Monday, September 25, 2017

International Students Not a Problem for Australian Universities But Numbers Will Drop

Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson from the China Matters think tank ask "Is there a problem with Chinese International Students?". They clearly think there is a problem, but I am not so sure. Australian universities are overly dependent on fees from international students, but that market will shrink to about one tenth the current size over the next five to ten years, with competition from domestic Chinese universities and e-leaning. The problem of other nations seeking to monitor and control the actions of their students in Australia is something our universities and government learned to deal with decades ago, as part of the Colombo Plan.

Gill and Jakobson point out that students from the People's Republic of China (PRC) make up about 27.5% of international enrollments in Australian higher education and more than 60% in Canberra's institutions. There are concerns that these students do not have adequate English, resulting in poorer educational outcomes and they may have less contact with Australians. In addition there is concern the PRC government seeks to "influence academic discourse" and discourage its students from "speaking critically about the PRC".

The large numbers of international students, I suggest, is a temporary phenomenon, which will correct itself over the next five to ten years. China and India will continue to build up their own higher education institutions, so they can supply domestic demand and offer low cost education to developing nations. Australian institutions will still have a demand for high quality specialist programs, but the bulk demand for business and computing courses will cease. A reasonable expectation would be for international student numbers in Australia  to be one tenth the current level within ten years. That will present a problem for those undertaking the bulk of the teaching on short term and casual contracts, but not for the universities themselves. Some universities will have a problem having over invested in accommodation for international students, but this can be re-purposed as affordable housing.

Australian campus based courses will also face competition from their own and others e-learning programs. Australian Universities are in the last phase of moving from lecture based to blended education. Students no longer sit and listen to a professor speaking in a lecture hall, but instead watch a video and then attend a face-to-face interactive class, working with other students. As the demand for vocationally relevant education continues, there will be less need for the face-to-face part of the bended course to be on campus, or in Australia. This will present a problem for educators used to delivering face-to-face education. However, there is time to train the next generation of academics in e-learning techniques.

International students previously saw study in Australia as a way into a western workplace. However, with the rise in the Chinese and Indian economies, it will be more attractive to serve an apprenticeship in those environments. Even if formally enrolled in an Australian university it will not be so desirable, nor necessary, for the student to visit Australia. As an example of this, I spent three years as a student at Athabasca University in Canada, without ever visiting the campus in Canada. Studies were on-line with practical assignments based on my local workplace.

The issue of international students relating to the Australian community and of monitoring by their governments is one which was faced by universities with the Colombo Plan from the 1950s. Daniel Oakman discusses these issues in his book "Facing Asia:A History of the Colombo Plan", particularly Chapter 6 "Face to Face with Asia". The Australian Government and the universities managed to deal with these issues decades ago, using approaches similar to those now suggested by Gill and Jakobson. These issues were normally dealt with quietly, without publicity, but are documented in the academic literature and it is surprising this was not referenced by Gill and Jakobson.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

MOOCs the New Millennium Propaganda Tool?

Cinema Van of the Gold Coast Mass Educiton Team
describes the use of 1950s mobile cinema as the "British Empire’s forgotten propaganda tool for ‘primitive peoples’" (Rice, 2016). However, at the time film was a way to provide distance education in remote areas, with advice being provided by bodies UNESCO on its use (1949). The film van of the 1950s could be thought of in much the same way as digital multimedia via the Internet is used for education now (Worthington, 2014). Today's MOOCs could be seen as a continuation of a form of soft-power projection, with governments using on-line education to shape views in developing nations and to ope up trade.

In the 1940s equipment for Australian militarily mobile cinemas was manufactured by Raycophone in Sydney. This equipment was used in PNG for training (da Cruz, 2015). In the 1950s Australia decided to fund six cinema vans and educational films for Indonesian vocational training, as part of the Colombo Plan (Oakman, p. 85, 2010). Vans were also requested for India (Crocker, 1953).

As a digital update to the Colombo Plan, in 2001 the Australian Government announced a five year $230M "Virtual Colombo Plan", to support of Distance Education programs based in developing countries. However, Rooksby (2004) asked if this was, at least in part, intended to open developing countries’ markets to international competition.

The "free" massive open on-line courses (MOOCs) could be seen as a continuation of this use of education by some countries to promote their values and open up trade in developing nations.


Letter from Crocker to Casey, Notes on Colombo Plan Aid in India, Efficacy of Colombo Plan aid
New Delhi, 25 April 1953
[NAA: A10299, C15] Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. URL
da Cruz, Marghanita (2015). 1930s Annandale : a short walk. Ramin Communications. [Annandale, New South Wales] URL
Film Centre, London. & Unesco.  (1949).  The use of mobile cinema and radio vans in fundamental education.  Paris :  UNESCO

Oakman, D. (2010). Facing Asia: a history of the Colombo Plan. ANU E Press. URL
Rice, T. (2016). ‘Are you proud to be British?’: Mobile film shows, local voices and the demise of the British Empire in Africa. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 36(3), 331-351. URL

Rice, T. (2017, 24 August). British Empire’s forgotten propaganda tool for ‘primitive peoples’: mobile cinema. The Conversation. URL

Rooksby, E. (2004). The virtual colombo plan: Implications for developing countries. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 2(3), 169-178. URL

Worthington, T. (2014, August). Chinese and Australian students learning to work together online proposal to expand the New Colombo Plan to the online environment. In Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2014 9th International Conference on (pp. 164-168). IEEE. URL

Friday, September 15, 2017

OK RDY App to Connect Students with Mentors and Organisations

OK RDY Okay Ready
Canberra start-up "OK RDY" have announced they signed up Telstra and the Australian National University (ANU) to pilot an app for connecting students with mentors and organizations. The issue of how students get real world experience and non-technical “soft” skills is something which has recently come up with repect to cybersecurity professionals.

I am mentoring a team of students in the Innovation ACT competition who are refining OK RDY's product offering:
"OK RDY is a mentorship and skilled-volunteer matching platform with an initial focus on connecting students to professionals and organisations; helping improve employability, diversity and cultural outcomes. ...

OKRDY aims on bridging the gap between university students and corporations. The average university student pursues academia, however, beyond the books they often lack guidance to help them pave their way through this constantly changing corporate world. That’s where the OKRDY platform intervenes, it is a student mentor matching service which matches students to potential mentors who work within their relevant industry. The service will be web-based and will be on all the accessible platforms available to your average student. ..."

Draft Cybersecurity Curricula from IFIP, ACM, IEEE-CS AIS SIGSEC

A 74 page Draft Cybersecurity Curricula 2017, Version 0.75  is available (12 June 2017) from the Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education (JTF). The task force has representation from the IFIP Technical Committee on Information Security Education (IFIP WG 11.8), as well as ACM, IEEE Computer Society and AIS SIGSEC. A final curricula recommendation is due in December. It is not clear how the curricula relates to the cyber-security certifications recently announced by ACS and IFIP.

The 12 June draft of the task force divides the Curricular Content into six "Knowledge Areas":
  1. Data Security
  2. Software Security 
  3. System Security 
  4. Human Security 
  5. Organizational Security 
  6. Societal Security
Recommended study hours per knowledge area have not yet been specified.

The report contains a curious section 5.1 on "The Academic Myth" (page 58):
"Students who graduate from a four-year university program assume that the baccalaureate degree is a sufficient qualification to attain a position. This understanding may be true in some fields, but not necessarily in the computing disciplines nor specifically in cybersecurity. Belief in this myth has stymied many a job hunter worldwide. The degree credential is growing in importance, but it is not a sufficient condition for a position. A general understanding exists in cybersecurity and other fields that a successful professional must be a good communicator, a strong team player, and a person with passion to succeed. Hence, having a degree is not sufficient to secure employment."
The report goes on in the next section to detail Non-technical Skills (Section 5.2, Page 58):
"Non-technical (sometimes called “soft”) skills are vital to the success of cybersecurity professionals. The ability to work in a team, communicate technical topics to non-technical audiences, successfully argue for resource allocations, hone situational awareness, and operate within disparate organizational cultures are just a few of these skills. The US Chief Human Capital Officers Council (CHCO), among other bodies, has developed a list of non-technical competencies pertinent to the cybersecurity workforce. The list includes: accountability, attention to detail, resilience, conflict management, reasoning, verbal and written communication, and teamwork. The full list of competencies is available in the Competency Model for Cybersecurity. Professional associations such as (ISC) and ISACA also provide recommendations for non-technical skills required for cybersecurity professionals."
The report's authors seem to assume that that these soft skills have no place in a baccalaureate degree program. However, those are the skills I, and my colleagues, are teaching to computer science and engineering students at the Australian National University. As part of team projects and individual internships, the students have to learn to work together, communicate with a real client, negotiate for resources and present their work. Obviously, students with limited work-place experience can only learn so much and there is a continual discussion of the role of higher degrees for improving skills and smaller sub-degree courses. That approach fits with the ACS' approach to certification, which recognizes experience alongside formal qualifications.

Global CyberSecurity Certification by IFIP

The International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) have announced a CyberSecurity Specialism as part of their International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3). This allows participating national computing bodies to issue a globally recognized certification for cyber-security practitioners. The IP3 new Specialism is based on work by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) which launched a cyber-security certification on 6 September. IP3 say the new Specialism will incorporate ISACA and ISC 2 certification.

It is not clear how the IP3 and ACS certifications will relate to the work of the Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education (JTF). See next post on the Task Force.

ps: The IFIP announcement was made at a conference in Colombo. A spot a can recommend. ;-)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Are Students Paying Attention in the Virtual Classroom?

In their 2016 dissertation Trabinger asks how we know if students are paying attention in the virtual classroom (VC). When a live lecture is replaced with a video conference or webinar, how do you know if the students are paying attention or are actually "multitasking".
The work gives a good overview of the issues with the victualer classroom and is not about some far-away place, but based on research at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). I was a student at CIT around the time of the research but did not attend any classes, virtual or otherwise, with all instruction asynchronous.

Two research questions were asked:
  1. How can teachers design content and/or activities to encourage interaction, engagement and attention while participating in a VC? The answer was  ‘planning’ and structuring of sessions. Many of the suggested ways suggested for improving virtual classrooms I suggest are also applicable to face-to-face classes.
  2. What training, guides and support do VET teachers and learners require to provide an environment that supports learners in the VC? Professional development in virtual classroom techniques was suggested for teachers. Curiously what was not suggested was for the teacher to first participate as a student in a virtual class (I found this very useful) or to have formal training or qualifications in this area.
One question not asked in the research was if students in a virtual classroom pay any less attention than in a face-to-face classroom (FTFC). The assumption seems to be that VCs are not as good as FTFC. However, with students now equipped with smart-phones and tablet computers there is no way to know just by looking at them if they are paying attention, or not. Even without the added distraction of gadgets: how much do student pay attention in class?
Particularly in the VET field it is not clear that simply having students sitting and listening is a useful learning activity. Students should be doing something, not just sitting there.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Deci and Centi-credentials for Australian Professionals?

There is a lot of hype about badges and micro-credentials by Australian universities, amongst others, but little concrete action on implementing them. Also it is not clear how these small units fit with conventional qualifications, which I guess should now be called "macro-credentials". ;-)

Mewburn, Freund and Rutherford (2014) frankly discuss the difficulties with an open badge pilot at the Australian National University. There is little agreement on what such micro-credentials are. Existing conventional educational institutions are likely to use micro-credentials to describe parts of existing programs. As an example, UNSW describes its half semester on-line courses, such as "Systems Engineering Knowledge" (ZEIT8238), as "Micro‐credential Courses" (UNSW, 2016).

Vocational institutions may also follow a similar practice, describing what are formally called "Units of competency" as micro-credentials. As an example, the Diploma of Information Technology (ICT50115) requires 20 Units of competency, which is about the same granularity as the UNSW micro-credential (, 2016).

Deakin University's "DeakinCo"  commercial arm takes a slightly different approach with microcredentials, in "Growing workforce 4.0" (19 April 2017), describes a framework of core professional capabilities (such as "teamwork") and areas of specialist professional expertise (such as "Data-driven marketing").

DeakinCo is offering nineteen Professional Practice Credentials. Some of these micro-credentials are what would be usually considered graduate attributes, such as Self Management, Teamwork, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Emotional Judgement, Global Citizenship. Others might be aspects of courses, such as Digital Literacy, Communication, Innovation, Professional Ethics. Others would seem to be areas for whole qualifications, such as Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Data-Driven Marketing, Creative, Data Analytics. Others appear to be attributes sought in job applications, rather than something for a formal education process:  Lead and Develop People, Empower Others, Adapt and Change and Drive Strategic Results, but these are described as "credentials".

The DeakinCo credentials are offered at three levels:  Intermediate, Proficient and Advanced.The process for obtaining a credential can be illustrated with the "Self Management" credential. Here the applicant must have 5, 7, or 10 years experience for the Intermediate, Proficient and Advanced levels respectively. The applicant collects two or three pieces of evidence and writes a reflective testimony of 500 to 1000 words. The applicant is then interviewed by video conference. The process and forms used are similar to those used for some higher education qualifications (such as the Athabasca MEd) and membership of academic bodies (such as the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Professional Recognition Scheme).

Athabasca, HEA and DeakinCo all use the collection of evidence, related to specific competencies, and reflective portfolio. Athabacsa's MEd also uses a video-conferecne interview, the HEA does not. However, unlike Athabasca and HEA, DeakinCo are using the process at a much finer level of granularity. Assuming completion of all nineteen of the DeakinCo micro-credentials, at a cost of $9,405 ($495 each), the applicant would have completed nineteen evidence statements, reflective works and interviews. In comparison the Athabasca Med student, at a cost of about $19,000, completes one e-portfolio, in two stages, covering five artifacts and then has one interview.

One of the problems with such recognition schemes has been the daunting nature of the process. DeakinCo's approach may be useful, even where the applicant wants a macro-credential. Dividing the task into small manageable pieces could help the applicant.

Another problem are the conflicting priorities of vocational and university educational systems and those of employers. An interesting report which sought to bridge vocational and university education with "Recognition of Current Competency" (RCC) as distinct from "Recognition of Prior Learning" (RPL) was produced for Australia's vocational sector  (Mason, Perry & Radford, 2007).

ps: A micro-credential might be better termed a deci-credential or centi-credential, as they are tenths to hundredths of a full credential, not millionths. ;-)


Credit into UNSW Canberra Postgraduate Programs
for Attendance at Professional Education Courses, page 2, UNSW, 2016.

ICT50115 - Diploma of Information Technology: Qualification details
 (Release 2), Australian Government, 14 January 2016

Mason, J., Perry, W., & Radford, A. (2007, 3 December) Processes, systems and tools supporting recognition of prior learning survey: Final report, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Mewburn, I., Freund, K., & Rutherford, E. (2014). Badge trouble: piloting open badges at the Australian National University. Ascilite.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ACS Cybersecurity Certification

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) today announced Cyber Security specializations for its Certified Professional and Technologist schemes. This is defined using the UK developed Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA).

SFIA Security related skills:
There is a list of ACS Accredited Cyber Security Courses, but it is not clear if these meet the requirements of the new certification. The ACS Core Body of Knowledge, used for accrediting courses, has a section on "Security Management".

ps: Next I suggest an ACS Teaching Specialization using the SFIA teaching skills definitions.

Ten New Computing and Engineering Research Jobs at ANU

The Australian National University has ten new positions for level B or C researchers in the fields of computer science and engineering. Called CS Futures fellowships and the Future Engineering Research Leadership (FERL), each position is for up to five years.
"The [Computer Science] School is going through a period of rapid growth and expansion. Our staff and students are engaging with industry and government partners to solve the toughest problems and to shape the next generation technology innovations in the areas of Algorithms and Data, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Systems, Information and Human Centred Computing, Logic and Computation, Cybersecurity and Software Intensive Systems Engineering."

"Future Engineering Research Leadership Fellows (FERL) program. You will have the opportunity to engage in ground-breaking, cutting-edge research in the fields of signal processing, computer vision and robotics, computational mechanics, materials, fabrication, renewable energy, networked systems and quantum cybernetics. "

Monday, September 4, 2017

Genevieve Bell Heads ANU 3A Institute of AI

Greeting from the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, where Professor Genevieve Bell is speaking on "Managing the Machines: building a new applied science for the 21st century". This is also live streaming on Facebook and YouTube

Dr. Bell will be presenting the ABC 2017 Boyer Lectures and has been appointed the inaugural McKenzie Chair at the Australian National University College of Engineering and Computer Science. She will also head the new "Three A" institute (although I am not sure what that is).

I first came across Dr. Bell, at the Realising Our Broadband Future forum, in Sydney, 2009, where it was refreshing to hear ideas about broadband for people to use. She talked at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2010 at the National Library of Australia, where she noted English was not longer the dominant language of the Internet. The next week I bumped into Dr Bell at the State Library of South Australia, where she had been the state's Thinker in Residence on South Australia’s Digital Futures.

You have to listen carefully to a speech from Dr. Bell, not just because she talks fast  and with enthusiasm (reminds me of Pia Waugh).

Dr. Bell stared with a history lesson, on the start of the engineering as a profession at the time of the French Revolution in Paris, then Constantinople and the UK. She characterized engineers as managing systems and being certified and licensed by the state. She then jumped to the USA and the creation of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I lost the thread at this point, but we ended up in the creation of Artificial Intelligence as a discipline. 

The story then jumped to Australia, with the building of SILLIAC, an Australian 1950s computer (built after  CSIRAC Australia's first computer, around 1949). But the story was really about how to combine theory and practice, plus what exactly is it that we want to research and do? 

Dr Bell had three questions on Autonomy, Agency and Assurance. She suggested we need to think about in what sense machines are "autonomous". I am not sure this is such a new issue. We have had machines which can act on their own for decades and also have such legal structures as companies as persons. A non-trivial case is in the law of war, where autonomous weapons have existed for more than a hundred years.

The next question was how much Agency, machines should have. This seems to be the same question as the first, being how much autonomy there should be.  A current example of this is the Commonwealth Bank, accused of 54,000 cases of money laundering. The Bank is not a person and it was automated teller machines which processed the cash, so who is responsible?

The third question is assurance: how we can be sure these machines are safe? This is also no a new question.  Engineers and more recently software engineers, have had to consider how safe sould be and how to work out if it is. This is made more difficult by AI, but it is something I routinely as of students when I am teaching professional ethics.

At this point I finally worked out what the 3A Institute was to be: the Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Institute.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cyber Security in Canberra, the Cloud and Amazon Web Services

Greetings from the National Convent Center in Canberra, where Alastair MacGibbon, cyber security advisor to the Prime Minister is discussing security and the cloud. He is the keynote speaker at the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit. His main message is that moving slowly does increases risk and use of cloud services decreases security risks: "Any platform which will be run professionally for us is a good thing". He made this  comment in respect to small agencies, who have difficulty keeping enough expertise in-house to run their IT systems. He also said that "legacy" systems should not just be migrated.

However, I am reminded of this week's episode of ABC TV comedy "Utopia". In this a fictional government agency was trying to work out why a government project was costing so much. It turned out that the the project had been outsourced and it ewould have been cheaper to run in-house, had the will and expertise been available. 

Previously I was a government in-house IT developer, working in small agencies. These agencies used time-shared bureau services run by a shared services business unit of a supporting government agency. The government had its own data centers, run by staff, to provide IT to other agencies: essentially its own "cloud". This approach had its problems, as when there was a problem their was little leverage a user agency had over its fellow agency supplier: one part of government can't take another to court to enforce a contract.

Now as an independent IT consultant I am hired by lawyers, when their government clients are unhappy with commercial suppliers and need an independent expert witness. It turn out in practice it is easy to take your commercial supplier to court. When examining internal project documentation I usually find there were mistakes made by the client as well as the supplier and these cases are almost always quietly settled out of court.

As an IT educator I teach teams of students at the Australian National University how to manage IT development projects so they do not end up in court. For these students, the use of cloud services is the first and normal option. However, they still have to consider what else to outsource and to who. Before building a bespoke system, they have to consider a whatever-as-a-service.

However, IT developers also have to consider under what conditions their service will continue to operate. If local, national or international links are limited, will the service still be available? If the system is under attack, can the service continue to be provided. When sharing infrastructure with other clients: who gets priority in an emergency? In times of international tension, will the service continue to operate with some countries and support staff who are citizens of those countries excluded from providing service?

Some of the ways more secure and reliable systems can be built are not that technical. One way is to focus on what the client needs and to provide this efficiently. As an example, features built into the web can provide an interface which adapts to different client devices and available bandwidth. This needs no special software, it is a design philosophy.

One aspect of cloud services is not new: suppliers and the industry over-promise what they can deliver. IT professionals have to learn to deal with unrealistic expectations from their clients as what can be done and how quickly it can be done. A new cloud based service can now be set up in minutes, but clients need to understand that this can get them into difficulties equally quickly. An example of this is the Australian Bureau of Statistics census system which failed very publicly. Costs were saved in building this system, but the financial and reputational cost of fixing the resulting failure far outweighed the saving.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Exile Academy in Germany for Refugee Schollars from the Middle East

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Kader Konuk, Chair of Turkish Studies, Universit├Ąt Duisburg-Essen, is speaking on "Scholars at Risk: Populism, Islamism, and the Current Flight of Academics to Europe". Dr Konuk outlined the erosion of academic freedom in parts of the world. She pointed out restrictions on academics in the USA during  1950s McCarthyism and recent cuts to climate change research. Dr Konuk then went back further to the 1930s and academics in exile from Nazi Germany.

Moving to the centerpiece of her message, Dr Konuk  outlined the history of secular universities in Turkey, after the founding of the republic in 1923. Turkey has had multiple military coups from 1960 to 1980, but the failed coup in 2016 has been followed by even tighter regulation of universities. Dr Konuk pointed out that in 1933, 40 exiled scholars from Germany were hired by Istanbul University, but today academic exiles from Turkey need help in Germany.

Dr Konuk's description of the treatment of academics by the state reminded me of the "Authorized Systematic Harassment" depicted by the 1978 dystopian TV series "1990". In the episode "", the state used bureaucratic processes to implement relentless harassment of opponents.

For someone at an Australian university, where we take academic freedom as a given, this was a sobering talk. Dr Konuk asked us to examine the relationship between universities and the nation state. She applied for funding to start a forum to discuss academic freedom and to provide facilities for scholars in exile to be able to continue their work.

Mastering the Cyber Security Skills Crisis with a Framework

Adam P. Henry, UNSW
Greetings from UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy, where Adam P. Henry, is speaking on his report "Mastering the Cyber Security Skills Crisis: Realigning Educational Outcomes to Industry Requirements".

Adam asserted that there is a shortage of cyber security personnel in Australia. However, his report is on university degrees, which are not necessarily intended to to provide "job ready" staff. University degrees provide a broad education and it is expected that industry and specific employers will provide specific job skills.

Some university degrees do provide specific work skills and experience, such as engineering and computer science. I am tutoring ANU engineering and computer science students in the ANU Techlauncher course after this seminar.  Some of these students undertake group projects for companies and government agencies, while others are individual "interns" working under supervision in organisaitons.

Adam emphasized practical time on task and testing of students on work-relevant exercises. He looked at different forms of education, including industry certifications, as well as higher education. Adam divided expertise into five levels, from basic to advanced expert. It would be useful to relate these to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which has ten levels. He also divided the field of education into five areas, including "people". He also had nine purposes in his framework.

Adam conducted surveys of students. Interestingly, 40% of students were not already working in cyber security and 56% were studying to get a new job. Also 34% were interested in going on to a PHd. One this last point, I suggest a Professional Doctorate may be better than a PHd.

Adam compared the offered Australian degrees with a the requirements for the US standard cyber security job characteristics (NIST KSA).  However, he also pointed out that some cyber security jobs may be so specialized that the employees don't have a career path. That suggests that education needs to be broad to get the employees out of that trap.

This 28 page report argues that Master of Cyber Security programs in Australia do not meet the requirements of industry. However, this is based on comparing what is in the Australian degrees with U.S. Government requirements. As a trained and qualified educational designer, specializing in IT and with a background in defence, if you give me that as the requirement, I could design a degree program, to meet that specification. However, are the US requirements what Australian industry needs and who says what is required?

When designing engineering and computer science programs and courses, there are professional bodies for universities to turn to for guidance. Engineers Australia and the Australian Computer Society accredit relevant programs. There seems to be a lack of equivalent in the cyber security area. This is something the universities can help rectify. In practice many of the people who write the "industry" requirements for education are actually academics seconded to committees by EA and ACS.

The report is on firmer ground suggesting "... mission-specific and purpose-driven courses may better prepare students and address the skills crisis than generalist degrees." (p. 3). However, I suggest that purpose-driven courses can be incorporated into degree programs, using tools such as e-portfolios. The degree can provide a general framework, into which specific industry certifications can be inserted, as required.

Australia has an advantage when it comes to designing practical, flexible, education.  The vocational and university arms of education are able to support each other. The workforce can be trained by a combination of university degrees, vocation programs at government TAFEs and commercial training organizations (RTOs), plus training in the workplace RTOs.

ps: I prepared a Cyberwar Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics at ANU.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mastering the Cyber Security Skills Crisis in Canberra This Thursday

Adam P. Henry, UNSW
The report "Mastering the Cyber Security Skills Crisis: Realigning Educational Outcomes to Industry Requirements", by Adam P. Henry, has been released by the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCCS). There will be a seminar about the report, 11:00am, 24 August 2017, at UNSW Canberra.

This 28 page report argues that Master of Cyber Security programs in Australia do not meet the requirements of industry. However, this is based on comparing what is in the Australian degrees with U.S. Government requirements. Australia's needs may not be the same as the USA and the UK's approach (coming from GCHQ) may be more appropriate. Also what is suitable for government and military requirements may not be what commercial industry need.

The report is on firmer ground suggesting "... mission-specific and purpose-driven courses may better prepare students and address the skills crisis than generalist degrees." (p. 3). However, I suggest that purpose-driven courses can be incorporated into degree programs, using tools such as e-portfolios. The degree can provide a general framework, into which specific industry certifications can be inserted, as required.

ps: I prepared a Cyberwar Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics at ANU.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Peace Through Superior Education: Notes

Notes for the seminar "Peace Through Superior Education", 2pm, 22 August, ANU. All welcome, free but please book.

About the Peace Through Superior Education proposal: 

'Many of the world’s most intractable problems occur on Australia's doorstep: where the trade-routes of the world's emerging economies meet. The Australian National University (ANU) was created by the Australian Parliament to meet these challenges in this region. The ANU does this by bringing together the best and brightest young people of the region to learn and to cooperate. Can this can be extended through the use of digital networks, particularly mobile devices, with an order of magnitude increase in the number of students? Can we use digital networks to engage, educate and influence the behaviors of the indo- pacific publics? How can we best do that? To answer these questions a longitudinal exploration into the transformative learning will be conducted. In this way can we can address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "... end poverty ... protect the planet ... ensure prosperity for all ... foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies ... based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity ...".'

Peace Through Superior Education

M-learning for the indo-pacific to address radicalization, climate change, food and energy security.

 Chris Barrie
Adam Broinowski
Catherine Settle
Tom Worthington

A Grand Challenges Proposal



   ANU Grand Challenges Scheme

"... identify a problem or challenge that research can address. What's unique about the program is the way it seeks to bring people together from all across the University to bring new perspectives to a major challenge confronting society."

   Scheme Stages

  1. Call for Ideas: 3 minute videos (ended 24 July)
  2. Assembly of Teams: two-page proposal by 28 August
  3. Selection of Finalists: by 8 September
  4. Selection of the 2018 ANU Grand Challenge: TBA
  5. Full Business Case: TBA
Process is similar to the Innovation ACT completion.

First stage: three minute videos

Some of the entries:
  1. Peace Through Superior Education 
  2. Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific
  3. Grand Challenge of Negative Emissions
More detailed proposal due 28 August.

Others entries and details at the ANU Grand Challenges Portal (ANU access only).

Top 20 Words in the Entries

health, science, change, social, policy, law, sustainability, knowledge, climate, energy, food, environmental, education, economics, politics, sciences, computer, Futures, complex, public


The Indo-Pacific

Many of the world’s most intractable problems occur on Australia's doorstep: where the trade-routes of the world's emerging economies meet.  
Map by Eric Gaba (Sting) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


South China Sea

By Todd Frantom [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
"A U.S. guided-missile destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of the contested Chinese installation built on an artificial island off the coast of the Philippines on Thursday ..." Sam LaGrone,US Naval Institute

"... U.S. guided-missile destroyer collided with a chemical tanker in the South China Sea ..." Sam LaGrone, US Naval Institute  

Australian_National_University Arms
The Australian National University (ANU) was created by the Australian Parliament to meet the challenges in this region. 

John Dedman
"... the Government had decided to proceed with the establishment of an Australian National University ... Both in Australia and in the world at large, innumerable problems await solution if the future is to be made safe and the people placed in a position to enjoy the fruits of the developments in science and in human relationships which have taken place ... We have also greatly increased responsibility to shoulder in relation to other people, particularly to those with whom we are associated as a' Pacific power. ..."
From ANU Bill Second Reading Speech, Mr. John Dedman, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Australian Parliament, 19 June 1946

The Colombo Plan

  • Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific
  • Educational and scientific aid from Western countries
  • Multilateral 1950s cold war soft diplomacy
  • Included Australian government scholarships to study in Australia
  • Mostly on-campus face-to-face classes and research, at existing universities
  • Six “cinema vans” for Indonesian vocational training (early mobile educational multimedia).
See: D. Oakman, "Facing Asia: a history of the Colombo Plan", ANU E Press, 2010.

ANU Education

ANU Student Ambassadors

The ANU brings together the best and brightest young people of the region to learn and to cooperate. 

ANU Education in the Region

Apia Harbor Sunset,
Worthington, 2005

Pictograph of an e-book by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US)
Can this can be extended through the use of digital networks, particularly mobile devices, with an order of magnitude increase in the number of students? 
Pictographs by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US). 

Responsive Web Design

Green course home page in landscape mode on a mobile device
Desktop Computer
Green course home page in landscape mode on a mobile device
Smart Phone
No attendance is required. All materials and assessment are on-line.

Same e-learning content for desktops and low bandwidth smart phones.
Example from "ICT Sustainability" COMP7310, ANU.

Pictograph of issues by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US)
To answer these questions a longitudinal exploration into the transformative learning will be conducted. 
Pictographs by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US). 

UN Sustainable Development Goals

"... end poverty ... protect the planet ... ensure prosperity for all ... foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies ... based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity ..."
UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015).

Field/s of research

Pedagogy, digital networking, climate change adaption, ethnopolitics, energy efficiency

Interested parties

Adam BroinowskiChris Barrie

Tom WorthingtonCatherine Settle


  • UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015).
  • Worthington, T. (2014, August 23). Chinese and Australian Students Learning to Work Together Online: Proposal to Expand the New Colombo Plan to the Online Environment. Paper to be presented at the 9th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE). Vancouver, Canada.
  • Worthington, T. (2017). Digital teaching in higher education : designing e-learning for international students of technology, innovation and the environment. Belconnen, A.C.T. TomW Communications Pty Ltd. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Tesla, the Toaster and the Teacher with a Tablet

Electric car,
1895 (Wikipedia)
Technology is advancing education, but this is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Consider the Tesla, the Toaster and the Teacher with a Tablet. Tesla cars look high tech, but underneath the streamlined body, there are four wheels driven by an electric motor and drawing power from a battery, just as electric cars did 100 years ago.

Toaster, from 1910s (Wikipedia)
Similarly a modern toaster has a streamlined plastic case, but this hides a steel frame with heated wires, and functions the same way an electric toaster did one hundred years ago. The toaster has a tiny electronic control board added to make it smart, just as the Tesla car has computers added to the hundred year old electric car design.

Stereoscope card illustrating
3D for home education,
1901 (Wikipedia).
In education, as in toasters and cars, a small amount of computer technology is added, to improve performance and add new features. But e-learning's shiny touch screens are built on a proven framework of pedagogy. Even something as new and advanced sounding as a 3D display for distance education, is more than one hundred years old.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

ePortfolios for Australian Degrees

The Australian National University (ANU) launched its e-Portfolio system yesterday. E-portfolios have been in use in Australian universities for at least a decade, but are still not easy to use. QUT lead the Australian ePortfolio Project, which produced a 175 page report in 2008. QUT also produced a 41 page report in 2008 on what they were implementing at their own institution, which remains a useful guide for others to follow.
QUT identified three styles of student ePortfolios:
  1. Structured: predetermined framework of objectives to meet external / internal needs
  2. Learning / Dynamic: opportunity for self-audit, recording, reflection, feedback and on-going development
  3. Showcase: collect together, organise and present accomplishments...
From:  QUT's Student ePortfolio as a 'real world' learning tool, Harper, Hauville & Hallam, 2008
The type of e-portfolio I am most interested in is Structured, where the student can be guided through the requirements of a course, degree program, or professional certification, without being limited to completing fixed coursework or tests. Mahara's SmartEvidence may make this easier. This and could be used for courses, or whole bachelors, masters and professional doctorate degrees.
Problems occur with e-portfolios when the purpose is not clear. In particular a structured or learning e-portfolio is unlikely to be suitable as a showcase. The student's detailed work and reflections are unlikely to be of interest to a prospective employer, and may not be suitable for public release.
One problem is where the student is undertaking professional practice work in a real commercial or government workplace. The student's work can contain sensitive commercial or government information, which  instructors are permitted to see, but cannot be made public. In reflections, students can reveal much personal information, including mental illness, personal and family relationship difficulties, which are not suitable for release.

Also I don't agree with QUT's claim that "Writing reflectively is easy". Providing the digital tool is easy, but getting people to use it effectively is very, very, hard. In particular, reflective writing is not something which comes easily to STEM students, who have been trained to write in the third person from a neutral "objective" point of view. Reflection is something the students need to be trained to do, supported by a qualified teacher.

Athabasca University introduced an ePortfolio for MEd students in 2012. However, this was modified a few years later, in part due to the difficulties the students had in completing a portfolio (Hoven, 2015). It should be noted these portfolios were for students of education, well versed in writing. If anyone should be able to do an e-portfolio, it is an education student.

I was one of the cohort of students during the transition to the new Athabasca MEd e-portfolio process. We were given to choice of the old process, or the new and I chose the new. Rather than the e-portfolio being appended after then end of coursework, it was a capstone course. An instructor took students through stages of work, with peer feedback. However, even with this additional support, the e-portfolio process was not easy. Based on that experience, I hope to help avoid some of the problems with e-portfolios at ANU.


Hoven D. (2015, January 7). ePortfolios in Post-Secondary Education: An Alternate Approach to Assessment. UAE Journal of Educational Technology and eLearning. Edition 1. URL

Friday, August 18, 2017

ANU ePortfolio Launch

Greetings from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where the new e-Portfolio is being launched. The software product being used is Mahara and it has been piloted extensively at ANU.

The choice of this product is a safe choice as it is typically installed alongside Moodle (which ANU already has). I have used Mahara in the ANU Techlauncher program, with computer science students. Previously I have used Moodle/Mahara at ACS, USQ and Athabasca University.

Professor Paul Maharg is providing an overview of how he has used e-portfolios for training lawyers. This was not about a box ticking exercise, but helping a student understand what it is to be a lawyer. He pointed out that "e-portfolios and reflection go really, really well together".

Professor Maharg also pointed out the difficulty getting students to work cooperatively together and to have curricula changed to incorporate it.He then got a little allegorical, likening an e-portfolio to the journal of early explorers, in how they explain not only what they have learned in an objective sense but as something they need to integrate with what they know.

In his presentation used the term "curriculum is technology" and asked where it was from. I traced it to a JISC report (Hughes, Gould, McKellar & Maharg, 2008, p. 40).

Last year I had to use Mahara as a graduate student to prepare a portfolio. This involved reflection and peer work with other students. My hope is that the SmartEvidence function of Mahara will take much of the tedium of the process, for students and supervisors.


Hughes, M., Gould, H., McKellar, P., & Maharg, P. (2008) SIMulated Professional Learning Environment (SIMPLE). URL

Thursday, August 17, 2017

University Open Day in Canberra on Saturday 26 August

Canberra's universities and Institute of technology are having an open day on Saturday 26 August 2017. Prospective students, and anyone else who would like to see what happens at a university, can come and look:
  1. Australian Catholic University (ACU)
  2. Australian National University (ANU)
  3. Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT)
  4. University of Canberra
  5. UNSW Canberra/Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).
Each institution has its own character.  ACU is calm and cloistered, being a former seminary. ANU has a grand tree lined avenue, from North America's Ivy League. CIT has workshops and funky designers. UCan has gone upwards with new high rise accommodation. UNSW/ADFA is a modern interpretation of West Point Academy, with a parade ground and everything squared away.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New UNSW Campus in Canberra for 10,000 Students

The ACT Government has announced discussions with the University of New South Wales for a new campus for up to 10,000 students in Canberra. The ACT Government describes this as being "alongside" the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) Reid campus. However, news reports, such as in the Canberra Times, characterize this as a   redevelopment of the CIT site for UNSW and CIT.

The CIT Reid campus is in need of renewal (I was a student there in 1990 and it does not seem to have changed much). The building need to be refurbished or replaced to suit the new teaching techniques.

One aspect not discussed in the announcement, or media reports, is a possible role for the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) in teaching. The NCCC is across the road from CIT and linked by a pedestrian bridge. The NCCC is also in need of renewal, no longer being adequate for national or international conferences. However, there has been no viable strategy to upgrade the NCCC by the ACT Government. It may be possible to have NCCC as part of a dual use university facility.

Modern university teaching facilities resemble a convention center, with large flexible spaces, movable seating and walls. Universities don't need large permanent lecture theaters, as students spend very little of their time in lectures. The new Australian National University union court will have large flat floor rooms, with Tiered Retractable Seating. At the push of a button a room can be converted from a flat open conference exhibition space, to a theater. Other rooms will have movable walls for meetings of dozens to hundreds of people. Something similar might be provided for UNSW/CIT.

As the ACT Government announcement notes, higher education is an important part of the Australian and Canberra economy. However, this depends on a fickle international student market which, like the extractive industry, can change rapidly. Australia is currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in student numbers. This could change without warning in a matter of days due to regional tensions, or incidents involving international students in Australia.

In the longer term, developed nations (including Australia) will continue to expand e-learning as an alternative to international student travel. I spent the last three years as an international Canadian graduate student, without ever having set foot on the campus I was studying at in Canada. Next week I will discuss a proposal for ANU to have 200,000 m-learning students.

Also countries in our region will continue to build their own universities to educate their own, and international students. Canberra's institutions will need to be able to offer a reasonably priced, quality blended programs to remain competitive with these international offerings.

Using Machine-Learning to Identify Which Work is Not by a Student

Amigud, A., Arnedo-Moreno, J., Daradoumis, T., & Guerrero-Roldan, A.
Amigud et al. (2017) tested using machine-learning to identify what work is not by a student. The AI system is "trained" using work submitted by the students and then can spot work which does not match the writing style of an individual. They claim 93% accuracy, compared to human instructors being able to identify work not by the student only 12% of the time. This approach has the advantage that it can identify where work was contracted out to someone else, as well as where it was copied from a public source. 

When faced with the suspicion that some students are cheating, it is tempting to ask for a supplementary face-to-face examination for that student. However, I suggest designing assessment so that all students are required to present a consistent body of work throughout their course.

Large assessment items can be replaced by multiple interlinked, scaffolded tasks. This will help students learn, while testing they have acquired required skills and knowledge. As a byproduct, this will make cheating much more difficult, as a student can't just contract out one major assignment as it will not be consistent with the student's other work.

As an example, in "ICT Sustainability", students have to answer weekly questions. The student then uses the answers in the two major assignments, which are each in two parts. This makes it difficult for a student to contract out one assignment, as the content has to be consistent with their prior work on the same topic. There are also weekly automated quizzes on basic knowledge, drawn from a question bank (to make cheating harder). To be eligible to pass, the student must get at least 50% for the weekly work and 50% for the assignments, so they can't pass by doing well in just one assignment.

Also I use progressive assessment to identify those students in the first few weeks who are having difficulty, so they can be offered help and counseling. These students will be less likely to cheat, as they can get help and they know they are under closer observation every week. I designed and refined this approach to assessment as part of my graduate studies in education.


Amigud, A., Arnedo-Moreno, J., Daradoumis, T., & Guerrero-Roldan, A. (2017). Using Learning Analytics for Preserving Academic Integrity. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 18(5). doi: