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.

Reference

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 http://dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/historical-documents/Pages/volume-24/251-Letter-from-Crocker-to-Casey.aspx
da Cruz, Marghanita (2015). 1930s Annandale : a short walk. Ramin Communications. [Annandale, New South Wales] URL http://www.ramin.com.au/annandale/story5.shtml#raycophone
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 http://press.anu.edu.au/publications/facing-asia
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01439685.2015.1049863

Rice, T. (2017, 24 August). British Empire’s forgotten propaganda tool for ‘primitive peoples’: mobile cinema. The Conversation. URL https://theconversation.com/british-empires-forgotten-propaganda-tool-for-primitive-peoples-mobile-cinema-64275

Rooksby, E. (2004). The virtual colombo plan: Implications for developing countries. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 2(3), 169-178. URL http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/14779960480000251

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 https://doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2014.6926448

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.

Reference

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 (training.gov.au, 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. ;-)

Reference

Credit into UNSW Canberra Postgraduate Programs
for Attendance at Professional Education Courses, page 2, UNSW, 2016. https://unsw.adfa.edu.au/sites/default/files/uploads/UNSWCanberra-credit-for-professional-education-courses.pdf#page=2

ICT50115 - Diploma of Information Technology: Qualification details
 (Release 2), Australian Government, 14 January 2016 https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/ICT50115

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. http://vital.new.voced.edu.au/vital/access/services/Download/ngv:29396/SOURCE2

Mewburn, I., Freund, K., & Rutherford, E. (2014). Badge trouble: piloting open badges at the Australian National University. Ascilite. http://hdl.handle.net/1885/13233

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.