Monday, September 21, 2009

Shared Concerns and Intention from Nelson Mandela University

I'm at Nelson Mandela Metro University at the South African Association for Institutional Research Conference. I get to do be here because spouse Rick gave the keynote today. The Vice Chancellor named some of our shared challenges like the economy and trying to be all things to all people.

Here is also what he so well- expressed: "We need to find ways to combine social responsibility with compassion and also with realism, ... we ultimately want to stand for social good."

The conference opened with a performance by the awesome university choir and numbers ranging from a British show tune to the Beatles to a tribal dance/song medley which won them an award at a recent competition in Vienna.

BTW, the conference theme is "closing the loop--evidence to practice," with the emphasis on practice that is truly change-making at practice level.

It only reinforces my want of the importance of instructional research and how all sides of the house need to come together to design research that will help instruction and student services --to have the design help gather data that can improve instruction.

George Subotsky (University of South Africa, UNISA) provided a top-rate retention-success presentation on Distance Learning Students.

UNISA is a mega DL university serving 280,000 learners. He is talking about the importance of gathering data about the Student Walk (the journey or path represented by all contacts a learner(has with the institution along the way, esp. in the first two years) as a way of becoming better at supporting and retaining students. Love the term Student Path. He additional spoke of the "non-cognitive and institutional factors [that] may impact retention."

Once again, so much to appreciate about what can be learned from this community of practice.

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