• Dave Foord
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,632 other followers

  • Dave Foords Twitter

    • Headline in news that having 1 alcoholic drink a day could shorten life. To reduce the risk I think I’ll increase to 2 drinks per day! 1 week ago
    • A lot of my work at the moment, and I expect for the next few weeks, is helping clients get their #moodle sites ready for #GDPR 1 week ago
    • RT @alistairm: Many students experience needless barriers. #Accessibility & #inclusion are often left to specialists but standard tech in H… 1 week ago
    • RT @EmathsUK: It is bonkers that this petition is not getting more traction. A centralised, free to use service for advertising all teachi… 2 weeks ago
    • After 2 weeks off, back into all things #Moodle for different clients. Lots of upgrading getting ready for GDPR 2 weeks ago
  • Advertisements

The ‘Great HE financial swindle’

HE finances in the UK have hit the headlines recently – with the disgusting fat cat approach to pay of senior leaders, the current strikes, where University lecturers are making huge personal sacrifices to try and protect the future of HE in the UK, and then Theresa May ironically calling for a review into university fees.

Image of a student in a libraryIt is the level of tuition fees that I want to focus on in this post, but the other two points are connected and cannot be separated. The title of this post is influenced by the “Great Rock ‘n’ Roll’ swindle” – of the punk revolution in the 1970s, a movement that challenged the then status quo (not the band itself) of the music industry, and I feel that HE needs a similar style of challenge to move forwards, and to break its own historical shackles.

Introduction

Tuition fees where introduced in 1998 under the labour Government, with institutions being able to charge £1,000 per year. Although unpopular at the time there was a reluctant recognition that the cost of HE should partly be funded by the people that directly benefit most from it, and £1,000 per year seems (on hindsight) a fair and reasonable amount to pay. Fees where then increased in 2004, when organisations could charge up to £3,000 – and then again in 2010 to £9,000, and currently sits at £9,250

There are various problems with this model:

Most institutions charge the same

The idea of the introduction of fees, is that organisations can charge up to the set limit – e.g. they have the choice to charge less, and should base the charge on the actual cost of delivery. In reality what happens is just about every single organisation charges the top amount for all courses. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict this would happen, which is why I think the current review is so ironic – creating a model that will predictably be abused, and then carry out a review when it is abused – to pretend you are doing something about it!

If organisations where charging based on the actual cost of delivery, then we have 3 options:

  1. They have managed to accurately predict student numbers, manage budgets etc, so every single course costs exactly £9,250 to run.
  2. Courses cost more than this, and they are making a loss on everything they do.
  3. Courses cost less than this,  and the students are subsidising other parts of the organisation – e.g. the fat cat salaries that increase at a significantly higher rate than the salaries of all the other workers.

I think that option 1 is highly unlikely, so if we disregard that, and focus on the other two; it is possible that some courses cost slightly more to run, and some slightly less, and it all balances out – but if that is the case, is it fair that students on the ‘cheaper’ courses are subsidising those on the more expensive courses?

I expect many organisations will argue that option 2, is predominant – and through their good will and generosity they are subsidising the learning from other parts of their activity. This may well be true for some places, and is how traditional universities often functioned, but there are many organisations (e.g. the teaching focused ones) that have limited alternate fund raising ability – they cannot be using this model.

And so the big question is – how many organisations are using option 3 – charging more for the courses, than they cost to run, and effectively profiteering from the students and the system? Having worked with many organisations over the years, I cannot say that I have seen a significant wholesale increase in quality over the last 20 years – there are many good courses, but mixed in with that, there are many courses or units within a course, that are badly delivered, badly run, and not providing good value for money for the students.

The payback methodology is set to fail

The idea that students take out a loan to cover these costs, and then pay this back if and when they are earning enough to justify this, seems on the surface to be a good idea – but charging extortionate interest rates (currently 6%) is simply disgusting, and creates the wrong mentality. If someone studies at HE level, they often do so believing that this will lead to better job opportunities and a better salary. If they believe that they will reach the threshold of having to pay back their loan, then they would be better suited not getting a student loan to cover the cost, but borrowing money some other way, with a lower rate of interest. So why do students take out the student loans? – Because they know that if they don’t reach that threshold then they don’t have to pay it back, or to phrase it differently, they are encouraging graduates to not fulfil their earning potential once they enter the world of work as they will be penalised financially when they do.

Tuition fees hide the additional living costs

Another problem with the excessively high tuition fees, is that it masks the real cost of studying – the cost of accommodation, food, books, sports/lab kit etc. is now often over looked in the media who quote the tuition costs, but miss off the other costs, and many families wanting their children to do well, encourage them to go to HE, without really grasping the size of the debt that they will have on graduation, or the impact that it will have on them for many years following.

It doesn’t represent good value for the tax payer

Possibly the biggest loser in all of this, is the honest, hard working, tax payer. If a student doesn’t pay back their loan (and various predictions suggest this will be significant numbers), then the bill is footed by the tax payer, which isn’t ideal to say the least – but the fact that a large part of that bill will be the unnecessarily high interest rates that are simply boosting the profits of the privately owned loan companies, is quite simply a swindle. It is widely reported and understood that a better educated population, makes a country more profitable, with better output, which benefits all, so we should go back to encouraging people to study not deterring them.

Conclusion

I was lucky enough to attend University when we were given grants to cover most of the costs, and I recognise that model isn’t fully sustainable, and to a certain extent isn’t completely fair – so I don’t have a problem with students making some contributions towards their studies, however the current model is clearly broken. The Lib Dems, made a huge mistake when part of the coalition Government – when they rescinded on their pre-election pledge not to increase tuition fees, yes it is possible that a future Labour Government may change things for the better – but if they do, what do you do with the current set of students that are paying fees? If a future Government does reduce or drop tuition fees, although I would welcome the move, it is a little unfair for the current batch that are saddled with debt – would they get some sort of rebate?

It saddens me, that when I was working at a University full time, I was proud to be part of a system (the UK’s HE provision) that is considered to be one of the best in the world, and highly sought after – and here we now, with a broken system, attracting negative press stories, and punishing the future generations for the current and previous generations, financial mistakes.

Advertisements

Free multi-choice patience activity template

When I worked as a teacher, as well as using technology during the teaching and learning process, I also often used it to create activities that didn’t use technology during the actual session. One such activity that I created is something I have called ‘multi-choice patience’. This is a series of ‘cards’ that are printed out and given to the students. Each card is numbered and contains a multiple choice question, with 4 possible answers (1 correct and 3 wrong). Answering each question directs the learner to the next card. To complete the activity the learners have to create ‘loops’ e.g. if using the 36 card set, the answer to the 6th card, should point back to the 1st card in that loop. If it doesn’t then one of the 6 questions has been incorrectly answered, but the learner doesn’t know which one, so they have to go back and try different options, until they correctly complete the loop. Once a loop is created, they pick another card from the pack and start again trying to create a ‘loop’.

Multi choice patience

Screenshot of the multi-choice patience activity

I generally used this activity in the last week of term, when the learners were not up for anything too heavy – I would have the learners in groups of about 4, and they would race against the other groups to see which group could complete the challenge the quickest.

To create the cards, I created a template in excel, where I entered the questions and answers, and the computer randomised the answer order, and worked out the ‘loops’, randomly changing the options each time, and it is this template that I have shared so others can create similar activities.

If a teacher wants to be even cleverer, you get the learners to design the questions in one week (and you could set up something like a Google form that the learners populate) – you then check the questions, copy them into the grid, print out and cut up.

I have recently changed the template, so rather than being limited to having to have exactly 36 questions, it will now work with either 36, 30, 25 or 20 questions.

The template itself can be directly downloaded from:

http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/MultipleChoicePatience2017.xls

A complete example can be downloaded from:

http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/MultipleChoicePatienceEXAMPLE.xls

And other similar activity templates can be viewed at:

http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_class_management.php

A video showing how to use the multi-choice patience template is:

How to trim a YouTube video and embed it into WordPress

Regular followers of my blog, will know that I have previously blogged about different ways of trimming or cropping YouTube videos to use in different situations, e.g:

Trimming videos can be really valuable, as often (in education) there may be a key message or element in a video, that we want to draw attention to, without having to show the entire video, so carefully selecting sections of the video can drastically improve the impact of using that video as a resource.

Up until recently, something that I couldn’t do was to get this to work in WordPress, I could only embed the whole video – however today I found out that I can do trim a video, if you follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Locate the video you want on YouTube.
  2. Under the video choose ‘Share’ and then ‘Embed’.
  3. Underneath the preview, there will be some tick boxes – make sure the one called ‘Show suggested videos when the video finishes‘ is unticked (this is really important).
  4. Copy the embed code that is above the preview.
  5. Go into your WordPress post, and into the HTML editor.
  6. Paste the copied embed code in the correct position.
  7. Preview your post.
  8. Go back to edit your post, and again into the HTML editor.
  9. The code that you pasted in, will have been changed, towards the end of it, locate the text rel=0.
  10. Immediately after rel=0 add &start=xxx&end=yyy (where xxx is the number of seconds you want the video to start at and yyy is the number of seconds you want the video to end at).
  11. Preview your post – if it works then publish.

So – if I have a video that I want to start at 2:35 and end at 3:15 – I convert these into seconds (2:35 = 155, 3:15 = 195) – and the end of the code will change from:

….?rel=0]

to

….?rel=0&start=155&end=195]

Below is an example of one of my YouTube videos, trimmed to start at 155 seconds and end at 195 seconds.

Using Excel and Office 365 to create learning activities

In my previous posts I have:

  1. Introduced the idea of Office 365 and how it can be used to create collaborative activities.
  2. Given an example of how PowerPoint can be used to create a collaborative activity.

In this post I am going to look at using Excel to create a collaborative learning activity.

Many people struggle (some are scared of it) with Excel which is a shame as it can be a superbly powerful learning tool – and it can be used in any teaching area not just maths, accountancy etc. There are many possible uses that I could list here, but I will stick with a couple of simple examples.

If I was teaching research methods or statistics, and wanted to investigate the idea of 2 sets of data and what the correlation is between them, then a simple way to do this is for each student to work out their height (m) and their shoe size (European) record these in a table, then everyone plots a scatter graph of everyones results – and we look at the line of best fit, standard deviation etc. Yes the constructing of a graph on paper with a ruler is an important skill to learn, but on this occasion I want to focus on the way that the correlation changes as more points are recorded, and for that I want to speed up the plotting process, so I am going to use Excel to help me.

Image of an excel sheet with a data entry table on the left, and the resultant grpah on the right

Example of an excel sheet teaching the principle of data correlation

So I have created  a simple spreadsheet which has a data entry table – I have identified each student with the letters A-K, and I have colour coded the area they need to enter their data into with a green shading. I have unlocked these cells and then protected the whole sheet, so when the learners add their data, they cannot accidentally alter or delete any of the workings. On the right you will notice that I have pre-created a graph that will plot the data as it is added, and then underneath the table I have created some simple statistical functions to identify mean, mode, median etc of the data as it is entered.

So having created the above sheet, all I need to do is save it to my OneDrive (new name for SkyDrive) – share it with my learners (see previous post), and then allocate each learner a letter between A-K. They edit the sheet in the web browser, entering the 2 pieces of information against their letter. All of the students will be editing the same resource at the same time, so they will see the graph and the numbers change in real time as the amount of data added grows. The beauty of this is that by speeding up the capturing and plotting process, I can spend more time helping the students to understand the significance of what the graph and the numbers mean, and I could reuse the same template to add my own dummy data to show the effect of anomalies, different types of correlation etc.

Any form of class experiment which involves the capturing and sharing of class data can be achieved with this method. If the data entry is more complex than my example, then you could create a sheet within the workbook for one student, then duplicate this lots of times so each student has their own sheet.

Another useful feature is that it is possible to embed sections of the file (e.g. the results table, or the final chart) back into a piece of web space (e.g. the VLE, or a blog) – so below is an example of the final chart – as the file is used and data is entered this will automatically update.


With the above example all students could see (and potentially alter) all other student’s entries into the resource. This may not be desirable – e.g. if you are capturing sensitive data (e.g. if working out Body Mass Index and asking students for their Weight and Height) or you could ask students to feedback what they have learnt, what they have found difficult, what they would like to recover in a revision session etc.

What you could do is create a single Excel file asking for the data that you want. Once happy with this, you duplicate that file however many times you have students. You then share each file with the individual student. This may sound complex but is a lot easier and quicker than you would imagine. You now have a mechanism for students to give individual feedback to you – you as the teacher can see all of the files, so easy for you to see the information – and if you are really keen, then you could create an ‘overview file’ which uses simple excel formula to pull the data from each students file into a single dashboard type file. This last suggestion doesn’t update the data live as it is entered, but everytime that the file is opened it will pull through the latest data at that point.

If we are using Excel to create learning objects then it is beneficial to make the appearance of the file as tidy and uncluttered as possible – which I have discussed in a previous blog post – https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/simple-formatting-tips-in-excel-to-improve-quality-of-learning-materials/

In my next post in this series I will give an example of using Word to create a collaborative activity.

Using Compfight to locate creative commons images

Compfight is an excellent little website, for locating images on flickr that have been released under a creative commons licence which means that we can use the images in resources etc, without having to gain explicit permission from the image owner.

I have posted about Compfight before at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/finding-and-using-creative-commons-images/ and https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/finding-images-without-breaking-copyright/  but the interface has changed slightly, so I thought it was time to create a new screencast for this service.

Having located and used an image this way, I then use another service called ImageStamper which then records which images I have used and when, and most importantly what the licence agreement was at the time (in case someone on Flickr changes their licence agreement at a later date).

Students using their own devices – e-learning stuff podcast

My last blog post was about changing attitudes about using learner owned devices, which then prompted an e-learning stuff podcast with James Clay, Lilian Soon, and Ron Mitchell, where we discussed this basic idea further, with James playing devils advocate, and Lilian, Ron and Myself making sense of the some of the issues (barriers) that are often presented when this issue is addressed.

Some of the key messages are about giving the learners choice, looking at the teaching activities not the technologies, and the idea is not to completely replace organisation owned computers, but allow learners to use their own instead, thus liberating other computers for students who may not be able to afford their own ipad or similar.

I made a point towards the end, about how letting learners use their own devices offers wonderful accessibility benefits for disabled learners, and I think these benefits outweigh the problems of the digital divide issues, which can be managed through sensible financial investment, good management and decision making.

A point was also made about the cultural change required to make this work, but one thing that is in our favour in this area, is we are not looking for a wholesale and sudden shift in attitude from our staff – but instead if we allow those that want to work this way to do so, once others see the benefits, and students identify which ideas they like and don’t like, it is then easier for other staff to follow suit over a period of time, and I think this shift can happen gradually over a period of time, allowing the infra-structure to upgrade sufficiently, and the cost associated can be offset against savings in not replacing as many organisation computers as they naturally reach the end of their lifetime.

Taken from http://farm5.static.flickr.com/7037/6868878321_1f659890d3_b.jpg on 2012-3-06
Original URL – http://www.flickr.com/27214509@N00/6868878321/ created on 2011-12-24 17:38:57
April RinneCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

MindGenius offers use at home for students (and staff)

Followers of this blog, and people that know me, will be aware that of all the Mind Mapping tools available, my weapon of choice is Mind Genius – really quick to start using, very powerful, and can be used by all people in an organisation (learners, tutors, senior managers).

One of the problems though in the past with Mind Genius, is it could generally only be used within the organisation, so if learners wanted to access it from home, they had to purchase a licence separately, and this became a barrier for its use, especially as more people are learning online, for all or some of their study.

However – Mind Genius are now offering a very attractive option, so when organisations upgrade to the latest version they can then pay an additional (reasonably priced) annual maintenance – which then gives them ‘free’ upgrades for any future new versions of the software, as well as giving the organisation the home use rights – basically staff and students at that organisation can install the software on their own personal computers at home for free.

This to me is brilliant (in fact Genius) – the software is relatively cheap for an organisation to buy, we can now offer that when a student signs up for a course, they can have this software for free, staff can use Mind Genius stategically in their teaching and learning, knowing that their learners could access it at home as well. Mind Genius can be a wonderful tool to support learners with dyslexia who have difficulty with organising work (e.g. assessments) – if you read any of Geoff Petty’s books, he identifies that using Mind Mapping techniques offers huge improvements in students grades, which I have witnessed in the work that I have done.

Details of the pricing structure (in the UK) via a CHEST agreement can be found at http://www.eduserv.org.uk/lns/agreements/mindgenius#pricingandordering

e.g. (prices correct at time of this post being written) – an FE college would pay a one off fee of £1800, and then an annual fee of £450 – this I think offers exceptionally good value.

An example of one way that Mind Genius could be used, is converting a well formatted word document into a Mind Map