Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Re-imagining Computing at the Australian National University

The Australian National University (ANU) has invited applications for a senior job "re-imagining" engineering and computing over six to twelve months:
"...  embark on an ambitious re-imagination of engineering and computing that will result in expansion of Engineering & Computer Science at the ANU.

Reporting to the Dean, successful applicant will have responsibility for the oversight and academic leadership as part of a team that will develop a blueprint and business plan for the College for the next 10 year period while also providing support to the Dean with leadership and management of the College, and will be a member of the College Executive. ..."
Dean Elanor Huntington talked on "Why We Need Engineers Now More Than Ever" at TEDxSydney. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mobile Phones for Health in Asia

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor May O. Lwin (Nanyang Technological University) is speaking on "Social Media, Civic Engagement and Public Health: Experiences from a Mobile Initiative in Asia". Of particular is Professor Lwin's work on Dengue Fever in Sri Lanka (Lwin, Vijaykumar, Lim,  Fernando, Rathnayake & Foo, 2016). The produced an application called "Mo-Buzz". Professor  mentioned there would be an EpiHack conference on this in Colombo in early November, a five day hackathon to work on Dengue software.

It happens in 2013 I gave a talk for the Sahana Foundation in Sri Lanka to an audience of tropical disease experts in Colombo about "Mobiles and e-learning for PandemicFlu Response".  It turned out that there were a number of epidemiologists in the audience and the issue was Dengue fever not flu.


Lwin, M. O., Vijaykumar, S., Lim, G., Fernando, O. N. N., Rathnayake, V. S., & Foo, S. (2016). Baseline evaluation of a participatory mobile health intervention for dengue prevention in Sri Lanka. Health Education & Behavior, 43(4), 471-479. URL

Monday, October 16, 2017

Steve Wozniak's WOZ U

The Texas-based Southern Careers Institute, a private for-profit school, has announced a tech-based training initiative called "WOZ U". This would not be of note, except it is named after, and apparently with the endorsement of, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak ("Woz").

WOZ U is offering a "video-based curriculum," much like other online training institutions. Also like other online institutes, the emphasis is on low cost, as compared with traditional education providers. However, such supposedly low-cost programs need to be compared to what is available from more conventional not-for-profit providers, such as Australian TAFEs (and their US equivalents). Also, such online providers have a low student success rate, which needs to be factored into the cost. A program you have one-tenth the chance of completing successfully  (compared to a conventional course) is effectively ten times the price.

Woz U does not make any explicit claim to be a  university. However, the use of the capital "U" implies "University."

The word "university" only appears once on the website, on the about page where it says: "Woz U has established partnerships with traditional universities, businesses, government, and non-profits ...". However, there are no universities or government mentioned. The only business mentioned is Southern Careers Institute. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minerva Project

The "Minerva Project" is a 2011 for-profit start-up, which provides a four year university program delivered through the previously established Keck Graduate Institute of California. The program is aimed at students, including those in developing nations, wanting a quality education. Minerva appears to want to avoid the stigma of on-line and distance programs, while using self-paced e-learning modules,  MOOCs and open education materials.

In place of conventional courses, Minerva has four seminar based "Cornerstone" courses in the first year:

1. Formal Analyses
2. Multimodal Communications
3. Empirical Analyses
4. Complex Systems

It gets more conventional in the second year with students selecting a major, but these are broad: Arts & Humanities, Business, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences

In the forth year they focus in their major, with the students encouraged to arrange their own study.

In the final (fourth) year the student self-directed Capstone project (which sounds like "honors" at an Australian university).

Bassis (p. 31, 2015) writes of the Minerva Project :
"The target market is the developing world's rising middle class who aim for an elite American education. Though the school's headquarters is in San Francisco, all courses are taught via an interactive online platform. Thus, both faculty and students can be anywhere in the world where there is sufficient bandwidth."

There is a book just out "Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education" (Ben Nelson and Stephen M. Kosslyn, MIT Press, October 2017).


Bassis, M. (2015). A Primer on The Transformation of Higher Education in America. Association of American Colleges and Universities President Emeritus, Westminster College, UT President Emeritus, Olivet College, MI. URL

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lego Serious Play Method

One of the more fun looking educational techniques for teaching creativity in a corporation is "Lego Serious Play Method".  There is a 22 page "Introduction to LEGO ® SERIOUS PLAY ®". No fee needs to be paid to Lego to use the "Method", but obviously they would like you to buy their Starter Kits of Blocks. In addition there are are books on the method and scholarly papers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Put VET and University on Equal Footing Says Business Council

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has released a 68 page proposal "Future-Proof: Protecting Australians Through Education and Skills" (October, 2017). This proposes putting the funding of Vocational Education and Training (VET) on an equal footing to university, to address the decline in the vocational sector. BCA point out that university programs attract more government funding and subsidized student loans than for VET. BCA suggest a "Lifelong Skills Account" for each student which can be used for  VET and HE programs, in place of existing loans and subsidies. Also information on jobs and salaries are suggested to help students select courses.

These proposals are worth consideration. However, untangling the current web of state and federal responsibilities for education is not going to be easy. Also the unintended consequences of policies that assume students act in their own long term interests and education providers act ethically, need to be considered. Richard Thaler recently won a Nobel Prize for work on behavioral economics. Perhaps some simple, quick, low risk, small scale "nudge" policies could help achieve reform.

Some simple reforms would be regulations and financial incentives for universities to provide credit to students for courses done at other universities and vocational institutions. At present university will offer such credit, but after the student enrolls, they find that the amount of credit they actually get is very implied. Another reform would be to encourage universities to offer nested qualifications, so a student who has to withdraw after years of study is left with nothing but a debt.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Improving Australian Doctoral Programs

Recently I was asked how Ph.D. programs at Australian universities could be improved, so the graduates had better real-world skills, for jobs outside research. But this is the wrong question, and once you know what the right question is, the answer is easy.

As Carr, Evans, and Hornby (2017) point out, an Australian Ph.D. (they use the example of Monash University) follows an apprenticeship model for teaching research. An Australian Ph.D. is not intended to provide a broad range of skills for industry, or to train educators: it is to produce researchers. In contrast, a Ph.D. in the United States includes elements of what Carr, Evans, and Hornby (2017, p. 180) call a "taught doctorate" and a "professional doctorate".

Australian higher education regulations do not recognize a "taught doctorate", however, there is provision for a "professional doctorate", alongside a Ph.D. ("research Degree") at AQF Level 10 Doctoral Degree. The professional candidate still does research, but the emphasis is on the professional practice context.

Professional doctoral students are likely to be out and about, in the field, not on the campus. Maor and Currie (2017) looked at the use of technology for postgraduate supervision at Australian universities, noting that this will be increasingly demanded by distance and part-time students.

Margaret Kiley
Kiley (2017) examined three Australian universities which had introduced coursework for Ph.D. students, including material derived from Professional Doctorate programs. They concluded that many supervisors consider "... in Australia that the Ph.D. is an individualized learning program negotiated between candidate and supervisor". I would agree this is the view of supervisors, but will this approach achieve the best outcomes for the individual student, or for the community (who are subsidizing this education)?

Australian universities could tie themselves in administrative knots by trying to retrofit coursework requirements and non-research skills on an old fashioned Ph.D. apprenticeship model. However,  this will be frustrating for supervisors and students who actually want a Ph.D. program. Alternatively, universities could accept the reality that more than 95% of doctoral graduates are not destined for a research career and instead offer them a Professional Doctorate program, with coursework and team supervision. The other 5% of students can undertake a PHD program.


Carr, M. E. M. E., Evans, E. B. H. W. H., & Hornby, G. (2017). Comparative Review of Education Doctorates in Three Countries. The Future of Accessibility in International Higher Education, 175. 

Kiley, M. M. (2017). An emerging PhD curriculum and what this might mean for doctoral level threshold concepts. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 12(2), 294-312. URL

 Maor, D., & Currie, J. K. (2017). The use of technology in postgraduate supervision pedagogy in two Australian universities. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 14(1), 1. URL

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

David De Roure Disrupting the Disruptive

Greetings from the Australian National University where
David De Roure, Professor of e-Research at University of Oxford is ing The imagination of Ada Lovelace: an Experimental Humanities approach. In the introduction he was described as "disrupting the disruptive" with his approach to the humanities. He recommended the plan "Ada and the Engine". 
Professor De Roure described a thought experiment where Ada did not die young and programmed Babbage's  analytical engine to play music. Emily Howard has composed "Ada Sketches" inspired by this.

Professor De Roure then outlined how to program the analytical engine, which is similar to an early microprocessor. The CPU is called a "mill", a term still in use when I learned computing. He then ran a program to play music inspired by "Ada". This sounded to my untrained ear like the soundtrack of a Peanuts cartoon, played on a harpsichord.

Professor De Roure described this as "Experimental humanities" the algorithmic equivalent of "close reading" in humanities research.

It occurred to me that this musical interpretation of computer technology might be extended to William Stanley Jevons (logic piano) and the Lamarr / Antheil
piano inspired spread spectrum torpedo guidance system

Professor De Roure is visiting ANU for the next month. He is giving the keynote address at Musicology in the Digital Age in Sydney on 14 October and is the first plenary speaker at eResearch Australasia on Creativity in Digital Scholarship, in Brisbane on 18 October.

ANU Energy Master Plan Internships

wind turbines
The Australian National University (ANU) is creating a multidisciplinary team of six students supporting the development of an ANU Energy Master Plan. Students will commence late November 2017 for ten months,
working in teams with a supervisor, ANU technical staff and a consulting firm. Overall load is approximately 100 hours effort with a stipend.

This opportunity is also open to students undertaking the course "ICT Sustainability" (COMP7310) at ANU in Semester 1, 2018. Research undertaken during the internship can be submitted as assessment for the course.

Please contact  Dr. Igor Skryabin from the ANU Energy Change Institute for details of the internship and Tom Worthington from ANU Computer Science for details of ICT Sustainability. A meeting about the ANU Energy Master Plan,will be held 16 October.

ANU Energy Change Institute

ANU Energy Master Plan Internship

An Opportunity for ANU students to contribute to the development of ANU Energy Master Plan

  • ECI is creating a multidisciplinary team of  half a dozen of ANU students supporting the development of ANU Energy Master Plan.
  • Term: 10 month, commencing late November 2017
  • Work in teams with ECI supervisor, F&S and consulting firm
  • Overall load: ~ 100 hours
  • Paid work!  ~ $5000.
Inquiries: Dr. Igor Skryabin

What is the Energy Master Plan?
  • The plan will be a unique, research-led partnership of expertise between the ANU Energy Change Institute, and the Facilities and Services Division
  • It will create a living test-bed that will provide a high-profile environment for research and education
  • The EMP will include gas, water, thermal and electricity energy vectors, and will involve energy savings, efficiency, generation and storage
  • The EMP will create an ANU electricity micro-grid that will provide a demand management facility for the ACT by the Territory’s largest customer
From: ANU Energy Master Plan meeting, ANU Energy Change Institute, October 2017

Future of School Education in Canberra

The ACT Government, which looks after Canberra's schools (both public and private) has issued a discussion paper and invited comment on The Future of Education. There is an invitation to join the conversation through social media #EducationforthenextGeneration on Twitter and Facebook, plus and the ACT Government own Your Say Platform.

These discussion questions were provided to start the conversation:
  • "What works, or could be improved in our education system?
  • How do we make sure the way we teach suits how every child and young person learns?
  • What does success look like? How can we help our children be successful in a way that suits them?
  • How should schools; their communities and the community sector better connect to support learning?
  • How can we increase access to affordable quality early childhood education and care (childcare), particularly prior to preschool?
  • How do we make sure all vulnerable children and young people have high quality education and care?"

Here are some thoughts on what could be improved:

"The ACT Government could provide training for new teachers so they are ready for the transition from campus/classroom based to primarily on-line education. While school campuses are likely to continue to be provided, especially for younger students, most of the education for older students is moving on-line and off-campus. The ACT Government already has some excellent initiative for this, such as the Canberra Institute of Technology having facilities integrated into the Gungahlin
public library and collocated with Gungahlin College.

Demolition of Manning
Clark Centre
(ANU 2017)
However, teachers need to be trained to teach using technology and also how to teach in teams for the smaller, but still important part of learning, which will take place on campus.

Australia's universities are phasing out obsolete lecture theaters, replacing them with blended, flipped and work integrated learning. The ANU Manning Clark Center lecture theater complex was demolished a few weeks ago, to be replaced with flexible spaces.

The best way to prepare teachers to teach in new ways is to train them using the same techniques. Canberra's teachers need to be comfortable and familiar with learning on-line and teaching in a team with other teachers.

I have explored some of these topics in my book on Digital Teaching.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sustainable Development in the Computing Curriculum

Klimova and Rondeau (2017) look at sustainable development and green technologies in university computing (ICT) curricula. The authors begin with the broad area sustainable development and then more specifically green computing interchangeably. Sustainable development is a far broader field than green computing. Sustainable development, in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims to meet human needs as well as environmental benefits. Green computing is limited to reducing the environmental impact of computers and using them for environmental benefit.

Klimova and Rondeau (2017, p. 4) found that 13.6% of joint master degree scholarships in the EU's Erasmus Mundus program are for sustainable development.  Only one program "Pervasive Computing and Communications for Sustainable Development" (PERCCOM), covers explicitly green computing.

The authors suggest the UK are leaders in green computing education at universities. I was not able to find the cited Leeds Beckett University MSc in Sustainable Computing, only an examiners report from 2015/2016. The University of Leicester Master’s degree in Environmental Informatics is still offered, but this is accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, rather than the British Computer Society and may not be considered a computing degree. Similarly the Lancaster University Data Science MSc may be a more general science degree. Scandinavian countries are rated next after the UK for incorporating sustainability, followed by Germany.

Fourth on the list is Australia/New Zealand (ANZ), "Despite the lack of educational programs in green
ICT/computing". My  ICT Sustainability course, offered through the Australian Computer Society, the Australian National University, and Open University Australia is cited in support of this (Worthington, 2012).

The authors suggest that sustainability education will be driven by industry demand, particularly for datacenter energy saving. They suggest there may be future opportunities for smart cities, buildings, energy grids, and transport, in part driven by international climate change agreements.


Klimova, A., & Rondeau, E. (2017, July). Education for cleaner production in information and communication technologies curriculum. In 20th IFAC World Congress, IFAC 2017. URL
Worthington, T. (2012, July). A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks. In Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2012 7th International Conference on (pp. 263-266). IEEE. URL

Alternative approaches to engaging with video content

Kent and Ellis (2017) suggest that captions for online recorded lectures could benefit all students, not just those with hearing or learning difficulties, or from a non-English speaking background (NESB). These include
older students, diverse learning styles, those in a noisy environment or with older technology. I suggest this could also help for low bandwidth users: in the extreme case a series of still images and text captions could be used in place of video.

However, the report notes that captions or transcripts are not routinely provided (Kent and Ellis, p. 10, 2017). But the only support they provide for this is a blog posting from me (Worthington, 2015).

The report addresses lecture recordings. However, it should be noted that live lectures, webinars, and video-conferences are also capable of being captioned. Commercial services now provide for live captioning via the Internet. A human operator listens to the audio and types the captions in real time.


Kent, M., & Ellis, K. (2017). Mainstreaming Captions for Online Lectures in Higher Education in Australia: Alternative approaches to engaging with video content. Curtin University. URL

Worthington, T. (2015, February 14). Higher Education Whisperer: Are AustralianUniversities Required to Caption Lecture Videos? Retrieved from

University-level innovation policy

In a working paper for the  University of Cambridge Engineering Department, Livesey, O’Sullivan, Hughes, Valli and Minshall (2008) look at strategies, leadership and metrics for innovation at UK universities.

I thought the report a little harsh writing:
'The Australian government, among others, has been accused of believing that “if a high technology/ science park is created, with suitably high-tech buildings, then high technology firms will be attracted to move in from somewhere."'. (p. 16)
However, I then realized the authors were quoting me (Worthington, 1997). ;-)

The report does not draw any clear conclusions, and it does not address the issue of explicitly teaching innovation and entrepreneurship to students or staff. The assumption seems to be that this is something which happens naturally, alongside research.


Livesey, F., O’Sullivan, E., Hughes, J., Valli, R., & Minshall, T. (2008). A pilot study on the emergence of university-level innovation policy in the UK. Centre for Economics and Policy Working Papers. URL

Worthington, T. (1997), Canberra: Cambridge or Thebes?, Australian Computer Society. URL

CANCELED: Improving participation in online higher education, Canberra, 11 October

Dr Cathy Stone from University of Newcastle will be speaking on "Improving participation, success and retention in online higher education" at the ACS Canberra Education SIG: [
This event has been canceled, but a video of a previous presentation by Dr Stone is available.]
5pm 11 October 2017.Please RSVP.
Online learning has become a well-recognised part of the broader landscape of higher education. It is also proving to have a critical place in widening access and equity within this landscape. Increasing numbers of students from backgrounds historically under-represented at university are taking the opportunity to begin undergraduate study online, including through open-entry and alternative-entry pathways. However, retention in online undergraduate programs has been shown to be at least 20% lower than in face-to-face programs (Greenland & Moore, 2014; Moody, 2004), with an Australian Government Department of Education and Training report (2014) finding that only 44.4% of fully external (online) students, compared with a rate of 76.6% for face-to-face students, completed their undergraduate degrees over an 8-year period.
This presentation provides an overview of a national research project investigating the effectiveness of practices, supports and retention strategies in online learning at Australian universities and at the Open University UK. It discusses the background to this research, its findings and outcomes. Together with evidence from the international literature, the research findings informed a set of national guidelines for Australian institutions for improving the participation, retention and academic success of students in online education.
Full report: Opportunity Through Online Learning: Improving student access, participation and success in higher education, URL:

About the Speaker

Dr Cathy Stone, from the University of Newcastle, is a 2016 Equity Fellow and a 2017 Visiting Research Fellow with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. Cathy has had many years’ experience in developing and managing strategies to improve student success and retention in higher education, with her research and publications focusing particularly on the experiences of mature-age and first-in-family students. Cathy’s work with Open Universities Australia between 2011-2014 developed her interest in researching the online student experience and ways in which to improve outcomes for diverse cohorts of online students.

Canberra's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

A report on "The role of VET in the entrepreneurial ecosystem" by Scott-Kemmis (2017) has been released from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). This report investigated start-ups in the Australian Capital Territory (substantially the same as the city of Canberra) and what role vocational education and training (VET) qualifications of the founders had.

A high proportion of startups in Canberra were by graduates and staff of local universities. The report appears to confirm that initiatives by Canberra's local Government and universities, specifically with the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) has been effective in creating a ACT entrepreneurial ecosystem. In contrast, VET qualifications appear to play little part in the startups, and the authors make recommendations for improving this.

ps: I came across this report while researching a presentation on "Digital Teaching for Entrepreneurship" for academics from China. To my surprise, I found a very recent report, not about China, but about Canberra's entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is based a less than a km from my office.


Scott-Kemmis, D. (2017). The role of VET in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, NCVER, Adelaide. URL

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Australian Idea of the University

Professor Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, will speak on his new book The Australian Idea of the University, at the Australian National University, in Canberra, 6pm 31 October 2017.
"The lecture by Professor Davis will draw on his forthcoming MUP 2018 book, The Australian Idea of the University, which asks why a nation scattered across a continent, in a world with so many competing visions of the University, is content with a single type?
2017 has seen criticism of universities in Australia, the United States and United Kingdom, essentially around their perceived distance from community and national imperatives. Academic work is characterised as unconnected with the concerns of society, universities as wealthy and unresponsive.
Are we approaching a Henry VIII moment, when a future government decides to dissolve the familiar public university?"
I spent much of the last three years contemplating the Australian idea of the university, as a Masters of Education student (ironically studying on-line in Canada). Australian higher education was founded to provide both academic scholarship and vocational skills, which is something many academics choose to forget.

History of Australian Computing Book Launch, Canberra, 9 October

Graeme Philipson
The book "A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing" by Graeme Philipson, will be launched by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, 5:15pm, 9 October (please RSVP).
Some of Graeme's research for the book was posted to the ACS website in a series of "ACS Heritage Project" articles. I was delighted to be able to point Graeme to computer pioneer David Hartley, who I worked for briefly in Brisbane.

"Australia has a long and illustrious computing history. Trevor Pearcey’s Mark 1, known as CSIRAC, dates from 1947 was one of the first electronic computers in the world. There followed a range of other remarkable achievements, from remarkable people.

But Australia’s computing history is not well-known. This book is the first time it has been documented from the beginning. There have been corporate histories, and academic studies of various aspects of the industry, and a great many reminiscences. But they have never previously been brought together in a comprehensive history."

ps: John Bennett, features prominently in Australia's computer history and edited the ACS's previous history: "Computing in Australia : the development of a profession" (1994). In 1996, I was in the UK as President of the ACS to meet my BCS counterpart, I stopped off in Cambridge and handed Professor Robin Milner, Head of the Cambridge University Computer Lab a copy of the ACS history. He looked at the cover and said "Young John Bennett!". John had been a student at the university, building the EDSAC computer in the 1950s.