Monday, December 31, 2018

Social Media for Researchers

Some time ago, one of my colleagues suggested I join ResearchGate, describing it as "social media for researchers". I was skeptical, but signed up. I am still skeptical, but occasionally it surprises me.

This morning I noticed a large number of suggestions for researchers to follow. These were authors of papers I had cited in a recent paper (a short paper, but with a lot of references). The reasonable assumption seems to be that if I was interested enough in their past work to cite it, I would be interested in future work of these researchers. There were also alerts about two papers from authors I had cited: Yusuf and Prasad (?),  and Ouadoud, Chkouri, and Nejjari (2018).

Yusuf and Prasad  report on the use of videos in an undergraduate course at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Interestingly, the editor added a comment to the paper pointing out that films were widely used for training from World War II on-wards. However, the authors found that while the students they surveyed liked the videos and thought them useful, viewing dropped off sharply after the first week of a course.

The attendance at live lectures also drops off rapidly (Hughes-Warrington, 2015). It might be interesting to look for the common factors between the two. It would be tempting to see this as a failure on the part of the students, or the instructor. However, it may just be that students only need the presentations, live or recorded, early in a course. It may be that universities are wasting a considerable proportion of the resources, by providing unused, and unnecessary lectures.

Ouadoud, Chkouri, and Nejjari (2018) looked at how Behaviorist, Cognitivist and Social constructivist theory applies to the use of a Learning Management Systems. There was not much new here, but the authors provided very useful diagrams showing the roles of those involved, and how each model applies to this.

ps: One problem with ResearchGate is that you get an alert of new papers, but these may be so new it is hard to work out where they have been formally published and how to cite them.

Reference

 

Ouadoud, M., Chkouri, M. Y., & Nejjari, A. (2018). Learning Management System and the Underlying Learning Theories: Towards a new Modeling of an LMS. International Journal of Information Science and Technology, 2(1), 25-33. URL http://www.innove.org/ijist/index.php/ijist/article/viewFile/24/17

Hughes-Warrington, M.  “That Sinking Feeling: Counting the Cost of Live Lectures,” Making Sense of University Business, 2015. [Online]. URL
https://missunitwocents.tumblr.com/post/123364615920/
thatsinking-feeling-counting-the-cost-of-live

Yusuf, J., & Prasad, D. Using instructor-generated short videos in an undergraduate accounting information system course. URL https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/154347626.pdf

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Masters and Doctorate of Education from Universities of Melbourne and Virginia

The University of Melbourne is offering a Masters of Education with one third of the time off a doctorate at the University of Virginia. Both programs are offered fully online. One claim made for this is less cost. However, Australians will not be able to obtain a government subsidy for a program at a US university.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

STAR-L for Teaching Students to Write Job Applications


This is the fifth of a series of posts on how to provide students with help when preparing a reflective portfolio. This is specifically for students of  ANU Tech Launcher. Previously I looked at how to structure the learning. ANU's Student Experience and Career Development unit suggests using the STAR approach for responding to selection criteria. Cockburn, Carver, Shirley, and Davies (p. 71, 2007), discuss an expanded STAR-L approach used at Queensland University of Technology (QUT): Situation, Task, Action, Result, and lessons Learnt.
  1. "Situation - The situation is the context in which the experience occurred. ...
  2. Task - The task is what was actually required of you in the situation. ...
  3. Action - Action refers to the steps that you personally took in response to the task. ...
  4. Result - Result refers to the outcome of your actions. How did your actions contribute to the completion of the task? How did your actions affect the final outcome of the situation? ...
  5. Learnt - Learnt refers to the things you have learned from the experience. Highlight any skills or abilities that you have developed or improved as a result of the experience. ..."
From:  Cockburn, Carver, Shirley, and Davies (p. 71, 2007)
ANU provides samples of cover letters, selection criteria, and resumes for students.

 

Reference


Tina Cockburn; Tracey Carver; Melinda Shirley; Iyla
Davies, Using E-Portfolio to Enable Equity Students toReflect on and Document Their Skill Development, 15
Waikato L. Rev. 64 (2007) URL https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/waik15&i=68

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

UK Sustainable Technology Strategy 2020

The UK Government has released a policy paper on "The greening government: sustainable technology strategy 2020 - sustainable technology for sustainable government" (UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, 10 December 2018). Government departments are required to report on green ICT efforts and e-waste production. There is a target of 40% government meetings conducted by e-conferencing (with no date specified for implementation. Also there is a target of zero e-waste by 2020. But there appear to be no targets for reducing energy use, or carbon emissions.
ps: Those who want to know how to estimate emissions and e-waste from ICT in an organization can take my course "ICT Sustainability". This will next offered on-line by Athabasca University (Canada)  in 2019, and ANU (Australia) in 2020.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ramsay Centre Curriculum in Western Civilisation to be Used at University of Wollongong

Ramsay Centre Signing
The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilization has announced it will provide the University of Wollongong (UoW) with $50M over 8 years to fund a BA in "Western Civilization". UoW is the first university the Center has reached an agreement with. I was at UoW a few weeks ago, looking at their excellent education, and research facilities, but that was in the field of engineering. UoW is less well known for arts, and it is not clear that the Center's curriculum, or its teaching methods, will be of benefit to the university, its students, or western civilization.

Arts is not my area of expertise, but I was curious as to what a degree in "Western Civilization" would involve, and what career this would equip the graduate for. The center helpfully provides an Indicative Curriculum for a BA Western Civilization, described as a "... integrated degree programs focused on seminal texts of the Western tradition". 

The educational technique mandated by the Ramsay Centre is groups of 6 to 8 students, instructed face-to-face. However, this format is unlikely to provide the most effective student learning. This will also prevent students who can't get to the campus often, or at all, from studying, and also severely limit the number of students who can study. While the Ramsay Centre is covering the cost of the tuition, there is still an opportunity cost for the student, who will be unable to progress as well as they could have otherwise. The Center might consider allowing blended, and online form of tuition, which would allow many more students, and a diverse range of students, to study.

The Center provides a brief explanation of how such an education could be useful. This asserts that entry and mid-level jobs will be replaced by automation, and the remaining workers will need continual on-the-job training. As a result, the Center suggests businesses will need interdisciplinary "innovators" with good communication skills.

While I agree that graduates will need good interdisciplinary, communication and innovation skills, it does not follow that this can be best obtained (or obtained at all), from a study of the history of Western literature and music. Also, I suggest the automation of entry-level technical and professional jobs is not a reason for abandoning technical education, but for more advanced technical education.

This is not to say BAs have no place in the 21st century. As the Center points out, their curriculum leaves room for other studies. UoW already offers BA majors in vocationally relevant areas, which would help make up for the limitations in the Center's curriculum, and teaching technique.

There may be some students who have an interest in western literature and music, who would welcome this curriculum. However, those students should be cautioned that, on its own, the Center's curriculum will result in very limited career prospects, and not make them much more employable in the 21st Century than a high school graduate. Recent high school graduates, who studied the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum, will be better qualified for today's jobs, than through the Center's curriculum.

Our community needs a few specialists in the great books, but very few, who will become academics and teachers. The majority of students, should instead enroll in a program which leads to a career outside academia. They should, of course, balance their technical education, with some broad cultural knowledge, communication, and team skills. Students may also undertake studies in innovation, and I suggest should learn how to undertake lifelong learning. However, this can be accommodated within a professional degree.

Globe of the ancient world,
Istanbul
The Center's curriculum reminds me of the Istanbul Museum of The History of Science & Technology in Islam. This has wonderful displays of carefully preserved examples of Islamic scientific machines, and instruments. However, these are of historical interest only. The Museum makes a case for Islamic scholars influencing the modem world, but they are not part of the modern world. Similarly, the Ramsay Center makes the case that the modern world owes much to great works of the past. However, while history can inform the modern world, it has a limited role in shaping the future.

Taking an example from the Center's curriculum, learning how ancient Athenian democracy worked can inform today's debates on democracy. However, this will not protect a modern democracy from attacks conducted via social media. Such attacks are being mounted by scientists and engineers with advanced technical skills employed by nation-states. Someone with the Ramsay Center's education would be as useful defending western civilization in the 21st century, as a classical education was to military officers of the early 20th century on horseback facing a mechanized army.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Digital Technology for Partition-Rooms

Elhussein, Düştegör, Nagy and Alghamdi, (2018), report on student reactions to Partition-Rooms used in Saudi-Arabian universities. These rooms have a partition with a one-way mirror, so that the female students can see the male instructor, but not the reverse. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that students thought they learned better in a regular classroom (with a female instructor).
What is surprising is that this analog room design also limits the student's use of digital technology. The one-way mirror requires the student's part of the room to be dimly lit. As a result, the light from a student's digital device will be very visible, literally highlighting that student. As a result students are reluctant to use their smart phones for personal, or educational, purposes in class.

Why not use Video Conferencing?

Given the obvious limitations of this room format, it seems odd that the universities do not simply use video conferencing. In place of the mirrored partition, there could be a video screen, showing the instructor's image. This would eliminate the need for a specially designed room, with any electronically equipped classroom being be suitable (after any cameras in the room were switched off, or covered). This would also eliminate the complexity of providing  separate entrance to the teaching building for male staff, as they could conduct the class remotely, from another electronic classroom, or their office, in another building, campus, or city. 

Use Clickers?

A high-tech digital partition-room might provide the instructor with some indication as to the disposition of the students. This could use "clickers" to allow the students to indicate if they are following the presentation, if it is too fast, or slow. A high-tech version could use a camera to read the expressions of the students, and present these in cartoon form to the instructor, without a realistic representation of individual students.

Also the researchers appear to have only been investigating conventional lecture format classes. If these are replaced by flipped classroom instruction, the limitations of the Partition-Room will be reduced. With the flipped format, the instructor's presentation is pre-recorded, to be watched by the students individually, before class. This eliminates the need for the partition room for this part of the instruction.

Use the Flipped Classroom?

A common format used for large scale flipped classes is to have tutors in the room to assist the instructor, or one tutor at each remote video-linked location. These could be female tutors in the room with female students, with a remote male instructor. The flipped format usually starts with Q&A, which could be facilitated by the tutors, coordinating with the remote instructor. After Q&A the tutors could facilitate the individual or group activities of the students, and report back to the remote instructor.

Experiment with the Partition Room

The Partition-Room is, in effect a form of distance education, with the partition increasing the effective distance between students and instructor. This presents the possibility of interesting experiments. One class could be told that the instructor is on the other side of the wall, and this compared with a class told the instructor is in another building, or a distant country. The instructor could similarly be told the students are nearby, or far away. The effect of the perception of distance could then be examined, separate from the particular technology.

Is the Partition-Room Legal and Ethical?


Also worth considering is the legality, and ethics, of the use of Partition-Rooms for female students. While the researchers point out these are required by Saudi-Arabian culture, the provision of an inferior form of education on the basis of gender may infringe the student's human rights, under international law. Instructors may need to consider if it is a breach of their professional ethics to teach under these restrictions. 
However, other instructors having to teach under far more stringent conditions. As an example, distance education (DE) places severe limitations on the form of education which can be provided. Instructors could decide not to provide any DE, believing it offers an inferior education. But this would exclude a section of the population, for example those in remote locations in Australia, for whom DE is the only form of education possible.

Will Blended Learning Make Partition-Rooms Obsolete?


Research shows that blended learning, is superior to both pure DE, and classroom based instruction. Also conventional live lectures have been shown to not be an effective form of instruction. With blended learning replacing conventional classes, the need for Partition-Rooms may be eliminated within a few years. This would also reduce the legal, and ethical dilemmas for instructors.

Reference

Elhussein, M. A., Düştegör, D., Nagy, N., & Alghamdi, A. K. H. (2018). The Impact of Digital Technology on Female Students' Learning Experience in Partition-Rooms: Conditioned by Social Context. IEEE Transactions on Education, (99), 1-9. URL https://doi.org/10.1109/TE.2018.2840501

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Government Dispersal of Students Threatens Major Export Industry


Yesterday the the Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC) warned of "Unintended Consequences" from the Australian Governments possible dispersal of international students beyond major capital cities. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) are considering measures to reduce the population increase in Sydney, Melbourne and South East Queensland, to reduce pressure on infrastructure.

The logic behind the COAG proposal to disperse students is not entirely clear. International students make up only a very small proportion of the population of Australian cities. These students are concentrated in inner city areas, in high density purpose built accommodation. They are close to public transport, or in walking distance to their university. As a result these students are not a burden on the infrastructure. In contrast, it is those living in detached houses in suburbs far from the city center, who are a burden on infrastructure. Low density suburbs are expensive to build, support and provide transport for. Far from being a burden, our  international students are showing how the rest of Australia needs to learn to live, to reduce both financial and environmental costs.

International students come to Australia attracted by the quality of education offered by our universities. However, they are also attracted by the lifestyle of our major cities. Students will not necessarily want to attend a regional university, far from the big city attractions.

Australia’s education export industry will face competition from China in the next few years. Last week at the IEEE Engineering Education Conference (TALE 20198) in Woolongong, I attended a talk from a Chinese academic on how they are preparing to provide large scale global education, in English. It is unfortunate that just as Australia's third largest export industry is about to face a major challenge, Australian Governments are considering removing one of that industry's key selling points.

However, I suggest the Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC), and other academic bodies, need to do more to plan for new forms of education, delivered in new ways. Offering a pleasant location will not be enough of a selling point if the product is still an on-campus education, in the form of a multi-year degree. One option I detailed in my presentation at TALE 2018 is micro-credentials via mobile devices to students of the Indo-Pacific.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Computer Security is the Wild West

Vertigo film poster
Theatrical poster for the film Vertigo
(detail), from Wikipedia.
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a reading group on cyber security. One of the attendees from "a government agency" asked a senior academic why some of the research at international conferences is so poor: the answer was "Computer Security is the Wild West".

It has been an interesting morning. I attended a seminar  on "Vertigo: Fake news/real theory" by the ANU College of Law. Appropriately for the government established university, there was discussion of  David Foster Wallace's unfinished novel The Pale King. This relates the horrors of being a tax inspector. There was also discussion of the difficulties of countering fake news.

The ANU cyber reading group primarily reviews papers on fuzzing.  With this random data is presented to a program to test its security. Millions of random variations can be input to see if the program does something it is not supposed to. This technique is now in routine use to the point where one of our resident experts commented we had reached "peak fuzzing".

There is evidence for "peak fuzzing". The steady increase ion the number of scholarly publications found with a Google web search for "fuzzing, security testing" seems to have leveled off in 2018.


2018 1060
2017 1070
2016 841
2015 805
2014 750
2013 696


It occurs to me fuzzing might be used to test how the political system copes with fake news. This would be done by generating social media posts which are in grammatically correct language, but contain random words. The program would then look to see which posts were liked, passed on and positively rated. There are perhaps for-profit, and state based actors already doing this to attract clicks, or spread confusion.


Also, I suggest looking at the ethics and legal issues with detecting bugs. What systems should you test, and when you find a vulnerability what can (and should) you do with that information? With a quick search I found a recent paper on the Pentagon's Vulnerability Reward Program (Chatfield & Reddick, 2017).

Reference


Chatfield, A. T., & Reddick, C. G. (2017, June). Cybersecurity Innovation in Government: A Case Study of US Pentagon's Vulnerability Reward Program. In Proceedings of the 18th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (pp. 64-73). ACM. URL https://doi.org/10.1145/3085228.3085233


Reference

Chatfield, A. T., & Reddick, C. G. (2017, June). Cybersecurity Innovation in Government: A Case Study of US Pentagon's Vulnerability Reward Program. In Proceedings of the 18th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (pp. 64-73). ACM. URL https://doi.org/10.1145/3085228.3085233

Learning to Reflect

This is the fourth of a series of posts on how to provide students with help when preparing a reflective portfolio. This is specifically for students of  ANU Tech Launcher and the ANU Computer Science Internship. Previously I looked at how to structure the learning, use the student study time and assess a portfolio.

With this I propose to split the module up into three equal size sections, which would be delivered at equidistant points during a 12 week university course, near the beginning, mid-semester and the end.  There would be similar assessment and activities for each of the three segments, with the student revisiting, and revising their work each time. The idea of this regular structure is to make it simpler for instructors and students to understand. The sections are spread through the semester to aid learning, at the expense of an increase in complexity.

The assessment has small tasks (quizzes and discussion postings), to aid students with surface knowledge and assignments for the deeper learning. The assessment is all summative, in that it all counts towards the final result, to encourage students to study. Similarly, peer input to the assessment is used to aid study, with the instructor retaining the final decision on grades.

The grading scheme is designed to reduce the stress on students by being best two out of three for each assessment task. To encourage students to complete the small assessment tasks, they must to get at least 15/30 on these, or their overall grade is capped at 49/100. To prevent the small, relatively easy tasks inflating the final result, the student has to achieve at least 70/100 on the assignments, to get 70/100 or higher, overall.

Module title: Learning to Reflect

Overview


This module will enable students to develop competencies expected of working professionals to plan what skills and knowledge they need to develop, acquire those skills and reflect on what they have learned.

Learning Outcomes:


Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:

  1. Determine the learning needed and possible sources, to grow individual skills for a project,  and career plans.
  2. Identify appropriate accreditation and qualification paths. 
  3. Manage the learning, evaluate outcomes through reflection.
Adapted from the skill "Learning and Development" (ETMG), Level 6, Skills Framework for the Information Age, Version 7, 2017 
 

Indicative Assessment

 

Three online quizzes, 10% (5% per quiz, with best two counted). Contributions to three discussion forums, 20% (10% per forum, with best two out of three counted). Three assignments, 70% (35% each, best two out of three counted). Peer feedback from students in the forums, and on assignments, will be taken into account in grading by the examiners.

For each quiz students will answer three to five questions, with multiple choice and short answers. The quizzes will be automatically marked by the system. Questions will be randomly selected from a question bank.

For each forum students will be asked to answer a set question with a few sentences and then reply to another student. Students will then give ratings for the answer (0, 1, or 2). The tutor will provide a mark for each student, taking into account the student ratings.

For each assignment students will be given a question and a marking rubric. After submitting their own answer, students will mark three others using the rubric, and provide feedback. The instructor will review the student feedback, making any changes needed. They will then allocate 90% of the grade for the student's work and 10% for their feedback.

Overall mark calculation


Small tasks = best two quizzes + best two forums
Assignments = best two assignments
Mark = Small tasks + Assignments

If Small tasks is less than 15/100, the final grade is capped at 49%.

Grades of 70% and over, will be based on Assignments only.

Course specific policies 

 

Late submission of assessment is not accepted.


Workload


Twenty hours of student learning time, consisting of participation in online forums and assessment activities. A one hour face-to-face workshop will be provided to assist with each assignment (three hours in total).

Prescribed Texts


An eBook is supplied with the course.

In addition, from the ANU Academic Skills & Learning Centre:  Reflective writing, reflective essays, learning journals. From ANU Career Hub: cover lettersaddressing selection criteria, and resumes.

Course schedule


The course consists of three parts, one topic per part, with one quiz, forum, and assignment, for each:
  1. Plan the learning needed. In this part the student investigates what they need to learn the project, and for long term career plans. Assignment task is to produce a first draft of their CV, and learning goals.
  2. Learn. The student learns about different ways of learning, and identifies appropriate accreditation and qualification paths for their future. Assignment task is to address a typical set of selection criteria.
  3. Report and reflect. The student reflects on what they have learned. Assignment task is to prepare an application cover letter, and revise the other parts prepared previously.

 

Communication platform


ANU's Wattle system is used for communication. Students and instructor will use Moodle Learning Management system tools:
  1. Dialogue for one-to-one communication.
  2. Forum for group communication and discussion.
  3. Quiz tool for quizzes.
  4. Workshop for assignments.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Tales from TALE 2018

On my way home from speaking at the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE 2108) in Wollongong, so time to reflect. Some surprises were that chat-bots could be useful in education, and China is preparing to scale up its international university education offerings (placing Australia's third largest export industry at risk). One disappointment was that while the leading educators could detail what needed to be done to improve the quality of university teaching, none could offer a strategy to ensure this was actually done.

Why TALE?


I did not have high hopes for this conference. I decided to submit a paper because the conference I would usually attend was in a country I did not want to visit. TALE was two hours drive away, and was an IEEE event, so that was enough for me. Early in the year I started the grueling process of preparing a paper.

Come submission time I volunteered to also review. That turned out to be an unexpected pleasure, the management system worked well and the papers were of good quality. It was hard to find what to reject, and I worried my paper would never get accepted, with this competition. However, my paper was accepted, with lots of changes being required.

The last major frustration was the formatting, where there was something being rejected by the IEEE system, but no one could tell me exactly what. However, after many attempts, and days of work, laboriously reformatting the paper with different tools (and introducing new errors along the way), it was finally okay.

The Venue

An international conference from Australia usually involves a flight of at least half a day. So it was a strange feeling to just get in my car and drive an hour and a half to Wollongong. This is a beach-side city and the venue,was right on the beach.

Workshop Chatbot Tutors for Blended Learning

The workshops were held at University of Wollongong, a short free shuttle bus ride from the city.  I chose "Chatbot Tutors for Blended Learning" by Chi-Un Lei, Yuqian Chai, Xiangyu Hou, and Vincent Tam from TELI at University of Hong Kong. I had in mind using this for routine questions from students. The workshop is using the free version of the IBM Watson tool. In a few hours I was able to produce a credible Q&A. The process with the chatbot doesn't look any more time consuming that a quiz, with the AI system providing flexibility. What seems to be missing from this process is the intelligence to create the answers. For example, I would like to just give the system the rules for the course assessment and have it work out the possible questions and answers.

The Engineering of Learning

Keynote speaker Dr Bror Saxberg of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative made the case for the engineering of education at the opening. Dr Saxberg's argument seems to be we need to teach students in ways which have been found to be effective. That may sound self-evident, but as he pointed out, with numerous examples, formal education is not necessarily using techniques show to be effective, and in some cases shown to not work. However, the problem I have found, is that just telling someone what works for education does not get them to do it, we need to also have people actually do things, to learn how to do them. Dr Saxberg did not provide any policy strategies to have academics learn to teach.

Learning Engineering

Professor Gregor Kennedy's keynote the next day was on "Learning Engineering: The Art of Applying Learning Science at Scale". He did not seem happy with the term “learning engineering”, coined by Herb Simon in the 1960's for the systematic design of learning, based on research. But I suspect there were only a handful of people in the room who had ever heard of the term (Dr Saxberg was obviously one), so why mention it at all? Professor Kennedy seemed to want evidence based teaching, but like Dr Saxberg did not seem to have any strategies to make this happen.

Later in the day Rebecca Shields (Central Queensland University) discussed the results of research on the "21st Century Skills" of Australian school students entering university. Rebecca suggested pre-teaching of students entering university, and in the longer term changes to school teacher training and education policy. Her proposed solution's would help answer Professor Kennedy's call for more systematic application of learning science. 

Smart Learning at the University of the South Pacific

Staff of the University of the South Pacific (UPS) discussed "Smart Learning in the Pacific: Design of New
Pedagogical Tools". USP is multi-national, with students who have studied under different school systems. They have an "early warning system" which extracts data from their Moodle Learning Management System to indicate which students are struggling. This was useful actionable advice.


Globalization of Chinese Education

Liang Zhao from Shenyang Aerospace University was talked on "How We Face Globalization of Chinese Education". International students in China are instructed in English, even though this is not the first language of the instructors or the students. Australian universities  will need to re-think their offerings, if China solves this problem, and takes most of the international student market in our region.

Arjun Singh on Gradescope

Arjun Singh, Co-founder & CEOArjun Singh, Co-Founder & CEO of Gradescope talked on grading of large numbers of STEM exam papers. This product, recently acquired by TurnItIn, allows student exam papers to be scanned in, and then marked online by an examiner, using a rubric. The product was demonstrated for engineering and computer science examinations, including for computer code.

Reference

 Worthington, Tom. (in press). Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific. In Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE), 2018 IEEE 7th International Conference on. IEEE. url http://hdl.handle.net/1885/148733

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific

Tom Worthington. Photo by Stuart Hay, ANU Senior Photographer, 2014Greetings from the the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) in Wollongong where I was speaking on "Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific". This proposal has been entered in the the Solomon Islands Technology for Development Challenge to provide Micro-credentials by Mobile Phone for the Solomon Islands.
"Information technology disciplines make up a significant proportion of the degrees taken by international students at Australian universities. These programs are primarily delivered on-campus, but are increasingly using e-learning techniques and becoming, in effect, blended. This provides the opportunity to offer international students part of their program by distance education before, or instead of, traveling to Australia. This could complement the campus-based education provided and complement initiatives by China, Australia, Japan and the United States for regional development. However, Australian university academics have little background or training in e-learning and program designs have not made use of the flexibility this provides. In this paper, we discuss how computer professionals can be trained online to deliver online training to students of the Indo-Pacific. The application of learning theory to support distance learners is also discussed in this paper."
This followed papers from others at the conference on the globalization of Chinese education, Smart Learning at the University of the South Pacific and 21st Century Skills.

ps: TALE 2019 will be December 3-6,  in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. And, just announced, TALE 2020 will be in Takamatsu, Japan. 

Arjun Singh on Gradescope

Arjun Singh, Co-founder & CEOGreetings from the the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) in Wollongong where Arjun Singh, Co-Founder & CEO of Gradescope is talking on grading of large numbers of STEM exam papers. This product, recently acquired by TurnItIn, allows student exam papers to be scanned in, and then marked online by an examiner, using a rubric. 

One claim for the product is that the rubric can be customized by the examiner, as they do the marking. The product was demonstrated for engineering and computer science examinations, including for computer code. 

There appear to be two distinct uses for the product: one is for marking traditional paper based examinations. The other is for digitally input long-form input, such as computer code.

This product is new to Turnitin, and integration with their copy detection function is to be added in early 2019. However, even in its current form the interface looks similar to Turnitin's GradeMark.

Globalization of Chinese Education

Greetings from the the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) in Wollongong where Liang Zhao from Shenyang Aerospace University was speaking on "How We Face Globalization of Chinese Education". This, I suggest, is also a question for Australian universities in the next few years.

Just as China has been increasingly producing quality goods at a competitive price, it now aiming to export education services. One interesting point in the paper is that international students in China are instructed in English (although this is not the first language of the staff or students). Australian educational institutions, and companies, may be able to provide specialist services to their Chinese counterparts.
"In the next decade, China is expectedly becoming
the most significant education destination for foreigners. Since information technology is a leading industry in China, its related major computer science would surely attract a considerable number of international students. Therefore, our university and teaching group are going to face this big challenge. Due to the scarcity of teaching resources in ordinary Chinese universities, we have to seek a way to fulfil the vast demand of educating these international students while especially most of them require lecturers provide courses in English. In this paper, we discuss the current problems of international education in China and whether the mixed English teaching can be one possible solution or not. Then we present our teaching reform strategies by showing an example of a module called Mobile Programming with Android. Through applying these strategies, we also list the numerical improvements of students results and skills."
Australian universities need to consider how they will respond to expanded Chinese offerings. As with consumer goods, they might try to compete on price, quality, or convenience. I will be speaking on alternative delivery methods for education in "Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific" later in the conference. In this I suggest, rather than trying to directly compete, a more flexible form of education could be offered.

Smart Learning at the University of the South Pacific

Greetings from the the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) in Wollongong where staff of the University of the South Pacific (UPS) are discussing "Smart Learning in the Pacific: Design of New
Pedagogical Tools". USP is multi-nationals with students who have studied under different school systems. They have ab "early warning system" which extracts data from their Moodle Learning Management System to indicate which students are struggling. They also use Big Blue Button (BBB), for synchronous webinars. Students are tested online for English skills and those who don't score well are automatically signed up of a support course.

Challenges at USP include limited bandwidth to some Pacific countries (something being addressed by the Australian Government funded fibre optic cable to the Solomon Islands). A major focus of USP is teacher training. I will be speaking on "Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific" later in the conference.

"Smart learning ecosystems leverage on state-of-the-art tools and technologies to help students learn better with Information Communication Technologies (ICT). The ubiquity, innovations and advancements of ICT have transformed pedagogies and approaches to content facilitation and delivery in higher education worldwide, the Pacific region being no exception. The paper essays a number of learning and support tools designed in-house or adopted (or outsourced) recently by a higher education institution in the Pacific contributing to the smart learning ecosystem. The institution has integrated these ICT driven tools to its academic and support programmes, and more recently the in-country science programmes introduced in its member countries. The strengths and challenges from the implementation of these new adaptive tools are highlighted with recommendations to the wider academic populace."

Learning Engineering

Professor Gregor Kennedy's keynote presentation for TALE 2018 was on "Learning Engineering: The Art of Applying Learning Science at Scale". He did not seem happy with the term “learning engineering”, coined by Herb Simon in the 1960's for the systematic design of learning, based on research. But I suspect there were only a handful of people in the room who had ever heard of the term (Bror Saxberg was obviously one), so why mention it at all?

Later in the day Rebecca Shields (Central Queensland University) discussed the results of research on the "21st Century Skills" of Australian school students entering university. These students had grown up with digital technology, but can't apply it for educational purposes, and so need to have training in this. Rebecca suggested pre-teaching of students entering university, and in the longer term changes to school teacher training and education policy.

The problems Rebecca identified with school and teacher training, I suggest also apply at the university level. Her proposed solution's would help answer Professor Kennedy's call for more systematic application of learning science. We need to not only train academics who teach how to teach, but also teach their students how to learn. The academics who teach will then be better able to work with specialist educational designers, and their students take more responsibility for their own learning.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Engineering of Learning

Greetings from the University of Wollongong where Dr Bror Saxberg of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is making the case for the engineering of education at the opening of the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE).

Dr Saxberg's argument seems to be essentially the same as that for education based on research. That is, we need to teach students in ways which have been found to be effective. That may sound self-evident, but as he pointed out, with numerous examples, formal education is not necessarily using techniques show to be effective, and in some cases shown to not work. Dr Saxberg's described Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as like Aristotelian physics, in that it was not based on experimental research.

However, the problem I have found, is that just telling someone what works for education does not get them to do it. I even have difficulty convincing myself to do teaching differently, let alone others. Dr Saxberg might argue this requires putting the new techniques into long term memory. However, I suggest we need to also have people actually do things, to learn how to do them. It was only after I had used educational techniques, as a student of education, I was confident I could use them as a teacher.

Dr Saxberg pointed out that research shows learning requires persistence, through motivation. He said "you don't have to like it, you just have to do it". I suggest top-down educational design can help with this. As an example, I am designing a module to help STEM students reflect on learning. The first step is to align the learning objectives with external professional job requirements.

Chatbot Tutors for Blended Learning

Greetings from the University of Wollongong where I am taking part in a workshop on "Chatbot Tutors for Blended Learning" by Chi-Un Lei, Yuqian Chai, Xiangyu Hou, and Vincent Tam from TELI at University of Hong Kong. This is part of the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE).
"Creating a pedagogical agent requires complex computer programming skills and it is usually built from scratch to fit the intended educational purpose. This makes it difficult for teachers to adapt existing systems or to attempt in creating a similar version. Recently, we have leveraged the IBM Watson Assistant chatbot engine to develop some chatbots. These chatbots have been adopted in a common core (general education) course for inquiry-based learning, with a promising outcome. In this workshop, we would like to share our experience gained from developing a set of chatbots for an online blended learning environment. Through the workshop, attendees will identify what and how chatbots can be designed for their own blended or fully online courses. They will also develop a simple chatbot system that can responses to some assessment inquiries."
I had in mind using this for routine questions from students. I provide tutors with a list of standard answers, but perhaps these could be provided by a chatbot.
The example given in the workshop is for  training forensics  scientists in crime scene analysis. The chatbot answers the easy questions and passes on the hard ones to the tutor.

The workshop is using the free version of the IBM Watson tool.  A JSON file was provided for the workshop to upload to Watson.We were cautioned that there were "25 steps" to do this from scratch.We were simply asked to enter the "intent", which we have to be specific about (such as the second assignment deadline). Then the "Entities", such as a specific assignment the student is asking about. The "Dialog" would be the answer.

While the example in workshop was to answer simple logistics questions (is the exam open book?), the idea is to use this for teaching. A simple example might be, rather than say "No, the exam ins not open book", but to guide the student through where they find the answer. This might address teascher's frustrations where students don't read the material given.

The prepared chatbot is not very bright and very single-minded. It reminds me of the talky toaster in Red Dwarf, which was obsessed with toast. One trick shown to make the dialogue more interesting was simply random versions of the same responses.A dialogue is added with answers for the questions. One of the features of using Watson is that it has a dictionary and lists of synonyms. As an example with the Q&A I prepared was about "books", Watson correctly interpreted "document" as being a sort of book (it even understood "Bring Dongle?").

Next we added an "entity".  These can be physical objects (the textbook for the course) or something more abstract.

This chatbot process reminds me of my first encounter with preparing a multiple choice online quiz. The process of setting up the questions and answers was very tedious. The reward only comes when you have many students using the system. The process with the chatbot doesn't look any more time consuming that a quiz, with the AI system providing flexibility.

What seems to be missing from this process is the intelligence to create the answers. For example, I would like to just give the system the rules for the course assessment and have it work out the possible questions and answers. As it is this form of AI seems to making the type of promises fourth generation programming language, did last century. Claims were made about programmers not being used, as it was easy for anyone to do. The reality was that it was easy for anyone to write a simple program, but it required a highly skilled expert for complex tasks. The result was a lot of time wasted by unskilled people writing bad code, and experts trying to untangle the resulting mess.

ps: The workshop was held in a UoW  lab. This had about 32 desktop PCs in four long rows of eight. There is a large display screen near the instructor's console at one end and on the opposite end. However, it would be useful f there were screens on the other two walls. The room is carpeted, but was still a bit noisy, with multiple tutors helping students. Perhaps the ceilings should be sound absorbing in these type of rooms(at the cost f requiring a microphone for the presenter).

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How is a Reflective Portfolio Assessed?

This is the third of a series of posts on how to provide students with help when preparing a reflective portfolio. This is specifically for students of  ANU Tech Launcher and the ANU Computer Science Internship. Previously 
I looked at what students are expected to learn through a reflective portfolio. But how is it assessed?




The details of the Work Portfolio Package (WPP) are available on the ANU TechLauncher website. The WPP is in the form of an application for a real position, selected by the student. This can be for employment, study, or similar.

The student prepares a document of about 8 pages:
  1. Cover letter (1 page)
  2. Statement addressing the selection criteria (200-250 words per criterion)
  3. CV (2 pages)
  4. Supplementary material, such as examples of work (2 pages).
The marking criteria are:
  1. evidence of decision-making
  2. maturity of reflection
  3. professional tone
  4. evidence of life-long learning
  5. acting on feedback
  6. professional attitude
 These can be placed under the previously developed headings:

Learning:
  • maturity of reflection
  • evidence of life-long learning 
Communication: 
  • professional tone
  • professional attitude 
Management:
  • evidence of decision-making
  • acting on feedback
Some of these have proven difficult for the students to understand. As an example, the concept of "reflection" on learning is a difficult one (which I still struggle with, despite some training). Also "life-long learning" difficult for a young student, yet to start their career, to discuss.