student experience

STEAM Power (that’s STEM and A)

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills are undergoing a period of increased emphasis in our schools. Some might argue it’s at the expense of Art subjects. Does it have to be a zero-sum game?

Science hypothesises, experiments and interprets. Art creates directly, with no underlying rules or logic to adhere to. Science is structured simulation. Art is role play and improvisation. To reach human markets (voters or buyers) needs emotion, not just product features. Art and Science should therefore be seen as a partnership.

Secondly, at school, can we engage more students in STEM subjects, by emphasising it as a means to an Art end? Invite students to come on the STEM journey to empower Art.

Thirdly, great science discoveries utilise Psychology and thought experiments. Or sudden leaps of insight (realisations). Great thinking is arguably as much an art as utilising the science.


Education Funding by the State

A government that lets its State school infrastructure crumble (including in schools recently rated Outstanding by Ofsted), but raises the bar on academic outputs, is simply trying to achieve an education policy goal in spite of itself. Crazy or crazy?

A government that chooses to cut back on education funding, should at least be making grants available to improve income diversification – to upskill staff in effective philanthropic and corporate  fundraising.

A government that wants improved student behaviour in schools, would be wise to demonstrate it cares about such students, by investing in the infrastructure that supports their teaching.

Higher Education Teaching – threats and opportunities

Premium quality universities may preserve blended learning (and blended research) techniques for their creative interaction value. Meanwhile, Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers are likely to try to emulate pure digital retailers, offering their client-base modular learning products for personal up-skilling and continuous professional development (CPD).

 Should premium quality universities partner with MOOC providers to offer premium university-branded online learning modules and what kind of demand might emerge?

Regardless of how fast the ‘long tail of higher education demand’ emerges, represented incidentally by supply not just demand, student demand for elite undergrad and graduate programmes will likely remain strong. It’s perceived value comes in helping those students differentiate themselves in the workplace and use premium university content to aid workplace performance.

However, as MOOC providers ‘fatten’ the thickness of the long tail by progressively offering affordable, modularised courses, globally accessible, in multiple languages and able to be studied at a time convenient to the student, premium quality STEM universities need to think more about the post- qualification needs of engineers, doctors and scientists for continuous professional development. Premium STEM universities would also be wise to think about how much of that emerging demand to capture themselves. The set of post-qualification needs could be represented in two dimensions; career seniority skills and career breadth skills.

The faster new professional fields emerge due to global innovation, the harder it becomes for any employee (highly talented or not) to plot a linear career progression that preserves their marketability (embrace sufficient career breadth for what is required). Or have an effective grip over newly-emergent fields that support the organisation’s core mission (enabling them to then achieve hierarchical seniority).

Career seniority skills include; training in budget, project, process and operations management, change management, information & service quality management, business strategy & marketing. Techniques might include; using simulations for planning, improving communication flows and learning risk management practices.

Career breadth skills include; spending time understanding allied innovations and research breakthroughs that have some bearing on the person’s area of greatest experience. For example, for an ambitious doctor going from a large specialist NHS Trust into a small private practice, it may be advantageous to broaden their knowledge of medical imaging techniques and image interpretation.

MOOC’s threat to low quality universities

Unlike for the premium quality university programmes that rely on creative interaction value, MOOC providers can be expected to sooner or later out-compete the low quality universities who can only offer simple lecture-style content of a standardised nature. Such universities have a significant physical cost structure to support, while MOOC providers offer their customers a vastly cheaper price for at worst, the same academic content and (virtual) study group experience.

How can premium quality universities understand market CPD needs better?

A key question to ask might be what step changes will talented and ambitious graduates need to make for their career progression and how can we position to match those needs?

Premium quality universities are arguably in pole position to communicate the value of specific knowledge and problem-solving skills to employers that drives CPD demand back to themselves.

Some business schools already do this well in providing bespoke onsite training courses of short duration to the employees nominated by their client. Therefore, what scope is there to maximise this demand opportunity, not with bespoke organisational courses, but with customised sector training, centred on the generic step changes?

On a related note, could the excess capacity of expensive university research kit (High Powered Laser machines, Wind Tunnels, Wave Tanks, MRI Scanners, High resolution/high speed digital cameras, Big Data Centres) be used in such CPD training courses, perhaps via a fieldtrip visit to the university campus?

If so, two other benefits might arise – with greater ongoing demand, the equipment resources could be scaled up to capture economies of scale for the university. And secondly, the effectiveness of alumni fundraising might rise – offering more CPD courses widens the potential alumni base and for returning alumni, reaffirms the bond with their original institution, which hopefully translates into greater donations.

Flip the Classroom

The word on Flip Learning; grade headlines you win, grade tailings you loose?

Flip; outside-in to inside-out

Flip the classroom; video killed the textbook star?

Flip learning; Allow enough time at the workstation, so the training can leave on time with you onboard.

Conventional learning; walls with sentries and checkpoints. Flip learning; walls with ears.

Flip Learning; One insight is worth a thousand repeats.

Flip Learning; one substance, many styles.

Flip Learning; like You Tube breaking news, not museum captions

Flip Learning; time and space are relative. Assessment is absolute.

Flip learning; art integrating life and life integrating art?


Conventional teaching; inherit raw materials and hope to convert to saleable finished goods, using scheduled production runs.

Flip teaching; sell raw materials for students to convert into saleable finished goods, using flexible production runs.



The Student Experience

Improving the student experience isn’t just about giving the campus spaces a colourful makeover. This article suggests that higher education and further education students may value the following things highly. If so, then what opportunities exist for a university or further education institution (post secondary level technical school)  to develop taught content that enhances the student experience in these areas?

Design Process Experience

A win-win for employers and students is where students can work part-time on design problems and get paid for the solutions created. Can universities and further education colleges play a role to enable this? For example fund raise from donors (company owners) to create an array of design- competition prize funds for their students to enter the competitions.  Their student gets design experience. The donor gets the IP relating to the end result. The university/college gets a higher rating for its student experience from students, without being out of pocket. Some philanthropists may also be interested in funding design competition cash prizes, in areas they hold a keen interest in.

 Public Recognition of Excellence

This appeals to the student’s ego. Apart from graduation, students may value other milestones where public recognition of academic excellence on their part has been achieved.

One idea is for the university/further education entity to introduce further ‘award ceremonies’ for significant excellence achieved during the enrolment period up to graduation. This award would be valuable to students to put on their CV’s and be morale-enhancing to them too. Perhaps borrow ideas from the Nobel Prize awards process? A ‘Roll of Fame’ could be maintained, both on the college alumni website and general college website. If the university or further education entity started offering design prize competitions, the winners might naturally be candidates for the award.

 Leadership Opportunities

Innovation is about leadership not just creativity. Can university research & teaching content be modified to enable more role-play & acting up opportunities for students? Perhaps in co-curricula courses, can groups of students enrolled in different college programmes be combined? This would offer leadership opportunities for different members in the group, depending on the problem at hand.

Leadership opportunities may include ‘selling the dream’ to potential users, or selling the solution to potential backers. It could involve taking a lead role in design competition entries at different stages of the project, or overall project management.

 Global Networking

This appeals to the student’s interest in acquiring best-practice global knowledge. As a university or further education scholar, some/many students will value global network association (best technical practice amongst a group of global enthusiasts) over own institution network.

Joining a global network enables the student to test out and combine university taught content (theory) with innovation ideas emerging from the global online network (crowd-sourced). What role can a university or further education college play in referring its students to the relevant, online niche networks in things like aerial robotics etc? What ideas can the university or further education college import (using open-source coded) to enhance its teaching & research content, to benefit both student and teacher?