Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Broad Skills Needed for AUKUS

The Australian government has announced $128M for 4,001 STEM students with skills needed for the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine project. It should be noted most of the training, and jobs, will not be related to nuclear technology. The initial submarines will be purchased built from the USA and largely supported by US personnel. In my opinion, it is unlikely the followup AUKUS submarines will ever be built. By that time conventionally armed crewed submarines will have been rendered obsolete by drones. However the STEM skills the graduates learn in these courses will be critical to designing and building drone submarines as part of the evolved and expanded AUKUSJSK.

Professor Andrew Norton has criticized the level of funding, as it assumes a 25% attrition rate per year. He points out this is higher than is typical. This may reflect the demand for skills in industry. Universities may have difficulty keeping students in the program, when they could be earning in industry after only completing part of the program, especially those in the AUKUS courses who will be required to meet security vetting requirements. One approach would be to have nested work integrated programs, where students study while working on AUKUS, with their work being submitted for assessment. Students could complete the first part of the program, and be awarded a qualification to get them an entry level job. They would be then study while working for a promotion.

Batteries Included for Dunkelflaute: Future of Neighborhood Batteries in Australia Conference

Greetings from the 2nd Future of Neighborhood Batteries in Australia conference, at the Australian National University in Canberra. The event started with what we didn't know, which is if neighborhood batteries would "scale", that is with lots of them. One question I suggest needs to be answered is if there is value in community involvement in neighborhood batteries, or should these be something they just use.

ps: The word of the day is "Dunkelflaute". 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

ANU Energy Update 2023

Greetings from the ANU Energy Update 2023, from the Australian National University in Canberra. The mood of the event is relatively upbeat, with Australia progressing well with the transition of its electricity network to renewable energy, and in a strong position internationally to sell important materials, renewable energy, and green refined metals. Australia has also benefited from subsidies on solar panels and other renewable equipment in other countries. It is not all good news with Australian politics having ruled out a simple carbon tax.

Letting academics look after students

Professor Andrew Norton
In his blog, Andrew Norton has warned of "growing threats to academic decision making" from an interventionist approach to higher education by government. He worries about "micromanaged allocations of student places". One example is new business start-up programs, with specified course content. I am not as worried as Professor Norton about this. 

It is common to specify course content for a vocational program. These are standardized nationally between TAFEs and non-government vocational education institutions. In theory universities each decide what to teach, but for vocational courses they must all follow the requirements of external accreditation bodies. Academics serve on these bodies, accredit each others programs, and swap note on what and how to teach it. As a result there is not that much difference between universities.

The content requirements for START-UP HELP are reasonably generic, and much as I would specify from years working, teaching and mentoring in this field. I would have no problem designing courses which fitted with the government requirements, and university norms..

A more difficult issue Professor Norton raises is mandated student support policy which all universities must follow. However, any institution making a genuine effort to support students at risk should not have difficult complying with government requirements. Professor Norton gives the example of a student unable to keep up with studies, due to a high paid workload. If this is temporary, an appropriate academic adjustment would be to provide extensions for assignments. If it is a long term issue, other solutions would be work integrated learning and reduce their study load.

One way to reduce the impact of such problems is to catch them early, rather than a crisis at the end of semester. Progressive assessment helps with this. Small regular assessed tasks allows academics to identify studnts who are having difficulties, and offer help. Having trained teaching staff, and specialists they can refer studnts to also helps prevent a problem becoming a crisis. Also this can help force students to make difficult decisions. As an example a student who has 0 out of 2 on weekly tasks for each week of the semester has a clear signal they need to act, or fail.

Course and assessment design can have flexibility built in, rather than added post-hoc. This reduces workload, and stress for staff, as well as avoiding studnts being stigmatized. 

When designing assessment, I am ethically, and legally, required to ensure every student who passes meets the learning objectives for the course. This is not just a matter of equity, as Professor Norton suggests, but public safety. The public assumes a graduate is competent to do a job which livelihoods and lives depend on.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Best of ASCILITE 2023


Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre, 
Photo by Klajban, CC BY-SA 4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education ASCILITE 2023 Conference starts next week at the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. I have to make difficult choice as to which of the parallel sessions to attend, and the luxury of not having to present (although I expect I will have to chair something). 


0845 - 1000 Plenary - Rakaia Room
0930 -1030 Keynote address: Being effective isn’t authentic: Building digital education culture David White

1030-1100 Morning Tea + Poster Viewing

11:00 AM Conway 4, Assoc Prof Dawn Gilmore, Academic Director, RMIT Online

Qualifications, Interpersonal Skills, and Career Pathways: Building a Competency-Based Tool for the Recruitment and Career Development of Learning Designers

1:30 PM Rakaia Room Dr Shannon Rios, Lecturer, The University of Melbourne

Authorship Verification in Software Engineering Education: Forget ChatGPT and Focus on Students' Academic Writing Profiles

3:40 PM Conway 4 Dr Kashmira Dave, Lecturer, Academic Development, University of New England

Beyond Appearances: Unveiling the Hidden Biases in Hiring Academics in Australian Universities

ps: I will be in and around the 3 to 6 December. Happy to catch up with people, and give a talk, if someone has an audience and venue. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

ANU Bandalang Studio Launch

Greetings from the launch of Bandalang Studio at the Australian National University in Canberra. The Bandalang Studio at the ANU School of Engineering will explore indigenous knowledge systems in innovation, design, research and teaching. I tried the VR headset with Lynette Wallworth's 'Collisions', a 3d immersive film.
We are having a reading from the book "The Visitors", by Jane Harrison. The point of this is that Bandalang Studio can teach non-indigenous people about how to live with country.

"What is Indigenous Engineering Design?

Indigenous engineering design demonstrates a highly sophisticated transdisciplinary systems thinking approach towards solving problems. ...

What is the Bandalang Studio?

Bandalang is a Wiradyuri language name which means ‘joining’ or ‘junction’. The name Bandalang was gifted to the studio by Ngambri (Walgalu), Wallaballooa (Ngunnawal), Wiradyuri (Erambie) custodian, Paul Girrawah House. The name symbolises the spirit of collaboration which is integral to the mission of the ANU Bandalang Studio. The Bandalang Studio is a place in which Indigenous Knowledge and traditional Western practice can collaborate to find sustainable solutions to our future in engineering. ...

Bandalang Studio Founding Principles

The Bandalang Studio is founded on four principles which guide our strategic priorities.

  • Principle of Bandalang (Collaboration) bandalang = joining, junction (noun)
  • Principle of Wudhagarbinya (Listening ) wudhagarbinya = listen or winhangarra = listen, hear, think or ngattai = listen
  • Principle of Dhurinya (Equality) dhurinya = being, continuing to being
  • Principle of Gurray (Change) gurray = change or refreshment

The above languages include Walgalu, Wiradyuri, Dhurga and Ngunnawal/Gundungarra.

Bandalang Studio Mission

  • platforming Indigenous Knowledge Systems in engineering nationally and internationally
  • building Indigenous ways of thinking, being and doing into the ANU School of Engineering course structure, curriculum development and delivery
  • fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and partnerships that support Indigenous projects and enterprises
  • create life-long learning support pathways for Indigenous students, practitioners and researchers in engineering
  • to critically address existing traditions, norms and values in engineering and technology"

From  About Bandalang Studio Indigenous Engineering Design, ANU, 2023

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Technological Security for Business Success

Craig Davis, Andrew McCallum,
Mandy Snashall, & Petr Adamek
Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network, where an .auDA panel is discussing "Unlocking Success: Harnessing Technological Disruption for Business Growth". Having spent much of the last week and a bit answering media enquirers about the Optus outage, as an ANU expert, I would like a little less technological disruption. The language of innovation talks about disruption, and failing early. However, failed systems the public rely on result in inconvenience, and at times deaths. We need technology which works reliably. AuDA is part of keeping the Internet reliable and secure, as Craig Davis joint pointed out. 

The discussion has got around to AI. Petr pointed out AI is not new, having written a PhD thesis on it, a long time ago. Craig pointed how smart phones were revolutionary, but are now normal. It occurs to me that the Optus outage was useful in pointing out to people how dependent they are. Craig points out there will be bad actors misusing AI, but suggests we need the good people innovating against this. Mandy wants to jettison some of her job into space. With several rocket startups in Canberra, that will soon be possible. ;-)

Petr worried about ChatGPT queries warming the planet. I just did a quick calculation, and worked out one query emits about 0.0002 g of CO2.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

ACS Digital Pulse 2023

Greetings from the National Press club in Canberra, where the ACS Digital Pulse 2023 report was just launched by Mr Jerome Laxale MP, Member for Bennelong.  The report confirms a looming tech skills crisis, with 1.3 million additional skilled workers being needed. This is also bad news with women's share of the tech workforce going backwards in the last year. The ACS and the report by Deloitte call for training in AI, data analytics and robotics. These might sound like matters effecting only a small select section of the community. But I have spent the week talking to the media about the Optus network outage, with operations at Australian hospitals delayed, then a cyber attack at Australian ports stopping goods. The report also calls for more flexible credentialing with recognition of micro-credentials, and industry certifications.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Innovation at the ANU

Greetings from the award winning Birch Building at the Australian National University, where 60 second pitches are on. Think Shark Tank, but with a friendly audience of 300. This is the First Wednesday Connect event of the Canberra Innovation Network (first Wednesday of each month). 

I might be about to do something innovative. On the way to the event I stopped in at the ANU Library on the way and found myself looking up "Cambridge Phenomenon". This is a report I read 27 years ago, and changed my life. Perhaps it is time to work out what to do next.