Friday, September 22, 2017

Employers Giving Lectures - whatever will they think of next?

Katherine Donnelly writes in yesterday's Irish Independent in an article entitled "DCU invites employers in to lecture its students" about an interesting idea to get employers to "to deliver master classes to undergraduates about the realities of the fast-changing workplace". Donnelly goes on to write that this initiative by DCU is "aimed at ensuring that third- and fourth-year students on technology-focused degree programmes are up to date with current thinking and equipped for what lies ahead". Sounds like a good idea?

Leaving aside scheduling issues and payments, this on the surface looks like a great initiative. However - it implies that existing lecturers are not "up to date with current thinking and equipped for what lies ahead", so it is likely to be less popular with lecturers - though none of us would have a problem with someone else taking over a class from time-to-time! I think the biggest problem is getting busy employers to commit - they will have to ensure that someone is available to give the "master classes" at the scheduled time. Not impossible, but a commitment none-the-less. While there are no details in Donnelly's article about whether the "master classes" would be embedded in modules or given as separate lectures - I feel that separate "Guest Lecture" style events outside of class time would be best. This allows for a more informal setting devoid of learning outcomes and QQI standards - Q&A afterwards would also be very useful. No doubt DCU will have thought this through thoroughly and I applaud their innovation.

Preparing "master classes" (or any class for that matter) takes a considerable amount of time, so employers should not underestimate the resources and time required. Were other colleges to follow DCU's lead there could be a huge demand for such classes that might not sit well with employers unless they commit to having dedicated Academic Program Managers (such as Microsoft do).

I hope this works!


  1. How about lecturers pay some visits to different companies and get some real world experience themselves too? The most terrible lecturers I came across (in NCI too) were the ones that have little to none working experience in a company within the industry they were teaching about. Food for thought?

    1. Absolutely!

      I was in Microsoft in Leopardstown recently at an informal gathering of lecturers from different Colleges, and I was surprised at how out of touch I was.

      Great idea (and probably would be more popular with companies too)!

    2. Being the aforementioned dedicated Academic Program Manager, I think there are a lot of interesting points raised here.

      1. I was on the receiving end of guest lectures in DCU in the 90's, so not sure how new this initiative is?

      2. My role literally involves giving guest lectures (by invitation from and at no additional cost to the institutions). Most non-academics have no idea how much work goes into preparing each talk. Nearly every single one has to be specially designed for the modules the students are taking. It's rare to be able to reuse a tech talk.

      3. I give these guest lectures in the 31 HE institutions on the island. After my talks, I'm often complimented for presenting style and asked if I'd ever consider lecturing - I never know whether to admit I used to be a lecturer! It's surprising to me that the lecturers and students seem to expect a bad/boring talk from an industry representative.

      4. More and more lecturers are approaching us asking to shadow our engineers and get a refresh on the changes in industry. I think this is a great idea in principle, it's really hard to keep up with all the changes in an industry like IT.

      Finally, I certainly didn't think you were out of touch at that informal gathering :)