Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Tutor Training

Principles of Tutoring & Demonstrating" (ANU, 2014):
"Principles of Tutoring and Demonstrating is a decamod in the Academic Professional Development (APD) program. It is a program specifically designed for research students to give a broad introduction to university teaching in the context of tutoring and demonstrating. It runs weekly during semester to provide ongoing support just when tutors and demonstrators may need it. "
This was made up of ten modules:

  • Preparing for the first class
  • Overview of rights and responsibilities
  • Reflective practice
  • The Professional Standards Framework and the EFS
2. Setting the Scene: Student Learning

  • Student learning styles and how this affects the way we teach
  • The role of the teacher - Theories of teaching
3.  Planning a Tutorial
  • Theories of student learning and lesson planning
  • Structuring a teaching session
4.  Teaching Groups & individuals
  • Small group and cooperative learning strategies
  • Strategies for engaging with student one-on-one
 5. Dynamics & Diversity
  • Dealing with diverse groups of students.
  • Responding to challenging situations and "difficult" students
  • Notions of group life cycle
  • Student needs and support services
 6. Introduction to Wattle* for Tutors
  • Tricks and tips for using Wattle to enhance your teaching
 7.  Peer Observation
  • Observation of another tutor with reflection online 
 8. Assessment & Marking

 9. Evaluation & Reflective Practice

  • Evaluation practices
  • Creating a teaching portfolio
  • Action learning - evaluation to inform practice
  • Personal reflection
10.  Troubleshooting (The Tutoring Toolkit)
  • Discussion of teaching scenarios from past semester
  • Key skills in a tutor's teaching toolkit
ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS ) offered a Teaching and quality Program (TQP), based on the above.

 * Wattle is ANU's Learning Management System, made up of Moodle and other tools.

Reimagining engineering and computer science tutor training for the 21st Century

I have been asked to help teach engineering and computer science tutors how to tutor. But first, what is the role of the graduates of these disciplines in the 21st century? The College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) at the Australian National University (ANU) has set out to reimagine engineering and computing for the mid 21st century.

The re-thinking of ANU engine ring and computing includes how to teach them, with Reimagine Co Design Culture Lab this week in Canberra. This includes consecrations of "Transformational education experiences that give a distinctive edge in technological problem formulation, with experience curated from the breadth of engineering, computing, science, social science and humanities". Some of the key aspects of this are creativity, collaboration, and human needs.

For STEM students trained and selected for their skills in narrow technician specializations,  creativity, collaboration and meeting human needs, are a challenge. For teachers who have also been trained in a narrow technical area, how to teach these broader skills, and assess them is also challenge.

The answer I suggest is authentic education and assessment. That is the teaching should be as much like the real workplace as possible. Students are then given a real task and assessed on how well they do it. Hardly anyone spends their days working by sitting silently in a big hall listing to some giving a presentation, so that should not be how they learn. Hardly anyone works by answering written questions on paper, alone, with no reference materials, so that is not how they should be assessed.

University teachers can be trapped in a vicious circle, where they teach using the same poor techniques used to teach them. The problem is that university academics receive little teacher training, and then pass or poor practices to their students. Even when offered more extensive teacher education, academics are busy teaching, or researching. Tutor training, provides an opportunity to break this cycle, by showing the pre-career academic, alternative ways to teach, before they become too busy to lean.

Athabasca University launches online workplace skills courses

Brian Stewart Portrait

Brian Stewart
Deputy CIO,
University of Alberta
Leading the
Crafting a
Digital Strategy

Athabasca University (Canada) has launched "PowerED"™, a set of online self paced short courses for workplace skills. Brian Stewart, Deputy CIO of the University of Alberta, is leading the Crafting a Digital Strategy course (and former student in my ICT Sustainability course). The announcement is well timed, with reports such as Deloitte Access Economic's "Premium Skills" pointing out the value of soft and digital skills. However, like other "microlearning modules", offered by universities, it is not clear how this education fits with current offerings: Does this count towards a degree? Is it recognized by industry?

Deloitte Access Economic's Premium Skills
The Digital Transformation Leadership Certificate in Cloud (shortening the name to save time), consists of five courses: Decoding Disruptive Technologies, Crafting a Digital Strategy, AWS Cloud Foundations, Leading Transformational Change, and Implementing a Digital Future. Each of these requires a minimum of 16 hours work, over two weeks. So the certificate would require 80 hours work, over 10 weeks. That is a little shorter than an Australian university semester-long course. This is much larger than the Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) recognized micro-credentials which start at about 40 hours study. But it is shorter than proposed in the European MOOC Consortium (EMC)  a Common Microcredential Framework (CMF), which envisages 100 to 150 hours study.

The first five of certificates offered by AU are:
  1. Leader Development Program Certificate;  
  2. Essential Skills for Leaders Certificate;  
  3. Digital Transformation Leadership in Cloud Certificate;  
  4. Digital Transformation Leadership in Machine Learning Certificate; and  
  5. Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ Training 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

How should I teach university tutors?

I have been asked to help teach engineering and computer science tutors how to tutor. Suggestions, and contributions of syllabus, references, videos, exercises and the like would be most welcome. About half the tutors have some previous experience, half are new. Some are graduate students, some are from industry. We have until February next year to come up with a program, and then two days to teach them. There will be experienced tutor trainers as part of the team, but I am new to this (I have been a tutor and a teacher and trained to teach students, but not train the trainer).

Monday, November 25, 2019

Study and work to get a job quicker

Study to work, ABC Radio,
presented by Richard Aedy
Study to work: 2.6 years to get a job after uni (ABC Radio, 21 November 2019 5:30PM),  looked at how long it took graduates to get jobs. The program illustrated the the point that those studying vocationally related programs, with work integrated learning, got jobs quicker. The most satisfied graduate interviewed, had studied at TAFE, not a university. This graduate had a smooth transition from study to work, being employed where they had been previously getting work experience. The question for universities, and government policy makers, is how to encourage students to undertake vocational programs for in-demand jobs, and what happens to non-vocational programs?

The students I teach are likely to get jobs quickly, as computer professionals are in high demand, especially those who have experience working in teams for a real client. Just to polish their skills, the student's last task before they graduate is to write a job application, where they have to explain how what they learned is useful.

But what do we do for the students enrolled in programs which do not align to a specific career? What about degrees where the careers are in decline, due to technological change? How do we convince students to take up TAFE programs which have low academic prestige, but lead to high paying, in demand employment?

One way to address these issues would be at school. If a student is studying at TAFE while at school, they will be more likely to take up TAFE after finishing school. If students at school are given some more useful career advice, they are less likely to make poor post-secondary career choices.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Blockchain Skills

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) is one of the bodies supporting work on blockchain in Australia. ACS uses the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). Skills for Blockchain, Distributed Ledger Technology, and Smart Contracts, have been requested for the next version of SFIA (Version 8). But this is up to the SFIA Foundation based in the UK. The Foundation is reasonably responsive: I asked for ICT Sustainability skills to be added and got them. 

In terms of vocational skills standards for blockchain, Australia already has an Advanced Diploma of Applied Blockchain (10747NAT).  There are nine blockchain specific course modules for this:

BLKPER010 - Analyse performance of a business model deployed on a blockchainAnalyse performance of a business model deployed on a blockchain Current
BLKSMC004 - Create trust and activate a blockchain with smart contractsCreate trust and activate a blockchain with smart contracts Current
BLKDBM002 - Develop a blockchain business modelDevelop a blockchain business model Current
BLKERE008 - Develop a blockchain governance model for stewardshipDevelop a blockchain governance model for stewardship Current
BLKFRS003 - Develop a blockchain network functional requirements specificationDevelop a blockchain network functional requirements specification Current
BLKOBN005 - Develop a framework for operating a blockchain networkDevelop a framework for operating a blockchain network Current
BLKEBF001 - Establish a blockchain framework for decentralised peer to peer consensus and innovationEstablish a blockchain framework for decentralised peer to peer consensus and innovation Current
BLKRFB009 - Lead recruitment strategy for blockchain projectsLead recruitment strategy for blockchain projects Current
BLKTBO007 - Prepare the organisation for transitioning operations to a blockchain networkPrepare the organisation for transitioning operations to a blockchain network Current

Monday, November 18, 2019

Analytics for Lifelong Learning

Simon Buckingham Shum,
UTS Connected Intelligence Centre
Greetings from the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Simon Buckingham Shum from the UTS Connected Intelligence Centre, is presenting a seminar on "Analytics for Lifelong Learning Competencies: Aligning Pedagogy, Human-Centred Design & University Strategy". He presented a hierarchy starting with the student focus, then learning design, ending with the organizational view. I suggest a few more layers are needed, for the industry/discipline view, national view, and international. University educators need to think about what is good not just for the student and the institution, but more widely outside.

Professor Buckingham Shum showed examples of tools to assist nurses in a clinical setting, students learning reflective writing and more traditional academic writing. However, I was a little skeptical as the examples all seemed to be for very narrowly focused STEM discipline learning. If you are teaching students how to do a specific task in a well-defined job, in a standardized regulated discipline, such as medicine, engineering or computing, then using analytics is relatively easy.  However, there was then an example of helping law students with writing an argument, undertaken with Dr Philippa Ryan, who is now at ANU.  But Dr Ryan is not your average non-STEM academic (she was on the ACS Blockchain Committee with me). Can university academics who are experts in research aspects of their discipline, and are not experts in computing, analytics, or education, cope with this?

As Professor Buckingham Shum pointed out, it would not be very useful to bolt a sophisticated analytics system onto old fashioned education.   system. Also, few of those involved in university education will have all the skills in the discipline, analytics, and education. An exception is some in the computing discipline, where analytics is part of their discipline, and they have training in education. His suggested solution is something like the UTS Connected Intelligence Centre.

One practical outcome could be that the UTS AcaWriter software tool for academic and reflective writing could be further developed by ANU's TechLauncher computing project students, for teaching reflection.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Processing Telemetry from the Hawkie Armoured Vehicle

The Canberra Python User Group is hosting a talk on  Telemetry Data in an Armoured Personnel Carrier Using Python, at the Australian National University,
The Hawkie is a Armoured Personnel Carrier designed and built by Thales for the Australian Army. Neil was fortunate enough to be asked by the Australian Army to process and analyse both the CAM service and Telemetry Data produced by the vehicle."
ps: The Hawkei is named after a deadly snake, which was named after  ex-PM, Bob Hawke.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Selecting Survey Instruments For Engineering Education Evaluation

Dr Johannes Strobel
UWA Institute of Advanced Studies
Greetings from the cricket pavilion at the University of Western Australia, where I am taking part in a masterclass in Selecting Survey Instruments, by Dr Johannes Strobel, from the University of Missouri. Well I always thought it was the cricket pavilion, but turns out to be the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies. I am in Perth to speak at an international meeting of lawyers on cyber security, but I dropped in to discuss classroom design at Murdoch University yesterday, and am learning about the design of research specifically for STEM education at UWA today.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Do You Have a Digital Twin?

Professor Deborah Bunker,
Group Leader
Greetings from the Spatial Futures Forum  on Intelligent Cities and Transport hosted by Communications and Technology for Society Research Group* at University of Sydney. If nothing else this has been useful to find out what a "Digital Twin" is. I kept reading this term in LinkedIn discussions. It turns out this is a new term for digital models of real world objects. In this case it is referring to models of cities, including mapping data, roads, and buildings. The models can be used for planning, and operations.

* They used to be the Interoperability for Extreme Events Research Group (IEERG)., but pivoted.  

9:30am Welcome (and Housekeeping) – Professor Deborah Bunker (University of Sydney) Intelligent Cities and Transport: What Are the Issues?
9:45am Mr Bruce Thompson - Executive Director, NSW Spatial Services Division
KEYNOTE: Spatial Digital Twin: The New Digital Workbench for Intelligent Cities and Transport
10:30am Morning Tea
11:00am Professor Sisi Zlatanova - Built Environment (UNSW)
Digital Twin: Challenges and Opportunities.
11:40am Professor Christopher Pettit - City Futures Research Centre (City Analytics Lab UNSW) Value Australia - Sharpening Our Land and Property Decisions with Artificial Intelligence
12:20pm Professor Linlin Ge & Mr Peter Mumford - Geoscience and Earth Observing Systems Group (UNSW) New Directions in Smart Parking
1:00pm Lunch
2:00pm Professor Michiel Bliemer - Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling ITLS (University of Sydney) Future Transport: Technology-led or Technology-fed?
2:40pm Mr Yale Wong – Research Associate in Integrated Mobility Services and Contractual Structures, ITLS (University of Sydney) Mobility as a Service (MaaS): Rationale, Governance, Trials
3:20pm Afternoon Tea
3:40pm Mr Shane Conserdyne & Mr Nathaniel Bavinton – City of Newcastle
Recent developments in Newcastle’s Digital Twin and Smart City Initiatives
4:20pm Panel & Wrap Up Chair - Adjunct Associate Professor Tony Sleigh (University of Sydney)
5pm Networking

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Putting on my Tweed Coat to Save the World

Sam Jaffe as Professor Jacob Barnhardt
The Day the Earth Stood Still

As a child I watched black and white disaster movies. In these a scientist, in a tweed jacket, would discover an impending catastrophe (asteroids, sunspots, or giant radioactive creatures). He (it was always a male) would face a skeptical response, but eventually convince world leaders to act, just in time. With disaster averted, the last scene would be a homily about the hubris of mankind.

That scenario is now playing out, for real. Ripple, Wolf, Newsome, Barnard, and Moomaw (2019) have issued a warning to humanity of a "catastrophic threat" from global warming, on behalf of eleven thousand scientists. So I put on my tweed coat, before going to my university office, to help save the world, by teaching Green Computing (Worthington, 2012, July).


Ripple, W. J., Wolf, C., & Newsome, T. M. (2019). World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. BioScience,

Worthington, T. (2012, July). A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks. In 2012 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE) (pp. 263-266). IEEE.

Monday, November 4, 2019

UK Government ICT Sustainability Needs Improvement Says Report

UK ICT Sustainability
Report Summary Infographic
UK ICT Sustainability
Report Summary Infographic
The UK Sustainable Technology Annual Report 2018-19, notes improvements in government energy efficiency due to the use of cloud computing, and decommissioning old equipment. Also there is less old equipment going to landfill. However, the report questions the value of focusing on servers at the Mini stray of Defence as this is only 12% of their ICT energy use, versus 40% from end user devices and 48% from
network equipment.

Perhaps the UK MOD needs to sign up for my ICT Sustainability course. ;-)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Open Access, Funding and International Student Numbers at Australian Universities

Dr Danny Kingsley,
Scholarly Communication Consultant
Kingsley and Vandegrift (2019) suggest that open access scholarly publishing has has been held back in Australia, in part because of universities reliance on revenue from international students.

Micah Vandegrift,
Open Knowledge Librarian
at NC State University Libraries.
Kingsley and Vandegrift  point out that, unlike their UK equivalents, Australian universities are reliant on government funding for research. The two main government funding bodies, the National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC), have been less than enthusiastic on open access. These bodies have polices which encourage open access, but does not require it. Even that relatively weak policy took a lot of prodding.

But what does any of this have to do with international students?
Kingsley and Vandegrift  point out that Australia has a much higher proportion of international students than other countries. The revenue from these enrollments is much greater than that from government for  research. The authors then make the link between international enrollments and university rankings: students enroll at universities which rank well. The quality of research, as measured by publications, makes up a significant part of the international rankings of universities. Australian academics are therefore under pressure to publish often, and in high ranking journals, which tend to not be open access ones.

Kingsley and Vandegrift conclude by asking "Is it possible to uncouple decisions about research practice from financial or political/ideological considerations?". I suggest it is not, but it is possible to adjust the financial incentives to give more socially desirable outcomes.

International university rankings are heavily weighted towards the quality of research, as measured by publishing in commercial for-profit journals. Students are attracted to universities with high research rankings, even though this has nothing to do with the quality of the teaching. One way to fix this problem is to create ranking systems which value education, and open access, more highly. One example is the Webometrics Ranking of Wold Universities, which includes "openness". This produces a slightly different ranking of Australian universities. Also Webometrics includes many small vocational institutions, excluded from other ranking schemes. Many of these vocational institutions provide quality education.

From a national policy point of view, how many international students should Australia have? International students make up about 23% of the total for Australian universities (Ferguson & Sherrell, 2019). There have been concerns in Australia that the number of international students lowers the quality of education. Perhaps Australia should aim for a similar figure to Canada, at 14% (Usher, p. 21, 2019). Canada may have hit the sweet-spot for international students. Usher suggests the international students in Canada "burnish" (increase) institutions perceived quality, rather than diminish it (Usher, p. 21, 2019).


Ferguson, H., and Sherrell, H., (2019). Overseas students in Australian higher education: a quick guide, Parlimentary Library, Parliment of Australia, URL

Kingsley, D. & Vandegrift, M. (2019). Chasing cash cows in a swamp? Perspectives on Plan S from Australia and the USA, in Unlocking Research, Office of Scholarly Communication, University of Cambridge. URL

Usher, A., (2019). The State of Postsecondary Education in Canada,
2019. Toronto: Higher Education Strategy Associates. URL