Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Learning management systems, a history

Some important historical events happen REALLY recently. I've been looking into the history of eLearning in universities for my book project and am constantly amazed at how quickly everything happened.

I started working in eLearning myself in 2003 and it seemed like it had already been around for ages - but in fact, it was only around five years old.

It was not an area (like university marketing actually) that people have thought about keeping archives on. So from a worldwide perspective, this is a very nice piece of evidence:

Murray Goldberg, presenting WebCT in 1998. He'd first presented this 'simple' (those of us who have used it might dispute 'simple') platform in 1996 and by 2000 it apparently served around 6 million students in 57 countries. The success of WebCT is significant because it showed that it could be done.

So to see this key piece of evidence:

With thanks to Stephen Sheely for a conversation about this today.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

This confused postdoctoral life

I don't want to risk falling into my own whinging academic category, but gosh this life is a bit confusing. This is actually because I was just staring at the blog thinking...a new post is surely needed...but what about?

At the moment I am:

  1. writing a book about universities
  2. writing an article about cold war research
  3. writing an article about inclusive history - with a view to thinking about making university history curricula more inclusive
  4. doing a case study on the effect of the 1987 Dawkins reforms on Sydney Uni, especially for staff based in the former CAE and other colleges, including a survey (and trying to avoid doing interviews...see above re. book = priority)
  5. working with scholars and others on campus about developing a scholarship of social inclusion, including a short article just written
  6. working with colleagues to develop links in community groups in western Sydney and country towns for community engaged learning for undergraduate history students
  7. negotiating a whole lot of stuff with my new workplace for next year, requiring lots of research planning etc
  8. applying for ethics for the next round of research in Broken Hill, hopefully to be done in November this year
And that doesn't include the stuff I'd NEVER blog about...figuring out confusing paperwork for the new job, the book, the tax...and a sick teenager at home today.

Sorry for the non-post...maybe shortly something on Ian Clunies Ross is warranted (item #2 on list)

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Who made the gap?

“When we are misunderstood and less generously supported by governments than we need to be, we should ask, who made the gap between universities and their communities?”

JM Ward, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sydney, 1982

Monday, 2 September 2013

A decent Jeremiad

So, you know I've been trying to move away from the 'Jeremiad' school of university criticism (beautifully defined by Anthony Grafton). To do this, I've been trying to locate the genuine reasons for the pickle Australian universities are in, rather than point and whine. There are times that the system does not make it easy to stay as optimistic as I'd like to be in hoping for a productive university that is inclusive in both knowledge and people. But as my recent rant about whinging showed, I also lack patience for whiny Jeremiads.
just pointing vaguely to nebulous governments or declaring anyone forced to make a decision 'neo-liberal' (a word that is starting to take on the name-calling qualities of various stupid insults I recall from primary school).
This one got my attention today. There are lots of it worth quoting...I've pasted a quote below, but you should really read the whole thing. Some issues are specific to the USA, but most apply here and everywhere else too.
"The most poignant educational scandal of the moment concerns Cooper Union, the prestigious Manhattan art and architecture school which, from its founding in 1859 up till last year, offered an excellent education for free to everyone who was admitted. The way it did this was by carefully living on the limited funds generated by its endowment. Now that can no longer be sustained, and the school announced that it will begin charging students $20,000 for tuition next fall. The reason everything had to change is that Cooper Union, like . . . well, like every other institution of higher ed in America, decided a few years back that it needed to think big and embrace change and build the brand. The first step in that process: erecting a fantastically expensive bit of trophy architecture across the street from its main building. (There was also a growing corps of administrators, and a departing president who needed to be paid close to $1.1 million, but we won’t go into that now.) Unfortunately, Cooper Union couldn’t pay for this glamorous new tower, and so it had to borrow an enormous sum, like other corporations do. The “free education” thing was collateral damage. Better to be known for “vibrant” architecture, I guess, than for some old-fashioned nonsense about uplifting the non-wealthy. 
The story of Cooper Union is a typical anecdote of the age of collegiate capitalism, and it’s easy to come up with other examples of the lavish, unnecessary spending that characterizes American academia nowadays, that makes it “the best in the world.” It’s not just the showy new buildings, but the sports teams that give the alumni such a thrill, the fancy gymnasiums and elaborate food courts that everyone thinks you have to have if you want the cool kids to choose your diploma mill over all the others." 
It is Academy Fight Song, by Thomas Frank - find it at http://thebaffler.com/past/academy_fight_song