Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Education Minister Wants Vocational Educaiton and Universities Seamless

Dan Tehan, Minister for Education, is reported to want seamless vocational education and training (VET) and university education (Leaders on board for policy push, Tim Dodd, The Australian, 18 September 2019). Also the minister was reported to want school students to undertake more VET programs. I suggested better alignment of this in my submission to the Senate last year.

However, VET and university can't be seamless, as they have different roles, and so provide different forms of education. Also while VET programs are nationally standardized, university courses and degrees are not. University offerings would need to be standardized between institutions, before they could be made seamless with VET. Universities offer courses and programs to meet different needs, making national standardization impractical, and not useful.

However, there could be some limited alignment within specific vocational discipline areas, such as computing. Australian universities and VET providers broadly follow international  skills requirements for computing. Many universities are accredited by the Australian computer society. However, the computing body of knowledge is broad and can be offered in many different ways. It may be possible for a VET student who has completed an AQF qualification to get credit for a university degree, but detailed competencies and courses are not going to translate one for one.

Universities could move away from course structures to make their offerings more flexible. This would also make them more compatible with VET, by adopting some VET techniques. In particular universities could provide students with a table of skills and knowledge on enrollment. The student would be required to populate the table with evidence of having achieved everything required, to graduate. The student could enroll in conventional courses, and undertake research projects, presenting their assessment results as evidence. Alternatively the student could provide evidence of prior study, or work experience. 

This approach is routinely used in VET, but is challenging for university academics, as they are not trained in how to assess in this way. Also university assessment is primarily designed to select students for advanced research work, with very finely graduated marking systems. VET mostly assesses students as "Competent" or "Not yet competent", with anything beyond competent being a waste of effort.


Worthington, Tom. (2018, March). Educating the Future Workforce, Submission 145, Inquiry into the impact of technological and other change on the future of work and workers in Australia, Senate Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers, Australian Parliament. URL

Friday, September 6, 2019

Supply of technology workers in Australia

The Australian Computer Society, released the ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2019 report yesterday. This is an overview of the digital economy, workforce and current policy environment, by Deloitte Access Economics. Of particular interest to educators is the section on Supply of technology workers in Australia (p. 10). The report concludes "The highest policy priority for the digital economy is skills development." and suggests "... we need more people to consider moving from other occupations to take one of the additional 100,000 jobs that will be created in technology by 2024...". This is good news for those of us involved in IT education.

One way to retrain is by applying vocational and online educational techniques, flipped, blended, and peer assessed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Teaching and Learning at Australia's Newest University College

Greetings from the the Australian Nation University in Canberra, where the  CASS Teaching and Learning Day, just started. The theme is student engagement, with  interactive learning strategies and technologies. The event is being held on the "super-floor" at the top of the Marie Reay Teaching Centre. I will be using this for large format workshops later in the semester.

The keynote is by Professor Maria Northcote, Director of Higher Research Degrees at Avondale College of Higher Education. Beforehand, Maria mentioned she reads this blog, so I thought I should blog. Professor Northcote started by saying she was a constructivist in educational terms. Yesterday TEQSA approved Avondale to be an Australian University College (one step down from being a university).

Professor Northcote raised the topic of student involvement in educational design. She proposed to go beyond simply asking for feedback after the course, to negotiate what should be in it, beforehand. Also Professor Northcote discussed having advanced students teaching.

One research project Professor Northcote  described was "But when do I get my mark?".  With this the students were given qualitative feedback on their assignments, but then there was a delay before they got the mark. The idea was to get them to focus on the feedback, but in line with the title of the work, this was frustrating for the students. What surprised me was that there was no step built into the process to at least justify the delay. An obvious step would be to allow the students to revise their work, based on the feedback, before they get their mark. That would give them a positive reason for the delay.

Professor Northcote  recommended the book "Visible Learning for Teachers"  by John Hattie (2012).

Coming up are:

11.00am – 1pm: Designing Interactive Learning Space – MARKETPLACE (Morning Tea through Lunch)

5 stations:
Station 1Flexible Studio Recording and Green Screen: Tips & Practices
Station 2How to Design Interactive Learning Contents using H5P
Station 3Virtual Reality in Education
Station 4Examples of good Wattle pages
Station 5Examples of Successful Innovation in Teaching at the College of Arts and Social Sciences
1pm – 3pm: Principles and Examples of Student Engagement
3 speakers:
  • Mr Eamonn McNamara, (School of History) – 2019 Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Tutoring or Demonstrating
  • Dr Kate Flaherty, (School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics) – 2019 Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Teaching Excellence
  • Dr Kim Cunio, (School of Music) – Advocate of emerging cultures, indigenous Australians and women

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Dark Cockpit Approach to Online Learning

There is a risk with online leaning that the student will become overwhelmed with information and so miss critical messages from their instructor. Aircraft pilots experience a similar problem, overloaded with information from the panels of instruments around them. The Dark Cockpit philosophy was developed to address this:
“... dark cockpit philosophy which minimizes distracting annunciation for pilots, i.e. only abnormal or transition states are visible. So, the normal parameters of the engine
during flight do not light up any interface lights.”  (Jambon, Girard & Aït-Ameur, p.5, 2001).
Applying the Dark Cockpit philosophy to e-learning, the student should only get a message or other indicator, when there is something they need to do, or to confirm something they did (such as submit an assessment task).

In the notes for instructors in my Learning to Reflect module, I suggest the Instructor seeds the online discussion forums with questions and then leave the students to discuss it. Too many times I see instructors stifling student discussion by continually interrupting, correcting students. It seems at times this is due to insecurity: the instructor wants to show they know more that the student. Also it may be due to a lack of training in how to teach: the only way the tutor know to teach is by telling the student.

In contrast, I suggest the instructor issue “nudges” occasionally to the groups, or individual students, where there appears to be a problem.

Does anyone else do this?


Jambon, F., Girard, P., & Aït-Ameur, Y. (2001, May). Interactive System Safety and Usability enforced with the development process. In IFIP International Conference on Engineering for Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 39-55). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. URL