Kingston, Hallam, Coventry and others.

Mechanical Engineering
45th out of 54.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering 34th out of 61, interestingly ahead of Aston.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Guardian 2010 University League Tables

Yes, it's time for yet anothe league table, this time courtesy of the Guardian. And we don't really pay league tables much heed, unless of course we've done well in them. In this one, Staffordshire University has risen from 67th place last year to 55th this year, so the methodology used must be superb!

No surprises at the top - the first five are Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Warwick and LSE.

The interesting positions are lower down - for example Bournemouth (the highest placed "new" university) ranked above Manchester. Other post-92 universities punching above their weight are Trent and Napier. Staffs position is good, above Oxford Brookes, Birmingham City and Hallam.

The rankings are based on teaching excellence, and the factors included use data from the NSS to provide values for: % satisfied with teaching; % satisfied with feedback; spend per student; student staff ration; career prospects; value added and average UCAS entry tariff.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Call for efficiencies in Universities

John Denham (Secretary of State) has written to HEFCE laying out the savings that Universities have been asked to make. He writes of the "absolute priority of protecting and enhancing the quality of teaching and research, while sustaining progress in widening participation."

The Guardian reports the story under a headline of "Universities told to cut admin costs"

Report issues warning over impact of Web 2.0 on teaching and learning

An article in this week's Times Higher looks at a report on the impact of web2.0 on teaching and learning.

As with so many things, web2.0 is seen as good in parts - and very bad in others! "Academics who spoke to the committee, which was led by Sir David Melville, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, expressed "strong reservations" about students' ability to critically evaluate information from the web.

The committee says that information literacy is a "significant and growing deficit area", although it adds that Web 2.0 has also encouraged experimentation, collaboration and teamwork by students."

This is a key issue as students, and staff, increasingly move to using web based resources (especially in a What Would Google Do? kind of way, where the advice is to "link to the rest"), and use web2.0 tools for sharing materials. The role of the University and the tutor will have to be a lot more about developing student skills in critical thinking need to interpret and assess credibility/relevance of source material. Indeed the article states "Universities are not controlling information any more. What they should be doing is supporting students in becoming much more critical thinkers."

The report also notes that use of web2.0 is patchy, and driven by enthusiasts - this is to be expected by any technological advance, where early adopters take the risk of experimentation prior to main stream adoption. Interestingly students are seen as being wary of engaging in online discussion initiated by staff - this links perfectly with the work on Tensions Between Innovation and Control by Mark Stiles.

One of the last comments in the report is the suggestion that students might teach their tutors to use web2.0 technology! Yep, I think we know how well that might go down! But again, going back to the innovation vs control argument, could the reluctance to engage in these tools be due to a fear of loss of control?