Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Community universities

The THE ran a story about two globetrotting early career academics who have given up their jobs to explore alternative university models.

I will soon be visiting Haight Ashbury, so I felt a little cynical at first, but Udi Mandel and Kelly Teamy have been keeping an enlivened learning blog of their adventures in pedagogic space, and it makes for interesting reading.

One point that they make is about cooperative knowledge economies, the idea that we might work with our students rather than present them with an education, thereby seeing universities as creative engines of culture, rather than training facilities.  Whilst we cannot break loose and set up shop on Hampstead Heath there are perhaps other ways we might engage more freely with our students and the community during the academic year.  Perhaps something to think about...

It also reminded me of a suggestion I heard some time back that students should have their lectures at home - no, not MOOCs, but stuff we prepare for them - and come to university to do their homework.  So classes become seminars and labs where we help the students to learn skills such, whilst they gain content in their own time.  That idea always struck me as economically more sensible - a better use of us and our abilities.  And, of course, it changes the whole 'contact time' dynamic.  It is not so much the amount of time, but the quality of its use.

Tom Dickins