Teaching lecturing online: is this the definition of irony?


Licensed CC by Adrian Wallett

This morning I was unfortunate enough to attend a vendor presentation for a series of online academic staff development modules. Basically a series of SCORM packages (so HTML pages, images and Flash content with a little xml thrown in). I won’t mention the vendor’s name for fairly obvious reasons.

The pitch was as follows; here is some prepared content that we got a bunch of professors from overseas to put their name to, that is ‘ideal’ for academic staff development and can be contextualised (read re-written) by you. Oh you have a license for three years so even if you do rewrite all of the content then you still can’t use it after the license expires. Oh and quite a lot of the content is Flash based so it’ll be no good for all of you iPad packing academics wanting to do something on the go. Oh and you just pay us x thousand dollars for the privilege.

Having recently re-discovered the BBC’s Dragon’s Den program in which hopeful entrepreneurs pitch to multi millionaires I could only imagine what Douglas Ballantyne and the other Dragon’s would make of this proposal.

Now all of this could have been forgiven if the content reflected contemporary practice (dare I say forward looking) but it doesn’t. It is entirely based on traditional face to face delivery. Two of the modules deal with the practice of lecturing, others deal with facilitating discussion and feedback. Good topics but wholly focussed on face to face situations.

Now the conservative amongst you will say there is nothing wrong with that and I would go along with the idea that having academics that are more skilled in delivering face to face learning is better than having academics that are less skilled in the same. My point really is that we should be focussing academic staff development of whatever type it is on contemporary and anticipated future practice.

The irony of using online learning modules to develop face to face teaching skills is just too delicious. I almost wonder if the whole enterprise is just some sort of cruel joke being played on unsuspecting universities.

Am I wrong? I often am so tell me.

4 Comments On “Teaching lecturing online: is this the definition of irony?”

  1. Not wrong. All too on the money. The bovine excretory byproduct (BEB) that the “corporate” (read we picked all the perks and don’t care about the smart stuff) universities in Australia peddle about online work is truly embarrassing. The sad thing is that there are a good number of academics trying to do good things but the mindless (and I use the term advisedly) managers who control all of this stuff in house have less than a clue, are brow beaten by the risk managing morons (overpaid bureaucrats that have no purpose other than to generate more work for everyone else to no purpose) and are terrified about what the VC will say if they cause their institution to appear on the front page of the local news. Old people, old ideas, self-serving bureaucracy surviving on the good will, blood sweat and tears of folk who still believe in what education might offer.

    I write this having “enjoyed” up close and personal the realities of a couple of university managements. If they were running a real business they’d have gone broke a long time ago. The ONLY useful thing they do is generate grist for Don Watson’s next book.

    Note to all of the above. This mindless nonsense in which you are engaged has nothing, zero, nada to do with what is coming down the pipe. Keep on fiddling. Rome is well alight. It’s only a pity that the ill informed BEB you inflict on the young won’t bring about the response you thoroughly deserve.

    Keep up the great work Mark. The emperor has been naked for a very long time. Best the images start appearing.


  2. It is ironic, Mark. I wonder what they would have reacted if you’d pointed that out to them. 🙂 And there’s quite a lot of good local stuff – who’s impressed with content from overseas Unis, where pedagogies are quite different (eg in the US they are much more pastoral with students). And as for the flash – groan. Our academics are already agitating for more content for their tablets and ipads. This would be useless and we wouldn’t even glance at it.


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