Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Question Time

Today I took part in a "Question Time" debate on the Future of Engineering Education in the Faculty of Engineering in some very good company including two PVCs and a Director of Learning and Teaching. Some great questions, including "Are MOOCs an opportunity or a challenge? The answer is of course yes.  Tremendous opportunities, I heard them referred to recently as the democratisation of HE - a much more accessible way for anyone to take a University course. There's also the opportunity to think differently about ways of teaching, pedagogy and course design, and to reach an entirely different demographic population. There are challenges - I used the example of the famous New Yorker quote from the mid nineties drawing attention to the anonymity of the internet - "On the internet, no-one knows that you're a dog". We don't actually know who is really taking our MOOCs, and there have been some instances of disruptive behaviour. They're also a lot of work to put on and have a very low completion rate  - about 5%. But, these challenges will be overcome, and it will be really interesting to see how the MOOC landscape unfolds.

Other questions included "As we grow our student numbers, what better kinds of automated teaching support can we expect, that will assess students’ active competence?" Answers ranged from my rather futuristic view that we will be using gamification techniques and attainment badges to motivate students and measure attainment using student, peer and self assessment, throught to the rather luddite we'll stick to human evaluation. A good debate :-)

We also talked about the importance of getting more women in engineering,  how industry can improve the employability of graduates, and whether we push our students enough.

Given that we are still having ongoing problems with the performance of our VLE, I rather expected a barrage of virtual rotten tomatoes, but being engineers, they understand that things break. And, that being in the hands of a supplier to come up with a fix is not a good place to be.

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