Second opinion

The University of Copenhagen, via Coursera is offering a course on “biological, genetic and clinical aspects as well as prevention and epidemiology” of diabetes. While the program is pitched to undergraduates and beginning graduate students in biology, medicine and life sciences as well as “health care providers” “others interested in the newest diabetes research and knowledge can also follow the course.” Sounds like an excellent second opinion when Dr Google is unsure.

On-line for close contact

Eric Grimson from MIT spoke at the University of Adelaide yesterday. It was a fascinating address on the way his institution is using technology not just to flip the lecture and learning experience – so that students listen to lectures digitally in their own space and time, and then  learn in small classes – but to transform the way campus based courses work. “You will still need performance halls, but for performances,” he said. Grimson also addressed the way technology can help students meet their needs to learn how to solve problems rather than study a discipline. It was impressive (if expensive) sounding stuff, demonstrating how campus based study can grow and change far more than digital distance education. And it resonated with his (large) audience, because Uni Adelaide is doing much the same thing – in VC Warren Bebbington’s Beacon of  Enlightenment program. Bebbington has bet the farm on transforming the way Adelaide teaches. It can’t hurt for his community to hear the same messages, indeed the same methodology, from the bloke charged with pursuing the same goals in Cambridge Mass. And it certainly can’t hurt to hear that they are getting it right. “I applaud you for what you are doing,” Grimson told his audience. Who would have thought it – a cause for optimism in South Australia!

Replacing who?

Macquarie University is hiring an executive dean of science. The job became surprisingly and suddenly vacant in January when well regarded medical physicist Clive Baldock announced he would not return from leave in an email which was polite but uninformative.  He was off the radar for a couple of months but when Mr Baldock got back me it was to say he had nothing to say. Applicants to replace him should be “visionary, inspirational, and values-driven.” And presumably not bothered by unexplained exits.

You just have to try

At first glance new research using Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth data looks like another triumph for the Institute for the Statement of the Bleeding Obvious. Apparently young people who want to go to university are more likely to than those who don’t. Who would have thought! But in fact a new report by Jaqueline Homel (University of Victoria (it’s in Canada) and Chris Ryan (University of Melbourne) has big implications for anybody interested in increasing low SES participation in education and training. In essence, their analysis of LSAY data demonstrates that kids who plan to succeed in education and believe they have the ability they need are more likely to do so – regardless of their demographic circumstances. That’s the good news. The even better implication is that convincing kids they have what they need to succeed can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. “The results suggest that if it is possible through policy or the programs of schools or community organisations to change the aspirations of individuals, such changes in aspirations should translate uniformly across all individuals into increased educational outcomes,” Homel and Ryan write. This is spectacular stuff. If anything makes the case for the importance of teachers with the emotional intelligence to convince kids that they can do what they dream this is it.  The report is from the utterly admirable National Centre for Vocational Education Research – an organisation that demonstrates just about daily how we can extract ever more value from the education and training systems

 Announcing nothing to announce

There is no faulting Charles Sturt University for keeping its proposed Murray Darling Medical School before the people it is intended to help. Yesterday’s (Riverina) Southern Weekly ran a piece quoting CSU Dean of Science Tim Wess on the benefits of a local medical school. “If we train our own people we can get people who actually enjoy being here…and not have to hunt around for trained GP’s … Regional and remote areas deserve good health care not an overspill from metropolitan areas.” Fair enough. Except, there is nothing in the story that has not run many times before. CSU is running a very professional campaign to keep the MDMS in the news, when there isn’t any.

With charity to paying customers

The University of Queensland is very pleased that business academic Ravi Pappu is co-author of a paper on how charities should find a fit with corporate sponsors. (It is written with Bettina Cornwell from the University of Oregon).  One of three studies for the paper is on blood donation, which probably explains why the research “is on behalf of the Red Cross Blood Service.” According to Dr Pappu, “people should perceive a genuine effort from the corporate sponsor to benefit the cause. The partnership could arouse public suspicion if it is seen just as an attempt to build market share or meet shareholder expectations or, even worse, if it is viewed as an attempt to avoid tax or take advantage of the non-profit organisation.” Makes sense to me. So is the Red Cross a good funding fit for university-research? Who knows. The paper, to be published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, is available online but only to subscribers, or readers willing to pay $40. And this for research funded by the Australian Research Council. Which raises the question –while  the journal’s publisher, Springer is acting entirely within its rights, what makes it a good for publicly funded researchers?