If, as HECG believes, students should be at the heart and centre of higher education, then this also has profound implications for those who teach them – their academic lecturers. At base, universities are schools where students are taught an array of subjects ranging from mathematics and science to languages and philosophy. Sure, research is also a vital function of the academy and its contribution to the well-being and advancement of society is beyond question. But without students, without graduates, there will never be any future researchers.
As advancements in technology move apace, and new ways are invented of delivering course materials, it is worth asking if sufficient attention is being given to academics to enable them to acquire new teaching skills.
He writes that despite continuous claims of a revolution in classroom teaching strategies, the advent of massive on-line open courses, and the huge expansion in the use of technological devices, traditional lecturing endures at most higher education institutions around the world – and will probably continue this way for many years to come because of the difficulties involved in moving away from the current model.
“Generally speaking, research has, by far, more weight in faculty evaluation and rewards than the other activities. Besides being easier to evaluate (number of papers, impact factors, etc.), it is usually the most visible aspect of academic scholarship and performance.”
Lecturers tend to stick with tried and trusted methods, often relying on notes that were written many years ago, he writes. Knobel argues that it is up to university leaders to not only reward and promote innovations in teaching methodologies, but also to provide teacher development programs “to cultivate and support new educational approaches”.
Promoting good teaching in universities is a critical challenge for the next decade, he says. He is right.
HECG believes there is growing evidence that utilising emerging technologies can provide a richer learning experience for students, whether located in traditional universities or learning remotely.
Are Australian universities (and academics) optimising new technologies for better teaching?