Former Dunedin City Council economic development unit
manager Peter Harris is excited about his new role as
''innovation facilitator'' at Otago Polytechnic. Photo by
After a decade with the Dunedin City Council's economic
development unit, Peter Harris' new focus is on ensuring Otago
Polytechnic thrives amid new trends in learning. Mr Harris left
his position as manager of the council unit last year to take
on the role of ''innovation facilitator'' at the polytechnic,
which included holding the purse strings for part of a $1
million ''innovation fund''.
Mr Harris, who started at the polytechnic last week, said he
was ''excited'' about his new role and felt that after a
decade at the council the time was right to take on a new
His background in education - he has trained as a teacher -
was another reason he was attracted to the role.
''Education is our biggest industry and I have been
interested in the changes that have been happening
internationally in education, and this position is picking up
There were also some similarities with his former role.
''In some ways, I still see myself in the economic
development game. It's just in a very specific area.''
A major part of his job was ensuring the polytechnic
continued to thrive against the backdrop of the growth of
online learning. The tertiary education sector was likely to
be the next industry transformed by the internet, as had the
music industry, he said.
''[My role is] really about putting a line in the sand about
the need to change and the need to be ready for the future
that is already here,'' he said.
This meant getting staff to think about what courses could be
adapted for an online model.
He would also encourage staff to apply for money through the
innovation fund to help them deliver their courses
differently, which included offering them online.
Mr Harris was also keen to find ways the polytechnic could
''stand out from the crowd'' in what was a crowded online
Otago Polytechnic director of learning and teaching Prof
Sally Pairman said the institution was investing just over 2%
of its overall budget in the innovation fund this year, which
came in at a little over $1 million.
The money would go to a variety of projects and was part of
an ''overall drive'' at the polytechnic to stay ahead of the
game amid a changing tertiary education environment.