Saturday, April 30, 2022

Provide Eye Contact to Enhance Video-conference Engagement?

Brucks, and Levav (2022) have found that people were significantly less productive via video conference, than at a face to face meeting. That may sound like common sense, but this was a carefully conducted experiment, under controlled conditions, measuring productivity. The researchers also tracked the eye movements of participants and were able to provide a plausible explanation for the loss of productivity:  participants online  were not able to engage in eye contact. Previous research found that the eye-contact is an important part of communication. This may explain some of the awkwardness in video conferences, with participants talking over each other.

However, while F2F may be preferable, it is not always possible. When then COVID-19 pandemic struck I was unable to attend the usual symposia and conferences with colleagues. Videoconferencing was the least worst alternative. In one case it has worked very very well. Each week I have been attending the ASCILITE Mobile Learning Sig, and have ended up writing a series of papers over the last two years with a group of people who I have never met face to face. Of course this is a group of people who are experts in online communicaiton. 

I was surprised the Brucks, and Levav  did not go on to suggest technical fixes for this problem. One would be carefully positioning the cameras and video displays, so that the geometry of a face to face meeting could be matched. This approach is used in some high end corporate  video-conference rooms. Each room has the same geometry, with the same meeting table, camera and a large video screen up against one side. The aim is to have the remote participants appear life size, sitting at extension of the table in the same room. An example is Webex's Room Panorama Immersive Telepresence.

Another way to provide realistic eye contact would be to manipulate the image to modify the geometry. This feature could be added to video conference software, in a similar way to cat filters, and artificial backgrounds. The software would identify the participants face in the video, and distort the image so it appears they are looking at the other party. A less processor intensive approach would be with a setup utility which would indicate where the camera and screen should be located, for best effect.


Brucks, M.S., Levav, J. Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation. Nature (2022).

Friday, April 29, 2022

What can universites do to enable computing to help the nation?

The host was worried no one here at the 50 years of computing at ANU dinner,would ask the keynote speaker, David Thodey AO a question. So I was just asked to be ready with one. 

I was going to ask a follow-on to Sally-Ann Williams speech: "What can universities do to enable computing to help the nation?". But David anticipated the question in his speech. So I only need to ask how do we enable that better society?

This again, got harder, when he anticipated that question, listed what we should do: stick to the fundamentals, push boundaries, be bolder, keep doing pure and applied R&D, build partnerships with government and industry, collaborate better.

Fortunately there were plenty of questions. Q: What to ask the next PM? Answer: create common vision for the nation. Q: How does expert advice cut through? A: Present the truth and leave without opinion

David mentioned the power of  technology in everyday life. I was confronted by this today when the robot cleaning the floor in Woolworth's talked to me.

Computing Enabling Australia's Future

50 years of computing at ANU Dinner,
Photo by Tom Worthington
CC-BY 29 April 2022
Greetings from the 50 years of computing at ANU Dinner. Where Sally-Ann Williams, CEO, Cicada Innovations called for computing to be used as an enabler in the Australian economy. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Software for Fast Storage Hardware With Prof Willy Zwaenepoel

Greetings from the famous room N101 at ANU Computer Science where Prof Willy Zwaenepoel is speaking on "Software for Fast Storage Hardware".  He argues that modern solid state storage works differently to the old rotating disks database software was designed for. As a result the old software doesn't produce the expected improvement of much faster storage. 

The problem turns out to be that the CPU is holding up data access. For those brought up with mechanical storage it is a shock, as disks are thousands of times slower than the CPU, but modern storage is solid state, just like the CPU.

Database software is optimized for sequential writing to the disk, because that is faster than random access. Logs are also used to allow for a failure while the data is being written. This all takes CPU cycles to do, but is not needed for SSD. Instead data can be written immediately to storage. 

Professor Zwaenepoel's software is called KVell (Key Value and North American slang for happy and proud). This reminded me of what Canberra start-up Instaclustr, do with Apache Cassandra. There are many articles for Cassandra setting for SSDs.

This was an excellent seminar to be back on campus for. It challenged assumptions from my earliest training at the ABS decades ago. 

ps: ANU events follow Oxford Time: "Classes commence at five minutes past the published start time and conclude five minutes before the published end time."(Policy: Timetable, ANUParagraph 6, 2019).


No Reset to 2019 Says Lego Man

Stephen Dann, best known as a Lego Serious Play practitioner, writing in Times Higher Education, has warned against universities trying to return to pre-pandemic ways of teaching. He suggests the “touch campus” will not work, that is the idea that students want the campus experience. Stephen argues that the pandemic has shown that online learning works, and provides benefits for students who have work and family responsibilities. To that I would add the improved accessibility online, for those with a disability.

While I agree with Stephen, these arguments seem a bit dated. I had my epiphany on 12 August 2008, when I decided to stop giving lectures. Around this time I also stopped setting exam questions, in favor of progressive experiential assessment. My professional body trained me over the next few years to design, deliver and assess online. I applied this approach at ANU, and then spent seven years as an online student myself, including three as an international student.

By 2017 online seemed the normal and natural way to teach. If there was a classroom available, then I could use it to supplement the student's online learning. But I did not rely on a classroom, as after all a crisis could stop any or all students from getting to campus, and we had an obligation to plan for that

Dr Dann suggests embracing shift online, and rethink what we use classrooms for. This is an approach I support. It would not be good for learning, or for universities, to force students back to campus if all they get are boring old lectures and tutorials. It should be kept in mind that most students had already deserted the lecture theater years before COVID-19.

The approach I suggested in 2017, when I warned Canberra's university's a crisis could force all students online, was dogfooding. Those who teach at university need to learn how to do it by being a student, especially an online student. Some of the best education I have had is online, and the worst in a classroom supposedly being taught how to teach online.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Priorities for learning and teaching at an Australian University

 Australian universities publish policy and planning documents which are a useful summary of the thinking of their leaders. An example is the ANU Strategic Plan 2021-2025, published 29 July 2021. In terms of teaching and learning, ANU says it is aiming to deliver seamlessly in the classroom and online. Priorities also include learning from First Nations Peoples, contributing to sustainability, and being inclusive. However, there are some difficult decisions to be made to achieve these aims. As an example, ANU needs to provide the balance of resources for research and teaching. The university doesn't have an education school, or center, as a focus for research-informed learning.

"We will innovate in the classroom: research-informed learning delivered seamlessly across physical and digital spaces." (p. 2)

"Respecting, celebrating and learning from First Nations Peoples" (p. 4)

"Contribute to global environmental sustainability, through our research, teaching and operations by becoming a greenhouse gas emissions negative university through ANU Below Zero." (p. 9)

"Deliver academically rigorous, inspiring courses that are enriched by world-leading research and distinguished from other universities by their small classes, quality teaching and flexible, interactive delivery." (p. 19)

"Whether on-campus or online, the education and services we provide will be accessible to all, inclusive of ability and background." (p. 24)

Changes in HE Since 2016

In November 2016 I completed my last major piece of study (an MEd in digital education).  Much has changed in higher education since then. The major change, is that most university students are now studying primarily online. That change was not a surprise, but how it came about, in a pandemic was (although I had been teaching how to deal with them using the Internet). What had seemed more likely was a regional military confrontation which forced international students online (unfortunately something which could still occur). 

What perhaps is more surprising than students moving online is that the Australian government policy had little to do with this. An example is that Senator Simon Birmingham, then Federal Minister for Education and Training, announcing a review of regional, rural and remote education in March 2017. The review, resulted in little change, with regional, and rural students continuing to have less access to university than their city counterparts. But around this time I realized we were at the E-Learning Tipping Point, not  due to government policy, but because the students had moved online and universities were following them. The  University of Queensland,  Australian National University, University of Adelaide and Curtin University started offering 25% credit towards masters programs for completing an on-line edX "Micromasters". These did not prove to be as popular as their promoters thought, but were an indication of what was to come.

    Thursday, April 21, 2022

    Psychologists, Communicators, and Artists Setting Out to Save the World

    Greetings from a meeting of the Institute for Climate, Energy,& Disaster Solutions  (ICEDS) Psychology, Communication, and the Arts Cluster, at the Australian National University. Most of us are in a high tech classroom at the university and a few online. We are setting out to save the world. The problem is global warming, the solution this group is looking at how to do this not by inventing solar panels, but by changing behavior. One of the options to be explored is how to bridge research and students, to the decision makers.

    One comment made was about envisioning positive futures. A long time ago (1993) I wrote "Canberra 2020: World Information Capital". There is a similar exercise being run at present by the Canberra Information Network (CBRIN) as the "Adaptive City Innovation Challenge". My contribution is "Canberra World Center", combining a multi campus education facility with a new solar powered conference center. 

    Opportunity to Align Policy With Existing Digital Practice Post-pandemic

    Zancajo, Verger, and Bolea (2022), suggest the COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in only incremental changes to education policy, with "digitalisation". The rapid investment in equipment and software to teach students kept off campus, but not resulted in structural changes, the authors found. I suggest this undervalues the effect the legitimization of online learning can have. The gradual adoption of the Internet in the 1990s saw use preceding policy. It was only after adoption that policy, and law were changed to retrospectively endorse what had already happened

    Zancajo, Verger, and Bolea also point out an increasing learning gap udring the Pandemic. However, exact cause of these is not explored. Was this due to a lack of access to technology for online learning, disparity in digital skills, or external factors, such as low SES households needing to focus on getting food and shelter. 

    Zancajo, Verger, and Bolea also address the adverse effect of the pandemic on teachers. They note calls to update teachers’ in-service training, not just in digital skills, but also "motivational and emotional competences" to improve resilience. Teachers’ autonomy also gets a brief mention. This I suggest needs more emphasis in initial teacher training, as does training in professional skills. 

    Computer, and engineering students now routinely receive training in project management, working in teams and dealing with a client. The also receive some professional ethics training. I suggest that teachers could also benifit from similar training. The aim would be to equip the teacher to decide the best way to teach their students with the resources available.


    Adri├ín Zancajo, Antoni Verger, Pedro Bolea, Digitalization and beyond: the effects of Covid-19 on post-pandemic educational policy and delivery in Europe, Policy and Society, Volume 41, Issue 1, January 2022, Pages 111–128,

    The cabal that connected Canberra, Communications Update, 1995. URL

    Wednesday, April 20, 2022

    Exhibition: Czechs and Slovaks in Brodie Helmets

     Greetings from  Czechs and Slovaks in Brodie Helmets, an exhibition at the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences. The Slovak Ambassador pointed out that with the situation in Ukraine today it is important to learn from history.

    Also mentioned was that the EU had a Pacific Strategy. Given events in the Solomon Islands, perhaps Australia should  be exploring this more. 

    The exhibition had a personal relevance, as my father was a member of the Australian 2/15th Battalion.

    Can Online Study Improve Equity?

    In "Equity off course: Mapping equity access: across courses and institutions" (2022), Cakitaki, Luckman, & Harvey, provide an overview of how Australian university are doing providing education for all, or not. Something curiously missing from their report was how online learning might help, or hinder this.

    Many of the report's findings (reproduced below) relate to regional and remote students, and their participation at Group of Eight (Go8) universities. All the Go8 are located in capital cities, out of commuting distance for regional and remote students. Low SES students, those with family or cultural commitments, would also find on-campus attendance difficult. These students therefore have the choice of a regional non-Go8 university or distance education. Pre-pandemic, the Go8 universities provided online limited online learning options. 

    Some of the findings seem self evident, such as low SES students being underrepresented in creative arts courses. Having a low SES background myself, it would never occur to me to enroll in creative arts, as that would not be likely to result in a secure well paid job.

    Similarly, it would be an entirely rational choice for a low SES student to enroll in a regional university, or one of the city ones which places an emphasis on teaching, not a Go8 research intensive university.

    Findings from the study included:

    • Relative to their overall representation in the sample, low SES, regional and remote, and Indigenous students were underrepresented at the selective Group of Eight (Go8) universities.
    • Low SES students and NESB students were underrepresented in creative arts and communications courses.
    • High ATAR students from all groups (equity and non-equity) were more likely to commence at Group of Eight (Go8) universities than other universities, yet just over half of high achieving low SES students commenced at a Go8 university compared to more than two thirds of high achieving medium and high SES students.
    • High achieving regional and remote students were much less likely to commence at Go8 universities than metropolitan students.
    • Indigenous students with high ATARs were much less likely to enrol at Go8 universities than non-Indigenous students.

    Recommendations from the study included:

    • That the DESE report equity participation and achievement data for the official “Fair Chance for All” equity categories, both by field of education and by the 21 QILT study areas.
    • That, where the Department of Health has set equity targets for Indigenous and regional and remote participation in medical training and allied health courses, they also include targets for low SES students.
    • That the DESE reform the existing Access and Participation Plans by adopting the UK system of making institutions set equity targets and evaluate progress towards those targets. Such an approach could be connected to the Performance Based Funding for the Commonwealth Grant Scheme or the awarding of the Indigenous, Regional and Low-SES Attainment Fund.
    • That the DESE commissions a review into the representation of women in male dominated study areas, with the object of setting participation targets in the terms of reference.
    • That individual institutions monitor and track equity participation rates by course and discipline as part of their standard evaluation and monitoring processes.
    • That institutions set themselves targets to increase equity participation in their most selective courses.
    • That institutions employ an achievement focus as part of their school outreach work.
    • That institution approaches to outreach are cognisant of career stereotypes and expectation differences by class, race, gender and other categories. Effort is required to ensure that all students are receiving the information, advice, and guidance required to make an informed choice when applying for a course.
    • That equity researchers conduct further research on the course choices and motivations of high achieving equity students.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2022

    Changes to universities and campuses

    Geoff Hanmer's article in The Conversation is titled "A century that profoundly changed universities and their campuses", but I have no idea which hundred years is being referred to.

    Hanmer starts on July 16 1945 with the first a bomb. As he notes this was largely the product of universities. However, that was not a new development, with universities contributing to other weapons development in WWII, for cryptography, radar, medicine, and other fields. Waiting to see inside the reactor at Lucas Heights I once bumped into Professor Bennett, who helped build the world's first practical stored program electronic computer. He commented that some of his generation went into radar like him during WWII, and some nuclear energy. 

    Hanmer claims that the library was the major capital commitment for universities before WWI, but after it was laboratories and equipment for them. I find this surprising, as I would have thought buildings were the major cost. Also this doesn't include salaries for staff, which did and still do make up the major component of coast for universities, both for research and teaching. 

    As Hammer points out, post WWII new Australian campuses were well outside city centers. To some extent that has now been reversed, with universities now establishing city campuses, in high rise buildings. The existing city campuses are also being built up, with accommodation, and entertainment, as well as classrooms, offices, and labs.

    Hammer comments that "Broad-acre campuses are popular with students", but how much time do students spend on campus? I never set foot on the campuses of the last two universities I studied at (despite having to pay a fee to maintain the ovals at one of them). 

    Hammer ended by commenting broad-acre campuses are also popular with companies. I didn't really see what this had to do with universities. Also this is a very limited analysis, not considering distributed campuses, or the effect of COVID-19 in popularizing of working, and studying remotely. A university will need some office space for a cadre of staff, and perhaps to help market the image of a university, but how much space does it actually need for teaching and research? Could the research facilities be better collocated with industrial clients? The best place for students, I suggest, is in a workplace, and the best place for researchers is in the industry, or field?

    Hammer's article includes a photo of the National University of Singapore, with its generous campus. However, this doesn't mention the many other educational facilities crammed into much tighter spaces all over Singapore. Also it doesn't mention that Singapore was a leader in planning for online learning after SARS-COVID-1.

    In my 2020 talk on "Higher education after COVID-19", I suggested  the High End Campus of The Future Looks Like a Mall, the Medium Level Campus Looks Like an Office Block, the Work Integrated Learning Campus a Hotel, or a Government Agency, and the Multi University Campus Building.

    Sunday, April 17, 2022

    An Australian idea of the university

     In "The Australian idea of a university" (August 23, 2013), Glyn Davis argues that "Professional training dominated Australian universities from their earliest expression". He suggests the influences on Australia's first university where from the British Isles, but not just England's Oxbridge, also Scotland and Ireland. In 2022 the role of the Australia university seems much as Davis describes in 2013, perhaps not surprisingly, given this is dictated by legislation. But will the pandemic, technology, and international competition, change that?

    Davis suggests the Australian National University's (ANU) approach came in part from US research universities. While ANU started out as a post-graduate institution, he points out that it soon acquired undergraduate students by absorbing Canberra University College.

    Australian universities in 2020 are still predominately as Davis described in 2013, with students undertaking work related courses, in a broad range of disciplines. That is not surprising, in that Australian legislation requires a university to be undertaking research in multiple disciplines, as a condition of registration. Specialist universities are explicitly excluded. There are some exceptions to this, such as Torrens, which is essentially an online university, and Open Universities Australia (a consortium of universities for online education). 

    Davis describes Australian universities of 2013 as "commuter", presumably meaning students do not live on campus. While this is presumably significant for a university's finances, & socialization of students, does it have much to do with their education? In 2022 most students do not live on campus, but there has of course been the rise of on-campus international students. 

    The question for universities in 2022 is, of course, what happens post-pandemic? The emergency move to online learning showed the benefits, and limitations, of the technology. Australia's generalist universities generally coped well. Should they each simply add an online option to their learning offerings, or is there scope for specialist institutions, or perhaps expansion of collaborations like Open Universities Australia?

    The Australian government has promoted some cooperative efforts through Australian University centers in key Asian markets for international students. However, Australian universities have not shown great enthusiasm for investing in such cooperative efforts, preferring to compete, rather than join under a brand Australia.

    Saturday, April 16, 2022

    The university experience — then and now

    It is interesting to look back on pre-pandemic discussions of the future of the university, and see how much of what we think of as new isn't. Robert Manne wrote about the "University experience — then and now" from the perspective of ten years ago. Manne writes that pre WW2 few went to university, but this changed after the 1950s to provide administrative and teaching professionals. I am not sure about the latter, as Australia had non-university teacher training until the Dawkins Revolution of the 1980s. Manne argues that universities filled the training need, as there was no alternative. That seems unlikely, as well as teachers colleagues, Australia had forms of vocational education within stand alone non-university institutions, and large employers (I was trained as a computer professional within the Australian Public Service (even some training as a civilian at military staff college).

    However, Manne seems more interested in the university experience for staff, than the students. They argue that universities had to change from collegiality to professional management as they grew. However, there are large law firms which operate with relatively informal structures while having many thousands of professional staff.

    Manne also seems to think there was a golden age where Australia universities undertook purely academic goals, free from considerations of the needs of government or commerce. However, from the first, our universities were created to train professionals for jobs, and to conduct research to help industry. Our universities have always needed to consider what the customer wanted, and was willing to pay for. This financial need tempered theoretical lifelong tenure. If academics were not producing useful graduates, or research, then no one would pay for them, and they would be out of a job, tenure not withstanding.

    Ivy League and Oxbridge universities have retained their traditional character. But this is in part theater. Underneath the quaint traditions is an understanding of the value of a dollar (or pound). In visiting Oxbridge a few times I was struck by the way that everyone from the lowest student, to the VC, was out to get money. It is done very politely, compared to a company, but is still there. 

    Manne claims not to be "an expert or an authority on universities", but I will avoid false modesty. I have held a position at an Australian university for twenty years, and studied them for my MEd. Like the 1960s university Manne describes, today's universities still have a cadre of long term academics, perhaps now not as permanent as they were. There are also more "professional" staff dealing with student and research administration. There is still an upstairs/downstairs differentiation between research students and undergraduates/coursework graduates. 

    Professional administrators have a large say in how universities are run, but academics still make decisions concerning research and teaching. Or a good administrator allows the academics to think they are making the decisions. ;-) 

    Australian university still have twin, often conflicting goals: training professionals, and conducting research. 

    The tensions over teaching are unchanged: how to balance small and large classes. How much teacher training does an academic need? How generalist should the education be? How practical?

    Who do universities serve?

    In "Who do universities serve? Everyone, or just the elite few?"Julia Horne asks the age old question about higher education (June 1, 2015). Horne points out the The Bradley Review reported that remote, indigenous and low socio-economic-status (SES) students were under represented in 2015. How much has this improved and what more can we do? I suggest that designing courses to allow students to study remotely would help, as would more project, and work integrated learning, and authentic assessment. 

    As a low SES student I did not really flourish at university, until I discovered online learning. It was not so much being able to study remotely (I live in a capital city a few km from four campuses). It was that the distance education courses were very structured, explaining what I needed to do, and when I needed to do it. The assessment was in gradual steps through the course, based mostly on project work, not a large paper based exam at the end (I have learned from bitter experience to avoid courses with large exams).

    What is the role of vocational education post-COVID-19?

    Trevor Treharne  in "Changing higher education to serve the changing world" (University World News, 12 September 2020), argues that COVID-19 has moved higher education into a "central role". Treharne points out that from 1990 to 2020 (when the pandemic hit), tertiary education participation went from 14% to 38%. However, neither Treharne, nor the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) research, which the draw on, asks if perhaps vocational education, at some other institution, would be more appropriate. 

    Higher Education’s Least Significant Changes

    Way back in 2013, EvoLLLution News suggested that the three biggest changes in Higher Education were: technology, non-traditional students, and declining budgets. However, technology has been changing education since the invention of writing. Each new communications technology (radio, TV, the Internet) is decried by traditionalists and over hyped by the enthusiasts. Then it is slotted in to supplement what already is in use, not radically change anything.

     Education, when well designed, meets the needs of the students. It seems every few years, someone at a traditional academic research university discovers there are a whole lot of mature students who need vocational education, at calls this a discovery, while those at the vocational institution down the road keep providing the sort of piratical learning these students have needed for decades. I have seen this first hand when giving a seminar at an Oxbridge university, to which the teachers from the polytechnic down the road were invited. What I was talking about was new and challenging to the locals, but just everyday work for the people down the road.

    Budgets are always a concern for any organisation. Academics at public universities seem to think they should be exempt from competition, and just be given a guaranteed, ever increasing budget, regardless of the quality of their work. Sorry, but the world doesn't work like that.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2022

    Transform Government Through Training

    Dr Lesley Seebeck
    Dr Lesley Seebeck asks "Government tech is hard. If not the DTA, then what?". From several decades doing digital transformation in and for the federal government I became skeptical of grand strategies. Government tech is something you need to learn to do, partly with formal training, and partly on the job. One thing the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) could be tasked to do to help is extend its current low level training programs, to higher levels of expertise. 

    As a career public servant I was initially trained by the ABS as a database designer, and programmer. But that was not the end of it, I received specialist training in design and project management throughout my career. 

    Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang
    Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang,
    map by Tom Worthington (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Google Maps

    DTA's Canberra office is located in what I have dubbed the "Start-up Business Boomerang". This is a strip of land between the ANU, and the center of Canberra. It is home to the Canberra Innovation network, and dozens of small startup tech companies. I suggest the DTA could fruitfully engage with this ecosystem, and use it to help train APS technologists in how to be innovative. 

    Flexibility With Work and Study in the Post-Pandemic University

    Mark Carrigan writes of his experience of COVID-19 and " little the health of staff and students has figured in conversations about the post-pandemic university". I suggest universities should design work, research and study taking into account how staff and students will have times when they have to reduce their workload, for reasons of illness, disability, work, family or other issues. There should not need to be one off provisions for a pandemic. It should be part of the routine to be able to work or study from home, & at a lower intensity, when needed.

    In 2008 I gave up giving conventional lectures, and moved my teaching online. I then spent much of the time up to 2020 learning how to do this well. As part of this I stopped using examinations as a form of assessment. By late 2019 I had a reasonable idea how to teach this way, presenting a paper on how to blend and flip education (Worthington, 2019). Also I had floated the idea of fully online contingency in case of an emergency:

    One benifit of working and studying mostly online is greater flexibility. Due to my learning design, neither myself, nor my students, needed to be in a particular place at a particular time. I was able to work for and study at multiple institutions at the same time. After ten years this seemed routine, and I was taken aback in 2020 by colleagues shocked at the idea of suddenly having to work and teach online, asking if it worked and how to do it. While I helped them with a crash ad-hoc conversion, I was stuck by the idea that most of them thought of this as a temporary measure which could be abandoned as soon as the pandemic was over. I suggest universities need to set up for the new normal.


    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.

    Sunday, April 10, 2022

    Internationalising WA's tertiary institutions

    Dirk Mulder 
    In "Internationalising WA's tertiary institutions" Dirk Mulder makes two suggestions. The first is to attract more global talent, with more PhD students, to boost the university's research rankings, and so attract students. The second is to work more closely with Indonesia. The first of these has problems, but the second is worth doing. 

    Rather than boosting research, I suggest WA look to boost their education sector. International university rankling systems heavily favor research, even though this has little, if anything to do with the quality of education provided. Researchers do not necessarily make good teachers, if anything the opposite is the case. WA can boost its research, and increase its rankings, but this will not improve the quality of education provided. Instead WA could sponsor new international ranking systems, which better reflect the role of education. This could be based on the "Webometrics Ranking of World Universities" by Spanish researchers.

    WA could also look to its educational technology sector. Perth is home to one of the world's leading products Moodle. However Australian governments, including the WA government of WA have all but ignored Moodle. Another WA success is Lectopia, developed by UWA, and then acquired by Echo 360. I got to see the original product in use at the UWA Albany centre in 2000, when working on an IT strategy for the Great Southern Region.

    In 2019 I visited Indonesia for the IEEE regional tech education conference, and was impressed with what I saw. Previously I had talked at a university in Sumatra on green IT. The challenge is to offer Australian education which complements, not competes with the local product.

    Friday, April 8, 2022

    ANU Alumni Meeting in 75 Cities, Including Houston, Islamabad, Melbourne, Lucknow and Denver

    ANU 75th

    As an ANU alumni, I attended the inaugural 75 Cities event in Canberra last week. It was good to be at a face to face event and see old faces, and some new ones. But I did not understand what the "75 Cities" was about. Now I see the idea is to have alumni events at cities around the world to celibate 75 years since the ANU's founding at cities around the world.


    Thursday, April 7, 2022

    Presenting from a Campervan

    Natalie Lloyd, on screen from her camper-van,
    in Teaching Lab 1.08, Birch Building, ANU.
    Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY 7 April 2022 
    Greetings from Teaching Lab 1.08 in the refurbished Birch Building at ANU. This the first time, in along time, the research students have been able to get together in person. A panel of experts is answering questions about research in Engineering and Computer Science. Most are in the room, but Natalie Lloyd has turned her camper-van into a mobile office* to take part from WA. Another online panelist, but from a conventional office, is noted Linux guru Kathy Reid.

    The New teaching lab

    Teaching Lab 1.08, as seen from the window
    in the foyer of the ANU Birch Building.
    Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY 7 April 2022
    This is in a general purpose dry lab. There are 20 benches on wheels, each seating  seven students. There is a power board for each bench, on a retractable reel from the ceiling. One wall has six large flat panel displays.  There is a folding wall to divide the room in half. The folding panels are covered with white board material (the end panel can be used when the wall is retracted). 

    There are two presenter's stations between the screens. There are two  eyewash  stations at the back of the room. There are windows on three sides, two with views of the garden and one into the foyer. There are adjustable stools on wheels with backrests, although when used for a lab many people will be on their feet.

    This is a simple usable space, with none of the gimmicks that many flexible teaching spaces suffer from, such as matrix displays (they break), and benches with power built in (they can't be moved).

    Not the First Mobile Office

    George Bray, on the TechTrek
    In 2001, George Bray, roving ambassador for the Internet Industry Association set out on an Australia wide TechTrek, in a campervan to showcase the Internet to regional Australia. With the popularity of Zoom today, perhaps there should be a green screen option for camper-vans. ;-)

    Friday, April 1, 2022

    50 years of Computing at ANU: A Long-expected Party

    All ANU computing alumni, past staff and friends are invited to dinner, 29 April 2022. Nominations of Alumni laureates, and donations for scholarships, are also being sought. If you don't know anything about computing at ANU, or think you know everything, then check out David Hawking 's book, The History of ANU Computing (free online & I get a mention on page 139).

    "Fifty years ago, 260 students enrolled in an introductory course called Computer Science B01. Nowadays, we typically have over 1200 full time students. In between, we grew from a sub-department of the Department of Statistics to our own department (1976), and now a School. Just as they did four and five decades ago, our alumni continue to blaze new trails across disciplines throughout Australia, and around the globe. 

    In recent years, our researchers led the global scientific community in the race to identify variants and develop vaccines for COVID19, twice set computational world records opening new frontiers for energy and medicine, and pioneered computer vision software that will improve safety for helicopter rescue missions and allow robots to make decisions about new scenarios much the way a human being does.

    Please join us on 29 April for a celebration of early and recent accomplishments, and a discussion of future direction. This is our first opportunity to host a gala event since 2019, and we are working hard to make it a memorable one for you and for the computer science community.

    It's not too late to nominate alumni laureates for the occasion — one from each of the past five decades — to help us celebrate this milestone and consider how taking stock of our past accomplishments should inform and inspire future endeavours.

    To celebrate the gold anniversary of 50 years of Computing at ANU, we seek to raise a total of $50,000 to provide scholarship support to encourage a more diverse student population, including women, rural and remote populations.

    Make a donation

    A generous anonymous donor has offered to match gifts over $100 and under $25,000. So if you can’t be with us 29 April, consider sending a donation and be with us in spirit. Donations of $50 or more will earn you a 50 years in Computing T-shirt — the same one given to gala attendees.

    Alumni laureates

    It's not too late to nominate alumni laureates for the occasion — one from each of the past five decades — to help us celebrate this milestone and consider how taking stock of our past accomplishments should inform and inspire future endeavours.

    Please reflect upon your ANU days and nominate someone who can contribute to this conversation in a way that reflects your experience and your outlook. We want and need your input on who should be featured at this milestone event."

    ps: Apologies to JRRT for A Long-expected Party. ;-)