Friday, April 05, 2013

University Flipped Faculty

Universities are adopting open access and flipped classroom techniques to improve education. The same  techniques could be used to improve the running of the university, removing the time wasting tedium of many academic meetings, by adopting a "Flipped Faculty". In "What if You Flipped Your Faculty Meetings?" Bill Ferriter discusses the benefits of this (TLN, 7 July 2012).

In particular I suggest:
  1. Open Access Paperwork: Place the meeting paperwork on the university's public web site. Distribute the small amount of material which needs to be confidential separately.
  2. Provide Short Clear Online Documents in Advance of Meetings: Documents should be designed for on-line reading, not on paper, with the style changed to place the conclusion first and remove unnecessary detail. HTML should be used in preference to PDF and hyperlinks should be included to other documents.
  3. Request Input in Advance: There should be specific requests for action in documents, such as requesting input, selecting from options in a survey. This information should be collected online and collated in advance of any face-to-face meeting.
  4. Provide Online Forums: There should be an online forum to discuss and provide feedback. Also online surveys should be used for specific questions.
  5. Reserve face-to-face meeting for activities: It should be assumed participants have read the paperwork in advance and the face-to-face events should be confined to group work, with an emphasis on the participants contributing, not wasting their time listening to speeches.
These techniques will require new skills to implement, but could boost university efficiency and effectiveness significantly, just as implementation of new pedagogy has been shown to improve education. Old habits can be hard to break, but I suggest it will be worth the effort.

As well as saving staff time, these measures will allow those who can't attend in person to have meaningful input. Just as universities has an obligation to aim for social inclusion in education, they have an obligation to provide an inclusive workplace. Universities more than any other organizations have the technology and training to include people who can't attend a meeting and is therefore obliged to use it. In particular Australian and international law prohibits discrimination on the basis gender, religion, age or disability and failing to use available technology to include people is unlawful discrimination.

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