Archive for the 'Higher Education' Category
Tags: Google Docs, IT, NYT, Personal, Professional, The Cloud, Universities, Workstations
Writing in the NYT, Verne G. Kopytoff comments on the slipping away of control from corporate IT departments over their employees equipment and software (extraordinarily, I can’t find a link to his article – I read it in the NYT pullout from today’s Observer).
The corporate information technology department has long kept a firm hand on what equipment and software employees use in the workplace.
They are now in retreat. Employees are brining in the technology they use at home and demanding the I.T. department accommodate them, and many departments now do that.
It’s one of the more obvious manifestations of the blurring lines between personal and professional lines. Not only do your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles profess to be both on behalf of your organisation, but with the ‘all tweets my own’ caveat inevitably thrown in, but the tools we use to update such networks are now being used for both.
I was offered a Blackberry when I started my current role, but declined. Everything I need – email etc. – can all be viewed, updated and used perfectly from my Iphone, negating the need to carry round two devices. It’s versatile enough to be an assest to my job, even if the option of owning one is my own.
Obviously many people still prefer to keep the separation between work and personal life distinct, even down to the physical devices which are now so essential to managing each. It just seems more than a little inconvenient to me.
As Kopytoff mentions though, this isn’t an option open to those dealing with highly sensitive information due to security fears. I know friends in the civil service wouldn’t have this luxury.
For universities, the issue is less employees than students. Ferdinand von Prondzynski, from Robert Gordon University, did a post on the potential decline of workstations at university libraries:
A few weeks ago I visited another university and was shown its library. It was also a very modern library, opened a year or two ago, and it also had a good deal of space set aside for computer workstations. But what struck me on this visit was that, despite the fact that it was close to exam time, the workstations were almost entirely unused. Other parts of the library were quite full, but here I noticed that many students were sitting at desks with their own laptops, netbooks or iPads. I asked one of the library staff, and she explained that over the past year or so they had experienced a dramatic decline in demand for the workstations. ‘If we were fitting out the building now’, she suggested, ‘we probably wouldn’t include many workstations, perhaps even none at all.’
As a veteran of working part-time in the university library – 3 years at Sheffield – I’m not surprised by this. Despite having the option of remote access to our file store when off campus, I gave up on it in favour of a pen drive after two years, and then converted entirely to Google Docs once I started my postgrad degree. I think it will take a while for universities – such large and diverse organisations as they are – to fully convert to the Cloud though.
I went to the British Academy for the first time last Monday (13 June) for a talk on ‘Flexible learning: the future Higher Education?‘, which was also celebrating 40 years of the Open University.
The speakers were Professor Alan Tait, PVC (Pro Vice-Chancellor) at the Open University, Carl Lygo, Principal of BPP (@caryllygo)and Professor Vernon Bogdanor, from King’s College London. The whole thing was chaired by Sir Peter Scott, from the Institute of Education.
Peter Scott opened the talk by suggesting that universities have ‘suffered too much from the tyranny of the standard student’, and that flexible learning was likely to increase.
The discussion touched on a range of points, but there was actually limited time given to the Open University, though it included how the OU had changed the definition of a University, by breaking the link with ‘place’ and the negative reaction from the media and politicians the OU suffered at the time.
I’ve been keen to hear Carl Lygo speak for a while, and he didn’t mince his words ‘Government is not the solution, it is the problem’. He identified three reasons that we are seeing a turning point in HE – all of which may well lead to more flexible learning. Government policy, the proliferation of digital technologies and employment patterns.
Much was made of the second point – that academics are currently ‘stockpiled’ at universities where only the students who can afford to go to that institution have access to them, whereas in the future, location won’t be an issue. Teaching and learning can be done online, in the same way that Carl Lygo crowdsourced ideas for the discussion on Twitter beforehand (which led one audience member to ask whether he actually needed to be at the discussion in person, given the ability to connect with people online).
Often when we think of university, the image we conjure is of the three/four year, full-time undergraduate degree begun straight after school. But if we are at a turning point, and flexible learning will increase, how are we going to convince the 17-18 year olds that this is what they want to do? I asked the panel this question at the end, and Alan Tait suggested that the learning experience of that age-range would be unlikely to change (apart from a rise in living at home) it’s the rest of the demographic groups for whom it would.
Most of us who went to university probably did that three year degree – I remember for so many of my age-group, it’s just ‘what you did’ after sixth form. But I’d suggest that very few would look back and say they’d have rather done a part-time and/or remotely taught degree. For better or worse, the university experience – or more accurately, the student experience – is now as much of the appeal as improved job prospects and learning for the sake of it. Subsequently, I can’t see many more 17-18 year olds opting for flexible learning, given the tantalising prospect of moving away from home and living the student life. Of course, the increased debt burden on students might change this – we simply don’t know yet.
Incidentally, recordings and slides used at the discussion are available at the link to the talk at the top of the post.
There is another talk, also at the British Academy, tomorrow on research independence and the Haldane principal, which I’ll be going to.
Tags: Higher Education, PR, Press Office, University, USA
Even in 2011, he highlights the importance of working relationships with journalists:
He stresses the importance of being strategic in developing good relationships with reporters and understanding what they are looking for in a story. Making the effort to share information relevant to a reporter that isn’t immediately self-promoting helps build a relationship of trust with that person. “Exchange of information between a journalist and a source of information is a two-way street,” Keller points out. It’s not easy, given the fact that reporters are very busy and rapid turnover is commonplace, he admits, but that relationship is well worth the effort—even for PR professionals in small schools, who might only have newsworthy stories once in a while.
One of the additional issues is that very few local papers, certainly in the UK, have dedicated ‘higher education’ reporters. They might have a journalist who writes about education, but their remit will also include primary/secondary schools, sixth forms and FE colleges. Part of this is due to the difficulties facing local media, with cutbacks meaning fewer specialist reporters. Therefore, PRs need to develop an awareness of what interests reporters in a whole rang of other sections of a publication – business, science, or health to name a few.
For university press offices this results in another important role, of explaining how Higher Education works and is changing to journalists, whether it be admissions processes or research collaborations.
He also mentions one of the importance of presenting material online:
Keller thinks that online newsrooms, a new development in higher education that we covered in a recent conversation with Georgy Cohen of Tufts University, are a necessary tool for any school that really wants its news publicized. Presenting such information as a directory of PR staff and experts in various fields, a feed of recent press releases and fact archives makes the journalist’s research task considerably easier. News organizations have also become more open to embedding multimedia features such as YouTube videos offered by a college or university into their own news coverage.
An academic ‘expert guide’ is a must for any University, although in my experience a lot of media will ring you up directly and ask if you have anyone on a certain topic, bypassing the online guide entirely. Having said that, it’s useful for the press office itself, as a directory of expertise when they get the inquiry.
As ever, the whole article, and video interview, is worth a look.