(1) The Times Higher has an article this week on the pressures on academic staff by increased expectation that they will provide "pastoral care" for students on their programmes. This is a very serious issue that has grown over recent years in the UK, particularly as the student population has become more diverse and with financial stress on many students. I'm sure this is not solely confined to Britain however and it really does emphasise the need for institutions to ensure that they have well resourced support systems. It also perhaps is a reflection of the nonsense of the isolated nature of university teaching where individual members of academic staff are often in the position of having complete responsibility for all the courses they teach with little opportunity for teamwork.
Of course there is also a need for academic staff to be aware of some of the issues facing students and what supports their institution can provide. Here in Galway we have just piloted a module entitled "supporting student learning" which looked at many of these issues and put staff in direct contact with the range of support services (including counselling, etc) available. The feedback strongly suggested that this was a valuable experience for all concerned and we are now looking at effective ways of developing such training and information sharing not just for those enrolled on our MA in higher education programme , but also for induction and wider dissemination.
(2) The same paper also discusses growing concern about students' writing skills and one interviewee stresses the importance of markers being intolerant of poor English, particularly in the early stages of undergraduate programmes.
(3) Although largely aimed at schools, BBC Jam was looking like being one of the world's most innovative e-learning projects. However, due to huge pressures from the commercial sector and their effective lobbying, the BBC board has decided, rather shockingly, to axe the service as of next week, as reported in the Guardian.