Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interesting post at Inside Higher Ed entitled "What I Believe - And Why Apple Make Me Wrong" which argues that much of what Apple does goes against current management thinking and concludes "I would never want to run a company (or a university) the way Apple has been run. Apple's management culture, at least from the outside, goes totally against my (academic) values. Yet, it is hard to argue with the results."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Will anyone come to your course?

Playing about on the UCAS web site I was looking at the links from pages to the course details that are contained for each course at each university. Some of these work very well, but some of them are extremely off-putting and could reduce the number of students choosing that course. After all, why struggle to find the details for a particular course when you could just look at the course at another university. Note that I am not making any comment on the information that is provided if and when you get there, but it is hugely variable in quantity and quality.

Anyhow, here are just some of the problems that I found. I will not name the universities as I am sure that there are others that are equally bad as I only looked at a small sample from a small number of universities. NB in some cases I have emailed the university to let them know.

  • 404: The link is to a page that does not exist. In some cases this is because the web site has been restructured and so the page does exist, but in another directory. Quick solutions would include correcting the URLs and re-sending to UCAS, restructuring the web site to match the URLs in the UCAS website or using redirects
  • link to a log in page. Yup at least two universities the course details take you to a log in page without any way of registering, and in once case not even a link to the University's home page. As the link id looks as though it is specific to the course it looks like the security settings are wrong.
  • Generic link either to the university home page or to the prospectus or a course search page. This is just lazy. The link should be direct to the information on that course. Typically it takes around 5 links to find the information from there, so you could lose an awful lot of people who decide it is easier to look elsewhere
  • Failure to provide any information. Yup, some universities don't even bother to provide any information on course details at all, or any way of finding them. the prospective student would have to choose to go to the web site from a generic information page about the university and then find the course.
  • Null information. Whether internally on the UCAS site or linking to the university site there is no point in linking to a page with no information. One university there are a set of links under the heading "studying x at Y university" with sub-headings like year 1, year 2 etc. Click on any of them and you get to a page with a set of matching headings and no information there at all.
  • Links to pdf versions of prospectus. not very friendly really.
  • Out of date information. on one site it said: [course] (4 years) - 2009 Entry. This is for the 2012 entry (and the link to the page says that too). Doesn't look very professional does it?

So, I suggest that every admissions office (or marketing department) check their UCAS entries and what they link to. I would also suggest that you look at what other universities have done as there are few that could not be easily improved.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Worlds smallest computer?

now that is a lightweight computer. and they say it will be £10-£15... So, I want one of those.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Purpose of education

I have been giving this some thought, and the discussion so far while very interesting has been between people who believe in education for its own sake (as do I). However, I believe that for most people education is instrumental – parents (and teachers) who tell children that if they don’t work hard at school / university then they won’t get a decent job etc.

I told my children that learning is an adventure and that if they found it boring then there was something wrong with the school and they should play truant. They didn’t and they do love learning. I will admit that close to exams I encouraged a certain amount of study. But then even adventures / exploration do have spells that are tedious slogs.

To push the metaphor a bit further, learning is like exploring where people have been before, it can still be an exciting adventure for those doing it, but the leaders have been there before and know the best routes; while researchers are exploring virgin (intellectual) territory.

So what then might be the purposes of education? Well, I don’t think that we can get away from the instrumental one that it leads on to other things that many people want including many learners, parents, teachers, politicians and the general public.

But for me the purpose of education goes beyond that to include much of what other people have already said to include both induction into society and personal fulfilment. Much of the discussion so far as focused on personal development and personal fulfilment, and this is of value. As Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living”, and part of education’s role is then to make life worth living, though this has been expressed in many different ways in the discussion including self-empowerment, self-development, fulfil ones potential. Others have talked of enabling people to follow their passion.

For me there is a third purpose around becoming part of society. While humans are social animals this has to be developed if people are to be positive members of society able to both contribute to and draw on the society around them. It doesn’t just happen, so it must be part of the role of education to help people to engage fruitfully with those around them in a manner that benefits all.

So, education should have three intertwined purposes: functional / economic, social and personal, and I think part of the work of purpose/ed could be to look at more appropriately balancing these three purposes to meet the needs of the learner and the wider society, rather than the too narrow focus on the functional / economic purposes that we see at the moment.

All this begs the question of how we might get closer to where we want to be, but if we cannot identify the target then it really doesn’t matter much in which direction we go.