Friday, September 21, 2018

TELFest: showcase of innovative use of technology for learning at ANU

The Australian National University (ANU) is holding TELFest a showcase of innovative use of technology for learning, in Canberra, 5 November 2018. The event is free, but registration is required.

Some topics:
  • How can you engage students in class? This session focuses on interactive teaching tools and techniques.
  • Are you thinking of reinvigorating your course and curriculum? Learn more about course and curriculum (re)design.
  • Workshop: Designing for Interactive Learning: A Case at the Lab.
  • Workshop: Building on the Bricks of the Lego Serious Play for the Classrooms Experience.

Ten Years Teaching Graduate Students Online: Some Hard Lessons

I will be speaking on "Ten Years Teaching Graduate Students Online: Some Hard Lessons", at ANU TELFest, in Canberra, 5 November 2018. Here is the extended outline:

Ten Years Teaching Graduate Students Online: Some Hard Lessons

Tom Worthington, MEd FHEA FACS CP
Honorary Senior Lecturer
ANU Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University


The online graduate course "ICT Sustainability" was first run in 2009 and has been offered each year since by ANU, two other institutions in Australia and in North America. Course designer Tom Worthington discusses how the needs of global industry and academia were incorporated and the changes made in the ten years this award winning course has been running. Tom discusses how to keep students working online and keep study relevant to the workplace. Adapting the course for industry, open universities and as a free open on-line module are covered.

The Course

The Australian Computer Society identified a need for training of computer professionals in environmental issues in 2008. Tom Worthington was commissioned to design a 12 week online course on what was then called “Green Computing” (Worthington, 2012). This was intended to be delivered as part of an industry graduate certificate for computer professionals. The course was designed for the Moodle learning management system and released under a Creative Commons license. The first cohort of students started the course in early 2009. At this time the Australian National University had transitioned to the Moodle system and the porting of the course from ACS to ANU was found to be relatively simple. The first cohort of ANU students commenced in second semester 2009.
Two cohorts of students (ACS and ANU) progressed through the course a few weeks apart with the same tutor, who was also the course designer. While the course content was identical for the two cohorts, there were subtle differences in assessment for the vocational and university cohorts. Later one of the graduates of the ANU course adapted the material for Athabasca University Canada, creating a third version (Stewart, ?). Athabasca staff later created self paced MOOC-like version of the course, resulting in four known versions (the course materials are open access, so more may exist). All known versions are listed in the introduction to the published course notes for the ANU course, along with details of revisions (Worthington, 2017b).

Addressing Global Requirements

The course was designed for the needs of the global computer industry and international qualifications standards. Course content and assessment is aligned with the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA Foundation, 2009). The course is also designed for the requirements of the international accreditation of computer professional qualifications under the Soul Accord (2011).

Evolving Teaching and Assessment Techniques

The course was designed for online deliver, not having been adapted from a face-to-face course. A set of text based notes are provided to students electronically (also published as a book), along with readings and optional videos. Unlike many online courses there are no recorded lectures, instead students are guided through the text with weekly discussion questions. Students were initially given a weekly grade by the tutor based on their answering and discussion in a text based forum. This was later changed to peer assessment using Moodle's forum module. Athabasca's self paced version of the course introduced weekly automated quizzes and these were adopted for ANU using Moodle's quiz module. The latest version of the course assessment has 20% for weekly forum contributions (2% per week, best 10 of 12 weeks, by peer assessment), 10% automated quizzes (10 x 1% each) and two assignments of 35% each (each in two parts: 5% plan, 30% do).

Some of the hard lessons

1. Online Teaching is a Skill to Learn

The initial course design was adapted from an existing ACS online course by a university lecturer with no formal training in course design and no experience as an online student. Subsequent formal training in course design and particularly experience of being an online student, made the process much easier (Worthington, 2017a).

2. Videos Are Not Necessary for Online Courses

The course was developed using traditional distance education techniques, with text based notes, text based asynchronous communication between students and with staff. This has proved robust and successful. Students undertaking the online course achieve similar results to those for their conventional lecture based on-campus courses.

3. Peer Assessment Works

Peer assessment of students produced similar results to tutor assessment. Students accepted this form of assessment, provided it was made clear a tutor was checking the process.

4. Marks Are Needed to Keep Online Students Working

The course assessment scheme has marks awarded every week for discussion and a quiz. This was found necessary to keep students studying. Without the routine of a face-to-face class to attend it is too easy for students to neglect their online studies. The assessment scheme has been adjusted several time to attempt to find the correct balance between small rewards for weekly work, and large assessment items for evaluating deeper knowledge. The current scheme limits the grade a student can achieve from the weekly work to a “Credit”.

5. A little feedback goes a long way

Students are provided with weekly feedback. This consists of their mark for the week and one or two sentences. This has been found to be effective, as students look out for the mark. The weekly marks have also been found to be a good indicator of student progress. Students at risk can be identified from their low marks in the first few weeks of the course.

6. Provide Accessible Notes to Student's Phones

Learning Management Systems, such as Moodle, are now capable of providing most of their functions to a student via a mobile phone. However, the course content has to be suitably formatted. Much time and trouble can be saved by formatting the course materials as accessible HTML documents, which will scale to fit on the student's phone or laptop. There is then no need for a special mobile version of the software or course materials. As the course materials are in a standard web format they can also be easily ported to other software, and produced as an eBook or printed book.


Seoul Accord Secretariat, (2011). Seoul Accord. Retrieved from
SFIA Foundation. (2009). Skills Framework for the Information Age, Version 4 [Online]. Available:
Stewart, B (?). Green ICT Strategies, COMP 635, Athabasca University, Canada. 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

Worthington, T. (2017a). Digital Teaching In Higher Education: Designing E-learning for International Students of Technology, Innovation and the Environment. URL

Worthington, T. (2017b). ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future. URL

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Collaboration across Boundaries 2018 Conference Canberra

Resister now and apply to present at Collaboration across Boundaries, a free one day conference for early career academics, 4 December, at the Australian National University in Canberra. There are two $3,000 research grants for the best collaborative idea. Also there is a free skills development workshop on Tuesday 20 November.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific

Greetings from the ANU Grand Challenges pitch night in Canberra.  Four teams are presenting their ideas. One will receive funding. The last is "Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific". This project proposes to capture solar and wind renewable energy on a large scale in north-west Australia, then export it to Asia.

The energy will be exported by undersea cables, as synthetic fuel in supertankers and as refined metal. The project has to work out how to negotiate with traditional owners of the land on which the energy will be collected, and with the nations the cables and tankers will need to transit.

One issue is that cables and supertankers of fuel make attractive targets for terrorists and nations. The tradition approach to such defence would involve UAVs and rapid reaction air and seaborne forces. However, this could also include the local community as part of the early warning system.

Social Cohesion, inclusion and diversity

Greetings from the ANU Grand Challenges pitch night in Canberra.  Four teams are presenting their ideas. One will receive funding. The third is "Social Cohesion, inclusion and diversity". This proposes five phases: synthesis, stock-take, solve, scale-up and share. The approach appears similar to that of
Burstow, Newbigging, Tew, and Costello (2018). One aspect the team might like to investigate is online aspects of community building in the face of so-called social media.


Burstow, P., Newbigging, K., Tew, J., & Costello, B. (2018). Investing in a resilient generation: Keys to a mentally prosperous nation. URL

Restoring Climate with Enhanced Earth Systems

Greetings from the ANU Grand Challenges pitch night in Canberra.  Four teams are presenting their ideas. One will receive funding. The second is "Restoring Climate with Enhanced Earth Systems". The presentation began with the example of the Chinese Loess Plateau. However, the project appears to be about improving agriculture in Australia, not China. The project includes the "EcoVR – The Virtual Reality Ecosystem Data Viewer", developed by ANU Techlauncher students.

Humanising Machine Intelligence

Professor Robert
C Williamson
Greetings from the ANU Grand Challenges pitch night in Canberra.  Four teams are presenting their ideas. One will receive funding. The first is "Humanising Machine Intelligence" (HMI). This appeared to share some aspects of the ANU 3A Institute. Also on this theme, Dr Roger Clarke recently released draft "Guidelines for the Responsible Business Use of AI".

Monday, September 17, 2018

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 14

In Part 13 I looked at  "Guidelines for Teaching @MIT and Beyond".  But teacher training do universities require their new teachers to have? The first teaching someone is likely to do at university is tutoring. The School of Mathematics and Physics at University of Queensland require new tutors to undertake five hours of training.  However, details of what is in the training is not provided on the UQ website.

The ANU offers Principles of Tutoring and Demonstrating (PTD) for new tutors,. with ten modules:
  1. Setting the Scene Reflective Practice
  2. Student Learning
  3. Planning a Tutorial
  4. Teaching Groups & Individuals
  5. Dynamics and Diversity
  6. Peer Observation
  7. Intro to Wattle for Tutors
  8. Assessment and Marking
  9. Evaluation
  10. Troubleshooting (The Tutorial Toolkit)
Each module is two hours long, making a total of  20 hours. That is equivalent to half a week full time study and four times as long as the UQ course. The students don't get a recognized AQF qualification at the end of the program, but can apply for Associate Fellow status with the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).

The Higher Education Academy use the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for early career academics, higher degree students who are tutoring, part-timers, learning technologists, learning developers and  library staff.

This requires "successful engagement" with two of five Areas of Activity:
  1. Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
  2. Teach and/or support learning
  3. Assess and give feedback to learners
  4. Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
  5. Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating
    research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices 
It is curious that the HEA would require any two of these for a beginner. It would be usual for a beginner to start with teaching (2), then assessment (3), and some planning (1). Only after some training and experience would it make sense to undertake design (1). Also professional development (5) is not applicable to someone who has not yet undertaken their initial training (and so is not yet a professional). But the UKPSF could still be useful for framing teaching.

For the AFHEA the applicant also requires "Core Knowledge" of the subject material they are teaching. In the case of a university teacher, this would normally be obvious from their qualifications (in this case in computing). Of more interest is the requirement for "Appropriate methods for teaching, learning and assessing in the subject area and at the level of the
academic programme" (K2). The applicant also requires "relevant professional practices, subject and pedagogic research and/or scholarship within the above activities".

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Bomb Proof Timber Buildings

Greetings from the Mass Timber Building Seminar at the Australian National University. The new ANU teaching building is being constructed from timber, which is still unusual for large modern buildings. One aspect of this building technique which was pointed out by Andrew Smith from Lendlease DesignMake, is that it has been tested as bomb proof for the US Army.

What might have wider applicability is that Andrew suggested the use of a technique similar to that used by automobile manufacturers to produce a wide range of different cars from the same set of engineered components. With this a set of steel connectors and wooden panels would be used to quickly produce custom buildings. But perhaps from car making as an analogy, flat-pack furniture would be more applicable.

I asked Andrew if timber provided flexibility for a teaching building. He said that they settled on a 8 x 8 m module for the new ANU Flexible Teaching building would provide a good balance between flexibility and cost. The wood floor of the building is stiffened with wood ribs.

I was one of those who argued for eliminating conventional lecture theaters, but exactly what size or shape space might be best is still not yet clear. It is also likely this will change over time. Six years ago I looked at remodeling the ANU's Computer Science and Information Technology Building (CSIT) for flexible learning. However, this was difficult to do due to the placement of the columns in the building. These had been placed to suit the computer workstations in common use when it was built. The computers were long gone, being obsolete, but the concrete columns could not be moved.

Andrew Smith also emphasized "volumetrics". Buildings are mostly empty space and so it is not necessarily economic to build them in modules.  It is more efficient to assemble them from pre-cut panels and beams. The panels can then be "nested" for delivery: carefully laid out like a jigsaw puzzle to reduce wasted space. He pointed out that the panels must be smaller than the shipping containers they are transported in. However the panels are very strong and it occurred to me they might be stacked on a logistics platform.

Later speakers at the seminar will discuss how the Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building panels are made (Sean Bull, XLAM) and how to prevent Mould & Fire (Andreas Luzzi, Laros Industries).

While the construction of large buildings from timber appears challenging,  Rohan George from Equatorial Launch Australia mentioned they were looking at it for their Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory.

ps: I will be speaking on "Learning to use new  tech-infused teaching spaces" at EduBuild 2018 in Singapore, 9 October, 5:20pm.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 13

In Part 12 I looked at the documentation associated with Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) teaching qualifications for inspiration as to what might be in a course for computer professionals to learn to teach. However, the VET units focus on very small discrete outcomes, and something broader is needed for university teachers. So I searched using such terms as 'teacher training for doctoral students "computer science"'. One document this threw up was "Guidelines for Teaching @MIT and Beyond". I was surprised to find that this was based on "Guidelines on Learning that Inform Teaching", by Adrian Lee, Emeritus Professor, UNSW.

MIT's guidelines use the same three areas I had already decided on: design, deliver and assess (although I had  them in the order: deliver, assess, and design). I looked at Lee's website, but found this very hard to follow. However, both the original and MIT's version use a Creative Commons license, allowing the material to be adapted and reused.

The guidelines provide a short statement and a series of . For exmaple, "Deliver":
"The way that you present material in your course, as well as the choices you make about how your students will engage with course content can have profound impact on student learning.  Use your intended learning outcomes to guide your content delivery choices and shape your classroom environment.
Then under Varied Teaching Methods:
"GuidelineUse multiple teaching methods and modes of instruction."
There were then references to help with this guideline. Unfortunately the link for the first reference is broken and the second paper based. Only one of the eleven additional references had a hypertext link. This makes the material of very little practical use. What is needed is online freely accessible material.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

ASCILITE Quality Online Learning Accreditation Framework

The Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE), is developing a Quality Online Learning Accreditation Framework. The intention is to use this for evaluating the quality of online learning. However, it is not clear to me what is to be evaluated.

ASCILITE already undertakes a certified membership scheme called "CMALT Australasia" in partnership with the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) UK. This provides professional accreditation for those working with learning technology. Like "Groucho" Marx, I was impressed with the CMALT process, as my application was rejected.  ;-)

More seriously, the ASCILITE Quality Online Learning Accreditation Framework is summarized in one table. This table is a little confusing. It has four domains:
  1. Online Environment, 
  2. Learning Tasks, 
  3. Learner Support
  4. Learning Resources
Each domain has a paragraph long definition, then two two standards, each with performance criteria. The definitions don't really help and I suggest could be shortened or omitted. As example, the first starts: "This domain refers to ... The important elements in this domain are ...", which is unnecessary, as the reader know all that from the context. There also appears to be some confusion between the standard and the Performance Criteria. As an example, the first standard says "... supports a positive user experience", which would appear to be a performance criterion.

The way the table is laid out it is difficult to see that each domain has two standards. There is no logical relationship, as far as I can see, between the items along each row in the table. This might be better laid out with three columns: Domain, Standards and Criteria:

DomainStandardPerformance Criteria
Online environment1. User experience1.1. Logically sequenced and organized.
1.2. Inclusive.
1.3. Feedback invited.
2. Learning Support2.1. Responsive across devices and platforms ...

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 12

In Part 11 I chose three skills from the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) for three micro-credentials for teaching: Delivery, Assessment, and Design. But that only provides a paragraph for each: where do I get more detail as to what the students need to learn?

I tried searching curricular and open access course materials for existing university teaching courses, but these tended to emphasize theory, rather than practice. For a computer professional who wants to learn how to teach it is not necessarily helpful to give them pages of theory and references to research. They need to quickly introduced to something which will help them teach.

More useful is the documentation associated with the Vocational Education and Training (VET) teaching qualifications. Most prominent of these is the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116). This is at level 4 in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), much lower than a Bachelor Degree (Level 7) or Graduate Certificate (Level 8). There is mention of learning principles and theories in the VET skills definitions, but the emphasis is on practical skills.

TAE40116 has nine core units, the first of which is Plan assessment activities and processes (TAEASS401). This has five elements:
  1. "Prepare session plans ...
  2. Prepare resources for delivery ...
  3. Deliver and facilitate training sessions ...
  4. Support and monitor learning ..."

    From Plan assessment activities and processes (TAEASS401),, 2016
One interesting aspect is that delivery is only part of one of the five elements. Those new to university teaching tend to worry about their ability to speak forcefully, in a lecture or tutorial. However, perhaps the useful thing we can do is reassure new teachers that they do not have to give a dramatic performance, like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. Understanding what the students need, preparing and supporting them, will be more effective than Shakespearian rhetoric.

The element on Deliver and facilitate training sessions, has four Performance criteria:
  1. "Conduct each session according to the session plan, modified where appropriate to meet learner needs
  2. Use the diversity of the group as another resource to support learning
  3. Employ a range of delivery methods to optimise learner experiences
  4. Demonstrate effective facilitation skills to ensure effective participation and group management ..."
From Plan assessment activities and processes (TAEASS401),, 2016
These are criteria for assessing the teacher, but I suggest are also useful tips for the new teacher, particularly the first, to have a plan, but modify it for the learners. Also useful, is to have a range of delivery methods. Delivery is not just about talking, or videos of talking, in the case of e-learning. The learner experience can be improved by getting them to do something, in particular working in a group.

ACS at River City Labs Startup Catalyst

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has announced it will operate the Brisbane based River City Labs (RCL) Innovation Accelerator and Startup Catalyst and will invest $7.5 million over the next three years.

Last year I had some free time in Brisbane so I went along to River City Labs Entrepreneur's Story Evening. River City Labs is a coworking space, much like Fishburners in Sydney and Entry 29 in Canberra. Those wanting to start a new tech business get some office space and help.
River City Labs looks a good venue for innovation, but underused. The ACS input should provide a boost for this. I suggest also formal involvement by VET and university students, which I do in Canberra with CBRIN and ANU Students can undertake startups and receive course credit for it.

River City Labs is in the historic TCB Building, Fortitude Valley, fitted out in the usual New York Loft warehouse style of co-working spaces: bare wooden floorboards, brick-walls and services visible on the ceiling. There is glass partitioning, making the most of the light from the clerestory windows of the large atrium.

River City Labs founder, Steve Baxter, is best known from the Australian TV series Shark Tank. Originally from Brisbane, he made his mark as an ISP pioneer in Adelaide, then in the USA before returning to Brisbane.

At the Entrepreneur's Story Evening, Steve made several comments about the role of universities in innovation. He seemed keen for school leavers to undertake tech degrees at university, but otherwise did not want universities involved in innovation. I pointed out that some tech students in Canberra are encouraged to go to the Canberra Innovation Network (equivalent to River City Labs) to learn about entrepreneurship, they then receive credit for the project work they do. Programs such as ANU Techlauncher try to balance the academic and practical aspects. Steve seemed to like this idea.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 11

In Part 10 I looked at having three micro-credentials on teaching, which taken consecutively would count as one university course. The Australian Computer Society were short one speaker at their 2018 Canberra Conference, so with 12 hours notice I presented on this at the conference (it went okay). Now I need to work out what is in the three micro-credentials proposed: 1. Delivery, 2. Assessment, and 3. Design. These were abstracted from the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA):

SFIA Category Skills on Teaching
Subcategory Skill Code Levels

1. Delivery

The SFIA Learning delivery skill is what I would call simply "teaching":
"The transfer of business and/or technical skills and knowledge and the promotion of professional attitudes in order to facilitate learning and development. Uses a range of techniques, resources and media (which might include eLearning, on-line virtual environments, self-assessment, peer-assisted learning, simulation, and other current methods)."

From Learning delivery, SFIA version 7, 2018.
This is defined at SFIA levels three to six. The lowest level looks most appropriate for a beginner, as it is about the doing of the teaching:
"Delivers learning activities to a variety of audiences. Teaches, instructs, trains students/learners in order to develop knowledge, techniques and skills using appropriate methods, tools, online environments, equipment and materials. Oversees students/learners in performing practical activities and work, advising and assisting where necessary. Provides detailed instruction where necessary and responds to questions, seeking advice in exceptional conditions beyond own experience. Assists with the development of examples and case study material for use within pre-defined learning material."

From Learning delivery, Level 3, SFIA version 7, 2018.

2. Assessment

The SFIA Competency assessment skill may cause some confusion for university academics. The term "competency" is usually used for vocational education, where students are pass/fail assessed as to if they can do a small specific task. University assessment is usually of a broader range of skills, with multiple grades (Pass, Credit, Distinction ...) or numbers allocated. However, the description of the SFIA skill doesn't seem to be limited to the former:
"The assessment of knowledge, skills and behaviours by any means whether formal or informal against frameworks such as SFIA. The evaluation, selection, adoption and adaptation of assessment methods, tools, and techniques based on the context of the assessment and how the results of the assessment are to be used. The evaluation of learning or educational activities against defined skills/competency development outcomes."

From Competency assessment, SFIA version 7, 2018.
Here the Level 5 skill looks most comprehensive:
"Provides advice and guidance on the selection, adoption and adaption of appropriate assessment methods, tools and techniques based on the context of the assessment and how the results of the assessment are to be used. Manages execution of skill/competency assessments to ensure they deliver the required outcomes with acceptable quality. Ensures assessments follow ethical, legal and regulatory requirements. Manages reviews of the benefits and value of assessment methods and tools. Identifies and recommends improvements to assessment methods and tools. Assesses the effectiveness of learning or educational activities based on the achievement of skill/competency development targets."

From Competency assessment, Level 5, SFIA version 7, 2018.

4. Design

The SFIA Learning design and development skill is less problematic:
"The specification, design, creation, packaging and maintenance of materials and resources for use in learning and development in the workplace or in compulsory, further or higher education. Typically involves the assimilation of information from existing sources, selection and re-presentation in a form suitable to the intended purpose and audience. Includes instructional design, content development, configuration and testing of learning environments, and use of appropriate current technologies such as audio, video, simulation and assessment. May include third party accreditation."
The Level 4 definition looks most appropriate:
"Specifies the content and structure of learning and development materials. Takes responsibility for design, creation, packaging and maintenance and manages development to deliver agreed outcomes. Where required, designs, configures and tests learning environments, including creation of simulated data, and replication of external systems, interfaces, and assessment systems. Secures external accreditations as appropriate."

From Learning design and development, Level 4, SFIA version 7, 2018.
Skill management Learning delivery ETDL --3456-

LEDA --3456-

Learning design and development TMCR ---456-

Friday, September 7, 2018

Call for University to Establish in Western Sydney

Blacktown Council in Sydney's West has invited universities to set up a 5,000 student campus, expanding to 30,000 students. Their business  case argues a strong market demand for study in Sydney, good transport, businesses wanting to partner on logistics, manufacturing, engineering, IT, sport and medicine.

What the Council has not mentioned is the availability of existing buildings, suitable for conversion to a campus.  Universities no longer require large purpose built lecture theaters. What would be ideal is an old shopping mall, with adjacent cinema complex and office tower.

Also required are suitable professionals, who can be trained to teach, and a lifestyle suitable for attracting a few academics. A university campus only needs a handful of full time research orientated academics. What is required is a large supply of part time teachers who are already qualified in the discipline they are teaching.

What is not clear is how large the Council expects the campus to be. With students mostly studying on-line, a university only needs to accommodate about one fifth of the enrolled students at any one time. Also students are increasingly part-time. As a result a university campus accommodating 30,000 students suggests the actual number of students enrolled to be about 150,000.

I will be discussing Learning to use new  tech-infused teaching spaces, at EduBuild Asia 2018 in Singapore 10 October.

Academic Open Access Publishing Needs Education and Auditing

A move to open access research publishing will need, I suggest, a well resourced information campaign, and a well staffed anti-fraud unit. European and UK research funding bodies have decided to move to open access publishing by 2020. As a condition of receiving funding researchers will be required to publish papers from that research where they are available free. The researchers will be provided with finding to pay for publication. However, it is likely that some academics and publishers will attempt to game the new system, placing public money and the integrity of research at risk.

In 2014 the Australian Government expanded student loans from universities to non-government  vocational and educational training (VET) colleges. A 2015 Parliamentary inquiry heard "... harrowing and concerning evidence of misconduct by private VET providers ...". Education providers, and brokers, offered students inducements such as laptops to sign up for courses. This came at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian community and harmed the reputation of Australian vocational education.

Similar scams are likely with open access publishing, unless controls are in place from the start of the scheme. Academics are under pressure to publish and will be tempted to accept inducements from publishers and brokers, to place their business with them. We will likely see offers of free equipment and trips in return for publishing. We are also likely to see offers to the heads of research organizations for all research by their staff to be directed to one publisher in return for favorable treatment.

It should be made clear to publishers and researchers from the outset that offering, or accepting, cash and gifts in return for publishing is a crime. It should be made clear there are trained criminal investigators looking for such behavior and those responsible with be prosecuted.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New Skills for the Information Age

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society Canberra Conference, where Louise Smith, ACS Director of Workforce Development & Planning and Education, is speaking on "Puzzle Out SFIA 7". This is about the new version 7 of the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). This is a very complex standard set of skills definitions for those in the computer industry. I used SFIA for designing the course Green Computing for ACS (or more accurately I defined the skills and then sent them to SFIA Foundation to put in the standard). One aspects that troubles me about SFIA, even in the new version, is the emphasis on business, rather than technical skills.

SFIA Version 7 has at level 7 a definition of knowledge:
"Has established a broad and deep business knowledge including the activities and practices of own organisation and a broad knowledge of those of suppliers, partners, competitors and clients. Fosters a culture to encourage the strategic application of generic and specific bodies of knowledge within own area of influence."
This definition refers specifically to "business knowledge", suggesting other forms of technical knowledge are not relevant. I suggest we need to acknowledge and reward technical skills at the highest levels in organizations. A modern organization depends on technology working reliably, securely and continuously. Failure of these systems can result in to the organization going out of business, as well as a loss of service to the community.

Cyber-attack Targets Australian Universities

Countries with targeted universities.
Source: Secureworks
Greetings from the Australian Computer Society conference in Canberra where Alex Tilley, Senior Security Researcher (eCrime) Secureworks warned of a cyber-attack targeting universities around the world. This has been labeled COBALT DICKENS. This appears to be a state  attempt to steal intellectual property, as well as identities. 

Mobile Learning from Canberra with Microcredentials and Blockchain for the Indo-Pacific: Colombo Plan 2.0

Greetings from the opening of the Australian Computer Society Canberra Conference. One speaker couldn't make it, so I am filling in at 1:15pm, on "Computer Professionals Providing Mobile Learning for the Digital Economy". In this I suggest Australia can provide courses on-line to students in the Indo-Pacific, to complement China's Belt and Road Project. The idea would be a formal university level courses, but delivered as a series of micro-credentials, digitally certified using a blockchain. This is a preview of a presentation I prepared for NICT 2018 in Colombo, on 3 October.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 10

In Part 9 I looked at what quantum is reasonable to teach those who teach. The NZ government recently recognized Micro-credentials of 1 to 8 weeks study. A conventional Australian university 12 week semester consists of four courses, with 3 weeks full time study per course. So one option would be to have three micro-credentials which taken consecutively would count as one university course.

In Part 2 I looked at the Australian Computer Society's "specialisms" for computer professionals involved in education. These were derived Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA):

SFIA Category Skills and ACS Membership Level
Subcategory Skill Code Levels

Skill management Learning and development management ETMG --34567

LEDA --3456-

Learning design and development TMCR ---456-

Learning delivery ETDL --3456-

Teaching and subject formation TEAC ----56-
The three key terms in these, I suggest are:
  1. Delivery
  2. Assessment
  3. Design
For the beginner, I suggest it would be best to take them in that order, first the deliver, then assessment and only then consider the overall design. This would reflect the concerns of the student and make it less abstract. Teacher training courses I have undertaken place a heavy emphasis on theory, which is off-putting for the student.

I will discuss this in "Computer Professionals Providing Mobile Learning for the Digital Economy" at the Computer Society of Sri Lanka's National IT Conference (NITC 2018),  9 am 3 October.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Energy, Education and Mobile Devices in the Indo-Pacific

From 2 to10 October I will be giving three talks on Energy, Education and Mobile Devices, in Sri Lanka and Singapore.

My first talk is "Computer Professionals Providing Mobile Learning for the Digital Economy" at the Computer Society of Sri Lanka's National IT Conference (NITC 2018),  9 am 3 October. Speakers were asked "... how do we drive a digital economy? What should be the key measurements? ..." and I am answering this with mobile education.

Second talk is "Decreasing Campus Energy Use With Flexible Classrooms and e-Learning" at EduBuild 2018 in Singapore, 9 October, 5:20pm. This is a new part of the annual EduTech conference, focusing on classroom design and use.

The next day at EduBuild (10 October, 11:55am), I will be taking part in a discussion of "Learning to use new  tech-infused teaching spaces".

I am happy to give talks at other venues.  On a previous visit to Sri Lanka I talked to the Sahana Foundation on disaster management.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Decreasing Campus Energy Use With Flexible Classrooms and e-Learning

I will be speaking on "Decreasing Campus Energy Use With Flexible Classrooms and e-Learning" at EduBuild 2018 in Singapore, 9 October, 5:20pm. This is a new part of the annual EduTech conference, focusing on classroom design and use.
  1. Energy use and Carbon Emissions
  2. New Flexible Classrooms
  3. E-learning
ps: The next day at EduBuild I will be taking part in a discussion of "Learning to use new  tech-infused teaching spaces".

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Blockchain for Microcredentials

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society (ACS) in Sydney. I am a member of the ACS Blockchain Technical committee and taking part in a workshop with people from industry and academia. We were looking for use cases, so I suggested education, specifically blockchain for micro-credentials.

Educational qualifications much shorter than current diplomas and degrees is a hot topic in Australian vocational and higher education. What takes this beyond a theoretical discussion is New Zealand recognizing Micro-credentials from 22 August 2018.

A NZ micro-credential is equivalent to about 1 to 8 weeks study. So in addition to accumulating perhaps a half dozen macro-credentials during their career, an individual may have hundreds of micro-credentials. It would be cumbersome to manage these on paper, or through a centralized computer system.

The micro-credentials may then be automatically checked for some jobs by automated systems. I will touch on this in my talk on mobile education for the Computer Society of Sri Lanka  National IT Conference (NITC 2018),  2 to 4 October. Students could study and be tested via their mobile device and then their digital certificate provided via the same device. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Learning to be a Professional

ANU TechLauncher 2015 team
‘Design Profile’
Photo by Stuart Hay
For the next few months I will be speaking at conferences, and on industry committees preparing policy, so can't tutor ANU TechLaucher, as I usually do. Instead I volunteered to be a standby tutor, a like Star Trek's Emergency Medical Hologram. Last week the usual tutor was not available, so I took a class for the first time.

It is a little daunting walking into a classroom mid-semester with a room full of experienced students who have bonded into teams. So I decided to treat it like a job application, and put up on screen my LinkedIn profile. The students were not that impressed with my past work, as much of it is from before they were born. However, there were interested in my 700+ contacts, and asked how does someone starting out get these. My answer was that they need to gain experience outside their their course and that will be assessed in their last assignment.

This was a little off topic for the tutorial, which was supposed to be about hearing from them where their projects are up to. However, I pointed out that the Work Portfolio Package, their last assessment item (worth 20%), requires them to write a job application and provide evidence of how professional they are. A large part of being professional is learning to learn, and learning to work with people.

A previous version of ANU Techlauncher required a reflective portfolio, where students commented on their learning. However, this is a very abstract concept to get across to students generally. It is particularly difficult for STEM students to understand the relevance of reflection (it is easier for educators from a social science). I still have difficulty with reflection, even after successfully completing a portfolio for an MEd capstone, for fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and most recently for the ANU Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education Certificate.

For TechLauncher, the reflection was recast as a job application. The student has to explain how their experience during the course is relevant to a real job. This is essentially the same learning reflection exercise, but in a format which is very relevant to a final year student who will soon need a job. What many students have difficulty with is that this is not just about what they learned as part of the course content, but what they sought out to learn externally.

To make the need for reflection explicit, the marking criteria for the portfolio are about the student's professional approach: evidence of decision-making, maturity of reflection,  professional tone,  evidence of life-long learning, acting on feedback and professional attitude.

Of the criteria, evidence of life-long learning, causes the most difficulty. Having been the recipients of carefully curated education for years, students have difficulty with the idea of seeking out learning for themselves. The usually response is "Can we just watch some YouTube videos?". The assumption is that any more structured learning is something where they have to pay someone to tell them what to do.

Students, I suggest, need to be shown how to go out and find learning for themselves. They also need to be told it is okay if this is outside their discipline, provided their is some relevance (such as soft skills). At and around universities there are many learning opportunities, some formal, some informal. What the student needs to do is work out what they want to learn, what is available for that, how they will know they learned something, and in professional terms, what evidence will they have to show an assessor, or employer, that they learned.

At least that is what I tried to get across to the students in the tutorial last week. Just watching some videos what not enough. They had to first work out what they needed to learn, then decide if the videos were suitable, then decide if they had really learned, and lastly provide some documentation of this. As a certified computer professional I am required to do 30 hours of such training per year, with evidence and possible audit of my claims.

Finding extra learning at a university and particularly in a university city such as Canberra, is not that difficult. There are free and low cost courses run by the universities and affiliated bodies, such as the Canberra Innovation Network. There are university clubs and societies, such as the ANU Computer Science Student Association. Student membership of professional bodies, such as the Australian Computer Society and Engineers Australia. provides the opportunity to not only attend events, but also take part in running them. The professional contacts come as a by product of these activities, from meeting people.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Teaching and Research Jobs at ANU in Computer Science

New ANU Maths &
Computer Science Building
The Australian National University has advertised three positions for lecturers in the Research School of Computer Science. These jobs are not as dull as described in the official documentation. Some of things I have been involved at ANU recently:

ANU TEL ED HE Certificate awarded to Tom Worthington Wednesday, August 22, 2018

ANU Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education Certificate

This week I received my ANU Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education Certificate. This required completing ten short online "ANU Coffee Courses" and a 500 word reflection.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Innovation ACT

InnovationACT is a ten week startup program and completion for Canberra's university students (with a $50,000 seed pool). IACT starts 14th August. I am one of the mentors (my team last year was OK RDY).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

ANU Social Enterprise Bootcamp

Greetings from the ANU Social Enterprise Bootcamp, at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. This is hosted by the ANU Technology Transfer Office. The workshop is being run by Cindy Mitchell, Social Impact Strategist at the University of Canberra and CEO of the Mill House Social Enterprise Accelerator. Cindy has adapted the tools usually used to start-up a new for-profit business to the not-for-profit sector.

Students taking part in a  Lego Serious Play exercise at the Australian National University in Canberra Sunday, February 25, 2018

ANU Project Bootcamp with Lego and User Centered Process

On Saturday I participated in the TechLauncher "Bootcamp" at the Australian National University in Canberra. There were about three hundred students who had been formed into about fifty teams of six students each, after Thursday night's team formation exercise. Each team has a tutor and a client, plus there as some mentors to help teams in areas such as social enterprises.

A flat floor large classroom at ANU, with large mobile LCD screens used to relay presentation to the back of the room. Thursday, February 22, 2018

Team Formation Exercise in ANU Large Flat Floor Classroom

Greetings from the TechLauncher Team Formation event at the Australian National University in Canberra. There are more than three hundred students hearing 30 second pitches from potential clients. The students then select the project they prefer and form a team. They have a year to build what the client wants, which is usually software, but could be engineering hardware.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

ANU Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education Certificate

ANU TEL ED HE Certificate awarded to Tom WorthingtonThis week I received my ANU Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education Certificate. This required completing ten short online "ANU Coffee Courses" and a 500 word reflection. As with previous such courses I found the difficult part was to keep up the work week after week and then try to make sense of it all in the reflection. This was a pilot program and there may be some changes before it is offered more widely.

The notes from the ANU Coffee Courses are available online. Here are the ones I completed:

Code Course Length
AOC003 Engaging students online 1.5 Hours
AOC004 Open Educational Practice 2 Hours
AOC006 Enhancing your lectures 2 Hours
AOC007 Virtual Reality-Imagining new educational reality 2 Hours
AOC008 Video in Teaching and Learning: Why video? 2 Hours
AOC009 Video in Teaching and Learning: Creating videos 2 Hours
AOC010 Open Education: From Resources to Practice 2 Hours
AOC011 Build your researcher profile 1 Hour
AOC012 Getting Started with ePortfolios 1.5 Hours
AOC013 Fostering student wellbeing 1 Hour
AOC014 Deep and Interactive Learning in lectures 1 Hour
AOC015 Group and collaborative learning 2 Hours
AOC017 Peer assessment and feedback 1 Hour
AOC018 Designing Online Learning Environments 1 Hour

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Online Courses Offered by Australian Universities

In thinking about how Australian higher education might offer blended courses to the region, I decided to look at what is already available. One interesting option is the edX "micromasters" offered by four Australian universities:
  1. Australian National University: Evidence-Based Management 
  2. Curtin University: Human Rights,Marketing in a Digital World, Internet of Things (IoT), 
  3. UQ: Business Leadership, Corporate Innovation, Sustainable Energy, Leadership in Global Development
  4. University of Adelaide: Big Data

Students undertake a series of online courses and then may undertake some form of capstone project. Students are offered 25% credit (one semester full time study) towards a Masters, subject to an additional test. This makes the micromasters similar in level and length to an Australian university graduate certificate. However, the micromasters, despite the name, is not itself a qualification under the Australian Qualifications Framework.

Australian universities also offer some online degrees and online versions of campus courses, to their own students and those of other institutions. As an example, the ANU offers twelve undergraduate language subjects through Open Universities Australia. In total ANU offers 116  online courses, of these 30 are undergraduate.

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 9

In Part 8 I decided the task of designing an entire qualification in teaching for computer professionals is perhaps a bit too much. But what quantum is reasonable? What is the current practice at Australian universities to teach those who teach?

Those being prepared to teach at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) are asked to do 16 hours study over 8 weeks in the blended course "Beginning to Teach". This is aimed at Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates (mostly PhD students) and Early Career Researchers (ECRs who already have a PhD), and who are expected to teach:
  1.  "Demonstrate understanding of some key elements of learning and how they relate to teaching and to their disciplinary context. 
  2. Plan, facilitate and evaluate a short teaching session that aligns aims and approach with outcomes. 
  3. Give and receive feedback to colleagues regarding teaching and to students regarding assessment of learning." 
From "Beginning to Teach", UNSW, 2018.
For UNSW teaching staff there is the more advanced "Foundations of University Learning and Teaching Program" (FULT). This consists of 4 modules, 10 hours study per module, over 2 to 3 weeks per module:
  1. "Student Learning and Teaching
  2. Educational Design
  3. Assessment and Feedback
  4. Reflection and Evaluation"
Curiously, the beginning and foundations courses do not appear to be aligned or nested. The assumption appears to be that all those who are teaching at university undertook basic teacher training as part of a higher degree or post-doctoral training. This assumes a traditional academic career which is increasingly rare and excludes those with non-research degrees and industry experience. A better approach perhaps would be to have the beginning course available to anyone new to teaching, not just HDRs and ECRs. That course would then form the first module of the foundation course.

The UNSW Foundations course is aligned with their Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching (GCULT). The Foundations course makes up part of the content of the first part of the certificate.
UNSW also offer a "Learning to Teach Online" course via  Coursera, 3 hours per week, over 6 weeks. This appears to be designed for teachers generally, not specifically for university teachers, or those at UNSW:
"Module 1 Why is Online Teaching Important
Module 2: Open and Institutionally Supported Technologies
Module 3: Planning Online Learning
Module 4: Online Learning Activities
Module 5: Online Assessment Strategies
Module 6: Online Resources
Module 7: Engaging and Motivating Students
Module 8: Evaluation Strategies"
Athabasca University offers a similar on-line course "Technology-Enabled Learning", 3 hours per week, over 5 weeks. There is an earlier set of course materials available under a Creative Commons license.

Given that technology enabled learning is now widely adopted, it would seem reasonable to incorporate this in basic teacher training. That is, rather than teaching classroom "chalk and talk" first and then the technology as an afterthought, do it the other way around. I suggest teaching online techniques as basic teaching methods and classroom face-to-face as a variation of that.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Quickly Constructing University Buildings from Timber

ANU Timber Student
Building Construction
A free half day seminar on how the Australian National University's newest student accommodation and teaching buildings are built in Canberra from timber, will be held 12:30 pm, 13 September 2018. This includes a guided walk to the building site.
"The Union Court Redevelopment project includes a 450 bed student accommodation and 7,000 m2 teaching building to be built using cross laminated timber (CLT) and glulam (GLT).
Mass Timber in the form of Cross Laminated Timber and Glulam has finally come to Canberra, with the recent redevelopment occurring within the campus of the Australian National University.
Lendlease DesignMake, the designer and fabricator of the engineered timber structures for this project will discuss the design and construction of this redevelopment. Other speakers will discuss mass timber use, CLT and fire rating of timber. The seminar will also include a guided walk to view the actual construction on the ANU site.
This half-day seminar is a must for all building and design professionals including architects, engineers, building designers, certifiers, developers, builders, regulators and educators. ...


12.30pm Welcome
  • Welcome and WoodSolutions Update and Mass Timber - Andrew Dunn, TDA
  • Building’s use in Australia to date
12.45pm Union Court, ANU
  • Design and Construction of Union Court
  • Student Accommodation and Teachers Facility - Andrew Smith, DesignMake
  • Guide walk to building site - Andrew Smith, DesignMake
03.00pm Afternoon tea and coffee break
03.30pm Mass Timber Solutions
  • CLT Design and Fabrication insight - Sean Bull, XLAM
  • Mould & Fire = Destructive Forces & Solutions for Mass Timber - Andreas Luzzi, Laros Indust.
  • Calculating Timber Charring Rates and AS1720.4 Update - Andrew Dunn, TDA
05.00pm Finish"

From: "Mass Timber (CLT) Building Free WoodSolutions Seminar"

 ps: I will be speaking on "Learning to use new  tech-infused teaching spaces" at EduBuild 2018 in Singapore, 9 October, 5:20pm.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

New Zealand to Recognize Micro-credentials from 22 August 2018

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) proposes to recognise micro-credentials from tertiary education organizations from 22 August 2018. This follows a consultation paper and feedback.

What is not clear to me is how micro-credentials will fit with existing university and vocational education and training (VET) qualifications. The NZ micro-credential is 5 to 40 NZ "credits", where a year full-time study is 120 credits. This make a NZ micro-credential is about one hundredth, to one tenth, of a three year degree, making it a deci- or centi-credential (a literal "micro-credential" would be about 30 minutes study).

In the Australian system a common sub-degree qualification is a "certificate" (or graduate certificate) requiring half a year study. This would make a NZ micro-credential between 8% and 67% of a certificate. An Australian university year is commonly 24 weeks of study, making a NZ micro-credential equivalent to 1 to 8 weeks study. An Australian VET Certificate IV requires ten "Units of competency". So a NZ micro-credential would be between half and four units of competency.

Micro-credentials may well "disrupt" the higher education system, by providing shorter, cheaper, more convenient and relevant qualifications. Hopefully this can be done with protection for the students, teachers and the community, from exploitation. It needs to be kept in mind that qualifications are not just about students getting a better job, they are about ensuring the community receives the safe level of service expected.

Australia has experienced exploitation of students in vocational courses, where they were signed up for overpriced worthless qualifications, and exploitation of students in the "gig-economy" workforce, where they were underpaid (and threatened if they spoke out). If not carefully regulated, micro-credentials could create perfect conditions for further exploitation of students.
Educational elements
  • Certifies achievement of a set of skills and knowledge
  • Coherence of the skills and knowledge required
  • Purpose statement required
  • Learning outcomes required
  • Strong demonstrable evidence of need by industry, employer and/or community required
  • Does not typically duplicate current quality-assured learned approved by NZQA
Credit values            5 to 40 credits
Entities who may deliver or arrange training
  • Tertiary education providers and Industry Training Organisations can seek approval of micro-credentials through the training scheme rules and consent to assess rules
  • Non-Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) - Equivalency service only
  • Yearly review of quality-assured micro-credentials
  • Quality-assured micro-credentials published on a public register
  • Micro-credentials with an equivalence statement (delivered by non-TEOs) published on a separate register"
 From: "Recognising micro-credentials in New Zealand", NZ, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Innovation ACT

InnovationACT is a ten week startup program and completion for Canberra's university students (with a $50,000 seed pool). IACT starts 14th August. I am one of the mentors (my team last year was OK RDY).