Monday, November 30, 2015

Not the Academic Book of the Future

Publisher Palgrave Macmillan are offering a free 134 page ebook on "The Academic Book of the Future" by Rebecca E. Lyons and Samantha Rayner (2015). But if this is the future of academic publishing, it is a very dull place. As an example, in chapter 12 Craig Dadds writes that campus bookstores are "essential". It is obvious that bookstores do add to campus life, but how they are to survive competition from on-line sales of paper and e-books?

My suggestion is that salvation for the campus bookstore will come with more students living on campus. Bookstores will turn into department stores, which also sell books. The UBC bookstore in Vancouver is a good example of this. When I was there last year I noticed that most space was taken over for selling clothing, bedding, small appliances and electronics (all things students need), along with textbooks.

More exciting than the content are the formats Lyons and Rayner's book is offered in. As well as the usual PDF, it is also in ePub version, which is impressive for a free book. The Kindle version mentioned is not really a Kindle version, just the PDF converted.

The ePub is only 683Kbytes, whereas the PDF is 7.2 MBytes. About 5 Mbytes is taken up by the cover image of the book being incorrectly formatted for PDF and the rest seems to be from incorrect encoding of fonts.

The book has the most open "by" license, so it would be very simple to produce your own version from the HTML in the ePub edition.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Improving Professional IT Doctorate Completion Rates

Burmeister (2015) reports the results of  interviews with 44 students and staff involved in post-graduate IT education at Charles Sturt University (CSU). While focusing on professional IT doctorates, Burmeister points out that CSU has three exit points: Graduate Certificate, Masters and then the Doctorate. The program has coursework in the first two years, but students are also "guided to develop an article and
submit it to a conference or journal" in each of these two years. Other masters programs might benefit from this approach.

In the Masters of Education I have been undertaking I have been producing a conference paper each year, as a byproduct of assignments. However, I have not mentioned this to my tutors, for fear of it being seen as overly ambitious for a coursework student. This caused a problem when one conference paper was published before the assignment I had based it on had been marked and so was flagged as possible plagiarism.

Burmeister  suggests that flexible delivery can
improve work-life-study balance and so improve retention of students. However, this suggestion seems almost redundant.  Pye, Holt, Salzman, Bellucci and Lombardi (2015) found that students expect an on-line environment to be used. I suggest that it is time for Australian universities to assume their students, particularly post-graduate students, will be on-line and off-campus for most of their studies. Programs should be designed for on-line delivery, and then adaption made for on-campus components, rather than the reverse.

Burmeister  suggests that student engagement with
supervisors should be enhanced with weekly or fortnightly contact. This would result in a high workload for staff if done using conventional techniques, such as face-to-face meetings. I suggest it could be done using on-line asynchronous communication. Students don't need a supervisor taking at then for half an hour each week, then just need a couple of lines of pertinent text.


Burmeister, O. (2015). Improving professional IT doctorate completion rates. Australasian Journal Of Information Systems, 19. doi:

Pye, G., Holt, D., Salzman, S., Bellucci, E., & Lombardi, L. (2015). Engaging diverse student audiences in contemporary blended learning environments in Australian higher business education: Implications for Design and Practice. Australasian Journal Of Information Systems, 19. doi:

Masters Level Teaching, Learning and Assessment: Issues in Design and Delivery

This week I received a copy of the "Masters Level Teaching, Learning and Assessment: Issues in Design and Delivery" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). There was a thank-you note from the editor,  Pauline Kneale on the back of a postcard of Cornwall. After a bit of head-scratching, I remembered that I had answered some questions about my masters teaching experience for the book. The postcard was explained by Pauline being PVC at Plymouth University

As the introduction to the book points out, there has been considerable research undertaken into undergraduate degrees and postgraduate research programs, but taught masters tend to get forgotten somewhere in the middle. Coursework masters (as they tend to be known in Australia) have been seen by universities as a way to expand the market for their undergraduate courses, with minimal extra investment put into making the assessment slightly more challenging.

As Kneale's book points out, masters students are different to undergraduates and have different requirements. The benefit for the university in considering the needs of masters students will be less complaints and a group of students who are very much easier to teach. 

I am quoted in the book in Chapter 2 "The Diversity of Master's Provisions" (p. 22) and at the beginning of Part 5 "Curriculum Design" (p. 201). But I was a little annoyed to find that these were not formally cited or listed in the references.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How do you evaluate an educational app?

To work out how to evaluate an educational app, my first step, as usual, was to search the scholarly literature. A search for “educational app evaluation” produced 199,000 results. This is a few too many to look at, so I limited the search to just this year (2015) and got a more manageable 11,400. This is still too many to read so I added “rubric” to the search, reduced it further to 1,740 results.

Weng, and Taber-Doughty (p. 56, 2015) prepared a three page rubric for evaluating iPad apps  for students with disabilities. Eight practitioners at schools in the US Midwest evaluated nine commercially available iPad apps designed for students with disabilities.

The criteria were rated on a three point  scale: Disagree, Neutral, Agree (or not applicable, uncertain).


Quality of Feedback/Correction

  1. Feedback is accurate and clear
  2. Correction is accurate and clear
  3. Feedback doesn’t reinforce behavior or distract students

Quality of Design

  1. Layout is simple and clear
  2. Layout is consistent
  3. Easy to navigate
  4. No distracting features
  5. Speech is clear and easy to understand


  1. Various levels of content difficulty are available
  2. Appropriate for the target developmental level
  3. Content is appropriate for the target area
  4. No unnecessary or unrelated information


  1. Students can use independently after set up
  2. Only minimal adult supervision is needed after training
  3. Constant adult supervision is needed

Ability to be individualized

  1. Able to individualize levels of difficulty
  2. Able to individualize content to meet a student’s need
  3. Able to individualize speed of speech
  4. Able to adjust size of pictures, fonts, etc.
  5. Multiple voices available for selection
  6. Able to choose modalities
The rubric produced mixed results with some criteria producing consistent results between evaluators and others not.
Campbell, Gunter and Braga (2015) used the Relevance Embedding Translation Adaptation Immersion & Naturalization (RETAIN) model to evaluate educational games. The RETAIN rubric was developed by Gunter, Kenny, and Vick (p. 524, 2008). The model has six criteria, each with four levels (0 to 3). The criteria are:
  1. relevance: to the learner’s life,
  2. embedding: the educational content is integrated with the game content,
  3. transfer: what is learned is applicable outside the game,
  4. adaptation: encourages active learning beyond the game scenario,
  5. immersion: player becomes involved in the game,
  6. naturalization:players learn to learn.
Having been through the 20 top results for 2015, I widened the search to include 2014, resulting in 3,370 results.

Green, Hechter, Tysinger and Chassereau (2014) developed the Mobile App Selection for Science (MASS) rubric for mobile apps  for 5th to 12th grade science, valuated with 24 Canadian teachers. One thing I have learned so far is that your mobile App evaluation rubric needs a snappy acronym, like MASS or RETAIN. ;-)

More seriously, MASS is based on the m-learning framework by Kearney,  Schuck, Burden and Aubusson (2012). This framework has three characteristics: Personalisation, Authenticity and Collaboration (further divided into sub-scales).
The MASS rubric has six criteria assessed at three levels (Green, Hechter, Tysinger & Chassereau, p. 70, 2014) :
  1. Accuracy of the  content,
  2. Relevance of Content,
  3. Sharing Findings (Student’s work can be exported as a document),
  4. Feedback to student,
  5. Scientific Inquiry and Practices: Allows for information gathering through observation,
  6. Navigation of application (interface design).
Having looked at five papers it is time to draw some general points. One is that evaluation of m-learning Apps might be divided into two sets of criteria: as a software application and as an educational experience. There are some general criteria for the evaluation of software, such as the accessibility of the interface for those with a disability.

Apps are a subset of software applications, but curiously none of the authors of these Apps rubrics appear to have looked to work on the evaluation of desktop educational applications to draw inspiration from. Given the size of the market for educational software and that it has been in existence for decades, there must be an extensive literature on this topic.


Campbell, L. O., Gunter, G., & Braga, J. (2015, March). Utilizing the RETAIN Model to Evaluate Mobile Learning Applications. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 2015, No. 1, pp. 8242-8246). Retrieved from

Green, L. S., Hechter, R. P., Tysinger, P. D., & Chassereau, K. D. (2014). Mobile app selection for 5th through 12th grade science: The development of the MASS rubric. Computers & Education, 75, 65-71.
Gunter, G. A., Kenny, R. F., & Vick, E. H. (2008). Taking educational games seriously: using the RETAIN model to design endogenous fantasy into standalone educational games. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56(5-6), 511-537.
Kearney, M., Schuck, S., Burden, K., & Aubusson, P. (2012). Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspective. Research In Learning Technology, 20(1), 1-17. doi:10.3402/rlt.v20i0/14406
Weng, P. L., & Taber-Doughty, T. (2015). Developing an App Evaluation Rubric for Practitioners in Special Education. Journal of Special Education Technology, 30(1).

Turning Educational Web Pages into an App

I set up the WordPress blog "Mobalize" as a student exercise. This takes a minimalist approach, using the default design, which seems to be a responsive and looks okay on my smart phone's 4 inch screen. For content I tried to answer the question: "How do you evaluate an educational app?".

QR Code for AppTo build an App, I took the same minimalist approach. I saved a copy of my Wordpress blog post, zipped the resulting files, uploaded them to Adobe PhoneGap and generated an Android App called "Mobilize Education". The only tricky part was that I had to rename the web page "index.html". Phonegap asks for a config.xml file, as per the W3C widget specification, but this is not essential in this case, as the "App" is just a web page.

The files for the web pages are 194 kbytes when Zipped (654 kbytes uncompressed). The App is considerably larger at 1.1 Mbytes, but I expect this is for programs and as more content was added the overhead would be a smaller proportion.

It looks to me that it would be very easy to take content from a Moodle eBook, ePub, Kindle, SCORM or any of the other web based content formats and turn it into an App (these all consist of zipped web pages). Of course if you wanted a more interactive App, that would take more work.

ps: The App is also available for Windows Mobile, but who has that? wink

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teachers Need to Set a New Direction for Australian Education

The book "How To Pass a Test: Is this the direction of Australian education today?" by Lynne Edwards

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mobile Moodle Creates Expectations it Can't Satisfy

The question of Moodle being available on mobile devices is not so much a technical one, as what the user's expectations are. An institution can switch on access via the Moodle App, provided they have a later version of Moodle. Also they can provide a responsive Moodle theme. But institutions have invested years of work in the classic Moodle look and are understandably cautious in making a change

Users will have expectations with an App or a Mobile interface that everything will be different, but underneath it is the same Moodle and same course content. The result can be frustration and so I understand why institutions are moving slowly.

As a result of being a student in a course on mobile educational design I have been confident enough to volunteer to be a pilot user for a responsive Moodle theme for my course ICT Sustainability, starting February 2016 at ANU.

In a way Moodle's success is a problem for transition to mobile devices. Hu, Lei, Li, Iseli-Chan, Siu and Chu (p. 5, 2015) report that students with two or more years experience with Moodle were less likely to try the mobile version, than those with less experience. Also students who considered themselves as having limited IT competency used the mobile version more.

Hu, Lei, Li, Iseli-Chan, Siu and Chu (p. 9, 2015) conclude that students did not prefer Moodle on a mobile phone, but would use it when necessary. I suspect the same would apply to the Moodle App (although that was not tested). Institutions are therefore right to be cautious about introducing the mobile interface, as it is likely to create expectations it can't satisfy. Just adding a mobile interface doesn't make for mobile learning.


Hu, X., Lei, L., Li, J. B., Iseli-Chan, N. C., Siu, F. L. C., & Chu, S. (2015). Mobile access to moodle activities: student usage and perceptions. International Mobile Learning Festival 2015. Retrieved from

Friday, November 20, 2015

Avoiding Innovation Changes Naive

Professor Glover,  head of Universities Australia, is reported to have said that research commercialization and impact should not be included in the criteria for research grants, as this will risk Australia's education export industry. On the contrary, I suggest that not incorporating innovation will result in an irrelevant university sector which produces papers which no one wants to read as that research has no impact on the real world and therefore no one wants to study at.
“It’s short sighted and naive to think we can change the direction of the academic world. Publications are critically important for driving citations and citations are critically important for driving rankings which are critically important for the health of the international education sector, which is worth $18bn this year alone,”  From Innovation changes “naive”: Glover, Julie Hare, The Australian, November 18, 2015
It may seem shocking to some academics to look on university research and publications as a business, but this is a significant export earner for Australia. However, I suggest a change is needed to the metrics used to quantify research output. International student enrollments are not going to increase if Australian universities produce research which is of no practical value. Students want to enroll in a course which makes a difference to the world. Universities should also produce research which gets used and is of practical value. However, measuring usefulness is difficult.

One simple change I suggest to make Australian universities more attuned to innovation and commercialization, is to teach this to students, particularly research students. Australian research students have been discouraged from considering commercialization of their work, by official government and university policies. As an example, if research student wanted to study how to commercialize their research, they had to suspend their research and stop receiving research scholarship while they did so. This should be reversed and research students instead be expected to undertake innovation and entrepreneurial courses as a routine part of their education. This will require a change to the thinking, and the procedures, at our leading universities, which regard formal courses for research students as an anathema.

In his book "Online Gravity: The Unseen Force Driving the Way You Live, Earn and Learn", Paul X. McCarthy points out that "A surprising number of the founders and leaders of many of today's technology giants share one little-known fact in common: they attended Montessori schools."* The Montessori approach emphasizes long blocks of time on one topic, a constructivist approach and trained teachers. While Montessori is thought of as a school teaching technique, a similar approach is applied to some university programs. McCarthy points out Montessori school students are over-represented in computer science university programs and it is perhaps no coincidence that there are similarities between the two in terms of teaching approaches.

World leading universities, not only produce  academic publications based on their research, but also encourage their researchers to apply their results, including by setting up companies. A few months ago I visited Cambridge University (UK). After talking at a roundtable discussion for library staff on how to teach graduates using the Internet, I dropped in on the Cambridge University Center for Entrepreneurial Learning, where students (and staff) learn to commercialize. Cambridge has a problem convincing its elite researchers to worry about commercialization, despite decades (in some cases centuries), of successful commercialization of research.

The Australian National University, along with other universities in Canberra, set up the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) and run competitions, such as Innovation ACT and integrates with degree programs with ANU TechLauncher. With this students work in teams to build a computer application for a real client, or they can opt to do their own company start-up. The students build the computer software and then, as part of Innovation ACT, prepare a business plan and pitch to investors for a company to sell the product.  This model could be emulated by other Australian cities and universities. Perhaps only one in one hundred of the student start-ups will be become a successful business, but the students will learn how to speak to business people about their ideas.

* Note: Thanks to Suneeta Peres da Costa (Author of Homework), for pointing out the quote from McCarthy.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mobile Devices Causing a Drop in Student ICT Literacy

A report on the ICT Literacy of Australian Year 6 and 10 concludes that this has decreased between 2011 and 2014, possibly due to the use of mobile technology (2014 NAP ICTL public report and 2014 NAP ICTL technical report).
"The assessment in 2014 has revealed that although the mean performance of students in Year 6 increased steadily from 2005 to 2011, it decreased between 2011 and 2014. The performance of Year 10 students had not changed across the three previous NAP – ICT Literacy cycles from 2005 to 2011, though it declined substantially between 2011 and 2014. Most of the relationships between ICT literacy and student characteristics have remained similar over time, so it does not appear that the overall decline is associated with particular groups of students. The decreases also appear to be similar in each of the jurisdictions.

The decline does not appear to be a result of changes in the test content, in the way the test was administered or sample obtained. One of the possible interpretations of the decline in ICT literacy is that the increased use of mobile technology devices has resulted in less emphasis on skills associated with information management and processing but more emphasis on communication applications. It is also possible that there has been less emphasis placed in schools on the teaching of skills associated with ICT literacy, with the development of young people’s ICT literacy competencies increasingly being taken for granted. Such a shift in emphasis may have contributed to changes in ICT literacy
achievement between 2011 and 2014. The reasons for the decrease in Year 6 and Year 10 students’ ICT literacy levels remain issues for further investigation." From NationalAssessment Program – ICT Literacy Years 6 & 10, Report 2014, p. xxvi, 2015.

Webinar Via Blackboard Connect on Mobile Device

Today I took part in the ACEN Webinar  on 'WIL in STEM Disciplines' using the Blackboard Collaborate App for Android on a smart phone. Set to "slow" connection, this used 1 kilobyte per second. The slides were readable on-screen and I could type text replies. However, I could not work out how to answer multiple choice quiz questions or type text on the shared screen. Also it was difficult to search for something in a web browser and then paste it to the webinar. With a headset it was easy to walk around while taking part in the webinar. The downside of this that those around me did not realize I was taking part in an event and wanted to talk to me.

SBS Learn Website for Schools

The SBS Learn website was launched last night at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) in Sydney. SBS provides teachers guides and materials for students to accompany their documentaries. These are now being collected at SBS Learn for ease of access by schools.  ACP is currently showing photos from school students as part of their "School Selfie" project on photography. For the students there is "How to sharpen your selfie skills" and for teachers a 30 pages "Teacher notes: School Selfie".

Also available are Go Back To Where You Came FromThe BoatFirst ContactWhat's the Catch, and  Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta.

This is a useful initiative, but SBS needs to provide an index to the materials, based on the Australian curriculum topics and student levels. Also it would be useful to have the materials available in low resolution versions for regional students on low bandwidth Internet connections and with the website formatted to be more mobile-friendly.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Digital Disrupting for a Better World

Greetings from the ACS Digital Disruptor Awards in Sydney, where  Victor Dominello, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation is speaking on sharing data. He has just handed me a Gold Disruptor 2015 award in the ICT Higher Educator category for my ICT Sustainability Course.

IT Vendor Certification and Vocational Qualification Bundles

The most innovative thing I have seen at the Reimagination Summit (Star Casino in Sydney) today is IT Vendor Certification and Vocational Qualification Bundles from Northern Sydney Institute of NSW TAFE. This was on a brochure in the conference pack, saying NSW residents can get Microsoft and  Cisco certification, along with vocational training units at low cost. This was while I was listing to a panel session on STEM, which seems appropriate. The idea of bundling industry certifications with educational qualification is a good one and along with maths bridging courses can allow people who ,missed out on university education into STEM careers

Monday, November 16, 2015

Future of the Australian Technology Park

Inside the ATP Innovation CenterRob Stokes, NSW Minister for Planning, announced 12 November 2015 that a consortium lead by property developer Mirvac had one the bid to purchase the Australian Technology Park (ATP) in Redfern, with the Commonwealth Bank as the major tenant.

The minister stated “Our aspiration for this site is to continue the transformation from dilapidated railway buildings to a growing technology hub,” ("Technology future secured at ATP", Government Release,  12 November, 2015). This is misleading, as the ATP has been in operation in the refurbished railway buildings, for two decades. I took part in numerous technology events at the ATP in the 1990s and in 1998 I used the ATP at a conference in Canberra, as an example of how to promote Australian technology. Recently I drew on this work in designing an innovation course for university students.

The problem has not been with the physical infrastructure of the ATP (which has been skillfully transformed), but that the NSW neglected this resource on its doorstep, the universities did not integrate innovation into their degree programs and the federal government did not have effective policies to support this.

Scott Farquhar of Atlassian, part of a rival Walker bid for the ATP, has been critical of the Mirvac/CBA win a "tragic missed opportunity for Australia". However, while Atlassian is a successful Australian tech company, it is difficult to see how their proposal would be materially different from that of Mirvac. The key to making the ATP a success is to use the current empty space (used for surface car parking) for modern high-rise office space. The existing low railway workshops can then be given over to exhibition, conference space and start-up support.

The Commonwealth Bank has integrated innovation into its Sydney CBD headquarters. I was one of the judges for the weekend long Randon Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) held in the roof-top meeting room of the Bank's building (there is also an innovation centre downstairs). This atmosphere should able to be replicated at ATP.

The reborn ATP will likely be a success with long term commercial tenants to fund it, universities now starting to teach innovation to their students and with NSW and federal government taking an interest in supporting innovation in effective ways.

Declaration of Interest: I own shares in the Commonwealth Bank and have been previously paid by ATP to arrange tech-events at the Park.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Australian VET Funding System Failing Students

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)  has produced a series of reports on the almost four million Australian vocational education and training (VET) students and studying with 4,601 providers. Provided are  "Total VET students and courses 2014" and "A preliminary analysis of the outcomes of students assisted by VET FEE-HELP",  which contain some worrying statistics concerning very low student completion rates. This is important as student loans (VET FEE-HELP) for the VET sector has meant a rapid increase in students at private training providers.

NCVER have carried out an analysis of the completion rates of students. These are consistent with conventional wisdom for education. Students most likely to complete are on-campus or blended mode, employed and undertaking a diploma level course, with a 43% completion rate. Students least likely to complete are studying on-line, unemployed and undertaking an advanced diploma, with a 8% completion rate.

What should be causing concern for government policy makers is that the fastest increase in new enrollment is in unemployed student studying on-line and who are least likely to complete. The result is likely to be at a cost of billions of dollars to the taxpayer with minimal improvement of the education of the workforce.

Another worrying finding is that the likelihood of a student completing their course varies between providers from 1% to 96%. The nature of VET is such that the completion rate will vary widely and the  average of 21% is not unexpected, but providers with a completion rate of less than 10% should be of concern.

The Australian Government is considering reforms to the scheme, but these will likely only apply a cap to the fees providers can charge and curb pressure selling tactics. The government does not appear to be addressing changes such modular qualifications (where the student only commits to a short course, as a step to a diploma) and techniques to address the low completion rates of on-line courses.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Not-for-profit Private Australian University

Marko Beljac in "#Occupy the university" (Online Opinion, 5 November 2015) suggests that "In a free society university life must necessarily be autonomous and self managed" but "... the university essentially becomes a private enterprise supplying graduates to other corporations. The courses universities provide, the manner they are delivered, and the research that they do, necessarily will cater to the interests and concerns of the corporate sector. ...".

Universities do cater to the vocational needs of their students, which I suggest is not all together a bad thing. There should be scope for non-vocational studies, but someone has to be willing to pay for these. If the students are not willing to pay, because such studies will not get them a job, and the state will not pay, because their is no perceived social benefit, then who will pay?

Calls for a non-corporate approach to universities, such as that by Beljac, are not new. These are documented in Hannah Forsyth's "A History of the Modern Australian University". We do not need to look to Paris students riots and have our own history of learning experiments:

    On Thursday, July 12th, a meeting was held of some of those interested in the concept of a Learning Exchange in Canberra. Laura Turnbull, of the World Education Fellowship, was present and was able to suggest several possible contacts potentially influential in getting an exchange underway.

    The meeting learned that there are several, Community Service Centres already becoming established in Canberra. These are at private addresses where people can ring for information on various things - such as, clubs and societies, legal advice, etc. Obviously, this is similar in concept to a learning exchange and any exchange set up should logically work with theses groups. ..." From "LEARNING EXCHANGE", Woroni , Thursday 2 August 1973

A radical dawn in the corporatization of Australian universities happened, almost unnoticed, in July 2012, when Torrens University Australia was admitted to the Australian National Register of higher education providers as an "Australian University" and authorized to self-accredit courses. Torrens is part of the private for-profit, Laureate International Universities, which provides education online to 800,000 students around the world.

Professor Jim Barber, while UNE Vice-Chancellor,  advocated changes to government regulations to allow on-line universities to be established in Australia. He failed in this, however Laureate's example with Torrens shows it is possible to establish a new institution with a different way of working. This approach could be applied for new non-government, not-for-profit higher eduction institutions which have social goals.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

UK Teaching Excellence Framework

  • "drive up teaching standards and give students more information through a new Teaching Excellence Framework that will encourage a greater focus on high quality teaching and graduate employment prospects
  • widen participation for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and encourage providers to increase focus on supporting all students through their course and into employment or further study. A new Social Mobility Advisory Group would report to the Universities Minister with a plan to meet the Prime Minister’s ambitions to increase the proportion of disadvantaged students entering higher education and increase the number of BME students by 20% by 2020
  • enable students to choose from a wider range of high-quality higher education providers by making it less bureaucratic to establish a new university through faster access to Degree Awarding Powers and University Title
  • establish a new Office for Students to promote the student interest and value for money, and reduce the regulatory burden on the sector ...
Through the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) there will be stronger incentives for excellent teaching and students will have more information about the type of teaching they can expect and their likely career paths after graduation. The TEF will use measures such as student satisfaction, student retention rates and graduate job prospects. Higher education institutions providing high quality teaching would be able to increase tuition fees in line with inflation. Those that fail to meet expectations would risk losing additional fee income."
From: Student choice at the heart of new higher education reforms, Press release, Jo Johnson MP, UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills,

Friday, November 6, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership Applies to Educaiton

The full text of the draft "Trans-Pacific Partnership" (TPP) agreement between Australia and eleven other countries, most notably the USA, but excluding China: (Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam). What is not clear is the extent to which the agreement applies to education and qualifications. Is a qualification awarded by an educational institution in a TPP country accepted for employment purposes in Australia? Must students of TPP countries be charged the same fees by Australian universities as Australian students? Must the Australian government provide the same subsidized loans to Australian students enrolling in TPP institutions, as they do for Australian institutions?

This will become increasingly important as e-learning is applied for vocational qualifications. As an example, will Australia be required to recognize qualifications which Australian students obtain on-line from US universities? Will the Australian government be required to provide the same student loans for US university courses as they provide for Australian courses?

There is currently concern in Australia over unscrupulous Registered Training Organizations (RTOs) signing up students to unsuitable courses to obtain government subsidized fees. However this is minor compared to the problems with student loans in the USA.

A search of the text for the word "education" (excluding the names of education departments), finds 60 references (twenty mentioning Australia). There is a section about "Strategic Partnership" arrangements for education, but which does not seem to be binding. One aspect of the agreement is that many details are still to be worked out, as the "Summary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement" says: 
"The Development chapter includes three specific areas to be considered for collaborative work once TPP enters into force for each Party:  ... (3) education, science and technology, research, and innovation."
The "TPP Fact Sheet" (presumably not part of the formal text) says:
"Peru ... Increased services trade in education and tourism is expected along with growth in tourism related investment."
There are provisions for people to reside temporally in each others countries for "research, guidance of research, or education at a university" ("Japan's Schedule of commitments for temporary entry of business persons"). 

One interesting aspect of the agreement is the mutual recognition of qualifications. "Canada's Schedule for Commitments of Temporary Entry for Business Persons" says: 
"Canadian educational requirements for professionals shall be deemed to be met for the purpose of entry whenever an Australian professional has met Australian educational requirements ..". 
However, this excludes:
"All health, education, and social services occupations and related occupations
All professional occupations related to Cultural Industries
Recreation, Sports and Fitness Program and Service Directors
Managers in Telecommunications Carriers
Managers in Postal and Courier Services
Judges and Notaries"
So an Australian teacher would not be qualified to work in Canada, but an computer programmer would.
(a) Explore potential for collaborative work in curriculum development including curriculum materials;
(b) Share experiences on the use of information technology in education, including education portals;
(c) Share opportunities for professional/executive training encourage possible joint programmes between institutions; and
(d) Share experiences on language training and encourage collaborative programmes for professional development and training of language teachers, including exchanges of language teachers (English/Spanish/Chinese);
(e) Share information on opportunities available to post graduate students in each other’s countries in areas of mutual interest to each of the Parties. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Responsive Web Designs for Mobile Learning

Green course home page in landscape mode on a mobile device
Moodle Landscape
Green course home page in landscape mode on a mobile device
The default user interface for the Moodle learning management system (Version 2.9.2+) is called "Clean" theme . This is a responsive web design, which will automatically adjust from the usual three column layout used for Moodle on a desktop computer, to a one column design for a mobile device. This is triggered not by detecting a mobile device, but purely from the width (in Pixels) of the display screen. If the screen is less than 768 pixels wide, the Clean theme displays only one column of text.

The figure of 768 pixels is commonly used for what is called in web design a "breakpoint", where the layout is changed from desktop to mobile format (Natda, 2013).

You can try this with the Moodle Demo using the Mobile Browser Emulator extension for Google Chrome, or simply by making the width of your web browser window smaller until the columns disappear. Try your own installation of Moodle and see if you get the same result (there are many non-responsive Moodle themes still in use).  

The Mahara e-Portfolio has a similar responsive design by default, you can try this with the Mahara Demonstration.


Natda, K. V. (2013). Responsive Web Design. Eduvantage, 1(1). Retrieved from

Queensland Distance Education Schools Not Catering to Remote Students?

ABC TV's Landline program featured "Data Drought" (Pip Courtney, 4/10/2015 1:22:26 PM) concerning problems with the NBN Interim Satellite service, particularly for distance education students. In response I suggested some techniques, including those from m-learning,  could be used to reduce the bandwidth requirements.

It has been suggested that the problem only really exists in Queensland, as other states have school distance education programs which specifically cater for the limitations of satellite communications, for example using IP multicast. The suggestion is that most of the "distance" students in Queensland are actually in Brisbane (where there is good broadband access) and so catering for remote student in not a priority.

The Queensland DE schools cater to students who are unable to attend a campus due to a remote location,  medical condition, itinerant lifestyle, have been suspended from a school, are mature age or home-based by choice.

Looking at the Education Queensland website, the department provides schools of distance education for geographically isolated areas (Cairns, Rockhampton, Emerald, Charleville, Charters Towers, Longreach, Mount Isa) and one in Brisbane. They also provide for "... other home based students with limited educational choice...  mainstream school students and providing a service for by choice home based learners and students in a range of alternative education centres". Given that most of the DE schools are in regional areas, it would be surprising if they were not specifically catering for the needs of distance students.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How Students Use Their Mobile Devices to Support Learning at an Australian Regional University

Farley, Murphy, Johnson, Carter, Lane, Midgley, and Koronios (2015) point out that most students are already using mobile devices to support their learning and the institutions need to catch up with this reality. The authors suggest the LMS apps (Blackboard Mobile Learn and Moodle Touch) are better than non-mobile-friendly websites (this advice may be obsolete with Moodle now having a responsive interface as the default).

Use of Google Drive or DropBox is identified as an alternative for students to access course materials on mobile devices, optionally with shortened urls or QR codes.

Private self organized student Facebook groups were identified by Farley, Murphy, Johnson, Carter, Lane, Midgley, and Koronios (2015) in focus groups. YouTube and Vimeo, were also identified as resources used by students.

ps: I am a former student (of education) at USQ and one of the authors is a colleague at ANU.


Farley, H., Murphy, A., Johnson, C., Carter, B., Lane, M., Midgley, W., ... & Koronios, A. (2015). How Do Students Use Their Mobile Devices to Support Learning? A Case Study from an Australian Regional University. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2015(1). DOI:

Learning to Improve

Greetings from the the University of Technology Sydney, where Professor Anthony Bryk, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, speaking on "Learning to Improve: Sustainable Improvements in Learning Systems". He started by talking about the provision of a public water supply in New York City, claiming that "nothing like this had ever been done before" (which seems an exaggeration as the Romans had a public water supply thousands of years ago). This was used as an analogy for education, saying that that needs a similar large scale public effort. Professor Bryk suggests looking to manufacturing, services design, health-care for inspiration to improve education. Given the problems being experienced in US manufacturing and health-care, these would be the last places I would look to for good examples.

Australia has a state based, nationally funded, school system. It seemed to me that Professor Bryk should be giving this talk in the USA, where they do not have a coordinated education system, not in Australia where we do. I suggest Professor Bryk should first look to the education systems of other countries not manufacturing or health care in the USA.

In contrast Australia needs to look at the US education system to work out what not to do.  One example is the problems with student loans in the USA, a problem which now occurring in Australia with VET diplomas.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mobilizing Innovation

Previously I looked at using the Moodle Interests Tag Cloud for a Team Building Exercise, as part of an innovation course. Here are some more thoughts on mobile learning strategies, methods, and technologies for innovation.

Menkhoff and Bengtsson (p. 229, 2012) suggest that mobile learning can be applied in an entrepreneurship course at two levels:

  1. discursive level: "between instructor and students as well as students themselves with the help of productions, concepts, ideas, questions and comments"
  2. experiential level: "based on the respective task goals, trial actions, actions, feedback, and revisions."

Suoand Niu (2014) describe the modification of a university computer science course on mobile technology to incorporate entrepreneurship. In this case classes of 15 to 18 students spend eight-weeks in the elective. Curiously, given the subject matter is mobile devices, the course appears to have used conventional lectures assignments and examinations. Student feedback questioned the large number of lectures, but the authors do not appear to have considered making use of the mobile devices as part of the teaching.

Joo, Lim, and  Lim (p. 436, 2014) found that perception of the advantages of mobile devices had a  positive effect on learners use of mobile learning. The reverse may also be the case: the use of mobile devices may be result in students having a more positive outlook. Given that many examples of contemporaneity successful start-ups the students will be familiar with are related to mobile technology, the research by Joo, Lim, and Lim (p. 436, 2014) suggests that the student's perception of an innovation cruse would be more positive if the course uses mobile technology.

Menkhoff and Bengtsson (p. 230, 2012) provide two examples of mobile exercises:

  1. Photo-sharing: Students were to take photos relevant to the course on a 45 minute walk, share on a website and discuss the results,
  2. SMS-enabled scavenger hunt: Students explored a specific location to answer questions.

Social Media for Team Building

Mascia, Magnusson and Björk (2015) point to the role of social networks in innovation in organizations. With a course made up of students not previously known to each other, there is a need to quickly form teams and begin the innovation process. It is proposed to use social media techniques through mobile devices to speed this process. Mobile learning can also be used to deliver conventional course content and collect student input for assessment, but this is secondary to the social role of the technology.

Podcasts for Content

Schuck (2015) describes using podcasts as part of a professional learning community using m-learning. Interestingly, Rahimi and Soleymani (2015) found that language learners did better and had less anxiety when using a mobile device for listening to podcasts than those using desktop computers. The authors attributed this to the listeners being under less time pressure when using their own mobile device, than when using a language lab computer.

Mobile Entrepreneurship Games

Antonaci, Dagnino, Ott, Bellotti, Berta, De Gloria and Mayer (2014) describe the use of mobile games for teaching entrepreneurship in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands at the  Bachelor, Master and PhD level. The games were played at home, both individually and homework and as competitions against other students. This was preceded by an in-class discussion and post-game debrief. The course had a final "playoff". The concerned finance, marketing and other aspects of a business, relevant to entrepreneurship.


Antonaci, A., Dagnino, F. M., Ott, M., Bellotti, F., Berta, R., De Gloria, A., ... & Mayer, I. (2014). A gamified collaborative course in entrepreneurship: Focus on objectives and tools. Computers in Human BehaviorDOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.082

Joo, Y. J., Lim, K. Y., & Lim, E. (2014). Investigating the structural relationship among perceived innovation attributes, intention to use and actual use of mobile learning in an online university in South Korea. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(4). Retrieved from

Mascia, D., Magnusson, M., & Björk, J. (2015). The Role of Social Networks in Organizing Ideation, Creativity and Innovation: An Introduction. Creativity and Innovation Management, 24(1), 102-108.

Menkhoff, T., & Bengtsson, M. L. (2012). Engaging students in higher education through mobile learning: lessons learnt in a Chinese entrepreneurship course. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 11(3), 225-242. Retrieved from Rahimi, M., & Soleymani, E. (2015). The Impact of Mobile Learning on Listening Anxiety and Listening Comprehension. English Language Teaching, 8(10), p152. Retrieved from

Schuck, S. (2015). Mobile Learning in Higher education: Mobilizing staff to use technologies in their teaching. eLearn, 2015(March), 3. Retrieved from

Suo, X., & Niu, T. (2014, October). Incorporating entrepreneurship topic into a mobile computing course. In Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2014 IEEE (pp. 1-6). IEEE. DOI: 10.1109/FIE.2014.7044483

Monday, November 2, 2015

Boosting Entrepreneurship in Australian Universities

Colin Kinner
The Australian Chief Scientist has released “Boosting High-Impact Entrepreneurship in Australia: A role for universities” (by Colin Kinner of Spike Innovation, 28 October 2015). This recommends universities engage with the startup community, have courses by entrepreneurs, have short courses, internships and overseas placements, support multi-disciplinary collaboration and experiential programs. However, Kinner does not place sufficient emphasis on how to integrate entrepreneurship in universities in a sustainable way. High impact programs by individuals tend to falter after an initial period of enthusiasm. I suggest we need programs grounded in educational design, particularly blended mobile learning.
This report studies several universities with impressive track records as breeding grounds for entrepreneurs, and finds the following common attributes:
  • Strong engagement between the university and the local startup ecosystem
  • Courses delivered by experienced entrepreneurs
  • Students given multiple opportunities for engagement— ranging from short courses to immersive programs such as internships and overseas placements
  • Programs support multi-disciplinary collaboration that includes STEM
  • Emphasis on experiential programs and learning by doing
  • Funding arrangements with government drive investment in establishing and delivering student entrepreneurship programs that operate at significant scale
  • Recognition and reward for academics who engage in student entrepreneurship activities
  • Programs based on modern startup approaches such as Lean Startup."
From “Boosting High-Impact Entrepreneurship in Australia: A role for universities” (for the Office of the Chief Scientist for Australia, by Colin Kinner, 28 October 2015).

Examples of Australian universality start-up centers mentioned by Kinner include the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (University of New South Wales), iAccelerate (University of Wollongong), New Venture Institute (Flinders University) and Canberra Innovation Network (Australian National University, University of Canberra, UNSW Canberra, NICTA and CSIRO). Kinner also mentioned "Piivot" at University of Technology Sydney, but this appears to be more of a concept than a specific center. UTS has what I call the "UTS Innovation Building" which has their UTS Hatchery Pre-Incubator. Kinner also mentions  Ormond College (University of Melbourne), but this appears to just be a residential student college.

On Saturday I attended the Innovation ACT awards, run in conjunction with the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) for Canberra's university students (the team I mentored won an award). This meets Kinner's criteria for entrepreneurial courses (and more), being by entrepreneurs made up of short modules linked to longer formal educational units and supporting multi-disciplinary collaboration.

Unlike the other centres Kinner mentions, CBRIN is multi-institutional, allowing student from different institution to work together. The ANU has also linked Innovation ACT to its degree programs through ANU TechLauncher, with students about to do the technical part of innovation in their degree program and the business part in the Innovation ACT competition.

The report has a chapter on "Best Practice Entrepreneurship Education" (Chapter 4, Page 33). However, I suggest what Australia's universities first need is introductory entrepreneurship education. This is something which takes time to develop and the first step is to tell the students that this is an acceptable activity for them to undertake and will be recognize in formal educational programs. I don't agree with distinction between "high-impact entrepreneurship" and other types: just getting the students to consider this is a useful start. Experiential programs is the worthwhile approach, but before incubators and internships, I suggest that start-up competitions and short courses are a cost effective first step for students.

Teaching entrepreneurship requires entrepreneurs to be involved, however Kinner overlooks the role of educators in the process. Entrepreneurs tend to be good talkers, but not necessarily good teachers. Start-up programs can falter after the initial enthusiasm wears off. I suggest that these programs need to be designed like any other learning experience. In particular I suggest the use of the same e-learning tools and techniques used for university courses. These can now make use of mobile devices for blended learning. In this way the program can avoid being bogged down in mountains of post-it-notes and paperwork.

The Cambridge Model

Kinner lists the University of Cambridge as third in the world for its impact on creating and supporting technology innovation and the highest ranking non-US institution, after MIT and Standford University  (Figure 8, p. 35, 2015). The Cambridge approach is one which I proposed for Australian universities in 1998. Kinner points to the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) at Cambridge University, which I made a brief visit to in July. However, Kinner fails to mention the decades of work which preceded this, referred to as "The Cambridge Phenomenon".

Boosting Entrepreneurship in Australian Universities with Blended Mobile Learning

I will speaking at the Australian Computer Society in Sydney, 6:30pm, 4 November on "Global Green Computing On-line: Evolving Content and Assessment for an International Moodle Course" and will add some comments on entrepreneurship and  blended mobile learning.

Scalable Learning Systems

Professor Anthony Bryk, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, will speak on "Learning to Improve: Sustainable Improvements in Learning Systems" at the University of Technology Sydney, 4.30 pm, 4 November 2015.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Team 101 Tutotra Innovation Award Winner

Eamon Weiner and Awais Bhattee of Team 101 Tutotra having accepted an award at the Innovation ACT awards night
Congratulations to Awais Bhattee and Eamon Weiner of "Team 101 Tutotra" who were one of the six teams to be awarded in the Innovation ACT at the finals last night. I mentored the team during the start-up competition, developing a product to help international students. For next year's competition I am working on  m-leaning innovation materials: students will be able to use mobile devices for studying aspects of innovation and then use these to participate in the live events.
Eamon WeinerAwais BhatteeOur value proposition is reducing learning and language barriers for international students. In particular it provides understanding to course content which may not other be achieved. This is achieved through bilingual study guides and support tools, allowing students to absorb knowledge in their native language."