A Change in Japan’s Higher Education?

While watching NHK World the other day a news brief came on stating that Tokyo University, Todai, on of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Japan was considering a move to an academic year that would begin in the fall. Both NHK and the Wall Street Journal referenced that Todai was examining the issue with an “international outlook” in mind.

International Education implications

By starting in the Fall it would allow Todai students greater opportunities for international exchange and study abroad programs.  This is very good news to hear as according to a news report from last year the number of Japanese students participating in study abroad programs had been decreasing. This change would make it possible to study abroad for a semester and return not missing much of their core classes. This is also is positive news to hear for students looking to study in Japan.

One of the biggest challenges for education abroad programs currently are faced with is the face that Japan functions on an entirely different school year than many of its contemporaries. The differences are not as simple as credit transfers between semester vs quarter school systems we have here in the US but in that it starts and ends in vastly different times of the year from our own. The Japanese academic year runs from April to March. This is a challenge for many institutions hoping to have Fall term study abroad programs in Japan. What makes it hard is that for the program to start in September the program would then end in February or March. So for a student to study abroad for fall semester they would end up missing the second semester or their home institution. This results in how many Japan programs are year-long endeavors.

While the articles only refer to Tokyo University at the moment this is noteworthy because Tokyo University is the best, top of the top, amongst Japans universities, part of Japan’s ivy league with others like Waseda and Keio. Thus when they are discussing such a large change we need to take notice.

Yet with a possible change in academic year this could open up a whole new number of education abroad for Japan and other countries for international impacts in both directions. It’s certainly something I will keep an eye on for both my interests in Japan and International Education.

QR Codes in Higher Ed

QR codes often get a bad rap in higher ed with some even calling them a fad, and thus not worth bothering with. And with how I’ve seen them used I really can’t disagree with them. But I don’t see that as indicative of them being a fad in the sense of hammer pants, rather it’s because of the poor application of QR codes.

Lets take the QR codes I found in the last issue of the KaLeo, the student newspaper of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. NOTE: This is not the KaLeo’s fault as these were all in ad space. I found what totaled to six QR codes in ads and I would give a failing grade to all. The reason is rather simple also, they all went to full websites. Nothing was meant for the phone’s screen size. The worst offender was in fact from a UH program that went to a website that was Flash based. I was pretty shocked by that since that basically said “who cares about iPhone users.”

So in this example fault doesn’t lie with higher ed but its examples like this that make higher ed professional weary of using QR codes.

Another example was the QR codes used by the University of Hawaii at Manoa Career Center which boldly placed QR codes on their Career Fair materials but the link went to a full website. I am using (picking on) UH Manoa here simply because it’s the organization I am affiliated with currently as a graduate student but I’m sure other universities are at fault as well.

QR Codes aren’t just for web links

This is a fact I seem to see all to often, the idea that QR codes are only usable as web links. I’ll say it, this is FLAT OUT WRONG. By simply going to a QR generator site such as QR Stuff you can see that there are over a dozen options for what you can do with a QR code. There are incredible uses that QR codes hold that could easily make offices work easier. Here are a few uses:

  • Add a QR code on event flyers that when scanned automatically adds the event to a students calendar.
  • On program information flyers have a link take their phone to a mobile friendly website so they can learn more about the program so they can come in the office knowing more than just “we have X program at Z University!”
  • Scan the QR code for a destination for fun scavenger hunts or to help lost students with Google Maps or Foursquare
  • QR code on Business cards to quickly scan in vCard information.

Students don’t use QR codes

This is common yet valid statement many use as a way to avoid using QR codes. I can’t really disagree with that but people, no matter who they are use things because they find value in using it. Students don’t really bother with QR codes yet because they aren’t seeing any value in doing so. It’s up to departments to step up and make value content for their QR codes.


  1. Make whatever is the target for the QR code be mobile friendly as QR codes are meant for mobile devices!
  2. Test your code out before you print out flyers or whatever the QR code is going on. It would be embarrassing to print out 1,000 flyers only to learn afterwards your QR code doesn’t work.
  3. QR codes don’t have to be black and white. Add some color to fit in with where you’re using them!

The non-traditional path to Student Affairs

I can’t say I’ve chosen the easiest path for my career in terms of education. My BA was in International Studies and my MA will be in Asian Studies. More and more I see jobs that would fit me but they require degrees in Education, Higher Ed, or Student Affairs. So why have I made things harder for myself by not going with a degree like that? Simply put, I lacked information.

Well first I’ll say that I didn’t know what I wanted career-wise when I entered my Master’s program. I simply felt I wanted something to do with Japan. But I truly enjoyed my time working at the Study Abroad Center at UH that it cemented that it was the job for me. And secondly I didn’t even know that such majors existed. My only knowledge for advanced degrees in education were for either teachers or people who wanted to become principles. I had no clue that Student Affairs was even a degree. In my case I had a very valid reason for my thinking.

When I studied abroad in Japan the program was run by my mentor at OU and he was a Professor. So while I knew that the study abroad office kind of existed it wasn’t a real thing in my mind. So I felt that if I wanted to work in education abroad (with Japan) I would have to be a professor. Another addition would be my former boss was a Political Scientist and one of my co-workers was formerly in banking. So the whole student affairs education path was not clear to me.

I have since come to realize that this is not the case. But I feel that I still want to follow my career dream.  I really wish I had landed my dream job already so that I could give advice to others who are still hunting but I’m in the same boat as them still.

So here I am applying for every job I can find hoping that the next app will be the one.


Goodbye GoDaddy!

After much thought I’ve decided to move my website to a new host. GoDaddy was acceptable during the first couple years but I feel like I need something stronger to build on. Additionally I was not happy with their support, and now withdrawn support, for SOPA which would basically cripple the internet. So I’m now over at Dreamhost and their service seems good so far.