The Radical University – What is the cost(of a powerpoint)?

So I posed the following question on Twitter (check out the very interesting responses):

First of all – a number of people assumed I was starting from a position of favouring scrapping both the lecture and seminar – I can see that reading but it wasn’t what I intended.

In a previous role I helped run a Productivity and Innovative Centre. A very simple but amazingly effectively technique was to get our clients to explain what they did, who the customers were and so on in a lot of detail. We’d then get them to take a step back and start to deconstructive the answers. Over a couple of hours, our clients would get increasingly puzzled about their own businesses – “so why do we do that?, what is it we actually do?

Similarly – even though you might end up concluding lectures and seminars are best for subject X in context Y, it’s useful to take a step backward and really think through what that means. You can deal with the realities of estates and time-tables later…

There is one aspect I’m struggling with – and it’s how to deal with the “cost of a PowerPoint hour”. We talk a lot about the use of PowerPoint as a means of delivery but I think in HE it’s difficult to shift because it’s acts as a defacto unit of exchange as well.

From a planning point of view, a pedagogical model based around the delivery of PowerPoints is an economically effective one because it’s a) very scalable and b) there are virtually no additional cost requirements. It would be easy to therefore say it’s all an employer/University issue but this unit of exchange also impacts staff.

Over time, academics write PowerPoints and you might update them but you are actually creating ‘assets’ that you can recycle over and over again with very little tweaking if you are so inclined (and I know many people are not!). It’s therefore for an academic a very economic unit. Unlike other jobs where your employer would sue you if you left with IP to use with a competitor by and large we take what we create with us! It is therefore unsurprisingly that academics with a range of pressures and other commitments (enterprise, research, life!) resist change. From an organisational behaviour point of view – it makes perfect sense!

So the bit I am struggling with – how do you convince the academy to metaphorically throw their PowerPoints on the fire? Is it even a desirable outcome?

Answers on a postcard…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.