MY DAUGHTER will finish her third level education in 2028, just before Ireland approaches the new era forecast in the Hunt Report.
I'm copying this blog post and republishing it in October 2028 to coincide with her graduation. I wonder how the efficiency in higher education will be measured then. At the moment, debate rages in several Irish broadsheets about the core task of education. Universities are often told they must serve their students better. In my mind, that means students should be able to get more contact time with lecturers, perhaps via clever notification systems like are now part of the iOS and Android operating systems.
About Lecturer Notification and Response.
I currently handle student requests in the evening and weekend when they come via SMS text messages, direct messages on Twitter, comments left on Moodle (our virtual learning environment) and emails with special subject headings. However, my employer will not compensate me for my data plans, for my mobile phone, or for the home broadband I pay to stay in the loop. And I believe my willingness to accept this contact with students probably violates a time-honoured work-life balance. Yet I cannot sit around and deal with administrative and educational issues only in the time slots when I'm scheduled to teach students.
About Semesterisation and Course Progress.
I think it's only a matter of time before all Irish third level institutions adopt a semester schedule. The main reason is to attract international students who would prefer to remain in Ireland for less than a year, especially the summertime backpackers. The hidden reason is to squeeze greater efficiency from staff and students. Having used both an academic year and semesterised flow, I know that I am delivering more information at a higher level during every week in the academic calendar. If the semesterised schedule had portions running in the summer, students might be able to catch up in the summer session instead of returning to spend an entire year completing a few modules that they failed.
About Collaborative e-Learning Support.
I sincerely hope that before my daughter starts her third level education that her university of choice offers its entire undergraduate learning via iTunesU or some open format. This would require a sophisticated approach by the third level sector, perhaps with a SWAT (Special Web Access Training) team serving several different third level institutions with their e-learning expertise. I am sitting on six different academic modules, all needing further treatment to make them ready for consumption via an online learning system or handheld learning application. Bringing the material to the next level requires the helping hands of support staff trained in the process. I could do the job but don't have the time. A vibrant e-learning team could standardise course materials and set up effective processes that ensure high quality education experiences.
So when I look at this post when it appears online on 15 October 2028, I'm going to ask my daughter four questions.
1. Did you have an application or handheld touchpoint to contact your lecturers with questions between scheduled class periods?
2. Did your college career consist of semesters?
3. Can I see your course materials without going to your campus to view the subject matter?
Getting an affirmative response to all of these questions would indicate that the Hunt Report actually got traction. I'll let it up to my daughter to decide if she thinks her education was world-class.
Previously: "Quality in Irish Higher Education", January 26, 2011.
Download the Hunt Report (385k PDF).