The third international conference on quality assurance in post-secondary education

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I gave a keynote in Dammam, Saudi Arabia last week. It was an interesting conference with over 1000 delegates, mainly from across Saudi Arabia. The conference organizers had invited an impressive line up of international speakers. Here are some of the highlights

Jim Cibulka started the conference off with a talk on international collaboration. He referenced Peter Drucker’s work on knowledge workers and argued that we have shifted from a data poor to a data rich context. He argued that there were a number of demands on Higher Education, including: the need to produce more high-quality degrees, the globalization of the workshop and mobility of students, and the need for cost-effective solutions to increase collage access to underserved populations. For the states he listed the following challenges: dwindling government budgetary support for public institutions, decrease in the proportion of young adults earning degrees, policy makers call for accountability, and technological advances challenging traditional modes of delivery (referencing Christiansen’s concept of disruptive technology). He described CAEP and their approach to accreditation, with an emphasis on outcomes and results.

Helen Eccles’ talk was entitled ‘Skills and skills-based courses as a means of enhancing curriculum effectiveness’. She began by outlining the importance of 21st Century skills, in terms of: the increased importance of technologies and globalization, life in increasingly global, international, multi-cultural and inter-connected, importance of information over possession of facts and figures, and the economies of developed countries have shifted from a basis of material goods and services to information and knowledge. She showed a graph illustrating that in terms of jobs there has been a decrease in manual skills and an increase in cognitive skills. She listed the following as examples of 21st Century skills: collaboration, creativity, communication, IT literacy, citizenship, problem-solving, decision making, critical thinking and self-directed learning.  These can be categorised as follows: ways of thinking, ways of working, tools for working and living in the world. She then showed how these can be developed in different subject areas, mapping to the learning objectives for the courses.

Eugene Rice focused on the changing role of academics and in particular the move away from research intensive institutions to a focus on student engagement. He cited Boyer’s work on the nature of scholarship, in terms of scholarship of: teaching and learning, integration, engagement and discovery. He suggested that there were three pedagogical innovations face institutions: active, experience-based learning, the power of relational learning through peer learning and learning communities, and technology-enhanced learning. 

Beverley Oliver gave an engaging talk on the work they are doing at Deakin University to transform the curriculum, in terms of the development of generic learning outcomes, namely: fundamental skills (such as literacy and numeracy), people skills, thinking skills, and personal skills. Deakin are adopting an evidence-based approach for students to show how they have developed these skills. 

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