Thursday, September 30, 2021

Possibilities for Australia/India Education Partnerships

Today I took part in the Australia India Business eXchange 2021, in the Education section. After some short presentations (which was a relief as they can be long at these shows), we had some small group discussions. One issue here was how Australian unviersites can get a presence in India. The approach I suggested was a local partner. I was impressed when on a visit to Colombo (yes I know that is not India), I came across Curtin University staff at the  Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT). They had a very productive partnership where students studied locally for an Australian degree. One possibility discussed in the breakout room was an Indian institution providing an Australian vocational qualification (such as a Diploma), with the student also getting credit towards an Australian degree. Another possibility discussed was the local Indian partner assisting students with work integrated learning.

While AIBX was using Zoom, I experienced some difficulties with how it was implemented. Normally I would click on a link, or enter a Zoom address, and the Zoom App would start. In this case instead Zoom started in the web browser. This is much slower, to the point of being unusable on my computer. So I had to read the room number from this Zoom session and enter it in the desktop Zoom application. At one point other messages covered the number, so I had to ask the help desk for the Zoom link (they responded quickly).

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Australia India Education Trade Show Online with International Education EdTech Vendors

Greetings from the virtual exhibition floor of the Australia India Business eXchange 2021, currently underway online. The program has five streams: Agrifood, Mining, Infrastructure, Healthcare and Education. There are two education areas on the trade floor: Transnational and Edtech. It is not too late to register.

The interface works much better than I was expecting. I clicked on Transnational Education and the response was instant. From their I could get a list of recorded presentations and documents for my show "swag bag".

Transnational Education:
  1. Australian TNE in India - Presentation
  2. Deakin University - Brochure
  3. Flinders University - Presentation
  4. Flinders University - Flyer
  5. University of Southern Queensland - Flyer
  6. Vetassess - Flyer
  7. Mission Delegate Profiles
  8. La Trobe University International Course Guide
The only of these I am not familiar with is Vetassess. So I clicked on it and got a 12 page capability statement. It turns out they do skills assessment.

For Edtech:
  1. Didasko Institute - Flyer
  2. Didasko Institute - Presentation
  3. Typsy - Flyer
  4. Typsy - Brochure
  5. Mission Delegate Profiles
Here I found about Didasko (tech used to deliver university courses). However, Typsy, who deliver online hospitality training, appear to be in the wrong category. Presumably the target market is international students wanting to be certified to work in Australian hospitality.

Here is the education program: 

Wednesday 29 September 2021

11:00-12:00 IST / 15:30-16:30 AEST
Transnational education (TNE) roundtable: partnering for success
In this session Australian and Indian institutions will explore new possibilities in TNE in light of the internationalisation agenda in India’s National Education Policy, and in order to service India’s significant skills demand.

12:00-12.30 IST / 16:30-17:00 AEST
TNE networking (happy half hour)
Opportunity for informal networking with Indian institutions.

13:00-15:00 IST / 17:30–19:30 AEST
Find your partner
Visit our virtual booths anytime to explore partnerships with Australian businesses. Our Austrade India industry sector experts in transnational education and edtech will be available 13:00 to 15:00 IST for live chat.

Thursday 30 September 2021
11:00-12:00 IST / 15:30-16:30 AEST
Limitless learning: opportunities in India’s burgeoning edtech sector
This roundtable discussion focuses on growth trends in India’s education technology industry, key aspirations of Indian edtech companies, and opportunities to partner on content, product development and scale-up.

12:00-12:30 IST / 16:30-17:00 AEST
Edtech networking (happy half hour)
Opportunity for informal networking with key Indian edtech companies.

13:00-15:00 IST / 17:30–19:30 AEST
Find your partner
Visit our virtual booths anytime to explore partnerships with Australian businesses. Our Austrade India industry sector experts in transnational education and edtech will be available 13:00 to 15:00 IST for live chat.

Friday 1 October 2021
10:00-11:30 IST / 14:30-16:00 AEST
AIBX 2021 Business Leaders Forum: Partnering for Prosperity
Official proceedings with Minister Tehan, Indian Government representatives and industry leaders. A physical event in Delhi delivered in partnership with CII and the Economic Times and livestreamed to Business Mission participants. Program will include keynotes from ministers and a business leaders panel discussion on trade and economic partnership opportunities, moderated by the Economic Times.

13:00-15:00 IST / 17:30–19:30 AEST
Find your partner
Visit our virtual booths anytime to explore partnerships with Australian businesses. Our Austrade India industry sector experts in transnational education and edtech will be available 13:00 to 15:00 IST for live chat.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Australia India Business eXchange 2021

Greetings from the Australia India Business eXchange 2021, being held over the next three days online. I registered to explore education business  opportunities in India. The organizers have gone to considerable lengths to create the online equivalent of a trade show. One interesting feature is a "swag" bag, where you can browse through the information filling your virtual show bag with electronic brochures. There are live events via Zoom as well as chat. 

The main interface looks a lot like Second Life,or Mozilla Hubswhich is not necessarily a good thing. The physical meeting venue does not necessarily make for a good online interface, and might just slow things down. A more intimidate problem is that the interface is only available when live sessions are on. This makes no sense and differs from other online trade shows, where you can look at the program, browse virtual trade booths, and leave messages to arrange meetings, at any time. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Stop Glasses Reflecting Screen During Video Conference

A problem for those of us who wear spectacles is reflections from the screen showing up in a video conference. Three ways I have found to reduce this are: a polarizing filter, custom spectacles, and a dark theme.

1. Polarizing Filter

An LCD screen uses polarized light to produce images. So a polarized filter over the web camera can block reflections from the screen. The clip-on lens kit I purchased has a polarizing filter, but this was not designed to be used in conjunction with the zoom lens. So I unscrewed the ring holding the polarizing filter in place and inserted it in under the zoom lens. This greatly reduces reflections. Those using DSLR cameras as web cameras will be able to purchase polarizing filters for these. 

2. Custom Spectacles

My optometrist (Andrew Watkins) is making me a custom pair of multi-focal spectacles for video conferences (computer glasses, or "Zoom-Specs"). The standard ones work reasonably well with a computer screen, but I have to tilt my head up slightly. This becomes uncomfortable, and increases the screen reflections.  It is also not an attractive look. The custom spectacles have the center section of the visual field set for my normal computer screen reading distance, and also an anti-reflective coating, to reduce screen reflections. Being multi-focal, there is still an area at the bottom for seeing close up, and at the top for seeing long distances. So these glasses can be worn around the office, or home, but are not suitable for driving.

3. Dark Theme

In addition, I have found that a dark theme on the computer desktop helps. This has a black background with white text, so the screen emits much less light. How this is set varies between operating systems, and browsers. 

Zoom will go to dark theme, when this is set in the Microsoft Windows, or Apple OS operating systems. However, this doesn't happen with Linux (which I use), or with Android. I have suggested Zoom fix this. It could be rectified by having Zoom follow the operating system theme, or if that is not possible, add a manual setting. Or, Zoom could simply decide to make a dark theme the default for the Android and Linux versions.

An Introduction to Ludic Pedagogy, Webinar, October 20

Sharon Lauricella
Sharon Lauricella and Keith Edmunds will present "An Introduction to Ludic Pedagogy", online October 20, 5 pm Edmonton time. I had not heard of Ludic Pedagogy before, but apparently it is about students having fun while still learning in a rigorous way. This is part of Manisha Khetarpal's excellent Microlearning Series at Maskwacis Cultural College in Canada (I gave some talks in the series).

The idea of fun in education is something I have difficulty with. For me studying and teaching is highly stressful. As a result I find attempts at fun or play even more stressful. However, I have been a participant is ome successful, tightly run exercises, such as  Dr Stephen Danns' sessions of  Lego Serious Play for ANU staff and students.

Last week I took part in Johnnie Moore and Matt Moore's You Say You Want A Revolution: An Absurdist Encounter Group. But it was more perplexing than enlightening.

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.


Demand & Impacts on Tech & Digital Skills, An ACS Technical White Paper, The Australian Computer Society, August 2021. URL

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.