Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ensuring Quality in University Programs

Yesterday, I commented on Professor Jim Barber's call for changes to Australian law governing the regulation of Australian universities to allow for lower cost on-line courses. Professor Barber proposed the regulations look at the quality of the educational outcomes, rather than measure the input. Today I attended a seminar on how to ensure quality of assessment for courses. This was putting the case for output based measures of quality, applying processes from manufacturing industry.

It may seem inappropriate to treat students as units of production, but if society demands consistent results within and between institutions, then there would seem to be no way to avoid some measurement and comparison of students. The concept of Quality is written into the "Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011":
                     (a)  to provide for national consistency in the regulation of higher education; and
                     (b)  to regulate higher education using:
                              (i)  a standards‑based quality framework; and
                             (ii)  principles relating to regulatory necessity, risk and proportionality; and
                     (c)  to protect and enhance:
                              (i)  Australia’s reputation for quality higher education and training services; and
                             (ii)  Australia’s international competitiveness in the higher education sector; and
                            (iii)  excellence, diversity and innovation in higher education in Australia; and
                     (d)  to encourage and promote a higher education system that is appropriate to meet Australia’s social and economic needs for a highly educated and skilled population; and
                     (e)  to protect students undertaking, or proposing to undertake, higher education in Australia by requiring the provision of quality higher education; and
                      (f)  to ensure students undertaking, or proposing to undertake, higher education, have access to information relating to higher education in Australia ...
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) oversees this quality process. The Act mentions "quality assurance practice", but does not define what this is. The Act defines a quality framework as a series of standards decided by the Minister on the advice of a Higher Education Standards Panel. Some institutions can self-accredit their courses, whereas others are accredited by TEQSA.

TEQSA's "Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2011"  is very general and non-prescriptive. For example:
The higher education provider has sufficient appropriately qualified personnel to manage and to provide academic leadership for the higher education provider’s higher education operations.
 The framework doesn't define "sufficient" or "appropriately qualified". This would vary greatly between disciplines and methods of teaching. Strictly speaking, such an input measure has no place in a quality framework, unless it can be shown to directly relate to the product produced. As an example, there is little research to show that the research record of university staff improves the quality of teaching. What does improve teaching is training teachers in how to teach.

Another example of confusing input with output is class size. One university might limit tutorial sizes to fifteen students, while another has classes of 100 students. Research shows that class size has no effect on student outcomes.

The framework is also prescriptive in referring to "locations", which assumes that students attend a class on a campus. This can be easily interpreted for an on-line course, where students should also be safe. But, it would be better if the framework did not have an inbuilt bias.

Developing Nations Formally Adopting Quality Standards

The vague references to quality in
TEQSA's documents contrast with the approach of the proposed by Basir (2012) for  Malaysian universities to use of the ISO 9000 Quality Management Standards (ISO 2008) . It is suggested this could lift the quality of Malaysian coursework programs to western standards. While that may seem ambitious, the Japanese car industry used similar standards to overtake western car makers within a few decades. By use of on-line technology, the same may be possible in education in less than a decade. However, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency does not apprise to have mandated this strict us of standards.

Quality and Higher Education in India

Building the Links Between Funding and Quality in Higher Education: India's Challenge"(Lindsay Daugherty, Trey Miller, Rafiq Dossani, Megan Clifford, RAND Corporation, 2013)In "Building the Links Between Funding and Quality in Higher Education: India's Challenge"(Lindsay Daugherty, Trey Miller, Rafiq Dossani, Megan Clifford, RAND Corporation, 2013) describe quality measures introduced by the Indian government. The authors suggest suggest seven policy actions to link funding to quality.

Many of the measures proposed for India are already in place in Australia, such as a student financial aid system tied to accreditation. However, others are yet to be implemented in Australia (or USA), such as: "... a quantitative data system to measure quality of higher education institutions...".

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Australian Unviersites Can Offer Low Cost On-line Courses

In "Pay-per-use will keep low-cost rivals at bay" (The Australian, October 30, 2013), Professor Jim Barber, Vice Chancellor of the University of New England suggests that federal regulations are preventing Australian universities offering low cost on-line courses. He suggests that the Australian Tertiary Education Act (2011) is being interpreted by regulators in a way which measures inputs, not the education outcomes and this disadvantages efficient on-line providers. Also he argues the Higher Education Support Act (2003) requires universities to charge international students the full cost of their education. However, I suggest that neither of these laws preclude universities from offering low cost, on-line courses.

Four years ago I proposed an on-line course at the ANU, with no lectures, no examinations and no requirement for attendance. Many of my colleagues said that such a course could not be approved under the university's rules. So I looked at those rules and found they were much more flexible than folklore suggested. It was certainly much easier to have a course approved which followed the then standard pattern of face-to-face lectures, tutorials and a final paper examination. However, I just had to explain how I would meet the required standards, in a slightly different way and the course was approved.

In part this was a process of mapping what the usual inputs for a course were, as well as the expected student outputs. As an example I looked at the number of hours of lectures and tutorials a student typically was expected to attend and the amount of material (translated to pages of notes) they were provided with. Also I looked at the amount of assessment usually carried out, in its various forms. I then provided an equivalent amount of content to the students, activities for them to do, support from staff and assessment.

As a former public servant I was award of the difficulty of being seen to be doing something different, so I also made sure my on-line course fitted onto the standard university timetable and used the standard evaluation process.

I suggest Professor Barber could apply the same approach to have low cost, on-line programs approved under federal legislation. It will need to be shown that their output driven measures of quality give results at least as good as the conventional input-driven methods. It will need to be documented in great detail that costs are being fully recovered for international students, even though the fees are lower than for conventional courses. This will require considerably more work, more development cost and some frustration, but is feasible.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Using the Quiz tool to help facilitate learning

Coralie Daniels, Canberra Institute of Technology, will present a free webinar on "Using the Quiz tool to help facilitate learning", 2pm, 29 October, hosted by the National VET E-learning Strategy. Apart from the content of these VET webinars, they are a useful way for teachers to experience a well run on-line event.
Using the Quiz tool to help facilitate learning
When: Tuesday 29 October
Where: (Online webinar)
Time: 2:00 - 3:00pm
Cost: Free
Register: (On the calendar select the the day of the event and click on the actual event. In the popup window select the icon Sign up and register your information)

Presenter: Coralie Daniels
Using the Quiz tool to help facilitate learning
A quiz is often used as a form of assessment however Coralie Daniels decided a quiz would be the best way to help facilitate learning for staff. For the Bullying Awareness and Prevention Training Program the aim was not to test people’s knowledge but to help them to learn about Bullying Awareness and Prevention and CIT’s processes. By setting the right parameters on the Quiz tool it became possible to provide people with extra information and expand on current knowledge, going further and referencing original source documents. Various tactics were used to entice completion including incentives, ease of access and ease of completion as well as continuous feedback.

Friday, October 25, 2013

ANU Can Add On-line Teaching to Nation Building Research

In "Winds of Change Buffett ANU" (The Australian, 23 October 2013 & at ANU), Professor Brian Schmidt proposed the Australian National University (ANU) should have fewer, higher quality students and an emphasis on international research. Instead, I suggest ANU expand its teaching on-line, opening courses to a wider range of students from diverse backgrounds, while maintaining standards and furthering research. ANU should aim to expand to 100,00 students, with one quarter on-campus and the rest on-line. ANU would then be able to compete on equal terms with other institutions for grants and students. I will be discussing this in my address to the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch, on 12 November 2013.

ANU's Special Role In Nation Building

Professor Schmidt points out that Australian universities subsidize research from student fees, something ANU is less able to do due to its small size. He proposes additional government research grants to correct this. Instead, I suggest ANU can expand its teaching on-line, while retaining its small campus character and research focus. ANU can expand on-line course offerings rapidly, as it already has the technical infrastructure for e-learning in place. ANU can use its research reputation to market on-line courses internationally. ANU also has the advantage of not being impeded by the large investment in satellite campuses of other universities, which have been rendered obsolete by the Internet.

Professor Schmidt points out the ANU was created to engage in research at the highest international levels. The ANU was founded in 1946, by an Act of the Australian parliament, with a charter to:
"To encourage, and provide facilities for, post-graduate research and study, both generally and in relation to subjects of national importance to Australia." (Australian National University Act, NO. 22, Parliament of Australia, 1946).
As detailed in Milton Cameron's book "Experiments in Modern Living" (ANU ePress, 2012), the ANU was established with the active involvement of the most senior levels of government, specifically to further the government, defence, industry and society of Australia.

ANU has continued to carry out its nation building role. From the mid 1990s, the ANU assisted with training, technical infrastructure and policy, to establish the use of the Internet in Australia and national policy.

The ANU can continue to fulfill the role of acting as a formal and informal source of ideas for the Australian Government. ANU now educates senior military officers in strategic studies. Options for Australia's future defence posture are being discussed in ANU seminars. This includes how to deal with the new bipolar world, between China and the USA, and what weapons systems to invest billions of dollars in.

ANU Can Be a Small University With Many On-line Students

I agree with Professor Schmidt that ANU should not pursue growth at any cost, but the institution can have a relatively small number of students on campus, while serving a much larger student population on-line. Students can include ones with the highest academic qualifications. However, they can also include students who have lesser qualifications, but who would benefit as individuals, or be of benefit to society, through a superior ANU education.

At ANU I teach public servants and staff in major corporations how to reduce energy use by and through IT systems. These students research their corporate systems and make recommendations to management, as part of the course. There is no need to wait years for students to graduate for their research and education to benefit society.

The use of the Internet for teaching is now routine at ANU, with procedures for designer, delivery and assessment on-line and students enrolled around the world. Within five years, this will be the primary way university students will be educated globally. Face-to-face contact at campuses will still be relevant, but will be reserved for important activities, such as talking to people, not sitting passively in lectures absorbing information.

Buildings at Australian universities were designed for teaching in a mode which will soon be obsolete. Some buildings can be retrofitted for new forms of education, but universities which have made a large investment in satellite teaching campuses will find themselves burdened with an expensive drain on resources. The ANU has the advantage of not having a large investment in this soon-to-be obsolete teaching infrastructure.

Professor Schmidt is leading the way at ANU with new forms of on-line education, by hosting one of the first two ANU Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) at ANU. A single MOOC can have hundreds of thousands of students, several times the ANU's entire current student body.

A reasonable target for ANU would be to have around 25,000 students on the existing campus and another 75,000 on-line students, making for a total student body of about 100,000. While this is five times the current ANU student body (and more than twice that of University of Melbourne), it is still half that of the UK Open University, on a campus three times the area of OU.

The ANU can continue traditional on-campus small group teaching and in on-line extensions of such courses, using the techniques I use for teaching "ICT Sustainability". In addition new techniques can be used for teaching large classes to an equivalent standard.

The ANU students should not be segregated into separate programs based on teaching technique or delivery mode. The current categories of full-time, part-time, on-campus, distance and on-line student should be abolished, along with the distinction between coursework and research students. All students should have the flexibility to choose the delivery mode which suits their current circumstances. All students will require some coursework and all will need to experience at least the fundamentals of research. In addition all students should learn to communicate their results, work in a team and leadership. E-portfolios can be used to allow students to document these professional skills, alongside specific course and thesis work.

ANU Can Continue to Work With World Researchers on Campus and On-line

Professor Schmidt points out that CSIRO's offices are on ANU's doorstep, but they are a lot closer than that. CSIRO's IT researchers have shared a purpose designed building with their ANU counterparts, on the ANU campus. The award-winning Computer Science and Information Technology Building was designed with input from both CSIRO and ANU scientists.

CSIRO researchers teach and supervise ANU students and ANU staff take part in CSRIO research. This relationship extends to government and industry, as it does at every good university (part of the so called "The Cambridge Phenomenon"). Public servants, politicians and business people visit for a seminar, or a chat and discuss what problems they have and as what the future holds. Some of these discussions happen in official meetings, but mostly informally after a seminar, in a café or bar. The university initiated Innovation ACT and the Entry 29 Co-Working space to further this business/industry/academic collaboration.

I will touch on this in my presentation "ICT trends in Education" to the Australian Computer Society in Canberra on 12 November.

Free Online Courses from Chinese Universities

The website (translation) is offering free online courses. The initiative is from Tsinghua University in the Haidian District of Beijing, with technical support from their Department of Computer Science and Technology, using the EdX platform. Tsinghua University joined the edX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) consortium in May 2013 (my own university ANU joined edX in February 2013). Tsinghua is offering a mix of its own courses and ones from edX partners, such as MIT. Many of the courses are on computer science and engineering, but there is also "Antiques and Cultural China" and a course on producing MOOCs. While the information about the courses is offered in Chinese and English, it is not clear which language the courses will be offered in.
  • Overview:  This course will take you into the various faculties Tsinghua help you understand their characteristics, training objectives, research, student life, and many other aspects of employment destination.  
  • X 6_002x Circuits and Electronics (Circuits and Electronics): 6.002x teaches the fundamentals of circuit and electronic analysis. MITx MITx 01718330X computer-aided translation theory and practice ➔ Teach the basic concepts of computer-assisted translation technologies , and a variety of assisted translation tools, principles and use , training students in technical translation work environment and other types of language services the ability to work and to help students understand the language of the era of information services work . P
  • MOOC101 MOOCs Production and Operations: MOOCs ( massively open online courses ) , is currently the hottest education wording . This course will take you recognize MOOCs, and understand their basic means of production and operations and methods of skills.
  • 00690242_1X Antiques and Cultural China:  This course isTsinghua a boutique heritage as an introduction , the academia to explore the process of Chinese civilization as a clue to introduce the ancient Chinese in the shipbuilding , jade and many other areas of outstanding achievement , students can take to get a full range of cultural China , intuitive and in-depth understanding of.
  • 20220332_1X Circuit Schematics: Electric circuit theory is the most important one professional basic course , follow the courses are built on top of this course knowledge is power class undergraduate "housekeeping lesson ." Tsinghua Tsinghuacircuit theory course provides students with a solid foundation and rich applications .
  • 80000901_1X Chinese Architectural History:  Chinese history, there have been many great cities , but also left a seat beautiful magnificent architectural masterpiece . A variety of building types , construction technology and aesthetic pursuit have reached a very high level , and has a self-contained and create methods and architectural theory.
  • 80512073X Financial Analysis and Decision-making: This course in financial language deconstruction enterprise value creation process , helping learners to understand the various factors that affect the value creation , the establishment of financial thinking, and have to be used in commercial decisions. TsinghuaX 
  • 30240184_1X Data Structures: This course is designed around the various design and implementation of data structures , revealing the law of which principles and methods techniques ; while for algorithm design and performance analysis , to enable students to understand and grasp the main routine and means

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Effects of Copyright on Scholarly Work

Richard Hosking, University of Auckland, will speak on "The effects of Licensing on Open Data: Computing a measure of health for our Scholarly Record" in CSIRO's IT Lab at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1 pm, 28 October 2013.

The effects of Licensing on Open Data: Computing a measure of health for our Scholarly Record

Richard Hosking (University of Auckland)

DATE: 2013-10-28
TIME: 13:00:00 - 14:00:00
LOCATION: S206, level 2, CSIRO, CIST Bldg 108, ANU, Canberra.

ABSTRACT: As data collections become established in key disciplines, some of the longstanding barriers to data sharing become to dissolve; yet others remain. While metadata and ontologies help overcome the problems of finding and interpreting data, the lack of clarity over licensing remains a real impediment to data reuse. Freedom from legal restriction and uncertainty is essential for the effective sharing, combining and deriving of data from these distributed collections. Reuse and recombination of data will be greatly facilitated by expanding the definition of the semantic web to include the semantics of data licensing. We aim to express licensing terms in a computable manner, within the context of research practice, enabling us to infer the resulting state of rights, obligations and conditions that are inherited by derived and recombined datasets, using a mixed bag of licenses. Building off this we aim to simulate the effects of varying licensing practices within communities, proposing a measure of health of our scholarly record based on compatibility and restrictiveness of the licenses contained therein.
BIO: Richard Hosking is a PhD Candidate in the Centre for eResearch and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Auckland. His research interests are in techniques for capturing the social context of our research data with an eye towards developing tools to support data management and governance. Under the supervision of Mark Gahegan his current research examines how the application of Copyright is shaping our relationship to our scholarly record. Specifically how formalisms can be developed to capture the semantics of Copyright licenses, with a view that our research tools should be sensitive to this issue.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Moodle: Massive Open Online Design of Learning and Education

On my last full day in Perth I dropped in to visit Moodle HQ. Few realize that the globally used free open source e-learning software Moodle, was developed in Perth, Australia. Moodle creator, Martin Dougiamas, was kind enough to show me around, back in Perth between his many trips top e-leaning events. We discussed the future of e-leaning and of Moodle (which I use to teach at ANU and the Australian Computer Society). I am not sure we came to any conclusions, except that adapting Moodle Mobile using HTML was a better idea that trying to produce an "App" and that it would be better for universities to continue to incorporate e-learning generally than try to set up a new on-line university. One suggestion I made was to provide training in educational techniques alongside the training for Moodle software. This could be reasonably general with the same techniques being applied from school to postgraduate university.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Where is the University Headed?

Within ten years most university courses will be provided globally on-line. How can Australian universities compete in this market? I suggest Australian universities need to start now to reinvent themselves as e-learning hubs to support on-line education, as well as continue to offer on-campus education and conduct research.

From a Window over the Green

Greetings from Perth Western Australia, on the edge of the campus of the University of Western Australia. I am sitting at a window overlooking a townhouse courtyard on a rainy Saturday. Above the trees and tiled roofs the new wing of St Catherine’s College is reaching up to the sky. This week the university received a $15M donation to further expand accommodation for researchers. The university is expanding upwards and outwards, but in education terms where is UWA and Australia's other elite universities going?

UWA Broad Education Experience

The UWA provides a traditional university campus experience. Last Sunday, when walking through the campus, I was confronted by a woman in a bikini on horseback waving a banner. It turned out the students were making a LipDub music video. While the technology used is up to date, this tradition of university students dressing up and doing silly things is ancient.

On Friday while walking to give the Friday Computer Science Seminar, I could hear organ music coming from UWA Winthrop Hall (which looks like a set from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Sneaking in the back of the hall I found a full student orchestra rehearsing an organ concerto. I sat in the back (with permission) alone with light streaming in through the stained glass windows as the hall's organ shook the building for the finale.

All this makes for an interesting student experience, but what about academic education? Paul Johnson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia (UWA) issued a "UWA Futures: White Paper" in August 2012 (the ANU embarked on a consultation process in mid 2013). This suggested that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from new commercial and not-for-profit organizations will compete with universities for students. The paper argued that UWA should seize these opportunities which result. However that was the only mention of MOOCs in the white paper, so it was not clear what it is proposed to do. Over the following months there were responses from student and staff associations. In November 2012, the VC issued "UWA Futures: The Response". This would appear to be essentially about the role of e-learning, but the large scale Interactive Engagement being introduced at ANU could also be an option.

Like ANU, UWA and most Australian universities see their future as a physical campus, delivering education to students on site. Large investments are being make in new student accommodation and other facilities (mostly funded indirectly by the Australian government). What is not clear is how these facilities will be used in a world where most education is on-line.

University Education is Moving On-line

A reasonable rule of thumb I suggest, is that within ten years, 75% of a student's post-primary education will be on-line. Those students near a campus might be expected to spend, at most, one day a week there. But this is not to say that existing university buildings are redundant. Campuses will still be needed for administration, research, so education and as a based from which to provide e-learning. A physical campus also provides a powerful marketing tool for a university, even if most students will never visit it.

One use for university buildings is research. Universities traditionally use student fees to cross subsidize research. However, low cost unbundled on-line courses from non-traditional providers could result in traditional universities having to reduce their fees and remove the subsidies. This risks undercutting the research which supports education.

Only a small proportion of university research requires dedicated buildings. Most university research involves people sitting in ordinary offices, not purpose built laboratories. The research is done by post-graduate students, who pay to research, either directly or via a government subsidy. These students will be increasingly be conducting their research part-time off-campus, from their workplace or home. The university will then need less space for their researchers. However, there will be some space need for on-site research, as well as administration of the research.

University Campuses as Innovation,  Research and e-Learning Hubs

Universities can reinvent themselves as innovation centers, as ANU is doing with the Entry 29 Co-working Space and the Innovation ACT Competition (which originated with the work of Dr Lachlan Blackhall, when a PHD student at ANU engineering). Following the model of Cambridge, universities can provide low cost space for staff and students to turn ideas and inventions into products and businesses (and take a cut of the profits). The SpaceCubed Co-working space in Perth provides a vision of this future.

Professor Brian Schmidt is reported to have has proposed the Australian National University reduce student numbers, tighten entry requirements and limit tutorial sizes to 15 students. This would seem to be. at first glance, at odds with his preparing to teach a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Astrophysics in 2014. A MOOC can have hundreds of thousands of students, many more than the entire ANU's current student enrollment. MOOCs are also open to anyone with no entry requirement. However, the university can offer different forms of education to suit different students capabilities, needs and budgets.

Professor Schmidt's initiative with massive open on-line education, when combined with his proposals for small group teaching provides a blended model which  may be the key to the future of Australian universities.

For the last four years I have been teaching "ICT Sustainability" in an advanced masters level course at ANU. Small groups of students, usually no more than 25, explore the topic in weekly tutorials. Students then have to write assignments to first scope the problem and propose solutions. This may seem unremarkable, but the students can study via the Internet from anywhere in the world. In practice many of the students are on campus and come to see me in person for advice and assistance, but if they need to be somewhere else, that is fine and we can communicate on-line.


 A Blended Model for Australian Universities: On-Campus and On-Line

Australian universities can retain their campuses for a relatively small number of students, researchers and has hubs for innovation. At the same time the universities can have hundreds of thousands, or potentially millions, of students on-line around the world. The on-line students will benefit from the research and interaction with staff and other students. The students can explore real world problems in courses and in research projects. Students can also set up a business to further their ideas, with the help of their university.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

End of an Era for All Women University College

This week I had the pleasure of dining at St Catherine’s College in Perth. This is a small college just across the road from University of Western Australia (UWA). The college is expanding its facilities with several new wings and invited the local community to see the work and as a "thank you" for putting up with the building works. We looked at a mock-up of the new rooms, had drinks in the courtyard and then dinner in the hall.

This was an informal event without academic gowns (which is good as I did not bring mine), a minimum of speeches and without the use of "high table". Being one of a handful of males (the college has some male "visitors") surrounded by hundred of young women was a little intimidating, but pleasent.

Next year the college will be opening up to more male students in the new accommodation. The change is being made in stages, I suspect so that the new male students can be socialized to the college life.

New Accommodation

The new accommodation consists of one person studio apartments, each with a bathroom and cooking facilities. The rooms have been cleverly designed to fit everything in a small space. Designs and sizes will vary.

The display room has the cooking facilities in the passageway to the left as you enter, with the bathroom on the right. Having the kitchen next to the bathroom has drawbacks, but makes the plumbing easier to install and also keeps dirty pots and pans out of sight of the main living area. Smaller rooms will have double beds and larger ones queen size. The St Catchs rooms seem to be slightly wider than those of other accommodation I have seen, making them seem spacious in comparison.

There are large fridges in each room. When I asked about using a small fridge I was told that residents from the country like to have plenty of the food they are used to on hand. It seem that St Cath's primarily caters to rural WA students. There was also some mention of minimum accommodation standards required by some government scheme.

There are also common rooms in the new buildings to get the students out of their rooms and socializing. However, unlike the new UniLodge at University of Canberra, there are no multi-person apartments (UoC has five bedroom apartments with shared kitchen and bathroom). Also unlike shipping container apartments at ANU Ursula Hall there are no apartments for couples.

It should be kept in mind that a university college provides more than accommodation and St Caths has tutorials and other activities for and by students.

Small Cheaper Student Accommodation Needed

The new St Caths and other new facilities at Australian universities provide an impressive level of accommodation but  at a cost. Not all students can afford their own fully equipped apartment.  I suggest that smaller, lower cost facilities need to also be provided, at about half the floor area (and cost).

The UniLodge multi-bedroom apartments provide a good model. Some of these could be produced with smaller (therefore cheaper) rooms using half the sapce. Essentially a student needs their own bed to sleep in, some storage space and a desk to study at. They do not need more than a single bed,  a desk big enough for a computer and a textbook. The student can use the common areas for socializing, cooking, eating and washing.

The practical minimum size for a dwelling in Australia is about 15 square meters (the area of a shipping container). But this is for a standalone, fully self contained home, whereas a student can use shared facilities for washing and cooking.

The reasonable smallest space for a student might be 5 square meters. This would provide enough space for a single bed, a desk and storage. Another 5 square meters would be needed per student for shared space. This might need some changes to government regulations.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Seminar About Online Green Computing Course

I will be speaking on "A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online" at the Computer Science & Software Engineering Seminar, in Room 1.24, CSSE Building, 11:00am, 18 October 2013, University of Western Australia, Perth. All welcome.
PRESENTER: Tom Worthington, Adjunct Lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, ANU
TITLE: A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online
DATE: Friday 18 October 2013 TIME: 11:00am - 12:00pm
VENUE: Computer Science & Software Engineering Seminar Room 1.24

ABSTRACT: Sustainable ICT Courses are being introduced at the vocational training level and more rarely at undergraduate and graduate levels. This paper reports on a graduate level Sustainable ICT Course run for the first time in 2009, as part of a global professional training program. The same course has been run at an Australian university and later adapted for North America by a Canadian university. The course had enrollments from industry based participants from both private and public sector organizations, as well as full time university students, with corporate Green ICT strategies being produced as course assignments. This presentation discusses the student population and presents the course structure and assessment. Notes and conference paper available.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Using Moodle for University Learning

Professor Shannon Johnston and the team from University of Western Australia's Centre for the Advancement of Teaching (CATL, pronounced "Cattle") presented an interactive seminar on  "Utilising the LMS for learning" today. UWA use the popular Moodle Learning Management System, but rather than the usual training session on how to use features of the LMS, this was on what forms of teaching it supports.

The seminar presented several case studies drawn from successful UWA courses, many of which blend e-learning with the classroom.

This was a useful seminar, but perhaps could gone a little further and shown how the teaching technique is implemented with Moodle. Also it would be good to have some templates for different types of courses.

Like ANU (where I teach), UWA is facing the issue of how e-learning is to be used. This is most difficult for elect research universities where staff have considerable autonomy. Professors can't be simply told to use a particular technology and pedagogy, as they have considerable autonomy. Instead they must be gently educated and persuaded. However, I suggest a more direct approach can be used with junior staff and adjuncts. In particular, induction courses for new early career academics and adjuncts from industry can teach the pedagogy and how to support it with the LMS.
Utilising the LMS for learning : An interactive seminar which will examine the role and purpose of an LMS in an institutional context. Other events...
Assistant Professor Shannon Johnston will be leading this interactive seminar with the assistance of the team of LMS Trainer / Educational Developers at CATL. She will examine the role and purpose of an LMS in an institutional context, and with the team will explore uses of the LMS for learning, with case studies highlighting the usage of the LMS to enhance the student experience in University teaching contexts. The session will involve audience discussion and exploration of potential for learning focused activity in the LMS. This session is suitable for all staff involved in the delivery and support of teaching.
Speaker(s)Assistant Professor Shannon Johnston and guests
LocationOceans Institute Seminar Room G.05

ContactFASE Administrator <> : 6859
StartTue, 08 Oct 2013 12:30
EndTue, 08 Oct 2013 14:00
RSVPRSVP is required.
Submitted byFASE Administrator <>
Last UpdatedFri, 20 Sep 2013 14:40
Included in the following Calendars:

Four Facts About MOOCs

"Five Myths about MOOCs"My four facts on MOOCS are: cost, choice, quality, and continuity.

  1. It's All about Money
  2. MOOCs Create a Two-Tier Educational System
  3. MOOCs Are Inherently Inferior
  4. MOOCs Are Mechanistic
  5. We've Seen How This Plays Out
But in my view, MOOCs are, in part, marketing spin added onto e-learning techniques which have been around for at least ten years. Claims like those for MOOCs have been made for many technologies for large scale, low cost, open distance education have been made over the last 100 years.

At the moment I am in Perth, Western Australia, where Martin Dougiamas, developed the Moodle Learning Management System in 2002 (I am visiting Moodle HQ next week). Perth is also the home of the video lecture recording technology now sold as Echo 360.

The idea of low cost mass distributed distance education is at least one hundred of years old, with England having 45,000 university extension students by 1891:

The implications of broadcast technology for low cost, open entry university goes back to the founding of the UK Open University in the 1970s. The reasons for the founding of the university read very much like the arguments for MOOCs today.

This is not to say MOOCs are not a good idea, they are just not a new idea. Those who think that putting in MOOCs will solve their personal, institution, government, or society problems, need to look at the history of the claims made for previous such waves of education technology over the last 100 years.

Worthington's Four Truths About MOOCs:

  1. It is About Spending Money Wisely on Education: Both educators and budgeters want to get the maximum education for the available budget. But educators need to be careful they are not playing a zero sum game. If they increase the efficiency of education through using MOOCs, those providing the funding may see this as a way to cut budgets.
  2. MOOCs Continue a Diverse Education System: We already have at least a two tier education system: those with the money can pay for a better education. The question is if MOOCs provide an adequate education. In my view e-learning can do this, if it is done well. There is little point in having a high quality education system which is not affordable.
  3. MOOCs Are About Quality Mass Education: There is no getting away from the fact that MOOCs are about teaching the same thing to a large number of people (the "M" in MOOC is for "Massive"). This is not necessarily a bad thing. Modern mass production in industry results in very high quality low cost goods. Mass education can similar high quality.

    It used to be that hand crafting in manufacture was synonymous with quality, but mass produced consumer goods are now higher quality than hand crafted ones.

    Continuing the point about mass education, MOOCs, like e-learning of the last few decades and distance education of the last 100 years, work with carefully designed educational materials. Because a large number of students are using the materials, they have to be very carefully designed and tested. This does result in a more rigid approach to the subject. However, it also results in very well designed materials. As with manufacturing, you get a less custom product, but one which will be reliable and do what it is designed to do.
  4. MOOCs are built on 100 years of distance education experience: MOOCs are an adaption of e-learning techniques of the last 10 years, which were an adaption of distance education from 100 years. As in the past, proponents are over promising what the new technological adaption to learning can do, just as happened with fads for educational TV and radio. But when the fuss dies down there will be a place for MOOCs, alongside other form of education.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Profile of Australian Universities

LH Martin Institute and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) released the report "Profiling diversity of Australian universities", 3 June 2013. This places universities into one of six groups, based on five dimensions. One interesting finding is that RMIT is different to all other Australian universities and thus has a group to itself. The next smallest group are three  smaller research intensive universities in smaller state capitals, which groups UWA, with the University of Adelaide
and ANU. One point this raises is to what extent Australia needs all these separate universities, if most are doing essentially the same thing. Also it would be interesting to extend the analysis internationally.

The Five Dimensions:

  1. Teaching and Learning;
  2. Student Profile;
  3. Research Involvement;
  4. Knowledge Exchange; and
  5. International Orientation.

The Six Groups of Universities:

  1. Regional Universities
  2. Mixed Group 1
  3. Mixed Group 2
  4. Large Research Intensive Universities in Larger Capital Cities
  5. Small Research Intensive Universities in Smaller Capital Cities
  6. RMIT University

Group 1 universities 

Charles Sturt University
Southern Cross University
University of Ballarat
Central Queensland University
University of Southern Queensland
Charles Darwin University

Group 2 Universities

University of Western Sydney
James Cook University
Griffith University
Flinders University
La Trobe University
The University of Newcastle
Murdoch University
University of Technology Sydney
University of Wollongong
Macquarie University
The University of New England
University of Tasmania
Curtin University of Technology
Queensland University
of Technology
Deakin University
University of
South Australia

Group 3 universities

Swinburne University of Technology University of Canberra
Victoria University Australian Catholic University
Edith Cowan University University of the Sunshine Coast

Group 4 universities

The University of Sydney
The University of New South Wales
Monash University
The University of Melbourne
The University of Queensland

Group 5 universities

The University of Western Australia
The University of Adelaide
The Australian National University

Group 6 university

RMIT University

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Creative Commons on Government Publications for Free School Use

Currently Australian schools and universities pay a fee when the reproduce materials from government websites. The fees are collected by the Copyright Agency, a non-government non-profit organization and distributed to the copyright holders. It seems reasonable for individual authors and publishers to be paid for use of their work, but does not make a lot of sense for pages copied from government websites, where the government wants maximum distribution of their material.

The Federal and Queensland Governments have open access policies, implemented mostly with a Creative Commons license. If other states were to adopt this policy (and their agencies were to implement it), then schools would not have to pay. That would not require a change in law.