Daily Mail calmly assesses the state of higher education for us

Paul Greatrix finds a great piece from the Daily Mail about the current state of higher education.

Firsts and fees, plagiarism and pay hikes (and the rest)
Daily Mail online has a terrific piece which manages to conflate a host of different higher education issues within a single kick ass column. On the back of recent HESA data which shows an increase in the number of students achieving first and upper second class degrees the article moves on to plagiarism, league table corruption, commercialisation (not clear if good or bad), the optionality of HEAR (bad?), an ‘expert’ view of classifications, coercion of external examiners, VC pay increases and fee rises in the context of declining HE funding. Unbelievable? … A veritable smorgasbord of entertaining higher education observations. All in one short piece. Truly the Mail is spoiling us.

Read the rest of his post or go to the Daily Mail article itself, ‘Dumbed-down’ degrees: University standards under fire as 50% more students awarded a first.

Viewing the html source for this page reveals its more hysterical, original title, which I prefer I think:

So we’re not dumbing down? Number of students graduating with first class degrees soars by 45% in just FIVE YEARS | Mail Online

OMG!

Being shaped by our tools?

An article from the Observer ponders the impact of Microsoft Word on the way we write.

Has Microsoft Word affected the way we work?
But we were – and remain – remarkably incurious about how our beloved new tool would shape the way we write. Consider first the name that the computer industry assigned to it: word processor. The obvious analogy is with the food processor, a motorised culinary device that reduces everything to undifferentiated mush. That may indeed have been the impact of Word et al on business communications, which have increasingly become assemblies of boilerplate cliches. But that’s not been the main impact of word processing on creative writing, which seems to me to be just as vibrant as it was in the age of the typewriter or the fountain pen.

Writing as sculpture? Why not…

My hunch is that using a word processor makes writing more like sculpting in clay. Because it’s so easy to revise, one begins by hacking out a rough draft which is then iteratively reshaped – cutting bits out here, adding bits there, gradually licking the thing into some kind of shape.

Leading managers, failing students

Project management, psychoanalysis, and hell

A very timely little piece from contentedmanagement.net (great name) on the dangers that lurk within our projects

Project hell is others
L’enfer, Jean-Paul Sartre tells us, c’est les autres. This is so commonly and simplistically mistranslated as “hell is other people” that it’s become something of a fallacy. Hell for Sartre is not other people; it’s others. It’s about our faulty relationship with others and most particularly our psychological other, our id: the basic, instinctual drives that motivate us to seek out pleasure or avoid pain. Those instinctual drives are very much at the heart of every project.

Read the rest of this post to understand how a more psychoanalytical approach to our projects, combined with project management frameworks, can stop us making an infernal mess of things.

It's January! That must mean blog posts about motivation!

A couple of things I’ve found about everyone’s favourite topic this time of year, motivation. (Ok, everyone except Charlie Brooker.)

Common sense advice dressed up as another ‘hack’ on how keeping a daily log of your achievements can help you stay focussed on your goals.

Keep a diary of your achievements to stay on course in 2012
Once you’ve started, it’s important to ensure that you remain on course and the actions you take on a day-to-day basis are steering you towards to the ‘Promised Land’ known as Success. Writing down your achievements at the end of the day, rather than just crossing them off a to-do list as you go along, has more benefits than you might think.

Read the rest of the article and see for yourself. Sounds like just another thing to add to the list, to me.

Compare that with this, from the real world. A fascinating insight into the meh mind of Dave Seah, as he attempts to write himself out of the doldrums through a better understanding of what motivates him, and how.

Plotting for motivation
I’d hoped to do a lot of work done this weekend, but I came down with a bad case of the blahs. Instead of going to sleep at a responsible time, I stayed up late and consumed a lot of television and Internet in an attempt to drown out a growing sense of malaise. And instead of getting up early, I slept-in and then berated myself ineffectually. Apathy ruled the day. Zonked out in bed very late Sunday morning, I started to trace through the likely causes of my unproductive bout of ill humor, establishing a preliminary framework of understanding to help realign my attitude.

Read the rest, and see if the framework he comes up with rings any bells with you. Very interesting.

Just a minute

Infographics from socialnomics.net on what we all get up to in 60 seconds.

Infographic: Every 60 Seconds on the Web
Every 60 seconds there are 100 new LinkedIn Users, 370,000 Skype Calls, 70 new Websites….

It’s enough to make your head spin; all that in a minute, and then again in another, and then again, a tsunami of crap…

Still far from clear(ing)

Andrew Fisher goes over the latest UCAS data; things are still far from clear

Consider the case of the applicant who just misses the AAB threshold. Prestigious institutions which have had many of their AABs hijacked by even more prestigious ones (maybe SOAS) and would therefore like to have this person, may not be able to accept such students at Confirmation or in Clearing, because they will be constrained by the  SNC; so there may well be a population of applicants too proud to accept the institutions able to accept them.  Even students well short of AAB may not be willing to go to certain institutions in Clearing. Once London Metropolitan is full at £6k or less, will applicants be willing to pay £9k to go to UEL or will they decide that at that price it is better to miss out on HE? We don’t know.

Read the rest and check out the charts. As he says, “the proof of the pudding will be in the Clearing.”

Should I be here?

Presenteeism
Presenteeism or working while sick can cause productivity loss, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics. While the contrasting subject of absenteeism has historically received extensive attention in the management sciences, presenteeism has only recently been studied.

Certain occupations such as welfare and teaching are more prone to presenteeism. Doctors may attend work while sick due to feelings of being irreplaceable. Jobs with large workloads are associated with presenteeism. People whose self-esteem is based on performance, as well as workaholics, typically have high levels of presenteeism.

Can't help but think this is a round-pegs-square-holes thing

KnowU & MyEdu: Two Approaches to Social Media in Higher Ed
This is not to say that higher education won’t find ways to use social media for instructional purposes. Innovative educators are experimenting with new approaches and some of these strategies will stick, be shared, and ultimately picked up by other educators in time. But at this relatively early stage in its development, the low-hanging fruit of social media for higher education will likely be found in the areas of marketing, building communities and student support.

Read the rest of this article and try to relate this to your own institutions.

You're really not much better off with e-textbooks?

E-Textbooks saved many students only $1
Despite the promise that digital textbooks can lead to huge cost savings for students, a new study at Daytona State College has found that many who tried e-textbooks saved only one dollar, compared with their counterparts who purchased traditional printed material.

Read the rest of the article and wonder what the position would be for UK students (and their increasing fees).

Quitting paper and e-mail

  • Chris Smith at Lifehack.org starts his paperless new year
    The idea of ‘the paperless office’ has turned into a joke, an aspiration for the future on a par with hoverboards, jet packs and little robots that do your housework (oh, wait a minute). I believe, though, that we really should give this a go – it can’t be beyond us, surely? Here, Chris starts his year the right way, though you can’t help but think it’s all a bit small potatoes.
  • Thoughts from a TechCrunch columnist on quitting e-mail for a month last year
    He admits to having cheated a little, but still, an interesting exercise and one I’d love to have a go at. I hate e-mail. Some really interesting ideas on the failings of e-mail, and what a more Twitter DM-ish, Facebook Message-ish e-mail system might look like, “Gmail Lite”.

Books, productivity

  • Wired UK article about Anobii, “a virtual book club”
    “Amazon is the destination for purchases but not necessarily for inspiration”, explains Anobii’s CEO.”‘What am I going to read next?’ is the question we want to answer.” Fair enough, but how many of these social-media-book-clubs do we have now? And they all want to be the only one, the Amazon equivalent.
  • Leo Babauta, from zenhabits.net, summarises what he’s got up to in 2011. Loads.
    His “don’t procrastinate, stay in the moment” message is behind all his blogs posts and has led to several productivity and llfe-coachy ebooks. This productivity-through-present-centred-awareness thing comes up often on the web, with Mr GTD Allen being the most prominent I guess, but these Zen Habits posts cover this area very well too.

Chronodex

FE and HE bureaucracy and data

Productivity, charts, students

  • The Done Manifesto Lays Out 13 Ground Rules for Getting to Done
    “The Done Manifesto is a set of working rules based on a sense of urgency. No time for careful deliberation, move on.” Liking Rule 4 a lot: “4: 4.Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.”
  • Preventing Cancer – Chart Porn
    “The key is a bit complicated at first, but there’s lots of interesting information here.”
  • Why ‘students as customers’ is bad for policymaking
    “Are students becoming more like customers? Do they consider themselves consumers? In the abstract, it is a philosophical question, except that it is so emotive in the higher education context that it is rarely approached with philosophical objectivity”

GTD, stats, fees

Digital HE

  • HE Planning Blog: Core/Margin: Implementation
    “There is an element of the prisoners’ dilemma here because if the Government’s policies drive a few universities into bankruptcy that is a problem for those universities; if almost all the existing universities are bankrupted, that is a problem for the Government. Because a significant group of universities have moved, and the margin numbers have been substantially overbid, Government will be emboldened to keep pushing, and institutions above £7,500 (and below AAB) will begin to feel more threatened. We can expect to see a further wave of fee reductions next year.”
  • What will drive the expansion of design in digital higher ed? | higher education management group
    “For a variety of reasons (that I will address in a future post), the software and content created for digital higher education has completely ignored the role of design – and it shows. However, there are a number of forces in play that may give the field of design a more central role in digital higher education.”

Word in the cloud, Excel projects

  • “Save & Send” Word Documents to Windows Live Skydrive | techie-buzz.com
    “Today, I want to describe how you can save Word 2010 documents directly to “the cloud” using Windows Live SkyDrive. Windows Live SkyDrive is a service of Microsoft. It provides 25GB of free online storage. Two of the greatest features it has are document sharing between yourself and other Windows Live users, and in-browser editing of the documents that you store there. Let’s open a Word document and see how this is done.”
  • Excel Blog – Excel as a project management tool
    “It goes without saying that Microsoft Project is THE program to use if you need to manage large projects. But what if you manage smaller projects? Can you do that in Excel? Sure, but life will be easier if you start with a template that is specifically designed to facilitate project management.”