Sunday, December 31, 2017

WA Government Closing Schools of the Air

By Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic Unit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Western Australia Minister for Education and Training, Sue Ellery, has announced the closing of the WA Schools of the Air (SOTA) in 2019, with students transferred to the School of Isolated Distance Education (SIDE). Also six "camp school sites" are to be closed. The minister characterizes the closures of the SOTA as eliminating duplication and the camp school sites as "not the core business of education". While on-line learning can be beneficial, particularly for older students (Worthington, 2017), I suggest the removal of teachers from regional WA and cancellation of face-to-face student activities may have adverse educational outcomes.

Schools of the air originally provided courses via correspondence and radio. The Internet is now used for distance education (SIDE uses Moodle, developed in WA by Martin Dougiamas), however one unappreciated aspect of remote education are face-to-face camps where students can meet each other in person and meet their teacher. Rivalland, Rohl and Smith (2017) point out that in addition to synchronous electronic communication between the teacher and students, there are home visits by teachers, camps and seminars. Seven "Camp Schools" provide this socialization function for regional WA students: Broome, Bridgetown, Pemberton, Pilbara, Point Peron, Geraldton and Goldfields.

The five SOTA, are in regional WA: Port Hedland, Kimberley, Carnarvon, Kalgoorlie and Meekatharra. In contrast SIDE has one location in the capital city, Perth. The closures will result in teachers being 1,500 km from some of their students. While they will be milliseconds away via the Internet, there will be a cultural gap, with the city based teachers having little opportunity to understand the experience of their remote students. The WA Education Department's Institute for Professional Learning is collocated with SIDE, but does not list any courses for distance education teachers, only for classroom teaching.

There is a risk in younger students being education purely on-line and not developing social skills. The Minister's assertion that this is not the core business of education is questionable. If that were the case, then the WA Education Department could close down metropolitan Perth school campuses and only provide on-line education. Parents wanting their children to experience group activities and to be looked after during the day would then be required to pay for this a "non-core business".

The WA Government's move to rationalize regional school education may be followed in higher education. Australia's Regional Universities Network (RUN) has six members: CQ University, Southern Cross University, Federation University Australia, University of New England, University of Southern Queensland and University of the Sunshine Coast. Each institution has to have its own  administration and governance structures. While each grew out of a particular regional area of Australia, they now all offer courses to students across Australia, and in some case, via city based offices.

A model for closer cooperation by universities is Open Universities Australia (OUA), a consortium of city based universities: Curtin, Griffith, Macquarie, Monash, RMIT, Swinburne, and South Australia. It is important to note that OUA is "universities" plural. Students can undertake on-line courses at any of the consortium members, but then graduate with a degree from one (not from OUA).


Rivalland, J., Rohl, M., & Smith, P. (2017). Supporting students with learning difficulties in a school of the air. URL

Worthington, Tom (2017). Digital teaching in higher education : designing e-learning for international students of technology, innovation and the environment. Belconnen, A.C.T. TomW Communications Pty Ltd URL

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

ICT Sustainability and Bitcoin

The Australian National University is offering my course "ICT Sustainability" (COMP7310) in Semester 1, 2018. Enrollment are now open, so I made a short video to promote the course. This is a little different to the usual university course as it is entirely on-line (students can enroll form anywhere and do not have to be in a degree program), plus there are no examinations. I have added a small section on block-chain and bitcoin to the course, asking students to consider the energy use of this technology. The notes are available free and anyone is welcome to run their own version of the course. Athabasca University (Canada), run the course as Green ICT Strategies: COMP 635.

ps: The video was made using the Kdenlive free open source editor on a low power laptop running Linux. Stock video footage is from Unripe Content. The audio commentary was created with the Text-to-Speech YAKiToMe service. Images are from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Australian Higher Education Reforms Revised Implementation

Yesterday the Australian Government announced the "HigherEducation Reforms — revised implementation", which has been reported in the media as a "$2.1B cut". This caps funding to universities for bachelor degrees at 2017 levels, reduces the income level at which students have to begin repaying loans, fixes the pool of research funds at the current level and limits postgraduate places. However, this is less than the cuts the government planned (but could not get through the Senate). A larger issue is the proposed 2020 performance requirements, which if based on completion rates, could require universities to discriminate against students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have a lower completion rate.

The Australian Government appears to limit its scope of reform to a few cuts and attempt some form of market mechanism (which has been tried and failed in the UK university system). There appears to be no policy initiatives to take into account the changes in the way education is being provided, with the adoption of flipped, workplace and on-line learning, nor that education is now a major Australian export industry. The current approach appears reminiscent of government manufacturing industry policy, which resulted in the collapse of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry.

Higher education is undergoing a technological and vocationally driven change world wide. The Australian government is not addressing these changes, or helping Australian universities to adapt. The result may be that the Australian university system is not viable within the next five to ten years. Some campuses will likely be retained as the local shop-fronts of off-shore on-line institutions (such as Torrens University in Adelaide) and a few will survive as research centers. However, we may see the closure of most universities in Australia, when they are no longer viable.

Friday, December 15, 2017

CEO Needed for ANU Cyber Institute

The Australian National University (ANU) is looking for a CEO for its new ANU Cyber Institute. This is an initiative of the ANU's College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) and the National Security College (NSC).
"The ANU has recently announced the establishment of Australia’s first interdisciplinary Cyber Institute, bringing together expertise across a range of areas to deal with the increasingly complex issues in the cyber domain. 
The Institute will present exciting new opportunities for research, innovation and education. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the Institute’s Head, operating under the broad direction of the Institute Advisory Board. 
The CEO will be responsible for driving the strategic vision and operational plan for the Institute, working closely with executives and stakeholders across the University, industry and government, to create a globally pre-eminent Institute focused on addressing Australian and global cyber needs."
From: Chief Executive Officer - ANU Cyber Institute, Reference 10646, KPMG, November 2017.

Fake day care center website
ANU students get a preview of some cyber issues in the Networked Information Systems course (COMP2410/COMP6340), where I run them through a Cyberwar Hypothetical Over the South China Sea. This includes the example of a fake day care center website, apparently targeting Australian intelligence staff in Canberra.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kate Lundy Awarded an ANU Honorary Doctorate for ICT Advocacy and Policy

Kate Lundy HonLittD (ANU), after award ceremony. Photo by Stuart Hay, ANU.
Kate Lundy HonLittD (ANU),
after award ceremony.
Photo by Stuart Hay, ANU.
On Tuesday Kate Lundy was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (HonLittD) by the Australian National University in Canberra for her "contribution to advocacy and policy for information, communications and technology". Kate is currently the ACT Defence Industry Advocate, and was a Senator from 1996 to 2015. She held the posts of Australia's Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport.

In 1995 I interviewed Kate over lunch in Canberra, when she was president of the ACT Trades & Labor Council. We found a common interest in computers for a social purpose. Shortly afterward Kate was elected to the Senate and took a close interest in computers and the Internet for economic development and improving lives, during her term as a Senator and after.

In her first speech in the Senate, 7 May 1996, Kate Lundy said:
"Information and how it is communicated are major determinants of power in our society. Many people have little restriction on their ability to convey their views, but there are also many disadvantaged members of our community who, through circumstances beyond their control, find it very difficult to have their voice heard. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that all groups in our society have the public means and the opportunity to form their views without media bias and to be able to express them freely. The importance of public policy relating to the use and control of credible information sources and its increasingly complex delivery technologies cannot be underestimated if we are serious about equitable and affordable access.

By the year 2000 the information sector will be the world's second largest industry. Those nations that develop the infrastructure necessary for this industry to flourish are the nations that will prosper into the next millennium. Infrastructure is not just cable and microwave dishes; it is an education and training system which can increase people's skills in developing software and creating useful content. Already in Australia information and information related activities employ more than 40 per cent of the work force and generate 36 per cent of gross domestic product, and this can only improve.

High quality communications, widespread computer usage and literacy, and a willingness to use modern engineering technologies will be essential ingredients in our economic wellbeing. However, I am not yet convinced that we have sufficiently analysed and discussed the societal and community effects of this shift in our economic base. For example, although the need to take this technology to rural Australia is well recognised, have we explored the long-term impact on the economies of country towns? The geography of Australia provides special challenges in terms of access to information infrastructure; challenges that can be met only in a policy framework with priorities of equal access, universal service and that which puts the needs of Australians—both suppliers and consumers—first. The best way of ensuring this is through public ownership."
From Senator LUNDY, Hansard, Australian Parliament, 6.05 p.m., 7 May 1996.

Senator Kate Lundy and Tom Worthington in a hot air balloon over Canberra. Photograph by Canberra Times, August 1996
Senator Kate Lundy and Tom Worthington
in a hot air balloon over Canberra.
Photograph by Canberra Times, August 1996
In 1996 we took to the air in a Hot Air Balloon Over Canberra, to send photos "Live" on the Internet, promoting a computer conference.

More seriously, Kate lead a series of “Public Sphere” events with Pia Waugh, on policy development  for citizen involvement:
"Although there are certainly many formal mechanisms for participation in Australian Government processes, we thought it would be a great idea to create an online public sphere and facilitate regular topics of interest to both the general public and to the government. This way people from all around Australia can participate online. We will be experimenting with different technologies to get the recipe right for this kind of engagement, and any thoughts on this are very welcome.
Each Public Sphere topic will run for several weeks. There will also be a Public Sphere workshop per topic which will give a physical place for people to speak about their ideas in short concise talks coupled with rigourous discussion. All talks are streamed online for general public access. Feedback and questions will happen live over Twitter both from the participants in the room and from remote participants."

From: Public Sphere, Kate Lundy, 2009.

 Senator Lundy's earlier work on formulating Internet policy for Australia is detailed by Chen (p. 161, 2000). Even the balloon ride gets a mention (Chen, p. 163, 2000). ;-)


Chen, P. J. (2000). Australia's Online Censorship Regime: The Advocacy Coalition Framework and Governance Compared. URL

Monday, December 11, 2017

Join Genevieve Bell's 3A Institute of AI at ANU to Change the World

The new Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Innovation Institute (3A Institute) at the Australian National University is seeking two Associate Professors and three postdoctoral/research fellows. The new staff will work with Professor Genevieve Bell at the 3A Institute "... to build a new applied science around the management of artificial intelligence, data and technology and of their impact on humanity". It is not every day you are invited to change the world. ;-)

ps: Dr Bell's is down the corridor from mine at the
ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science in Canberra. It will be interesting to see what develops.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Failure of UK Research Open Access Policy

Dr Danny Kingsley, Head of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge University Library has concluded that the UK's policy for free and open access to publicly-funded research has failed: "Manipulation of embargo periods, confusing information, and a graduated charging system for different licenses all work towards ensuring a second income stream. Far from moving to an open access future we seem to be trapped in a worse situation than we started." (Kingsley, 2017).

I was intrigued by Danny's inclusion of "scheduled tweets" to accompany the presentation. 

To answer the question at the end of the presentation "How do we get out of this mess?", I suggest a modestly funded initiative to encourage new Open Access publishers. This could use the start-up infrastructure already established around universities, such as Cambridge

Academic staff and students could be trained and funded to set up new companies to provide OA publishing in competition with existing closed-access ones. These new companies would aim to be profitable, in the long term, while providing publications without a fee to the subscriber. The main question to be answered by any such start-up would not be publishing infrastructure (which there is plenty of free-open-access software for), or revenue streams (which are feasible), but what incentives could be provided to induce academics to choose a new, unproven publisher.


Kingsley, D. (2017). So did it work? Considering the impact of Finch 5 years on [Presentation file].

Sydney Startup Hub: Model for the University of the Future?

On Friday I attended the last Friday Night Pitches at the Fishburners co-working space in Ulitmo in Sydney, before they move to a new location in the Sydney CBD. Fishburners is currently located in an old warehouse with timer beams on the ceiling in the Industrial/New York loft style adopted by start-ups around the world. Fishburners is moving to the NSW Government sponsored "Sydney Startup Hub" along with the Stone & Chalk Fintech Hub and other incubators and accelerators. They are offering free trials and discounts on the new location. It will be interesting to see how the new, more corporate atmosphere effect
s the start-ups.

Sydney Startup Hub cafe artist impression
The new fit-out is by interior architects TomMarkHenry and from the artist's renderings looks open and comfortable. This is a more modern building, but not new (which is a good thing). It appears to be "Transport House" built in the Art Deco style in the 1930s:
"Transport House is one of the most intact Art Deco buildings in Sydney, and one of the earliest fully resolved Art Deco expressions in CBD (along with ACA at King and York Streets). It is an important building by prominent firm of H. E. Budden and Mackay, and was awarded a Sulman Medal in 1935 and Royal Institute of British Architects Medal in 1939. Substantial important intact office interiors survive. The building is rare for its scale and extensive use of green terracotta facing, considered the most impressive in Sydney. It is a major element in the townscape of Wynyard Square precinct."

From Former Railway House (Part of Transport House), NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The new interior design is by the same architects of the WeWork co-working space at Pyrmont in Sydney. From a brief visit, this I thought was a little cluttered with too much industrial ornamentation, but still usable. It is a shame perhaps, the designers did not go for some 30s details with the Sydney Startup Hub: perhaps a comic book transport motif?

The design of such start-up hubs is of interest for more than budding entrepreneurs,  as the same design is now being used for universities and businesses. With this approach there are a few dedicated offices and some meeting rooms. Most of the space is given over to open plan shared working areas with offices, with movable furniture and combined recreation presentation rooms with kitchens. Some may lament the loss of individual offices and dedicated presentation rooms, but few would be willing to pay the cost of these, either in terms of dollars per square metre, or loss of flexibility.

from University of Melbourne wrote recently about Australian universities becoming more integrated with the community by locating facilities in the city and providing services on campus for the community. One driver for this Trevena did not mention was review. Start-up co-working spaces charge for desk-space by the day, week, month or year. It will be interesting to see if universities adopt the same approach. Companies are reducing the allocation of permanent offices and desks for staff, preferring staff to be out on site with customers. The same could be applied to students, who should not be sitting around at the university, but out in the community, in the field, or at work, learning. This would be particularly applicable for graduate students, where Australia needs to produce more Masters and Doctoral students with practical professional skills for industry and fewer research academics.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hidden job market for higher degree graduates in Australia

Mewburn, Suominen and Grant (2017) report on research which used Artificial Intelligence to read job ads and look for those requiring high level research skills. They conclude there is a hidden job market for PhD graduates in Australia. However, the authors' assumption that these skills are indicative of a PhD is flawed. Australia has two forms of Doctoral Degree: Research and Professional. The former is commonly referred to as a PhD, the latter as a "Doctor of discipline". Both forms of doctorate require research skills, but the latter is intended for more practical application outside universities and research organizations. It is likely that almost all the hidden job demand the report found suits professional doctorates, not PhDs. In addition, for most jobs a Masters, not Doctorate, would be sufficient.

A more refined version of the AI might be able to distinguish between real PhD jobs in university and research organizations, those in industry requiring Professional Doctoral level skills and those where a Masters would be sufficient, but this would be difficult.
"There is a large ‘hidden job market’ for PhD graduates in the Australian workforce. Only 20.7 per cent of non-academic job ads (2,770 of 13,379 unique job titles) in our dataset asked for a PhD qualification, yet as many as 43 per cent (210 of 483) of the unique job ads that were analysed 3 required a high level of research skills and capabilities, indicative of a PhD. ...

The Machine revealed some interesting
patterns regarding demand for research skills, particularly in industries traditionally assumed to have low demand for PhD graduates, such as manufacturing, transport, logistics, marketing and communication. In addition, other industry sectors were shown as potentially ready to embrace more graduates with research skills, echoing the thinking of the innovation agenda."

From Mewburn, Suominen and Grant, p2, 2017


Mewburn, I., Suominen, H. & Grant, W. (2017, August). Tracking Trends in Industry Demand for Australia's Advanced Research Workforce, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS), ANU. URL

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Reframing Teaching to Use Flexible Classrooms

Last Monday I attended "Work Integrated Learning - a disciplined approach" at University of Canberra. This was based on a recent paper by Ruge and McCormack (2017) on constructive alignment of the assessment for a course at University of Canberra. Two recent case studies in EduCause point to the need for new classroom designs, plus course design and the training of staff in how to do this (Morrone, Flaming,  Birdwell, Russell, Roman & Jesse, 2017).
ANU Union Court Redevelopment
New ANU Buildings
(artists' impression).

Universities are building new flexible learning classrooms (such as in the new teaching building at ANU). These typically have a flat floor, and tables for small student groups, with display screens on all walls. However, to effectively use these spaces course redesign and teaching staff training is required. There is no point in moving out of lecture theaters if the "lecturer" gives hour long non-interactive monologues in the new "flexible" room. There is no point in putting the students in groups and link them with tech, if the primary assessment is an end of semester individual paper based examination.

The "lecturer" needs to be trained how to teach without lecturing and the assessment redesigned to use group and project based work. New classrooms can then be used effectively and the learning aligned to vocational requirements beyond the classroom. For more on this, see my free e-book "Digital Teaching"


Morrone, A., Flaming, A., Birdwell, T., Russell, J., Roman, T., & Jesse, M. (2017, December 4) Creating Active Learning Classrooms Is Not Enough: Lessons from Two Case Studies, EduCause. URL

Ruge, G., & McCormack, C. (2017). Building and construction students’ skills development for employability–reframing assessment for learning in discipline-specific contexts. Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 1-19.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cyber Information Warfare in Canberra

Dr Herb Lin, Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University, is speaking on "Cyber-enabled information warfare and the end of the Enlightenment" at the Australian National University in Canberra. He argues that Information Warfare and Influence Operations (IWIO) is a hostile act, but not "warfare" under the UN Charter and laws of war. I agree that using the Internet to influence an enemy is just an extension of previous analog information techniques, but I am not sure those being targeted would not see it as warfare.
Dr Lin's characterizes IWIO operations as being effective, with the use of violence. However, the doctrine of the USA (and Australia) is to respond to cyber attacks based on the effect the attack has, not the nature of the weapons used:
"When warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country. ... We reserve the right to use all necessary means—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our Nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests.”

From: International Strategy for Cyberspace, The Whitehouse, May 2011
I suggest that if IWIO has a damaging effect on a nation, that nation will respond accordingly. If the attacked nation has a IWIO capability, then they may use that to respond, but reciprocity doesn't require that. 

Conventional military forces could be used to respond to IWIO, despite the problem that this may play into the information agenda of the attacker. For this reason a nation may use a covert kinetic military response to IWIO.

Dr Lin discussed ways to disarm a information warfare attack, by carefully identifying the attacker and their motives, as well as debunking false claims made. However, this task may be made more difficult, I suggest, by the nation's own politicians and organizations using the same IW techniques for political campaigning and marketing.

Dr Lin asserted cyber warfare is not a threat to civilization. I don't agree. Conventional and nuclear weapons can only kill people, but cyber war can kill an idea.

Dr Lin used the example of the Russian Government allegedly funding both "black lives matter" and "while lives matter" campaigns in social media in the USA, to spread discontent. These he characterized as chaos-producing operations. While such attacks existed before the Internet, they can now be carried out much easier on-line.

As an example, the technique of fuzzing with AI (Rajpal, Blum & Singh, 2017) might be applied to IW. With fuzzing is used to test the security of computer systems by generating a large number of sets of test data. AI can be used to see which sets are most effective for breaking into a system. The same could be (and may already be) applied to IW: the attacker would generate a large number of variations on a message, such as "black lives matter" and AI would be used to refine the versions of the message which are most effective at creating discontent. On-line marketers already use similar techniques to measure the effectiveness of advertising, by sending slightly different advertisements to individual consumers. However the use of AI could speed up the process. It may that social media is itself is a form of inadvertent IW attack, with a reports linking social media use and depression in teenagers.

One one the more amusing parts of Dr Lin's entertaining presentation was a clip from Star Trek Deep Space Nine:
"The truth is usually just an excuse for lack of imagination ...".

From "The Wire", script by
Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Episode 2x22, Production number: 40512-442, First aired: 8 May 1994).
Start Trek presented an idealized image of a united world where a western (mostly US) world view had prevailed. This form of soft-power perhaps should not be underestimated.

Dr Lin's "On Cyber-Enabled Information/Influence Warfare and Manipulation" with Jackie Kerr is to be published in the Oxford Handbook of Cybersecurity (2018).
"The West has no peer competitors in conventional military power. But its adversaries are increasingly turning to asymmetric methods for engaging in conflict. In this public seminar, Dr Herb Lin will address cyber-enabled information warfare (CEIW) as a form of conflict or confrontation to which the Western democracies are particularly vulnerable. 
CEIW applies the features of modern information and communications technology to age-old techniques of propaganda, deception, and chaos production to confuse, mislead, and perhaps to influence the choices and decisions that the adversary makes. A recent example of CEIW can be seen in the Russian hacks on the US presidential election in 2016. CEIW is a hostile activity, or at least an activity that is conducted between two parties whose interests are not well-aligned, but it does not constitute warfare in the sense that international law or domestic institutions construe it. Some approaches to counter CEIW show some promise of having some modest but valuable defensive effect. If better solutions for countering CEIW waged against free and democratic societies are not forthcoming, societal discourse will no longer be grounded in reason and objective reality – an outcome that can fairly be called the end of the Enlightenment."


Rajpal, M., Blum, W., & Singh, R. (2017). Not all bytes are equal: Neural byte sieve for fuzzing. arXiv preprint arXiv:1711.04596. URL

Friday, December 1, 2017

Catholic Schools Action Research Showcase

Greetings from the National Convention Center in Canberra, where the Catholic Schools are holding an Action Research Showcase. The keynote speaker is Jane Hunter from UTS, with some "provocations". Her first provocation was to describe how she was taken to hospital in an ambulance and how her recovery depended on highly trained medical personnel. Jane explained we have a shortage of students studying STEM in schools, resulting in a shortage of medical and other professionals.

The audience at the conference is predominately from primary schools. You might ask what a university lecturer is doing at a schools event, but one conclusion from looking at education is that the same general principles apply at all levels.

Jane cautioned about the Global Education 'Reform' Movement (GERM), pushing for reforms to Australian education based on countries very different to Australia.

Dr Hunter then went on to talk about research on "High Possibility Classrooms" (HPC) and pointed to resources for it. This is a form of student centered learning, with projects and experiments. This would fit well with a change university teaching, where students are encouraged to do things, rather than listen to lectures.

Dr. Hunter pointed out that many schools are not equipped for this approach, with small classrooms and old equipment. This is also an issue for universities. Old cramped lecture theaters with fixed furniture are not suitable for students working in groups.

Dr. Hunter proposed getting rid of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC). She urged teachers to engage with AI to support teaching, or teaching will be dominated by the FANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google).

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reframing Assessment

I have registered for the University of Canberra's free workshop Monday on "Work Integrated Learning - a disciplined approach". The pre-reading is Ruge and McCormack (2017) on "reframing" assessment for employability. This is something I am comfortable with, as I teach computing and engineering students, where there are clear professional roles with defined skills.
As a computer professional I have been involved with setting national and international skills standards and the accreditation of university programs. I have then designed university courses to meet these standards.  But this would be a challenge for those from disciplines which are not so vocationally orientated. I suspect the greatest challenge for those facilitating the workshop will be the reluctance of some academics to see themselves as vocational educators, or worse "trainers". ;-)

Ruge and McCormack (2017) report on a five year Australian study of students in Building and Construction Management at the University of Canberra. This is clearly an industry related discipline and "Constructive alignment" should be easy for the construction industry. ;-) 
The researcher's suggestions are not  surprising, including linking curriculum to industry requirements and scaffolded assessment. The one suggestion I have difficulty with is the use of reflection to have student think about their own learning. Having been through several reflective writing exercises myself as a student and a HEA Fellows applicant, I find the process perplexing.
My computer and engineering students find it equally perplexing to be told to reflect on their learning. What worked well this semester was to re-frame the capstone reflective writing exercise for ANU Techlauncher students, as a job application, based on what they had learned in the course. They were still reflecting on what they learned, but in a way relevant to their short term goal: get a job.

Ruge and McCormack (2017) comment that "Unit-specific assessment items are therefore key building blocks and teaching and learning opportunities for students’ generic and early professional skills development for employability ...". However, this appears to be more for the administrative convenience of the university, than the quality of the student learning. Universities like to have a small set of standardized units which can be assembled into a large number of program offerings. However, it can be difficult to match the learning outcomes of these general purpose units to the requirements of a specific professional skills requirement. An alternative is to build units specific to the discipline, to have a project based program without units, or units plus a project capstone.

Ruge and McCormack (2017) discuss educational design principles for learning through authentic assessment. In theory this is not that difficult: simply provide assessment tasks which simulate what the graduate will have to do in the workplace. As an example, I teach students how to estimate the carbon em missions due to use of ICT in an organization, so I get the students to do that and assess the results. The terms I use to describe this assessment item comes from the learning objective for the course, which in turn comes from the skills definition of the gallivant international professional standard.

However, designing and delivering authentic assessment is a complex and time consuming process. Either the students are understanding the task in a real workplace, or a simulation of one. Having students in workplaces requires specialized supervision skills.
Students will not necessarily be interested in, or understand the alignment of assessment with
the profession's requirements. This understanding may only come years later.

Promises of "personalized" formative feedback can create unrealistic expectations in students and an unrealistic workload for staff. As with lectures, which students say they want, but do not attend, detailed feedback is something expected but not necessarily used. One a course as a student of assessment I read research results which indicated students did not read detailed feedback. I thought this nonsense: I spent a lot of time composing feedback and surely the students read it. My assignment on feedback reflected that view. The assignment came back from the assessor and I looked at the mark on the front (which was okay), then flicked it aside. At that point I stopped and realized I was a student exhibiting the behavior I said students did not have: I had not read the feedback. Since then I have adopted the practice of of very brief feedback next to the mark.


Ruge, G., & McCormack, C. (2017). Building and construction students’ skills development for employability–reframing assessment for learning in discipline-specific contexts. Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 1-19.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How quickly can a pumped hydro system be built?

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the ANU Energy Update 2017 is ending. The last speaker is speaker Ms Audrey Zibelman, CEO Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). She pointed out that the world's largest battery was installed in South Australia in only a few months and a new solar farm was increased in Queensland similarly quickly. It occurred to me that there could be an opportunity for similarly fast installation of pumped-storage hydroelectricity.

While batteries are useful for storing power for a few minutes or hours, renewable energy systems need days of storage. ANU's Professor Blakers (who is at the event today) has identified 22,000 potential pumped hydro sites in Australia. However, building reservoirs, pipes, pumps, turbines and grid connection can take ten years.

It is not feasible to build a pumped hydro system in the few months it took for South Australia's battery, but it may be feasible in one or two years. This would place the option within the decision cycle of Australian governments and business.

The time to build a pumped hydro system could be shortened using modern project management and manufacturing techniques. The site could be surveyed using satellite and drones. At the same time the site's social and legal issues would be examined on-line.

The dams, pipes, and buildings could be manufactured in standardized modules which can be shipped across the world in standard container loads.

The turbines and pumps could be additive manufactured. Australian researchers produced a 3D printed a gas turbine in 2016.Multiple small units could be used, for ease of manufacture, transport and installation (at the cost of efficiency). Units could be made small enough to be transported to the site by heavy lift helicopter.

As a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, consider how many modular industrial water tanks would be needed to store as much energy as the SA 129MWh battery. Modular steel water tanks are available with a 748kl capacity (5.6m tall x 13 m diameter). Using the Simplified PHES Calculator (Andrew Blakers, Matt Stocks, Bin Lu, Kirsten Anderson and Anna Nadolny), with a 300 m head each tank will store 0.4 MWh of energy. So 323 tanks would be required to store as much energy as the SA battery. The materials for each tank would be within the capacity of a heavy lift helicopter, removing the need to build a road to the mountain top.

Pumped hydro systems could be built in stages, so they can start producing power (and revenue), with extra modules added later.

It would be tempting to focus on the engineering aspects of such a project: the 3D printed turbines and modular pipework. However, it is likely to be the planning of the land use which will create the greatest obstacles.  One technique which has been found to be effective in Europe in reducing complaints about wind turbines from the local community is to offer them a financial stake in the project. The same may work with pumped hydro.

It is very difficult to convince a politician to fund a project which will not be completed for a decade, long after the next election, or a business-person long after their bonus has been calculated. It would be very much easier if they can see progress in months and completion in a few years.

This might be a suitable project for the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) or the Renewables Innovation Hub.

Narrow Focus on Completion Rates for Australian University Students is Discriminatory

The Australian Education and Training Minister, Simon Birmingham, wants universities to have a “laser focus” on student outcomes. The minister points out that six-year completion rates for university students had dropped to their lowest levels on record. This is based on the latest Completions Rates of Higher Education Students - Cohort Analysis, 2005-2015 from the Australian Department of Education and Training (November, 2017). However, the results are not as bad as the minister suggests and implementing the Minister's advice would make the situation worse, not better.

The key messages from the department's report were that 9 years after the 2007 students commenced, 73.6% had completed, almost the same as for 2005 and 2006. For 2010 students, 66.0% of students had completed after six years. This was the lowest completion rate since statistics collection commenced in 2005. However, it is only 0.9% lower than the average for other years. There is a similar 0.9% drop from 2011 to 2012.

A 0.9% drop in student completions does not look good. However, there has been a large increase in enrollments in the last few years. Students who were unable to attend university are now able to. It is likely that the same factors which previously prevented these students from attending university are now delaying, or preventing, completion of their completion.

The difference in the students is likely to also explain the different completion rates of students at different universities and those using different instructional techniques. This is not though any fault of the university, or lack of commitment on the part of the student, but due to the same circumstances which previously stopped the student enrolling.

Were universities to follow Minister Birmingham's suggestion for a “laser focus” on student outcomes, there would be undesirable social outcomes. To increase the student completion rates, universities would be forced to exclude low income students and others from disadvantaged groups, those from regional areas and students who have families. Universities would select only wealthy city kids.

As an alternative to a discriminatory student selection policy, I suggest that the Australian Government and the Universities agree on broader outcomes targets. One way to do this would be to lengthen the target completion time for degrees from nine to twelve years. Shorter term measures could target nested qualifications, so that students receive a vocationally useful qualification after completion of the equivalent of one or two years full time study, not a three year bachelor degree. In addition universities should be encouraged, to have measures which will help students study, such as introductory study skills courses and teaching staff with teaching qualifications.

An additional measure to increase university completions would be to encourage more students to enroll in Vocational Education and Training, before, or as an alternative to, university.

Lastly, but perhaps the easiest measure to implement, would be for universities to use academics who have been trained in how to teach. Research by Bryant and Richardson (2015) found that students with a teacher having a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education did better than those who just a PHD but no teaching qualification. It may not be popular with academics, but it would be a relatively simple administrative measure to require academics who teach to have a teaching qualification.  This is already the case for the VET sector, where teachers are required to have at least a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.


Bryant, D., & Richardson, A. (2015). To be, or not to be, trained. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 37(6), 682-688. URL

ANU Energy Update 2017

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the ANU Energy Update 2017 just opened. The keynote speaker: are Dr Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist and Ms Audrey Zibelman, CEO Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The opening address is by Dr Mike Kelly, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence Industry and Support. Dr Kelly pointed out the defence dimensions of energy policy. He also described the Snowy Hyro Scheme as the "grandfather of renewable energy". He pointed out that the renewable energy stored in the Snowy Hyrdo Scheme now comes from sources including South Australian wind farms.
ANU Energy Change Institute
2017 Energy Update and Solar Oration

8.00-8.30 Registration
8.30-9.00 Introduction: Professor Ken Baldwin, Director, ANU Energy Change Institute
Welcome: Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor, ANU
Opening Address: The Honorable Dr Mike Kelly, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence Industry and Support
Keynote address: Implementing the National Electricity Market Review, Dr Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist
10.15-11.00 Morning Tea11.00-12.30 Special Presentation on the 2017 World Energy Outlook, Mr Ian Cronshaw, International Energy Agency (IEA), Paris
12.30-13.30 Lunch13.30-15.00 WEO2017 focus theme, China’s Energy OutlookProfessor Frank Jotzo, Crawford School of Public Policy,
Panel discussion and Q&A
Mr Qiang Wang, Embassy of the P.R. China in AustraliaDr Xunpeng (Roc) Shi, University of Technology Sydney
Mr Ben Jarvis, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
15.00-15.30 Afternoon Tea
15.30-17.00 WEO2017 focus theme – Making Sense of Australian Gas Policy
Presentation by Professor Quentin Grafton, Crawford School of Public PolicyPanel discussion and Q&A
17.00-17.10 Dr Ross Lambie, Department of the Environment and EnergyMr Damian Dwyer, Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association
Dr Justine Lacey, CSIRO Land and Water
Closing remarks - Professor Ken Baldwin, Director, Energy Change Institute
ACT Government/ANU Solar Oration Program
(also held in the Copland Theatre)
17.15 Finger food and drinks served in the foyer
18.00 Welcome
Professor Michael Cardew-Hall, ANU Pro-Vice Chancellor (Innovation)
18.02 Update on progress towards 100% renewable energy in the ACT and
presentation of student prize.
Mr Shane Rattenbury, ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
18.08 Introduction
Professor Andrew Blakers, Research School of Engineering
18.10 The Australian Energy Transition Ms Audrey Zibelman, CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator
19.10 Q&A
19.40 Close

Monday, November 27, 2017

Most UniversityTeaching Staff are Non-Tenured

The US Government Accountability Office has  released a detailed report finding that 70% of those employed teaching at universities are non-tenured and those part-time were paid 75% less than full-time tenure-track faculty (GAO, 2017). This is consistent with a survey by the Florida Public Services Union, which found two-thirds of university teachers have jobs without long-term security (SEIU, 2017).

The levels of the use of "contingent" teaching staff are likely to be similar in Australian higher education, but hopefully without such poor work conditions. However, advances with on-line education and AI are likely to  reduce the job opportunities and working conditions for all adjuncts.

I suggest graduate students need to be encouraged to think of academia as a supplement to a career in an outside field or profession. Those who do wish to have a part-time career in academia need to be encouraged to obtain formal qualifications in two disciplines: firstly in their chosen profession and secondly in teaching.

Teaching academics how to take a professional attitude to teaching, I suggest, can help improve their working conditions. Rather than work long unpaid hours to attempt to keep up with an unrealistic workload, academics can instead change their teaching techniques to fit the resources available.
 As an example, I have academics complain to me that they do not have enough time to do all the lecturing and marking required. So I suggest they do less lecturing, and use alternative forms of assessment, which do not take as much time. The problem is that unless they have been trained how to do this, staff are not confident to make the change. A typical response is that alternate teaching and assessment techniques will not work, or will not be approved by accreditation authorities.

Universities can offer their teaching staff training and education to improve both quality and the efficiency of the teaching. However, it is up to individual academics to take the time, and considerable effort, needed to learn their craft.


SEIU (2017, November). Life on the Edge of the Blackboard: Florida Adjunct Faculty Survey 2017, Florida Public Services Union. URL

GAO (2017, October). CONTINGENT WORKFORCE: Size, Characteristics, Compensation, and Work Experiences of Adjunct and Other Non-Tenure-Track Faculty". United States Government Accountability Office. URL

Friday, November 24, 2017

Innovation and Connectivity

 Dr. Marie-José Montpetit from MIT Media Lab
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra where Dr. Marie-José Montpetit from MIT Media Lab is speaking on "Innovation in the Age of Connectivity". Ironically, we were having problems getting the video projector to work and so Dr. Montpetit quipped someone should tell CBC Radio that she can give a presentation without using slides.

Dr. Montpetit pointed out that many AI and Internet of Things (IoT) applications depend on telecommunications to function, as do VR applications. She pointed out that Canada, like Australia has population centers on the coasts with good connectivity and then a parley populated interior with limited Internet access. This is a topic I investigated for my education studies in Canada and how it limited e-learning.

As Dr. Montpetit points out all the protocol issues with the Internet have not been solved. Many forget, I suggest that "internet" (small"i") means a "network of networks". The Internet (capital "i") is a global network of networks. There is therefore scope to have specialized networks as part of the public Internet for specific purposes. As an example railways use specialized digital telecommunications networks for signaling and safety. These networks are expensive to build and maintain, but the Internet is not secure and reliable enough to use. However, the railways could use a network compatible with the Internet and interconnected with it (in a controlled way).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How small are the units in micro-learning?

Sean Gallagher writes "As Corporate World Moves Toward Curated ‘Microlearning,’ Higher Ed Must Adapt" (Nov 6, 2017, Edsurge). But how flexible are the alternatives to traditional institution programs and how small are the "micro-learning" units? Gallagher points to MOOC providers, such as EdX, as a new model for corporate learning, but are they? Also is the term "micro-learning" misleading: splitting learning in "micro" units may make the study more convenient, but does not reduce the thousands of hours required for a professional qualification.

The oldest reference to "micro-learning" I could find in the research literature was Brudenell and  Meier (1968). The authors provide "5Rs of Microlearning": Record, Review, Respond, Refine, and Reteach. This is from the age of analogue videotape, but the advice is just as relevant today. The authors suggest instruction videos of three to seven minutes. In contrast, today's MOOCs require more than an hour of study per day, over several weeks.

The "EdX Micromasters", described as "a series of higher-level courses recognized by companies for real job relevancy, and may accelerate a Master's degree...". But the courses making up the Micromasters are each twelve weeks long, with eight to ten hours study a week. This is about the same size as a conventional university course and at 96 hours study for each unit does not seem very "micro". In addition the student must complete a fixed set of courses from EdX and then a capstone assessment for the Micromasters, with no substitutions of other courses allowed, making this less flexible than a conventional university program.

The EdX Micromasters is similar to a university graduate certificate. However, a university will typically permit the student to incorporate courses from other institutions and give credit of prior learning (the Australian VET system provides even more flexibility).

A certificate under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) requires 600 to 1200 hours of learning.  A VET certificate, such as the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116), has ten "Units of Competency". This works out to an average minimum of 60 hours per unit. In contrast a university certificate would be made up of only four courses, making for 150 hours per unit, two and a half times the size.

How small can a unit of learning be? At 60 hours a VET unit still seems quite large. At the other extreme the typical one to two hour workplace training course seems too short. There are structured, placed short on-line courses, such as ANU Online Coffee Courses, at one to two hours for a week long course. But could two hour courses be assembled ("curated") into a larger unit of learning? This would require thirty such courses for a VET Unit of Competency and three hundred for a AQF Certificate.

ps: The prefix micro denotes one millionth. If taken literally "micro-learning" is a very small amount of learning. The longest qualification under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is four years.  A full time year is 1,200 hours study, so a four year degree requires 4,800 hours. One millionth of a degree's worth of learning would be just over 17 seconds.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Friday Night Startup Pitches in Sydney

Last night I attended the weekly "Fishburners Friday Night Pitches". These are held in the basement of an old warehouse, filled with budding entrepreneurs. There were free drinks and much discussion. Then three pitches, and responses by three judges on a couch.

Fishburners is much the same as any co-working/startup center I have been to around the world (silly name, in an old building). However, two of the pitches were exceptional:
  • Omri Wislizki, Manager of the Australian Landing Pad Tel Aviv. Okay, this was not really a pitch of a startup: he was encouraging start-ups to come to Israel. Nevertheless, it was a very funny pitch for a very difficult to sell product: why set-up in Israel?
  • The last pitch was Brian Lim, Co Founder of HyperCubes, who are planning to launch micro-satellites for earth observation.
ps: Fishburners is moving to the Sydney CBD. It will be interesting to see if the start-up atmosphere can be re-created in a bland office building.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Start-ups in Schools

Anderson Hinz and Matus (2017) report positive results from teaching students to be entrepreneurs at twenty-one Australian schools. The schools in NSW and Victoria have been providing entrepreneurial learning, where teams of students work on real world problems, to come up with a product or service.

For several years I have been mentoring teams of Canberra university students in the Innovation ACT competition and more recently tutoring computer science and engineering students in the ANU TechLauncher program. The students learn how to work in a team, talk to prospective clients, make a presentation and budget resources. This is normally thought of as something for later year university students to undertake. It is interesting that this same approach has been applied to school learning.

The report identifies four elements:

  1. "The collaboration
  2. Voluntary networked learning
  3. Students as active contributors - every network learning workshop for and with students and teachers
  4. Adaptive - principles, rather than a fixed program, guided school actions and decisions"
The part I have found most interesting is the re-framing of the student-teacher relationship. Students work with their team and draw on resources, one of which is the teacher. In ANU Techlauncher, we encourage teams to also learn from each other, supported by an assessment scheme which involves students providing feedback to each other and then assessing the quality of that feedback.

The report includes a section on "Scaling the learning", however, the resources which such an activity needs has perhaps been underestimated. Even a well resourced university, such as the ANU, has difficulty finding sufficient tutors, mentors and projects for students. Teaching in this filed requires skills which are not currently part of educational curriculum. I have tried to fill some of this gap with my book "Digital Teaching In Higher Education: Designing E-learning for International Students of Technology, Innovation and the Environment". 

One of the benefits of entrepreneurial learning not covered in the report is the ability to connect to the wider community. Students need problems to solve and mentors to help them do this. Also there are resources in the various "start-up" business centers, established by local government, universities and business organizations. In Canberra there is now a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem around the Canberra Innovation Center


Anderson, Michelle., Hinz, Bronwyn., and Matus, Hannah. (2017, November). The Paradigm Shifters: Entrepreneurial Learning in Schools, Research Report No. 04/2017, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University. URL

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Website for Finding Australian Postgraduate Courses

Richard McKeon, Director at Postgrad Australia
Richard McKeon,
Postgrad Australia
The company Postgrad Australia has launched a new website for students looking for postgraduate programs. As an example, the site lists 18 Graduate Certificates in Higher Education. I was able to sort the list by fee or by satisfaction. 

The most expensive certificate ($23,904) rated highest for student satisfaction, which is reassuring. But the lowest priced course ($3,980) did not rate far behind for satisfaction. At one sixth the price, this suggests value for money. This also applied to Masters of Education, with the cheapest being rated almost as highly by students as the most expensive. Perhaps the website could include a "value for money" rating for programs, which would be a ratio of fee to satisfaction.

One problem with the site is that there is no option to search by method of course delivery. Like many graduate students, I want to be able to study on-line in my own time. So I want to limit searches, at least initially, to on-line programs. This would also be of use to international students, who don't want the bother and expense of having to visit Australia.

Of course the other limitation with Postgrad Australia is that it only includes Australian based institutions. Students can study on-line anywhere in the world. I studied in Canada while on the other side of the world in Canberra.

Dogfooding the Interactive Lecture at ANU

Greetings from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where I have been taking part in an interactive lecture on "Deep Learning and Interactive Lectures" by Glen O'Grady, Director of the ANU Centre for Higher Education, Learning & Teaching. This used the Echo 360 Active Learning Platform (ALP) and is an example of dogfooding: leading by example, using the tools you are advocating others use.

Echo's ALP seems to have moved some way towards the combining of lecture recording and webinar software which I outlined in a paper (Worthington, 2013) and discussed later that year with staff at Echo360's Perth office. This would allow students to interact live in the classroom, remotely in real time, or later with a recording. One feature still missing is for the student to be able to pause the live event and time shift. Students would then be able to interact as if the lecture was in real time, answering quiz questions, entering and reading text chat, but minutes or days, later.

However, the focus of Glen's talk was the pedagogy of increasing interaction in "lectures", rather than the gadgets. This seems to be a development of "Lecture 2.0" from a decade ago, to make the classroom experience more engaging. The problem with this was, and still is, the constraints of the room layouts available, the curriculum, and perhaps most of all, the lecturer's limited course design and teaching skills.

Conventional lecture theaters are designed for the student to be able to see and hear the lecturer, not for group interaction. Even where interaction is physically possible, lecturers have difficulty using a format other then them talking and students listening, as this is the only teaching technique they know.

The focus needs to be, I suggest, on students and their learning needs, not lecturer's dreams of full lecture theaters. Rather than try to modify lectures to make them more interactive, I suggest replacing them with better teaching techniques. This requires the teaching staff to be trained in how to teach (not lecture) and to use different forms of assessment. Lectures can then be a very minor supplement to more effective teaching techniques.

The ANU is building a new flexible learning centre with rooms for "flipped" classes (as discussed in "Brave New World in Future Teaching Spaces" by Bella Dimattina, Woroni, ANU, 3 October 2017). What is needed to use the new building effectively is to also flip the thinking of the teaching staff. Rather than worry about how to get students to come to "lectures", the priority should be first the learning outcomes, then the assessment for those outcomes and lastly what form of scaffolded learning activities are needed.

An example of this approach is the ANU Techlauncher program, where students undertake a project on a real-world problem in teams, or as individual interns, working for a real organization. The student's work is project based, with them attending weekly tutorials for mutual support and advice from a tutor. There are also workshops and conventional lectures. However, the lectures are the least important part of the course.


Worthington, T. (2013). Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning: Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques. In Proceedings of 2013 8th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 26 Apr - 28 Apr 2013 , Sri Lanka. URL:
Preprint available at:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Professional Accreditation Needs to Move Online

The Department of Education and Training issued the report "Professional Accreditation: Mapping the territory" in September 2017, but this does not appear to have attracted much attention. The report for the Department by PhillipsKPAPty Ltd, looked at the way  100 professional associations set requirements for higher education programs to be suitable for their members. 

The report points out that accreditation processes are similar between professional bodies: with a public document published specifying competencies, or a body of knowledge, which graduates are to have.Most are aligned with Australian post-secondary requirements, such as TEQSA, AQF, and Higher Education Standards Framework.
Of 100 accrediting bodies, all but 14 were self-regulating. The exceptions were for health professionals, under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Half the accrediting agencies belonged to Professions Australia, Australian Health Professions Accreditation Councils Forum or another umbrella body. The authors expressed concern about smaller and newer professional bodies lacking resources for effective accreditation and not drawing on the experience of other groups.
Most accreditation is now national, but some is still state based, with inconsistencies between states. Accreditation of teacher education was identified by the authors as a problem area with a whole chapter (5) devoted to the topic. State authorities were interpreting national teaching requirements inconsistently and adding their own criteria. the authors made the extrondary statement:
"The high political and industrial stakes surrounding initial teacher education confound investigation and resolution of the apparent difficulties in this report, and exceed by far the terms of reference of this overview."
The engineering and computing professions come in for positive comment, with the authors noting that Engineers Australia was an original signatorys to the International Engineering Alliance’s Washington Accord in 1989 and the Australian Computer Society a signatory to the similar Seoul Accord. These accords recognize accreditation processes internationally. As a Certified Professional member of the ACS I benefit from this.
One problem noted, particularly for health professionals, was a requirement for training to undertaken in Australia or by Australian registered professionals. Another issue is programs accredited by multiple professional bodies. One way around this, I suggest, are joint accreditations. As an example, I have been on a panel accrediting a program for both accounting and computing bodies. Even if there are two sets of paperwork to complete, it helps if the educational institution has to deal with just one visit by one panel.

One problem the report identifies are accreditation of programs using capstones, research projects, work-placed learning and reflective journals. These are useful learning techniques, but require specialist skills and it helps if the teacher has been trained using these techniques (I undertook an e-portfolio capstone for my MEd).

The issue of accreditation of online programs does not receive as much attention as it deserves in the report:

  • 'In the case of new mixed mode delivery technologies and paradigms such as MOOCs the current approach is to put the onus on the educational provider to provide the evidence that assessment of learning outcomes is rigorous. Some providers express frustration with the lack of familiarity with these methods represented in review panels who tend to prefer traditional face to face approaches to classroom teaching. Some providers are beginning to invite accreditation panel members to log into their learning management systems so they can “experience some aspects of what it is like to be a student.”'
Australian higher education has already passed a tipping point: students now receive more of their instruction on-line than in face-to-face classrooms. Within a few years almost all university education will be undertaken online in Australia. I suggest accreditation bodies need to prepare for this reality, rather than treating it as a novel exception.

One recommendation in the report which may be contentious is:
"Mutual recognition of online and on campus programs could be considered to avoid duplication of content where mode of delivery is the only difference." 
The  topic of how those who accredit programs is briefly covered, with the recommendation:
  • "Develop more efficient ways to train assessors – online, collaborative inter-professional, inter-agency training."
The authors appear to have missed the obvious similarity between evaluation of programs within institutions and accreditation by outside bodies. Education specialists are trained in evaluation and I suggest these skills could also be applied to accreditation.