I’ve attended one conference so far this year – the Association of Business Schools annual teaching and learning conference. This year it was in Aston, where the website helpfully tells you that the walk from Birmingham New Street station to the conference centre should use up enough calories to justify eating one biscuit or three jellybabies.
As always, this is a great conference for sharing ideas about teaching and learning, and student engagement. As with last year’s conference in Nottingham, I chaired a stream on flexible learning (in practice a concept which embraces a lot of different ideas) and when asked to sum up what I took away from the stream, suggested that it was about having the confidence to bring back new ideas and implement them. And if – as is the case where I work – we’re dealing with every increasing numbers of students one of the biggest challenges is to ensure that each student gets some individual attention.
And one interesting idea, from Gwen Van Der Velden, of the University of Bath, feeds into student engagement, and universities’ relationships with students who are keen to get value for money. Her argument was that universities could adopt a ‘commercialist’ view – where the interests of the university would be distinct from those of its students – or a ‘collegiate’ view where the interests of a university were largely congruent with those of its students. The collegiate approach has the benefit, arguably, of being close to the traditional idea of a university as a place of shared learning. Given the level of interest that I’ve seen recently, in academics and students working together as partners, this is food for thought.