Tuesday, August 25, 2020

COVID-19 a White Swan Event for Universities, Webinar, 8am Wednesday 2 September

I will talk on "Higher education after COVID-19: Not business as usual" Wednesday 2 September, 8-9 am, AEST (Canberra Time) as part of the Microlearning Series curated by Manisha Khetarpal at Maskwacis Cultural College in Canada. This is the last of six weekly sessions. Free, register now.

Higher Education After COVID-19

  1. Responding to the Coronavirus Emergency with e-Learning
  2. Open Content for e-Learning in Response to the Coronavirus
  3. Online Assessment with e-Portfolios in Response to the Coronavirus
  4. Tools to engage students online.
  5. Mentoring student group work online.
  6. Higher education after COVID-19: Not business as usual
These are online, open to all and free. Suggestions are welcome.

Higher education after COVID-19: Not business as usual

In August 2008 I told my computer science students at the Australian National University that this was my last lecture. Not just the last for the semester, but the last I was ever intending to give. Through a sequence of coincidences I then spent five years teaching online and another seven learning how to integrate a classroom back into my teaching. After a year teaching in mixed mode in a new purpose built teaching building, COVID-19 forced me back to online only teaching. The question then is what I will do, when the COVID-19 pandemic is over and classroom teaching is again possible. The future I see for higher education is Online Plus: there will still be campuses and classrooms, but with the core of the curriculum online, with students out learning while working in the real world. COVID-19 was a White Swan Event for Australian universities: something they were warned about, knew was coming, were told how to prepare for and yet failed to act. Can existing universities make the changes they know are now needed, or will new forms of higher education replace them?

See: Online Plus is the Post-COVID19 Future of Higher Education

Questions for participants:
  1.  How can we replicate water cooler conversations for students and academics online? In "The surprising ways little social interactions affect your health" (New Scientist, 12 August 2020), David Robson points to research and personal experience that formal online interaction with video conferences is not enough. This doesn't replace impromptu water cooler chats which can form new relationships. Some of this is done by teachers with icebreaker exercises, breakout video rooms, team-building exercises and the like. But can these features be built into both the tools and the educational programs? One attempt is Athabasca University's Alumni Connect using the product Ten Thousand Coffees.
  2. In 2017 I predicted "... we can expect 80% of university education to be delivered on-line by 2020 ...". That happened suddenly due to COVID-19, not with a planned transition as I had hoped. We have the technology and pedagogy to sustain this, can universities find a business model to make it work, or do we need new teaching only institutions?

Higher education after COVID-19

  1. Blending of vocational and higher education producing job ready graduates
  2. Qualification platforms standardized globally
  3. Nested qualifications offering from a micro-credential to a Doctorate
  4. Global online courses with optional classroom time
  5. Campuses shared and integrated into community facilities

Pathways to Work, Training and Further Education

 "Senior secondary certification requirements and the way learning is packaged should be restructured so that students are not presented with a binary choice between vocational or higher education pathways."

Recommendation 5 of the Report of the review of senior secondary pathways, into work, further education and training, for COAG, Shergold, Calma, Russo, Walton, Westacott, Zoellner & O’Reilly, 17 June 2020.
A recent report to the Council of Australian Governments recommends not presenting students with a binary choice between vocational and university education (Shergold et al,  2020). My own path has been through work, on the job training and then formal university education, supplemented by vocational educational institutions.

COVID-19 has forced much of secondary and higher education online and this provides the opportunity to consider how to integrate them better and provide them more flexibly.

Australian secondary education can be blended into the vocational education and training (VET) system and VET into university. The Australian VET system is already focused on vocational training delivered online, with supplementary classroom teaching. That approach can be adopted by universities. This has implications for the way university academics teach, get paid, and the question as to if university is the best place to do much of vocationally orientated education.
Looking to the future – Report of the review of senior secondary pathways, into work, further education and training, for the Education Council of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), by Peter Shergold, Tom Calma, Sarina Russo, Patrea Walton, Jennifer Westacott, Don Zoellner and Patrick O’Reilly, 17 June 2020. URL https://uploadstorage.blob.core.windows.net/public-assets/education-au/pathways/Final%20report%20-%2018%20June.pdf

Degree of the Future is Like a Car Chassis

MQB Platform for VW, Audi, SEAT, Škoda, coupes, hatchbacks, saloons, station wagons, convertibles, MPVs, SUVs, and panel vans (Ra Boe / Wikipedia)

VW, Audi, SEAT and Škoda factories make dozens of different vehicles sold at different prices to different customers around the world, based on the same MQB engineering "platform". It was worth the Volkswagen Group to have hundreds of engineers spend years and billions of dollars, so the one engineering design could be used globally for a decade or more. In the same way I suggest companies, national and international university consortia can design qualification platforms for specific disciplines. Each platform would allow for nested qualifications, ranging from a three week micro-credential to a multiyear doctorate. The basic curriculum would be built assuming asynchronous online delivery, but local institutions could offer online, blended, hybrid, face to face, and work integrating learning.

Global Professional Standards

Excerpt from ACS Certified Professional Certificate

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has recognized me as a  certified computer professional under a scheme accredited by the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3) under the Seoul Accord. The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)  issues IP3 certifies for their computer professionals.. Engineering qualifications are similarly accredited under the Washington Accord. This provides a level of international standardization of the skills and knowledge required in professions and there for what universities include in degree courses. Universities are not required to teach in the same way, as long as graduates have the required attributes. Like Volkswagen's MQB platform such global agreements take many years to produce, but once agreed, they increase the quality and reliability of global education.

Global Online Courses

One course, four institutions:
  • Green Technology Strategies (ACS and Open Universities Australia)
  • COMP7310: ICT Sustainability (ANU)
  • Computer Science COMP 635 (Athabasca University)

    Aligned with Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) competencies.

    Global professional standards and online courses make the global delivery of course materials much simpler. In 2008 the Australian Computer Society commissioned me to design the course Green Technology Strategies aligned with the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) and delivered using Moodle. This was also offered through the Open Universities Australia consortium of institutions. The course was later offered to Australian national masters of computing students, also online using Moodle and aligned with Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) competencies. The course was adapted for North America by Brian Stewart and is still offered as COMP 635 by Athabasca University, also using Moodle. Like the Like Volkswagen's MQB platform, considerable effort was required to design the course maters, but they could then be used globally for a decade.

High End Campus of The Future Looks Like a Mall

ANU Kambri

The campus of the future will look like a shopping center, a hotel, an office building, or a library. In this way it can be more integrated with everyday life, provide facilities to the community and have some income independent of student fees. While there will be students and teachers on campus, this will only be about one fifth of the learning community, with the other four fifths online. That will lower the cost of the campus, by having it used more intensively. However, there may be a need for consolidation of campuses, as there will be an excess of space during the transition.

Even general purpose university campuses are tending to look less like universities and more like resorts and shopping malls. The Australian National University Kambri development, opened in 2019, has an art gallery, conference center, cinema, drama theater, cafes, bars, restaurants, medical center, pool, and gym. There are also offices for university administrators, and apartments for students. The performance spaces double as lecture theaters, some with retractable tiered seating to make a large flat floor space. This allows different teaching styles and use of the same even in a pandemic, when closely packed tiered seating is not appropriate.

Medium Level Campus Looks Like an Office Block

Artists Impression of Planned CIT Campus Woden, Canberra (CIT, 2020)

Many university campuses will be in commercial style office buildings. A good example, is the planned Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) building in Woden, Canberra. This will be located at a bus interchange, adjacent to a shopping center, providing easy access. However, given that most students will be studying online most of the time, it is not clear how much of the building will be actually used by staff and students, or it it will be used by government and commercial tennants.

Work Integrated Learning Campus Hotel

Nesuto Leura Gardens Hotel operated by the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School at Torrens University

In 2019 I reserved a room at the Leura Gardens Hotel in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I selected this as the closest to the Everglades Historic House and Gardens to attend the Leura Shakespeare Festival. Only after arriving did I notice that the hotel is staffed by students of the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS), part of Torrens University. There is a campus of the university across the road from the hotel. This is a form of Work Integrated Learning (WIL), where rather than send the student to workplace, the educational institution provides the workplace (in some cases a large corporation, government agency or military organization has its own educational institution).

The year before I stayed at Hotel Samudra, Colombo, part of the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management (SLITHM). The Hotel Kurragong in Canberra was previously part of a hotel school also. In a similar way, teaching hospitals are part of the medical faculties of universities. There is scope for integrating other disciplines into workplaces.

WIL in a Government Agency

Cameron Offices, Canberra (Public domain)

As a young "programmers assistant" I worked downstairs in the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and then went upstairs for formal training. This was not as part of any formal educational program. The Australian Public Service (APS) now has programs for apprentices and cadets who study part time at VET institutions and universities, while working. There is scope to expand such programs to smaller employers and startups.

Multi University Campus Building

Torrens Building, International University Precinct, Adelaide (by Bahudhara / CC BY-SA)

Universities can share campuses. Adelaide has the Torrens Building, in its International University Precinct. The has provided office and teaching space for Carnegie Mellon University , Torrens University, Cranfield University, and University College London. While sharing a building, the individual university use photos of the outside shown just their own banner, cropping those of the other institutions. In this way universities can present an individual identity, while sharing resources.

While the Adelaide campuses of Carnegie Mellon, Cranfield and University College London are satellite campuses of overseas universities, Torrens University Australia is slightly different. This is an Australian university, but also part of the for-profit Laureate Education Incof Baltimore. Laureate has almost one million students worldwide and so can spread the cost of course development better than it could for just their 11,500 Australian students, while still having local campuses and a local identity. Laureate has also incorporates specialist campuses such as the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School.

Community Campus Colocated with High School or Public Library

Gungahlin Library, Canberra
The Gungahlin Public Library is colocated with the Gungahlin College (upper secondary school) in Canberra. The public library is also the library for the school. In addition there is a learning center of the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT)in the building, with computers, a classroom and staff. Students can also undertake some CIT and ANU courses as part of their schooling.

Co-curricular Activities

GovHack 2013 Organizers Meeting at the Gungahlin Library
Events which students can participate in for course credit can be organized in facilities colocated with the campus. Here the organizing committee for GovHack 2013 are in one of the meeting rooms adjacent to the CIT Learning Center in the Gungarlin Library. GovHack has run each year for a decade with participants using open source government data in creative ways.

One Classroom of the Future Has Furniture on Wheels

Wall mounted LCD screens & desks on wheels at ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre

The  Marie Reay Teaching Centre at Australian National University opened in 2019, with five stories of rectangular flat floor classrooms, with electronic screens on the walls and flip top tables on wheels. The spaces can be rearranged from class to class as required for curricular and co-curricular activities, such as hackerthons.


Worthington, T. (2020, June). Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students. Paper accepted for the IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE), 10-13 December 2019, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. URL https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/204833

The Other Classroom of the Future is Online

Zoom Meeting of the ASCILITE MLEARGING Sig (2020)
While higher education will still have campuses, most of the learning and teaching has already moved online and will remain there. After COVID-19 ceases to be a major public health risk, hopefully within the next few years, most post secondary education will be delivered online. COVID-19 provided a sudden acceleration to the online learning trend. Decades of research and practical experience showed that online delivered comparable results to face to face higher education, with benefits of flexibility.


Worthington, T. (2014, August). Chinese and Australian students learning to work together online: proposal to expand the New Colombo Plan to the online environment. In 2014 9th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (pp. 164-168). IEEE. URL https://doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2014.6926448

The University is an Idea, Not a Place

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,  Robert M. Pirsig, 2006
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig, 2006
"...the real university exists not as the physical campus, but as a body of reason within the minds of students and teachers ..."
 Chapter 13, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig, 2006

In early 2020 Australian universities had crash programs to move teaching online, first to reach international students stranded overseas and then to minimize the risk of the transmission of COVID-19 for domestic students at home. Face-to-face teaching will resume, gradually, in the next few years. We will still have university campuses, as a place for research, administration and some teaching. But I suggest the real education should continue to take place, as it is now, online, wherever the student needs to be. The average student will need to be in a classroom for about 20% of their study, but otherwise should be out in the world learning and earning.

COVID-19 a White Swan Event for Unis

NUS eLearning Week Video, National University of Singapore, 2014

Many commentators have described the  COVID-19 pandemic as a "black swan event": completely unexpected, but something we should have in retrospect. However, the virus which causes COVID-19 is called "SARS-CoV-2". The similar SARS-CoV-1 was identified in 2003 outbreaks in East Asia resulted in universities such as NUS, having drills to practice online teaching to students at home.

Australian universities face financial difficulties due to the loss of international students. However, the financial risk to these institutions from over-dependence on international student fees was widely discussed in the media and at education conferences.

In 2016 in the conclusion of my e-Portfolio for my MEd at Athabasca University, I identified the long term risk of international students seeking other study options, and the short term risk of an international incident keeping students from Australian campuses. In the MEd, subsequent book, and presentations, I suggested to my university colleagues they begin the transition to online teaching and be ready to switch quickly. While Australian universities have been able to implement online learning quickly, many at universities assume this will be a short term measure, before business as usual resumes: it will not.

The term Black Swan Event come from the idea that Europeans had never seen a black swan and so assumed there were none. But this idea is odd to those in Australia, where black swans are common.  The University of Western Australia is on the Swan River and has a black swan on its coat of arms. COVID-19 was a White Swan event for Australian universities: something they were warned about, knew was coming, were told how to prepare for and yet failed to act.


Chandran, R. (2010, May). National University of Singapore's Campus-Wide ELearning Week. In Global Learn (pp. 2062-3302). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). URL https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/blog.nus.edu.sg/dist/0/119/files/2011/03/national-university-of-singapores-campus-wide-elearning-week.pdf

Education and online learning in a pandemic

Australia and the post-pandemic world, ANU Symposium, 22 October 2020

The Australian National University will hold an online symposium on "Australia and the post-pandemic world", 22 October 2020. This includes a section on "Education and online learning in a pandemic", including myself on "Australian Higher Education in the Post-pandemic World". Suggestions welcome.

Synchronising Asynchronous e-Learning Research Project 

"... synchronization of the asynchronous learning process ..." (Worthington, p. 619, 2013)

Worthington, T. (2013, April). Synchronizing asynchronous learning-Combining synchronous and asynchronous techniques. In Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2013 8th International Conference on (pp. 618-621). IEEE. URL https://doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2013.6553983

WhatsApp for Teaching Microbiology

  1. Student Sensitization
  2. Faculty Sensitization
  3. Module Preparation
  4. Formation of WhatsApp group (students and faculty)
  5. Putting up of questions related to topic on the group
  6. Self directed learning by students on topic and answers being posted on the group (by
  7. some students who were active responders, while others learnt as passive learners)
  8. Discussion on the answers posted and posting of new questions (activity lasted for one
  9. week)
  10. Group dissolved after a week
  11. Didactic lecture taken on said topic
  12. Feedback by students and faculty
From Singla, Kumar, & Badyal (p. 55, 2020).

This paper on using WhatsApp for teaching microbiology is relevant to previous discussion of tools in this series. I noticed it, because it cites my 2013 paper on asynchronous learning.


Singla, N., Kumar, M. B., & Badyal, D. (2020). Introduction of social media learning tool in teaching of Microbiology. South-East Asian Journal of Medical Education, 14(1). URL http://doi.org/10.4038/seajme.v14i1.188

Worthington, T. (2013, April). Synchronizing asynchronous learning-Combining synchronous and asynchronous techniques. In 2013 8th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (pp. 618-621). IEEE. URL https://doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2013.6553983

Monday, August 24, 2020

Social Media Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

In a Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics I asked computer science students if it was ethical for them to conduct a hacking attack on an electricity system for the military. However, Raman, AlShebli, Waniek, Rahwan and Chih-Hsien Peng (2020) have pointed out How weaponizing disinformation can bring down a city’s power grid, without any need for hacking. Instead a fake offer of a discount on electricity charges would be used to induce customers to turn on their appliances at peak time and overload the grid.

The authors suggest mitigation strategies can be used, with authorities being ready to broadcast warnings. However, I suggest that if the  warnings go out on "old" media, such as local TV stations, many may not see them. Also the attacker could reduce the effectiveness of the official announcements, by sending out fake official denials on social media saying the warnings were not real.

ANU energy researcher and entrepreneur, Dr Backhall, in 2019 described the current Australian electricity grid as being "duct-taped together".  His work on smart renewable energy would allow for a more robust grid, which could switch off loads and switch on battery supplies at peak times. However, this equipment would need to be secure, as it offers a new target for hackers.


Raman, G., AlShebli, B., Waniek, M., Rahwan, T., & Peng, J. C. H. (2020). How weaponizing disinformation can bring down a city’s power grid. PloS one, 15(8), e0236517. URL https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236517

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Online Plus is the Post-COVID19 Future of Higher Education

Learning and teaching
, JISC, 2020
The UK's JISC think-tank have put forward the hyflex plus university as a vision for Higher Educaiton after COVID-19. This would offer options of online study, on campus with work placements, or accelerated intensive on campus study. However, the campus options appear to be a marketing strategy designed to prop up a fading business model, rather than based on pedagogy. There is one model for the university of the future: online plus. This can include online accelerated and work placement options, plus optional on-campus study.

Students can be offered fully online, part-time study as the foundation of their university experience. There can be work placement included in this and accelerated options. Neither of these require attending, or living, on a campus, although that can also be offered. This online anchored form of HE is not some fantasy: in 2011 I set out to learn to teach, starting in a classroom 2 km from where I live, six years later I graduated from a university I had never seen, 13,586 km away.

Any university which adopts JISC's long term vision for 2030 is likely to be out of business before then. While I don't have JISC's committee to back up my predictions, in the last paragraph of the capstone for my MEd in 2016, I warned that universities should be prepared to teach online if students were kept away by a global crisis. Also I predicted that students would be studying 80% online by 2020. Those who planned an online contingency before 2020, as I did, had less difficulty with the transition this year. Those who build campus options onto this online foundation, I suggest, will prosper.

It doesn't make a lot of sense from an educational point of view to have students on campus all the time. Studying exclusively on campus in a face to face classroom would hinder completion of a degree, by excluding quality online learning and co-curricular learning opportunities off campus.

Living on a campus is a lifestyle choice, unrelated to the quality of education provided. Apart from restricting student's opportunity to learn real world skills, being restricted to a campus would severely limit employment opportunities.

This is not to say students should study entirely at home, isolated in front of a computer screen. Ideally students should be studying part time while in related employment, so they have supervision and support from working professionals. Also the student should have access to a face to face group of fellow students and, occasionally, an instructor. This does not need to be on the main campus where the student is enrolled, or a university campus at all.

Some students will require specialized equipment and environments, however, COVID-19 measures show that much of this can be provided outside the university, and much can be simulated online. Some professions which previously relied on face to face contact, such as medicine and the law, have shown that they can be provided partly online, making online training more feasible and more realistic.

There will be students wanting a campus lifestyle and prepared to pay extra for it. This can be provided in the same way luxury cars are now manufactured. Bentley is thought of as hand built UK premium brand. However, hand built cars are less reliable than robot made ones and the engineering needed for a modern vehicle cannot be amortized over a limited production run. So Bentley cars are based on mass produced designs from their parent company Volkswagen. Components made by robots in Germany are imported to the UK, assembled and hand finished. The result is a car which looks premium but is also safe, reliable and profitable. The same approach can be applied to education: start with a well designed curriculum of online learning which is delivered to hundreds of thousands of students world wide, then add a campus experience. The student can follow the same syllabus as those off-campus, but with the option of a face to face instructor. The educational outcomes will be no better on campus for the average student and so this option should not receive additional government subsides, but some students will still opt for it, just as some pay extra for a Volkswagen with a Bentley badge.

Another aspect of the motor vehicle industry which can be applied to higher education is brands for different regions. The engineering design underpinning the German made Volkswagen Golf is also used for the Spanish SEAT and Czech Škoda vehicles. Some universities and consortia take a similar approach, offering the same curriculum nationally, or worldwide under different institution brands. Torrens University Australia is based in Adelaide and accredited to award Australian degrees, but is part of the for-profit Laureate Education Inc. in Baltimore. Laureate has almost one million students worldwide and so can spread the cost of course development better than it could for just their 11,500 Australian students., while still having local campuses. Laureate has also incorporated several specialist campuses in Australia such as the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS).

Open Universities Australia (OUA) offers another model for the future university. This is a consortium of Australian universities which offers online degrees. Students can mix courses from the member universities, but graduate with a degree from one of them (not OUA). OUA students and courses are administered separately from the university's own students. However, the cooperation might be extended to allow regular students to enroll in online courses at member universities. This may require some changes to government regulations which restrict online courses for some students. Government might go further and require universities to allow and recognize such cross enrollment, but perhaps not to the extent of the vocational sector, where curricular are nationally standardized.


Learning and teaching reimagined, JISC, 11 August 2020, URL http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/7921/1/ltr-report-change-and-challenge-for-students-staff-and-leaders-aug-2020.pdf

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Mentoring student group work online, 8am Wednesday

I will talk on "Tools to engage students online" Wednesday 19 August, 8-9 am, AEST (Canberra Time) as part of the Microlearning Series curated by Manisha Khetarpal at Maskwacis Cultural College in Canada. This is the third of six weekly sessions. Free, register now.

Higher Education After COVID-19

  1. Responding to the Coronavirus Emergency with e-Learning
  2. Open Content for e-Learning in Response to the Coronavirus
  3. Online Assessment with e-Portfolios in Response to the Coronavirus
  4. Tools to engage students online.
  5. Mentoring student group work online.
  6. Higher education after COVID-19: Not business as usual
These are online, open to all and free. Suggestions are welcome.

Mentoring student group work online

The best way for students to learn practical skills for a vocation is by practice. This can be in a real workplace as an intern, or in a team of students working on a real-world project. But many "real" workplaces are now virtual, with staff working online remotely. This requires new skills of those providing Work Integrated Learning.

Questions for participants:

1. How do you provide individual students, or teams, just enough advice, when you can't physically meet with them?

2. How can online mentoring techniques be used after face to face teaching and working resumes?

Mentors give guidance based on experience

Telemachus son of Odysseus and Mentor
from Aventuras de Telémaco
by Pablo E. Fabisch / Public domain

The tools a mentor uses may be much the same, but their role is different to other teachers. The mentor is experienced in what it is the student is learning to do.  The mentor answers questions and provides advice, rather than taking the student through a set of coursework. Other educators may have set out what the student needs to learn, the mentor helps with the practicalities. As an example, I tutor students undertaking team projects and mentor participants in hackerthons, not telling them how to do the project, but asking what they intend to do.

Work-integrated learning (WIL)

Dr Penny Kyburz,
Game Developer
 Take the learning to the workplace or the workplace to the learning.

Australia has Work-integrated learning (WIL) both in its Vocational Education (VET) sector and universities. I was trained in computing in the Australian Public Service (APS), through short courses by contracted professionals, and supervision in the workplace. Employers may also release staff to attend courses at VET institutions or universities. The APD trainees are called apprentices or cadets. There are also university courses where students work in a company as "interns". Students may also work in a team on a project for a client. 

Mentoring has a role here as these trainees need a form of supervision which takes account of their role as someone working but also learning. Ideally there will be someone with work experience working alongside an educator to ensure the trainee makes a practical contribution, learns from the experience and that can be formally recognized through a educational qualification. In some cases the professional is also an educator, such as Dr Penny Kyburz, Game Developer, and Dr Charles Gretton (AI Developer).

Project Audits

  • Project Audit 1 - Week 3, to set or reset the agenda and scope for the semester
  • Project Audit 2 - Week 6, to guide and evaluate progress, based on the project scope
  • Project Audit 3 - Week 10, to finalise and prepare for the next stage of the project
From: Project Audits (PA), ANU, 2020

Many Eyes Process

From: Many Eyes Process, ANU, 2020

Mentoring Online With Remo Conference

Remo Conference Example
Remo Conference Example
Participants in Canberra's ZeroCO2 Hackathon 2020 took part in an online idea forming exercise this month. Teams were each allocated a table and booked sessions with a mentor. The mentors had their own virtual table where they could chat between mentoring sessions. At the end of each set time period a bell would sound indicating it was time for mentors to move to their next team appointment.

This format has been used at the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), for fast paced start-up sessions for several years. The difference this year is that it has moved online due to COVID-19. The room and tables are virtual. While many video conference and forums tools could be used, Remo Conference was used for the ZeroCO2 hackerthon. This displays a floor plan of the virtual room, with participants seated.

Mozilla Hubs is Too Much Like Life

Mozilla Hubs Example
Last week the


Friday, August 21, 2020

Mozilla Hubs is Too Much Like Life

Mozilla Hubs Example
Greetings from the

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Answers for Teaching in a Time of Transition

The ANU Lunch Vox is a webinar series on teaching and learning. The first is Radical Shifts: Teaching in a Time of Transition, 20 August. Participants have been asked four questions and invited to produce 30 second video answers, so here are mine, all together, or one at a time:
  1. What is one activity/teaching strategy that you will continue to use once we return to face to face learning?
  2. How have your colleagues helped you through the transition to online learning?
  3. What are the key differences in teaching online and teaching remotely that an educator should be aware of?
  4. What is one positive message you think all ANU educators should hear in a time of transition? (CC)
The videos were made using Vidnami and contains images under a Creative Commons License.

What I normally do is produce the slideshow videos with synthetic voice for a course in advance. Then, if there is a live presentation, in a classroom or online, record that as well and prove that recording to the students after the presentation. The synthetic voice has the advantage of being precisely the same as the script and can be easily changed without the need to rerecord or edit. Also I suspect it is easier for those with English as a second language to understand the synthetic voice than my voice. However, while synthetic voices have got much better they are still mechanical sounding. On the other hand a live performer can sound wooden, as I do there, without an audience to respond to:

Part One: A Strategy Back to the Classroom.

"I plan to use hybrid mode: with some students in the classroom, linked to those on-line.

But we must be ready to abandon the classroom, without warning, due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

I stopped "lecturing" ten years ago and moved my teaching online.

Most students had already abandoned lectures, years before COVID-19.

Last year I supplemented my on-line teaching with some classroom based workshops.

But many of the students were international and a regional crisis could keep them away.

So I planned an online alternative, just in case.

That plan worked when COVID-19 struck."

Part Two, How Colleagues helped?

"During this difficult time of COVID-19 I have found the informal online events run by colleagues very useful to stay in touch.

Especially useful have been the Australian National University's weekly virtual morning teas, for early career academics.

Also Friday mornings with the Mobile Learning Special Interest Group of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education have been productive.

We wrote a joint paper for the Society's upcoming national conference.

The Australian National University's Coffee Courses have been thought provoking, as well as useful for e-learning tips. "

Part Three: Differences teaching on-line?

'It is the similarities which are key, not the differences.

Teaching is teaching, whatever the medium.

Most importantly, educators should be trained to design and deliver education.

Teachers should learn using the techniques we want them to use, firstly online.

An approach called "dogfooding".

With training it is possible to design for online delivery and blend in classroom teaching, as required. '

Part Four: One positive message?

'At an Australian National University staff COVID-19 meeting early in 2020, I found myself saying to my colleagues:

    "We can do this".

Staff have been provided extensive training and support to teach under these difficult circumstances. That support will continue as we establish new ways of teaching for the long term.

The university supported and encouraged me over several years to learn how to teach online.

One reason was in case students were kept from class by an international crisis.

I was able to trial those techniques last year, so they were ready, when needed this year, for COVID-19.

With the support of our colleagues we can transition to blended and hybrid education, incorporating classroom teaching.'

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Webinar on Tools to Engage Students Online, 8am Wednesday

I will talk on "Tools to engage students online" Wednesday 19 August, 8-9 am, AEST (Canberra Time) as part of the Microlearning Series curated by Manisha Khetarpal at Maskwacis Cultural College in Canada. This is the third of six weekly sessions. Free, register now.

Higher Education After COVID-19

  1. Responding to the Coronavirus Emergency with e-Learning
  2. Open Content for e-Learning in Response to the Coronavirus
  3. Online Assessment with e-Portfolios in Response to the Coronavirus
  4. Tools to engage students online.
  5. Mentoring student group work online.
  6. Higher education after COVID-19: Not business as usual
These are online, open to all and free. Suggestions are welcome.

Part 4: Tools to engage students online

Due to the risk of COVID-19, universities are using online delivery of courses. But "delivery" suggests students are passive recipients of knowledge, a view reinforced if all students get are recordings of lectures, or a live lecturer who drones on and on in Zoom. Students learn best when they are doing things and there are many techniques developed for getting students active in the classroom which translate online easily. These and be used with the basic learning management system (such as Moodle) and video conference system (such as Zoom). There are also specialized online tools for individual and group activities, such as: Slack, Piazza, GitLab, Padlet, and trello. These will be discussed in this webinar and participants asked to contribute their experience. Here are some questions to get started:
  1. What tips, tools and techniques do you use to get students actively engaged?
  2. Do you do this differently in online, if so how?
ps: You can read through the notes for the ANU Coffee Course "Engaging Students Online" (Katie Freund, 2017).

Students learn best when they are doing things

Dr Katharina Freund

  1. What is engagement, and how does it work online?
  2. Creating social presence in your course
  3. Communicating effectively with students
  4. Critical perspectives on engagement and participation
  5. Creating engaging online activities
  6. Reflection and final thoughts
Daily topics, from  Engaging Students Online, Coffee Course, Katie Freund and Janene Harman, ANU, 2017.

The Australian National University (ANU) has been running online teaching courses for several years. These are named "Coffee" courses, as they are designed to do the study while having a coffee each day, for around one week. One course is on Engaging Students Online (Freund & Janene, 2017). The course doesn;t tell experienced educators anything they did not already know. The major insight is that techniques for getting student's attention work just as well online as they do in the classroom. The online teacher has to be more explicit in explaining who they are and what they want students to do, but the techniques are the same.

Asynchronous Mode: Moodle Example

ICT Sustainability Course Moodle Page

 This example of a Moodle course page shows the tutor's name and photo, so they are more than just an anonymous entity. There is a link to their bio and a link to contact them. Official information about the course is provided by way of an announcements forum and an e-book, but there is also a chat forum. What the student is expected to do is provided, along with a quiz to try. The  Tutor Notes for the course suggest providing a welcome message in the forum and inviting students to introduce themselves in the chat room.

Synchronous Mode: Zoom Example

ASCILITE ML SIG video meeting

Video conferencing is decades old and the tools have not changed much in that time (I observed a ship to shore video conference while onboard the USS Blue Ridge, in the Coral Sea in 1997). Key to using video conferencing for education is to have a purpose to the session, introduce the participants and the topic, much like a face to face class. More planning and structure is needed due to the limitations of the technology.

Messaging: Slack, Piazza

  • Slack: threaded text based chat, but also does video conferences
  • Piazza: simpler text based chat for courses
Both used by the ANU TechLauncher Project

Slack and Piazza are two text based tools which can be used for communication with and between students. Piazza was specifically designed for education, and provides a forum for each course, where students can post questions to be answered by teachers, or preferably, other students in the class. 
Slack was designed for IT development teams to communicate and provides or discussion under topics. Slack also allows for video communications in a team. The ANU TechLauncher project uses Piazza for routine course announcements and student questions about deadlines and marking. Slack can be used by teams of students working on a project.

Teamwork: GitLab, Padlet, and Trello

Padlet Example from ASCILITEMLSIG, Webinar 12 June 2020,


Tools, such as GitLab, Padlet, and Trello allow students to work togehter in teams online, over minutes, hours weeks or years. Thom Cochrane convenor of ASCILITE MLSIG
the education Mobile Educaiton Special Interest groups, used Padlet to collect ideas during, and after, a video conference session. Participants can type in contributions under prepared headings, or create new headings themselves. Trello, now owned by Sydney company Atlassian has a similar interface, but specifically for teams to arrange tasks. GitLab provides a repository of digital documents with version control, for a complex project.

Use Synchronous and Asynchronous Tools to Flip

  1. Moodle (asynchronous) for preparation
  2. Everyone meets in Zoom (synchronous) and make notes in Padlet (asynchronous)
  3. Save notes to Moodle for later

E-learning tools and techniques are usually classified into two broad categories: synchronous and asynchronous. These are complementary and can be used in combination. As an example I have students study material in Moodle and do a quiz, to prepare for a Zoom conference. They can use Padlet during the conference and paste results to Moodle for later use. 



Worthington, T. (2013). Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning: Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques. In Proceedings of 2013 8th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 26 Apr - 28 Apr 2013 , Sri Lanka. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2013.6553983
Preprint available at: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/9556


 ZeroCO2 Hackathon 2020 

Each team will occupy a table on the Remo virtual conference floor.


Canberra's ZeroCO2 Hackathon 2020 runs online over two-weeks, starting 18th August and is open for registrations. Teams will work on business ideas to reduce domestic and commercial carbon emissions, with $10,000 in prizes. I mentored teams in the 2019 competition and have volunteered again. 

Due to COVID-19 this years event is entirely online, whereas last year we were all at the Canberra Institute of Technology's excellent renewable energy training facility. However, this will be my fourth time helping with an online hackerthon this year, and the activity has easily translated to the online format.
Like the Fighting Pandemics hackerthon I helped with recently, this one is using Remo Conference. Each team will occupy a table on the virtual conference floor. Mentors will move from table to table with a double click. The organizers will keep tack of time to tell us when to move. It will be interesting to see how this works virtually, as it is usually a bit chaotic in a real room with hundreds of people.

Legal and Ethical Issues with Online Tools

"If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold."
From Andrew Lewis ("blue_beetle"), Post to MetaFilter, August 26, 2010

Teachers, and educational institutions, have a legal and ethical obligation to protect their student's privacy.  This can be difficult with online tools. A traditional Learning Management System, such as Moodle, would have been run on a computer at the campus, thus under the control of the institution and withing the same legal jurisdiction. However, tools are now commonly hosted externally.

If the tool you are using is hosted in another country, that country's government authorities may have access to the student data, with or without, judicial oversight. Governments may wish to spy on foreign students for national security purposes, as well as their own students studying abroad for internal security reasons.

Perhaps of more day to day concern is using "free" commercial online tools. These tools are free because the company providing them wants to up-sell you or your students, a more advanced subscription service, or they want to sell your details, and those of your students, to advertisers.

You need to consider who will have access to your student's information, and what they might do with it. Most commercial companies will look to make a quick return, and so older students with more money will be an attractive target. However, private criminal organizations, and government intelligence agencies, can find information about the children of their targets useful for Phishing attacks.

 Fake Sites to Collect Information

Screen image of the web page for the fictional Concinna Day Care Centre
Fake child care center website, 2013

In 2013 invitations to apply to a government endorsed child care center were sent to employees of a Government intelligence agency in Canberra. The center did not exist and was designed to collect personal information which could be used for sending fame messages to staff at the agency to trick them into revealing secrets.  (Page & Jean, 2013).


Page, F., & Jean, P. (2013, April 16). Free childcare scam aimed at intelligence staff. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from: http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/security-it/free-childcare-scam-aimed-at-intelligence-staff-20130415-2hwhq.html