Archive for May, 2014

Another conference season

May 23, 2014

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.

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Read around the clock

May 23, 2014

There’s a rather charming item on the BBC website this week about the emergence of the 24-hour university library – including the intriguing piece of trivia that Reading University’s library opened in the same month as Terence Conran’s first Habitat store.

My institution offers 24/7 opening at the main university library in the immediate run-up to exams.  I usually stress that the most important part of the 24/7 library is the availability of electronic resources – although those include an online catalogue.  So, if you’re interested in Russ Ackoff’s ideas on knowledge, and want to refer back to his original writing which is only available on paper, you can establish from home whether the paper item is in stock, and then come in to collect it.

But the BBC piece about the library in Reading is also a salutary reminder that a library isn’t just about its contents, and that the need for a congenial place to study is as relevant as it every has been