Thursday, June 9, 2011

University 2.0

Over the past few months, amongst a whole range of procrastination activities, I've been doing some research and writing. One of the articles that keeps appearing on my screen, and resonates with my views on tertiary education today, is this one by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams (EDUCAUSE, 2010), where they are clearly calling for change.

Their message is simple: Universities will only survive in the networked, global economy if they open up and embrace collaborative learning and collaborative knowledge production (p.18).

So what has to change?
  • "Lectures", in their traditional form, must go. As Tapscott argues, many of our highest achieving students aren't attending lectures anyway!
  • We should be utilising technology to embrace collaboration, both within the classroom and outside of it.
  • Higher levels of interaction are desparately needed between "professors" and students. Otherwise, our students will simply turn to the almost-endless supply of free resources online.
  • Incentive systems at universities must be adjusted to reward teaching, not just research.
"It's time!" (Tapscott, 2010, p.29)


Matthew Perkins said...

I couldn't agree more Wags, I constantly suffer minor boughts of depression every time I go into uni as I'm constantly faced with Teachers who really don't know how to teach or care about the student and how they go. Instead preferring to "follow the course outline" when it is clear it will be of no benefit.

Incentives for teachers to actually care about teaching and student progress should be paramount in the curriculum. Much of this now days is faced with a disconnect whereby teachers really don't want to do a whole lot of work outside of the classroom, i.e. catching up with a struggling student, or even explain the concepts behind something when asked rather than pointing at a chapter in a book. While some teachers are getting away with this thanks to students going off to free resources i.e. the internet for help, this isn't teaching and doesn't provide a true reflection of how a professional learning institution should be teaching.

I am all in agreeance with you. It's time for universities to get off the collective asses and realise the world is moving forward and they should join the party!

Wags said...

Thanks for the comment, Matthew. Although I fully understand your point of view as a student, I'm not sure if it's the academics that are to blame. We work in an industry where the reward structures focus primarily on research output, not teaching. It's only natural for an employee's behaviour to be shaped by the incentives they are offered, isn't it? Hence, my call for universities to change focus - to lift the profile of teaching and learning. Students ARE actually our most important customers, so we should change our age-old practices to meet their needs!

creative and meaningful said...

As a fellow academic, I agree with Wags that it's not academics that are to blame - but this is not a facetious comment. The big point that the authors of University 2.0 miss is that universities aren't purely about education and learning, they are largely valued by society mainly because we accredit people by awarding degrees. They don't address that issue at all.

Yes unis are great places for learning and that's why I love my work, but there are an awful lot of people around who are just here to get a degree - "tell me what I need to know and don't make me think or work too hard". I don;t like it but I respect the legitimacy of the attitude - while still sneakily forcing them to think anyway!

The large "don't work me too hard" cohort can quite legitimately complain if a lecturer or tutor deviates too far from the course outline, Matthew. Most academics prefer to work with people like you - the big opportunity is Honours where you set the agenda and study what you want to under the supervision of an academic of your choice. The pity is that this is a fourth year and many intelligent enquiring minds have been disillusioned by the three previous years of mass-market work.

Wags said...

Some good comments there, c&m (Col). But I often wonder, are the apathetic student attitudes a result of the system they are in? If universities took some of Tapscott's advice, maybe motivation levels would be higher, resulting in a much smaller "don't work me too hard" cohort.

As you know, and indeed practise, a large part of your job is to motivate students to learn, not simply to "deliver content".