Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Merging Graphics - A proposed way forward

It is operationally essential that we merge the two sections of the department of Graphic Design across the two campuses.

Meanwhile we also have to consider the re-design of all our curricula to be in keeping with the Higher Education Qualifications Framework.

I Believe that this gives us a unique opportunity to be pro-active in how we design for the future of Design in Higher Education.

What is at stake here is much more than just "harmonising" what we are doing in Cape Town and Bellville. What we should do, is take a fresh look from the start at what it is that we are doing. Moreover we should do this completely independently from what we are doing now. We should start with an entirely fresh third-party perspective.

We should be approaching this process in two phases. Phase 1 will determine what we are going to teach and phase 2 will be about how we are going to teach it.

Phase 1

I recently attended a DACUM curriculum design workshop arranged by Fundani. Dacum is Canadian-developed process widely used by the vocational education sector to determine what it is that experts in a specific field actually do. Check out the Dacum Website to get more details.

What it boils down to is this: We get in an outside facilitator and we invite actual industry expert practitioners. The outside facilitator then actively debriefs the actual industry practitioners to determine the Key Performance Areas in which they work. Then they go on to populate the expertise required to function in those areas. The end product of a Dacum exercise is a Task Chart, that tells us exactly which tasks are done by expert workers, and to what level of competency they need to do this. Selected lecturers take part in a Dacum exercise, but only as observers. They sit at the back, and may communicate with the facilitator in writing. In this way the process remais objective, but on track. The purpose of the Dacum chart is for us to know exactly what industry expects of us. We therefore know what our third-year student should look like, and based on that, we can determine what we should be giving the first-year student.

Once we have the results of the Dacum, we as a unified department need to consider all the other variables. Here we ask questions such as

  1. What do other institutions offer internationally, nationally and locally?
  2. What are the uniqe shortcomings of our own incoming students that need to be worked on before we even get to the Dacum?
  3. What are the deeper core skills and values that we want to instill in our students that are not covered by the Dacum.

Once we have exhaustes those questions, we break the field down into its logical components, and specify specific learning outcomes, as well as critical cross-field outcomes.

Then we suggest content and exercises that may be required to reach those outcomes.

Only then do we go back to our original Cape Town and Bellville curricula, and then only to determine if there is anything that we left out. It is essential that, throughout the initial process we ignore and even actively reject our current curricula, otherwise they will interfere with the process of innovation. We know that we will re-visit them at the end, thus we must not allow them to cloud our thinking at the beginning.

The deliverable at the end of Phase 1 will be a Study Guide.

I envisage that Phase 1 will take the greater part of the second semester.

Phase 2

Once we know what we are going to teach, we need to decide how we are going to teach it.

Here is where we will then do an analysis of our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and finally take a look at the possibilities and constraints. The idea is to build on our collective strenghts, and to work our way around the constraints. Remember, at this stage we will have just one curriculum. Thus there will be no question of "Belville stuff" and "Cape Town" stuff. It will all be new stuff, and we then need to make the best match between what we need and what we have.

I am hoping that, by the end of the year, we will at least have an in-principle agreement upon what it is that we will be doing where. I know that there is a great deal of discomfort with some of you about "busing students between Cape Town and Belville" and "dealing with time table clashses". There is no need to concern ourselves with these questions at this stage, because we still have no idea what it is that we want to teach, or how we want to teach it. This it would be silly to worry about where we want to teach it.

I must tell you that I am very excited about what we are about to undertake. I must also say that I am very optimistic about the outcome. I trust in your professionalism and creativity, but also, it has been my experience that in this Faculty, if we give it time and space, things tend to fall into place almost automatically.


I am really concerned by the lack of response I get from my blog. It could be because you are shy to post here, or that you simply don't know how. So, feel free to contact me directly via Groupwise if you wish to discuss your concerns.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Feedback from the Dean - At the end of the first year!

So, this month marks the end of my first year at CPUT.

To this end I have written up a short history of the first year.

I put it here as a call for comment, particularly from staff in the Faculty.

I look forward to your responses.

Feedback from the Dean
On 22 August 2007 I made my first presentation to the Faculty of Informatics and Design. Firstly I shared the slideshow that I made during my appointment interview. That slideshow I consider as the promise I made to this University. Then I continued with a slideshow outlining how I planned to deliver upon that promise. After that we had lunch. My presentation was 90 minutes long, and there was no question time.
Sixteen April 2008 saw the first Faculty Board meeting since I have been here, and represented the first opportunity for the Faculty to ask questions. I spent 40 minutes updating the second half of the 22 August presentation, sharing what has happened since our first meeting. Then we broke for questions. Generally the feedback from the Faculty was positive. The most significant area for improvement for me was the provision of feedback. I agree wholeheartedly, and this document serves as my written response to the faculty request for feedback, and serves as a backup for those who were unable to attend the Faculty Board meeting. It will serve as the basis of discussion for my meeting with the Faculty on the Bellville and Cape Town campuses in July 2008.
The document will follow the outline of the slideshow of 22 August and 16 April 2008, but will probably be more detailed.
Professorial English 101
My sense of humor is based on irony and exaggeration. The result is that people sometimes get angry because they don’t realize that I am not all that serious. My training and experience as an academic has had the result that I have enormous respect for academic debate and academic freedom. I therefore tend to engage in the discourse of the traditional academic, which is sometimes misunderstood.
Always do X. Never NEVER, ever do Y EVER in your life ever…
When a professor makes an absolute statement he is clearly challenging a student to find an exception. If the student is then able to argue a case for the suspension of the always or the never, then a responsible academic would back down, and admit that there may well be merit. I must admit that I sometimes think I am in the minority here. Between my actual presentation to the Faculty and the writing of these words, I have actually had the occasion to remove a doctoral supervisor from a student, because it was clear that the supervisor was not prepared to give the student the benefit of the doubt. It is the student’s responsibility to formulate ideas and to learn from mistakes. If the supervisor advises certain actions just because it would make the supervisor’s live easier if all students were to think the same, then that is poor supervision.
It might just be a good idea to…
A sentence such as “It might just be a good idea to look at Chapter five” means “The whole test is about Chapter five”. A professor may not spoon feed. Therefore a professor hints. If the student is too stupid to catch the hint, then the student is not wise.

In the spirit of design, I will now proceed following the well-respected ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) model as a structure.
In the first seven months that I have been here, I have been able to do a little SWOT analysis of the Faculty. I will next discuss the obvious strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the Faculty.
The faculty has dedicated, long-suffering members who have been through troubled times, but have come out stronger, and have a fierce loyalty to the new institution. There is very little evidence of legacy fights still creating a divide. The staff are enthusiastic about their work, and in most instances do more than what is required of them – sometimes to their own detriment. There are very few senior staff which means that, in budgetary terms, we get away cheaply, but on the other hand we suffer in terms of academic leadership.
With the exception of one or two departments the students that we have are the best that we could select. The courses are generally oversubscribed, and we can actually pick the best that there are, within certain constraints. An extended first year allows us to accommodate those students who would not usually have qualified to enter some of our courses.
We are seriously over-resourced. Of course people will tend to disagree with me and say that we do not have nearly enough computers, workstations, machines, or even physical space, but in my walking around through the Faculty I have seen plenty of unused machines and plenty of unoccupied space. If you need extra space and machines, I can give you as much as you want – particularly on a Friday after 13:00.
The faculty benefits from a hugely diverse staff complement. This means that we need to be incredibly careful when we plan anything to accommodate every culture, belief, colour and size. It also means we have to think very carefully about everything we do. The diverse strength lies in the diversity of our academic offering that spans through all seven the design disciplines, and then also includes media and informatics. The connections that happen when IT speaks to Journalism, or when the Film Department speaks to Multimedia, or Surface design to Town and Regional planning make are amazing.
Ironically our diversity is also our biggest weakness. It is very difficult to move forward with any idea if it has to be filtered through so many cultures and academic disciplines. Something as simple as a year-end party becomes a logistical quagmire of cultural pitfalls. From the Dean’s perspective, of course, the very diverse nature of our offering makes the Faculty really hard to manage. There’s so much going on – it’s like herding cats.
Spread across two campuses
I thought the Faculty was spread across two Campuses, Cape Town and Bellville. Turns out I am wrong. In Bellville we are in at least four buildings, in two distinct sections of the campus. In Cape Town we are in four distinct locations on the Cape Town campus, then we have a section in Roeland Street, a section in the “e-learning” building and two sections in the Thomas Pattullo building on the Foreshore, and, oh, yes, the ICT Academy is in Wale Street. A little relief will happen when Interior Design moves to the Foreshore and the Fashion B.Tech move to Roeland Street. Oh, yes, and I forgot, I am in the Admin building – away from all academic activity save language. As soon as the roof in Roeland Street is repaired, I will move there so that I can be closer to the research hub that has been created there.
When I speak to staff they all call themselves “designers” be it Graphic, Interior, Fashion – whatever. They are designers. Yet, when I ask why I don’t see students grouped together in larger groups I get told “no, we’re different”. We will all have to sit down at some stage and re-design the curriculum so that we can group together that which makes us the same, and develop that which makes us different. Of course another main overlap lies in courses that are duplicated (all be it in slightly varied forms) on Cape Town and Bellville).
It can take more than eight months to get a new person appointed. If someone leaves, the rest of us simply have to absorb the load. The staff shortage is particularly critical with IT. We make good use of hourly part-time staff, but part timers do not do research, and do not take kindly to extra administrative work. Once again, though, I really believe that in many ways we are not so much understaffed as we are poorly deployed. If we sort out many of the duplications that are still occurring
Lack of research confidence & experience
I have seen any number of really excellent B.Tech essays that lie unpublished. All it would take is for someone to beef up the literature review, and do a more careful analysis of the findings and there will be a publication. There is still a mindset that research is something that we do “at the expense” of our teaching. Research is built into what we do – we just tend to ignore it. The result is that piles and piles of knowledge leaves our institution every year, safely tucked away between the ears of our departing students. We need to get this information published in recognized journals so that we can claim the intellectual ownership of the University – as we are entitled to do.
Perceived “Cinderella” faculty
There seems to be a sort of perception with some staff that this faculty was assembled of what remained when the other faculties took what they wanted. We are the “leftovers”. This perception is emphasized by the fact that the two large faculties have to move fist in terms of consolidation across the two large campuses. That means, that, in order for Engineering and Management to consolidate, Architecture has to be moved. So, we are moved away, so that others can be moved in. Furthermore, the institutional consolidation plan shows fairly detailed plans for the consolidation of all the other faculties, while it points out that, right at the end of the consolidation process, Informatics and Design will be mostly in Cape Town with some presence in Bellville. Of course, on the other hand the possibilities that our diffuse presence has should be recognized. We can spread like a virus and benefit from our proximity to our neighbouring faculties.
Co-operation with industry – THRIPP
For many years technikons benefited from close ties with industry. In the past fifteen years or so that relationship has gradually been eroded. The shift from technikons to universities of technology has led to a further weakening of the bond. We still produce work-ready students for the market out there, but we get very little support from that very same market. Admittedly a number of departments have shown me that they have very close relationships with industry – but on closer inspection I find that the relationship is pretty much one in which industry are the chickens that contribute the eggs, while we area the pigs who sacrifice ourselves for the bacon.
I want us to move into a much more collaborative situation where industry plays a role all the way from recruiting students at school level, through to employing and sponsoring them while at university, to providing the research bases for the masters and doctoral studies. In the spirit of universities of technology it should really be quite difficult to separate out the research from the practice.
The main point is this. If industry asks us to help them in solving a certain problem, and if they are prepared to pay for the work that we do, then it is possible for us to apply for additional research funding through mechanisms such as THRIPP, to ensure that we have adequate resources to develop our research capacity even further.
International research cooperation: Finland, Holland, Sweden, Germany
We have really good co-operation with Kuopio University in Finland. I have strong links with the University of Joensuu. Interestingly enough those two institutions have now merged to form the University of Eastern Finland. We are thus now able to pool our resources in this partnership. The very beneficial relationship between the Malmö University of Sweden and the department of Industrial Design has just been renewed for a second term and the benefits of this cooperation are getting very clear. I hope that we can strengthen that even further with the formation of a much closer partnership between Industrial Design and Information Technology – particularly at the B.Tech level.
Journalism continues to benefit from its close cooperation with Algonquin university in Canada, while Graphic design have a mutually beneficial relationship with the London College of Communication. I am hoping for interesting developments between Photography and the Multimedia college of Rotterdam, but I have not seen much happening on that front.
We have to remember that Cape Town is a prime tourist destination and we have much to offer by way of draw-cards!
Coordinated Masters’ and Doctoral programmes
The establishment of a coordinated post graduate research programme across the Faculty was my most important priority when I arrived here. That is why I jumped right in to make it happen from February 2008. We advertised the programme in September 2007 and on our first evening had a turnout of more than 60 post graduate students and supervisors. We meet every Thursday from 16:00 to 20:00, discussing issues of interest to masters and doctoral students alike, and ensuring in some way or another that student progress is channeled efficiently, and that we stick to institutional deadlines.
Feedback is enormously positive. Nevertheless, the process is still in its infancy and we tend to have quite a few programme changes. We are also still in the process of figuring out a balance between design and IT in terms of our guest speakers. Nevertheless, what is emerging from the evening programme is a strong discourse among scholars and I can already see the intellectual and academic growth of the students after a mere three months. Class attendance on Thursday evenings have averaged on about 50 students and supervisors.
Establishment of a community of scholars
The evening programme is the basis for the community of scholars, but this has also been augmented by the formation of a group called “Sting” which consists of staff doing doctoral studies. We are in the process of re-working the top floor of the Roeland street building to make that the official seat of research in the Faculty and by the middle of the year the results should be visible.
Cherry-picking by private providers
There are a few really good private institutions who compete with us for students. Then there are any number of highly questionable characters who provide a really poor education at a really high price. These shady operators use the glamour of their profession to steal away our potentially best students, while robbing their parents of vast amounts of money. Then, when the parents realize what has happened, they send their children to us anyway – or they simply abandon the education of their offspring. We need to counter this by a much more aggressive marketing campaign so that we can reach our target population directly and get the best students who deserve to study with us.
Industry don’t know what we do
I am constantly amazed at how completely unknown we are to industry. The merger has robbed us of the two very strong identities of CapeTech and Pentech, while the unfortunate choice of acronym for our new name has led to our being called KAPUT. If there is one thing that we must do as individuals then it is to engage in a furious struggle against the negative perceptions that go with our name. I have called for a marketing campaign to rectify the situation, but thus far nothing has happened. As individuals we need to correct every person we find who talks about C-put or KAPUT, and explain that we want to be called C.P.U.T. I have asked for a “jingle” to be composed so that we could use it in radio commercials or have it made as a ring tone on our phones.
Industry don’t know what we are worth
We seem to be so desperate to have ties with industry that we allow our students to work for them for free – or for a little bit of pocket money. We thus provide a free or cheap service – which means that industry believes we are cheap. Now, of course, in a world of supply and demand, and in a world in which we do not have much of a brand or a reputation, it is essential that we engage with our industry much more aggressively. To that end I have started working on the concept of “Design Breakfasts” where we invite key figures from industry to address us, and we invite key role players to attend the breakfast. In this way we will soon create a brand for ourselves and develop much stronger links into the industry.


There are as many definitions of the word “Design” as there are people working in the industry. Everybody claims to know exactly what it is, and nobody is able to give the ultimate definition.
Figure 1 The Rietveld chairI am not going to hazard a definition here, but for the purpose of my argument here I will concentrate on two aspects inherent to design that are most vividly shown in Gerard Rietveld’s famous Red Blue and Yellow chair (Figure 1). Those two aspects are firstly to remove anything that is unnecessary, and secondly to emphasize that which is unique. I must admit that personally I think Rietveld’s chair is quite ugly, and even Rietveld himself admits to not liking the chair as the bottom cross beam hurts your ankles when you get up. Nevertheless it goes well to illustrate my point of removing redundancies and emphasizing uniqueness. I believe that the first and most important step in the design process is to reach absolute clarity on the goal of the design. If you don’t know why you do something, it is hard to figure out how to do it.
The goal is “To grow research capacity”
Let me make this clear from the start. I was appointed by this institution to grow research capacity in this Faculty. That is my one main goal. I have other tasks – all connected to running a Faculty well. But I have only one goal – and that is to grow research capacity. In understanding the design process it is useful to work from some theoretical background. The process theory that appeals to me most is Ely Goldratt’s (1984) Theory of constraints. The theory can be explained in six steps that are executed once you have clarified the goal:
Identify the constraint
Decide how to exploit the constraint
Subordinate all other processes to the above decision
Elevate the constraint
If the constraint moves as a result, go to step 1
Don’t let inertia become the constraint (Goldratt, 1984)
Let me admit up front that I fully realize that given this very clear, but single-minded goal, my design may well appear “ugly” to some of you – just as Rietveld’s chair is ugly to me. But I make no apology for that. It is inherent to the system and a matter of taste. The fashion, at the moment, demands research, and as designers we cannot ignore fashion – we should lead it. And the direction into which we should lead it, is the direction of design research – which is an integration of the design process and the research process, so that research becomes design, and design becomes research.

Constraints identified:
There two constraints in our system and they are time and space. We teach too much and our rooms are too small, so that we do not have enough room for larger classes to be able to do batch processing. So, actually, the space constraint is a subset of the time constraint.
In determining ways to exploit the constraint we therefore have to ask one question which is: “How do we make time for research?”
How to exploit the constraint
Now here’s where the system works so well. In order to make time for research we have to re-visit everything we do (including research itself). Now you will notice that I am not saying we must put less emphasis on what we do already. Neither do I say that what we are doing already is not important. What I am saying is that we need to improve the efficiency of what we are already doing, in order to get through those processes more easily – thus saving time. The things that we need to do better are administration, teaching, supervision, research and community service – the five key activities of a university.
There are a number of things that waste our time. The most important ones are
1. Waiting for others to do their stuff so that we can get around to doing ours
2. Doing things too slowly because we don’t know how to do them, or we simply do not have the talent or ability to do those kinds of things quickly
3. Doing things over again because we did not do them properly in the first place
4. Doing the same thing again and again because we do not have a machine that automates the process

So, let us consider the time wasting constraints in our various activities, and ways in which to elevate them.
I have found the faculty to be particularly prone to “crisis management” and I marvel at the number of times that Jenny Penfold has to ask for simple, routine, everyday returns of information. On the other hand at University level the merger has resulted in a lack of clear, uniform processes by which we do things.
Advance planning
How many times do we say to our students “But you knew at the beginning of the term already that you had to hand this in today…”? And how many times do we ignore that statement when we do not meet our own deadlines. We queue for a photocopier to run off 30 copies of work quickly for a class – when we knew at the beginning of the year already that they would need that page on that day.
Streamlined processes
The University processes are notoriously slow. Policies are still under development, which means that the processes underpinning those policies have not been clarified. Never has this been as clear as in the recent process of Ad hominem promotions, and I have to apologize personally to the numerous members of staff who were hurt in various stages as the process broke down. The up-side of this, though, is that we actually did run the process for the first time and, had we waited until the process was smoothed out completely, we would not have had a round of promotions this year, and we would still have had a number of errors next year. This way at least we were able to learn from our mistakes.
To elevate our administrative constraints we need to accept the fact that the University does not have everything in place yet – and that therefore it is our responsibility to create backups and emergency plans that will kick in whenever anything goes wrong. To this end we will look to our assistants, our class captains and the newly-appointed Faculty Manager.
It is my firm belief that lecturers are asked to do too much non-lecturing work. Lecturers who deserve help – because they are productive – should be afforded all assistance they need. This includes assistance with photocopying, typing, proof reading, adding up of marks, processing of attendance registers, in fact, everything that does not amount to teaching, learning and research. But then the lecturers have to manage the process themselves. We can only assist when we are told what assistance to give, and why.
Class captains
I have been engaged in a number of discussions with the Students Representative Council (SRC) about their responsibilities towards their constituency. What concerns me is that the SRC only come to see me when they represent a student who underachieves, or when they have run out of money.
I believe that there should be a much clearer line of representation for students. Each class should have a class captain. The class captain should report to the lecturer, the HOD and the SRC representative. The class captain should have a clear job description that includes taking roll call, circulating lecturer evaluation forms, reminding students of deadlines, and identifying students who are at risk of failing for reasons other than their grades. The SRC representative should attend every Faculty management meeting.
Faculty manager
Our organization suffers from “middle-age spread” in terms of administration. What I mean here is that too many people have been promoted (or have promoted themselves) into positions where they “manage” administrative work, rather than to do it. The delegation chain has developed to the extent that assistants have assistants. A further problem is that our administrative work is greatly seasonal and cyclic. What I mean is that at the beginning of the year there is an enormous administrative load when thousands of students come to register. Then nothing happens for about two months until there is the flurry of mark returns. I have asked our admin staff, under the supervision of the newly appointed Faculty Manager to come up with a clear strategy of taking up the load.
Diana Laurillard (Laurillard, 1994) former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the UK Open University, in her ground-breaking work Rethinking university teaching bases her whole book on the premise that lecturers are responsible for student learning, and that students are responsible for making the most of the opportunities provided by lecturers. I am an unwavering supporter of this statement.
Lecturers are responsible for student learning.
Let me explain this from the other end. If a student fails an assessment, then there is only one reason for it. The student was not properly prepared. If a student is not properly prepared, then there are two reasons for it. Either the lecturer did not prepare the student, or the student did not prepare him/herself. If the student did not prepare him/herself, then there are two reasons. Either the student has personal problems, or the lecturer did not motivate the student properly. The problem of student failure can be seen in Figure 2.

Student fails
Lecturer did not prepare student
Student did not prepare self
3. Lecturer did not motivate or support student
4. Student has personal problems
Figure 2 Problem-solving diagram for student failure
From figure two it can be seen that the lecturer carries a three out of four position responsibility for student failure. Now, before you get started on “this is a university, not a high school” let me point out that the logic of the above diagram holds for whatever training institution we are talking about – all the way from grade 1 through to doctoral level. It is just the degree and level of preparation that differs. And before you fall into a deep sulk about this fact, let me remind you that our salaries come directly from the subsidy generated by students who pass. Student fees pay for the facilities and running expenses of the university. However, I am not saying that we must simply pass students so that we get salaries. I am saying that we must remember where our money comes from.
Now, while we are on problem-solving diagrams. If the lecturer did not prepare the student properly, then there are four reasons for that: no knowledge, no need, no help, and no time. Given that the lecturers are appointed specifically for their knowledge, and given that they need to (or want to) teach, the chances are that the problem will come in with help, and time – which takes us back to administrative support, and improved methodology. Nevertheless, knowledge also includes knowledge regarding most recent developments in the field, and of course knowledge of the systems and processes of the university. To this end I have asked for a one-day training workshop to be presented to familiarize staff with all the policies and procedures of the University. I have had comment from staff that they have been to policy workshops before, that the University does not run by its own policy and that therefore they will not go to one again. This would be sad. The University has been developing a whole lot of new policies that have gone through almost unchallenged. This is because staff do not know or read these policies, and do not realize their implications. I hope to empower staff by getting them to receive training from the very people who wrote the policies. At the same time those of us who attend the policy workshops may decide how we as a Faculty plan to implement these policies, and how we plan to interpret the vaguenesses.
Students are responsible for making the most of the opportunities provided by the lecturers.
Here again we need to ensure that students know their responsibilities, and take those responsibilities seriously – which is why I want to make items such as roll-call and progress-monitoring the responsibility of the students themselves. Furthermore we need to make the best use of the tools and techniques available to us. We need to improve what we are doing.
What is happening at the moment is that we give students a whole lot of responsibility, but we do not have systems in place to ensure that the students take up that responsibility. Then the students default on their responsibilities, but it becomes our problem. An example: student attends hardly any classes, submits assignments late or not at all, obtains extension from lecturer on humane grounds (without doctors’ certificate or anything else). Student fails first year – but only just – and is allowed to re-do first year. Student shows very little improvement in next first year, but eventually passes. Now student arrives in second year – performs poorly, submits late, always has excuses, and lecturers accommodate where possible. However, student fails second year – outright. Student asks to repeat second year. We allow that. Halfway through second attempt at second year student disappears. A year later student wants to enroll for third year. Student claims that she has been poorly treated for years now. Lecturers were mean to her, which is why she failed first year. Lecturers were still mean to her in the second attempt, but she passed despite their attempts to hijack her career. Then, when she came to second year lecturers failed her again. When she re-did second year she discovered that lecturers had not changed their attitudes, and thus went away. Now, she believes that, if we combined both her attempts at the second year it should allow her to enter into third year. Lecturers refuse. Head of Department refuses. Dean refuses. Student appeals to SRC and Top Management. Their argument is: A student who has worked so hard, and suffered for so long, deserves another chance.
Now the Dean is angry. His staff is being abused. Dean wants to defend his staff and terminate student. Dean asks for evidence that the student has defaulted. Staff cannot produce any roll call lists. Staff cannot produce any evidence of meetings with student in which they discussed her performance. Staff cannot produce witnesses to defend themselves against student claims that they were rude to her. Thus, Dean cannot defend staff against student, and student is back, taking up valuable space that could have been taken up by other, more deserving students.
We present countless opportunities for students to learn, but we do so from the traditional teacher-centered perspective. We believe we do so because we are good people and we do so expecting nothing other than that the student should respect us for what we do, and cooperate with us for who we are. Learner centered education does not work this way. Learner centered education means that it is the responsibility of the learner actively to seek out learning experiences. But that means that the lecturer has to spend a whole lot of time collecting evidence whether the student is, or is not, doing that.
There is a simple heuristic for this sort of thing. If class attendance is optional, then roll call must be compulsory. Why do I say this? If class attendance is compulsory, then, after three spot checks show that a student was absent, the student can be disciplined. If attendance is optional and a student claims not to have received sufficient help from a lecturer, then the register is the lecturer’s only defense.
The faculty has a critical shortage of experienced supervisors of masters and doctoral students. I plan to address this need by a system of supporting and training supervisors, and by appointing doctoral students as co-supervisors to masters’ students, and masters’ students as co-supervisors to B.Tech students. The reason for this is that there is nothing that helps you recognize your own shortcomings as a writer than having to read someone else’s writing.
Moreover the system will assist with the building of a community of scholars.
A community of scholars
On Thursday evening 21 February we launched the Thursday evening Post-Graduate research programme. The main purpose of the evening programme is the creation of a community of scholars. The idea is that students and supervisors meet once a week, on a Thursday evening to discuss matters of mutual importance. Thanks to the system of cascading supervision, many staff who are doctoral students, are actually also supervisors of Masters’ students anyway and thus when they attend the Thursday evening workshops they do two things at once. As the evening programme is progressing we are learning the words of research, we are entering into discourse, and we are discovering what exactly is meant by research at universities of technology.
The community of scholars is further augmented by a group who call themselves “Sting” – a spontaneous grouping of Doctoral students in the Facutly.
I have had complaints that not all staff are able to attend Thursday evenings. However, a show of hands on the first evening showed that graduate students who are not full-time staff can’t come in daytime. So we have had to stick with Thursday evenings. Nevertheless, in keeping with what I said previously attendance is voluntary – which, of course, holds that roll-call is compulsory. We have an average attendance of 50 people of an evening.
Graduate committee (Subset of research committee)
This committee, now loosely consisting of Proff Pieter van Brakel, Vesper Owei, Shaun Pather, as well as Retha de La Harpe, Corrie Uys and Amelia Smith are the drivers behind the evening programme. Prof Owei is the co-ordinator of the evening programme, Prof Van Brakel is the Faculty research support coordinator.
Research has become a key driver in the Faculty. I put research promotion as my key driver when I got here. A number of initiatives are beginning to bear fruit. The Faculty research committee has benefited greatly from the incorporation into the Faculty of the E-IA.
Establishment of a research development unit
Retha de La Harpe and Johann van der Merwe have been doing excellent work stimulating research in the Faculty. Their efforts have now been strongly supported by the incorporation of the E-IA into the Faculty. Their key activity in 2008 has been to arrange a highly successful research day, which was well attended in spite of the fact that the higway was closed on account of an accident.
One-stop research stop
A very recent addition to the Faculty is Dr Helene Coetzee. She has been tasked to help staff, who spend most of their time teaching, to change their conference papers into journal articles. She has been appointed in a post-doc position in the Faculty and I hope to see about one publication per week once her shop starts working.
Research professor
At this stage this position is vacant, although Prof Pieter van Brakel is keeping the door open.
Research editor
Dr Maurice Dassah has been assisting staff in the final draft of their work. In the course of the year, I hope to have this function formalized.
Research teams
Lecturers from various design disciplines have started working closely towards developing a common platform for the B.Tech students’ research proposals.
There is also increasing cooperation between the IT-related disciplines and the design disciplines.
Research networks
We have a strong network with the Finns. I am hoping that the relationship with the Canadians and the British will also grow towards being research networks rather than teaching networks only.
Community service
The Faculty is constantly approached by people wanting to work with us. After some discussion, however, it often becomes clear that people want us to work for nothing. It needs to become clear that community service does not mean charity.
Community service needs to be in support of the mainstream academic processes. It should make use of excess capacity and be integrated with our current research.
Community service should also be an opportunity for us to find external sponsorship, and as a recruitment tool.
One vehicle to integrate community service, using excess capacity and contributing towards research, while remaining in our mainstream activity, is the Winter School.
Janet van Graan and her team have put together a number of short courses whereby staff will use their own excess capacity (i.e. recess time) to present some of their mainstream knowledge to the community on a cost-recovery basis. In this way we are automatically doing market research and we are in a position to recruit talented students.

Development: Putting it all together
In the following section I will consider some plans that I have for the Faculty, and then suggest some plans that you should make for yourself.
Plans for the Faculty, plans for you
Save time by reducing overlaps
From the Faculty strategic planning documents I notice that everybody is worried about the “silo effect” where we all work in isolation, often doing the same stuff. One of the main reasons for this lies with the Technikon approach of vocational specialization. This means that every department is attached to a specific job outcome. Thus we have a department making fashion designers, a department making graphic designers, a department making industrial designers, etc. Within those departments the individual skills are often duplicated, and often superficially. What I mean is this. Regardless of whether we are producing a graphic, fashion, jewelry, interior or architectural designer, they have to learn how to make sketches, they have to learn how to write reports, they have to learn about colour, shade, perspective, line, photography, computers and so on.
We tend to have all those generic items taught by individual (often part time) lecturers on a per-department basis.
The result is that we have lots of small groups taught and no standardization occurs in the Faculty. I need us to tighten this up so that these sub-skills of all the vocations can become areas of expertise. If we do this, then we save preparation time, teaching time and research time.
A first step towards doing this would be to create groups with common interest.
Four special interest groups
At the moment the Faculty is arranged in 12 departments, with a number of other units that all report to the Dean – 20 in all. This is untenable. The large structure means that the academic offering is fragmented (see above) and also that individual heads of departments or sections have relatively little power and very small constituencies. I need to empower sections by making them larger. The additional benefit of this will be that information flows more quickly to relevant sections.
The Faculty is beginning to group itself naturally into four units, ICT design, Environmental design, Media design, and Environmental design.
ICT design
At this stage ICT design is the largest single section in the Faculty. However, this in itself is leading to problems, and it would seem that, given some further growth it could be divided into three.
Environmental design
Merger-related needs in the University have led to three sections being moved into the Thomas Pattullo building on the Foreshore. These departments are Town and Regional Planning, Architecture and Interior design. Already there are some interesting cooperative developments under way – at this stage mainly in terms of collective bargaining, but I should hope that it will soon develop into team teaching, particularly in the shared “service” subjects such as history, ICT and business studies.
Media design
The departments of Journalism, Film & Video, and Photography have much in common in what they do. I have been approached by another Faculty suggesting that one of their departments should also join us. This could be exciting. The strongest point of commonality in these departments lies in the field of the documentary, and I believe we are very well positioned to exploit this considerably.
Artifact design
I see Graphic design as the foundation of the design disciplines. It is where it all started – drawing things. Then, if you draw things on other things, you move to surface design, if you start bending and folding it, you can wear it as fashion or jewelry, or you can use it – as an industrial artifact. When I walk through the design building I keep on seeing projects produced by students on the various floors, and saying to myself – they’re all doing the same things – but in different accents. There is much room for streamlining and strengthening here.
Developing a strong central core
We have an amazing group of people who work in the extended programme. In this section they teach across all disciplines and allow students to specialize in the field that is best for them. In this way they can demonstrably improve throughput rates. My biggest problem is that their services are limited to approximately eight students per section. Only 50 students per year may benefit from this service. That is a pity. We need to find a way in which just about all students receive some foundational work.
We also have a well-functioning “History” department, whose name, I think, is wrong, and a Language coordinator. At this stage, however, all these sections function as “add on” features, rather than a central core upon which the faculty is built.
What we need here is an industry audit by so that we can find out very clearly what it is that our students will be doing out there. When I walk in our passages I hear everyone calling themselves “designers”, but none of them can really tell me what that means.
We need to develop a central theme of design based upon our commonalities. I am not calling for a common first year – as has been done in the past. I am calling for common modules to be presented to all students of a specific cluster – throughout their tenure with us.
What I have in mind is a model that resembles the “farm schools” of which we had so many in the country. In such a school there are learners from various school years, studying various subjects, all in the same room, with the teacher facilitating learning, and concentrating on motivating the learners to achieve outcomes through guided self-study.
An example. Instead of teaching “History of Architecture”, “History of Interior design”, “History of Fashion”, “History of Industrial design” etc. I could quite comfortably put all the students in one group, and give the following brief: “Consider the period between the first and second world wars and a few years thereafter. Investigate the period in terms of economic factors, technological development, and ideological perspectives. Then go to the items produced in your discipline and show how the spirit of those times is reflected in them.” Then I would put students from the various disciplines in groups and ask them to find the similarities in the work, and also the differences across various countries. In this simple example the lecturer presents the problem, and the students customize that problem for their own particular field.

So, then we have to see how we go about implementing this plan. We will take a look at your job, and then at my job.
Your job
According to McGregor’s “Theory X and Theory Y” managers believe one of two things. Either that their workers are lazy, incompetent and potentially corrupt, or that their workers are hard-working, competent and basically good. I subscribe very strongly to the second view. I have much reason to believe that by far the majority of you are here because you want to be here, and that you enjoy your work mainly because you are so good at it. The Technikon tradition into which you came, has ensured that you are expert practitioners with a passion for the field. I am therefore not going to concentrate on that which you already do well. Instead I am going to urge you to develop your own careers so that you can play on the International stage and participate in the world-wide phenomenon of the development of Universities of Technology.
What you need to do, is a personal audit. What is it that you do better than anyone else you know. Then ask yourself – why am I so good at this – what do I understand that other people do not. THAT is your research question. Then, develop a passion for improving that skill. Ask yourself, “what are the key issues and debates in this field?” and take a stand regarding those debates. What is your perspective, with what do you agree, to what knowledge can you add your own experience? And better still, with what do you disagree? What are the “common wisdoms” that you have proved incorrect, that form the key to your success – in short, what do you do differently, that makes you the best in your immediate circle. THEN go out and find other people who think and do like you do. Find a mentor and a research partner. Develop a passion for research that feeds directly into your passion, so that your expertise becomes nationally, and then internationally recognized. Then register your CV online with the NRF, and start populating it whenever you have achieved another milestone.
Let me make it clear again. We are a University. It is not good enough for us simply to pass on knowledge. We have to create knowledge, and in an academic field, nothing has happened until it has been published.
I am not saying you need to do research and publications instead of, or at the expense of your teaching, but in support of it.
So, how does one go about making research time? Firstly by ensuring you use the resources already available to you. Do you have a partnership agreement with other lecturers? Is there someone who can share your teaching? Have you timetabled your life in such a way that you can take unbroken time to reflect upon what you are doing, and write it down?
Have you put all your courses on WebCT so that students can access it online without having to interrupt you? Have you scheduled a research day for yourself? Are you making use of your recess?
Use your recess:
I find that people still refer to the time between terms, when there are no students, as holidays. This is a problem. These times are called recess. There are three things that you can do with your recess. You can Lie in the sun and tan, do private consulting or do research and publish. In each of these cases the result of your effort will begin with a C. If you lie in the sun and tan, the result will be Cancer. If you do consulting, the result will be Cash. If you do research and publish, the result will be a Career. You must decide.
My job
My job is to create an environment in which you can do your job. Thus, I work for you.
What I hope to do
In my opening talk, I undertook to do the following things.
· Create stronger HOD positions to bring decision-making power closer to you.
· Develop admin processes and policies in association with the new Faculty Manager.
· Create a winter school to allow you to make your own research money.
· Stimulate industry partnerships.
· Develop international partnerships and invite international visiting scholars and adjunct professors.
· Create opportunities for you to be trained – if you don’t train them, you can’t blame them.
· Develop an incentive system – tangible and intangible.
· Increase transparency.
· Focus our energy to create a community of scholars.

Having come to the end of my first year here, I need to look at which of these I have managed.
I have not yet been able to re-structure the faculty to create stronger HOD positions.
I have asked Jameson Cona, the new Faculty Manager, to develop a strong administrative system whereby lecturing staff are freed from much of the grind involved in day-to-day provision of information which we already have on the system.
I believe that the most important single event in terms of getting our administrative functions up to speed had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the Quality Assurance effort that is being put in place by the University in terms of our Institutional Audit by the Heigher Educaiton Quality Audit. Here Colin Daniels is taking the lead to ensure that what we do is built upon all the quality criteria to which the institution should adhere.
I have asked a team led by Janet van Graan to arrange a winter school. We currently have fourteen courses registered. Ironically only six permanent staff are involved. The rest are on contract, or on hourly appointments. I don’t know how successful this year’s event will be, since it is our first attempt, but I see it as a learning exercise, rather than a money-spinner. What we learn this year will enable us to develop a better one next time.
We have a number of strong links with friends in the industry, but I feel that they are not coming to the party. I keep on getting the idea that they are benefiting more out of the relationship than we are. Yes, they give work to our students, but they are benefiting from cheap labour – and we get nothing in return. I have not really established any strong links yet, but I am in discussions with a number of people who are interested in joint ventures.
In terms of visiting academics from overseas, I have invited Proff Piet Kommers and Erkki Sutinen, while a number of you have also invited quite a number of visiting academics from universities in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Canada. We have signed international agreements with universities in Sudan and Ethiopia, and renewed agreements with Malmö and Algonquin.
I ran a number of paper-writing workshops. Dr Maurice Dassah ran an extended article writing workshop. The Research Committee presented a research day and Prof Kobus Maree of UP presented an inspirational talk. We have a Thursday evening Post Graduate Research support programme and we have a group of our own staff who are working on their Doctorates supporting one another.
The University has engaged in a system of Ad-hominem promotions. A number of staff have had their efforts realized. Unfortunately it would seem that the damage done to the morale of staff who were not promoted, outweighs the joy of the staff who were. I will have to find better ways of motivating staff.
I have tried to make very clear what it is that I want to do in the Faculty. I have no hidden agendas. I am trying to find more informal opportunities for people to engage in discussion with me about issues concerning their careers, their aspirations, and those of the Faculty. To do this I have invited some departments to lunch at my home. We had a tremendous sushi-making afternoon under the tutelage of Jay Barnes. Roux Rossouw will be training Faculty management And I am open to suggestions of other ways of getting information to flow better. Roux Rossouw will be training the HODs in the use of groupware and social software so that we can disseminate information and do collaborative work more efficiently that through our usual two meetings per month.
The Thursday evening programme has been my single biggest attempt at creating a community of scholars. I find people’s attendance of this event encouraging, given that it is not compulsory, and given that there is an average attendance of about 40 people, half of whom are staff.
And finally
I did not come here with any career ambitions. One night I went to bed as a full professor and supervisor of Masters and Doctoral students. The next morning I woke up as the Dean of a Faculty in another city. I saw it as a privilege and a pleasure. I keep on being amazed at the energy and professionalism with which I am surrounded, and I realize that the most important thing that I have to do is to focus that. All I need to do, is work on your careers, then MY Faculty will look good. It is an automatic win-win situation. I know that there are some people who are suspicious, some people who think I am naïve, and some people who think that things are going really well and “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”. Some people think that I want to move too fast, and am pushing too hard. Others think I am moving too slowly.
I believe that in one’s first year you should do very little else than learn the job, and to see what works and what does not, before ripping everything apart.
I have tried to follow an approach of not tampering unnecessarily with what we are already doing, but to concentrate heavily upon what we were not doing – research.
I believe that, with the incorporation of the E-IA, with the move of the B.Tech fashion to 80 Roeland Street, with the strengthening of your research efforts through the efforts of Dr Maurice Dassah, and with the arrival of Dr Helene Coetzee, post-doc specializing in bringing your articles to the press, I have, for the time being, done enough in one year to get the research effort running.
For my second year I plan to move my focus to what you feel is the most important, our teaching and learning. I have been accused of neglecting teaching – of even scoffing at it as if it is not important. Although, in fairness to the accusers, they do realize that I am deliberately erring on the side of research.
Nevertheless, let me state this clearly. I believe that our first business is teaching. Thus we need to take a careful look at how and what we are teaching. I believe that this is essential, particularly in the light of the new Higher Education Qualifications Framework. We need to redesign all our curricula anyway. We might as well get it right from the beginning, and use the effort to ensure that we streamline our activities and emerge as a strong, focused faculty. So, the second half of 2008 and the first semester of 2009 will be the year of teaching, learning and curriculum development.

Finally I said that I wanted to…
Have enormous fun!
There’s no point in working if you don’t enjoy it. I can only enjoy my work if you enjoy yours – otherwise you will make my days miserable with your complaints.
I am happy to say that every morning I drive to work with a song in my heart. And every evening I go home with the joy of an excellent day – and that’s not just because in the morning I see the sun rise on the mountain, and in the evening I drive through the obscene luxury of Newlands Forrest.
I am enjoying my work because YOU are making it enjoyable.
Goldratt, E.M., & Cox, J. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. North River Press, Great Barrington, MA.
Laurillard, D. (1993) Rethinking University Teaching: A framework for the effective use of educational technology. London: Routledge.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What open source software do you use and why?

Hi all
I am sitting in a meeting about open source software for academics.
So I was wondering...
What open source software do you use and why?
Please post a follow-up