Thursday, February 27, 2014

Designing courses for higher education

Susan Toohey's book "Designing Courses For Higher Education" was published in 1999, but is very relevant to today's debates over issues such as the role of MOOCs, support for international students and professional masters courses. This book is part of the excellent series published by Open University Press, on the how and why of higher education. The book is very readable, having been written for the Australian context. It contains some comments to deflate the egos of professors and senior administrators clinging to old modes of education, such as:
  • "Many teachers in higher education work in departmental environments that are quite hostile to good teaching and where little thought goes into the design of the curriculum." (page1).
  • on the cost of producing web based web based educational content : "Packages may be relatively expensive to produce, but probably less so than building more lecture halls". (Page 119)
  • In support of the use of print, video and computer based materials: "There doesn't seem to be much point any longer in bringing students together in mass lecture halls to supply them with information." (page 120).
The pressures for change evident in 1999 are still present for HE in 2014: more international students, increasing demands for accountability to government, more emphasis on vocational work ready skills and limited resources. Toohey details the opportunities of the Internet and the world wide web could improve education, which unfortunately as yet to be embraced by much of Australian higher education, a decade later.

ps: It happens I met Susan Toohey, months before I discovered she had anything to do with higher education, or had written a book on the topic.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Education at a New Level

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra where Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington said the ANU aims to have more MOOC students by the end of the year, than the total number of graduates the university has ever had. ANU is currently accepting enrolments for its first two edX on-line courses: Engaging India and Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe. Professor Hughes-Warrington then showed the amusing video promotion for the astronomy MOOC and the more sober, but none the less exciting, promotion for the India course. Then Professor Anant Agarwal, President of edX, explained how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can complement traditional university education. He then discussed the flipped classroom and blended learning.

On-line learning is not a new concept, but as Professor Anant Agarwal explained, this has not had a good reputation. Today's event and edX in general, is essentially an exercise in promoting e-learning as a respectable form of education, for respected universities. This is as much an exercise in marketing to the academic staff, as to potential students.

Professor Brian Schmitt, Nobel Prize winner, said that some low quality Australian universities will not survive the age of the MOOCs.  The cost of creating a MOOC was quoted at $100,000, plus presenter time. Professor Agarwal commented the first time a MOOC was prepared it takes much work, but is easier to revise (this is the same I find with conventional on-line courses and UK Open University has produced methodologies for costing).

Professor Schmitt commented that MOOCs from ANU provided something for students in developing nations. But this is something I disagree with. Many developing nations have their own online open universities. These institutions do not have the prestige of ANU, but they provide courses relevant to the needs of those countries and their students. There may well be undiscovered astronomy geniuses in developing nations, but those countries have other priorities for economic development.

One question from the audience was how edX authenticate who is doing the course. Professor Anant Agarwal explained edX take an image of the student and their ID, and provides this with certificates. In some ways this is more secure than ANU's certificates which are electronic, but have no biometric identification.

Professor Schmitt commented that the optimal length for an educational video is six minutes. This is about two thirds the length of the average adult video viewing, suggesting the perhaps education could be made more stimulating. ;-)

Professor Schmitt  suggested that MOOCs would not fundamentally change the nature of elite universities. However, I suggest there is a very great risk for Australian universities. If low cost on-line courses really do deliver a quality education, there will be no need for most of the international students to come to Australia or pay the current fees. Instead the students would pay a few hundred dollars for an on-line course in their own country. If Australian universities do not offer these courses, then the students would go elsewhere. In my view, MOOCs are no threat to the Australian education industry (they are more of a threat to universities which over-invest in them), but other more mature and sustainable forms of e-learning offer better opportunities.

Some months ago, I attended and presented seminars at UWA on e-learning. There had been a white paper on MOOCs and debate at UWA, over the role of e-learning and MOOCs. When I visited it was clear that these issues were still under active discussion. This debate has yet to start at ANU and perhaps this event will be of use to spark discussion. However, I don't think MOOCs are the main issue, or are fundamental to the future of education.

Tonight’s event is being recorded.

Innovation at Australian Unviersites

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a workshop for Early Career Academics (ECAs) on innovation. It was pointed out that as well as measures of academic output in terms of appears produced, the reputation of the university is also important as Australian universities earn a significant proportion of their funding from international full-fee paying students.

One problem for ECAs is that more and more PHDs are being produced and so there are proportionally fewer jobs in research, particularly in universities. Most new PHDs will not go on to research, but have to do teaching or work in industry, even if they come back to research later. What this suggests to me is that PHDs will need extra skills, in particular teaching skills and it would be better if they got those skills while doing their PHD, rather than later.

The workshop was told that there was little scope for growth in international student numbers. It was suggested that the area for growth was industry involvement. However, I suggest another area is retraining of the current workforce for new jobs.This is in addition to redesigning university degrees so they provide job-ready skills.

The workshop was told about the difference between creativity and innovation: creativity being about novelty and usefulness and innovation and implementation, which goes a step beyond.

The workshop heard from the ANU Research Services, Academy of Sciences Early Career Research Forum and ANU Edge.

It was interesting to see how innovation being done at ANU compared to other universities and countries, in particular Cambridge University and the UK. I see something I wrote on this in 1997, got a mention in a Cambridge University study: "A pilot study on the emergence of university-level innovation policy in the UK".

ps: A surprise last speaker at the innovation workshop was Pia Waugh,  on data.gov.au and GovHack. She mentioned that next years GovHack may be a "follow the sun" event, held at sites around the world in different time zones.

MOOCs and the Church of Reason

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Anant Agarwal, President of edX, and a panel of experts, is discussing "Blow up the lecture? Is the traditional lecture on the way out?". For those in Canberra, there will be a further presentation at 5:30pm this evening and for others there will be a podcast version.

ANU is currently accepting enrolments for its first two edX on-line courses: Engaging India and Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe.

In my own view is that neither lectures, nor MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), are the future of university education. Lectures, live or via video, are a useful supplement to an education program, but are not essential. As Robert Pirsig detailed in his Church of Reason” chapter of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig's fictional character, a teacher and computer software documenter, argued that the physical university campus was not the real university, it was the community of scholars. This foreshadows  today's discussion of the on-line university.

Four years ago I gave up giving lecture based university courses and have been teaching ANU masters students on-line in an asynchronous (non-real-time mode) using text based materials. Where possible, I supplement this with some video materials and students can arrange to drop and and see me (or on-line in synchronous real time mode). But research shows that while students like to see and speak to their lecturer and to watch videos, this does not improve their learning outcomes. So in my view lectures, and their on-line equivalent, should be offered as an optional extra for the mainstream of education, which will be on-line, task based and text rich.

Australian Virtual Schooling

Grattan Institute's report , "Turning around schools: it can be done", suggests schools can learning from each other and teachers observe each other's classrooms. This is not new or radical, it is a standard part of what teachers do. I suggest we need some more radical measures to improve Australia education, which can come from the existing practices of one sector of Australian education: Distance Education.

The NT and Queensland education departments have centres which support remote students. This is not so radical as it is a modern Internet version of the School of the Air. However, in addition to supporting individual distance education students at home, they also supports teachers in Community Schools in remote areas and students in larger regional schools which can't have a teacher for each specialist subject. The centres provide online materials and remote teaching to support to the local classroom teachers. This blended mode of education provides the student with a local teacher and a class, plus remote specialist support. I suggest this approach could be applied more generally, to support both the students and the teachers. We should get away from the idea of an isolated classroom with one teacher.

Kapitzke and  Pendergast (2005) report positively on the early trials of the Queensland Education Department's Virtual Schooling Service, which provides both distance education to students in the home and support for students in the classroom in remote schools. While they argue that new pedagogy is needed, there does not appear to have been a development of this, with the Virtual Schooling continuing to be run as first envisaged.

Australia’s Northern Territory Open Education Centre (NTOEC, 2014) provides distance education to students at home. NTOEC also supports teachers in Community Schools in remote areas. This mode of education provides the student with a local teacher and a class for cultural awareness and group activities, as well as remote teaching for specialist subjects.

Reference

Kapitzke, C., & Pendergast, D. (2005). Virtual Schooling Service: Productive Pedagogies or Pedagogical Possibilities?. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 1626-1651.Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/8153/1/8153_2.pdf

NTOEC, (2014). 2014 Subject and Enrolment Handbook. Darwin, Northern Territory: Northern Territory Open Education Centre. Retrieved from http://www.ntoec.nt.edu.au/site/attachments/Curriculum/subjecthandbook.pdf#page=3

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Designing a Capstone Course

Greetings from the Moot Court at the Australian National University where Professor Sally Kift is speaking on "The Capstone Experience and Designing a Capstone Course". She co-authored "Work-integrated learning as a component of the capstone experience in undergraduate law". The term "capstone" is used by educators to indicate a final course which rounds off the student's experience and prepares them for the wider world.  The metaphor with a capstone (or Coping) on a wall is used to protect the wall from the elements and so I am not sure if this makes a lot of sense in the educational environment. To have to have a "capstone" course suggests to me a symptom of a problem with an academic program. If it is necessary to inset an additional course to provide some connection to the real world and to practical skills for the student, then what are they l;earning in the rest of their program? If the student is undertaking a vocally related program (such as in medicine, law, engineering or computing), then they should be having real world experiences during the course. It would be disastrous if the only time the student did anything useful was in their last course.As fat as I can see the "capstone" approach is designed to retrofit some vocationally relevant skills to programs which either were not designed to get the student a job, or not do it well.Also it strikes me that the techniques well established in TAFE vocational education, where students have to demonstrate they have the skills needed for a particular job, are being applied to university degrees.That could be a good thing, but will require different training for staff (the difference between a Certificate in Higher Education and a Vocational Certificate in Training and Assessment). The obvious way to collect the evidence for the student has the required skills is with an e-portfolio, however, this assumes the student has been trained in how to prepare an e-portfolio and the staff know how to asses them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy

In "Three generations of distance education pedagogy", Anderson and Dron (2010) claim an analysis of distance education (DE) based on the pedagogy used, rather than the technology. They criticise past theorists for being technologically deterministic, by categorising DE by the technology used: paper post, broadcast and interactive. However, by limiting their analysis to DE only, Anderson and Dron are technologically deterministic by categorising all education into two types: DE and non-DE. A better approach would be to look at learning in general and then see if some techniques are applicable to DE.

Three Generations of Pedagogy

  1. Cognitive Behaviourist (CB): Anderson and Dron (2010) identify CB as an approach from the second half of the 20th Century  focusing on changed behaviour of the learner in response to stimuli. As they point out this has been more popular for vocational training, than university education, when technology was limited to many-to-one (that is broadcast) communication. In making this last point, Anderson and Dron seem to be slipping back into a technologically deterministic analysis. They go to discuss Cognitive Presence, Social Presence and Teaching Presence. Anderson and Dron note that a lack of Social Presence (that is a sense of the presence of fellow students) does not adversely effect learning outcomes. But as a distance education student, I find the lack of student interaction very lonely and stressful. As a teacher I find peer pressure a strong motivator of students. Anderson and Dron note that Teaching Presence is reduced with the use of packaged learning materials for DE. However, this does not not appear to be a consequence of DE itself, but a business model used by DE (there are also very impersonal pre-packaged face-to-face classes). Anderson and Dron attribute resentment with this impersonal approach to "traditional educators". However, I teach on-line and don't like the impersonal approach.  As an on-line learner I find the lack of presence of the teacher very stressful. So in my own classes I provide feedback to the class and to individual students, at least weekly (this obviously can only be done where the institutions funds this). As a studnet if I don;t hear personally from the teacher occasionaly, then I wonder what I am paying thousands of doallrs for (I might was well read a $100 textbook). Anderson and Dron summarise the benefits of CB being the scaling of DE to  large numbers of students at lower cost, but with obvious limitations of inflexibility.
  2. Social-Constructivist: Social-constructivist pedagogy sees the learner constructing their own metal model to integrate new knowledge. Anderson and Dron (2010) point out that this approach coincided with the availability of two-way communication technologies (which further undermines their supposed non-technologically deterministic approach). They see social interaction as key to constructivist pedagogy. Anderson and Dron state that "At a distance, this interaction
    is always mediated ...". This appears to be intended to say that some form of communications technology is required. However, all communication requires some media: even when speaking in a face-to-face classroom, there are limitations of the media (everyone can't speak at once, for example). Anderson and Dron describe constructivist distance education as an advance "through to the use of synchronous and asynchronous, human communications-based learning". However, here they seem to be stuck back in technological determinism and it is not clear what is meant by "human communications".
  3. Connectivist Pedagogy: The  Connectivist approach emphasises the ability to  find and apply knowledge, rather memorise facts. Showing their technological determinism  again, Anderson and Dron (2010) assert that "connectivist models ... would have been inconceivable as forms of distance learning were the World Wide Web not available to mediate the process". This shows a limited knowledge of information technology, as forms of rich networked communications existed before the World Wide Web. The description of connectivist learners who are literate and can use information sources would seem to be able to describe a student in a conventional paper library just as well as a DE student on the web. I suggest that the traditional university, with its cross-referecned library, informal and formal meeting places could be seen as a physical precursor of the Internet and connectivist DE is doing no more than crudely reproducing this online.

Future Distance Education Pedagogy

Anderson and Dron (2010)look to Web 2.0 and object-based approaches for possible future forms of pedagogy, but again this technological determinism. Instead I suggest that we need to look at what is central to teaching and learning, which is people. The forms of traditional education which have evolved should be examined to see what they can teach us about the essence of learning. Technology allows us to record every interaction between students, teachers and learning materials. I suggest that in the rush to DE, researchers have assumed there is nothing to learn from prior forms of education. However, the most important ingredients in education: the students and teachers have not changed. As a result it is likely that new forms of DE will look much like old forms of education.

Reference

Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2010). Three generations of distance education pedagogy. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 12(3), 80-97. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/890/1826

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rural and Remote Education in Australia

The Australian Human Rights Commission publishes an "Annotated and Select Bibliography on Rural and Remote Education in Australia", with sections on distance education and indigenous education. It is not clear when this was last updated (the page says 2 December 2001), but it is still useful. Also the NSW Department of Education and Communities published a "Rural and remote education: Literature review", (August 2013). As part of some postgraduate studies in distance education I was looking for details of the use of technology for indigenous remote education.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Doctoral Education Trends and Challenges

Dr Margaret Kiley, will speak on "Should we be worried about the PhD?", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 4pm, 17 March 2014. This is the first of a four part series on 'Engaging in doctoral education developments and challenges'. Participants will discuss trends and challenges in doctoral education.
Should we be worried about the PhD?
'Should we be worried about the PhD?', is part one of a four-part series titled 'Engaging in doctoral education developments and challenges'. These presentations aim to provide participants with an opportunity to discuss international, national and local trends and challenges in doctoral education and what they mean for ANU staff and candidates.

Specific aims of 'Should we be worried about the PhD?' include:

1) A brief background to the doctorate in Australia and current data
2) Perceived changes in the purpose of research education, including the increasing attention being given to employment outside the academy
3) The impact of globalisation and internationalisation on research education, and
4) Increases in accountability and quality assurance in doctoral education.


Following the presentation, light refreshments will be served, and there will be opportunities to engage in discussion with one another, and the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Research Training), Professor Jenny Corbett, regarding ANU’s responses to these trends and challenges.


Part two of the series, to be held in June, will focus on alternative approaches to doctoral education, including coursework and structuring the curriculum. Part three, earmarked for July, will examine the variation in candidates and supervisors e.g. age, gender, motivation ethic and language background and what this means for practice. Part four, the final session in November, will look at alternatives in supervisory practice.


The presentations will be given by Dr Margaret Kiley, a Visiting Fellow in the ANU Research School of Humanities and the Arts. Margaret’s research and teaching interests have been in the area of research education including: the examination of doctoral theses; candidates' and supervisors' conceptions of research; and the introduction of coursework into the Australian PhD. Margaret has worked in Further/Higher Education in Australia, Indonesia and the UK and has presented workshops on research supervision in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Malaysia, Canada and the USA. She has a conjoint position at Newcastle University, Australia, and is a Visiting Professor at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Conference on Carbon Fraud in Canberra

The Australian National University College of Asia & the Pacific will host a free one day conference on Transnational Environmental Crime (TEC) in Canberra, 14 March 2014. The topics include the new environmental crime of "carbon fraud", that is falsifying carbon emissions details for financial gain, as well as more established  crimes such as the black market in ozone depleting substances, wildlife smuggling, timber trafficking. The process of calculating and auditing the carbon footprint of an organisation is briefly covered in the course "ICT Sustainability" (COMP7310), which starts at ANU on Monday.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap Report Fails to Address Effective Education

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Abbott MP today  released the "Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report
2014
" on improving the living standards of indigenous Australians. The targets included in the report are not particularity ambitious. Two related to education are: "Halve the gap for Indigenous/ children in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade (by 2018)" and "Halve the gap for Indigenous people aged 20–24 in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates (by 2020)". In methods to improve education, the Prime Minister did not mention the use of the Internet, computers or distance education. It appears the only measure the PM is proposing is to punish students and their parents for non-attendance at school. Recently the NT Department of Education released a " Draft Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory " by Bruce Wilson (6 February 2014), which  proposed not providing instruction to indigenous students in their own languages and to move students into boarding schools away from their communities. It is disappointing that at the same time a global revolution in education is taking place to provide more self directed learning, relivant to the student, where and when they want it, the Australian and Northern Territory governments appear to be planning to move education for indigenous students back to the nineteenth century.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teaching Without Lectures at the Australian National University

Professor Anant Agarwal, President of edX, and a panel of experts, will discuss "Blow up the lecture? Is the traditional lecture on the way out?", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 2:30 PM, 26 February 2014 (register online).

ANU is currently accepting enrolments for its first two edX on-line courses: Engaging India and Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe.

However, my own view is that neither lectures, nor MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), are the future of university education. Lectures, live or via video, are a useful supplement to an education program, but are not essential.

Four years ago I gave up giving lecture based university courses and have been teaching ANU masters students on-line in an asynchronous (non-real-time mode) using text based materials. Where possible, I supplement this with some video materials and students can arrange to drop and and see me (or on-line in synchronous real time mode). But research shows that while students like to see and speak to their lecturer and to watch videos, this does not improve their learning outcomes. So in my view lectures, and their on-line equivalent, should be offered as an optional extra for the mainstream of education, which will be on-line, task based and text rich.
Information Session

Blow up the lecture?

Is the traditional lecture on the way out?

What will the classroom of the future look like?

Will the digital world transform the physical world of learning?

Will edX and other Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers change the face of education forever?

Technology is opening up new ways to teach and learn. It is also opening up new ways to understand how we learn.

What do you think the future of learning should look like at ANU?

Have your say and join us for an open panel discussion.

Featuring panellists
(register online).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Grammarly On-line Grammar Checking Service

I noted an advertisement placed on my Blog by Google for a "Free Check for Plagiarism". This was a little misleading as it was actually an advertisement for the  Grammarly on-line grammar checking service. Checking for material used without referencing is just one of the services offered. While a free seven day trial is offered, the catch is while you can upload your text and have it checked for free you have to supply a credit card before you can the results of the analysis.

Grammar Checking But No Correction


The service teases you by describing each problem with your document, but without signing up for the service you don't see exactly what was wrong, or where. I have an assignment due on Monday, for a course costing me several thousand dollars, so at less than $200 a year the service looked worth trying out. My assignment scored 65 out of 100, with 93 "issues", which was worrying. I ran the document through a free grammar checker in LibreOffice, made the suggested changes and then ran it through Grammarly again. This reduced the issues in Grammarly by only two and the score only went up by two points. After a few more hours working through the list I still had 60 issues and a score of 76, making it a frustrating process.

The free version seems to only allow you to upload a text document (I could not work out how to check the .DOC version). One I was in the for-fee system I was able to upload a word processing document.

One frustration if you just want to fix up your draft assignment is that Grammarly does not offer an auto fix mode. Grammarly highlights a piece of text in your document, describes the problem and the suggested solution, but will not apply the fix for you. This is probably better for learning how to write good well. ;-)

I started working my way through the issues identified by Grammarly. Mostly I did not understand the grammatical terms in the explanation (my schooling was at a time when grammar was out of fashion). Some of the terms I thought the company had just made up, such as "squinting modifiers", but there are references to this on-line (I still have no idea what a "Squinting modifier" is). So I used a technique I have applied to editing academic work: if I can't understand it, cut it out and make the document shorter.

One problem was that Grammarly's list of grammatical errors kept disappearing. I was working my way through the errors, but when I flipped from the web display to the word processor to fix and error and back, the list was gone.

Another problem is that the software does not appear to be able to recognise headings and keeps reporting them as sentence fragments.Also the software does not appear to recognise formal academic referencing and so tried to interpret these as sentences.

The process of making the corrections was tedious, but rewarding. With about one hours work, I reduced the number of "issues" from  93 to 73 and the score from 65 to 71.

One problem may be Grammarly's use of bandwidth. While waiting for my document to be checked, Grammarly display a status report as to what it was checking for. This was reassuring but seemed to be taking up 20 kbps .Each time I ran Grammarly on the same document it seemed to get slower. At one point Grammarly seemed to get stuck in a loop sequencing through the same checks over and over again and I had to cancel it after an hour.  After a few times I wished for an old fashioned batch mode, where I submit the document and just get the result when complete, with no updates in between.

Plagiarism Detection


Grammarly's plagiarism detection function is not easy to use. I pressed the "plagiarism" button, it said "working" and then displayed the same grammatical error report I saw previously, with nothing about plagiarism. The generated report saied there were eight plagiarism issues, but then nothing to indicate where they are (TurnItIn usually gives false positives for like quotes and references). Another screen saied 8% unoriginal, "Some parts of your document match the text from http://www.westfield.ma.edu/uploads/psychology/APA%20format%20guide.doc", which is a APA formatting guide from a university I have never heard of. Eventually I found the text in question under the heading "Citation audit". The problem was the text "The purpose of this document is to
", which I got into the habit of using, not from an APA guide, but IEEE standards (which almost all start that way). I tried changing it to "This document is intended to", but that is an even more common expression. So I settled on "This is a critical review of one journal article", which appears in no web search results.

Blended Learning Model for Remote Indigenous Education

The NT Department of Education has released a Draft Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory ( Bruce Wilson, 6 February 2014). The report proposes not teaching indigenous languages in schools and makes no mention of the use of computers for remote education. I suggest that use of blended learning, combining classroom and computer education, could allow for better education and support multiple languages at low cost, with educational and cultural benefits for the students.

Teaching Only English 

The report finds that "Indigenous students in very remote schools in the Northern Territory are already two years of schooling behind Indigenous students in very remote schools in the rest of Australia in their writing results".  The report notes that many NT Indigenous children enter school with little or no English. The report therefore focuses on English language skills. The logic for this appears flawed, in that the report says "English language skills and knowledge that underpin success in the western education system". This assertion is clearly false: western countries carry out their primary schooling in the primary language of the country, not necessarily English. The report does not support bi-literacy approaches to education, but fails to mention that it is common to teach both a national language and a local language in many countries, as well as multiple languages being provided in schools in other Australian states. The report does not address the cultural and human rights issues in proposing not to teach students their own language at school. Such an approach may be considered unlawful discrimination.

Distance education


The Report Overview says "Distance education will be an important element of this set of solutions: the current arrangements should be reviewed to ensure they meet the need" and makes one recommendation (15 e.) on DE:
examine the three-school distance education arrangement and current practice to determine how well they are suited to the changed secondary schooling arrangements proposed in this report.
However, the report does not appear to make mention of blended learning, that is using a combination of classroom and on-line learning. Nor does the report mention the One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPC), which has provided specially designed learning computers for students in some remote schools. The Australian OLPC program takes a different approach from countries where the computers are centrally issued by the education department, instead emphasising support for teachers (Howard & Rennie, 2013).

References

Howard, S., & Rennie, E. (2013). Free for All: A Case Study Examining Implementation Factors of One-to-One Device Programs. Computers In The Schools, 30(4), 359-377. doi:10.1080/07380569.2013.847316

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Universities Need Credible Plagiarism Policies

Recently I was trying out the TurnItIn  plagiarism detection software. So I fed in a plagiarism policy from a leading university, which showed a very high score, indicating material had been copied from elsewhere. It turned out that this was not plagiarism, just references to the policy in other documents by the university and in published papers. But there were a couple of cases where other educational institutions seemed\to have very similar wording in their own plagiarism policies. What worried me more was that most of the university plagiarism policies I looked at had no references cited. There are tens of thousands of documents on Australian university websites which say students should cite sources and warn of  penalties for not doing so. But the students could be forgiven for being confused when these thousands of documents look very similar, with no sources cited, saying originality and citing sources is important.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are Assignments Not Submitted for Marking Accepted?

Currently I am a student in a post-graduate on-line course provided via the Moodle Learning Management System. I am very familiar with Moodle, but have never used the "Submit for Marking" option in the Assignment module. With this option the student can upload a draft, which the tutor can comment on, before the student submits the final version for marking. However, in this case the tutor has not indicated they are providing comments and I don;t know what happens if I forget to press "Submit for Marking" before the deadline. Is my assignment never marked, because it was never submitted, or is the latest draft considered to have been submitted at the deadline?

This may sound pedantic, but as a student I don't want to miss out on having my assignment marked. Also as this is an international course there is a very high risk of pressing "submit for marking" after the deadline and ether being penalised or not receiving any mark (exactly what the late policy is for the course I am doing is unclear, mine is to award no marks at all) .

What I do with my own courses is to not use "submit for marking" but allow multiple submissions. I ask the students to submit their assignment early and if they want comments to ask. After the deadline I mark the latest draft.