Saturday, July 24, 2010

What I learned this week

I relearned that communication – interpersonal and organisational – is tough work…. That good communications can identify, alleviate and address problems before they get out of hand and that poor communications can lead to a downward spiral that – among other things – can damage or end relationships, dishearten otherwise committed people, and simply turn individuals off… Of course there’s more to ‘communications’ than that but what became obvious to me this week as I engaged with at least 175 students face to face on campuses and approximately 500 via a webcast/blogging session (the I’m All Ears Tour) is that there is, generally speaking, a communications problem.
I have a sense from listening and talking to our learners that there could and should be better communications (embedded in our operations) between students and staff, especially those who lecture, teach or otherwise advise them on their courses and programs.
Even though I have the blog and I talk to students during O week, Graduation and when I walkabout, the Tour was really the first time in 10 or 11 months that I really sought after students and asked them to provide me with some feedback. That’s my shortcoming; I should have done it sooner. I count it as among my best CQUni experiences to date. Why? Not because it was all champagne and roses --- not by a long shot --- but because students told me it made them feel valued, listened to and important. And they are.
I’m VERY interested in what students have to say about the University and made a commitment to them this week that I – through our Exec Deans, Deans, Directors and so on – would follow up transparently to the points they raised by posting their issues and our responses to them on the University’s website (available soon at I know there are other pathways and venues where students can raise issues, but to be frank, it appears to me that some students, at least, feel they are not being listened to and/or some of us are not being timely or consistent in our responses.
I don’t want you to misconstrue what I’m saying here. CQUniversity is doing a great job: enrolments in CQ are stronger than they have been in a long time; new programs are on the way; we are engaging and making a positive difference and we have some of the best teaching staff in the country no question…. I’m more confident than ever that we truly will have that ‘great’ University we all want in 10 years or less.
That being said, though, I end this week believing that each one of us needs to take more responsibility for the student experience; we need to encourage open and honest communication with our students; we need to be as responsive as we can to their queries, suggestions and feedback; and we need to hold each other accountable.
Let me just share with you some of issues, forum after forum, that kept popping up:
• The support staff – in the Library, Communications and Mathematics centre, and student centres especially – are very friendly and helpful
• The Moodle experience is inconsistent – the learning experience in some courses is excellent with lecturers exploiting the medium, adding value and really engaging students; other courses, however, don’t follow through or significantly leverage the technology; Some CQUni lecturers/course coordinators need to be “brought up to speed” on how to best use Moodle
• Why can’t more/all lectures be recorded and downloadable as opposed to streaming? Student said they needed their learning material to be more portable and accessible to them
• More courses need to be available in Term 3, especially in SEH programs
• More complete programs need to be offered on campus, not just 1st and 2nd years
• We aren’t informed enough about the entitlements and benefits of being a student and don’t know enough about how uni works before we start…
Listen, I’m running the risk of sounding negative here. That’s not my intention. We’re going in the right direction. The fact is, however, that only 3.8% of our students responded to the last round of satisfaction surveys. And no matter how you look at that, that’s not good. I think we all want an environment here that engenders communication, debate, continuous learning and a free flow of ideas from which we can all benefit. We want to be told when, how and why things are working and when they aren’t and make real steps to constantly improve our courses, ourselves and the student experience.
One Bundaberg student said it really well and, I think, best represented a sentiment that is likely shared by all of our 20-thousand students:
“I’m a customer too. I expect professional standards and I expect that back from CQUniversity.”
Sounds fair and reasonable to me.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I was all ears

Hi. I want to thank all the students who took part in the web cast this evening. I had a great time. It was all part of the I'm All Ears tour. It was good to hear what was on your mind. By getting your feedback we can make things better. I am hoping that we can do this again around Christmas. I will get your comments up on a web site and will give you feedback on how we are addressing your comments.

It was a little strange talking away to myself for an hour - but I have to say it was fun to have an interaction with a group of students I do not normally get a chance to engage with prior to graduation.

I wish you all the very best for your studies and look forward to talking to you again soon.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Live Video - Student Forum

Please join me for this webcast to discuss your future and the future of CQuni…. I’ll consider comments/questions that you post to the blog during the webcast or at any stage before or after the event.

Look forward to hearing from you,

The Student Forum will be broadcast live over the Internet.

When: 7.00pm AEST Wednesday 21 July

Click here to watch/listen

Click here to provide feedback or ask questions during or after the event

Please Note:
  • If you are connecting via a modem or have a slow Internet Connection, you may only receive audio

  • Please see our technical help page if you have any difficulties accessing the video/audio

  • I recommend that you test the link above prior to the event, to ensure that you do not have any technical issues during the event

Friday, July 9, 2010

Educating international students will always be core…

I’ve done a lot of talking and writing in my first year at CQUniversity (okay, it’s one year officially on 3 August) about prioritising Central Queensland and making our engagement with stakeholders in Central Queensland a top priority. That remains the case – for CQUniversity to be considered a truly ‘great’ university in Australia we must be excellent at servicing the diverse needs of Central Queenslanders, foremost.

That being said, however, we can not overlook the work that CQUniversity does in educating international students. That “side” of our University, for well over a decade, has been responsible for most of our growth and has enabled this University to maintain its Central
Queensland resources.

It will continue to have a central role in our growth a development.

So, as part of our ongoing Renewal Program, we’re looking at the possibility of making CQUniversity accessible to a wider audience by opening up more programs across the University in area such as Mining Engineering, Nursing, Education and Health to students from such countries as Africa, South America, the Mideast and Austral-Asia….

Opportunities abound in this space, but just a hint of caution: it’s going to be a challenging next twelve months.

Visa delays, issues with private colleges and training providers, the value of the Australian dollar and other factors are putting immediate and sector-changing pressure on the international student university environment in Australia. By most accounts universities are going to feel it this year, with expectations for -- as economists like to say – negative growth.

Negative growth will reverberate through and challenge every facet of higher education in Australia, not just Universities. What’s happening in Chennai or Nanjing will influence what’s happening here.

That’s the nature of global higher education and one of the things that intrigues and fascinates me. It’s dynamic, ever-changing and always forces one to look well beyond the next term, the next year even the next decade.

We have a ten year plan to build CQUniversity into one of Australia’s greatest universities. To do that, we will –among other things – have to be able to absorb, shift and effectively respond to external forces, whether those forces are international market variables, local preferences or new government policy.

Are we ready?