Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Designing an Undergraduate Course on ICT Sustainability: Part 2 - Separate from postgraduates

This is the second of a series of posts on producing an undergraduate version of an on-line masters course on green ICT. In part 1 I looked at the genesis of the masters course in 2008. I had assumed that I could simply change the postgraduate assessment criteria to produce an undergraduate version to be co-taught. That is, the postgraduate students would be in the same class as undergraduates, using the same course materials, but doing more advanced versions of the assessment tasks. However, the more I looked at this option, the harder it got.

As well as having to have separate learning objectives and assessment criteria for the two cohorts of students, there are additional administration processes to deal with co-taught courses. With a face-to-face course this additional administrative work is worthwhile, as then only one series of lectures is needed for all the students. There may also be some education benefit for the students to be mixed, but this can also be a source of frustration.

It occurred to me that there are few advantages in a co-taught course where asynchronous e-learning is used. As there are no live presentations, there are no savings from having to give them just once. Course materials are prerecorded and so can easily be duplicated. With the students separated into two classes it will be much easier to ensure the student gets the correct assessment.

As per the previous post, the Skills Framework for the information Age (SFIA) has four skills related to sustainability in the latest version (SFIA Foundation, Version 6, 2015):

Sustainability strategy SUST

The preparation of a sustainability strategy, taking into account any established corporate strategy, to be used as a basis for policies and planning, and covering both consumption and sources of supply of energy and materials. Evaluation and inclusion, as appropriate, of political, legislative, economic, social and technological factors. Identification of major external standards, practices or schemes to be adopted. Consultation with identified relevant parties, either internal or external. Obtaining agreement to the strategy and the commitment to act upon it.
Level 6

Provides leadership and guidelines on sustainability; leads in the development of a sustainability strategy for IT, encompassing sources of supply, control and measurement of in-house utilisation, procurement of resource-efficient products and services, and legislative factors
Level 5
Contributes to strategy formation by providing in-depth analysis of one or more broad aspects of the organisation’s use of energy and materials, and by recommending elements of the strategy; provides in-depth advice in own area of expertise. Provides analysis of risks arising in the areas covered.
Level 4

Assesses and reports on how different tactical decisions affect organisational sustainability. Evaluates factors and risks (political, legislative, technological, economic, social) that impact on operational processes and strategic direction.
From SFIA Foundation. (p. 32, 2015).

Sustainability management SUMI

The specification, planning and management of changes to assets, systems, processes or practices intended to reduce or constrain consumption and/or disposal of energy or materials, within the context of company strategy and policy, and regulatory and contractual requirements. The evaluation of changes to ensure that planned benefits have been obtained. The specification of remedial and process improvement actions in cases where planned benefits have not been obtained. The identification and planning of alternative sources of supply.

Level 6

Establishes the overall approach to the incorporation of sustainability requirements and factors into the specification and design of systems and services; determines relevant methods and tools to be used to address energy efficiency issues in specification, design and operation.

Level 5

Plans and implements new practices that ensure that sustainability matters are appropriately addressed in specification, design and operation of systems and services. Recommends methods, tools and practices to be used. Establishes organisation-wide practices for the disposal of materials. Sets standards for the conformance of components and services to efficient use of energy and materials.
From SFIA Foundation. (p. 33-34, 2015).

Sustainability assessment SUAS

The evaluation of the sustainability of operational or planned services, devices and day-to-day operations such as travel. The establishment of a model or scheme to track changes in consumption over time and to generate feedback to enable improvements in energy or resource efficiency. The identification of areas requiring attention, and the initiation of actions to change or control the procurement of energy or other resources, so as to improve sustainability.

Level 6

Determines the organisation’s approach to the assessment of sustainability and to the monitoring of the effectiveness of activities intended to cause improvements. Provides overall leadership in assessment activity around the organisation.
Level 5

Leads the introduction and management of measures to assess and report on sustainability and the impact of conservation activities. Ensures that the effectiveness and accuracy of the monitoring actions is kept under review, and that appropriate improvements are made.

Level 4

Assesses, records and reports on utilisation of energy and other resources, showing expertise in a given area such as a class of computing devices, or business travel. Provides advice on the improvement of sustainability in that area of expertise.
From SFIA Foundation. (p. 43, 2015).

Sustainability engineering SUEN

The development and application of appropriate knowledge and methods to assure sustainability in all phases of the life cycle of energy- or materials-consuming systems and services, including maintenance and re-use. These include such things as energy supply risk analysis, specification of guidelines for sustainable procurement of assets and materials, energy efficiency and sustainability factors influencing system design, system design for sustainable operation and use, efficient coding design and adoption of re-use/sharing principles, achieving behaviour change to more sustainable ways of working, and the verification of energy and resource efficiency in operation.

Level 6

Creates models/ develops technical architectures to ensure that new systems and services are designed so as to maximise their positive sustainability impacts and energy and carbon savings for the organisation, including the optimisation in use and recycling of materials and assets. Defines and promulgates best
practices in sustainability. Influences organisation’s recognition of current and upcoming regulatory sustainability and efficiency obligations, national and international standards, and marketplace capabilities. Promotes and advocates for the organisation’s sustainability strategy for use of IT and Digital services including levels of sustainability, and encompassing, amongst other dimensions, travel, energy supply, consumables, waste and office provision, strategies, procurements and processes.

Level 5

Takes overall design responsibility for a project/system, ensuring that sustainability criteria, standards and best practices are adopted at all levels in the project, from the coding, hosting and tools used in building the system to the mechanisms adopted for testing and backing up the system in operation and how the project is run (eg team meetings etc.). Ensures business case options for design address sustainability and energy efficiency impacts.

Level 4

Investigates and recommends components and subsystems that meet sustainability criteria and levels.
From SFIA Foundation. (p. 48, 2015).
The postgraduate course was designed to align to "Sustainability assessment" SUAS and "Sustainability strategy" SUST. However, the course is not tightly aligned to these skills as the course was designed and run first and a copy sent to SFIA Foundation, who then created the sustainability skills. This should allow different skills definitions to be used with minor changes to the course.

For an undergraduate professional course accreditation (ACS, 2016) requires skills to be at least SFIA Level 3:


Works under general direction. Uses discretion in identifying and responding to complex issues and assignments. Usually receives specific instructions and has work reviewed at frequent milestones. Determines when issues should be escalated to a higher level.


Interacts with and influences colleagues. Has working level contact with customers, suppliers and partners. May supervise others or make decisions which impact the work assigned to individuals or phases of projects.


Performs a range of work, sometimes complex and non routine, in a variety of environments. Applies methodical approach to issue definition and resolution.

Business skills

Demonstrates an analytical and systematic approach to issue resolution. Takes the initiative in identifying and negotiating appropriate personal development opportunities. Demonstrates effective communication skills. Contributes fully to the work of teams. Plans, schedules and monitors own work (and that of others where applicable) competently within limited deadlines and according to relevant legislation, standards and procedures. Appreciates the wider business context, and how own role relates to other roles and to the business of the employer or client.

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) for AQF Level 7 – Bachelor Degree requires:


Graduates at this level will have well-developed cognitive, technical and communication skills to select and apply methods and technologies to:
  • analyse and evaluate information to complete a range of activities 
  • analyse, generate and transmit solutions to unpredictable and sometimes complex problems 
  • transmit knowledge, skills and ideas to others

Application of knowledge and skills

Graduates at this level will apply knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, well-developed judgement and responsibility:
  • in contexts that require self-directed work and learning 
  • within broad parameters to provide specialist advice and functions

Comparing SFIA and AQF

To try and relate the SFIA and AQF views of what a student needs to be able to do I used TagCrowd.com
to create a word frequency tables (tag cloud) of the twenty five most frequent words in each definition.



I then looked for words in common between SFIA and AQF:

SFIA Level 3
AQF Level 7
Word Frequency
Word Frequency
work 7
skills 5
issue 4
knowledge 3
business 3
analyse 2
complex 3
apply 2
approach 2
graduates 2
assigned 2
level 2
demonstrates 2
transmit 2
identifying 2
well-developed 2
influence 2
activities 1
level 2
advice 1
others 2
application 1
resolution 2
autonomy 1
role 2
broad 1
skills 2
cognitive 1
colleagues 1
complex 1
contact 1
demonstrate 1
impact 1
evaluate 1
individuals 1
information 1
monitors 1
judgement 1
negotiating 1
learning 1
partners 1
methods 1
personal 1
others 1
receives 1
provide 1
reviewed 1
specialist 1
uses 1
unpredictable 1

The words which occur in both definitions and more than once in either are: skills, complex, demonstrates, level, and others. Adding synonyms would likely show more matches. However, one thing is clear, the AQF implies a much higher level of autonomy ("demonstrate autonomy, well-developed judgement and responsibility") than SFIA ("Usually receives specific instructions and has work reviewed at frequent milestones"). SFIA better reflects the real world, where a new graduate is expected to learn the practical aspects of the job under supervision. AQF expects an unrealistic level of autonomy of a new graduate.


ACS. (2016). ACCREDITATION MANAGEMENT MANUAL: Application Guidelines – Professional Level and Advance Professional Level Programs. Sydney:Australian Computer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.acs.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/24499/ACS-Accreditation-Document-2-Application-Guidelines-V2.0.pdf

SFIA Foundation. (2015). SFIA 6: The complete reference guide. Retrieved from https://files.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/admin/fairs/apptrack/download.cgi?SID=b3duZXI9NTA3MDAwMCZvd25lcnR5cGU9ZmFpciZkb2NfdHlwZT12YWMmZG9jX2lkPTQ3ODk0OSZ2ZXJpZnk9ZTUxZTg1ZWE4OWU2MzE2ZmU1NjUyMTc3ZGIzYzVhZTkmcmVxc2lnPTE0NTk4NDI0ODUtMDIwZTVjMzMxMWUyMWI1NWU2ZDhjODc4N2ZkN2NlMGIwOTAwZDRmYw==

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