Saturday, February 25, 2023

Anything Happening in Singapore or India in April?

Singapore Fintech Festival, 2022 
I will be in Singapore April 4 & 26 to 28, Goa 6 to 19, and Bengaluru 21 to 24. Any education or computing events I can help with, while there? Any conferences or events I can attend, or anyone, I should visit? I get a bit bored looking at museums. ;-)

On my visit to Singapore last year I have a talk on work integrated learning at the Singapore Institute of Technology, on Sustainable Computing at EduTech Asia, was on a panel about satellite data security with government officials, and attended the Fintech Festival, plus Predict22's Cyber-security Summit.

I see Microsoft Research is a few hundred meters from where I am staying in Bengaluru. Is that somewhere you can just wander into? I visited Microsoft Research Cambridge, but that was by invitation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Discussion Paper on The Future of Australian Universites

The Australian Universities Accord Panel, chaired by Professor Mary O’Kane, has released a 44 page Discussion Paper. I submitted Some Thoughts on the Future of Australian Higher Education in December.

There are a series of questions in the paper. Here is my attempt to answer some. An underlying these in these, I realised later, was to make Uni more like TAFE, with shorter, nested, competency based, work integrated courses, delivered by people trained to teach:

Role of higher education:

  1. "How should an Accord be structured and focused to meet the challenges facing Australia’s higher education system? What is needed to overcome limitations in the current approach to Australian higher education?
  2. How can the diverse missions of Australian higher education providers be supported, taking into account their different operating contexts and communities they serve (for example regional universities)?
  3. What should the long-term target/s be for Australia’s higher education attainment by 2030 and 2040, and how should these be set and adjusted over time?"

There is enough in just these three questions to keep academia busy for decades. I suggest the diverse mission of Australian higher education can be supported by allowing for a diversity of institutions. In particular vocational education needs to be strengthened, to become the first option for post-school education, not just something you do if you can't get into a  university. A reasonable aim would be to have 80% of the 25-34 year old population with at least an AQF Level 4 Qualification (Certificate IV). This would be more useful goal than aiming for a bachelor's degree for the majority of the population.

Challenges and opportunities for the higher education system

4. "Looking from now to 2030 and 2040, what major national challenges and opportunities should Australian higher education be focused on meeting?

5 How do the current structures of institutions, regulation and funding in higher education help or hinder Australia’s ability to meet these challenges? What needs to change?

6 What are the best ways to achieve and sustain future growth in Australian higher education, given the changing needs of the population and the current pressures on public funding?

7 How should the mix of providers evolve, considering the size and location of existing institutions and the future needs of communities?"

The challenge I suggested Australian universities face in 2016 was how to provide quality education online. I warned that international students could be prevented from getting to Australian campuses, due to a regional crisis. Unfortunately universities failed to heed this warning, and were largely unprepared when COVID-19 struck.

However, I also warned of a longer term challenge with competition for international and domestic students from offshore, and online universities. Australian universities are also failing to meet this challenge, assuming that with COVID-19 receding, they can scale back ad-hoc online learning. As a result, international and domestic studnts will choose to study elsewhere.

Challenges and opportunities for the higher education system

9 "How should Australia ensure enough students are studying courses that align with the changing needs of the economy and society?

10 What role should higher education play in helping to develop high quality general learning capabilities across all age groups and industries? 

11 How should Australia boost demand from people to study in the higher education system? 

12 How should an adequate supply of CSPs be sustained and funded, as population and demand increase?"

Australian governments can fund vocational education programs in areas of demand. Some of those students can then go on to university study. This will ensure that there are incentives for study in particular fields, without burdening the taxpayer with the entire cost.

Universities can provide work integrated, competency based, nested programs, which allow new and mature students to gain the skills they need quickly. A student should be able to undertake a microcredential which takes only a few weeks study, and have that count towards a certificate, diploma, and degree.

Collaboration with industry

13 "How could an Accord support cooperation between providers, accreditation bodies, government and industry to ensure graduates have relevant skills for the workforce?

14 How should placement arrangements and work-integrated learning (WIL) in higher education change in the decades ahead?"

Professional associations have a key role in setting the standards for the professions. 

Unpaid internships should be outlawed through state and federal legislation. Those industries willing to pay for trainees will get staff. Those companies unwilling to invest in their future will not have a future.

Lifelong Learning

15 "What changes are needed to grow a culture of lifelong learning in Australia?

16 What practical barriers are inhibiting lifelong learning, and how can they be fixed?"

A major impediment to life long learning is the assumption that school leavers attend a campus full time for three years to obtain a degree for a first job. Shorter qualifications, part time, and mature students are therefore seen as an afterthought by universities. This can be changed by requiring universities to offer online, nested, qualifications which suit mature working students. 

Connection between the vocational education and training and higher education systems

17 "How should better alignment and connection across Australia’s tertiary education system be achieved?

18 What role should reform of the AQF play in creating this alignment?

19 What would a more effective and collaborative national governance approach to tertiary education look like?

20 How can pathways between VET and higher education be improved, and how can students be helped to navigate these pathways? 

21 How can current examples of successful linkages between VET and higher education be integrated across the tertiary education system? 

22 What role do tertiary entrance and admissions systems play in matching learners to pathways and supporting a sustained increase in participation and tertiary success?"

Better alignment can be achieved by directing more of the funding to the vocational sector, so it becomes the first choice for students leaving school. That will then give the vocational sector the power to negotiate alignment with universities, as most university entrants will be coming from the vocational sector, and that sector will be able to influence which university they select.

The tertiary entrance and admissions systems are poor at matching learners to pathways, and should be scrapped.

Solving Big Challenges

23 "How should an Accord help Australia increase collaboration between industry, government and universities to solve big challenges?

24 What reforms will enable Australian research institutions to achieve excellence, scale and impact in particular fields?

25 How should Australia leverage its research capacity overall and use it more effectively to develop new capabilities and solve wicked problems?

26 How can Australia stimulate greater industry investment in research and more effective collaboration?"

Australian government can consult the education sector, as well as others, when setting national priorities.  They can then allocate funding for universities in accordance with those priorities.

Compulsory industry training for research students will help increase impact. There is little point in having excellent research if the researchers do not see it as part of their job, and do not have the skills, to put that research into practice.

Research Workforce

27 "How can we improve research training in Australia including improving pathways for researchers to gain experience and develop high-impact careers in government and industry?"

The Australian Government can improve pathways by transferring funding from research doctorates to professional doctorates. Professional doctorates provide more rounded, useful graduates for government and industry.

Academic Preparadness

28 "What is needed to increase the number of people from under-represented groups applying to and prepared for higher education, both from school and from other pathways?

29 What changes in provider practices and offerings are necessary to ensure all potential students can succeed in their chosen area of study?"

Open universities have for decades shown how to provide for under-represented groups, by offering part time, online studies, recognising prior experience as being as valuable as formal study.

Addressing barriers to access

30 "How can governments, institutions and employers assist students, widen opportunities and remove barriers to higher education?

31 How can the costs of participation, including living expenses, be most effectively alleviated?"

Governments can increase funding for vocational education, to make it the default pathway to university. Government can require universities to make online, part time, work integrated learning the default option.

Training can be provided to university program and course designers to show them how to design out the privileged assumptions built into current university programs. Government can require universities to built in study skills courses to programs, rather than have these an optional extra for disadvantaged students.

System-wide approaches to increasing access and equity

32 "How can best practice learning and teaching for students from under-represented groups be embedded across the higher education system, including the use of remote learning?

33 What changes to funding and regulatory settings would enable providers to better support students from under-represented groups in higher education?"

Governments, and professional accreditation bodies, can make teaching qualifications for university teaching staff mandatory. Staff will then have the skills needed to design out the discrimination currently built into courses, due to lack of competence.


34 "How should the contribution of higher education providers to community engagement be encouraged and promoted?

35 Where providers make a distinctive contribution to national objectives through community, location-based or specialised economic development, how should this contribution be identified and invested in?"

Community engagement can be fostered by building on social enterprise programs run through organisations such as the Canberra Innovation Network. Academics and their students, need specific training in how to identify community needs, and how to talk to the community. This can be built into professional curricular, as is done in the ANU School of Computing's Techlauncher Program.

Regulation and governance

36 "What regulatory and governance reforms would enable the higher education sector to better meet contemporary demands?

37 How could a more coherent and dynamic national governance system for higher education be achieved?"

One of the strengths of the Australian education system is the mix of federal state and non-government. The temptation to simplify, and centralise, should be resisted.

Academic workforce

38 "How can the Accord support higher education providers to adopt sector-leading employment practices?"

The Accord can recommend legislation making wage theft a crime, with jail terms for the Vice Chancellors where institutions deliberately, and systematically, steal money from their staff.

The problem of insecure employment can be addressed by ensuring that doctoral students are trained for jobs which exist in government, or industry, and not given the false impression they have a well paid secure future in academia. With the ability to get a job elsewhere, academic staff will be much harder for universities systematically to exploit.

Quality experience for students

39 "What reforms are needed to ensure that all students have a quality student experience?

40 What changes are needed to ensure all students are physically and culturally safe while studying?"

Having students first undertake vocational education, and paid employment, will ensure more maturity on entry to university. Compulsory courses on study skills can incorporate familiarly with what students can expect, and how to complain when they don't get it. Compulsory group work for new students can incorporate cultural sensitivity training.

Compulsory training for teachers in how to teach can incorporate cultural sensitivity training.

Research quality

41 "How should research quality be prioritised and supported most effectively over the next decade?"

The Australian Government can fund the development of an international university ranking scheme which prioritises education quality over research quantity. This will correct the current imbalance where universities strive to maximise the production of research papers, at the expense of quality, to achieve a high ranking, and thus attract students. 

Academic integrity

42 "What settings are needed to ensure academic integrity, and how can new technologies and innovative assessment practices be leveraged to improve academic integrity?"

Academics can be trained in how to design courses which incorporate authentic work integrated assessment, rather than essays and exams. This will be more effective than continuing the arms race between AI to create essays, and AI to detect them.

International Education

43 "How should the current recovery in international education be managed to increase the resilience and sustainability of Australia’s higher education system, including through diversification of student enrolments from source countries?

44 How can the benefits of international education be shared broadly across the system, including in regional areas, and what level of reporting should there be?"

The resilience of Australian Higher education can be increased by providing a quality online option. A condition of funding of Australian universities should be cooperation, not competition, with international marketing. Existing cultural contacts with Vietnam, Indonesia, and the region, should be exploited.

The Australian Government should scrap the New Colombo Plan, and instead fund a virtual Colombo program, which subsidises students from developing nations to study online alongside Australian students.  

Investment and affordability

45 "How should the contribution of different institutions and providers to key national objectives specific to their location, specialist expertise or community focus be appropriately financed?

Q46 How can infrastructure development for higher education be financed, especially in regional and outer urban locations?"

Government funding of regional campuses should be conditional on those campuses being shared, between institutions, and with the local community.

Commonwealth funding for higher education research and teaching and learning

47 "What structure of Commonwealth funding is needed for the higher education sector for the system to be sustainable over the next two decades?"

Funding for teaching and learning should continue to be limited to accredited institutions, public and private. Rather than open degree awarding to a larger range of institutions, students should be encouraged to obtain more vocationally relevant sub-degree qualifications. The current degree awarding institutions can then be incentivised to grant credit to a degree for these.

Student contributions and the Higher Education Loan Program

48 "What principles should underpin the setting of student contributions and Higher Education Loan Program arrangements?

Government should fully fund the equivalent of one Certificate IV for each Australian citizen, with subsidies reducing as the student completes each higher level of study.

Job-ready Graduates (JRG) package

49 "Which aspects of the JRG package should be altered, and which should be retained?"

Undergraduate Certificates should be retained as part of nested degree programs. However, the option of the student undertaking this in the vocational sector should be encouraged.

ANU First Year Teaching Good Practice Guide

Greetings from the Australian National University Center for Learning and Teaching, where Professor Maryanne Dever, ro Vice-Chancellor (Education & Digital) is launching the "ANU First Year Teaching Good Practice Guide". This complements the ANU Learning and Teaching Strategy

The Guide focuses on young people, but is applicable to helping those new to university of any age, and not so new. As a young, first in generation, low SES student, I experienced difficulties. But what surprised me was still having difficulties as a mature age student, decades later. I found study an exhausting, frustrating, and at times terrifying experience. This was particularly so for the three years I spent as an international online student. 

Some of what stresses students may seem silly to teaching staff, but is very stressful at the time. As an example, not knowing what size page to submit my assignments on: my US professors assumed everyone knows you use Letter size paper, whereas my Canadian professors (at the same university), assumed everyone knows you use A4. I spent days agonizing over what to do, and ended up using P4: a Canadian paper size which is a compromise between Letter & A4, but which unfortunately no one actually uses. ;-)

The Guide doesn't contain any revolutionary new insights. But is a good summary of conventional wisdom, and are tips every academic should learn during their basic teacher training.

One good point of the guide is that it doesn't distinguish between face to face and online teaching. What a decade learning to teach, teaching online, and setting education standards for my profession, has shown me is that there is very little difference teaching roomies and zoomies.


  1. Preface
  2. Transition
  3. Diversity
  4. Design
  5. Engagement
  6. Assessment
  7. Evaluation and monitoring
  8. Checklist
  9. References and further reading

Friday, February 17, 2023

How to change university assessment to take into account ChatGPT

I asked ChatGPT "How to change university assessment to take into account ChatGPT?". Here is the answer:

"It is important to note that the process of changing university assessments is complex and typically requires collaboration and approval from various stakeholders, such as faculty members, administrators, and governing bodies. Additionally, any changes to assessment methods should be made in a way that ensures the validity and reliability of the assessment.

That being said, if you are interested in exploring the possibility of incorporating ChatGPT into university assessments, here are some steps you could consider:

  1. Identify the specific assessments where ChatGPT could be a useful tool. For example, it could be used for essay writing assignments, multiple-choice questions, or short answer questions.

  2. Determine how ChatGPT would be integrated into the assessment process. For example, would it be used to provide feedback to students on their writing assignments, or would it be used to score answers to multiple-choice questions?

  3. Establish guidelines and criteria for how ChatGPT will be used. For example, will it be used as a primary grading tool, or as a tool to assist faculty in grading? What threshold will be used for accepting ChatGPT-generated responses?

  4. Consider the potential challenges of using ChatGPT in assessments, such as concerns about bias, accuracy, and reliability. It may be necessary to conduct a pilot study to assess these concerns.

  5. Seek input and feedback from faculty members, students, and other relevant stakeholders before implementing any changes to university assessments.

Ultimately, any changes to university assessments should be made in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, with a focus on improving the validity and reliability of the assessment process, as well as enhancing student learning outcomes."

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Computational methods for economics and finance

Greetings from "An introduction to computational methods for economics and finance", at the Australian National University's   Research School of Economics (CBE). This features Nobel Laureate Professor Thomas J. Sargent, of New York University and Professor John Stachurski, ANU. This is something of a masterclass in how to deliver modern classroom based teaching. Along with celebrity speakers, there are hands on exercises using an online code library, and an emphasis on real world applications. This format appeals to students, as indicated by good attendance, despite this being "O" week, with many fun attractions available to students.

As someone trained in FORTRAN it was good to hear it mentioned, in between much Python. ;-)  

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Ukraine Choosing Freedom

Greetings from the ANU Centre for European Studies, where Dr Olesya Khromeychuk, is speaking on Choosing Freedom in Ukraine. In his introduction, His Excellency Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Ambassador of Ukraine, praised the role of "citizen ambassadors", to keep his nation in the spotlight.

Dr Khromeychuk related the view from her pre-independence childhood home, with the dismal remains of the soviet system crumbling outside. She later marched in an independence parade on the same street. Dr Khromeychuk then took us back through the history of Ukraine, then forward through multiple protests for independence. This is a useful message for the rest of the world: Ukraine's current struggle is not the first time the Ukrainian people have had to put their lives on the line.

Dr Khromeychuk related how she has her first year history students will draw a map of Europe with the Russian border through the middle of Ukraine. She suggests the mental map of Europeans needs to be redrawn.

Since 2022, ANU has hosted a series of seminars on the Ukraine war. There is very much the sense of history being written as it is happening. Sitting in the front row are ambassadors of nations of eastern europe. At a previous seminar one remarked "We are at war". 

At question time one interesting point was that indepdentent Ukraine should not be referred to as "The Ukraine", as that would indicate it was still part of someone were else. I asked what Australia could do to help. Dr Khromeychuk surprised me by asking for Ukrainian studies, and cultural links, rather than guns and tanks. She made the point that universite are being destroyed. I noticed this has even stopped some Chinese students from studying. The Ambassador thanked Australia for diplomatic and material support. He pointed out they are in the middle of winter and need more coal, but did not mention tanks. He said he was also keen on academic exchanges.