Thursday, 5 September 2013

Education as a business in the new learning paradigm

This is the working title for my Phd proposal. Why have I chosen this title... well it is based on my experience of two areas of my working life:
  1. Managing both private and public businesses
  2. Appreciating the impact technology is having on the learning experience
My main focus in point 1 will be the 'hidden factory'. Most companies will have a hidden factory working very hard behind the scenes unless they are using tools and techniques such as Six Sigma. 

I define the hidden factory as all the additional processes required to ensure an imperfect system works. A simple example could be a report where data is not automatically available and personnel work have to 'cut and paste' from differing information systems to build spreadsheets that can be configured to produce (flawed?) data/information. Two earlier blog entries (part 1 and part 2) provide an example of the possible costs of a very simple hidden factory. Considering that most businesses are very complex, a hidden factory is likely to be a significant cost and one which must be removed. There is also a moral dimension to consider... any business considering making redundancies must be comfortable that it is not because of they have a hidden factory.

 So how can a business find out if they have a hidden factory? The first step is to understand all the processes that the business has then refine them to be as efficient as possible. Finally, use technology to automate as many steps as possible, this includes reports and data.

Teachers and educators also need to understand the data available (Including non-electronic). Google has designed a course called 'Making Sense of Data'. you can preview and register by clicking

The need to understand data is becoming main stream. It is no longer the domain of specialists as this TED video explains.

Please do contact me if my working title is of interest, especially if you are already exploring this area. Many thanks in advance.


Saturday, 6 July 2013

Rejoining the blogging world

Why do I suddenly feel I want to blog again? Is it because I am not so busy? No... I am just as busy as ever. Is it because I want to moan about the state of (insert world, country, work etc)? No... I can do that without a blog. 

I believe it is about having a passion; these are normally positive and can flourish by sharing experiences. The passion I have is teaching and learning and after receiving an encouraging comment from a colleague... I now realise this is the right time (again) for me to share my thoughts through my blog.

Communities of Practice has been the power behind groups of like-minded people making real change! So lets get together, collaborate and through  intelligent analysis of facts and careful evaluation... real and lasting change is possible!

Don't just read my blog... comment on it to help me learn more.

Lets start with this question: have you ever received a positive comment which has made you feel empowered to make a change to something or yourself?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Information: Why do we duplicate it? Part 2 of 2

I decided not to complete the original post as I can clearly see that the information systems I have to use are not designed to provide information. They are in-fact just databases with very little refinement. Unfortunately, some information is not available in the databases and requires examination of paper records.

I believe there is a need for a complete system overview to decide what information is required for each individual report. If the information is inserted (live from the database) in the report template then the evaluation and impact could easily be written with reference to the information contained. However, the current practice is to spend time finding information from paper based records and on-line databases which in many cases require training from the administrator on how to obtain my own data. Bonkers!!, why should anyone have to learn someone else's job.

I have spoken about the 'Hidden Factory' in the past, well this is an example of one. Consider the following... if it takes say, 15 hours (conservative estimate) to produce information from the various data available for one report. If the on-costs of a member of staff is £40, then the cost will be £600. If there are 12 managers doing the same than the cost rise to £7200. Now consider that most tutors are spending a number of hours finding their part of the information; 200 tutors spending 3 hours each could easily add an extra £24000. Therefore each report approximately costs £31,200.

The solution... closer communication between business support and teachers/managers to focus on streamlining the report process and making every aspect electronic.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Information: Why do we duplicate it? Part 1 of 2

I have recently changed roles at my place of work (college) and as I expected, the first few weeks have been challenging. The challenges are not from the staff as they are very hard working, dedicated professionals who have the interest of the student at the heart of their role. It is the processes that are used that I am finding slightly difficult to adapt to.

The processes are working, especially for the staff who have used them for a number of years. The difficulty for me is that it is very paper based and information is not necessarily in sync with the central college data systems. Paper is not the problem (except for cost), it is the transparency that is my challenge. As information is mainly paper based it can only be located in a particular folder, draw or cupboard.

The effectiveness of the administration system(s) have a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning. Effective administration allows trends to be identified, predict possible problems in financial terms as well as highlighting possible errors. At a simple level, good administration release time which can then be used to focus on the delivery of the learning content. The college has many systems and databases and a team of support staff to maintain it all.

The question I pose myself is... why is there such a need to hold local information and data in staff rooms? I will explore this interesting aspect from a personal perspective in part two.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Engaging Mature Students: Locally and Nationally.

I am reflecting on a session I attended at a local university which focused on engaging mature students. Our table had the case study 'Claire' to explore. The table agreed that the scenario is well known and applies to quite a number of mature students.

Claire was the first person in her family to go to university. My table immediately started to discuss that aspect before reading on. It became clear that there can be quite serious pressures from the family to question why Claire wishes to go to university. “We never went and we did alright”; “do you think you are better than the rest of us” and “you are putting your family at risk if you don't earn money” were comments made by the table. Clearly, enrolling onto an university course can have additional pressures on some students even before starting. In addition, the logistics of traveling, balancing home/family life with study, issues such as traveling to university for one lecture is both costly in both time and money.

The case study described Claire as feeling isolated as she has been unable to attend social events or meet many other mature students to share the experience of balancing demanding aspects of their student life. Clearly, Claire does not appear to have strong support framework at university and home. Phil Race explores “What keeps learners going when the going gets tough?” (Race, 2007) identifies that 1 out of 10 are kept going by strong support and encouragement; 3 out of 10 by 'not wanting to be found lacking' and 6 out of 10 gave 'need' , e.g. “it was a necessary step” and “I need to be able to do it”. These interesting facts does confirm that support is one aspect that an educational organisation can help make a positive difference to the success of the student. The next activity explored how support could be provided.

Each table was provided with the 'What Works?' grid to identify how each aspect of the students' life cycle at university can be supported. The life cycle started from pre-entry to post graduation (or exiting). Opportunities for each target life cycle was provided by the 'system' i.e. Academic, Social, Professional and organisational.

The entries identify for the grid by my table had a social networking theme and identified a need for improved information provided by new communication conduits. The aim of the communication conduits are to help join students, tutors and the organisation together. A strong communication conduit based on research was presented at the end of the session. The research focused on a local university which identified that the communication conduits need to start at pre-entry via the website which revolves around a new and developing mature student section. This section provides information focused on mature students needs and offers the opportunity to connect with other mature students to aid a feeling of inclusiveness.

My own research suggests that barriers can be overcome by providing clear and transparent communication conduits, which leads me to consider... how can all the current communication conduits in an educational organisation be identified and even more importantly be assessed for effectiveness and efficiency?


Race, P. (2007) Making Learning Happen, SagePublication, London

Monday, 7 February 2011

Change of Emphasis!

I have been exploring how students can study a course without attending. I have two students who are unable to attend a course and are studying away from the class. I am uploading all the learning content we use in the session as well as a video recording of the session.

If they do succeed I am wondering what effect this will have on any future session I teach. I am wondering if I should provide the learning material and then use forums for the students to discuss the topic and any questions posed. The class time can then be spent exploring what the students have learned from the material and discuss the issues it raises.

This turns my normal sessions on it's head. I normally provide homework/questions on the subject explained in class for the student to consider at home. The distance learning model I am using appears to require the student to learn the topic away from the class and bring questions and issues to the session. This can be used as a discussion opportunity for all.

I am in deep thought... is this the natural way courses should be delivered whether the student can attend the session or learn at distance.

I am reconsidering my learning and teaching methodology. Time for more reading on the subject.