Where there's a Mooc

February 21, 2013

Our Head of Massive Open Online Courses, Mickey “Moocs” Johnson, has reacted vigorously to the suggestion by Diana Laurillard, professor of learning with digital technologies at the London Knowledge Lab, that Moocs lack any revolutionary character in that much of their pedagogy is a “presentational, talking heads sort of thing”.

Although Mr Johnson admitted that Poppleton’s fee-based for-profit cash- up-front Moocs course on Forensic Murder and Deviant Sex currently involved nothing more than Professor Lapping of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies standing before a blackboard and hesitantly reading turgid old lecture notes from an autocue, there were plans in hand to equip him with some brightly coloured chalk.

Mr Johnson also attacked “the sentimental notion” that those who ran Moocs had a responsibility to support online students who found themselves struggling.

“Every New Year,” he pointed out, “lots of people who’re incapable of lifting a bag of sugar enrol at their local gym and proceed to drop out before the end of January. Is it really the job of the gym instructors to go round to their houses and explain that they’re physical weaklings? I think not. In common with those trainers, Poppleton abides by the basic pedagogic principle of ‘Take the Money and Run’.”

Professor Lapping emailed to express his regret that he was unable to speak to our reporter. A spokesperson later explained that “he was having his front teeth fixed”.

Sins of omission

We are grateful to the anonymous correspondent from the University of Northampton who has drawn our attention to a serious omission in last week’s article on the “gerundive tendency” in university corporate branding.

Although we correctly instanced the University of Bradford as a leading figure in this tendency, citing its triple gerundive logo (“Confronting Inequality, Celebrating Diversity, and Making Knowledge Work”), we should also have acknowledged Northampton’s powerful triplet: “Raising the Bar, Transforming Lives, and Inspiring Change”.

Readers with an interest in Logo Studies should note that our competition to find the most empirically unverifiable university motto is now closed. Although there was some support for the “general vacuity” of “Better Together” (University of the West of England) and the “distinctive vagueness” of “Excellence with a Purpose” (Newcastle University), the runaway winner was Kingston University, which “successfully combined extreme ambiguity with absolute unverifiability” in its logo, “Yours to Create”.

(Poppleton’s logo - “Dreading the Future” - did not make the final cut.)

A very simple explanation

Our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, has “warmly welcomed” data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showing that the only significant rises in university staff numbers since 2009-10 have been in managers, PR and marketing specialists, and student welfare officers.

“These figures”, said Targett, “clearly indicate that universities are at last realising the vital importance of increasing the number of managers at the expense of teaching staff, employing more and more PR and marketing specialists to enhance student recruitment, and then having lots and lots of student welfare officers on hand to deal with complaints about totally inadequate teaching. It’s what we professionals like to call ‘a virtuous circle’.”

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

“If, according to research from the University of St Andrews, we look to long-faced people for leadership in times of trouble, why is it that our esteemed vice-chancellor so singularly resembles Mr Blobby?”


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