Thursday, September 23, 2021

UNESCO Failure to Come Up With a Workable Definition for a Microcredential

UNESCO Draft Preliminary Report "A conversation starter: Towards acommon definition of micro-credentials" (September 2021).
UNESCO titled their 31 page Draft Preliminary Report "A conversation starter: Towards acommon definition of micro-credentials" (September 2021). Unfortunately the proposed definition is unusable, as it doesn't address what makes a microcredential different to other credentials: it is much smaller.

The UNESCO report proposes a micro-credential:

"1. is a record of focused learning achievement verifying what the learner knows, understands or can do;

2. includes assessment based on clearly defined standards and is awarded by a trusted provider;

3. has stand-alone value and may also contribute to or complement other micro-credentials or macro-credentials, including through recognition of prior learning; and

4. meets the standards required by relevant quality assurance."

However, every credential should have these characteristics. UNESCO seemed to have missed the hint in the name micro-credential. These are much smaller, but not necessarily literally one millionth, of a conventional qualification. I have, not entirely seriously, suggested these be called Deci or Centi-credentials, as in practice they tend to be one tenth to one hundredth of a three year degree.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Survey Volunteers Needed for Study of Digital Communication and Work Stress in Universities:


E-stress Survey Link
The University of South Australia is leading a study into "Digital Communication and Work Stress in Universities". They are seeking volunteers who work in Australian universities to survey.

This is an excellent initiative, however, they are focusing on those who have a full time working week. Much of the university workforce is part time and casual. These people have been exploited by universities through systematic wage theft, and threatened with loss of work. So I suggest excluding them from studies of work stress will skew the results.

As for how to reduce stress, I suggest courses designed with an asynchronous core, supplemented with online and classroom synchronous events, can help, by lowering student stress and therefore staff stress. With this approach no special arrangements are needed for a campus lock-down, or individual student emergency. The same approach can also be taken to staff meetings, with it not assumed that everyone can turn up on campus at a particular time. I will be touching on this in the webinar "Keep Calm and Carry Online", 20 October from ANU (all welcome).  

Also work stress could be reduced by teaching staff good practices as to how to work online. In response to seeing people waste a lot of time on email, in 1997 I wrote "How to Read and Write E-mail Messages". 

Scaffolded learning, where students do their assignments a bit at a time helps, as do more flexible assessment schemes. One example I have used is "best X out of X+2" assessment in a "Green computing professional education course online". The idea is that students are assessed on their best work, so do not have to worry about doing badly in, or missing, a couple of assessments. This reduces the need for students to ask for special consideration, extra time, and remarking. It also encourages students to work steadily through a course, not leaving everything to the end.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

An Encounter with the Absurd on Zoom

Greetings from You Say You Want A Revolution: An Absurdist Encounter Group. Johnnie Moore and Matt Moore are using absurdist techniques to help us broaden our thinking about how to achieve our aims. At least that is what I think it is about. This event is sponsored by UTS Information Innovation.

I had forgotten about signing up for this event. But it turned out to be a refreshing counterpoint to the recent very serious video events I have been in. I did help ferment revolution in a pub & parliament. ;-) 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Highest Demand for Digital Technical Skills

According to the ACS (2021), the greatest demands for technology workers are in: 1. Information, Media & Telecommunications (31%); 2. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services (14%), 3. Financial & Insurance Services (11%), 4. Education & Training - Adult, Community & Other Education (9%), and 5. Health Care & Social Assistance (5%). It will be interesting to see if the last two, education and health, increase further, due to the need for systems to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reference

Demand & Impacts on Tech & Digital Skills, An ACS Technical White Paper, The Australian Computer Society, August 2021. URL https://www.acs.org.au/insightsandpublications/reports-publications/demand-impacts-tech-digital-skills.html

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Acoustic Pinboard as Green Screen

Before Canberra's lock-down I noticed a well known hardware store had acoustic pin-boards in lime green. I purchased one 1200 x 800 mm ($30) in lime green and found it worked very well as a green screen for video. The board is 9mm thick polyester, and is strong enough to be propped up without needing any framework. But it is a bit small so I have it propped up behind my monitor in my home webinar studio, to provide some sound absorption. 

The boards are also available 2420 x 1220 mm ($84.50) which would be better for a screen, but unfortunately they are not colored. I have contacted the supplier to suggest they make bigger panels in green.

Low Cost Home Office Webinar Setup

Home office webinar setup, Tom Worthington, CC BY, 2 September 2021


This is my home office setup for teaching online. I will be discussing this in my Keep Calm and Carry Online Webinar. Normally I talk sitting down, as it is then much easier to access the equipment, and I can't wander out of shot. I use a small wired headset for better sound ($50). I use a wired keyboard (second hand $5) and wired mouse (second hand $5) to operate the presentation. I have tried various wireless headsets, remote controllers and pointing devices, but find they get in the way, get lost and the batteries go flat at inconvenient times.

I use a low cost laptop ($500) plugged into a 24 inch monitor (second hand $100). Internet access is provided by a 4G wireless modem ($50 plus $15 a month for access), plugged into a router configured to limit bandwidth ($100).

Behind the monitor is a web-camera (under $100) with a clip on telephoto lens (under $20). The camera is on a telescopic tripod, so I can push it down out of sight behind the monitor, when not in use  (and so it can't see me). I appear in front of a folding green screen (second hand $10, plus $5 for green paint). There is a sound absorbing pin-board behind the monitor, which can also b used as a green screen ($30).

Under the desk is an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) , in case mains power is lost (UPS $10 secondhand, new battery $50).

Beside the monitor is a ring light for better illumination ($10) and my smartphone ($500). I dial-in to the video conference to provide a more reliable audio channel, and as a backup in case the power, laptop or primary Internet connection fails. Also I can monitor how well the audio and video is received using the phone.

I have an ergonomic chair to provide comfort (free second hand). The blood-pressure monitor is just to remind me how stressful online learning can be. ;-)

For a more advanced setup, see Nicolo Malagutti's  "A bespoke audio-visual set-up" (2021).

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Silly Experience Swinburne Online TV Advertisment

Swinburne University wins the Higher Education Whisperer award for the silliest TV ad, for the third successive year with "Experience Swinburne Online". Last year it was online learning like a Zoomba class, this year it is students from other unis doing an interactive learning taste test (like the Pepsi Challenge). The ad doesn't quite work, with the pixeliated faces looking more like criminals than students. Of course prisoners have always been clients for distance education, but I don't think that is what Swinburne has in mind here.

Swinburne University must be feeling a little aggrieved. They have been providing online education for more than a decade, along with Australia's other teaching orientated universities. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, every university is suddenly offering online education. So Swinburne is trying to point out it is doing this better. That may well be the case, but this may not be an effective marketing strategy. 

The research orientated universities discovered long ago that students don't select a university based on the quality of the education. They select a university based on reputation, which is mostly about research prestige, and a campus with social activities, neither of which have anything to do with education. 

Despite Swinburne's slogan "Not All Online Universities Are The Same", they pretty much are. Swinburne might do better to either adopt the marketing techniques of the major universities, or attack them with humor. 

Swinburne could show people in lab coats doing science stuff, and students relaxing in the bar, then briefly mention at the end there is an online option. Or they could show a mock ad for an sandstone university with labs students are turned away from (because they are not PhDs)  and sports fields they can't use (because they are not in the elite team), then show Swinburne students happily engaging online.

How to sell a quality online course remains an unsolved problem. Students assume online courses are second best, despite research showing the learning outcomes are just as good. But facts have never been much use for selling anything. A better approach is Holly Hapke's 3-in-1 Hybrid Learning, where the distinction between on and off campus learning is blurred, with students not forced to make a choice in advance. The university can then continue to market a campus, as a symbol, if not a place where actually go very often.

Monday, August 30, 2021

ANU Computing Leadership Seminar Series, starts 11 am 21 September

Something I have been helping organize: The ANU Computing Leadership Seminar Series is a new initiative for 2021, where we aim to bring alumni and friends together, to share their career perspectives with current students, staff, and the campus community. The seminars are open to anyone, but each is followed by a workshop for ANU Techlauncher students. In the workshop students learn more about how to plan for their own career.

  1. Elena KelarevaElena KelarevaCEO / Founder at GippsTech, Tuesday, 21 September 2021, 11 am Canberra time. ANU PhD in Artificial Intelligence 2013. GippsTech is a Social Traders certified Social Enteprise, headquartered in Gippsland, founded with the goal of growing regional startup and tech ecosystems. The business grew from 0 to 11 employees in 2.5 years, winning the Gippsland Business Awards New Business category in 2018. Dr Charles GrettonJoin Elena in a fireside chat  with ANU's own Dr Charles Gretton, convener of the TechLauncher programRegister to attend via zoom for the first seminar. 

  2. Suvash SedhainSuvash SedhainMachine Learning Engineer, Recommendation Team, and Xi YangXi Yang, Staff Software Engineer at Twitter.  Tuesday,  28 Sept ember 2021, 11 am Canberra time. Suvash completed his PhD in Machine Learning at ANU in 2016 and been working for .Twitter in  San Francisco, since 2018. Xi has an ANU PhD in Computer Systems (2019) and has been working at Twitter in Sydney since December 2020. Professor Steve BlackburnThe format is a fireside chat in conversation with ANU's own Professor Steve Blackburn, leader of the ANU Computing Foundations Cluster. Register to attend via zoom for the second seminar.

The speakers, who are all successful ANU graduates, have been asked to talk about:

  1. What do you (or company) work on, what has been your career path?
  2. What do you need to know in order to succeed, that you don't learn in your classes or during an internship?
  3. How do you position yourself to work on interesting projects? How to find and define interesting projects?
  4. In a large company what strategies can an ambitious individual use to garner support for their objectives and initiatives?
  5. What is life like in a startup? If your goal is to start and grow your own company, where do you begin?
  6. How does one’s career change overtime?
  7. What are the pros and cons of less common career options, such as teaching high school computer science?
  8. Why might you choose graduate school vs. tech industry employment after graduation?

Lexing XieThe ANU Computing Leadership Seminar Series was created by  Professor Lexing Xie, leader of the ANU Computational Media Lab

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Australian Universities Should Pivot to Quality Online Learning with a Campus Option

Tim Dodd
Tim Dodd reports that Australian universities have not had any joint programs with Chinese institutions approved since 2019 (Beijing puts Australian universities in the deep freeze, The Australian, August 25, 2021.). With these programs, students start their studies in then own country, then come to Australia to finish their degree. In 2016 I suggested Australian universities should be ready with online learning, in case a crisis kept international students away. COVID-19 has proven the usefulness of e-learning, but it can also be used in the medium term to provide options and in the long term to provide an internationally competitive alternative. As an example, international students can be offered to option to begin their studies online in their own country, then when ready, come to Australia.

Julie Hare
Julie Hare reports that international students are choosing to study in the UK and Canada, as Australian borders remain closed to them (Australia will lose the battle for international students, IDP warns, AFR, Aug 25, 2021). In 2016 I graduated from  a Canadian university, which I had never been on the campus of. This is one of the reasons I suggested Australia could offer an online experience for students, with the option of then studying on campus. My online experience was as educationally rewarding as an on-campus one (and slightly cheaper). Australian universities could offer a quality online experience. Students could then study on campus later, should they feel the need to. 

Deborah Terry, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland
Deborah Terry, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, has written in support of the hybrid model (Australia needs a new model of international education for the post-Covid era, Times Higher Education, August 26, 2021). However, as I suggested in a series of papers and talks at international conferences (from 2014), for this to work, we need to have Australian & international students together in quality online courses (Worthington, 2014 & 2018). 

Tom Worthington Speaking at NICT 2018 in Colombo
Presenting proposal in Colombo, 2018
One reason I suggested a blended approach, was to respond to China's Education Action Plan for the Belt and Road Initiative. While attention over the last few years focused on the possibility of the loss of Chinese students from Australian universities, there was little attention on the possibility of Chinese universities, and Chinese sponsored universities in third countries, attracting students away from Australian institutions. Rather try to directly compete with conventional courses, I proposed an online alternative, as part of a Colombo Plan style initiative. As it happens I presented this to a conference in Colombo (Worthington, 2018).

In 2019 I described how the final module of learning for a project course at ANU, had domestic and international students worked in teams (Worthington, 2019). While the students were in classrooms in Canberra, I had designed the final task for students, so this could be switched to pure online delivery, in an emergency. This option was activated for semester 1, 2020, due to COVID-19 and  worked well (Cochrane,  Birt, Cowie, Deneen, Goldacre, Narayan & Worthington, 2020). However, that was only possible because the design work had been done the year before the pandemic struck. It takes time to design education.

Rather than continue with the current ad-hoc approach, I suggest there would be value in Australian higher educational institutions working together, with government, on the blended approach. This could be done cooperatively using a brand Australia, rather than each Australian university competing with each other for international students. One successful model for this is Open Universities Australia (OUA) which offers a brand, and administrative structure, for online learning by a diverse mix of 22 institutions. With OUA's approach, students can select courses from across institutions, to a limited extent, but then graduate from one of the institutions. This allows universities to retain their autonomy, but benefit from pooling marketing resources.

In addition, Australian universities can't assume they have a captive market for domestic students, so need to improve the quality and branding of online learning. When I looked for a graduate program in education to undertake, I started by looking in the city where I lived. As soon as I looked outside that, I realized I would be studying online, and so need not confine myself to Australian institutions. The costs were comparable, but a barrier I found was how to assess the quality of little known institutions in other countries. As an example, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to work out if a Canadian university had accreditation from their government, only to discover universities are not accredited by the Canadian government, but instead through a mix of local and US non-government procedures.

Australian universities have been able to deal with the effects of COVID-19 under otherwise favorable conditions. This could change suddenly. When I suggested Canberra's universities be ready with e-learning in 2016, I had in mind not a pandemic, but a military confrontation to our north. With tensions growing, there is scope for an incident which would see most international students leaving Australia.

References

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. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2014.6926448

Worthington, T. (2018, October). Computer Professionals Providing Mobile Learning for the Digital Economy. For National IT Conference 2018, 9 am, 3 October, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka. http://www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/digital_economy_learning/

Worthington, T. (2018, December). Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific. In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) (pp. 861-865). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/TALE.2018.8615183

Worthington, T. (2019, December). Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students. In 2019 IEEE International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Education (TALE) (pp. 1-5). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/TALE48000.2019.9225921

Cochrane, T., Birt, J., Cowie, N., Deneen, C., Goldacre, P., Narayan, V., ... & Worthington, T. (2020, November). A collaborative design model to support hybrid learning environments during COVID19. ASCILITE. https://doi.org/10.14742/ascilite2020.0119

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Smart Phone for Video Conference in India

Greetings from the King & Wood Mallesons' International Arbitration Webinar on India. Amanda Lees is chairing the session. I am not a lawyer, but I thought it might be useful to learn a little about the Indian legal system, as I might be asked to design courses for institutions there. 

Smartphone on Tripod for Video Conference
KWM are using WebEx for the webinar. This is not my favorite video conference system, but it works well on a smartphone. So I have my 4 Inch Android smartphone held in a clamp which came with one tripod, screwed to the desktop tripod from a light. I am listening, so I have no microphone plugged in. 

Hand holding the phone makes for wobbly video and a phone on a desk is too low to give a good angle. A tripod with clamp holds the phone securely at a good height. It is still possible to pick up the whole unit, if necessary, and move it to another location.

When WebEx started, it offered to call me for the sound, so I accepted this option. One bonus of this is that if you receive a phone call, the conference audio is put on hold, so there is no risk of the conference participants listening in on my phone call.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Keep Calm and Carry Online Webinar, Starts 1pm Wednesday 20 October


My next Keep Calm and Carry Online Webinar, is 1pm Wednesday 20 October,  Canberra Time, Via Zoom. Posted above is a 9 minute slideshow video preview from the first version (7 September). I have been teaching working computer professionals, and university students, online for ten years. Even so the last eighteen months, with COVID-19, has not been easy. This the first of what I hope will be a series over the next few months, of some tips and ticks which helped me though the last eighteen months. The aim is to help academics get out of the mindset that online learning is a second best temporary measure. This will be key to learning into the future, and will decide if Australian universities have a future.
Poster generated using Keep Calms.

"Keep Calm and Carry Online" is a sign I have had on the wall behind me, during webinars from my lounge room for the last eighteen months. So I am using that as the working title for this series of talks. I would welcome contributions, corrections and offers of where I can present these.


Keep Calm and Carry Online: Some tips and tricks for e-learning


Tom Worthington, Honorary Senior Lecturer, ANU School of Computing

Presentation slides

Abstract: Award winning online educator, Tom Worthington, has been
learning about, and teaching, online at ANU for ten years. He will provide some tips and tricks to survive teaching in these uncertain times, in a classroom, online, or both at the same time. Bring along your problems for a masterclass solution.

About the speaker: Tom Worthington is an  Honorary Senior Lecturer, at the ANU School of Computing, an independent computer consultant and educational technology designer. He previously wrote IT policy for the Australian Department of Defence. Tom is a Fellow, Past President and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Tom has a Masters of Education in Open, Digital and Distance Education from Athabasca University and blogs as the highereducationwhisperer.com

The job of a teacher is not to work really hard, it is to get their students to work really hard.  

Apologies to General George S. Patton.


Tips for E-teaching

1. Get equipped
2. Dogfood: Be an online student of teaching
3. Design for distance, then add classes
4. Build the course around the assessment
5. Make time for contact with students
6. Use video sparingly
7. Get help

1. Get Equipped

Home office webinar setup, Tom Worthington, CC BY, 2 September 2021

This is my Low Cost Home Office Webinar Setup. The smart phone is ready to use in case the laptop and modem fail. I upload presentations in advance, so if all else fails I can just talk using a normal phone, and participants can follow along.

2. Dogfood: Be an online student of teaching

Tom Worthington receiving an MEd
in Open, Digital and Distance Education
,
from Athabasca University, Canada
 
- You don't know how frustratingly hard it is, until you try it.

- Enroll in an online course in how to teach. It has to have deadlines, and assessment, to make the experience real.

- If you find study frustrating, conflicting with family and work commitments, then you know what it is like for your students.

- Start with something easy, like the ANU Coffee Courses, work up to an international online graduate course. Take the good meal challenge.

As an online student of e-learning, at Australian and North American vocational colleges and universities, I learned much about how to design and deliver courses. However, one of the greatest insights was how hard being a student again was, how frustrating being an online student was, and how lonely being an international online student was. Being a part time student with work and family commitments, just makes it harder still.

Academic staff, I suggest, need to be reminded what being a student is like, and many, like me, had never been an online student before they started teaching online. So I suggest some dogfooding:

'Back in the 1980s when actor Lorne Greene served as the pitchman for Alpo dog food, the TV commercials were careful to point out that he indeed fed Alpo to his dogs. Consequently, the idea that someone would use the products they were making became known as "eating your own dog food.'

From Harrison, W. (2006). Eating your own dog food. IEEE Software, 23(3), 5-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MS.2006.72

ANU TEL ED HE Certificate awarded to Tom Worthington
I suggest starting with something simple, such as an ANU Coffee Course. These are intended to only take as much time as you spend on a coffee break, each day for a week. But even that commitment of time can be challenging. See if you can do ten and then reflect on the experience (although I don't know if ANU are still handing out certificates).

To have skin in the game, take the good meal challenge: hand a friend enough money for a good meal for two. Tell them that when you complete your study on time, you will share a meal with the funds. If you don't produce the certificate on time, ask them to give the money to charity.

ANU EFSInformation Sessions
from 
14 September
For something harder, there are programs such as the ANU Educational Fellowship Scheme (EFS). But it is not all hard work, you also get to meet, if only virtually, people going through the same thing you are. This is also one of the key lessons I got from study: the importance of getting to know your fellow students.

See:

Responding to the Coronavirus Emergency with e-Learning, Tom Worthington, Beyond 50 Series, Athabasca University, April 17, 2020

3. Design for distance, then add classes

  1. Trim content & activities for an asynchronous course
  2. Add optional synchronous activities online
  3. Add an option for activities in a classroom
So:
  • If the campus closes the course continues online, and 
  • A student can participate asynchronously. 

Over the last eighteen months, we have seen heroic efforts to rapidly convert campus based classroom courses for online delivery. Now there is discussion of a return, via hybrid, to the classroom. It does not need to be this hard.

Your course probably has more content, assessment, and activities, than needed. Start by paring it down to what it is reasonable for a student to do in the time available to them. As an example, most courses have far more readings than a student could possibly read. I use a  estimate how long it will take a student to read reading speed of 80 words a minute for a student at IELTS 6.5 (McEwan, 2012, p. 80).

Design your courses as if they were to be delivered as old fashioned distance education, with no real time interaction (that is asynchronous mode). Provide the materials and activities for each week. Offer students ways to interact with you and each other, online. Make the deadlines generous, and don;t assume they can all do this at the same time. Then add synchronous activities which can be done online. Then add to that the option of those same activities in a classroom. Don't make the assessment synchronous, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. 

With this approach there is no need to make special provision for an emergency: one, more, or all students can study online at their own pace, if they can't come to class.

Students like this approach, but academics, and university administrators have difficulty with it. A "lecturer" who has built their sense of self around lecturing has to learn new skills and build a new identity. A university which has marketed the campus experience has to avoid the idea that are now just offering cheap, online video courses. 

Holly Hapke
University of Kentucky.
One way to avoid the idea that online learning is a poor quality cut-price experience is to bundle it with a campus offer, as hybrid learning. One good example is Hapke, Lee-Post, and Dean (2020), with their 3-in-1 Hybrid Learning. Rather than divide students administratively into distance and campus based, they receive the same online course, supplemented with synchronous events, either in the classroom or online, at the student's discretion.

The hybrid approach is more difficult for the instructor, than just online or face to face. However, it does provide them the opportunity to still be the "sage on the stage". The student has the sense of getting a full university experience, even if they enter a classroom. The institution can continue to market courses using images of ivy covered stone buildings, even if most students never set foot on campus (much like a gym membership which is never used). 

References

Hapke, H., Lee-Post, A., & Dean, T. (2020). 3-IN-1 HYBRID LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. Marketing Education Review, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/10528008.2020.1855989

McEwan, M. (2012). Evaluating and enhancing the feedback process: an international college case study. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education7(1), 79-95. Retrieved from http://community.dur.ac.uk/pestlhe.learning/index.php/pestlhe/article/viewFile/131/244
 

4. Build the course around the assessment

- Set the learning objectives
- Select assessment to cover the learning objectives
- Provide support to obtain the knowledge and skills needed for the assessment
- Have many small regular assessment items and a few big ones

Students worry about assessment, so tell them what it is, and how each learning activity you have supports it. Delete activities, readings and materials which don't support an assessment. Have small assessment tasks every week, to keep the students engaged (1% or 2% a week will do). Provide results with feedback each week.

5. Make time for contact with students

- Drop most lectures (face to face & live online): students don't learn much from them anyway
- Get students to communicate more: with you and to each other
- Answer individual student questions to the group
- Use tools and techniques to free up your time & that of students
- Don;t use email to communicate with students

Unfortunately, many university academics are fixated with lectures, seeing standing up talking to a room full of students as the ultimate form of education: it isn't. I spent my first ten years a lecturer, trying to deliver good lectures face to face and online. Thirteen years ago, on August 12, 2008, I had an epiphany: I told my class I had given my last lecture. Instead I learned flipped techniques, with the emphasis on student activities.

Drop activities where you are doing all the talking, so there is more time for students to do and talk. You then have more time to respond to students promptly. Answer individual student questions to the group, so they bet maximum value from your advice.

There has been decades of research and development put into online learning tools and techniques. Use these to save you time. Use the learning management system to lighten the administrative burden, by using it to distribute materials, send out announcements and administer assessment. Use automated quizzes, rubrics, peer assessment and other techniques to lighten the burden for you and increase student learning.

Don't use email with students: use the tools in the learning management system. If a student sends you an email, reply via the system, with a copy of their message, so they understand this is official, on the record, communication.

6. Use video sparingly

- Reuse old videos
- Generate slideshows
- Provide video to supplement the text
- Implement accessibility guidelines
 

High production quality video is not needed for education (in fact video is not needed, text is fine). If you already have video, use it. If you have slide decks, turn them into videos. Link the videos from your text notes. Instead of an hour long video lecture, create a ten minute summary.  Focus your efforts on getting students to do things, not watch videos.

Follow accessibility guidelines, not just to make your materials readable by someone with a disability, but so they will work on a smart phone, and a slow Internet connection. 

7. Get help

- Ask for advice from the educational technology & learning design staff: they are trained experts.
- Have a colleague, or assistant, to help you with the course.
- Team teach live: one person presents, the other works the tech and helps the students

Universities have teams of learning and educational technology professions to help you do your job. Also, teaching online can be a 24 hour job, so it helps to do it as a team. Live to air teaching is technically and pedagogically challenging, as well as being tiring, so have at least a two person tag team. One person presents, while the other checks for questions and problems. 

Team Teaching in ANU TechLauncher

Careers Consultant
Four workshops per semester for ANU Computer Project students, preparing a capstone reflective portfolio. 

Designed for hybrid mode.

The team:
  1. Course convener: Dr Charles Gretton, sets the context
  2. Instructor: Tom Worthington, manages the students
  3. Subject matter expert: Tempe Archer, delivers the workshop.
  4. 200 Students: Peer review.
  5. 13 Tutors: Assess their student’s portfolios.
An example of team teaching are the hybrid workshops, for the Australian National University Tech-Launcher program. Workshops are provided each semester for Computer Project students, to help them prepare a capstone reflective portfolio.

I designed this module with an online asynchronous core, to accompany the face to face workshops, as described in a published paper (Worthington, 2019). Provision for delivery fully online was included, in case an emergency kept students away from the campus. This contingency was activated in 2020, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, by replacing the classroom with Zoom videoconferencing. For 2021, a hybrid option was added, allowing for students, both in the classroom, and online.

At each workshop, the Course Convener, Dr Charles Gretton, sets the context. The instructor, that is me, manages the students, while the subject matter expert, Tempe Archer, delivers the workshop content. Tempe tells me when to put the students into Zoom rooms for group work, and bring them back. I relay queries from the students in the chat forum. After a workshop, students complete a small writing task for 1% of their grade, and peer assess for another 1%. Thirteen tutors help the 200 students with their portfolios, and assess them at the end of semester for 14% of the grade.

Reference: 

Worthington, T. (2019, December). Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students. In 2019 IEEE International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Education (TALE) (pp. 1-5). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/TALE48000.2019.9225921

Further Information

  1. Higher Education After COVID-19, six webinars from August 2020, by Tom Worthington, for the Microlearning Series curated by Manisha Khetarpal at Maskwacis Cultural College, Canada
  2. Engaging students in the online environment, five webinars from February 2021, by Tom Worthington, for the Microlearning Series curated by Manisha Khetarpal at Maskwacis Cultural College, Canada
  3. Learning to Reflect Module Version 5.0: Hybrid Edition by Tom Worthington, for the  module for the ANU TechLauncher program, 2018 to 2021.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Post-Covid 19 K-12 Online and Blended Teaching and Learning

Athabasca University (where I completed my MED in 2016), is offering a special graduate course for next term: "Post-Covid K-12 Online and Blended Teaching and Learning" (MDDE 690). There is not a lot of information provided about the course. For more, contact the ever helpful Leanne Jewell, Graduate Programs Administrator, Athabasca University.

Dr. Susan Bainbridge, Athabasca University
Dr. Susan Bainbridge
"This is a special offering of MDDE 690 that will be of particular interest to K-12 teachers, administrators, and instructional designers. Participants will co-create their individual learning objectives, activities, and assignments with the instructor, Dr. Susan Bainbridge. They will also have the opportunity for valuable collaborative sessions that will assist them in critical reflection that will support assignment completion. There will be two assignments.

Suggested assignments are a short paper due Week 4 worth 20% and a final assignment due Week 13 worth 60%, which may take various forms after discussion with the instructor. Participation will be valued at 20%. This course will be a collaborative effort of participants and the instructor to delve into the past year in K-12 education and assess the challenges, the successes, and the failures, to see if we can learn from these and prepare for K-12 education as we move forward. The format of the course will include synchronous sessions every two weeks and ongoing asynchronous discussions."

Learning to Reflect Module Version 5.0: Hybrid Edition

 


"Learning to Reflect" is a module for the ANU TechLauncher program, where students reflect on what they have learned, by writing an application for a real job, as their last assessed task before graduating. This was developed in late 2018 and first run in semester 1, February 2019. It was designed for blended delivery, with the option of easy conversion to full online delivery. That option was needed for Semesters 1 & 2 in 2020, and Semester 1 2021 due to COVID-19. This version 5 is designed for hybrid delivery, with students in a physical classroom linked to those online, using the MidFlex Minimal Hybrid FormatUnfortunately COVID-19 again required a return to pure online delivery, but without any changes required to the material.

Two additional workshops were added from Version 4, at student request, bringing the total to four. The first three have exercises for a 2% mark each (not for the last when a major assignment is due). The optional student logbook has been dropped due to lack of use. The middle two workshops are half the length of the others with the first hour used for the new ANU Computing Showcase, featuring prominent ANU alumni, speaking about their careers.

Please note that the course notes only supply the structure for the module and the assessment. The detailed content for the workshops is provided by Tempe Archer, Careers Consultant at ANU Careers, and the students undertake exercises using the ANU Careers Toolkit.

A paper on the design and blended delivery of the module is available:

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

ANU Has Computing Students Available as Interns

Dr Penny Kyburz, ANU Computing Internship Convenor, asked me to let organisations know that they can now apply to host interns for  2022.  As the internship is part of the student’s academic course, no payment is required.

Round 1

  • Host applications open – 13 August 2021
  • Host project proposals due - 10 September 2021
  • Host organisations assess/interview and advise preferred candidate - 4-22 October 2021
  • Placements and agreements finalised

Round 2

  • Host applications open – 13 September 2021
  • Host project proposals due - 15 October 2021
  • Host organisations assess/interview and advise preferred candidate - 8 - 26 November 2021
  • Placements and agreements finalised

Placements begin – week beginning 21 February 2022

Monday, August 16, 2021

Best of EduTech 2021 Australia

Tom Worthington and Martin Dougiamas at EduTech Asia 2018
Martin Dougiamas, and Tom Worthington
at EduTech Asia 2018, Singapore 

EduTech 2021 Australia starts 17 August. Below are my pics for what looks interesting (I picked these and the system prepared me a schedule). The must see session is 12:30 pm August 18, with Martin Dougiamas, founder of Moodle.

My schedule

August 17, 2021

9:05 AM

9:25 AM

What happens when you keep books o the booklist?

Brisbane South State Secondary College is Queensland's

newest vertical state high school. In collaboration with one of...

Plenary

Keynote

Tamara Sullivan · Inner City South State Secondary

College

Microsoft

9:25 AM

9:45 AM

Thriving in the digital economy. Are you digitising or

digitalising?

The digital economy has been a signi cant positive trend in

the world and a big headache for many of us who do not...

Plenary

Presentation

Prof Marek Kowalkiewicz · Queensland University of

Technology

August 17, 2021

10:35 AM

10:55 AM

Destination Australia - How to rebuild con dence in

the overseas student market post COVID

Higher Ed & Tertiary Education Channel

Presentation

Hon. Phil Honeywood · International Education Association

Of Australia

Belle W.X. Lim · Council Of International Student Australia9:00 AM

9:20 AM

Data Protection for Higher Education

An overview of the data protection issues facing the education

industrySome tips on where to start with protecting your...

Higher Ed & Tertiary Education Channel

Presentation

Kate Carruthers · University of New South Wales

9:00 AM

9:20 AM

National VET Datastreamling Initiative

Historical approaches to data collection, data validation and

reporting are changing across the VET landscape with the...

Higher Ed & Tertiary Education Channel

Presentation

Andrew Liberale · NSW Department of Education

9:25 AM

9:45 AM

Higher Education Trends 2021 - What’s top of mind

for students and sta ?

As the world continues to battle COVID-19, higher education

institutions continue to face massive disruption as they sprint ...

Higher Ed & Tertiary Education Channel

Presentation

David Yip · Salesforce.org

Samantha Curtis · Salesforce Australia

Salesforce.org

9:50 AM

10:10 AM

What are the real employability skills employers are

saying they need?

This presentation is about taking education and student’s

employability to the next level - how do we prepare them for...

Higher Ed & Tertiary Education Channel

Presentation

Serryn O'Regan · Evolve College9:50 AM

10:10 AM

Mapping our future together: How industries are

helping researchers de ne future innovative space

design and use. (Introducing LEaRN’s ILE+SE Project.)

The large ILETC research project concluded in 2020, a major

nding being the future of innovative learning environment...

EduBUILD Channel

Presentation

Dr Wesley Imms · University of Melbourne - Melbourne

Graduate School of Education

August 18, 2021

11:45 AM

12:30 PM

Hear from the founder of Moodle, an Australian

EdTech success story.

Moodle is the most popular open source LMS in the world and

has got more than 110+ million users globally. Hear from Marti...

Edtech Summit & Innovation Precinct

Presentation

Jack Goodman · Studiosity

Martin Dougiamas · Moodle



Sunday, August 15, 2021

Asynchronous vs Synchronous Delivery

One of the rewards for the effort of having peer reviewed papers published, is the delight in finding you have been being cited. Usually the papers I have written on teaching computing are cited in IT or education journals.  But the latest citation is in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. I did not even know there was such as thing as lifestyle medicine. ;-)

As it is not my field I can be entirely sure what Munroe, Moore, Bonnet, Rastorguieva, Mascaro, Craighead, Haack, Quave, and Bergquist (2021) are writing about. But it appears they have designed a course to promoting healthier eating, by teaching how to cook. One section of their paper is "Asynchronous vs Synchronous Delivery", where I get a brief mention (Worthington,  2013). A little worryingly the location of the conference I presented at has been incorrectly given as "Columbia", when it was Colombo (Sri Lanka). 

As the authors note, asynchronous delivery depends more on the student. As many students and teachers have found during the pandemic induced lock-downs over the last 18 months, this can be stressful with students feeling lost and alone. My experience of being a student and teaching this way, suggests that students need frequent feedback on how they are doing. It helps to be rewarded with a few marks for completing each small task in the course.

As the authors note, the alternative synchronous mode of teaching, where the students and teacher interact in real time is something many students expect. But one mode is not better than the other and they can be combined in the “flipped classroom”. This has the student studying alone in preparation for a teacher lead class. However, I suggest a small inducement, such as a mark, is still useful for keeping students working.

An emergency move to online teaching has seen many instructors providing long hours of synchronous teaching. This direct translation of the traditional classroom experience, I suggest, is not the best approach. A flipped approach, with shorter synchronous sessions, is a better use of student and staff time, but requires careful design and new skills of everyone. Teachers need to learn to provide quick feedback to students & anticipate their questions, or be overwhelmed with student queries. Students need to learn to plan their study.

Until last week, I was helping teach 200 students in a flipped hybrid mode. Students were provided with text and videos online to study in advance of class. Those who could get to the campus could take part there and others via video. But Canberra was locked down at 5pm last Thursday, due to a COVID-19 outbreak, so this week all students will be attending via video. However, other than the lack of a physical classroom, nothing about the teaching changes: the exercises and interaction are the same, just via a digital medium.

References

Munroe, D., Moore, M. A., Bonnet, J. P., Rastorguieva, K., Mascaro, J. S., Craighead, L. W., Haack, C. I., Quave, C. L., & Bergquist, S. H. (2021). Development of Culinary and Self-Care Programs in Diverse Settings: Theoretical Considerations and Available Evidence. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/15598276211031493

Worthington, T . Synchronizing asynchronous learning. Combining synchronous and asynchronous techniques2013 8th International Conference on Computer Science Education26-28 April 2013Columbia, Srilanka618-621, doi:10.1109/ICCSE.2013.6553983.
Google Scholar


American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Foundations of Computing Monthly Seminar Online from Canberra

The ANU Computing School is now providing its monthly Foundations of Computing Seminars online, as well as free on campus in Canberra. All are welcome to attend free.

Next is:
Dr Thomas Haines
Title: The state of “verifiable" online voting: and the ethical problems therein

Speaker: Thomas Haines

Abstract: At present the best theoretical solutions for online voting do not meet the requirements. Moreover, the solutions being used in practice are far weaker than the theoretical best solutions. This talk will examine these three areas and discuss the ethical issues they raise for academics working in the area.

When: Wednesday, 18 August, 2021, at 1pm.

Where: ANU Hanna Neumann (Building 145) Room 1.33. Or, via Zoom.
ps: See my own posts on e-voting.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Old ANU Chemistry Building Turned Into a State of the Art Teaching Facility

ANU Birch kitchen/meeting
area by Vibe FM
On Friday I attended two events at the Australian National University's Birch Building. I did not think much of this, as it was the old Chemistry building, which I had given occasional lectures in. But when I walked in, the building had been completely refurbished. This is not just new carpet and a coat of paint, significant structural work has been done by Taylor Thomson Whitting, along with fit-out by Vibe FM to make a state of the art teaching facility for the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science. 

Structure of ANU Birch
building by TTW 

The two spaces I found most impressive are the kitchen built into the ground floor, and the flat floor space over what was the Chemistry lecture theater. The kitchen has seating and a large flat screen, perfect for informal events. The upstairs space has windows on three sides, large sliding doors and movable flip up tables on wheels.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Open Universities Australia Delivering Online Education Through Australia's Universities Before and During the Pandemic


Much has been written on the need for universities to suddenly move to online education in the last year and a half. What has been largely forgotten, or deliberately ignored, is that many traditional bricks and mortar Australian universities, were already involved in online education for decades through Open Universities Australia (OUA).  This consortium of universities has been delivering online degrees since 1993, with a staff of less than 200. OUA are so comfortable with their low key online approach that they seemed to have stopped producing new TV ads for their courses, and are just running the same one with the voice overdubbed.

The course design and delivery for OUA is done through traditional universities, including:

  1. Australian Catholic University
  2. Australian National University
  3. Bond University
  4. Charles Sturt University
  5. Curtin University
  6. DeakinCo
  7. Edith Cowan University
  8. Flinders University
  9. Griffith University
  10. James Cook University
  11. La Trobe University
  12. Macquarie University
  13. Murdoch University
  14. RMIT University
  15. Southern Cross University
  16. Swinburne University of Technology
  17. The University of Adelaide
  18. The University of Newcastle
  19. University of New England
  20. University of New South Wales
  21. University of South Australia
  22. University of Tasmania
OUA's pick and mix approach, where you can combine courses from different universities (within limits), then choose one to graduate from, I suggest is the future of higher education. This has potential for expanding Australia's export education industry, as well as providing a better, more cost effective education for Australians.

Melbourne EdTech Summit, 17 to 20 August

 The Melbourne EdTech Summit is 17 to 20 August. COVID-19 has forced the event online, which not all bad news: it is free and you don;t have to be in Melbourne (Australia) to attend. Here is what caught my attention in the program (if you do nothing else, you must, at least, hear the keynote from Martin Dougiamas, founder of Moodle, 11:45am Wednesday):

Tuesday K-12

9.45am

Keynote | Future of Student Assessment

Speaker | Geoff Masters, CEO for Australian Council for Educational Research
Moderator | David Linke, Managing Director of EduGrowth

What if the primary outcome of assessment was not a grade, but an estimate of the point an individual has reached in their learning? Assessment is a diagnostic tool, but too often it is treated as the end-point. This session will discuss how we need to rethink and redesign assessment to measure progression and inform teaching.


3.40pm

Using data to support whole-school wellbeing

Speakers | Richard Clark, Head of Secondary School of the Springfield Anglican College; and Nicole Archard, Principal of Loreto College
Moderator | Joe Thurbon, Co-Founder & CTO of Educator Impact

Supporting the wellbeing of a whole-child takes a whole school approach. The wellbeing of staff and students is interconnected. Hear from two innovative school leaders about how data helps them drive whole-school wellbeing improvements for their staff and students, both strategically and every day in the classroom.

4.20pm

New Tools – New Possibilities: Classrooms enhanced with technology

Speakers | Zoe Milne, Co-Founder and Director of LoopLearn; and Lauren Sayer, Executive Director Research and Innovation at Melbourne Girls Grammar
Moderators | Joe Thurbon, Co-Founder & CTO of Educator Impact

High tech, leading edge, bleeding edge! Can these things coexist in a K12 classroom whilst navigating student privacy, data sovereignty and data protection? Let’s explore cutting edge technology to support the modern classroom achieve all that’s possible.


Wednesday Entrepreneurship:

9:15 Listening to the Student Voice

Speakers | Michelle Demirel, Deputy Principal-Instructional Leader & Accredited Lead Teacher at Leichhardt Public School; and Kerry Weston, Principal of Guildford West Public School
Moderator | Nikki Bonus, Founder & CEO of Life Skills Go

Learner agency is important to ensuring engagement. The first step to empowering students is to listen. How do we ensure the voice of the student is central to learning and what role does technology and design have in supporting this pedagogy.


11:45 am Keynote | Hear from the founder of Moodle, an Australian EdTech success story

Speaker | Martin Dougiamas, CEO of Moodle
Moderator | Jack Goodman, Founder & Executive Chair of Studiosity

Moodle is the most popular open source LMS in the world and has got more than 110+ million users globally. Hear from Martin Dougiamas the founder who built Moodle into the renowned EdTech solution it is today. We’ll find out about the future of Moodle in this new phase of EdTech opportunity.


Thursday Higher Education:


4.20pm

Innovation in the institution
Speaker | Chris Campbell, Senior Lecturer Learning Innovation at Griffith University & President of ASCILITE
Moderator | TBC

As leading research institutions many of the greatest innovations in Australia come out of our higher education sector. But our TAFEs and Universities are also an incubator for technology to support teaching and learning informed by their deep understanding of the needs of students. This session will examine new ways that innovation can be leveraged beyond the walls of the institution.

Friday Skills and Workforce:

9:45am Keynote | The War for Talent: EdTech enabling industry growth
Speaker | Belinda Tynan, Provost of Australian Catholic University
Moderator | Claire Field, Principal at Claire Field & Associates

Job ready graduates is the goal. But what jobs are we preparing these graduates for? The jobs that exist today, the jobs we think might be there tomorrow, the jobs that we hope will be there. What is the intersection between education and industry in a rapidly evolving labour market.