Posts in Category: Teaching

Site visit to the Auckland Airport

On 2016-07-19, my Global Operations Management class was bundled onto a bus and transported down to the Auckland Airport. When we arrived, we split into two groups for two separate sessions.

First – my group was given an overview presentation, focusing on the long-term growth and capacity management challenges facing the airport. This included an overview of the airport strategy for growth and an overview of expected increases in visitor numbers. The increase in tourism and the number of airlines flying into the airport was impressive, highlighting the role of the airport as a ‘gateway’ four many tourists as they visit the country. Some of the challenges of the growth were presented, including an overview of the different types of capacity and how some elements of the airport can have capacity added incrementally while others require more substantial capital expenditure and a significant increase in capacity all in one go.

Second – we received a short tour around the airport precinct. In this situation, we looked at the airport real estate holdings and developments, focusing on supporting a burgeoning commercial hub and the growth of companies. A range of different warehousing spaces were available, allowing firms to ‘grow’ and expand as they become more successful. We were also fortunate enough to have an overview of the operations centre, where they monitor the day-to-day operations within the terminals. Here, a range of cameras and dashboards are constantly monitored, allowing managers to re-allocate staff accordingly to bust queues and smooth the journey of passengers through the terminals as much as possible. Metrics and KPIs are displayed and used to improve the allocation of resources over the day.

A great big thanks to all the folk at the airport! The class and I really enjoyed the time we spent there.

Littlefield Labs simulations in our operations management classes

Another fun week and we were running the Littlefield Labs simulation in two of our operations management classes. First, in the Postgraduate Diploma class on Supply Chain Management, with a focus just on management of capacity with a scenario focused on queuing and leadtimes. Second, I run a scenario with my Global Operations Management class (in the Business Masters programme), focused on capacity management and the use of appropriate contracts given operational performance. It’s a great group of talented students so I’ve given them a reasonably challenging situation to keep them busy in the session. We run the in-class session over a 120-minute team-based learning (TBL) session, giving us plenty of time to get into the simulation. All the best to the students – it should keep them busy and entertained over the session!

Exam week

End of the biggest week for exams that I’ve had in quite a while. Big congrats to my Operations Management students at AUT who worked through their 3-hour, short-answer examination. My hope is that this challenged the cohort sufficiently

And it wasn’t just my students that engaged in their examinations – I was also sitting one on Sunday morning from 2-5am. I have to admit – this isn’t the greatest time of day for me to work. The exam was the Certified Demand Driven Planner programme (CDDP) administered by ICEA. Why the odd hours? It’s administered from the USA where I understand it was a more reasonable hour. An iProctor monitors a video feed for up to 5 candidates to ensure they are alone, not referring to books, etc. It was a multi-choice question exam. Now, I have my beef with this type of assessment but one outcome is pretty awesome: there is no wait to find out how you are did; an instant score is generated (in my case, slightly incorrect as one of my questions did not have an image in the question, making it impossible to answer!).

All up, a tough examination week for both myself and my students. I think we’re all breathing a sigh of relief.

The nexus between research and teaching

We hear plenty about research-informed teaching from Deans and accreditation bodies. To some faculty it all seems meaningless, hot-air-fuelled nonsense. Is it?

In their publication “Faculty Research Productivity and Standardized Student Learning Outcomes in a University Teaching Environment”, Galbraith and Merrill note that “…it was found that faculty research activity is positively and significantly related to teaching effectiveness …”

While many research studies focus on the evaluation of student evaluations as a measure of teaching effectiveness, Galbraith and Merrill took care to measure learning outcomes using standardised student learning outcome measure in a more robust and defensible way.

If you look around, while there are strong drivers to promote faculty to be more research active, in Australasia many faculty still don’t get fully engaged in research. Those that are tend to be extremely self-motivated folk. The same self-motivation may also manifest itself as a keen and careful teacher, generating the improved learning outcomes in the study.

Regardless, an interesting finding that does validate the belief that those engaged in research have a lot of interesting things to say about their subject and possess plenty of passion to inspire their students…

nDiVE – the start of an AWESOME project in supply chain education

Welcome to 2013 and the first day of a 24-month project to improve operations and supply chain management education – the nDiVE project ( and nDiVE is all about representing more data and information within a virtual environment to enable learners to better understand supply chain complexity, particularly where there is a separation of time and/or space between the cause-and-effect. This can be particularly pertinent in supply chain quality or health and safety. We are improving authenticity, allowing students to get a taste of real-working environments in a way that is entirely safe, and supporting their effective education. We have a range of colleagues from around the world working on this, experts in authentic learning, virtual environments, simulation, and business education.

This is going to be an awesome project and it should change the way that supply chain management education is approached, both within a tertiary environment and, we hope, later also within the corporate training environment.

nDiVE – the first day of an awesome project

This is the first day of a 24-month project to improve operations and supply chain management education – the nDiVE project ( and In essence – the objective is to represent more data and information within a virtual environment to enable learners to better understand supply chain complexity, particularly where there is a separation of time and/or space between the cause-and-effect. This can be particularly pertinent in supply chain quality or health and safety.

Watch this space – it should be an interesting 24-month project improving operations and supply chain education.

‘t was Tuition-free week …

All through the [campus] Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Not quite true – but campus is extremely quiet now we  have hit the tuition-free week. You notice it as soon as you reach campus. At 8:45am there was almost no-one around as I walked to the office; the few people I saw were clearly staff.

This is probably one of the most significant drawbacks to a suburb-based campus. City campuses have vibrancy and life still even during tuition-free periods. And, if nothing else, it’s a short walk to someplace where something is happening, close by in town.

What does tuition-free week mean to students today? Today, I noticed that there was food and drinks out downstairs for our doctoral students as they have their colloquium running. This is a fantastic idea as it keeps the university resources (rooms and facilities) well-utilised for a longer period throughout the year, while UG and PG students don’t otherwise need the space. The colloquiums are also an excellent opportunity for the PhD students to connect, form a network, and get valuable feedback on their research from other students (who can be the harshest critics) and staff that otherwise may not know what is going on.

But the UG and other coursework PG students during tuition-free week? I suspect that many of them take the opportunity offered by no classes to do a few more shifts at work. They could be working on their assignments, learning the material that will help them succeed in their classes, but they have other priorities. The sad thing is that the students that could benefit from a week of focus on their university study may even be those that are taking the opportunity to do more shifts!

Am I a hypocrite? I recall that at one period I was working three part-time jobs while studying for my BSc and BCom. At all times, however, I ensured that I had adequate focus on the university studies. And, when things became more difficult, I cut down on the work that I was doing, providing me with more opportunity to excel academically. Three years to complete a bachelor degree – it’s not a huge amount of time to forgo income while you seek to get your career off on the right foot. (Doctoral study, on the other hand, is vastly more expensive; my back-of-a-napkin calculations today put the cost of fees + reasonable living costs, at just under AU $200,000 for three years of study if you don’t include the opportunity costs of income you forgo. An expensive education!)

A quiet campus on tuition-free week? Not entirely – a quick trip through the library leads me to believe there are plenty of students still working darned hard and that’s good to see. I’ll have a new pile of assignments to mark in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it – I’ve got some great students that I’m teaching.



What’s in a Master’s degree?

What’s in a Master’s degree? Is there something that makes this distinctly different to the Bachelor’s degree? Why do some universities have a two-year Master’s, while others have a shorter course?

Australia is examining the national structures for the Master’s courses and trying to standardize university offerings. Currently, at Curtin we have a three-semester Master of Logistics programme. MIT has a nine-month Master of Supply Chain Management (they also charge more than Curtin does!) At Curtin we also have a two-year Master of Commerce.

So at MIT I could do two Master degrees in the time that it takes me to do one at Curtin? Sound fair?

Some courses have a heavy research focus with an emphasis on preparing students for intensive research-based study in their doctoral programme. Others are ‘taught’ courses with much smaller projects, intended as advanced study following a Bachelor programme.

Will the national standardization prove useful? Possibly, but there is a huge amount of administrative work meanwhile while it is prepared. Some universities may not be able to offer ‘distinctive’ programmes and thus lose some competitiveness. It would, however, stop the ‘race to the bottom’ as institutions attempt to compete with increasingly shorter, faster, and more compressed offerings. Standardization may also prevent universities from experimenting with new models, reducing long-term innovation in the sector.

How do I write …. [my essay, assignment, report for my boss … you name it!]

A blanket and really rather broad question – just what we are used to dealing with at university! Usually, I am asked in about weeks 2-5 as students struggle and grapple with their assignment topics. For some, this is the first semester at university after working for many years; the shock of being in the classroom alone may be overwhelming, let alone the additional skills they now need to master!

Sure, most students have a reasonable grasp of creating an outline. How many create an outline? Far too few, I’d wager. Some have the impression we can simply create an outline, fill it in, and this first draft is ‘done’. Huh. I try to dispel this myth by showing several manuscripts I’m currently working on, explaining how I’ve re-organised some of the work, often reversing the introduction of a series of concepts, then re-writing material that ‘links’ these ideas together so that it reads effectively.

Revelation: A first draft is woefully inadequate for most of us.

Revelation: Yes – even WE academics re-write the heck out of most of our work. If we do it to get a good result, don’t you think that as a student you’d also be doing a little bit of re-work?

Right, they say, then HOW do we do the specific re-writing? This question stumps me a little bit each time it’s asked. There are a range of approaches you can use to manage a paragraph (SEX: statement/sentence, explanation, example), yet no-one seems to ever ‘teach’ how to do this effectively.

Naturally, I’m interested in productivity in general and personal productivity in particular, leading me to digest a range of books. In one of these I found some useful advice, replete with examples, on how to mechanically tackle the content of paragraphs. Throw in a mix of references and ideas and then re-work these into something quite readable, informative, and concise. Give this book a try: From Research to Manuscript: A Guide to Scientific Writing (Michael J. Katz).

Do I use this exact approach consistently? No. Like much of what I learn, this is a tool in my writing-tool-belt, whipped out and used judiciously when required. But it can give readers insight into the difficulties of writing as well as an approach to making a ‘jumble’ of ideas actually work as an integrated and readable whole.