The Dictatorship of the Offended

The Dictatorship of the Offended by James Hennen.

This article was first published by the James G Martin Center for Academic Renewal. The article is written by James Hennen. Please support both the James G Martin Center and James Hennen’s work. The original URL is here:

The college campus is increasingly a focal point for shaping social norms, largely a result of rising college attendance; only five percent of the generation that came of age in the 1930s were college graduates, as opposed to roughly a third of millennials. Sometimes, however, this shaping is not always an improvement. In recent years, a new “victimhood culture” has emerged as a powerful new social force that threatens the liberal foundation of academic freedom.

Victimhood is a culture where an individual’s status as a victim elevates him or her to the moral high ground. Its hallmarks are taking offense in microaggressions, shouting down controversial speakers, and demanding “safe spaces.” The values of victimhood culture are encouraging an illiberal turn in students and academics alike, who label political disagreement and academic freedom as violence. Furthermore, they respond to skepticism toward that victimhood status by others with great emotion and anger.

The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars, written by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, sociologists at California State University at Los Angeles and West Virginia University, respectively, describes how this culture developed and came to dominate campus. They use three moral cultures that have existed in America as a framework for discussion: a culture of honor, a culture of dignity, and a culture of victimhood. They also explain how changing norms are reshaping colleges.

An honor culture depends on a person’s reputation, which means people will respond aggressively to insults and challenges to defend personal honor, such as the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Dignity culture emphasizes a conception of self-worth that cannot be determined by public opinion, which encourages people to ignore insults and negotiate compromises, manifested in passive resistance techniques such as conscientious objection and protests for civil rights.

Campbell and Manning note, however, that victimhood culture draws from honor and dignity cultures. It combines “the sensitivity to slight that we see in honor cultures with the willingness to appeal to authorities and other third parties that we see in dignity cultures.” In emphasizing someone’s victimhood to gain sympathy and get someone else to intervene on their behalf, victimhood culture has found fertile ground on college campuses. Previously, dignity culture pervaded the campus atmosphere. Students ignored perceived slights or worked through disagreements among themselves.

Campbell and Manning focus on colleges for their analysis because they argue that campuses are especially susceptible to victimhood culture and its excesses. They note that victimhood has roots in dignity culture, as dignity culture was more willing to appeal to authority or third parties to settle a dispute two parties could not solve without violence. When victimhood coupled the appeal to authority with the sensitivity to insults and slights from honor culture, it needed an authority that is slow to question a self-proclaimed victim but quick to punish a privileged party. That atmosphere is found on many college campuses, and the previous dignity culture was slow to respond to the shift to aggressive demands for safety, even when “safety” was stretched beyond its original definition.

Reading Campbell and Manning, it becomes clear that college institutions are simply too weak to stop victimhood culture. For instance, they have lackluster due process rules in adjudicating sexual assault. Colleges cave quickly to student demands and tend not to approach victimhood claims with reasonable skepticism. As dignity culture has lost ground on campus, the incentives for skepticism have become liabilities. Instead of requiring evidence for wrongdoing before punishing a student, university administrators are expected to condemn the accused based on an accusation. Defenders of dignity culture have been all too willing in ceding to victimhood culture, possibly because of dignity’s affinity for negotiation and compromise.

Caving in to demands rarely brings negative consequences for administrators according to Campbell and Manning. Students who promote victimhood are loud and well-organized, and those who oppose it are less sensitive to slights. They also are not taken as seriously by administrators if they complain about victimhood culture. Administrators naturally cater to the students who threaten them with the outrage mob of social media.

Campbell and Manning do not elaborate on this point, but the public tends to be unaware of victimhood’s effect on campus culture. Established media do not devote much attention to the topic (nor do many campus publications) beyond the most dramatic events, such as protests at the University of Missouri and Evergreen State College that caused large enrollment declines after national attention. That reaction is a sign that people turn away from victimhood culture when they learn about its excesses. Conservative and libertarian media tend to be the only ones cataloging the number and extent of these incidents.

With limited autonomy throughout their lives, it is no surprise that some college students expect campus authorities to define what is and is not acceptable behavior.

Students are forced to sit through freshmen orientation sessions where they are harangued about their privilege and lack of cultural sensitivity, but those who oppose such attempts at indoctrination rarely object. At least, not with the vehemence shown by those who promote victimhood as the foundation of campus morality.

Of course, victimhood culture is bigger than just academia. Dignity culture’s obsession with safety and regulation have primed younger generations to adopt victimhood long before they reach college age. Many students grew up under “helicopter parents” and had teachers who strictly handled all disagreements. Children learned an ethos of asking for permission before taking initiative. Those rules produced a generation uncomfortable with freedom. With limited autonomy throughout their lives, it is no surprise that some college students expect campus authorities to define what is and is not acceptable behavior, even when dealing with trifles.

As Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt argue, “bad policy and paranoid parenting are making kids too safe to succeed.” Rather than treating emotional discomfort and political disagreement as an opportunity to grow and debate, they are awkward moments to be controlled. A majority of college-age students by no means buy into victimhood culture, but enough of them who do can shape a campus.

And Campbell and Manning observe that victimhood culture is not an exclusively left-wing phenomenon; some conservative students are now adopting victimhood language. One went so far as to falsely report a crime; a Princeton University student falsely claimed he was beaten by two men for his political views. Campbell and Manning are careful to note that the right-wing embrace of victimhood culture is nowhere near the scale of its embrace by the left, but they show that the conservative reaction to victimhood culture is not always a return to dignity, but the adoption of victimhood for different ends.

Whether on the left or right, when students turn to authority figures to settle insignificant disagreements, victimhood becomes politically weaponized. For the most part, though, victimhood is a weapon of the political left. Universities are “committed to a single vision of social justice, and alternative views are becoming sparse and sometimes forbidden,” Campbell and Manning note. Scholarship as activism has trumped scholarship as a pursuit for truth.

As victimhood culture politicizes more thought and action that was previously neutral, it makes clashes between the cultures of victimhood and dignity inevitable. Campbell and Manning chronicle perceived microaggressions that anger people, free speech that offends students, and research that contradicts progressive political norms throughout their book. To adherents of victimhood culture, the worst campus sin is not shoddy scholarship—it is offending someone.

Defending free speech and academic freedom is perceived by victimhood proponents as a facade for the privileged to harm the disadvantaged. Implicit or explicit bias, they argue, can distort scholarship’s pursuit of truth and institutional action is needed to teach the privileged about their advantages. Otherwise, they suggest that marginalized groups may get ignored on campus, graduate at lower rates, or stagnate in their careers.

As victimhood proponents believe the university is responsible for keeping students safe—and now offensive words are elevated to the same level of threat as physical harm—they must extend their authority over the lives and thoughts of students to a degree previously unimagined. So, in the name of safety and sensitivity, free inquiry cannot be kept as an academic principle within victimhood culture, according to Campbell and Manning:

Universities trying to involve themselves in preventing or punishing microaggressions are claiming jurisdiction over every word spoken on campus, over every glance or expression. Under any conception of free speech the exceptions are rare while most speech is protected, but this is far from that. The logic of victimhood culture means no speech is clearly protected.

Thus, victimhood eliminates academic freedom.

Campbell and Manning do not appear optimistic about the future, not detecting a movement of students or faculty in organized opposition to victimhood culture. “Victimhood culture keeps advancing, and we see no sign of it stopping any time soon,” they note.

As a counterweight to victimhood’s encroachment, Campbell and Manning recommend limiting moral dependency on authorities by removing administrative oversight of student life and strengthening free speech protections. But those ideas have not found campus support like diversity training and safe spaces have. Campus support for dignity culture exists in the form of faculty organizations such as Heterodox Academy or the National Association of Scholars that push back against overbearing administrative efforts. Campbell and Manning, however, do not investigate the long-term possibilities of this type of organizing. Some state governments have passed laws reaffirming the principles of free speech on public campuses, but victimhood culture remains firmly planted on many campuses.

Until taxpayers demand politically neutral campuses—or students organize to protest being taught what to think rather than how to think—it is difficult to disagree with Campbell and Manning’s conclusion that victimhood culture is here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future.

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3 Reasons to Outsource Curriculum Writing

3 Reasons to Outsource Curriculum Writing

Many universities now outsource curriculum writing due to revolutionary changes in the academic world. Today’s higher education marketplace has gone global. At the same time, university administrators in some fields, especially mathematics and science have had to dip into a shrinking pool of talent. The increasingly competitive realm of college and university education has also forced administrators to innovate and adapt more quickly when it comes to adopting learning and training programmes or launching online options.

Outsourcing of curriculum and course writing brings benefits to experienced academics in universities. They will receive partners to help with unfamiliar challenges such as online design. Also, they will know that students in early level courses taught by young lecturers will meet university standards of instruction and integrity.

A leading NSW university (not the University of Sydney), for instance, uses a supplier to undertake product market research, marketing, recruitment, course design, teaching and evaluation of the course. The only thing that is not outsourced is the brand.

Here are some reasons why higher education consultants with experience in curriculum writing prove valuable partners in creating effective courses quickly.

Higher Education Must Adapt to Business Needs Quickly

Higher education services that specialise in vocational education must often create courses very quickly to meet community needs, but may not always have on campus expertise. One example from overseas illustrates the challenge very clearly. A wind energy firm received local permission to erect a large-scale wind farm in an area that had never hosted such an industry before. The company needed trained maintenance staff within a relatively short period and reached out to the local vocational education college. Within two months, the college had a certification program in place that met the needs of industry and helped locals win high-paying jobs.

In this case, the entire area received the benefit. The college got a regular stream of new students. Economic development officials trying to attract new industries could point to the college as a valuable regional resource. State officials also recognised the positive synergy between the college and economic development officials and started pointing to that college as a model for others.

In such a situation, outsourcing to academic writers who have experience creating courses and programmes can save time, meet all needs, and reduce the possibility of mistakes. In some cases, the ability to move both quickly and effectively benefits more than just one department in a college.

Traditional universities increasingly seek to maximise their shares of the education marketplace. In doing so, they will join vocational education institutions in working to develop effective courses and programmes quickly in response to requests or needs. These requests may come more from government agencies or professions requiring specific education and training.

Continuing education in confronting cybersecurity issues serves as one example of a field requiring constant updating of knowledge. The challenge of working in a constantly evolving digital realm means that continuing education remains a must and expert curriculum designers can help.

Sometimes Even the Best and Most Experienced Professors Lack Needed Online Course Design Skills

In most cases, a university’s best, brightest, and most popular faculty come from its older and more experienced ranks. Many of these professors grew up in the rotary telephone era. They have little experience with online course design, but university administrators want to get some of that valuable experience into e-learning.

Setting instructors such as these loose to design their own online courses begs for trouble. While they have mastered the content and materials, they will struggle in effective delivery. Curriculum designers understand that online teaching, especially course creation, requires an additional set of skills. These include the structure of the course, use of time, the inclusion of proper multimedia materials, handling student and professor interaction, promoting class discussion. Great course writers can help to facilitate all of these aspects of successful online courses and help professors tremendously.

Bringing in course writing and design experts does not take control from the professors but will liberate them to concentrate on what they know while not forcing them to spend a great deal of time reinventing the wheel. Administrators need to understand that experienced professors may welcome partners but will remain wary of anyone seeking to dictate or control the information delivered. Experienced course and curriculum designers grasp this dynamic and seek to assist rather than direct.

This scenario plays out often as many universities look to create entire MBA programmes online for busy executives. Curriculum designers work with experienced professors to make sure they can best express their ideas through an unfamiliar medium. With online MBA programmes finding success, universities will certainly look for other fields of graduate study in which to expand online education. Curriculum and course designers can expedite this process while making sure that the courses meet university expectations.

Outsourced Curriculum Design Can Maintain Academic Integrity and Consistency

Times of fast change, such as those occurring in universities right now, can bring problems of consistency and quality. Outsourcing curriculum and course design in some areas can ensure that the university responds quickly while maintaining integrity and consistency.

Many university administrators have responded to the increasingly competitive global education marketplace by moving more intellectual resources to research and away from teaching. This leaves department chairs to rely increasingly on younger lecturers or graduate student instructors with less experience in either face-to-face or online course design.

Younger lecturers and graduate students may not have full mastery of necessary knowledge. More importantly, however, they often have trouble structuring their courses in such a way as to cover the materials. Inexperienced instructors sometimes tend to spend a great deal of time on subjects of interest or deeper knowledge to them, not leaving enough time to cover others. This results in an unbalanced course that may neglect vital information.

Course design experts can also help to create course outlines and structures that allow lecturers intellectual flexibility within guidelines that preserve course integrity. No university administrator wants robots that all spout the same verbiage and use the same materials. They do, however, want each course to meet certain objectives. Students should walk out of every class with the opportunity to learn what is necessary to know about each topic.

Curriculum designers also serve as guardians of academic integrity when administrators want new programmes. Again, outside consultants have a good vantage point and the right experience to ensure consistency and reduce errors. Universities want new programmes to come out right the first time and to meet academic and other expectations. Course and curriculum designers can help a university do it right the first time, preserving academic integrity.

The Outsourcing of Course and Curriculum Design Going Forward

Universities in today’s global marketplace often have to think more like a private sector business. This means that they have to react to the market more quickly. Universities have to ensure that their ‘products’, both research and education, meet expectations the first time. With little margin for error and the recognition that time represents a commodity as much as anything else, universities have started seeking out partners for work once done in-house.

Going forward, universities will increasingly rely on outsourcing of curriculum design, course writing, and other tasks once done solely by academics. This mimics private sector willingness to employ partners to carry out essential functions. It will also help to free experienced academics to concentrate on what they do best and ensure that all courses and programmes meet the expectations of administrators and the public.

7 Tips to Write Academic Policies and Procedures

7 Tips to Write Academic Policies and Procedures

Writing academic policies and procedures is necessary for any functioning higher education provider. Public institutions, especially universities, work under more scrutiny now than ever. With constant examination, prevalence of social media, and the 24-hour news cycle always looking for the next breaking story, university staff and faculty must remain careful. Luckily, administration can help.

Faculty and staff often view policies and procedures as restrictive, sometimes overly so. Policies and procedures can restrict work duties, interaction with students and co-workers, or even guide actions off campus. They serve two important goals, however; protect the institution and protect each employee.

Protection for administration comes from setting clear guidelines that, if violated, place responsibility squarely on individual employees. They also, however, ensure that if the employee follows policy and procedure mandates, they will likely keep themselves from trouble should an incident of some sort occur.

1. Follow the Three Pillars of Excellence

As administrators look to start writing guidelines for policy and procedures, they must remember the three pillars of excellence. Effective policy and procedure writing comes in the context of an institutional culture dedicated to effectiveness. Administrators must work to make sure faculty and staff remain aware of expectations. They must also follow through and hold employees accountable for violations.

Each aspect of the three pillars of excellence must guide the process.

Policy and Procedure

Policies express institutional and administrative goals and guidelines. Each written policy lays out expectations for how the institution and its employees must function in a given situation. The philosophy of the institution should be included in any policy manual. When appropriate, policies should refer back to the guiding philosophies and mission of the university.

Procedures indicate how faculty and staff must implement or comply with policies. They suggest when to act or to not act in a given situation.


Faculty and staff may misunderstand or have issues with even the best written policies and procedures. That’s why it is important to have a training procedure in place. Training gives key stakeholders, like professors and instructional designers, the opportunity to further clarify the meaning of policy and procedures. Faculty and staff may have questions that require clarification. Also, those who have not “bought in” may get convinced of the value of the policy and procedures through frank discussions that accompany proper training.


Policy and procedure writing proves a waste of time without effective administrative follow through. Once policy and procedures are established, supervisors must oversee implementation. When necessary, they will need to hold faculty and staff accountable for inconsistent compliance. Since policies and procedures protect both the university administration and employees, hopefully incidents of non compliance prove rare.

2. Develop Policy Charter or Mandate Before Starting

Effective policies and procedures do an organisation no good if they disrupt the team rather than unite or focus it. Certainly those in upper management have the prerogative to impose policies and procedures. They should, however, try to make creation and adoption a team exercise as much as possible.

Effective managers bring the team on board to try and identify areas of needed change. The team may have their own productive ideas that can help the process. Before getting into specifics, those involved need to come up with guiding mandates that can keep policy and procedure creation focused and relevant. Making the process a team operation should help boost buy in.

3. Use the Right Priorities

Policies should reflect issues of priority. These include:

  • Issues involving state and national mandates and regulations
  • Issues involving liability
  • Governance of interactions, especially those of a romantic nature, involving faculty, staff, and students
  • Issues involving ethical behaviour
  • Other challenges facing the university

Next, come up with a list of new policies to consider and old ones to revise or eliminate. Examine the list to weed out potential conflicts with existing policy.

Do not try to cover every imaginable situation with a policy. This will involve too much time and effort. Consider application of the 80/20 rule from the business world in evaluating whether the university needs a policy or not.

Procedures should reflect realistic expectations of action or restraint from action from each individual employee. They should, as much as possible, take into account real human reactions in given situations. In an ideal world, for example, an instructor would have awareness of each student’s physical and emotional state and inform someone in event of trouble. In reality, instructors rarely know many students that well. Therefore, policies and procedures holding faculty to account for failing to report a student who may harm themselves or others would fall under the category of “unreasonable.”

Universities should understand that online learning and eLearning coursework will require an additional set of policies and procedures that govern the unique set of interactions that can take place in such courses.

Finally, policy and procedure manuals must allow for common sense and decision making in areas that they cannot cover.

4. Establish Goals and Values

Each university has both an organisational culture and a self perception of what it is or what it wants to be. Universities share some values with all others, while certain universities may have values in common with a limited number of schools. Sometimes the organisational culture may come into conflict with institutional goals and values.

The university must allow its established goals and values to drive the process. Organisational culture has powerful importance. Policy and procedure writing must take this into account. Any changes in policy and procedures reflect the idea that some part of organisational culture no longer works for the institution as a whole. The process should include communication about precisely what will get changed, but also why.

5. Discourage Deliberate Indifference

Deliberate indifference occurs when an institution ignores or covers up a situation that has risks to liability, public perception, or violations of rights. Sexual harassment serves as a common area where universities face challenges dealing with a serious issue.

When crafting policies and procedures, anticipate risks and put together plans on how to deal with situations. The more risk involved, the more precise the administration may want to write the policy. Procedures should include multiple processes for redress and appeal.

Deliberate indifference can break a university’s reputation and end careers. Universities should anticipate and plan to deal with risk inherent situations head on.

6. Balance Precision and Flexibility

Policies and procedures must have precise language to lessen misunderstandings. No policy and procedure manual, however, can anticipate every type of situation. Human beings remain an unpredictable animal and will surprise with how much ingenuity they can use to create trouble or fall into messy accidents.

When appropriate, policy and procedure manuals must include flexible response. Faculty and staff need latitude for applying their experience, knowledge, and common sense in problem solving. Not every issue can go to upper management. Not every problem requires intervention. Also, faculty and staff should have some freedom and latitude to consider opportunities not foreseen by policy and procedure.

An overwritten policy and procedure manual can deaden initiative and create a staff that functions efficiently, but too robotically to help the university grow.

7. Practise Good Policy Writing

Policies and procedure manuals must follow clear and standard English. The diction must, as much as possible, conform to the language and usage of lay people. This, however, can prove challenging because policy and procedure manuals must also follow specific legal usage of words and terms.

Policy writing should also include a description of the scope. To whom does the policy apply? For example, some universities have instructional design policies that apply to beginning lecturers, but not an experienced full professor.

The document must illustrate the chain of supervisory and accountability command. In other words, who oversees who. Also, what punishments for non compliance may occur at which juncture? These can range from adverse action reports to termination, but the policy and procedure manual should explain these in detail.

Policy and procedure writing serve as the backbone of the modern university. Effective policies and procedures guide faculty and staff, reflect the institution’s values and goals, and enjoy support, or, at the very least, understanding, from the vast majority of the employees. Bad policy and procedure creation widens rifts between institutional values and organisational culture, can alienate the people administration depends on the most, and deepens dysfunction.

Effective policy and procedure creation and adoption will not save a struggling institution on its own, but it can help move it back in the right direction

(c) Darlo Group.

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7 Tips to Engage Students with Academic Courses 

Professor Annalise Keating calls her course ‘How to Get Away With Murder‘.

Instantly, her students sit up and take notice. Gone are all the textbook notions of “Criminal Law 101”. Clearly, they’re engaged and intrigued. It’s a combination that few gifted professors achieve with their students and the ones who do make it look like a cake-walk.

Over the course of her, well, course, Annalise — or, as her students know her, ‘Professor Keating’ — announces that whichever student is left standing and racks up the most points wins the coveted “Justice” trophy.

Obviously, the trophy is connected to students’ grades. But it stops becoming solely about the trophy and competition and begins to become about the students’ own ability to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the world around them.

So, is there some secret to Annalise Keating’s brilliant teaching or is there a method a course writer can use to keep students engaged and eager to learn?

These seven tips are just the beginning of great ways to engage your students.

1. Connect to Their Goals

Students need the course design to be ‘about them’. Grades can be a benchmark but focusing on grades can distract from the end goal, which is to understand information well enough to be able to apply it to real-life.

Of course, there are students that will only care about their place on the grading curve.

However, if a course writer can flip the script and interrupt that expectation, they’ll find, that in itself is enough to get a student to sit up and pay attention.

Author Tina Seelig recounts her own experience in a lecture hall at Stanford University and reflects on the metric of “care”. Showing students you care about them is one way to make a connection. But it’s also important to get them to then connect this learning and information to their own goals.

‘Teaching,’ she says, ‘is about inspiration, not information.’

This sort of ‘self-directed’ perspective allows students to feel as though they are in charge of their education. While that’s always true, it’s not always felt. Besides getting to know your students and what they care about, encourage them to make their own metrics of success. What is their goal for this subject or course?

2. Small Groups for Dialogue

When universities are trying to draw in and attract prospective students, the first thing a pamphlet will state is, ‘Small, intimate classroom sizes.’


Because no one wants to get lost in a crowd and learning happens best when a professor can give focused attention to a smaller group, rather than be pulled (impossibly) in a thousand different directions.

In general, this is true for courses for academic writers as well, since part of the process of learning is feedback, especially in the case of academic course writing.

Often, for introductory credit courses, this can quite literally be true. How do you compete with that sort of attention diffusion?

The good news is, even for those with dozens of students in their academic course writing class, professors usually have GAs or TAs (graduate assistants or teaching assistants) that head-up smaller groups through the week. During the lecture is a great time to make use of these smaller groups.

This will mean that the course design will have to structure the lecture in a way that makes for more smaller group discussion periods. During this time, professors can walk around to the smaller groups and listen in while TAs do the same.

3. Take Learning Outside the Classroom

…And on to the campus. A course writer who can plan for this structure will find that this strategy meets with a lot of enthusiasm and attention from students. And nothing pulls a student’s attention back to the lecture faster than interrupting their expectations.

They may think they’re in for another 50 minutes of droning on. So why not break that preconception? For example, choose to hold a session or exercise relating to academic course writing outdoors instead.

Taking teaching outside the classroom, is ‘inherently student-centered…and interdisciplinary.’ And these teachings don’t necessarily have to be pre-planned field trips. They can be a simple exercise to encourage participation and break expectations.

4. Share Your Own Research

Some of the best learning comes when a course writer or professor deliberately plans a course design that calls on their own ongoing research. This can be either as part of the day’s lecture, or as part of the larger course structure of academic course writing.

This kind of structure can lead to a much more organic and exploratory lecture, which can lead students into being stronger academic writers. They’ll be actively reflecting on questions and engaged with the base material, while willing to go further in their conjectures.

And the learning, by the way, is happening both ways.

Something wonderful happens when professors connect their research to their current course teachings. It becomes interesting for them and they learn something or look at a concept in an entirely new way.

They may gain breakthroughs and new perspectives. They may be able to test out a hypothesis and see all the problems with it, based on the questions of students.

Structuring the course’s progression around your research questions, says educational think tank, ‘The Big Think’, makes learning meaningful. Great teachers will be the ones who learn along with their students.

5. Draw on Interdisciplinary Knowledge

In today’s world, concepts are necessarily cross-pollinated. The advances we make in the field of neuroscience, for example, have great bearing on customer experience, behavioural psychology, user experience design, software programming and AI.

Author Robert Greene sees this interdisciplinary approach as the key to ‘mastery’: of concepts and of learning. He gives, as an example, Yoki Matsuoka, who combined her restless exploration of robotics and neuroscience into an entirely new field: ‘neurobotics’.

A course writer should be aware of this. Structuring a course design intentionally, so that it encourages students to see the fundamentals inherent across all concepts in multiple disciplines will not only get students engaged, this effort will also promote a more organic and intuitive kind of learning that simple memorisation cannot substitute.

6. Use Incomplete Handouts

This is a technique proposed by research conducted by King’s College London. It goes right to the heart of their findings that say that encouraging active learning means greater retention and understanding of concepts, not to mention proper application later on.

Using incomplete handouts motivates students to listen in carefully to the lecture and stay present, rather than mentally drifting. It’s not just about motivating or rewarding class attendance, after all.

It’s also about getting students to make individualised notes that are meaningful to them.

7. Integrate Technology

The jury is in: 63% of student respondents say that integrating digital learning into their educational experience has helped them in a score of ways.


Source: Statistia

A survey, conducted by Hanover Research, of college students and their use of digital technologies to assist in learning shows that ‘Better preparation for classes’, ‘Improved studying efficiency’ and ‘More confidence in your knowledge of course material’ were just some of the positively affected areas of student learning.

While some professors find the use of personal laptops and smartphones for learning within academic settings to be a major distraction, research finds that this occurs mostly when students rely on laptops within lectures to take notes or fill handouts.

Inevitably, this situation leads to students heading online, getting distracted, speaking with their friends on messaging apps and browsing the web.

However, laptops absolutely have a place when they can be used as a learning tool in very specific contexts. A research paper conducted by Stanford University suggests the use of a ‘laptop policy’ and a “laptop-free zone”, in conjunction with technology in the classroom.

This would suggest that students can use them in small group discussions for research but, perhaps, not for note-taking. The laptop policy could set the ground rules and actually end up enhancing these periods of discussion time within the classroom.

How do we know students are really absorbing and engaging with the material professors present? Engagement shouldn’t only be limited to the narrow metrics of grades and test scores. Engagement can also be measured qualitatively, when students approach professors after class or during a break to discuss a particular indigestible concept.

These are indicators of active learning and, more than anything, show that the students cares. From an education standpoint, caring deeply about a topic or wrestling with it is often a better thing than apathy.

Higher Education Consultants and “Cookie-Cutter Courses”?

Higher Education Consultants and Course Design

The Gatekeepers demand cookie-cutter courses

Gatekeepers love to charge others with producing ‘cookie cutter’ education, but are completely oblivious and unaware as to their own central role in producing these results. Ironically, some of the biggest critics of students and higher education providers are those least innovative and imaginative!

University graduates have been criticised for undertaking ‘cookie cutter’ degrees, essentially qualifications that produce graduates who share similar attributes, attitudes and knowledge. That this is disputed by groups like Darlo Higher Education, along with various leaders, has been controversial at times. Critics who blame the universities that educate them as ‘cookie cutter’ usually have a political agenda and an axe to grind with change.

Among the most puerile and hysterical criticism is that private higher education providers (and content creators generally) develop cookie-cutter courses. The idea, it seems to be, is that having professional curriculum writers and course designers writing materials and resources will lend itself to ‘mass produced, unoriginal, or duplicated content’. This is sheer nonsense and flies in the face of well-established higher education course design methodology, and is one of the most hysterical furphies of the anti-private higher education establishment.

Do Universities Produce Cookie Cutter Students?

What does cookie cutter mean? There are various definitions, but we have chosen a contemporary one. According to the Urban Dictionary, Cookie Cutter refers to items that are:

“Marked by sameness and a lack of originality; mass-produced. Often used to describe suburban housing developments where all of the houses are based on the same blueprints and are differentiated only by their color.”

Mass produced, same colour, same blueprints. What does this sound like? It sounds to us like the mass produced university education model of the 1960s. The unfortunate consequence of this system is that is compromises innovation in the system and results in a limited range of curriculum and course designs that meet, charitably, academic standards. It is unfortunate that regulators are investing in accrediting courses that only conform to the expectations of their paid consultants to accept or to reject (i.e. paid academics on their “experts register”).

TEQSA Templates and Course Design

The bias of TEQSA’s academic expert register is not something that is commonly noted publicly. However, in discussions with various industry colleagues and associates, there is a common perception that paying consultants (i.e. academics) to review courses is akin to paying staff from Coles or Woolworths to evaluate whether or not they want to have competition in their neighbourhood. Some have even likened it to paying competitors to trash the reputations of other academics and private institutions. We are not sure how that is helping to protect the reputation of Australian education, unless it is to support bullying.

The diversity in the private higher education sector, as noted in the Higher Education Guide, is what really adds colour and variety to the system. The Group of Eight universities are remarkably similar, all fighting for rankings on international academic and research scales. If that does not create conformity, or cookie cutter, behaviours, we are not sure what would. Fortunately for Australian students, it is private higher education providers that provide any colour, originality and uniqueness within a dreary backdrop of ‘cookie cutter’ MOOCS and university courses.

Beware of VET ‘Experts’ with their Competency Based Assumptions

Unlike Darlo Higher Education which treats each client as individual and unique, other sole practicing higher education consultants have been guilty, in the past, of selling ‘blueprint’ documents for all and sundry. The naivety (and absurdity) of selling policies and plans for $15k a package aside, the assumption that there are blueprints or fixed designs is really a characteristic of VET/ASQA design. With our interest in building internal capabilities within organisations, Darlo Higher Education is particularly keen to see the development of private higher educators in governance and operational areas. Unfortunately, we are continually needing to re-educate prospective higher education providers that the assumptions of higher education are based on ‘critical enquiry’ rather than competency-based training. This is why there needs to be such a sharp contrast between vocational education and higher education.

Higher Education Course Design and Critical Enquiry

Higher education course design is based on the abstract idea of critical enquiry. While we have undertaken academic research into critical enquiry and ‘critical thinking skills’ (more generally), it is often left deliberately abstract by academics.  In contrast, vocational education hinges on competency-based skills. By nature competency based education encourages standardisation and uniformity. Some may say this is ‘cookie cutter’, but it would be misinformed. Whether serving coffee, fixing an electrical problem or giving a haircut, the hope and aspiration is that students across Australia will be able to perform at a similar level of service. Many vocational education background consultants seem to have only a narrow way of viewing higher education as a process, as a similarly standardised one. This does a great disservice to students and fundamentally misstates the differences between higher education and vocational education.

Textbook publishers and professional course designers/academics approach learning design in similar and different ways. For pedagogical purposes there are a range of design options available. This includes designing units and lessons, followed by activities and exercises that reinforce learning. This is a small part of educational design, however. The alignment of graduate learning outcomes, attributes and materials create customised and original designs. The review by academic course committees, higher education coordinators, and teaching and learning staff all create interpretations, inputs and designs that differ for courses. Indeed, across universities and higher education providers, one should be hard pressed to find identical courses. This is because they are based on the design principle of critical enquiry, as opposed to the convergent ‘competency-based design’.

Mass University Education Needs to Change

Of course, governments love uniformity and standardisation. As much as the rhetoric of innovation appears in newsletters and pamphlets, the essential ways of teaching and learning for the majority of staff and students remain unchanged for over a century. There does not seem to be any interest in opening up the system or embracing different approaches to education. Online education has largely been conducted independently by organisations, many hoping to avoid much of the red tape and folly of regulators. Rather than attempting to address new skills and workforce requirements, the baby boomer Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, simply laments that there are too many law students being educated and that many (most?) should be discouraged from even attempting in the first place. This is despite the fact that former law students are the ones bringing in innovative ways of distributing the law that disrupts and improves access and the establishment gatekeepers.

Creating ‘cookie cutter’ courses (or mass produced courses, a la the universities) creates elements of standardisation. This is largely dictated in regulations and standards. For instance, requiring higher education providers and universities to focus on ‘winning degrees’ by reporting favourable attrition and other performance data, including key elements in course design such as graduate attributes, course descriptions, indeed a templated blueprint in the accreditation application forms, encourages a blandness and conformity that prevents innovation. However, those are the rules that have been agreed upon by the higher education cartel and paid gatekeepers, and ones that must be followed.

Academic bodies of knowledge are increasingly standardised with the globalisation of learning and resources. Would it really surprise academics and critics that large publishers and text book writers determine the knowledge that is uniform across subject areas? The peer review system has been demonstrated countless times as problematic if not crony and corrupt. The problem then is ideas and practices only endorsed and protected by a closed peer network are considered valid, while open and accessible learning is not. Many publishers support academics to use specific textbooks, thereby, creating the replication of similar ideas and knowledge as ‘foundational knowledge’. This is most often repeated by Professors and Associate Professors as binding standards of knowledge, rather than contestable and subjective ideas that can be scrutinised.

Will Unique, Original and Different Courses be Accredited? We Hope So.

The final element of ‘cookie cutter’ course designs is considering how to create unique, original and customised qualifications. As Darlo Higher Education has a team of experienced academics, specific to particular subject areas, and with ‘validators’ at senior levels in universities, we capture best practice, while working directly with clients to help them introduce content specific to their organisation and teaching and learning strengths. While we often receive requests to help design courses, Darlo Higher Education consultants insist that organisations build internal capabilities and strengths in course review and course design. While we are not opposed to the ‘outsourcing’ of courses, as shortly most courses and academic qualifications will be created by machine learning, we are not so oblivious to the fact that there is an expectation from the regulator that they want organisations to demonstrate their strengths in this area.

Customisation of courses and qualifications take time for private higher education, but nothing like the sheer inefficiency and waste that happens at most universities and TAFEs. The idea that an internal higher education group of academics can produce something institutionally as can be undertaken outside of mass education, cookie cutter standards and processes is not an argument that can be well sustained. Indeed, many universities have, or are looking at, establishing new companies to bypass the inefficiencies and waste of administration that characterises large organisations. Following academic research in the area of innovation, it has been found almost impossible for large, mature and declining organisations to innovate at the same level as smaller, more nimble, disruptive organisations.

Higher Education Consultants Respond To, Not Decide the System

The advice for those who prattle upon about ‘cookie cutter’ courses is to be aware that they more than likely do not understand the system. Government regulators and those on the nose in the ‘Quality Standards’ clique are largely clueless about their contributing and prescriptive roles in limiting innovation and design. It is more than a bit thoughtless and rich to blame the poor students, private higher education providers, or higher education consultants for reacting to the inefficient and strangled gatekeeping system that regulators are promoting. Then again, they are regulators, not educators. An important point to remember.

Copyright 2018 (c) Darlo Group.



7 Services Offered by Higher Education Consultants

Higher Education Consultants work with your team to build internal capabilities.

While it may sound confusing to collaborate with higher education consultants if there is a need to develop autonomy and independence, however, higher education consultants specialising in regulation and compliance are able to make better decisions and choices about developing your internal capabilities.

Building internal capabilities are critical to creating a high quality higher education provider. This means working on developing systems, plans, policies, as well as governance and management arrangements. Higher Education Consultants can ensure that there are staff experienced in academic functions such as course design, teaching and learning, assessment and compliance supporting your organisation.

Higher Education Consultants can help you decipher and understand regulations and compliance.

 A core capability for higher education consultants is to help decipher and understand standards, compliance and regulation. While it is important for key stakeholders to become familiar in higher education standards and regulations, it makes little sense to neglect business growth or development to gain expertise in that area.

Higher education consultants can help you simplify complex legislation and standards. They can also help you understand and identify what evidence, processes and systems can lead to compliance with particular standards.

Higher Education Consultants can help with teaching and learning.

Finding higher education consultants who have taught undergraduate and postgraduate students, have supervised research students, and have both managed as course co-ordinators and lecturers.

While some higher education consultants complete research degrees at 2nd or 3rd tier universities, it is best to look for academics from the best universities. There are large quality differences between those who work and teach at different levels of tertiary education. Check if the higher education consultants have strong academic credentials as well as meaningful experiences in both teaching and learning and administration.

Higher Education Consultants can support you develop internal operational performance.

Higher Education Consultants are best when they operate as a team. A classic mistake for many organisations looking to grow their higher education operations is that they believe hiring a limited number of academics will constitute effective operations.

Just as any business would operate effectively with core team members, this also applies for higher education. Some higher education consultants will advise on their approach. However, these individuals tend to lack breadth or depth. As they tend to be quite old-fashioned or semi-retired, it is almost guaranteed that their knowledge will not approach the insights of a team.

Most regulators are keen to see that any higher education provider has effective internal capabilities and resources. The role of higher education consultants is not to replace this internal capability but provide insights and guidance into how to build this internal capacity and capability.

A failing of many prospective higher education providers is that they believe that they do not need to be responsible or accountable (or they can outsource this accountability to government agencies or standard-settings). This is absolutely not true.

Higher education is a team sport.

Higher Education Specialists can provide research insights into higher education services and higher education online.

 The best higher education consultants conduct research on areas such as benchmarking, reviews of changes in compliance and regulation and the impact these have for organisations.

As private higher education organisations face significantly different issues than universities or not-for-profit organisations, higher education consultants should be abreast of developments in changes in education. This includes an awareness of online higher education, quality in higher education, distance education, and diversity in higher education.

Higher Education Consultants can support your governance board efforts and provide advice on shortcomings or areas that require improvement.

 An expectation of higher education providers is that they will have an academic and corporate governing body that works. For those unfamiliar with university-style governance it may be confusing and seem at times pointless in having countless meetings on academic matters. For those with a propensity for action, or those who are used to being in control at all times (especially founder/owners) having a board to answer can be confronting.

Higher Education Consultants can help support and encourage you and explain the role and function of governance boards. While it is not uncommon for some founders/CEOs to resist the development of a governing board, in effect, the design of high functioning boards can create stability, experience and solid growth. In the worst case, some board members can create toxicity and chaos. Getting governance right is both art and science.

Higher Education Consultants can provide experience in approaching curriculum design and assessment.

 One shortcoming of many of case managers is that they have little to no teaching or learning experience. For those with experience in teaching and learning can provide insights into the ways higher education differs to vocational education and training.  Some of these differences surround the ways that graduate attributes and alignment are composed, the means and approaches to assessment, and teaching and learning materials. While study guides and the like are popular in vocational education, they are less so for most higher education institutions. Having said that, reading packages and references are important for academic study.

Higher Education Providers are a Threat to Universities

Higher Education Providers challenge Universities

Private higher education threatens publicly funded higher education—simply because it’s superior in many ways. Though we will be the first to admit it—at first glance—is a pricier ticket to success. As we will discover, however, many programs to assist private university students more than make up for that factor.

The best example of private higher education’s stellar success comes from the United States, where their thriving private university sector traces its origins to long before the United States was an independent nation. Harvard was the first, established in the mid-1600s, followed by William and Mary, then Yale at the turn of the following century.

At this time there are only three private universities in Australia. There are also two private foreign-based universities. Of the remaining 38 public universities, 29 of them have begun to specialise in certain areas, such as research or technology, following the lead of private universities in the United States.

These groups include:

  • The Group of Eight, some of which are the oldest and most prestigious in the country.
  • The Australian Technology Network, which grew from the former Institutes of Technology in the late 1980s – early 1990s.
  • The Innovative Research Universities, established in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • The Regional Universities Network, which is also as the name implies, but does include campuses in the Australian capital cities and some that are international.
  • The NUW Alliance, a group of three universities in New South Wales that are also research intensive, which joined with the mission of finding smart solutions to the state of NSW’s biggest challenges.

Yet as public universities, they still face many of the same challenges as do public institutions in the U.S., where private education is more common. Those challenges include government controls that hold back progress, funding that depends on taxpayers, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of individualised instruction.

By way of comparison, South Africa is on the threshold of allowing more private universities to open their doors. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, however, is trying to put the brakes on their public system being overrun by them, saying that private universities pose a serious threat to the public education sector. “Allowing them into the mix would result in an increase in the cost of higher education‚ academics being poached from the public sector as well as the loss of the financial contribution of wealthy students to the public higher education sector.”

But then again, is it a threat to public higher education per se, or is it rather a superior form of education that threatens the status quo?

The areas that demonstrate private education’s superiority cover a lot of territory: economic and financial considerations, quality, access, socio-political, and the potential for upward mobility. We will take a look at both the advantages and disadvantages of both types of higher education in each of these areas.

Registering as a Higher Education Provider or University

Public Higher Education’s Cost to Taxpayers

Most of us are already paying toward the cost of public universities through our taxes. However, especially in the U.S., many people don’t use those schools, and so are not all benefiting from this investment of their tax dollars. In other words, those who can afford to attend (or send their children to) a private university are spending money on top of what they are already forced to give to the public ones in taxes. This means that their participation in the funding of public schools is guaranteed, at least at the pre-tuition level.

The lifeblood of any public institution is government funding. That funding depends on a headcount. Thus, every student that opts to attend a private university causes fewer tax dollars to flow into the coffers of the public institutions in that government’s jurisdiction.

When government funding falls short at the university level, the public ones have no choice but to raise the more moderate tuition fees their students are already grappling with, though they do get some alumni donations to help offset that. Private schools can charge what they want, however, and those students’ families are either going to pay it or send them somewhere else.

In the United States, the average cost for undergraduate tuition and room and board at a public school was $19,640 at an in-state public school, according to 2016-2017 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, compared to $45,370 at private not-for-profit universities.

‘For Profit’ and ‘Not For Profit’ Higher Education Providers

In the US, the word ‘not-for-profit’ brings up an important distinction within the category of private universities.

A for-profit university is owned and run by a private organisation or corporation, which includes the well-known University of Phoenix that operates from numerous locations. In Australia, those groups that are registered as private higher education institutions are diverse and varied. You can find a list of private higher education providers  in Australia by clicking here.

These schools spend a lot of students’ tuition fees on marketing and recruiting. A for-profit university’s primary objective is to make money, since they must answer to their stockholders. They usually do not own the buildings they operate out of.

For that reason, we could also distinguish not-for-profit private universities. A school of this type spends students’ tuition on the education process itself. Funds received from students pay professors and instructors, provide extracurricular activities, fund research, and maintain the campus buildings and grounds.

Scholarships and Private Higher Education

In the U.S., nearly 300 private universities—including some of the most prestigious schools in the country—offer a prepaid-tuition version (in the form of “Tuition Certificates”) of the 529 College Savings Plan, in which parents can pay universities directly for a future education at today’s tuition rates with tax-free money. These certificates only cover tuition and mandatory fees, but are also interchangeable at any of the participating institutions.

The original 529 Plan was created for parents to be able to save money for their children’s higher education and associated costs (it’s considered a parental asset), and then individual states began offering a prepaid-tuition version for public universities. The problem with this version of the plan, however, is that it depends on state legislators keeping their promises and the continued funding of a state’s educational system at current levels or higher.

These three versions of the plan all sound good in principle, but in practice, the private universities’ Tuition Certificates appear to offer the best and safest value. Since they can be used at any participating university, a student could theoretically attend a lower-cost school for the first two years and then transfer to a more prestigious one in which to receive their diploma. That’s a huge advantage in today’s competitive employment market.

Also, money can be transferred between children in the same family. And, if for whatever reason it’s not used for your child’s college expenses, it can be withdrawn at (+/-) a 2% annual return.

Higher Education Providers and Universities Drive Innovation (Just Not In Australia)

Private universities can be more responsive than their public counterparts about being innovative and contemporary. Many of them offer customised programs that help students succeed in post-university life, with more flexibility than many of those offered by public universities. For example, two prestigious private universities in the US — Harvard and Stanford — have special post-graduate programs to help accelerate their former students’ careers.

Stanford LEAD Program

First is Stanford’s LEAD (Learn. Engage. Accelerate. Disrupt.) corporate innovation certificate, from their Graduate School of Business’s Executive Education division, which is a year-long, online program for professionals that is focused on real-world business challenges. The students in this program (and the other one below) are already in the workforce when they enter the program, thereby allowing them to immediately apply what they learn. Other benefits of this certificate course include:

  • Acquire business tools and techniques
  • Collaborate and innovate with a small, select group of your contemporaries
  • Earn 24 continuing education credits*
  • Build an international network of highly motivated peers

*Continuing education has become a hallmark of most professional careers, with dynamic changes coming and needing to be adapted to so quickly that the skill-set learned in school must be constantly supplemented, especially with continuously evolving computer-aided technology.

Again, though these perks may indeed pose a threat to public institutions, they provide untold advantages to students who opt for private universities.

Harvard Professional Development Program

Then there’s Harvard Extension School’s Professional Development Program, which, through interactive lectures and discussions, teaches how to use creativity to promote inspiration and collaboration in an organisation. There are several different programs on a variety of topics, such as:

  • Collaborative Leadership: Building the Organisation of the Future
  • Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges
  • Design Thinking Workshop
  • Entrepreneurial Skills: Evaluating New Business Ideas
  • Growth Strategies: Identifying Opportunities in Market Trends
  • Innovation and Strategy
  • Leading Through Digital Disruption
  • Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives

Higher-Quality, More Personalised Education at Higher Education Providers

In a private university, class sizes (and therefore student-professor ratios) are usually much smaller as well, resulting in more individualised attention. They are not in the position of having to ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’ because they are not being overrun by the masses like public colleges, who generally have less-selective entrance requirements.

With this lower ratio, private schools are in a position to benefit from cultivating each student’s potential. They can assist struggling students to ensure their success. With higher tuition and other fees, these schools can also better attract higher-profile professors with higher pay and more prestigious research facilities.

Higher Education Providers improve Accessibility

The huge endowments many of these schools have can level the ‘playing field’ for middle-class students in many cases. Despite average tuition rates that are more than double those for public institutions, private universities usually have a greater amount of financial aid available to their students.

By making their schools more affordable, they can better attract some of the best minds whose families don’t have as much money. These students’ success, in turn, attracts even more of the world’s finest minds.

Also, tuition at a private university is the same for all students, with no out-of-state rates to deter those who live farther away from attending.

Better Access to Higher Education for Students

At Yale, for example, the school will meet up to 100 percent of all students’ demonstrated financial need (not to mention merit-based and other scholarships); in 2016, this helped result in 85% of the university’s seniors graduating debt-free — a significant achievement.

This is a very important, yet little-known aspect of applying for even the most prestigious of private universities; that is, that you don’t have to be rich to attend them. Since community involvement and participation in extracurricular activities (not just sports) have increasingly become as much a factor as grades and standardised test scores, many underprivileged students have a good chance at earning a spot in the freshman class at a prestigious private university.

For example, a student’s achievements in a high school band become one avenue that can earn a free four-year ride for a university education at a private school.

Well-rounded students who will enrich a school’s campus life are what admissions offices seek now more than ever before. This is because, it is now known that traits like resilience and determination are a better indication of success, both in higher education and in the career world, than traditional factors like high grades.

This awareness in the sphere of higher education opens the door to a wider pool of students than those who fit within the box of high test scores and whose parents can afford the tuition. Those who have challenged themselves in science, athletics, political activism, and other areas during their pre-college years can be some of the most attractive candidates.

Superior Graduate Outcomes for Higher Education Providers

To keep that selective student base happy, these schools often have a particular academic focus — such as liberal arts, engineering, or computer science — even though they usually have a smaller range of possible majors overall.

This means they can provide a more concentrated learning experience for a serious student from the start. That makes for a more effective learning curve for focused students, as opposed to being lost in a sea of undeclared majors for the first two years at a public university.

Wherever they come from and from whatever background, they are all on equal footing when they arrive to prepare for their futures. But they can do so with a distinct purpose and path of intent, determined at an earlier stage, in a private university. This is an advantage that a public college just can’t match.

Higher Education Providers increase Social Mobility

Equally important are the social and political aspects of campus life, which can result in more socially aware graduates. The students at a smaller, private school become their own microcosm of society in which their individual benefits are valued.

As their mindsets develop in this realm, they will take on their responsibility to make their mark on the world, one that will create more benefits for all members of society.

With all students on equal footing in a private school, it greatly reduces elitism within the student population, no matter how privileged of a background they come from. In a private university, one’s hard work, personal development and academic performance are the chief indicators of prestige within the student body.

With this advantage, a private university education disrupts the social constraints that keep people confined to the status into which they were born. It allows them to have a degree that confers the same prestige on them as it does to their more wealthy peers.

Prestige Lends Itself to Upward Mobility

Recent news reports have shown that large donations received by wealthy private schools in the U.S. have increased by ten percent since 2016, so this trend is only getting stronger.

Even if a student doesn’t need more individualised attention, their parents are still enticed to send them to a private university for the benefits that can come from a gold-lined alumni network. With a tradition of doing for their own, the well-placed alumni of these schools can help their fellow graduates rise toward the top of the food chain. This positions private university graduates at a distinct advantage as they compete with public school graduates.

As a result, many of these private university graduates populate the ranks of the movers and shakers of the business and research world as innovators and entrepreneurs.

Quality and Standards in Higher Education

Without assistance and guidance from the government, there are private education groups that help develop and maintain standards of excellence in private universities, college-prep and grammar schools. One of the better known of such groups is the international Halladay Education Group, Inc. They advise private schools on all aspects of their operation, such as:

  • School start-ups
  • Buying and selling schools
  • Strategic planning
  • Board governance
  • Institutional assessments
  • Market feasibility study and business plan
  • Leadership searches and coaching
  • School operation and management

More Australian Students will Study at US Private Universities

By using visions of ivy-covered walls to lure a finite number of top students at the start of each academic year, private universities surge ahead of public ones by attracting the best scholars and the most dollars.

Competition is a vital part of learning, just as much as breaking into the job market in a chosen field and rising through its ranks. The competitive, yet nurturing atmosphere of a private university education continues to challenge students in a way that public universities cannot hope to achieve.

It is a shame, in our opinion, that Australian policy makers are so invested in monopolistic and protectionist systems.

Certainly, Australian and other international students will continue to seek out private universities in the United States.


Is academic integrity a problem for higher education providers?

Higher education providers and academic integrity

For higher education providers, there have been substantial accusations that academic integrity is a bigger problem among both staff and students than in universities.

As higher education consultants, we are interested in a range of teaching and learning issues: academic integrity is one of them.

Maintaining quality and standards in higher education is often more complex than it seems: this is particularly true in the case of academic integrity.

the main goal of higher education lies in student education and enlightenment, then one could say that its nemesis is cheating. Studies in Australia, the US, and elsewhere show that cheating, especially in the dishonest production of papers, is becoming more prevalent and more accepted. Even worse, revenue incentives may even push universities to pressure instructors to look the other way, keeping more tuition-paying students in class. Chinese international students, often recruited despite low English proficiency, simultaneously benefit from increased leniency while receiving the public blame for increases in instances of cheating. Student dishonesty claims much of the attention even as college and university administrators and faculty around the world increasingly undermine academic integrity at many levels. In the US the credibility of higher education has suffered greatly in the past decade and Australia could potentially see the same problem.  Providers of higher education services, however, cannot just shift blame to international students, private universities, or providers of illicit papers. Instead, they need to follow the Biblical directive of “Physician, heal thyself!”

Is cheating rife in Australian universities?

The context of university cheating must include the decline of academic integrity in higher education services. Professor Margaret Gardner, President, and Chancellor at Monash University identifies a large part of the issue as a deprioritization of teaching. Gardner calls teaching “the very core of what Australian universities do,” but rankings of prestige focus much more on research. She claims that more spending by the government, combined with incentive programs for teaching, can restore a “culture of excellence.” At the same time, questions have arisen  among higher education consultants and others over whether or not a university degree holds enough value for the money and time spent pursuing one.

At US universities, academic integrity gets undermined by other priorities. The flagship university of its state, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was found by a newspaper investigation to have created no work classes for student-athletes who played for revenue-producing men’s basketball and football squads. One of the most elite of American schools, Harvard University, was exposed last fall in the Washington Post for encouraging the assignment of unearned As for students who claimed they “worked really hard.” Incidentally, some of these came from major donor families. In both cases, students received a pass from academic assessment when connected to sources of nongovernment revenue.

Blaming International Students for Academic Integrity Issues is Not So Simple

Increased recruitment of international students, particularly from China, forms one convergence between the decline of academic integrity and the ever-present drive for more revenue. On one hand, increases in the Chinese student population bring in much-needed revenue for universities and even fuels national economic growth. Bringing in over $20 billion per year, it is the largest exporter of services and third largest economic sector.  Universities have grown increasingly dependent on tuition.  Monash University alone raked in $652 million from overseas students last year.

This creates an unhealthy dynamic where Australian, US, and other higher education services around the world increasingly rely upon tuition revenue from an expanding population of Chinese students who often arrive unprepared. Higher education consultants agree with one professor who claimed that “most of these students arrive here with not enough English to succeed and barely enough to pass.” In many cases, incoming students learn to manipulate and cheat regulation and higher education standards, such as English proficiency and basic college entrance exams.

While few have directly accused universities of callously stockpiling unprepared international students for revenue purposes, a powerful incentive exists to recruit and retain at the expense of academic integrity. Colleges and universities line up to accept tuition fees from such students but have not done more to ensure that these young people are not set up for an often crushing failure in a faraway land. According to the ICAC, “universities in NSW have come to depend financially on a cohort of students, many of whom are struggling to pass, but who the university cannot afford to fail.” These aspects of the issue should temper the rush to judge these young people as the worst of the bad actors in the cheating problem. The universities themselves must shoulder a share of the blame.

Pressures on Students in Higher Education

Unprepared students are not only coming from China. Australian students, while less likely to cheat, come from a secondary school system that has come under criticism and scrutiny in recent years. Both relative to the rest of the world and in absolute terms, Australian schools perform worse across the board than in the past.  This includes public, independent, and Roman Catholic schools. The average Australian 15-year-old today lags behind counterparts from 15-18 years ago in major subject areas.  The lag in skills development extends from seven months to over a year.

Students cheat for a variety of reasons. Chris Loschiavo, former Associate Dean of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution at the University of Florida in the US claims that students do a cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether or not to cheat. The analysis, according to Loschiavo, weighs the potential benefits of good grades and advancement to a good school against violating a societal moral code. Businesses and politicians do worse, so why follow the rules? Cheating more likely stems from more mundane causes. Some Australian universities have grown infamously lackadaisical on cheating. MP John Darley’s own investigation of the decline of academic integrity revealed that cheating brought almost no consequences in some universities.  “The basic finding was that a person could be found guilty of plagiarism and there was a warning given but worse than that, the person could be caught three times and nothing actually happens.” Any student doing a cost-benefit analysis on a simple risk versus reward basis could conclude that cheating benefits certainly outweighed the risk run. The breakdown of both regulation and academic standards at many universities encourages cheating with few or no consequences, even if caught.

Contractor Cheating Websites

Advertisements on contract cheater websites also indicate different motivations. One particularly well-publicized site portrays international students fearing deportation, servicemen, and women without time to finish schoolwork because of commitments, and, of course, the drunk party animals trying to avoid work at all costs. Additionally, a recent book examining the phenomenon in the US claimed that many high school students in recent years seemed honestly unaware that practices such as plagiarism and exam collaboration were cheating.

Australian universities face powerful pressures to emphasize retention at the expense of academic integrity. As the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption related almost three years ago, “academics can feel pressure to forsake their role in enforcing compliance with academic standards for the financial good of the faculty in the competitive environment of the international student market.” The NSW ICAC also reported that a retention at all costs could result in the university itself indirectly encouraging contract cheating,  saying “”With universities in NSW financially dependent on the success of international students, academics may be encouraged to admit students they would otherwise reject, to turn a blind eye to cheating and to mark the work of poor-performing students favourably to enable them to pass.” One NSW university had an international student office that resembled a sales staff more than student support, functioned very independently of administration, and resisted attempts at enforcement of accountability. Graduate programs also suffer from a deluge of unprepared students. An ICAC study revealed that they also face intense pressure. In one master’s program, administrators pressured an instructor with high numbers of international students to change his grading scale to reduce the percentage of failed students from 50 percent to 20 percent.  In another case, the university seized grade control from the instructor outright. Decline in academic integrity not only originates with cheating students but also with pound foolish administrators.  

The corruption actually starts before students even leave their home countries. Many universities utilize third-party agents that help aspiring students to find ways to cheat. They skirt regulation and academic standards on English language and college acceptance exams. This starts the pattern of cheating to get ahead or just get by once the students arrive on campus. Study International director James Craven told the makers of the documentary “Degrees of Deception”  that universities have better options when they run their own recruitment programs.  Craven said, “Going forward it’s critical that all universities do more to run their international marketing independently as oppose to using third party agents.  That’s the path to long-term, sustainable international recruitment for Australian institutions.”

Once on campus, students can find, according to the South China Morning Post that “a thriving black market which includes services to write essays, do the students’ homework, and take their exams. It seems you can now get a degree from an Ivy League school without ever leaving your house!”  Services provided to students is commonly called “contract cheating” and the illicit production of papers may be the most lucrative business of all. Paper writing services, commonly called “essay mills,” sell writing from compositions to dissertations. One service, the now-defunct MyMaster, netted $160,000 in sales to Australian students in 2015.

Academic Blackmarkets

Blaming the paper mills and other contract cheating operations is easy. After all, these are independent operators undermining the academic integrity of higher education services. Regulating them presents more of a challenge. In the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education recommended that Parliament pass legislation making it illegal to help students “commit acts of academic dishonesty for financial gain.”  Australia chose a different avenue of approach; the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards agency chose to focus on promoting “good practices” rather than legislating honesty. Judicial interpretations of the Constitution in the United States would most likely prevent state or federal legislative action against contract cheating in that country.

Regulation and enforcement, even in the UK, may well be impossible because of both the international nature of many contract cheaters and also the lack of violence and dangerous impact involved in the crime. Beyond that, the general wording of the UK law would net both people making thousands per month and also, in a hypothetical example, a dorm mate who helped write a paper for $20. Would perpetrators be sent to overcrowded jails?

Casual Work and Academic Cheating

University administrations often unknowingly employ the very same individuals who produce the illicit papers. Graduate students and part-time instructors often teach classes with the highest numbers of students, but for relatively low wages. Research assistants do not teach but still work long hours. Part-time instructors also often enjoy little or no job security, building incentives to make extra cash doing something that most of them know how to do well, write. Douglas Blackstock, chief executive of the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency claims that essay mills prey on both students and lower level academic staff and faculty.  Blackstock states, “These are hard-pressed research assistants or lecturers, topping up their earnings. Many companies claim they get genuine academics to write their material.”  Blackstock went on to explain that,  “To make their businesses viable, they need to attract people who know enough about the subject.”   Few essay mills are as blatant as in not only advertising that academics write papers, but also aiming at a market that, in part, markets to international students fearing failure and deportation. Reviews of one professor lauded his speed in returning work, calling him “dedicated to his craft.”

Universities and Academic Integrity Issues

Higher education consultants argue that the decline of academic integrity has ramifications that extend beyond the campus. Plagiarizing a history paper violates rules, ethics, and the moral code of most, but in other fields, the knowledge and skills not learned could be disastrous. Two years ago, for example, the University of Sydney medical school was rocked by multiple cheating scandals. Despite an alleged culture of conspiracy, some students expressed alarm at the magnitude of the academic dishonesty. An unidentified student said, “What’s being done by future doctors is wrong and needs to be stopped in a way that can only be brought about through public scrutiny.” Society has every reason to feel concern about medical, nursing, engineering, and other applied science practitioners who had to cheat to get through school. Just as important, studies by higher education consultants and others indicate that a positive correlation exists between academic dishonesty and same in the workplace later in life.

Universities in Australia, the UK, US, and elsewhere have a cheating issue, but that does not represent the core problem. The decline of academic standards in teaching coincides with the rise of revenue-producing priorities on campus. Some US schools divert resources and undercut academic integrity to promote and protect revenue-producing sports while others coddle the children of major donors. Many universities in Australia, along with the economy itself, have grown increasingly reliant on revenue brought by international students.

Some in the public education system blame market forces for a decreasing commitment to academic integrity while others try to steer most of the blame onto private higher education services as a whole. Competition for international students, especially those from China, has intensified, but this hardly represents a free market style dynamic. In the long run, the free market rewards a commitment to excellence and quality. The methods used to recruit and retain international students to many Australian schools more resemble the corner cutting and occasional corruption more often found in the public and political sectors. Private universities, conversely, are among those pioneering more effective ways to recruit prepared students.  Bond University, for example, uses digital marketing to avoid the use of corrupt agencies. It has led to greater success in finding students who have the knowledge and resources to come to Australia, succeed, and then return home with a degree of value.

The Gold Collar and Employment Prospects

The decline of academic integrity and standards caused by the desire to recruit and retain students from off-shore could have created an environment that could turn future students away. Chinese students and their families invest heavily in the hope that a degree from Australia, once called a “gold collar,” can automatically translate into a lucrative job at home. Failure stories, where students earning a degree in Australia fail to obtain a good job, are growing and are oft reported in Chinese social media. Not only do graduates not find good jobs, but the knowledge gained is considered “old-fashioned.” Chinese students report the same problems when returning from schools in the US and UK as well. In essence, Australian schools’ “brand” among Chinese students has declined. Universities no longer offer a prestige product that automatically impresses employers; oft-reported declines in academic integrity and standards likely contribute to the problem in reputation.

Regulation and Academic Integrity: Just a Band Aid?

Proposals for increased regulation and academic standards, such as outlawing essay mills and enforcing stricter punishments on students treat the symptoms without offering a cure. While cheating has existed as long as formal education, it has almost always represented a departure in universities pursuing and maintaining a noble tradition. As higher education continues to choose to compromise its mission in pursuit of increased headcount, athletic victories, or other motives, it will grow more difficult to maintain the culture of ethics and excellence that could help to thwart the prevalence of cheating in all forms.

Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction

Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction suggests there are certain mental conditions that must be present in order for student to absorb and retain knowledge. They are based on the internal and external cognitive functions required, to contribute to learning.

Internal factors are the learner’s prior knowledge. External factors are the outside stimuli such as the form of instruction.

1. Gain attention.

It is important to gain the attention of the learner immediately. Begin with an introduction that will get them curious and motivated about the topic. Some examples of this include stories that pull on the heartstrings, a question that surprises or shocks them, audio, animation or graphics.

2. Inform learners of the objectives/ direction.

Always state objectives so that your learners know WHY they need to actively participate in the learning. State them as if you were face to face with the learner and tie them into real-world applications and benefits. If learners know they will take something valuable away from this learning experience they are more likely to engage in the learning process.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.

Recalling and applying knowledge they have previously acquired gives online learners the chance to commit it to long-term memory, rather than forgetting it a second after they’ve read it.  It is important to let the learners know what skills or knowledge they will need to apply to the learning activity before it begins. You must also include how the subject matter is connected to information they already know.

4. Create goal-centred content.

Each activity, exercise, and piece content should tie in directly to the goals and objectives. In fact, it’s best to group information and concepts together based on the specific goal. For example, an online lesson or module should focus on one core objective, which allows the learner to master that topic before moving onto the next.

5. Provide online guidance.

Learners must have the coachingthey need to develop favourable online learning behaviours, or else they might be committing incorrect information to their long-term memory. A good example is a simulation. Whether a software sim or a soft skill branching sim, it should have sound instruction/directions and feedback for incorrect choices or answers.

6. Practice makes perfect.

Repetition is key to absorbing and retaining new knowledge and skills. The inclusion of opportunities for your learners to apply the knowledge they have acquired so far and try out behaviours that can help them in the real world is key. Offer thembranching scenariosand simulations that give them the chance to see where their decisions lead them, as well as the rewards and risks involved that come of their actions.

7. Provide feedback.

By giving your learners timely and constructive feedbackthey have the power to improve learning behaviours and identify their weaknesses and strengths. Offer personal feedback so that every learner knows which steps they must take in order to reach their goals.

8. Assess performance.

Assessing your learners not only gauges their progress, but also gives you the opportunity to identify weak spots in your learning strategy. For example, if a vast majority of your learners are struggling with one particular module, you may want to re-evaluate its content and activities. Thisalso offers you the ability to identify the knowledge gap; what they already know versus what they still need to learn in order to achieve objectives.

9. Enhance transfer of knowledge by tying it into real world situations and applications

Learners must always be aware of how they can apply what they have learned once they step out of the learning environment. As such, you should include real-world scenarios, stories, and other interactive learning activities that show them the applications of the information and skills they’ve worked so hard to develop.

Malcolm Knowles’ 6 Adult Learning Principles

Malcolm Knowles defined the term andragogy in the 1970s as ‘the art and science of helping adults learn.’

Knowles identified the six principles of adult learning:

1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed

Adult learners make choices relevant to their learning objectives. They also direct their learning goals with the guidance of their mentors. Students need to be given the freedom to assume responsibility for their own choices.

2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences

Educators encourage learners to connect past experiences with current knowledge and activities. Educators must know how to relate the sum of the learners experience to the current learning experiences.

3. Adults are goal oriented

Adult learners aim to acquire relevant and adequate knowledge and for this reason intended learning outcomes should be clearly identified. Once the learning goals have been identified, educators must align the learning activities such that these objectives are fulfilled within a certain period of time.

4. Adults are relevancy oriented

Adult learners benefit by relating the assigned tasks to their own learning goals. If it is clear that the activities they are engaged into, directly contribute to achieving their personal learning objectives, then they will be inspired and motivated to engage in projects and successfully complete them.

5. Adults are practical

It is very important for educators to identify appropriate ways and convert theoretical learning to practical activities. Work placement is a way for students to apply the theoretical concepts learned inside the classroom into real-life situations. Learning is assisted when appropriate ways of implementing theoretical knowledge in real life situations is made clear.

6. Adult learners like to be respected

Adult learners thrive in collaborative relationships with their educators. Learners become more productive when they’re considered by their instructors as colleagues. When their contributions are acknowledged, then they are willing to put out their best work.