Thursday, 5 February 2009

Your personal fitness lecturer

I came across a reference to a book by Randy Pausch, an academic who before dying of cancer wrote a book called 'The Last Lecture', and I found an excerpt on the web ( which I thought was very interesting:

When looking at the 'business model' of Higher Education we shouldn't look at Retail. Students coming to us as customers, paying good money, and getting goods for it (a degree). Instead, it's the Athletic Club metaphor: Students come to University, and for a fee they get access to resources (library) and 'fitness trainers' (lecturers). They still have to put the hours in, lifting books, or nothing will happen. In order to get results, you'll have to work hard, not only depart from your (or your parents') hard earned cash.

This sounds to me a lot more plausible. No longer do I have to have a bad feeling to give a poor student a bad mark, as their tuition fees don't buy them the degree, they buy them the opportunities to study. Obviously I do feel bad because I should enable the student to get a good degree, but if they don't also work for it, it won't work.


  1. Have you seen his lecture, a little before he died? it was a bit of an internet sensation, and very moving: (and why can't you post proper linked links in these comment posts?).

    The problem is, the ones who lift the books and still get bad marks because they don't know what to do with them; because, alas, they are not good at doing what we want them to do. This is very saddening...

  2. Sorry, HTML seems to be disabled... I wanted to use a nice bulleted list in a comment on your screen-in-classroom post! Thanks for the link, I'll have a look at it.

    I think that's the fault with Labour's 50% target, that people who'd do a lot better at an apprenticeship or non-academic work will have been tempted/baited to go to university, where they then don't do well, and then either drop out or take a confidence hit. We're all different...

  3. The ones who work hard and don't do well always baffle me a little -- because I wonder how they got here. I spent a few years marking at A-level and the answers that got the As and Bs were really, genuinely good. What happens to that talent? Or is it just an illusion of ability brought about by clever teaching?

  4. I just watched the Last Lecture on ITunesU; and found it really moving. I can't imagine the amount of emotion that must have been in this lecture theatre.