Today I held a sharing session for academics to come and share their teaching experiences online. Unfortunately it was not as well attended as I was hoping. On the upside, through the sharing we’ve found a technical glitch that we can now fix before the students undertake the quiz, so bonus!
What is clear though, is that time poor academics can’t innovate, improve, share, be collegiate, support one another while management continue to add to the workload. On one hand we are asking academics to innovate to engage and retain students, on the other we are asking them to publish or perish. They cannot do both. We are talking about a wonderful and amazing group of individuals who are torn in two.
Anyway, with the people I had today I asked, how do we spread the information to others? How do we spread the news? How do we find time to share knowledge and ideas? A web site? A newsletter? More sharing sessions? One on one?
The answer, in hindsight, is not surprising. The information needs to come at a time when it’s needed in a way it’s needed. Academics need to be able to go to someone when they have the innovative idea, put it out there, ask how it can be done, and be shown then and there how to do. On demand sharing.
This is expensive. It requires one contact point to know all the matters going on in the faculty and then be able to instantly share. Ideally they would know the whole university. I think the university is trying to do this with a central service area, but this has been less than successful to date. Why? Because of trust. People will share and seek support from people they trust. Diane talks to me often on the matter of trust, and today it came home more than ever. We spread the news through those we trust. Now, if only I could put that into a work plan……
I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to fund a language program that has been running as a pilot this semester to continue into 2015. It involves coordinating resources across the university and within the faculty. Everyone agrees that it’s a great program – it embeds language learning in the context of the unit so students learn to manage language in a way that is meaningful rather than abstract – but there is no coordinated approach to language management in the university so once again I’m relying on goodwill.
Today I was talking to a colleague and we agreed that the only way to move forward is through just picking a project and doing it, relying on the goodwill of those around you, because if you wait for the university to have a coordinated response, you will wait forever. Worse, the coordinated response might actually deliver what you already have, which wasn’t working in the first place.
Last week, I asked colleagues how to improve the working world around them and they came back with the suggestion that central services need to come to the chalk face. I would argue, that the academics also need to go to the administration coal face too. What is good for the goose after all.
So what links these three aspects together? Empathy. Goodwill comes from empathising with others about where they are at, and what they are doing and working with them to achieve their goals. In turn, they will work with me towards mine. Empathy for the organisation and its circumstances means I can pick projects that are appropriate and do not go against the strategic objectives of the organisation. And finally, good service only comes when you empathise with the customer and a good customer is one who understands that the person providing the service might just be following instructions. This matters because I haven’t been very empathetic lately. I’ve been thinking about why this is, and have come to the conclusion there goodwill is a two way street and that maybe I’ve been giving a bit too much and not getting enough in return. Alternatively, I should actually sit back and think about the incredible steps that have been taken towards sustaining the language program and the amazing work people are doing to try and make it happen in 2015, and be thankful. Yep, time to stop empathising and time to be thankful. So thank you to all you wonderful people. Thank you.