Monday, March 26, 2012

Repositioning the ANU Online for Excellence

Professor Ian Young, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University has issued "ANU financial repositioning: ensuring ongoing excellence" (26 March 2012). This envisions recasting the ANU budget, to increase the surplus to $35M (4 per cent of revenue), so there are funds for growth. It is proposed to make $40M savings from: changed business practices ($15M) and reduction in staff expenses ($25M).

My suggestion would be to implement on-line support for administrative processes and learning at ANU and draw on industry to help with the teaching. As well as reduce costs, this will also improve the quality of service and education for the students.

As an example in the business practices area, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with a web based interface will improve the service to students, while reducing the need for counter staff.

In the staff expenses area, use of better assessment practices, would reduce staff costs and improve the quality of education. One example is to use online submission of assessment, less reliance on paper based examinations and the use of rubrics for marking assignments. ANU already as the on-line infrastructure in place for this, with the Wattle system, but it will require some retraining (or training) of staff in 21st Century assessment practices.

An increase in the use of adjuncts, such as myself, would also improve the quality of teaching, while reducing costs. We adjuncts are happy to help, in return for a fancy title, access to ANU facilities and perhaps a modest amount of cash.

These changes can be made while improving the university experience for staff and students. No one likes waiting in a queue to ask a question about enrollment and no one likes to be the one answering the same questions over and over again. Similarly nether staff nor students like the tedium of handling paper based assessment. Students value receiving tuition from adjunct staff who who have current real world experience.

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