Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Provide combined vod/podcasts to students

Mazen Al-Ismail
Al Ismail (2018) surveyed 345 mobile learners from Australia and Saudi Arabia as to their preferences for recorded learning material. It was found that students prefer to get their course content as a long audio podcast (15 minutes or more) for walking, but shorter vodcasts (audio with slides) in somewhere like a cafe. This makes sense: a student walking can't look at a screen, has set amount of uninterrupted time to concentrate on the narration. A student in a cafe can look at a screen, but is more likely to be interrupted, and has more auditory distractions.

One way to meet the requirements for different locations would be to produce content which are designed to be usable with the audio alone (as a podcast), vision alone (as a slideshow), or both (as a vodcast). Long vodcasts could be divided into short chapters, of one to five minutes.

It would be possible to produce the versions of materials semi-automatically.  As an example, I have produced a text-to-speech vodcast, and podcasts for the learning module "Reflective Learning". These have no structure, but the e-book they are derived from does. It would be possible to break the vodcasts and podcasts into chapters, based on the chapter and sub-chapter hierarchy of the e-book. As an example, the chapters of the e-book (indicated by HTML H2 markup) would give audio chapters of about ten minutes, suitable for walking students. Sub chapters (indicated by H3) would break the audio into two minute segments.
"In general, rich and long podcast is recommended while a student alone, even while walking, as we have seen in chapter four that Saudi students highly prefer to be engaged with m-learning while walking alone.

Students highly prefer vodcast and text respectively in busy contexts, so if possible providing slides synchronised with audio in a way that students can read the slide and opt to listen to their lecturer explanation for each slide.

Students highly prefer audio while walking alone, and this research show that Australian students prefer audio in all walking contexts. On the other hand, students dislike audio in quiet and busy contexts.

So, it is highly recommended to avoid disseminate audio podcasting in stationary context."
From Al Ismail, p. 131, 2018.


Al Ismail, Mazen Ibrahim I (2018-12-17). The impact of learners' characteristics on m-learning preferences, and how m-learning preferences form choices in different contexts. URL

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Course with an iMOOC on MOOCs

The Center for Distance Education at Athabasca University (AU), where I did my MEd, is offering an interesting masters course for students of education, on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). You don't have to be enrolled in a degree at AU to do the course (but you do have to pay).

The course incorporates a MOOC, but adds staff supervision, and formal course credit, for a fee. This is an interesting way for an institution to offer a greater range of courses. I was, and remain, a MOOC skeptic, as borne out by some of the recent literature (Reich & Ruipérez-Valiente, 2019). It will be interesting to see what this format has to offer.

MDDE690: Investigating MOOCs: Purpose, Process, and Pedagogy

This is an independent study opportunity for AU Master of Education program students and anyone outside this program interested in registering as a non-program student. This course includes a supervised experience and study of MOOCs, Massive Open, Online Courses, and their design, delivery, and research. The AU-MOOC Learning to Learn Online is the focus of this study experience.

Course Instructor

Dr. Martha Cleveland-Innes is a Professor and Chair in the Centre of Distance Education at Athabasca University where she is heavily involved in the research and practice of blended and online teaching and learning. She holds a PhD in Education with a concentration in higher education and the social world. She joined Athabasca University in 2001 and ...

Students in this version of MDDE690 will create, in consultation with the instructors, a 3-credit course with learning objectives based on the topic of MOOCs.This independent study course experience will commence in April, 2019 and includes participation in Learning to Learn Online (LTLO), which runs on the Canvas platform from April 29th to June 2nd , 2019.Timelines for completion of other assignments are negotiable.

The MOOC design for LTLO is called an iMOOC – inquiry-based learning and engagement. You will have the opportunity to identify your own topics, activities, and assignments that will result in knowledge development about MOOCs and their purpose, process, and pedagogy.

For registration information: Contact the CDE office.


Reich, J., & Ruipérez-Valiente, J. A. (2019). The MOOC pivot. Science, 363(6423), 130-131. URL

Monday, March 18, 2019

What does education do?

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor David Deming (Harvard Graduate School of Education), is speaking on "What does education do?". This is a good counterpoint to the book "Open Knowledge: Institutions
Reinventing Universities" from the authors of The Moondyne Maanifesto. Professor Deming's work is obviously well researched, and of high quality, but is of little relevance to Australia.nifesto. Professor Deming is focused on equity in education, while the Moondyne Manifesto is about equity in access to research results.

Inequality in the US Higher Education System

Professor Deming argued that the demand for US college education is rising faster than supply, and they need to work out what skills will be required (some of this is in an article). He first displayed a graph showing that the "American Dream" is fading: the percentage of children earning more than their parents is falling. However, the graph started at 1940, and perhaps it just shows the end of the US boom from WW2. Also I don't see that infinite growth is worthwhile, or possible. Professor Deming then showed a graph indicating that income inequality exists in Sweden and Australia, as well as the USA (and another showing Australia is nearer Canada). So far I am not clear what this has to do with education.

In the next few graphs, Professor Deming showed that income had fanned out since 1964, based on education. That is, income has not increased for those without post secondary qualification, but increased markedly for those with advanced degrees. Curiously, Professor Deming put this in terms of rising inequality, rather than education equipping workers with valuable skills, which were rewarded with higher pay.

Professor Deming then displayed a graph showing US revenue to schools had been equalized between 1990 and 2010. That is, over time, government spending has been provided to schools in poorer districts, to bring them up to the level of richer districts. In contrast, community colleges receive about one quarter the funding of prestigious "research" universities. However, I suggest research universities don't just do education (they also do research), so I am not sure the comparison holds.

The next graph showed that students from high income families are 77 times more likely to attend an elite university. Someone in the audience interrupted with an explanation: rich parents have been bribing university staff to admit their children. However, elite universities do not necessarily provide better education than others. University reputation is largely based on research output, which is unrelated to the quality of education an institution provides. I have studied at TAFE (the Australian equivalent of US community college), at a regional university (the equivalent of a US state university), one of Australia's top research universities, and a Canadian online university. The education provided by these was designed for different students with different needs, but overall the research university rated lowest for quality of education, the regional Australian university, and Canadian online top.

The next graph was educational attainment between generations. Professor Deming focused on the USA not making progress in tertiary attainment. But what stood out for me was that Canada was ahead of the USA, and is still in front. I suggest there is little value in Australia looking to the USA for what to do with education, but perhaps we could learn something from Canada. I quipped to the speaker that I studied education in Canada, so perhaps I know better they they what to do.

How to Help Disadvantaged Students

Professor Deming then introduced his CLIMB Research Initiative. This aims to answer the question: "How can colleges help students from disadvantaged backgrounds climb the income ladder?". I thought this wording curious as it refers to "colleges" only. Also it refers to "income ladder", not to encouraging enrollment, or improving completion. Unfortunately this appears to be an inward and downward looking study, of US research universities seeing what can be done to US colleges.

I suggest that the USA could look to other countries, such as Canada, and perhaps could also ask experienced educators at US colleges what to do. At TALE 2019 last year I met educators from US colleges who had clear ideas on how to improve the system.

Australia has research on improving student outcomes, such as by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). This includes work by Dr Cathy Stone on National Guidelines for Improving Student Outcomes in Online Learning.

Teaching Soft Skills to STEM Students

Engineering degree redesign for UCL,
by Mitchell, Nyamapfene, Roach & Tilley, 2019
I had hoped Professor Deming would present research results and practical measures, from the  CLIMB Research Initiative, to improve education. Instead we got  more graphs, showing that STEM, degrees provide a higher initial income, but then taper off. This is something we already knew in the computing profession. Over the last decade the academics in the discipline consulted with the industry, and with professional bodies, around the world. The curriculum for these STEM degrees have been changed as a result, to include "soft" skills in communication, team work, and project management. Similar changes have taken place in engineering. Last year as part of EduTech Asian 2018 I visited several Singapore universities to see how they incorporate real world skills into education, and this was a focus of TALE 2018 in Woolongong.

The ANU TechLauncher program, requires computing and engineering students to work in teams on projects for real clients. There are also courses teaching communication skills. This semester I am delivering a new blended learning module, to help then write a job application. The issue I have been working on for the last few years with my colleagues, is not if we should teach "soft skills", but how to. It turns out that soft skills are very hard to learn, and even harder to teach.

Don't Look to the USA for Education Policy

Professor Deming's work is obviously well researched, and of high quality, but is of little relevance to Australia.

Australia does have problems with higher education, particularly with a lack of integration of vocational and university systems. However, the USA has its own unique problems, and is not a good model to follow.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Effect of Educational Technology on Campus Needs

The ACT Government has commissioned the Australian National University (ANU) to estimate the number of students in Canberra's public schools in the next decade. This will take into account population growth, urban infill, and changes in preference for private versus public schools (the ANU is advertising for a demographer to work on this). However, another factor I suggest need to be taken into account is the use of technology in education. In the next ten years students will be predominately learning online. This will change the nature, and mix, of schools required, particularly for older students.

The assumption has been that students go to the same campus at fixed times, on fixed days, during a term. However, vocational education has already changed to a predominately on-line mode, and universities are in the middle of the same transition. This change will happen for older school students in the next ten years.

ANU Marie Reay
Teaching Centre
With a blended approach, students receive their learning materials online, with most assessment and routine administrative matters also handled online. Students study at home, or in a "learning center" (a library without books). Students undertake self organized group work, and may also attend some staff supervised workshop activities. However, there are few, if any, old fashioned classes with a teacher giving presentations. Last week I detailed how I am using this approach in the Australian National University's new Marie Reay Teaching Centre.

The change in teaching technique changes the design and mix of campus buildings needed. More informal learning space is needed, for individual and group work. Fewer lecture halls are needed, and almost no "classrooms". Rather than one large campus, an institution can have multiple small satellite campuses. These campuses can be shared between institutions, and be collocated with public facilities

As the ACT has one less level of government, it is much easier to combine school facilities with other educational and public functions. An example is Gungahlin College, which shares a building with the ACT Library and Canberra Institute of Technology. However, this could be taken further, with learning facilities shared more widely.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

How to Blend and Flip a Course for a Flatpack Classroom

Next Friday, 15 March I will be speaking on "Blend, Flip, and Back to the Classroom". So I thought I should collect my thoughts on what to say. Here are some note, so far:

In 2008 I ended my last lecture for the year at ANU by announcing it would be my last lecture, ever. Having become disillusioned with the lecture format, I have been teaching online for the last ten years, with an award winning course offered by three institutions, in Australia and North America. During that time I looked at alternative classroom designs in Australia and around the world.

In February 2019 the Australian National University unveiled the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, a flexible teaching building. So this year I am going back to the classroom, to apply what I have learned, with a blend of online and classroom teaching in the new building. This is intended to be a model for how academics can easily convert conventional courses to new interactive ways of learning, and allow each student to choose the blend of online and classroom learning to suit their needs.

Overview of the Learning Module

I produced slides, and a video for the revised learning module, on how to provide students with help when preparing a reflective portfolio. This is specifically for students of  ANU Tech Launcher. The module has two parts, with the same format: read the notes, do an online quiz, participate in an on-line forum with peer assessment, then a face-to-face workshop, lastly do an assignment with peer feedback.

ANU Marie Reay
Teaching Centre

New Flexible Teaching Spaces at ANU

The Marie Reay Teaching Centre opened at ANU 25 March, along with the Culture & events building opposite, both by Architects BVN. These buildings have flexible teaching spaces, but flexible in different ways. The culture and events building has a 500-seat auditorium, and a 200 seat flexible space. Both of these have tiered lecture theater style seating, but which retracts electrically, providing large flat floor spaces, with high ceilings.

In contrast, the Marie Reay Teaching Centre has only flat floor classrooms, for 30, 60, or 120 students. The flexibility here is provided by retractable walls, furniture on wheels, and electronic screens on multiple walls.

147 seat seminar room,
ANU Sciences Teaching Building

This approach of one building with lecture theaters, and one with flat floor classrooms, differs from attempts to combine the features of the two. As an example, the ANU Sciences Teaching Building has a 147 seat tiered seminar room. The room has wide tiers with fixed tables for groups of seven students. This is designed so students can watch a presentation at the front of the room, and then discuss it in a group, around their table. However, the tables take a lot of space and are fixed in place. Display screens on the tables block some of the view.

In contrast, the ANU Kambri complex has two buildings with specialized seating for specific pedagogy. The ANU Cultural Centre Building has high density tiered theater fixed seating for lectures. Opposite is the Marie Reay Teaching Centre with low density flat floor movable seating and tables for group work. This has the advantage that both format rooms can be used simultaneously. and offer a greater overall seating capacity, than would general purpose lecture/group rooms.

Wall mounted LCD screens and desks on wheels at ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre
Wall mounted LCD screens
& desks on wheels at
ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre
While the tables in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre are on wheels, one room (4.02) has five electronic screens on each side wall, spaced to allow each of five desks to have a screen (for a total of sixty students). This overcomes the problem of the desks becoming immovable, when computer screen are installed on them.

Students doing a Lego Serious Play exercise at the Australian National University in Canberra
Screen of Wheels, in use at the
ANU Barry Drive classrooms,
for ANU TechLauncher group activity
Other rooms have two projection screens for presentations. I have suggested these be supplemented with screens on wheels, which can be positioned for group work, or to display what is on the main screens. Such screens on wheels have been used at the ANU Barry Drive classrooms for an ANU TechLauncher group activity.

Top Down Course Design

My approach to course design reflects the limited flexibility of the new buildings. Flexibility is provided, but not at the expense of efficiency.

The learning is designed top down: start with the learning objectives, or externally set requirements. These set, in broad terms, the knowledge and skills the student must have on completion of the course.  Often these objectives are not provided to the educational designer, or are so vague they are of little use, so they have to be found, or invented.

For the Reflective Learning module, I first tried adapting skills definitions from the Skills Framework for the Information Age:
"Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:
  1. Determine their own learning needs and possible sources, to develop individual skills for a project and for their career development.
  2. Identify appropriate accreditation and qualification paths. 
  3. Manage the learning, and evaluate its effectiveness through through reflection."
 From the skill "Learning and Development" (ETMG), Level 6, SFIA, Version 7, 2017. As used in "Learning to Reflect" (Version 0.1), February 4, 2019.
SFIA is used by the Australian Computer Society for accreditation of Australian university degrees, and by some employers in defining jobs. It is useful to have course objectives aligned with SFIA, to make accreditation quicker, and so graduates can easily show employers they have required skills.

However, as I writing a module for use in an existing course, and that course was not aligned with SFIA, this approach did not work. In a later draft I replaced the SFIA objectives, with ones from the course definition:
"The module is aligned with two of the outcomes for the course:
3. 'learn any specific technical skills required by their topic, and apply them to project work.
4. apply and deepen skills in oral and written communication, and apply these in a project context.'
From Computing Project, Course COMP8715, ANU, 2019. URL" as cited in "Introduction", of Learning to Reflect, Version 1, February 13, 2019.

Aligning Assessment with Leaning

My usual approach is to continue the top down development, by providing one major assessment task for each learning objective. However, in this case the final assessment task was already set by the existing course the module. So I have to set other assessment around this.
The main issue the module was intended to address was the difficulty Masters of Computing students had with the large assessment task at the end of semester. The obvious solution was to break this assignment into pieces delivered in sequence. However, the same assessment task is undertaken by students in multiple courses, all of whom are in the same tutorial group with the same tutor. Having different versions of the assignment for different students would be confusing for tutors and students.

Chunky Blended Learning

Designing learning takes time. I started designing the learning module in late 2018. At that time I was not sure if the new classrooms would be completed for first semester 2019. Even the week before semester started in February 2019, there was construction equipment around the building. However, this was quickly cleared away and the building opened on time, with the classroom equipped.

However, in late 2018 I could not be certain everything would be ready. So I used a conservative approach to blended course design, using what  Fleck (2012) refers to as "chunky" blended learning:
'The term "blended learning" usually refers to a mix of conventional face-to-face elements combined with on-line elements. However, this is at too general a level for in depth analysis, while the term "blend" perhaps suggests too homogeneous a mix: in practice the mix is more "lumpy", more a chunky fruit salad than a blended smoothie. At one extreme it is becoming routine for campus-based virtual learning environments (VLEs) to be used to provide additional notes and materials supporting conventional lectures.'
From Fleck (2012).
 The design is essentially a distance education course, with face-to-face workshops added. The learning management system (LMS), in this case Moodle (part of ANU's Wattle system) is used for providing students with course notes, videos, podcasts and other materials. The LMS is also used for routine announcements to the class, and individual communication with students. Small assessment tasks (quizzes and forum posts) are provided via Moodle's quiz and forum modules. Assignments are similarly done using the workshop module of Moodle.
As it was not clear what classroom would be available, the workshop design was kept general, and drawing on the preceding online activities.
  1. Announcements: General announcements while students set up the room.
  2. General Questions: Students can ask for clarification on administrative, content and assessment questions. Groups first discuss the question and if they are not  sure of the answer it can be put to the whole room.
  3. Forum Questions: Discuss your answers to this week's forum questions.
  4. Assignment Master Class: Bring along your draft assignment, ask for feedback from your group. Be prepared to put it up on the big screen for group feedback.
  5. Wrap-up: Any concluding remarks by students and instructors.
The same  format is used for all workshops, so that staff and students can become familiar with it. This avoids limited class time being taken up with explanations of complex exercise formats.

Chunky Online Learning

As well as the blended and online learning being chunky, the online component is in large chunks. The student is provided with a package of material for two weeks. This has notes, suggested readings, a quiz, discussion questions, workshop, and assignments. While the student is expected to undertake the work in this order, exactly what they do when in the two weeks is left largely to the individual.

This contrasts with tightly scripted online learning modules which give the student a few paragraphs to read and perhaps a video, then an automatically marked question they have to answer before proceeding to the next item. Such packages require considerable design and testing if they are not to hold up and frustrate students. Also these tend to require a high speed reliable network connection to function. In contrast the chunky approach allows students to download material, and use it offline.


Fleck, J. (2012). Blended learning and learning communities: opportunities and challenges. Journal of Management Development, 31(4), 398-411. 
Worthington, T. My Last Lecture, Net Traveller (Blog), August 20, 2008. URL 
Worthington, T., "A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks," Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2012 7th International Conference on , vol., no., pp.263,266, 14-17 July 2012 URL: Preprint available at: 
Worthington, T. Learning to Teach in the New ANU Teaching Building, Higher Education Whisperer (Blog), February 11, 2019. URL 
Worthington, T. Helping Computing Students Prepare a Reflective Portfolio: Parts 1 to 7, Higher Education Whisperer (Blog), November 28, 2018 to February 13, 2019. URL

Thursday, March 7, 2019

ANU Interactive Learning Project

Greetings from the Marie Reay Teaching Centre  at the Australian National Unvieristy, where the Interactive Learning Project (iLEAP), is being launched. This will be run by Dr Kim Blackmore.

The MC for the launch, Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope, President of the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students' Association (PARSA), likened new ways of teaching at university to his school days in a Steiner school. Such a comparison with school teaching I have found does not go down well with university academics, but I think it accurate.

Brian Schmidt, the ANU VC, commented he has not yet been trained in new teaching methods for the new building, but will be. He suggested that charisma of the lecturer was no longer sufficient in the age of the Internet. The VC was being modest, as he has used techniques such as writing mystery stories, games and even a whole online course for students. He commented it was easy to be "interact" with a small class, but not with sixty students.

As well as a series of specific iLeap workshops, the university will continue its online Coffee Course series. The next starts 25 March on Facilitating Effective Discussions. This is free, open and available worldwide.
However, I suggest the university needs to also encourage staff to undertake AQF aligned studies, and become formally qualified in education. I suggest ANU reintroduce certificate, diplomas, and degrees in education. These can use modern project based and blended techniques, so the students can experience the form of education it is being advocated they use. Such courses and programs should be offered to both students and staff.
I was one of the last students of ANU's previous Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, and supported the discontinuance of that program. However, since then new models have emerged.
"In 2019 the University will implement an Interactive Learning Project (iLEAP), aimed at enhancing the quality of University learning. The goal of iLEAP is to foster student interactivity, capitalising on the rich diversity we have at ANU, within our student body, amongst lecturers and tutors, and through the use of our high-quality scholarly resources.
This series of workshops will support the iLEAP project and assist those seeking to transform their practice through the development of interactivity in the classroom. We will explore the theoretical underpinnings of interaction in University classrooms and try out research-based strategies and approaches used to foster interactivity leading to deeper learning. There will also be support for those who are keen to experiment and to document the specific outcomes of approaches in their own courses.
  • Approaches to Interactive Teaching (IL1) Exploring contrasting approaches to Interactive Learning to facilitate interactivity.
  • (IL2) Details TBA
  • (IL3) Details TBA
  • (IL4) Details TBA

Register for a workshop"

ps: The more I learn about teaching, the more similarities I see with school, vocational and university teaching. I will be speaking on "Blend, Flip, and Back to the Classroom", at the ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre, 1pm, 15 March 2019.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Renewable Energy Hackathon in Canberra

Shane Rattenbury, 
ACT Minister for Climate
Change and Sustainability
Greetings from the ZeroCO2 Renewable Energy & Sustainability Hackathon at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). I will be mentoring teams working for two days on renewable energy, waste disposal, sustainability in food and manufacturing, transport & travel, smart cities, building and education. There is a a $10,000 prize pool, plus access to Canberra Innovation Network desk space and coaching.

It is easy to get cynical: what can you do to save the planet in two days? Certainly new tech can't be completed in that time, but new ideas of what is needed, and how what is available can be better used. The hackerthon is a compressed version of the group project teaching techniques we use in ANU Techlauncher.

Before the hacking, we have Shane Rattenbury,  ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability speaking.The ACT Government is currently working on the sustainability plan for 2025. He pointed out that this gets more difficulty when households have to change their behavior. Canberra's transport emissions are increasing.

There is also a Renewable Energy and Sustainability Industry Forum taking place in conjunction with the hackerthon. Both events will end with competition results at  First Wednesday Connect, 5pm tomorrow.

All events are taking place in Building K at CIT Bruce  Campus. This was a purpose built for renewable engendering. There is a big workshop on the ground floor, full of neat color coded pipes and machinery. Above the workshop are floors of classrooms, and then space for texting solar panels on the top.

ps: CIT is where I studied for my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

Monday, March 4, 2019

What does education do?

Professor David Deming (Harvard Graduate School of Education), will speak on "What does education do?" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 18 March 2019.
"The benefits of investment in education is one of the most robust findings in social science. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated the impact of education on earnings, health, family formation, civic participation, happiness and other life outcomes. This has led researchers and policymakers to call for a renewal and expansion of public investment in higher education, for example through ‘free college’ plans proposed in many U.S. states and countries around the world.

Yet despite the demonstrated economic value of education, we have varying ideas about why education is so important. This talk will review what is known about the returns to education, and argue that the workhorse ‘human capital model’ is an incomplete description of the value of education for social mobility and human welfare. Understanding what education does is necessary for important policy questions, such as who will gain the most from investments in education, which policy levers are most effective, and how we should design educational systems for the future of work in the 21st century."

Monday, February 25, 2019

Openness and Reproducibility in Science Workshop

Greetings from the Openness and Reproducibility in Science Workshop at the Australian National University in Canberra. Rosalind Attenborough (University of Edinburgh) talked on her PHD research on "Scientific openness: a new epistemic virtue?". The talk was a lot more accessible that the title of her research would indicate. She is interviewing researchers to get tier vies on what openness is, its perceived benefits and problems. 

Rosalind briefly mentioned open source software as a progenitor for open science. So I asked her why she did not look at the history of open source software. It seems to me that many of the issues with openness, particularly the reward structures for people working in it and resourced had already been solved by the software community. Open source software is now produced by everyone from individuals, to academics, government agencies, and multi-billion dollar corporations. We routinely teach computing students about the tools and techniques of open access, including how to make a career out of it.

9.00-9.30 Arrival, coffee
Session 1: Ideas of openness
9.30-9.40 Welcome and introduction Prof Joan Leach (ANU)
9.40-10.30 Talks: mapping the landscape of open science

A/Prof Sujatha Raman (ANU)
Ros Attenborough (Edinburgh)
10.30-11.00 Coffee break
11.00-12.30 Panel discussion: Why openness? What does it mean and what is it for? Prof Rachel Ankeny (Adelaide)
Prof Ginny Barbour (QUT, AOASG)
Dr Chris Cvitanovic (ANU)
Prof Kiaran Kirk (ANU) [TBC]
Prof Cameron Neylon (Curtin) [TBC]
Prof Adrian Mackenzie (ANU) [TBC]
12.30-13.30 Lunch
Session 2: Practices of openness
13.30-13.50 Talk: "What's So Open About Plant Pathology?"

A/Prof Adam Sparks (USQ)
13.50-14.40 Intro, followed by open discussion:
"What are preprints and how do they accelerate science communication?"
Dr Sarvenaz Sarabipour (Johns Hopkins) via Zoom
14.40-15.00 Talk: “Building a local community: R-Ladies in Canberra" Dr Alice Richardson (ANU, R-Ladies Canberra)
Dr Petra Kuhnert (Data61, CSIRO, R-Ladies Canberra)
15.00-15.30 Coffee break
15.30-15.50 Talk:
"How to facilitate a global open science early career research community with local impact"
Dr Benjamin Schwessinger, eLife ambassador program, reproducibility for everyone
15.50-16.10 Talk: “For reproducibility, we need the methods behind the data.” Dr Lenny Tetylman (CEO of via Zoom
16.10-16.20 Wrap-up
16.20-17.00 Poster session and socializing
(posters on different topics related to reproducibility and rigour)
Posters organised by Dr Diep Ganguly (post-doc, ANU)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Technology Courses for Canberra Schools for Comment

The ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies has released a suite of proposed Technologies courses for comment. These are designed to fit with the Australian Curriculum Information Communication Technology k-10. I had a quick look at "Digital Technologies". What surprised me was that this is essentially the VET program slightly reworked. The VET and school systems use different approaches to education, for example VET students are not awarded grades, they are just "Competent" or "not yet competent". Students can provide evidence of prior learning and then skip some, or all, of the courses completely: is this being implemented in schools? Also it is not clear how the teaching of the topic is undertaken.

There is no "program of learning" provided. That is, what is "competent" is defined, but not how the students get those skills, or how they are assessed. There is a feedback form provided, which appears to suggest that each teacher is expected to plan their own program of learning. If so, it seems very wasteful for every teacher in the ACT to be creating their own bespoke course materials, for a standardized curriculum.

In the VET system, students use standardized, mostly online learning materials. There is no good reason for not doing this in schools, for essentially the same curriculum.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Blend, Flip, and Back to the Classroom

ANU Marie Reay
Teaching Centre
I will be speaking on "Blend, Flip, and Back to the Classroom", at ANU in Canberra, 1pm, 15 March 2019.

Each year I find a theme to talk about at conferences and events. This evolves during the year (sometimes I don't know what the theme is until later). But it looks like it will be:

Blend, Flip, and Back to the Classroom

Tom Worthington, Marie Reay  Teaching Centre, Room 2.02, ANU, 1pm to 2pm, Friday 15 March 2019.
"In 2008 Tom Worthington ended his last lecture for the year at ANU by announcing it would be his last lecture, ever (1). Having become disillusioned with the lecture format, he has been teaching online for the last ten years, with his award winning course offered by three institutions, in Australia and North America (2). During that time Tom looked at alternative classroom designs in Australia and around the world. In February 2019 the Australian National University unveiled the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, a flexible teaching building (3). So this year Tom is going back to the classroom to apply what he has learned, with a blend of online and classroom teaching in the new building (4). This is intended to be a model for how academics can easily convert conventional courses to new interactive ways of learning, and allow each student to choose the blend of online and classroom learning to suit their needs."
  1. Worthington, T. My Last Lecture, Net Traveller (Blog), August 20, 2008. URL 
  2. Worthington, T., "A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks," Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2012 7th International Conference on , vol., no., pp.263,266, 14-17 July 2012 URL: Preprint available at:
  3. Worthington, T. Learning to Teach in the New ANU Teaching Building, Higher Education Whisperer (Blog), February 11, 2019. URL
  4. Worthington, T. Helping Computing Students Prepare a Reflective Portfolio: Parts 1 to 7, Higher Education Whisperer (Blog), November 28, 2018 to February 13, 2019. URL
ps: Last year the theme ended up "Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific", presented as a short paper at the IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE 2018) in December. This started out at the beginning of the year with an invitation from Sri Lanka's computer society to speak at their national conference. But before this the Australian Computer Society had a gap in their Canberra conference, so I first spoke on this, with 24 hours notice, in September under the title  "Mobile Learning from Canberra with Microcredentials and Blockchain for the Indo-Pacific: Colombo Plan 2.0".  Also I prepared a version for the Senate Inquiry into UN Sustainable Development Goals, and did a repeat performance for the ACEN WIL Snapshots Second Chance Conference. There may have been a few guest lecture versions as well.

Friday, February 15, 2019

New Applied Science of Cyber-physical Systems

Greetings from the opening of the new Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Innovation Institute (3Ai) at the Australian National University in Canberra. Professor Genevieve Bell, aims to create a new applied science to address the challenge of cyber-physical systems.

The institute has started with sixteen masters students, who will help work out what this new discipline is. The emphasis is on "cross disciplinary" work. For 2019, there are courses, starting with "Fundamentals of a New Applied Science I" (CECS6001).

Inventing a new discipline, while teaching it, is something rarely attempted, and even more rarely succeeds. I suggest the new Institute would benefit from studying past attempts and having the students research these. 

One example is Environmental Studies at Griffith University:
"Australian Environmental Studies was so near the academic cutting edge in the early seventies that the primary challenge for the first Chairman, Professor Calvin Rose, was to determine what actually constituted the field of environmental studies." From: Preparing for the Future: A History of Griffith University, Noel Quirke, 1996, p. 11 
Environmental Studies continue today at Griffith University. A better known international example is the Bauhaus, a German art and design school of the early 20th Century. The organization suffered internal conflict and external pressure. I was invited to talk to the Bauhaus Dessau", but while this occupies the original premises, it has a limited and less radical outlook.

ps: I first came across Professor Bell, in 2009 with the Realising Our Broadband Future forum. Then in 2010, speaking at the NLA in Canberra on The Future is Messy, the next week I bumped into her at the SA Library in Adelaide cafe. She was cited in the 2011Regional Telecommunications Review. Then in 2017, it was announced she was joining us at ANU.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Shorter Learning Module for Teaching Students to a Write Job Application

This is the seventh of a series of posts , with a revised learning module, on how to provide students with help when preparing a reflective portfolio. This is specifically for students of  ANU Tech Launcher

Previously I provided three parts (1. Plan, 2. Learn, & 3. Report and reflect). However, that was far more work than a student could do in the available four hours study. So I have deleted part 1. Some of the content on learning has been moved to the next part "Learn", but the rest has been deleted. Also I have made all readings "suggested", not required. The SFIA learning objectives have been replaced with two from ANU Techlauncher (which the module is part of).

Also I have added a video with commentary to introduce the module, and audio podcasts for parts 1 & 2. The audio is text-to-speech, using Animaker's Australian English voice "Russell". I am not that good a speaker, and it would take a long of time to come up with a good narration. As it is, I can copy the notes to a text file. I then insert pauses at the ends of paragraphs, and replace abbreviations (such as "ANU", which would be pronounced as "Arrnoo"). I can simply edit the text and regenerate the audio, in a few minutes.

Table of contents

1. Learn
2. Report and reflect


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wooden solar panels?

Greetings from the Energy Change Institute Open Day at the Australian National University in Canberra. During his keynote presentation, Professor Armin Aberle, from Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), mentioned the problem of architects accepting solar panels on buildings. I suggested collaborating with architects who are exploring using new modular building techniques, such as BVN, with the ANU Kambri complex, opened yesterday. 

Professor Aberle, pointed out that high rise buildings have relatively little roof space and there is now technology for transparent panels which can be used as windows. But these panels need to look good, and need to be easy to install. The new student towers at ANU have prefabricated wooden panels hung on the outside. These are covered with ceramic "biscuits" in a factory, and conventional windows, before installation. This system could be used with solar panels and translucent panel windows. These would be hung on the building and then plugged into the grid.

Prefabricated solar building panels  could be relatively low-tech, with the same mounting systems as used for buildings simply screwed to the wooden building panels.  The solar elements would be attached and wired to a plug. The completed panels would be stacked on a truck. After lifting into place the panels would be plugged in.

ps: I am a member of the ANU Energy Change Institute, teaching ICT sustainability to masters students.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Learning to Teach in the New ANU Teaching Building

ANU Marie Reay
Teaching Centre
Greetings from the Marie Reay Teaching Centre at the ANU Kambri complex, by lead architect Ninotschka Titchkosky of BVN, and constructed by Lendlease. The buildings opened in Canberra this morning. ANU Online, the central ed-tech unit, is running a series of workshops to teach the staff to use the new building for flipped and other forms of flexible learning.

In 2008 I gave my last lecture at ANU, having decided that more flexible forms of learning are needed. Since then I have been teaching online. But with the opening of the teaching center I have the facilities to go back into the classroom.

There is no point in spending millions of dollars on a new building with furniture on wheels, movable walls and flat floors,  and then use it for old fashioned "lectures". This requires "lecturers" come to terms with a different way of teaching. Also students need to understand that getting them to do things, is the essence of teaching.

The first workshop right now is by Dr Graeme Salter. We are sitting in one of the smaller rooms and Graeme is using some of the techniques he advocates, such as online polls to keep student attention, as part of the workshops. This is fun, with one participant saying they get students to imagine they are a tomato.

I have booked a room in the building to do flipped teaching in a few weeks time in a module on How to Write Job Application.

My first impressions of the building are good. This is a six story hi-tech wooden  building. The wooden beams are visible as part of the aesthetics of the building, along with wooden ceilings. There is an open staircase, with adjacent informal space for students, then classrooms around the outside. The classrooms have glass walls to the central areas, flat floors and retracting room dividers. The flip top tables are on wheels. This is a style of room previously best implemented at the University of Canberra Inspire Center

What I liked was that all the rooms in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre were rectangular, without any gimmicks. Many institutions install round, or oval shaped rooms, in an attempt to improve interaction, but these waste space and make it difficult to place desks and screens. Also institutions tend to want a tech-gimmick, just as a 3D room, or a giant ultra-high definition screen wall. These tend to be break, or are decommissioned after a few months, when the novelty wears off. 

The Marie Reay Teaching Centre is clearly aimed at flipped group learning. You could give a presentation, but there are no lecterns, to make it just that little bit more difficult to do so.

The wooden building doesn't look high tech, but the wifi, projectors, and sound reinforcement are all there and working. One thing to keep in mind is that all of the online resources of the institution are available in the classroom. So rather than finding some new online tools, those already available in the learning management system for students to use remotely, can be used the classroom.

The only glitch so far is the display screen in the foyer has the image inverted. For a new building that is very good.

The classrooms have glass walls which gives a more open feel. But it may be a little distracting for the class when there are large number of people moving outside. The glass might need some more frosting, so the sense of openness is not lost, but there it is not like being in a fishbowl.

The classrooms could do with some small electronic screens on side and back walls, display what is on the main screens. Also the whiteboard on walls need some additional lighting. But these are minor matters.

I did question the decision to have the teaching rooms around the outside, and the informal spaces in the middle, without a direct view. But then I noticed the classrooms had been strategically placed, so the open areas get magnificent views across Canberra.

Walking past the new buildings I had a feeling of had been there before, although it just opened. Then I recalled walking the avenues at University of British Columbia,  Vancouver Campus, which I spent a week at l2015.

ANU has taken the approach with Kambri of retaining separate tiered lecture theatres and flat floor group work rooms. I spent several years trying to work out a design for a classroom combining the features of a lecture theatre and group work room. Early versions were limited by the need to accommodate power and data cables and, desktop computers. The advent of WiFi and portable devices removed those restrictions. Eventually I decided it was just not possible to reconcile the conflicting requirements, and better to have separate optimized rooms.

In 2015 I attended conferences in Hong Kong and Cambridge. Both of these were held in rooms with retractable tiered seating. A similar setup has now been installed in Kambri. This allows for a large lecture, or by retracting the seating, a large flat floor event.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Athabasca Review Should Be Open Online Everywhere

Tom Worthington in academic regalia with his Master of Education in Distance Education, awarded by Athabasca University (Canada), 18 January 2017
As an alumnus of Athabasca University (AU), I recently received an invitation to participate in a "Master of Education Program Review Process". Unfortunately to do this I either have to travel to Edmonton (13,000 km, 20 hours flying time, at a cost of AU$1,800), or attend a teleconference at 4:15 am Canberra time. Neither of these is convenient.

So I replied, pointing out that when a distance education student at AU, we were routinely offered two times for live online activities. One time was for North America, and the other for the rest of the world. Also there were downloadable documents, recordings, and asynchronous forums provided, for those who missed the live sessions.

The reply I got from the Office of Institutional Studies at Athabasca University was "Unfortunately we don't have an alternate timeslot available for this review".

AU prides itself on being "Open. Online. Everywhere.". I suggest this review process also needs to be.

AU runs an excellent online MEd program. AU's Office of Institutional Studies is placing the reputation of that program, and the whole university, at risk, by not appearing to understand the fundamentals of running an online university.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Future of Scholarly Publishing

The EU has released "Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication", by a panel of experts, including from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Elsevier, and Springer Nature. Not surprisingly, Springer Nature and Elsevier did not agree to the rest of the experts' recommendation to move to open access publishing as soon as possible.

I don't agree with one of the panel's unanimous recommendations: not to use journal-based metrics for hiring, promotion and tenure, and funding decisions. In my view, metrics are essential, but the right metrics.

Several recommendations urge balanced and diverse representation (gender, geography and career stage). Using blind reviews, not just for papers, would go some way to achieving this.

The expert group proposes a set of principles for scholarly communication:
"... accessibility, maximum usability, and accommodating an expanding range of scholarly contributions (data, software, new documentary forms, etc.).  ... a distributed infrastructure based on open standards to ensure access and interoperability. ... equity, diversity and inclusivity, and to the need for community building. ... quality and the integrity of scholarly contributions ... flexibility and innovations while also retaining its focus on cost effectiveness."
From "Future of Scholarly Publishing andScholarly Communication" (EU, P. 6, 2019).

Recommendations to researchers and research communities:

  1. "When participating in research assessment, for example in hiring, promotion and tenure, and funding decisions, focus on the merits and impact of a researcher's work and refrain from the use of metrics - particularly journal-based metrics - as a proxy. In particular, they should incorporate the recommendations from DORA and the Leiden Manifesto into the assessment process.
  2. Take responsibility for ensuring that all research contributions are made openly available, discoverable, and reusable according to agreed community standards (including the FAIR principles).
  3. Increase awareness of, and sense of responsibility for, implications of choices and actions in roles as authors, reviewers and members of decision-making groups.
  4. Strive for a balanced and diverse representation (in terms of gender, geography and career stage) when seeking collaborations, organizing conferences, convening committees, and assigning editors and peer-reviewers, and building communities such as learned societies.
  5. Work towards increased recognition and appreciation of peer-review work as core research tasks. To this end, support greater transparency, including the publishing of signed reports. Support better training and inclusion, and focus on quality of the research in peer review.
  6. In the case of communities of researchers, such as learned societies, develop policies and practices that support modes of scholarly communication in line with the vision outlined above. Along with universities, learned societies and other research communities need to alert and train their researchers to the importance and the responsibilities of communicating knowledge, either formally, through publishing, or through other means."

Universities and research institutions should:

  1. "Develop policies and practices to ensure that all research contributions are made openly available, discoverable, and reusable according to agreed community standards (including the FAIR principles).
  2. Promote and implement the recommendations of DORA and the Leiden manifesto to ensure that research assessment takes into account a wide range of scholarly contributions including research articles, preprints, datasets, software, patents and materials (e.g. in hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions).
  3. In deciding which infrastructures to use, support, and contribute to, choose platforms using free or open source software, offering open data via an open license, and leveraging open standards where possible. Acting in this fashion will also reinforce researcher-led initiatives that aim to facilitate scholarly communication and publishing.
  4. Strive for a balanced and diverse representation including, but not limited to, gender, geography and career stage) when hiring, seeking collaborations, when organizing conferences, when convening committees, and when assigning editors and peer-reviewers, and building communities such as learned societies.
  5. In negotiations with service-providers refuse non-disclosure clauses and include clauses which enable cost and price control, and compliance monitoring. Strive to facilitate collective action with other institutions by e.g. sharing cost and price data through joint initiatives (e.g. OpenAPC)."

Research funders and policy-makers should:

  1. "Develop policies - along with appropriate funding mechanisms - to ensure all research contributions arising from their funding are available to everyone, everywhere, without any barriers to access or restrictions on reuse.
  2. When evaluating researchers, ensure that a wide range of contributions (scholarly publications, but also data, software, materials etc) and activities (mentoring, teaching, reviewing etc) are considered, and that processes and criteria of evaluation are both appropriate to the funder’s research programme, and transparent.
  3. Develop funding mechanisms to support the development of open, interconnected and distributed scholarly publication infrastructures, and for their maintenance over the long term.
  4. Consider how funding policies affect diversity and inclusivity of research on a global scale. In particular, funders should work to ensure that review boards, committees, panels, etc., are diverse - in terms of gender, geography, and career stage.
  5. Work with the other actors in the scholarly communications ecosystem to ensure that the total costs of enabling research to be openly available to everyone, everywhere, without barrier or restriction, be also open and transparent."

Publishers and other service providers:

  1. "Develop and publicly announce transition plans to move as soon as possible to comprehensive open access (Springer Nature and Elsevier have differing views with respect to this recommendation, a result of extensive disscusions in the expert group.)
  2. Develop, use, and support interoperable tools (including open source software wherever possible) and services not only to facilitate access and reuse of scholarly outputs, but also to facilitate innovative interventions of new entrants.
  3. Strive for balanced diversity (including, but not limited to, gender, geography and career stage) among authors, reviewers, and editors who work with publications.
  4. Foster transparency and accountability in peer review, for example by publishing peer review reports and author responses alongside the published articles
  5. Make all publishing charges public (including special pricing and waivers), and provide full descriptions of services provided, in order to enable the development of a transparent and cost-effective marketplace designed to support the open communication and reuse of all scholarly contributions.
  6. Experiment with new approaches to the evaluation and communication of research outputs, and share the outcomes so that a body of evidence can help to optimise future systems."
Practitioners, educators, and other societal groups:
  1. "Organize and advocate for free access to, and right to reuse of, publicly funded research results.
  2. Reach out to funders, research institutions, and policy makers in order to develop new communication channels, new forms of co-creation and co-planning of research, and new forms of funding in response to needs, concerns and issues emanating from the population at large.
  3. Look for opportunities to engage with research topics / results that are of interest to societal groups and their communities.
  4. Bring forward research topics/questions that are mis- or underrepresented (e.g. by contacting relevant researchers, attracting the attention of other actors in the science system, or mobilising action in organised interest groups)."

Monday, February 4, 2019

Learning Module for Teaching Students to a Write Job Application

This is the sixth 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 using the STAR approach for responding to selection criteria (Cockburn, Carver, Shirley, & Davies, p. 71, 2007). Since then I have prepared the web page cor the module, quiz and forum questions, assignment rubrics and notes. Appended are the table of contents and introduction, from the notes.

One of the issues arising was how much the student would have to read, and do, in preparation for the actual assignment. The idea is that the exercises are integrated to preparing the assignments. The full notes for "Learning to Reflect" (Version 0.1) are available. Here is the introduction:

Table of contents



This module will enable students to develop capabilities expected of working professionals to identify their development needs, how they will acquire these and to reflect on what they have learned.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:
  1. Determine their own learning needs and possible sources, to develop individual skills for a project and for their career development.
  2. Identify appropriate accreditation and qualification paths. 
  3. Manage the learning, and evaluate its effectiveness through 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, with ordering of multiple choice answers randomized.

For each forum students will be asked to answer two or three set questions with a few sentences (the questions are listed in the notes at the end of each part). Students are then asked to reply to the post by another student. Students will then give ratings for the answer (0, 1, or 2). The Instructor 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, for the first two assignments, students will rate three others using the rubric, and provide feedback. The instructor will review the student feedback, making any changes needed. The examiner will then allocate 90% of the grade for the student's work and 10% for their feedback. For the last assignment students are not required to rate or provide feedback.

Overall mark calculation

Mark = best two quizzes + best two forums + best two assignments.

Course specific policies 

Late submission of assessment is not accepted.


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 ANU Academic Skills:  Reflective writing, reflective essays, learning journals. From ANU Careers:, cover lettersaddressing selection criteria, resumes, and ANU Careers Guide (2018).
An expanded STAR-L approach is used: Situation, Task, Action, Result, and lessons Learnt. (Cockburn, Carver, Shirley, and Davies (p. 71, 2007). ANU also provides samples of cover letters, selection criteria, and resumes for students.

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 for their 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

The ANU 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.


ANU Careers Guide: A practical guide to planning your career and maximising your employability, Version 7, ANU Careers (2018). URL

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


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