Plus Melbourne bound MOOCs

Jacobs completes his leadership team at UNSW

And Over and OLT: the Office of Learning and Teaching’s last fellowships

 MOOC of the day

Curtin University could be a case-study in its own MOOC, via EdXReputation management in a digital world.” This is a classic example of the MOOC as brand builder and it should attract a big audience among people charged with protecting the reputations of businesses and not for profits and who cannot afford PR professionals. As a way of sell Curtin’s on-line mcomm related courses it is impossible to beat.


Demand driven funding has the numbers

While Warren Bebbington is floating the idea of alternatives to Demand Driven Funding to enrol low SES students (CMM yesterday) there are no takers, at least on the record. Yesterday Universities Australia chair Barney Glover moved to shut the debate down with carefully worded support for the status quo. “We will continue to make the case for a university system that is accessible to all, regardless of socio economic background, gender, ethnicity, disability or religion,” he told a Sydney conference.

The many MOOCs of marvellous Melbourne

UniMelb has passed 1m enrolments for the 20 courses it offers via Coursera. In the project’s three years students have submitted two million assessments and watched 10m video lectures. Good oh, but other than branding what’s in it for management? Here’s a clue from PVC Gregor Kennedy (Education Innovation), “Our involvement in Coursera has been incredibly valuable to the university on a number of fronts, including the development of innovative practices in teaching, learning and assessment, and also research opportunities in the area of learning analytics. It’s helped encourage many academics across the university to consider the ways in which technology can benefit teaching and learning across the whole institution, and not just in MOOCs.”

Professor Kennedy is also managing the Flexible Academic Programming Plan (CMM February 24) which includes a work stream on large, to understate it, undergraduate classes. There are nine first year subjects with 1000 enrolments and one in biology is close to 2000. Bioscientist Raoul Mulder leads a team working on ways “possible remedies” to the “challenges” huge classes create. Possible solutions include timetabling, semester structure and “use of digital technologies.” What, like MOOCs?

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What people pick

Enrolment rates for most UniMelbourne MOOCs demonstrate the power of the platform. While management worries about campus classes toping out at under 2000 UniMelbourne’s MOOC norm is 5000 to 15 000 enrolments. Some of the standouts are financial subjects launched last year in conjunction with investment company BNY Mellon, which attracted 90 000 starters. A macroeconomics 101 unit did almost as well with 78 000 enrolers. And despite the orthodox arguments that Europe should not be at the centre of world history anymore MOOC consumers did not get the memo, with 33 000 signing up for the learned Peter McPhee’s six week course on the French Revolution.

(Harumph alert: For those who think political history is so 18th century BNY Mellon now announces, it was “founded by Alexander Hamilton.” Time for a MOOC about Lin Manual Miranda’s music theatre biography of the first secretary of the US treasury).

Birmo breaks cover

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has kept his head down since the election was called but he outed himself yesterday leafleting an Adelaide supermarket where CMM suspects he did not have to talk about the importance of the ATAR or criticisms of demand driven funding. It would have made a change from a CEDA lunch on Friday where Warren Bebbington spoke (above) and the University of South Australia’s David Lloyd took a contrary view, pointing out demand driven funding is conspicuously absent in the minister’s new discussion paper, adding that “access and meritocracy do not equate to mediocrity but elite and exclusion may indeed be dreadfully synonymous.”

$100k degrees off the agenda

The Universities Australia advertising to get higher education on the agenda is well-timed because in the second week of the election campaign HE isn’t an issue. Sure education was a big theme in the first leaders debate, but when Messrs Turnbull and Shorten and their audience talked about education they meant schools. Mr Shorten made passing references to the importance of TAFE and routinely rejected “$100k degrees” and the prime minister talked up his “innovation and science agenda” but that was about it. On higher education at least, this made the debate a win for the government, which wants to keep the cost of degrees off the agenda. That Mr Shorten appears happy to oblige may indicate that his polling shows voters have lost interest in the cost of courses. Sounds like a job for Kim Carr.

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UNSW leadership in place

Ian Jacobs has completed his UNSW top management restructure with Nicholas Fisk’s appointment as DVC Research. Professor Fisk will come to Kensington from the University of Queensland where he is dean of medicine and biomedical science. He starts in August.

Professor Fisk replaces Les Field who moved to “senior DVC” and “formal deputy: to Jacobs in December (CMM December 18). Merlin Crossley stepped up as DVC Education after Iain Martin left to become VC of the University of Anglia Ruskin, (CMM February 22)

Consistent to the end

The Office of Learning and Teaching very quietly  announced its final fellowships yesterday.Quiet was always a big part of the OLT‘s problem. It is winding up without a successor organisation, as promised by the government in 2015. But at least OLT is out on a high, funding intriguing and important researchers. Like Jo Caldwell Neilson (Deakin U) who points out that we have no measure of what “digital literacy” actually is. She plans to benchmark it for students beginning and finishing higher education courses. And researchers like Kym Fraser (Swinburne) who will create an open access course on learning and teaching for new university staff, some 25 per cent of universities don’t offer anything. And like Dawn Bennett (at Curtin) who wants to embed employability into HE courses.

Important work, which the OLT should have loudly announced to the wide world – which it didn’t yesterday. Want to know why the feds looked at the OLT when they were searching for savings? Few outside the close community of education research knew about its work.