Thursday, March 31, 2016

Financial Inclusion in India

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Mr Arun Jaitley, Indian Minister for Finance is speaking on "The new economics of financial inclusion in India". In his introduction the ANU Chancellor pointed out India had the fastest growing economy. The Chancellor also commented Australia and India shared a commitment to rules based international order, which was clearly a criticism directed at the government of China over the Spratly Islands dispute.

Interestingly the event started with a message from the President of India citing the introduction of electronic welfare cards as an aid to inclusion. The Cashless Debit Card
has been controversial in Australia. India has an identity number called Aadhaar intended to be used for welfare. One other curious use is to record how many public employees are at work (currently 91319 employees are using 2833 computers).

The Minister commented on the increase in the number of phones in India in his lifetime. He also commented that the Indian services sector is doing best, manufacturing "could do better" but agriculture was "the real challenge". The suggested that concentrating on equitable distribution without increasing production was not sufficient.

The Minister advocated a market based model to increase production, but this will not on its own take care of the poor. He wants to bring people into the formal banking system, insurance and pension. He acknowledged that while the insurance scheme was working the pension scheme outside the government would than more work. He also claimed success for the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank (or MUDRA Bank) for micro-finance. However, the scheme started less than a year ago and other Microfinance schemes have had problems. Shortly to be launched is "Stand-up India" with small loans for disadvantaged groups.

One topic I could not find in the minister's speech was the importance of education for inclusion. However, his 2016 budget speech included a Digital Depository for School Certificates and College Degrees and Entrepreneurship Education and Training through Massive Open Online Courses.

ps: I have proposed Australia and India can cooperate on e-learning to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Monday, March 28, 2016

IT Education for Sustainable Development

Australia and India can cooperate on e-learning to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals to:
  1. Train teachers in technology
  2. Further understanding between the nations
  3. Provide new education export industry for Australia

UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN Sustainable Development Goals
Seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
 "... end poverty ... protect the planet ... ensure prosperity for all ... foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies ... based on a  spirit of strengthened global solidarity ..."
UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015). Retrieved from

Quality Education

UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education"Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all".
UN SDG 4, General Assembly resolution 70/17, p. 17, 2015.

General Assembly resolution 70/17, p. 17, 2015.

Partnerships for the Goals

UN SDG Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
SDG 17: "Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing ..."

General Assembly resolution 70/17, p. 26, 2015.

India-Australia Cooperation on Education

Mr Christopher Pyne MP, Australian Minister for Education and Mrs Smriti Zubin Irani Indian Minister of Human Resource Development
“Supporting the mobility of students ... Sharing best practice education materials ... Supporting skills development ...”

(2015, August 24). Memorandum of understanding Between the Government of Australia and The Government of the Republic of India on Cooperation in the Fields of Education, Training and Research. Retrieved from

Australia Free E-Learning Materials

Australian Curriculum Technologies

Four Colombo Plans

  1. Colombo Plan, 1951: Western nations Cold War strategy against USSR, during which 20,000 university students from region educated in Australia  (Oakman, p.  3, 2010).  
  2. Virtual Colombo Plan, 2001: $230M from Australian Government to support of DE programs based in developing countries, including the African Virtual University (Wolff, p.25, 2002).
  3. New Colombo Plan, 2013:  $100M for scholarships over five years  to send Australian students to study in Indo-Pacific universities (New Colombo Plan Secretariat, 2013).
  4. Digital Colombo Plan,  2015: AARnet proposal for fibre-optic link to region's educational institutions and for direct e-learning (AARnet, 2015).

Propose Certificate Programs for Indian Teachers

Combine CSER course content with ANU multi-cultural techniques to create on-line courses for the Digital Technologies to teachers of the Indo-Pacific region, starting with Australia and India.

Align courses to Australian AITSL teaching standards
Deliver to smart phones using off-the-shelf free open access learning management system


(2015, August 24). Memorandum of understanding Between the Government of Australia and The Government of the Republic of India on Cooperation in the Fields of Education, Training and Research. Retrieved from
AARnet. (2015, May 29). Draft National Strategy for International Education : AARNet Submission. Retrieved from
New Colombo Plan Secretariat. (2013). New Colombo Plan: Guidelines Scholarship Program. Canberra:Australian Government. Retrieved from
Oakman, D. (2010). Facing Asia: a history of the Colombo Plan (p. 323). ANU Press. Retrieved from
UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015). Retrieved from
Wolff, L. (2002). The African Virtual University: the challenge of higher education development in sub-Saharan Africa. TechKnowLogia, International Journal of Technologies for the Advancement of Knowledge and Learning, 4(2). Retrieved from

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Teachers Without Tech a Scandalous Waste
Dr John Vallance, Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, has been reported as saying that money spent on computers in Australian schools was a “scandalous waste of money’’ ("Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head", Natasha Bita, March 26, 2016, The Australian). Dr. Vallance is in good company, with educators as far back as Plato and Socrates expressing concern about the use of communications technology. In the ancient academy it was the use of a wax tablet and today it is an electronic tablet. However, as Plato (thought Socrates) suggested, we need to use the new technology alongside traditional teaching, not reject it outright.

Computers remain a relatively small part of the cost of education, compared to salaries and buildings. What I suggest we need to do is focus on how computers can help teachers teach, so they can then help the students.

Dr Vallance is quoted as saying “We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting.", which is true, but is missing the point. Computers can be used before and after the discussion in the classroom, in "flipped" mode. Students can study via the computer so they are better prepared for group discussion in the classroom. Also tablets, video screens and interactive white-boards are very useful for bringing a group together, if the teacher has been trained in how to use them.

Dr Vallance suggests that he would hire another teacher, rather than "filling a classroom with laptops". However, a classroom full of laptops only costs about $10,000 per year, whereas a teacher costs about ten times as much. Eliminating computers would not significantly reduce the cost of education. Computers can reduce the cost of education, not by directly replacing teachers, but by freeing them from administrative and routine tasks.

As well as improving learning, teachers can be trained to use computer to reduce the administrative tasks which take up their time and lead to frustration. As an example, small routine quizzes can be automated, so they don't have to be manually marked and large assignments can be submitted on-line by students. The routine communications with students, about what is needed when and what has changed, can be done on-line.

The key to using computers for education is ensuring the communication is well designed and the students will pay attention to it. This is not something which comes naturally to teachers, they need to learn to do it and to practice to do it well.

Before the invention of the printing press, students had to transcribe texts from the blackboard, as they did not have their own textbooks. No doubt some teachers though the textbook took away from learning, just as some now think the computer does. But used well, the computer, like the textbook, frees th4e student and the teacher from some of the drudgery of education in a cost-effective way.

ps: In his Headmaster's Introduction, Dr John Vallance mentions the teaching of Sanskrit. This has been successfully taught on-line from Australia to students in India.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Big Data for Health

Greetings from "UTS Speaks" at the University of Technology in Sydney where researchers are giving talks on data and health. Professor Carolyn McGregor from University of Ontario is speaking on how 'big data' can help with monitoring premature babies, SWAT Teams and astronauts. Professor McGregor argues that better use can be made of the data already being recorded, to provide analysis of health and fitness.

Modeling Disaster Resilience

Greeting from Habitat for Humanity Australia's office in Sydney, where I am taking part in a workshop on building a disaster simulator for training emergency workers. This is part of research by University of Newcastle and RMIT University on "Modelling disaster resilience: enhancing student learning through trans-disciplinary simulation of wicked scenarios" (RES-SIM). The Project Team is Dr Jason Von Meding, Dr Sittimont Kanjanabootra, Dr Helen Giggins and Dr Vanessa Cooper. Also University of Newcastle has also become an International Training Centre for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

This is of interest as I use scenarios in training ICT students in ethics. This year I prepared a "Cyberwar Over the South China Sea", for teaching ICT ethics. This has created interest from emergency and security organizations for training staff. It was designed as purely a paper exercise, but as if there is interest it could be provided with IT support. This what the RES-SIM project is proposing to do, but I have in mind just using the same e-learning software used for courses, rather than specialized simulation software.

RES-SIM is proposing to use systems dynamics to create a complex adaptive model of an emergency relief operation:
Societal systems and subsystems (e.g. health systems, transport systems, political systems) are increasingly vulnerable to a range of destabilising variables, from the immediate impacts of disasters (natural or man-made) on various system components to the subsequent responses of decision-makers. Consequently there is an expanding market for courses and degree programs in the disaster realm, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, from various disciplinary perspectives. There is, however, a gap in the current education and training of disaster responders, just as there is a lack of understanding of whole-of-system dynamics. The RES-SIM project will deliver a conceptual disaster system model and scenarios for proposed educational simulation through stakeholder engagement (workshops and focus groups) and use case analysis. The project represents value to higher education in Australia through the provision of tangible experience of solving wicked problems in a trans-disciplinary environment for students who might otherwise emerge with purely theoretical knowledge of complex systems. From "Modelling disaster resilience: enhancing student learning through trans-disciplinary simulation of wicked scenarios", RES-SIM Project, OLT 2014

Unfortunately the RES-SIM workshop only spent the last ten minutes of the three hours on what for me was the most important question: "How do we teach this stuff?".

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why China Shouldn't Join the INF Treaty

Yesterday Professor Bradley Thayer, University of Iceland talked at the Australian National University in Canberra on "INF Treaty: Why China Should Join". Professor Thayer argued for joining the USA and Russia in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges of  500–5,500 km from Europe. He argued this would improve strategic stability for China. However, Professor  Thayer  undermined his argument by claiming Russia violated the Treaty by testing a land based cruse missile.
The geography of East Asia and the technology of 2015, I suggest, is different to that of Europe in the 1980s. The INF addressed a potential land conflict in Europe. China has a long coast and faces a threat from the sea. The INF would ban Chinese land based missiles, while allowing the sea based weapons of its potential adversaries. Also it is not clear if armed UAVs (pilot-less aircraft), on land or sea based, would be banned under the treaty.

Professor Thayer also claimed that China was not transparent as to its military strategy. However, a quick web search finds the full text of "China's Military Strategy" (State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China, Peoples Daily, 26 May 2015). The strategy is as clear as the recent Australian Defence White paper.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Climate Feedback

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am taking part in a workshop on "Science in Climate Change Media Coverage". Climate Feedback is a US based group of climate scientists attempting to correct the bias they see in the media over the science of global warming. While well intentioned their approach seems a little naive. The scientists seem to want to have media comment for the public as if it was in a scientific journal. Journalists are not, in general, scientists and they are writing for the general pubic.

If scientists want to communicate with journalists, or directly to the public, they need to learn how to do it (which is not easy). Universities run courses for scientists on media communication, such as by ANU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs (SCAPA). There are also specialist science communicators, such as the ANU Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS). Universities subscribe to specialist services, such as the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC). It might be useful to have trained educators involved, as they have expertise in communicating complex topics in simple language (scientists are not necessarily educators).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Developing Australia’s the Digital Workforce

Greetings from the Press Club in Canberra, where the Australian Computer Society (ACS) has just launched the report "Australia’s Digital Pulse: Developing the digital workforce to drive growth in the future" commissioned from Deloitte Access Economics (DAE). The report speculates about technologies which may effect manufacturing, construction and mining, but fails to address the effect ICT is already having on education.

The 108 page report predicts that Australia’s digital economy is will "grow significantly over the coming years". Technologies expected to expand are "cloud services, social media and mobile devices". These seem a safe prediction, but others are "3D printing in manufacturing, drones in the construction industry and driverless vehicles on mining sites". I doubt that any of these will be significant for Australia.

Australia already has driver-less trucks on mining sites and driver-less trains for ore transport. However, these provide only minor increases in productivity for declining industries.  "drones" (that is pilot-less miniature aircraft) may have a minor role in the construction industry. 3D printing will have a role in manufacturing and might provide a minor revival for Australia's declining manufacturing industry.

What is curiously lacking in the Deloitte report is mention of education as an industry. The report mentions education, but only in the role of providing ICT education. The report does not discuss the revolution taking place in all levels of education, through the application of ICT. In particular the report does not mention education as a twenty billion dollar a year export industry for Australia. ICT provides opportunities to expand Australia's education exports into new international markets. However, ICT also opens about half a million Australian education jobs up to overseas competition and could see much of the $80B education budget being sent overseas.

One interesting innovation in how the report as prepared is the use of LinkedIn to gauge demand for ICT personnel.


Executive summary 3

1. Digital economy snapshot 8

1.1 Future waves of digital disruption  10
1.2 Australia’s digital economy 13
1.3 Australia’s ICT workforce 16
1.4 ICT business activity 22
1.5 Migration of ICT workers 24
1.6 ICT education in Australia 27

2. Occupational analysis 30

2.1 Future demand for ICT workers  32
2.2 What ICT jobs are available?  38
2.3 Broader workforce ICT skills requirements 46

3. Workforce planning and development

3.1 The case for ICT workforce and skills development
3.2 Assessing gaps in the workforce
3.3 ICT professional development opportunities
3.4 Overseas examples of ICT workforce development initiatives 63

4. Future directions 66

References 70

Appendix: Statistical compendium 74
At a glance – Australia 76
At a glance – States and Territories 77
ICT employment 78
ICT migration 85
ICT higher and vocational education 87
Women in ICT 88
Older ICT workers 89
ICT research and development 89
Trade in ICT services 90
Detailed state figures 90
International comparisons 97

From: Australia’s Digital Pulse: Developing the digital workforce to drive growth in the future,  Deloitte Access Economics, March 2016

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Incubator Support from Australian Government

The Australian Government has released a Incubator Support Discussion Paper (March 2016). A business incubator is an  organization which provides assistance to new businesses ("start-ups"). The Australian Government plans to fund three types of activities: new and existing Incubators and Experts-in-Residence.

The paper gives examples of Experts-in-Residence being a software engineer providing technical expertise to start-ups or an incubator expert traveling around to give advice.

The Government has asked for responses on:
  1. What lessons can be learned from existing business support programmes that should be incorporated into the design and implementation of the incubator Support Initiative?
  2. How can this initiative best complement similar state and/or territory based activities?
  3. What types of activities could be supported under the three components and are the suggested caps appropriate?
Comments on the scheme close in "early April 2016".

Friday, March 11, 2016

Do Not Implement Device Location for Student Services

In "Local universities tap device location for student services" (Stephen Withers, IT Wire, 9 March 2016), several senior Australian university staff are reported to be enthusiastic about technology for tracking students on campus, via their mobile devices. This is a very bad idea. Perhaps the staff should try it themselves, before subjecting students to such an unnecessary privacy intrusion.

On a visit to a research lab in Cambridge (UK) I remember being issued with an active badge the lab had developed. In theory, this tracked everyone in the building. But this was so intrusive everyone took them off as soon as they got to work.

The applications discussed in Stephen Withers' article do not need intrusive tracking of individuals. As an example, you do not need to track students to know when there is a vacant study space in the library. Nor do you need to track the students, in order for them to be able to ask a librarian a question.

Students can use e-leaning tools, or their own social media, to contact their study group members. They do not need the university reporting their location to other students. The risks of having student's locations being broadcast to potential attackers, on a campus operating 24 hours a day, should be obvious.

The idea of personalized information on digital signs is, apart from being Orwellian, a waste of money. If you want to send the student personalized way-finding information, then send it to their phone. There is no need to breech privacy by displaying personal information on large public screens.

There is no need to track every student in order to measure room occupancy.

A surveillance system tracking every student on campus
would do not improve safety. Simple layout design changes do.

Rather than language specific custom video signs, universities should implement standard international way-finding symbols on low cost, low energy fixed signs, so everyone can find their way.

A tacking system would be pointless for detecting if a student has every used the library, as libraries moved on-line years ago.

Student engagement can be easily measured in well designed courses. In such courses there are regular activities for the students, for which the students are provided with feedback. It is then very easy to see which students are not engaged. As an example, see my "Evolving an International Online Course

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Entrepreneurship University of Canberra

Greetings from EntrepreneurshipUC at the University of Canberra. EntUC is a student society on start-ups, entrepreneurship and innovation. I dropped in to see what was happening at UC with Innovation and found myself sitting in on a meeting of EntUC and met the new President, Jessy Kirkwood. The society is planning events raning from serious ones about start-up formation to more fun games of laser tag. Also the UC society will be reaching out to their ANU counterparts.

A scientific approach to teaching science and engineering

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Nobel Laureate, Professor Carl Wieman of Stanford University is speaking on "A scientific approach to teaching science and engineering". He argues that science courses should teach how to think like a scientist. This involves subject knowledge, organization frameworks, monitor own thinking and learning, with hours of practice (thousands of hours to become an expert). The student has to reflect on their learning and receive feedback. He suggests teachers need to design practice tasks and timely feedback, but also motivate the student.

Professor Wieman gave an example of an introductory physics class with a pre-class assignment and quiz. The students in class then solve practical problems and answer questions using "clickers".

It was an honor to hear of this first had from a distinguished professor. However, none of this is new and is now part of the training of teachers. I have been trained in thee techniques by the Canberra Institute of Technology for vocational education and several universities for university teaching.

Professor Wieman stressed the value of these techniques for research universities. However, I suggest for this to be effective, those doing the teaching need formal training in how to teach and be given time to design courses. Universities need to treat teaching as an important activity for which formal qualifications are required and to which resources will be committed. It will not work if teaching is something researchers, without teaching qualifications, do in their spare time.

A recent paper on this is Holmes, Wieman, and Bonn (2015).


Holmes, N. G., Wieman, C. E., & Bonn, D. A. (2015). Teaching critical thinking. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(36), 11199-11204. Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Governing China’s Neighbourhoods

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where a panel is discussing Luigi Tomba's book "The Government Next Door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China", winner of the 2016 Joseph Levenson book prize. The book touches on the role of education in public employment: "The capital's employees in public administration units (shiye danwen), who today are recruited on the basis of examination and educational credentials, saw their average salaries more than double in the 1995-2000 period (increasing by 133 percent)." (page 99). 

Luigi described how he started his research for the book by going to middle class areas, knocking on doors in Beijing and talking to the residents. Many were public employees who had been able to acquire property with a government subsidy. These were therefore no a harbinger of western style democracy, but a group who would support the existing government structure. Even when protesting about local matters, the residents use the same rhetoric as the central government, so as not to be a threat to its legitimacy. In regional areas unemployed former state workers still used the same language to express grievances in. He suggests there are different "arenas of contention" set by government for different groups (working and middle class) to have different scope to discuss grievances. Luigi points out that even one group, such as the "middle class" has many subgroups. He suggested that removing the gates on gated communities was a major undertaking. Also he suggested that the Chinese Government could adapt to any  property bubble and contain possible social unrest resulting. Luigi described the construction of new communities without gates and walls as a "game changer", with more accountability. Government may have to take back some functions from the companies, such as local security.

Luigi gave a brief but fascinating description of the hybrid system where those in private apartments select and pay a company to maintain the buildings (as a body corporate does in Australia). However, the home owners have little say in what the company does and it carries out policies of the government. One interesting question is how access to the Internet and smartphones in particular may change this. Luigi briefly mentions broadband (page 113), but not smartphones. In answer to a question he commented it was not possible to sell an apartment in Beijing  now without broadband and the citizens may have several smartphones, which are used for day to day and intellectual discussions.

Luigi expressed some frustration that the book cannot be orderd through in China (but a Chinese edition is in production). The book is available from Asia Bookroom in Canberra.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pacific regionalism and higher education

Greetings from ANU where Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor, The University of the South Pacific (USP), is speaking on "Pacific regionalism and higher education".

Professor Chandra is here for high level consultations with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT).

Professor Chandra argued that USP was at the center of development in the Pacific region. He pointed out that the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR) allows for involvement by non-government organizations and the private sector. The professor pointed out the importance of e-leaning and cyber- security.

Professor Chandra pointed out that USP has decades of experience working on regional issues, not just national ones. USP has 14 campuses in 12 countries, with 30,000 students. He listed the seven Strategic Research Themes:
  1. Economic Growth, Regional Cooperation & Integration for Sustainable Pacific Economies
  2. Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change
  3. Government, Public Policy and Social Cohesion
  4. Human Capacity Building & Leadership
  5. ICT & Knowledge Economy
  6. Pacific Cultures and Societies
  7. Pacific Ocean & Natural Resources
Professor Chandra pointed out that half their students are studying using flexible learning. In addition USP offers Skills Based Qualifications through Pacific Technical And Further Education (Pacific TAFE). Professor Chandra emphasized that Pacific TAFE does not depend on government funding.

Pacific TAFE is also interesting as it appears to be based on the Australian vocational system. As an example, the Pacific TAFE program "Certificate IV in Professional Training, Assessment & Evaluation" appears similar to the Australian "Certificate IV in Training and Assessment". The Pacific TAFE program is quality assured by Sydney TAFE, in Australia. The Pacific TAFE certificate articulates to a"Diploma in Non-formal Education" at USP, but I am not sure what "non-formal education" is: perhaps the same as workplace learning (such as for apprentices)?

There is a USP/ANU Memorandum of Understanding. It will be interesting to see if the two institutions collaborate on on-line programs and courses.

There is a Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF) 2009-2015. This included a SSE 3: TECHNICAL & VOCATIONAL EDUCATION & TRAINING (TVET) Goal "Ensuring that learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes." and SSE 5: TEACHER DEVELOPMENT : IN -SERVICE EDUCATION AND PRE - SERVICE EDUCATION OF TEACHERS, but with no specific agreed targets. Also there is a CROSS - CUTTING THEME 4: INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES (ICT) to "Develop a Global Partnership for Development ... In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies.". It is not clear if anything was achieved as a result of the framework and there appears to be no replacement plan. Such frameworks, I suggest, are of little practical value and may hinder development. The best way universities can assist with development is to focus on their expertise: research what should be done and then educate people to go out and do it.

One point Professor Chandra did not mention is that USP's Bachelor of Net-centric Computing and Bachelor of Software Engineering were accredited by the Australian Computer Society in December 2015.

An interesting question from the audience was if USP might cooperate with India on education. Professor Chandra was generally positive on the idea. He suggested the most useful action would be more satellite coverage of the Pacific.

Social Cost of Carbon

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Christopher Kellett, University of Newcastle, is speaking on "The Social Cost of Carbon - Mitigating Global Warming Whilst Avoiding Economic Collapse via Optimal Control for Carbon Pricing". He went through a mathematical model of the climate and the economy. Such models have a checkered history, going back to "Limits to Growth" (1972). Professor Kellett made some useful comments as to how reasonable how assumptions underlying such models. However, assumptions from engineering and control theory may not be applicable when what is being modeled is human behavior. As an example, Professor Kellett questioned if carbon reduction could be made very rapidly, given the time taken to install new plant and equipment. However, reductions can also be made due to human behavior, where for example, a small increase in price can lead to people using less energy and therefore causing less emissions, within days.

Two factors suggest that  Professor Kellett's work will be more valuable than previous efforts: he has a healthy skepticism as to the accuracy of such models and the model produces plausible prices for carbon (US$22.90 to US$65.10 tonnes of carbon dioxide).

There is a paper:

Weller, S. R., Hafeez, S., & Kellett, C. M. (2015). Estimates of the social cost of carbon using climate models derived from the CMIP3 ensemble. Retrieved from

Monday, March 7, 2016

Australian Government Not Promoting Education Industry

Recently I attended a briefing on new government funding for research at university. There was an emphasis on industry working to help Australian industry development. Curiously one industry not mentioned was education itself (a major export industry). I suggest this needs to be explicitly recognized as an industry for development.

E-learning for an Australian Vocational Education Export Industry

Revenue from Australian international education was a record $AU18.1 billion in 2015, the nation's largest services export and the fourth largest export industry overall (Minister for Education and Training, 2015). This revenue is primarily from international students from China and India, studying for university degrees on campuses in Australia and at international branch campuses. Chew and Holmes (2016) point out that Australia has been less successful in provision of vocational education and training (VET) at the sub-degree level, despite strong workplace demand for technically qualified staff. The resistance to on-line education which is evident, particularly in China for university degree programs, applies less to sub-degree programs. On-line DE sub-degree programs could not only provide a growth area for Australian education export, but also legitimize on-line degree provision.


Chew, J., & Holmes, S. (2016, February 21). We educate Asian graduates but they can't find jobs at home. The Australian Financial Review. Retrieved from

Minister for Education and Training. (2015, August 7). Education exports worth $18.1 billion. [Press release]. Retrieved from

Friday, March 4, 2016

Australian Universities Need to Learn from VET Sector to Improve Student Satisfaction

The 2015 Student Experience Survey National Report (QILT, 16 February 2016) shows no improvement in Australian University teaching over the previous year and a lower score than for US institutions. Australian higher education students scored the Quality of their entire educational experience at 80% for 2015, the same as 2014 (p. iv). This is much lower than for the USA and UK. I suggest that Australian universities need to learn from the VET sector the importance of trained teachers and systematic course design.

The survey includes Non-University Higher Education Institutions (NUHEIs), which are government TAFEs and private for-profit Registered Training Organizations (RTOs). Interestingly, the NUHEIs scored higher than universities on four out of five focus areas: Skills Development, Learner Engagement, Teaching Quality and Student Support. However, NUHEIs scored very much lower on the one other area, "Learning Resources" at 74%, compared to 86% for universities. This brought the NUHEIs overall score down to 78%, slightly lower than universities at 80% (p. v).

If universities were able to learn from NUHEIs, they could improve their student satisfaction above that of the USA and UK. Unfortunately university staff tend to not be able to accept that they can learn from TAFEs and private providers. This is most evident from the projects funded by the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT), where funding is provided for universities to research areas of teaching. Unfortunately this "research" duplicates results already well know in the education literature and routinely applied in the vocational sector.

Include Textbooks to Reduce Cost of Courses

Roxanne Missingham, Australian National University Librarian writes "Students say textbooks are too expensive – could an open access model be the answer?" (The Conversation, To encourage this, I suggest the Australian Government require universities to include the cost of textbooks in course fees.

ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regionalism

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Shujiro Urata, from Waseda University, is speaking on "Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and regionalism". The region referred to is the Asia-pacific and East Asia.

Professor Urata started by pointing out Japan's deflation, increasing government debt, low labor productivity, declining savings rate and declining population. He showed a diagram of the electronics production between Korea, China and Japan and then exported to the USA. He compared this complex arrangement with the simpler North American production, between the USA and Mexico. An even more complex process is for production of hard disk drives in Asia. He also pointed out there are more free trade agreements in existence and proposed. One curious aspect of Professor Urat's presentation was the lack of mention of service industries. After iron ore, coal and natural gas, education is Australia's fourth largest export earner.A TPP which increases access to manufacturing industry is not much use to Australia.

It would be interesting to compare the international production of electronic goods with education. It the educated student is considered the "product", how international is that education? My interest is in the TPP and higher education services. Jessop (2016) discusses efforts by Asian countries to become knowledge based economies (KBE), including Taiwan's  ‘Green Silicon Island’ strategy and ‘e-Taiwan’ project, South Korea's "Brain Korea 21" and "Brain Korea 21 Plus" for national innovation, Singapore's ‘Intelligent Island’ and ‘Intelligent Nation 2015’. Jessop (2016) identifies the OECD as an advocate for economic development trough vocational training and lifelong learning. As part of this education becomes an arm of economic, rather than social, development and an international industry.  Bhoothalingam (p. 51, 2016) suggests that India could regain its historic role as a provider of regional education, given its strength in English language high volume delivery of courses using IT. Lester (2013) draws a link between trade liberalization and on-line university courses, particularly MOOCs.

Jen T. Kwok, from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), suggests:
  • "The capacity for future Australian governments to direct public subsidies for education appears to be protected (as a result of civil society and union pressure) through Chapter 10 and Annex II: Schedule for Australia, and specifically in relation to: autonomy in admissions policies, setting tuition rates, development of curricula or course content; non-discriminatory accreditation and quality assurance procedures for education and training institutions; government funding, subsidies or grants; the need for education and training institutions to comply with non-discriminatory requirements related to the establishment and operation of a facility."
  • "However, Chapter 9, the Investment Chapter has the effect of locking-in and intensifying pressures of commercialisation and privatisation. It establishes rules that bind nation-states not only on the basis of regulatory differences between domestic and non-domestic investors, but on the basis of an effect that results in ‘expropriation’ or ‘nationalisation’ of an investment for international providers, including in relation to changes to ‘licences, authorisations, permits and similar rights’ conferred pursuant to the law. This means, a for-profit VET provider owned from overseas could demand compensation from the Australian government if they changed laws which meant that they could not enrol domestic students or could not access public subsidies where those requirements would mean a loss of investment."
  • "Some Chapters indeed facilitate trade in private education. Article 10.6 means Australian ‘service suppliers’ (higher education providers) are not required to establish a company in the relevant nation for the purposes of cross-border supply (also means MIT does not need a local campus to deliver Engineering course to Australia). Australia has a side agreement with Vietnam which effectively prevents them from re-nationalising higher education."
  • "In relation to academic mobility, Chapter 12 empowers short term stays for skilled and non-skilled labour because the phrase ‘business person’ is so broadly defined. There are more strict regulations in terms of the recognition of qualifications but these can be easily diluted if our government reaches an agreement with another nation to accept the qualification status of professionals from another country."
  • "Australian education providers are now able to compete for government procurement contracts in relation to:

    o Primary, secondary, and higher education services in Brunei Darussalam, Japan, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico and Peru;
    o Adult education services in Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Japan, Malaysia and Peru; and
    o Research and development services in Brunei Darussalam and Peru." 
From: TPP impacts on education and education services, NTEU, 16 November 2015


Bhoothalingam, R. (2016). The Silk Road as a Global Brand. China Report, 52(1), 45-52. Retrieved from

Jessop, B. (2016). Putting higher education in its place in (East Asian) political economy. Comparative Education, 1-18. Retrieved from

Lester, S. (2013). Liberalizing cross-border trade in higher education: The coming revolution of online universities. Cato Institute Policy Analysis, (720). Retrieved from

Atlassian Campus Events

Australian IT company Atlassian dropped in at ANU last week to talk about Atlassian jobs for students. They are also visiting other universities:
  1. Curtin University Careers Fair, WA, 11 am - 2 pm, 3 March
  2. QUT Careers Fair, QLD, 10 am - 2 pm, 7 March
  3. UQ Careers Fair, QLD, 10 am - 2:00 pm, 9 March
  4. Monash University Careers Fair, VIC, 10 am - 12:30 pm, 8 March
  5. University of Melbourne Careers Fair, VIC, 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm, 9 March
  6. USYD Eng Careers Fair, NSW, 12 pm - 3:30 pm, 9 March
  7. UNSW Careers Expo, NSW, 12 pm - 5 pm, 14 March
  8. Newcastle Uni Careers Fair, NSW, 10 am - 3 pm, 22 March
  9. Adelaide Uni Careers Fair, SA, 11:30 am - 3 pm, 22 March

Where do I fit in?



Functional Areas: User Experience, Tech Writing, Research, Visual

Typical Degrees: HCI, IT, Industrial Design, UX Electives

Description: Being a designer at Atlassian means crafting meaningful experiences that are used by millions of people every day. Through elegant design, we let people focus on their work, not their tools.

Typical Mindset: A true creative and problem-solver, you understand that design means how things work not how things look and can naturally step into the shoes of your customers.
Career Progression: Designer > Senior Designer > Team Lead OR Principal Designer > Creative Director OR Design Manager


Functional Areas: Product, Cross Product, Engineering Services

Description: Software Engineers write and test code. They continuously ship
new features and functionality in small, high performing teams.

Typical Degrees: Computer Science, Software

Typical Mindset: You can break big problems into small solutions and always be looking for new and better ways of building great experiences.

Career Progression: Software Developer > Senior Developer > Team Lead OR Principal Developer > Dev Manager OR Architect


Functional Areas: Operations, Build Provisioning, Architecture

Typical Degrees: Computer Science / IT (networking a bonus)

Description: Our Infrastructure team builds and supports Atlasssian's Cloud Services. You'll wield your UNIX and software development skills, working closely with architects and developers to create the foundation every product needs to thrive.

Typical Mindset: You are Holmes and Watson rolled into one - analytical, insightful and happiest when solving big problems.

Career Progression: System Engineer > Senior System Engineer > Team Lead > Engineering Manager OR Architect

Product Management

Functional Areas: Tech / Data Driven, Customer, Design Driven

Typical Degrees: IT / Bachelor of Business

Description: Product Managers plan and execute throughout the product lifecycle, from gathering and prioritising requirements to helping define the vision.

Typical Mindset: Whilst others scurry around doing vital work on deck, you're charting the course. You set the vision, sweat the details, and help keep those around you focussed on the bigger picture.

Career Progression: Product Manager > Senior Product Manager > Principal Product Manager > Group Product Manager


Functional Areas: Intelligence, Security Engineering

Typical Degrees: Software Engineering

Typical Mindset: Naturally curious, you like breaking things before anyone else gets a chance to and finding solutions which keep things fixed.

Description: Our security team keeps watch on both our corporate environment and Atlasssian's Cloud Services, home to tens of thousands of customers. You'll build new systems, develop automation and crush any security problems that come our way.

Career Progression: Security Analyst >  Senior Security Analyst > Team Lead > Head of Security

Site Reliability

Functional Areas: Maintenance, Deployments, Incident Management

Typical Degrees: Software Engineering, Computer
Science, Business Information Systems

Description: You'll work alongside product families and platform developers to maintain services and improve performance, utilising data collection, enrichment, analytics and visualisations to learn how complex systems operate.

Typical Mindset: Have the skills to fix a plane engine while flying at 40,000 feet? This could be for you...

Career Progression: Site Reliability Engineer > Senior Site Reliability Engineer > SRE Team Lead > SRE Engineering Manager

Workplace Technology

Functional Areas: Systems Admin, IT Support

Typical Degrees: IT

Description: You'll love the 'nuts and bolts' of IT – Improving and supporting the networks, servers, storage and platforms – and ensuring your colleagues have all they need to do amazing work.

Typical Mindset: Patience is a virtue! You love helping and empowering others, working behind the scenes to set your colleagues up for success.

Career Progression: Workplace Analyst > Senior Workplace Analyst > Team Lead > Head of Workplace Engineering
Learn more about our open roles at

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

MOOCs a Screening Tool for E-learning Ready Students?

In "Better 21C Credentials: Evaluating the promise, perils and disruptive potential of digital credentials" Oliver (2016) points out that an alliance of six universities, including University of Queensland and the Australian National University are proposing to give students credit towards a university degree for massive open on-line courses (MOOCs) undertaken at each others institution.

Oliver suggests "The business plan underpinning this venture is likely to be aimed at scaling online degrees, and ensuring that students who convert from MOOCs are retained and complete remaining units at the usual university fee" (Oliver, p. 11, 2016). However, another reason for offering students credit for a MOOC is to screen applicants for their ability to complete a course relatively independently, at a low cost to the institution.

There are already several schemes for EdX students to earn university credit, however, these are mostly sponsored by a single university and limited to that university's edX courses. Global Freshman Academy, allows edX courses to be counted towards first year at Arizona State University, Charter Oak State College offer edX credit. The ACE Alternative Credit Project from the American Council on Education (ACE), offers an "official" ACE transcript, however, there are only three edX maths courses currently offered (through Boston University).

MIT Micro-Master's

The most unusual of the edX credit offerings is the MIT Micro-Master's Credential in Supply Chain Management. The other edX credit offerings have the student complete edX courses and then a capstone project, for credit towards the first year of an undergraduate degree. However, the MIT is offering a credential called a "MITx MicroMaster’s" on completion of the on-line courses and then a Masters degree, after the student completes a further one semester on campus.

The MIT Micro-Master's seems at odds with the idea of open access courses, which anyone can do with no prerequisites. A Masters degree normally requires the student to have completed a prior degree. The fine print says "the “MicroMaster’s, which will be granted by MITx (MIT’s online learning initiative) to students who do exceptionally well in a given set of graduate-level online courses and do well in a subsequent exam". Given that less than 10% of students complete an undergraduate level MOOC normally, the chances of them completing a set of graduate level courses and doing "exceptionally well" would seem remote (perhaps one in one thousand students). For the institution this low completion rate may not be a problem as MOOCs are designed for low cost delivery, but for the students and society, this is a waste of human resource.

MOOCs for Student Screening

MOOCs offer very limited staff support to the student and very few of those who enroll complete successfully (usually less than 10%). The students who can successfully complete a MOOC should therefore be more likely to complete a university program, than the average applicant. These students should be easier to teach, at a lower cost, requiring less human supervision. There could therefore be a very great incentive for universities to enroll these students, in preference to those who will require staff support.

Such a strategy will not work if the MOOC screened student is then given conventional lecture and paper based courses. The students may not respond to this format and the university will be wasting resources unnecessarily. But the educational institution does not need to prepare its entire degree program in the form of MOOCs, which would require very high levels of investment (and would be difficult for more advanced topics). Conventional distance education design techniques could be used, supplemented with face-to-face classes, where required.

In particular an institution does not need to make high quality videos, as these do not help with learning (students like videos, but these do not help them learn). Instead the student can be provided with an ebook and activities to undertake, via a learning management system. Courses can be structured to have students work in stoups for mutual support.