Thursday, June 30, 2011

Learning University Teaching: Reflection

Last week I attended day four of an introductory course on university teaching. This was the last day of the course and it was time to reflect on what I learned and suggestions on how to improve the course:

Background to the Course

The course is a non-assessed introduction to university teaching intended for academics just starting their career. It is four days, one day per week, for four weeks, plus some on-line activities using the Moodle Learning Management System. The course is offered to staff by the university's academic education center.

One issue this raises is that all teachers at a university do not start out as "early career academics". Some are "late career professionals", who find they have a taste for teaching. Universities in Canberra, for example, have current and former public servants assisting with teaching. There are also staff of organizations which support the public service. These staff need an introduction to teaching for professionals who have a depth of experience in the workforce, but limited understanding of the academic environment and limited time to acquire it.

Recommendation for Improvements in the Course

The introductory course covers educational theory, but could better use the techniques discussed, to put theory into practice. This would be more efficient, and more credible, demonstrating how the educational theories work:

1. Offer a blended course, with optional face-to-face components: Research presented indicates that having oral presentations is not the most efficient teaching technique. Therefore it would be appropriate to reduce the use of live oral presentations and increase the use of student activities in this course. An appropriate format would be two hours per week optional face-to-face contact (down from five hours mandatory), with the rest of the course on-line.

Also the course covers Equal Opportunity Policy, emphasizing an inclusive approach in both education and employment. One way to do this is to provide flexibility for attendance at courses. Currently the course requires attendance at all four daytime events. These are only offered once per teaching period, at only one location in one city, and only in Australia. Offering the course at multiple times and locations would be prohibitively resource intensive. However, on-line participation could be offered as an alternative to attendance in person.

2. Convert the course materials to an accessible on-line format via the learning management system: Disability Policy is covered in the course. The policy "... incorporates the inclusion of people with disabilities in employment and education to enable them to perform at their best in University life ...". Implementing this policy in the course would be aided by checking that content of paper handouts and screen displays used were large enough for comfortable reading. Also providing the material in alternate formats via the Learning Management System would be useful.

A simple way to provide course materials is with an e-Book, available via the course web site at the beginning of the course. This can contain summaries of what is to be covered, links to readings and the work sheets for activities to be undertaken. The number of readings should be feasible to be read in the time allocated for the course and the class exercises should reference the readings to prompt the students to read them.

4. Add assessment to the course: The course emphasized that students value assessment and the assessment can be used for aiding learning, not just as a test at the end. It would therefore be appropriate to design assessment activities into the course, rather than as an optional extra at the end. At least weekly assessment should be mandatory, along with at least weekly feedback from the tutor to each individual student. The optional credit for "reflection" should be eliminated and replaced with mandatory assessable items.

5. Construct a showcase active learning classroom: It is suggested that the university commission the design and construction of an Active Learning Classroom (ALC) for teaching education techniques. This would be similar to the INSPIRE Centre for ICT Pedagogy, Practice and Research under construction now at the University of Canberra. It would be equipped with computer systems and screens for one large class and for breakout groups. Space for this might be found in the City West Precinct. A design similar to the University of Canberra Teaching and Learning Centre could be used.

5. Design an on-line learning environment: A web site for the course, which conforms to the same standards as other courses, should be developed. This should be tested before the course commences and the design not changed during the course. The web site should be integrated with the face-to-face content.

6. Put assessment first: The course referred to research indicating that assessment is important to students and should be integrated in course design, but this topic is left to last in the course. It is suggested that the topic of assessment be discussed alongside that of preparing course descriptions, early in the course.

My Background

Like many staff I came to university as a Visiting Fellow and ended up doing teaching as an adjunct. We teach material developed in our day-to-day work.

While having provided conventional lectures and examination based teaching for years, I was never comfortable with this mode, as I teach about on-line communication. In 2005 and 2007 I made some ad-hoc attempts at blended learning ("Workshop on the Use of Technology for Museums of the Pacific Islands Region" and "Electronic Document Management, Module 2 of Systems Approach to the Management of Government Information"). Later I was commissioned by the Australian Computer Society to design an e-learning course as part of the ACS Computer Professional Education Program, which is part of a globally accredited postgraduate program.

ACS provided training in techniques for mentored and collaborative e-learning, based on those used at the Open University. I then adapted the same course content for university. The course has worked well, winning an industry award and with one of the students now running it in Canada. My ambition is now to design more such courses, explore the theory behind them and teach others how to do this.

Goals for the Course

My reasons for enrolling in this course were:

  1. Cost: The course is free for current staff,
  2. Get in before it is compulsory: While there is no requirement for university staff to have training in teaching, this is likely to become more strongly encouraged.
  3. Validate vocational training: While I have undertaken a considerable number of vocational short courses, it was useful to check I was up to date with the latest thinking on educational theory for higher education.
  4. Help university implement e-learning: While I have been successful at implementing e-learning, my academic colleagues are skeptical of my approach, perhaps due to my not being able to explain it using the correct academic terms to describe it,
  5. Ease into postgraduate studies: To see if it would be worth undertaking the certificate in teaching.


  1. Completed course: I was able to attend all four days and so was awarded an attendance certificate.
  2. Validated vocational training: I was able to verify that my previous vocational training is consistent with university thinking on educational theory.
  3. Ready to help advance university teaching practice: I was able to see that the university was striving to implement blended and e-learning.
  4. Applying for the certificate in teaching: I have applied to study the certificate in teaching.

Safety of Electric Cars

Professor Peter Zeller from Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences, will speak on "Safety Aspects of Renewable Energy and Electrical Cars", in the Ian Ross Seminar Room, Ian Ross Building, the Australian National University, North Road, Canberra, 3pm, 21 July 2011.

Google Identifying Authors in Web Searches

Google have a new service to identify authors in web searches. The idea is that you create a page about yourself, either a Google Profile, or your own web page. You then include links to that page, with special authorship markup ( rel=”author” ) in the HTML, to indicate who the author is. A Google search will then display your details in the search results. You can have more than one author page, cross-linking them with a link containing rel="me" . There is also more metadata you can include in a web page using markup from As an example, see my Google Profile:
Tom Worthington


Tom Worthington is an IT consultant and has been an expert witness in several court cases involving international patent, computer, web and Internet issues, as well as advising governments and companies on computer problems. He is a Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University, where he teaches the design of web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy.

Bragging rights

Certified Professional, past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.


IT Consultant, Expert Witness and Educator


  • Australian National University
    Adjunct Senior Lecturer, 2008 - present
  • TomW Communications Pty Ltd
    Senior Consultant, 1999 - present

Places lived

Map of the places this user has lived
  • Canberra

Search visibility

Visible in search

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Marketing Student Directed On-line Learning

The University of New England is running a clever TV advertising to promote their on-line courses: "Little Boxes Distance Education". To the tune "Little Boxes".

A matrix of images of a boring urban landscape is shown. A very confident looking person then steps into the shot and pushes the various rectangles, showing them to be a wall of boxes. This then reveals an outdoor cafe, where the person sits down at a table with a laptop and mobile phone on it. The mobile phone rings and displays that the caller is "Professor Elkins, UNE". The person answers the phone using the Professor's first name and thanks them for the assignment feedback.

ps: The video appears to have been shot in a building on the corner of Pitt and Spring Streets, Sydney, not at UNE's Sydney Centre.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vocational e-Learning for Business

Greetings from my office, where I am taking part in the last of a weekly series on-line forums with about 25 people around Australia. This week the topic is "WHERE can I find a training partner to support my business?". This is part of the excellent work by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, a federal/state government initiative. The events are run on-line using run using the Elluminate product.

This week Nita Schultz and Brad Beach, are talking about their work on how training organizations can help business with e-learning. They are authors of "The role of RTOs in partnering
with business and industry to embed e-learning
", published by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (31 May 2011).

Brad pointed out that e-learning was a way to make use of industry experts without them spending their time traveling to courses. He also described how the e-learning environment can be used to keep in touch with students and for them to have an alumni after the formal events. I asked Brad about the cost of keeping materials up to date and he responded that good design can allow for updates.
Table of contents

Table of contents i
Executive Summary 1
Literature Review 1
Key Findings 2
Introduction 3
What is e-learning? 4
Literature Review 4
Are you ready for a partnership? 4
Getting down to business 7
Who needs to do what and when? 8
Maintaining the partnership 11
What about the outcomes? 12
Insights from currently funded industry sectors using e-learning 13
Key informants 13
Negotiation of e-learning partnership 18
Implementation of e-learning partnership 20
Maintenance of e-learning partnership 23
Evaluation and review of e-learning outcomes and partnership 27
Key Findings 30
What does an effective business RTO e-learning partnership look like? 30
Is an effective e-learning partnership very different to other business and RTO
partnerships? 30
What action can an RTO take to foster and sustain industry enterprise e-learning
partnerships? 31
References 32
Appendix 1 – Full copy of responses for responses to the maintenance questions ..... 34
Maintenance of e-learning partnership 34
For more information 37
Australian Flexible Learning Framework 37


Executive Summary
The 2008-2011 Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework) strategy continues to build the capability of VET practitioners in the context of embedding good practice in registered training organisations (RTOs) and
businesses (also known and referred to as employers, enterprises and firms).

This paper considers a range of literature and good practices demonstrated in effective business and RTO e-learning partnerships

Literature Review

The literature review examines a range of Framework publications and the recent National Quality Council publication Working in partnership A guide for RTOs, enterprises and industry groups (Cleary 2010). The research suggests all effective partnerships are underpinned by:

• a demonstrated readiness by the RTO and the business to engage in partnership arrangements and an enthusiasm for e-learning solutions
• negotiations where the expectations of the business and RTO are clearly articulated and roles and responsibilities detailed, documented and signed-off
• supportive social and economic structures
• regular open and honest communications
• appointment of one key contact in the RTO with strong project management skills, high degree of customer focus and delegated authority to quickly make decisions relating to the partnership
• the RTO accommodating the changing business needs by organising training and assessment around business’ workload pressures and using authentic workplace tasks and skills development
• actively engaging business personnel in the training and assessment evaluating the outcomes of the training and assessment and reviewing the partnership.
• Every stage in effective partnerships between RTOs and industry business is premised on building trust and respect, having commitment to a common goal, working together to develop the training program, ongoing dialogue, flexibility in training and assessment arrangements, sharing ideas and developing a common language.

RTO champions and industry champions leading the industry sectors using e-learning were invited to consider the features of effective business and RTO partnerships described in the literature, in the context of their industry sectors. Survey questions and discussion starters drew on the features of effective partnerships described by Cleary (2010); readiness, negotiation, implementation, maintenance, evaluation and review.

The role of RTOs in partnering with business and industry to embed e-learning Commitment, collaboration, trust and respect are words repeatedly used by industry and RTO champions as characteristics of effective partnerships.

Mutual trust and respect built as a result of the collaborative actions of industry, business and the RTO in the e-learning partnership. In the minds of industry e-learning champions, the core ingredients of a trusting and respectful relationship were honesty in all communications, acting with integrity, the RTO showing a keen interest in the business and industry, finding innovative solutions to specific business needs, being responsive and meeting timelines.

RTOs met the businesses’ expectations in preparing for the partnership by reviewing internal capabilities to offer an e-learning solution to meet each business’ specific needs, researching the industry and the business and demonstrating commitment to an e-learning solution. Industry and RTO e-learning champions were unequivocal about the importance of unambiguous, detailed documentation underpinning the implementation, maintenance and evaluation of the partnership. Businesses expect to know what their specific roles and responsibilities are up front and performance measures to be mutually agreed. While businesses want a say in the design and implementation of the learning they do look to the RTO to interpret their needs and offer solutions and in some cases the businesses depended on the RTO to provide that advice.
Industry and RTO champions agreed that collaborative decision making, agreed outcomes, protection of intellectual property, the appointment of key contacts and embedded quality processes are catalysts to effective e-learning partnerships.

Key Findings

The features cited by Cleary (2010) as essential to effective partnerships
were rated as equally important by industry and RTO champions leading the 2008-2011 Framework funded industry sectors using e-learning.

However, the business may need guidance from the RTO to better understand the skills that need to be developed and the available training options for e-learning solutions.

To foster and sustain business e-learning partnerships RTOs need to have an attitude that is highly focused on service to the business, ensuring all communications are answered promptly and fully and by making the effort to build personal relationships with business personnel.

All industry champions interviewed for this paper agreed that respect is earned.

RTOs supporting the currently funded industry sectors have built the respect of the industry sectors and business partners by being action driven, making realistic promises to industry stakeholders and delivering on these promises. RTOs tangibly demonstrating commitment to, and collaboration with the industry sector, build trust and respect that translates into sustained partnerships. This may translate to the RTO becoming the provider of choice for the business partners. ...

From: The role of RTOs in partnering
with business and industry to embed e-learning
, Nita Schultz and Brad Beach, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 31 May 2011

IR and Friends

One of the delights of being associated with a university are the small informal meetings which explore topics in depth. One such event is the fortnightly "IR and Friends" at the CSIRO ICT Center, located on the ANU Campus in Canberra. This brings together people working on Information Retrieval (IR), including web text search and image searching. The next meeting is Monday 11 July 2011, 4pm with Peter Christen on "Privacy-preserving record linkage", in the CSIRO seminar room, ANU CS&IT building.

Much of the discussion I don't understand as the presentations are from advanced computer scientists and mathematicians. But every now and then there is an insight from someone who has just spent a year on analysis of Google's latest search technique, or who works in Microsoft's research labs. Staff from Australia's own FunnelBack web search company also frequently attend (FunnelBack was formed out of CSIRO research).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kogan Agora Laptop at Sydney Linux User Group

The Sydney Linux User Group (SLUG) invited me to give a lightening talk at their meeting last Friday, 24 June 2011. SLUG meetings are always interesting and have the bonus of being held at Google's Sydney's office. Here is a summary of what I said (or wanted to say):

Kogan Ultra Portable Agora 12" Laptop

Three models:
  1. Solid State Disk model: 30GB SATA Solid State Hard Drive, Google's Chromium OS, 1GB Ram, $349 + delivery
  2. Standard model: 250GB Disk, Ubuntu 11.04 OS, 1GB Ra, $349 + delivery
  3. PRO Model: 500GB Disk, Ubuntu 11.04 OS, 2GB Ram, $389 + delivery
Common features in all models:
  1. Intel Pentium Processor (SU2700) - 2M Cache, 1.30 GHz, 800 MHz FSB
  2. 11.6" WXGA Widescreen LED back-light LCD Display, 1366 x 768 (16:9), VGA and HDMI video out sockets,
  3. 2 speakers, 1 Microphone, audio in and out sockets, and 1.3 Mpixel Webcam.
  4. 802.11 B/G/N WiFi, Bluetooth (Not Compatible with Chromium OS, but Bluetooth works fine with Linux) .
  5. SD/MMC/MS Pro Card Reader, 3 USB and 1 Ethernet socket
  6. 4 Cell, 4600mAh Battery
  7. Dimensions: W:29.0cm x D:19.5cm x H:2.56cm, Weight: 1.32kg
I purchased the "pro" model.

  • Value for money generic hardware: The hardware looks good in comparison with laptops costing hundreds of dollars more. The laptop has panels covering the hard disk and RAM on the back of the unit allowing easy upgrade.
  • Bigger than a netbook, but smaller than a laptop: The unit is about the size of an A4 page and as thick of two pads of paper, so it will fit in a school bag. Even so, the 11.6 inch screen is significantly larger than a 10 inch netbook, as is the keyboard. This is a keyboard and screen which could be comfortably used all day.
  • Comes with Open Source Applications: The unit comes with office productivity and other applications pre-installed and read to go.
  • Good after sales service on hardware: The power supply of my previous Kogan netbook was replaced promptly, with no questions asked, when it failed.
  • Unity User Interface: "Unity" attempts to provide an Apple iPad like interface on Linux, but fails to have the iPad's elegance and ease of use. In addition the interface has bugs making it hard to use and drains battery life. Selecting Ubuntu classic interface (no effects) from the login screen solves this problem, by reverting to a traditional GUI, which works fine on the Agora's relatively large screen.
  • Limited Battery Life: Kogan claims approximately 3.5 hours battery life. The real world life is two hours with the Unity interface and 2.75 hours with the classic interface.
  • Evolution email package: The "Evolution" email package attempts to provide calendar and email features in one integrated package, but is slow and unreliable. Replacing this with Mozilla Thunderbird email solved the problems.
  • Limited Software Support: Kogan seem to have simply installed the generic Linux installation on the hardware without customization or tuning. The user is essentially reliant on a small number of fellow Agora users for DIY support. Kogan should sponsor a user group for its products, to make a virtue of a necessity.

For a low cost ultra-portable laptop consider purchasing the Kogan Agora Laptop Solid State Disk model and adding 1 GB RAM yourself. The solid state disk should extend the unit's battery life. Replace Google's Chromium OS with Linux yourself, if you need a full function operating system. Use the classic GUI (without effects) and Thunderbird email package in place of Unity and Evolution.

Kogan should consider offering the Solid State Disk model with 2GB RAM and a version of Linux with the "classic" interface switched on by default and Thunderbird as the default email package. Kogan should sponsor a user group for its products, to to encourage user support.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency

The Australian Government has announced agreement with Telstra on implementation of the NBN "Government and Telstra agree on package of consumer measures". The government will pay to retrain Telstra staff to deploy the NBN. Also a new "Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency" (TUSMA) will be created to administer the universal service obligation (USO).

The Government - Telstra agreement comes at the same time as "Definitive Agreements between Telstra and NBN Co" on implementing the NBN. The arrangements commence on 1 July, 2012.

The TUSMA is tasked to ensure:
  1. all Australians have reasonable access to a standard telephone service (the Universal Service Obligation for voice telephony services);
  2. payphones are reasonably accessible to all Australians (the Universal Service Obligation for payphones);
  3. the ongoing delivery of the Emergency Call Service by Telstra (calls to Triple Zero '000' and '112');
  4. the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service;
  5. that appropriate safety net arrangements are in place that will assist the migration of voice-only customers to an NBN fibre service as Telstra’s copper customer access network is decommissioned; and
  6. technological solutions will be developed as necessary to support continuity of public interest services (i.e. public alarm systems and traffic lights).
  • While carrying over the existing PSTN voice services to the NBN, these measures do not go far enough. They do not address access to digital data services and in particular provision of these services in an emergency.

    Joint media release

    The Hon Julia Gillard MP
    Prime Minister of Australia

    Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
    Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
    Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

    Senator the Hon Penny Wong
    Minister for Finance and Deregulation

    Government and Telstra agree on package of consumer measures

    The Gillard Government and Telstra today reached an agreement that will ensure basic universal telecommunication service standards during and after the roll out of the National Broadband Network – a critical assurance for consumers in the rollout of the NBN.

    The important public safeguard is part of a package of measures agreed between the Government and Telstra that included an agreement to provide assistance to retrain Telstra’s workforce to deploy the NBN.

    The package also included the creation of a new government entity, the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) that will administer the universal service obligation (USO) and other public interest services.

    These measures were announced in conjunction with Definitive Agreements between Telstra and NBN Co that will see super fast broadband delivered sooner to Australians with less disruption and less cost.

    The universal service arrangements will commence on 1 July, 2012.The TUSMA will ensure:

    • all Australians have reasonable access to a standard telephone service (the Universal Service Obligation for voice telephony services);
    • payphones are reasonably accessible to all Australians (the Universal Service Obligation for payphones);
    • the ongoing delivery of the Emergency Call Service by Telstra (calls to Triple Zero '000' and '112');
    • the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service;
    • that appropriate safety net arrangements are in place that will assist the migration of voice-only customers to an NBN fibre service as Telstra’s copper customer access network is decommissioned; and
    • technological solutions will be developed as necessary to support continuity of public interest services (i.e. public alarm systems and traffic lights).

    These measures are vital to ensure continuity of basic services to consumers throughout Australia given the significant changes that will occur to the structure of the telecommunications industry from the rollout of the NBN, including the progressive decommissioning of Telstra’s copper customer access network.

    Telstra will submit a Migration Plan to the ACCC for public consultation and approval which will set out the process by which its existing copper customers, including customers of other companies using Telstra’s wholesale services, will migrate onto the NBN.

    Copper-based services outside the NBN Co fibre footprint will continue to be available to customers under the USO agreement, as well as the new fast broadband services provided through NBN Co’s next generation wireless and satellite services.

    To support the delivery of these new arrangements – which are in addition to its previously announced commitment to provide funding of $50 million per annum for the financial years 2012–13 and 2013–14, and then $100 million per annum thereafter - the Government will supplement its funding to TUSMA in the first two financial years. This will ensure contributors to the industry levy, with the exception of Telstra, will not face an increase to their aggregate funding contribution through the transition period.

    The commitment to provide additional Government funding towards this important reform is an important measure that will provide industry with greater certainty to facilitate the transition to the new regime.

    Senator Conroy also announced today that the government has entered into a further agreement with Telstra to provide funding to assist in the retraining and redeployment of Telstra staff affected by this very significant reform.

    NBN Co, in conjunction with the industry and in consultation with the Commonwealth Government, will fund and undertake a public education campaign to inform consumers about the imminent migration of services from the copper-based infrastructure to the fibre optic infrastructure.

    More information on the new arrangements for the delivery of the Universal Service Obligation and other public telecommunications outcomes is available at


    23 JUNE 2011 ...

    From: Government and Telstra agree on package of consumer measures, 23 June 2011

    Global Financial Crisis and India

    Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr D. Subbarao (దువ్వూరి సుబ్బారావు), Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is speaking on "India and the global financial crisis" in the 2011 K R Narayanan Oration. This was preceded by a message from the President of India, about the strength of the Indian economy.

    Dr Subbarao started his talk by quoting K R Narayanan commenting that globalisation was not the end of history. He then pointed out that the latest Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was truly global. He humorously pointed out his term as reserve bank governor started just before the GFC, so some blamed him for it. India had a well regulated financial sector but was still hit by the GFC. India had a drop in the Indian Rupee, with overseas investments leaving. Local companies withdrew funds from the local money market, causing a shortage of capital. The RBI reacted by ensuring local liquidity, foreign exchange liquidity and credit flow to "productive" sectors. As a result the economy recovered quickly, but there is inflation the RBI is addressing with interest rate increases. Dr Subbarao commented that it did not so much matter what the RBI did during the GFC, as long as it was seen to be doing something. It was also more important to manage the end of the GFC measures, than their introduction.

    Dr Subbarao's Lessons from the GFC:
    1. In a globalizing world, decoupling does not work. As an example of this, under conventional economic theory, house prices are a purely local issue, but a collapse in house prices in the USA caused the GFC.
    2. Global imbalances need to be redressed for the sake of global stability. The GFC was caused by global imbalances, with surpluses in China and Asia and deficits in the USA.
    3. Global problems require global coordination.
      Dr Subbarao suggested that the level of agreement by countries during the GFC could not be expected into the future. But global imbalances remain and require coordination.
    4. Price Stability and Macroeconomic Stability do not guarantee Financial Stability.
    5. Micro-prudential supervision is necessary, but not sufficient. Needs to be supplemented by macro-prudential oversight.
    6. Capital controls are not only unavoidable, but advisable in certain circumstances. Dr Subbara's law of capital flows is: "You never get capital flows at the level and time you want".
    7. Economics is not physics. Dr Subbara pointed out that the GFC was predicted, but its exact manifestation was not.
    8. Having a sense of economic history is important to prevent and resolve financial crisis.
    A podcast of the presentation will be available in the next few days.
    Dr Subbarao has earlier been Secretary to the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (2005-2007), lead economist in the World Bank (1999-2004), Finance Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh (1993-98) and Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India (1988-1993).

    Dr Subbarao has wide experience in public finance. In the World Bank, he worked on issues of public finance in countries of Africa and East Asia. He managed a flagship study on decentralisation across major countries of East Asia including China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Cambodia. Dr Subbarao was also involved in initiation of fiscal reforms at the state level and has written extensively on issues in public finance, decentralisation and political economy of reforms.

    Dr D. Subbarao will present the 2011 K R Narayanan Oration - ‘India and the global financial crisis – what have we learnt?’. He is the 22nd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Prior to this appointment, Dr Subbarao was the Finance Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

    Teaching as a perfomace

    Michael Sandel has a series of videos of his Harvard University lectures of on Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?.
    ... a New York Times best seller, relates the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of our time: bank bailouts, equality and inequality, taxes, immigration, affirmative action, the role of markets, national service, same-sex marriage, the place of religion in politics, and the ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives.

    Framework for teaching standards in Australian universities

    The discussion paper "Developing a framework for teaching and learning standards in Australian higher education and the role of TEQSA" has been released by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) on 22 June 2011. This is a 22 page report available in PDF (90kb) and RTF (2mb). Comments on the paper are invited by email, until 22 July 2010.
    This paper initiates a process of discussion on possible approaches to articulating, reviewing and reporting on
    teaching and learning standards in Australian higher education. It presents the policy context, including the role of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA); incorporates an analysis of relevant developments as background; and proposes a way forward.

    The TEQSA legislation introduced into the Parliament of Australia in March provides, among other things, that a
    Higher Education Standards Panel (Standards Panel) will be responsible for developing the Higher Education
    Standards Framework, including teaching and learning standards. The Standards Panel must consult with interested parties when developing the standards.

    The Standards Panel will be independent of the TEQSA Commission and will provide advice and recommendations directly to the Minister for Tertiary Education and the Minister for Research. This will ensure the separation of standard setting from the monitoring and enforcement functions carried out by TEQSA.

    The Interim TEQSA Commission seeks feedback from higher education providers, professional associations, industry bodies and government agencies about directions for development before detailed work begins. The outcomes from this discussion process will be provided to the Standards Panel for further consideration once the Commission is formally established.

    The contribution of Professor Richard James and Dr Kerri-Lee Harris of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education to the preparation of this paper is gratefully acknowledged.

    There are three sections in the paper, each with associated discussion points:
    1. The policy context for national teaching and learning standards, including proposed statements of principle for TEQSA’s approach. Feedback is sought on the proposed definition of teaching and learning standards.
      Feedback is also sought on the proposed statements of principle describing TEQSA’s approach to teaching and learning standards.
    2. A brief review of international and domestic developments, including student surveys, qualification frameworks, explicit statements of learning outcomes, common tests and peer review.
      Feedback is sought on the analysis of these developments in terms of their utility in developing a teaching and learning standards framework.
    3. Steps toward Australian teaching and learning standards, how Australian higher education, including TEQSA, might further develop a national approach to teaching and learning standards.
      Feedback is sought on the proposed structure of the framework, including on the relationships between the various elements. Feedback is also sought on the particular considerations and possibilities described for developing standards statements, measures and indicators, and processes for expert review. ...
    From: "Developing a framework for teaching and learning standards in Australian higher education and the role of TEQSA", Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA), 22 June 2011

    Lack of on-line and global perspective in the framework

    My interest is in on-line learning, so I was curious to see how prominently in the discussion paper. The words "Internet" and "computer" do not appear in the paper at all and there is no mention of the World Wide Web. "Online" occurs once, under the heading "Standards categories":
    Standards categories

    Broad categories are needed for identifying and locating teaching standards and learning standards within a
    coherent, explicit framework. The categories are purely for organisational purposes and should be broad,
    identifiable areas of significance that will bring structure to the standards framework. Within teaching standards,
    for example and for illustrative purposes, such categories might be course design, course resourcing, quality of teaching, quality of learner support, quality of provision for student diversity, quality of provision for online learning and so on. It is feasible that some categories, once they are agreed to, may not be applicable to certain providers or certain courses, and thus a mechanism for diversity would be embedded within the framework. ...
    Australian higher education needs to address new techniques in education. Accompanying on-line education are new approaches to student directed learning. This is similar to the situation with organizations failing to grasp that "social networking" is not a new media channel to market to their customers, but a way to genuinely involve the community in decision making.

    The discussion paper failing also lacks a global perspective. The Australian tertiary sector does not have the option of setting its own standards for teaching, or for anything else. Australian institutions are part of a global system of education and so must comply with global standards, or go out of business. Australia can remain competitive by being involved in setting those standards, or remain aloof and decline.

    Australia is competing with other countries for international students and, as online systems become establisher (particularly in India and China), Australian universities will be competing for Australian students with overseas institutions.

    In my area of teaching IT professionals, the standards for education as well as technical standards, tend to come from the USA and the UK. Australia is a leader in the development of education standards in IT and able to influence those standards, by acting as a bridge to Asia. I suggest this is a strategy which could be adopted generally by Australian Higher Education.

    As an example of how course standards are set against global standards, my course "Green Information Technology Strategies" run at ANU as COMP7310, addresses the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) Level 5 competencies:
    "ensure, advise: Broad direction, supervisory, objective setting responsibility. Influences organisation. Challenging and unpredictable work. Self sufficient in business skills".

    The course outline outline lists Category/Subcategory/Skill from SFIA.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Learning University Teaching: Lesson 4

    Last week I attended day three of an introductory coruse in university teaching. The fourth and last day this week is about "Designing and Marking Assessment Tasks". Here is my thoughts in preparation:

    Designing and Marking Assessment Tasks

    It is useful to see what the public perception of university assessment is, or at least the media's perception. So here are the recent five top stories from Google News which mention "University Assessment":
    1. Two Mumbai varsity staffers caught stealing answer papers, Hindustan Times,23 Jun 2011‎: The University of Mumbai on Wednesday caught two of its temporary staff trying to steal engineering answer papers from the university's central assessment centre at Kalina. The duo had tied eight answer papers to their legs and was walking out when the ...
    2. Assessment and learning in the digital age, Media Newswire (press release): The symposium, Assessment and learning in the digital age, will take place at the University of Bristol's Graduate School of Education ( GSOE) on Friday 17 June from 1 to 5 pm in Room 4.10, GSOE, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol. ...
    3. KCPE and KCSE face scrapping, The Standard, Augustine Oduor, ‎Jun 21, 2011‎: The exams whose hallmark has been cutthroat competition among schools, and which hold the key to good secondary places and lucrative university courses, might be replaced with a list of assessment tests spread across the learning system. ...
    4. Teaching quality under pressure as unis chase money, The Australian, Julie Hare, ‎Jun 20, 2011‎: SPIRALLING class sizes, overcrowding, tutorials replaced by seminars, few avenues for feedback and interaction, a shift to online and peer-assessment as a cost saving measure -- the dire state of teaching in Australian universities emerges from just a ...
    These indicate that assessment issues are of concern globally, including: fairness, adaption to on-line delivery, reduction in the use of large end of semester examinations and peer assessment.

    A search of Google Scholar, shows six documents featuring the words "university assessment" in the title for 2011:
    1. Talking the talk: oracy demands in first year university assessment tasks: C Doherty, M Kettle, L May… - Assessment in Education: …, 2011 - 18, No. 1, February 2011, 27–39 ISSN 0969-594X print/ISSN 1465-329X
    2. Towards Fairer University Assessment: Recognising the
    3. Concerns of Students N Flint… - 2011 - After all the hours of studying, reading and preparation, the nights spent revising and the writing and re-writing of assignments, 'success' for university students can often be represented with a single grade or digit, ...
    4. 'Worldmarks': Web guidelines for socially and culturally responsive assessment in university classrooms, CE Manathunga, D MacKinnon - … Conference 2002: The …, 2011 - ... understanding. Yet university assessment in Australia is often based on a western template of knowledge, which automatically places International, Indigenous, as well as certain groups of local students at a study disadvantage. ...
    5. 'In Press' Measuring up? Assessment and students with disabilities in the modern university, J Bessant - International Journal of Inclusive Education, 2011 -, International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. TBA, no. TBA, pp. ...
    6. Teaching in the Corporate University: Assessment as a Labor Issue, J Champagne - 2011 - ... Following the self-study, our provost established the Coordinating Committee on University Assessment. In March 2006, that ...
    7. Towards fairer university assessment: recognizing the concerns of students,: A Iredale - 2011 - This book is aimed at higher education academics, administrators and managers, researchers, and to some extent undergraduate and postgraduate students. It explores assessment as a determiner of student satisfaction, and is based upon Nerilee Flint's PhD thesis. A ...
    These articles address fairness, cultural responsiveness and dealing with disability in assessment. Most interesting is that two of the six refer to the book: "Towards Fairer University Assessment: Recognizing the Concerns of Students" by Nerilee Flint (Routledge, 2011). Dr Nerilee Flint is Education Advisor, Student Equity, ANU. In the paper "Unfairness in educational assessment: Modifiers that influence the response students have to a perception of unfair" (2007) and later in her book, she suggests assessment is important to universities and is a powerful way to influence student behavior.

    Integrating Assessment with Course Design

    While education theory and items in the media suggest assessment is important, in practice it tends to be left to later, both in design and delivery of courses. Design of assessment is generally left until after course content is decided. Also much of the assessment of a university course is by way of an end of course examination, where the results of that examination cannot be used to help the student with learning in that course (as the course is over). If assessment is important, then it should be designed alongside the content and delivered before the end of the course.

    My approach is to provide all assessment items at the beginning of the course (or preferably before the student enrolls). As an example, all assessment items for my two e-leaning courses "Green Technology Strategies" and "Electronic Document and Records Management" are available before the student starts the course. The assessment items are based on real world tasks the student will be expected to be able to carry out after the course. This avoids the philosophical conundrum of attempting to assess what the student "knows", instead assessing what they can do. It also appeals to students looking to do the course in order to get a better job.

    To promote a sense of fairness and to avoid unnecessary requests for remarking, when marking assignments I first make detailed comments, giving the students examples of what is good, what could be improved, how and why. Rather than add up some marking scheme to give an arbitrary total, I instead form an assessment of the grade of the work (fail, pass, credit, ...) and then a mark within that grade. I provide the student with the detailed comments, the grade and the mark. This is a way to clearly tell the student my assessment of their work (this "credit" level work). It avoids the time wasting scramble for marks, where the student is tempted to ask for a few more marks to push them up into the next grade.

    What is assessment for?

    The accepted wisdom in educational theory is that there is formative and summative assessment. Formative assessment helps the guide the student with their learning while it is in progress, whereas summative assessment is for an external report on the results at the end. While, Harlen & M. James ("Assessment and Learning: differences and relationships between formative and summative assessment", 1997) argue that things are not as clear cut in the real world and there is a creep to wards using assessment originally developed for formative use as summative, this still seems a useful distinction to make. However, I like to provide marks for formative work, as a way to motivate students to do it (24% of the total marks seems to be sufficient).

    When deciding how much assessment and in what form to use in an ANU course, I did a quick survey of Australian university assesment. For the usual 13 week course (of 9 to 10 hours work per week), universities typically require 40 to 60 words per percent. That is 4,000 to 6,000 words of assignments written by students for a complete course, with a set number of words corresponding to a length of examination or oral presentation. As an example, University of Melbourne equates one hour of examination or ten minutes of individual oral presentation to 1000 words of assignment.

    Automated Assessment

    Learning Management Systems, such as Moodle, have provision for automated quizzes built in. This would seem to be ideal for formative assessed, particularly when assessing what the student already knows at the start of a course, so they can be guided to concentrate on what they don't know.
    Professor Geoffrey Crisp, Director of the Centre for Learning and Professional Development, at University of Adelaide and author of the "e-Assessment Handbook" has given seminars in Canberra on how to automate assessment. This could be useful, but it takes considerable work to set up in advance and so far none of the organizations who commission me to design cruses have been willing to fund the work needed for this.

    In designing automated assessment, it needs to be kept in mind that the system must, if possible, be designed to be usable by a wide range of students. As an example, the student may be remote from the campus, on a slow telecommunications link, have a low powered computer or have a disability. This needs to be taken into account when designing the assessment. As an example, if the assessment is in the form of a Flash animation, the student may not be able to use it, thus be disadvantaged and leaving the institution open to charges of unlawful discrimination.

    In addition assessment should not be designed to make up for inappropriate course design. As an example, it is not possible to provide individual feedback in a live lecture to hundreds of students. "Clickers" can be used to conduct a quick quiz, students can submit questions via pieces of paper or Twitter. But one lecturer can't deal with all the questions from hundreds of students in a live environment and should not pretend they can.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    e-learning for workforce development

    Today I took part in the second of an weekly series on-line forums with about 25 people around Australia on this week the topic was "HOW can e-learning help with workforce development?". This is part of the excellent work by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, a federal/state government initiative. The events are run on-line using run using the Elluminate product.

    This week, as well as listening to a live-to-air presentation with on-line slides, we also worked through some pre-recorded Flash based slides with audio and answered some questions. This made for a slightly complex setup, especially for an ad-hoc group of participants. The Flash presentation was supposed to appear in the Elluminate window, but I found I had just a blank square (I suspect that Elluminate does not work so well under Linux as MS-Windows). But the trainers had allowed for this and provided a web address so I could open the representative in my web browser separately.

    To add to my confusion the live sound from the trainer came through my headset, whereas the prerecorded material came via the speakers in my laptop (perhaps because I have changed the audio settings). Some of the problems other students had with audio breaking up I did not experience, perhaps because I set Elluminate to run at 56 kbps (not propaganda speed) and set Flahs to play at low resolution. This reduces the communications and processing load, but still gives an acceptable presentation.

    To enter answers to questions there was a separate workbook, in the form of a word-processing document. This made for slightly disjointed process, as I had to flip between Elluminate, the Web browser and the word processor. But it did have the advantage that I could use the native features of each.

    Entering answers into a Learning Management System can be annoying, for example, if I can't get the spell checker to work. It is a pleasure to watch how an experienced on-line trainer handles the complexities of getting a group of people to go through an on-line training module and keep top the timetable.

    Here is a summary of my answers to the questions:
    • Obstacles to e-leaning in the workplace:Academic prejudice against e-learning. Lack of training with e-learning techniques.
    • When and where e-leaning:In formal course times as part of the normal semester works well. Can also be used in an ad-hoc way.
    • Travel and the benefits:More the case of not being where the training facility is. That is with mobile staff. Can save administrative time, worrying about getting to and from classes.
    • What motivates industry to participate in training: Meeting mandatory qualification requirements.
    • Importance of learner support: Being in the IT industry have good technical support. But still have difficulty getting things like Elluminate and the Flash player to work on my Linux computer.
    • Learners comfortable with e-learning: Most experienced with IT and relaxed. They will appreciate not having to attend “lectures”. They like it.
    • Learners prepared for e-learning:
    • About 10% drop out in the first few weeks as they cannot cope with having to do work every week.
    • Motivation of learners: Get a better job.
    • How many learners are there? I expect to have classes of 100 students.
    • Learners locations: About one third India, one third China and one third spread across Australia and the rest of the world.
    • What particularly motivates learners: Practical exercises relevant to jobs they can get.
    • How will the learners benefit: Get a qualification they can use to get a better job.
    • Previous training experience influenced attitude to learning: Boring lectures and irrelevant paper based examinations.
    Some useful links were also provided:

    1. Enabling workforce development: Insights from industries using e-learning report

    2. Role of RTOs in partnering with business and industry to embed e-learning
    3. Guidelines for supporting e-learners for support
    4. Enabling workforce development: Insights from eight industry sectors using e-learning
    5. Enabling workforce development: Learning sequence

    Kogan Agora Laptop Better with Classic Interface and Flash Disk

    ABC TV's Q&A (apparently pronounced "QanDa") on 20 June 2011 featured on-line electronics retailer Ruslan Kogan. He did okay. But regardless what I think of his TV performance I do like his computers. On 10 June I took delivery of a Kogan Agora PRO 12" Ultra Portable Laptop Computer. The minimalist on-line store and the minimalist packaging impressed me almost as much as the modest design of the hardware. Kogan's business and the products have been pared down to give the customer what they want and no more. In this case a very plain cardboard box with a very generic looking black laptop, with a very generic version of Linux on it.

    The lightweight laptop form provides a 11.6 inch screen and a good size keyboard, sufficient for a days work, but small enough to fit in a bag with a pad of A4 paper. The LED back-light screen is very readable. This would make a good laptop for a student, if a few battery and interface problems could be fixed.

    My favorable impressions of the hardware changed when I discovered the battery only lasted about 2 hours, much less than the claimed 3.5 hours. However, more of a problem was the new "Unity" interface of the Ubuntu Linux software installed.

    Unity attempts to provide an interface which makes maximum use of the limited space on a netbook screen. However, the Kogan has a relatively large 11.6 inch screen and so does not need a compact interface. Also the way the interface saves space is to strip off the borders around windows, the titles and menu bars from them. This has not been implemented consistently across the applications which make up Linux.

    Even applications which are provided by default with Ubuntu had problems. The "Evolution" email package's setup menus did not work correctly: clicking on one icon actives the icon below it and attempting to click on a button instead causes the window to scroll.

    I was ready to send the laptop back for a refund when one of my colleagues suggested switching back to the Ubuntu classic (no effects) user interface. This can be done from the login screen, without changing software. It transformed my experience of the laptop. The borders and menus reappeared around windows and the menu items I clicked on activated. The responsiveness of the machine improved noticeably. Also the battery life increased by 45 minutes, due to the interface not making intensive use of graphics, for effects such as translucent menus.

    While the menus in "Evolution" now worked, it still did some strange things and I decided to switch to the simpler Mozilla Thunderbird email package.

    The laptop still has limitations, the major one being the limited battery life (now 2 hours and 45 minutes and less than the claimed 3 hours and 30 minutes). I tried a number of other Linux power saving tips, but most of these seem to have already been incorporated into the newest versions of Linux.

    One option left to consider is a flash Laptop Solid State Drive. The flash drive will save a little power when running, but more importantly would allow the laptop to be switched off more often, as it can be switched on more quickly.

    Ironically, a cheaper model of the Agora is offered with a 30 GB solid state drive. But this has only 1 GB of RAM and comes with the Google Chromium OS. I did not want to have to install a different operating system and more RAM myself, but in retrospect, that would have been easier than the changes I have to make to get Ubuntu to work properly.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    High-Speed Internet Not a Requirement for Online Classes

    Recently I was asked if high-speed Internet should be a requirement for students taking online courses. I suggest educational institutions not require high speed Internet, unless they have a need for speed. It would exclude students unnecessarily and may cut across anti-discrimination policies. Instead, I suggest 56 kbps would be a reasonable speed for courses generally.

    Some Australian educational institutions specify "a 56K modem or broadband connection to the Internet". A few Australian institutions require students to have "Broadband connection to the Internet".

    The Australian Government definition of "broadband" is a download speed of at least 256 kbit/s. This comes from the OECD.

    But the Australian Universal Service Obligation currently sets the minimum data speed to be available to all citizens at just 64 kbps.

    Having a low national standard for Internet access makes it difficult for an institution to require students to have a higher "broadband" speed, as it would exclude many students. It is likely that this would not be permitted under Australia law, unless the institution could show that this was really required for a specific course. The institution may have its government accreditation canceled and may be taken to court by individual students for unlawful discrimination.

    Keep in mind that if you do require the students to have high speed broadband, this implies the institution is set up to provide courses to students at that speed. Consider an assignment which requires the student to submit a video on-line. A significant proportion of students will wait until a few minutes before the deadline before uploading their video to the institution's Learning Management System and then download a copy to check it was received okay. It would not take many students, each using a high speed broadband connection, to saturate the institution's links and servers.

    The Australian National Broadband Network will provide a minimum of 512 kbps for remote areas using satellite, 12 Mbps for regional areas using fixed terrestrial wireless and 100 Mbps by fiber optic cable in cities.

    It should be noted that even with "broadband" some remote satellite links may have so much "latency" that some interactive applicators may not be usable. Latency is the delay between the student pressing the button (or saying something) and the time the signal arrives at the other end. This may cause problems for real time audio and video links and also for e-labs, where the student is interacting with a real device in a remote lab.

    Apart from speed and latency, there is also the cost to consider. Students using wireless via the mobile phone network can be paying tens or hundreds of times as much for data as fixed network users. In this case high speed could result in them running up a large bill very quickly. The cost of downloading one video may be prohibitive.

    Also it needs to be kept in mind that the student may only have a low performance computer which cannot process or store large amounts of data. I normally set webinar applications to use no more than 56 kbps, even though I have a 100 mbps link in my office. Setting a low speed reduces the processing load on my low power "netbook" computer and reduces problems for people with a slow link at the other end. Most webinars work fine at 56kbps.

    The approach I suggest is to ensure that:

    1. Large non-interactive files, such as e-books, videos and any special software needed, can be downloaded in advance in bulk: Students should be able to download the bulk of materials in one session at a cyber cafe at the beginning of the course for use later. Also it should be made clear to students which materials are required for the course and which are optional. All required audio and video should have a companion alternate text version for those who can't see or hear the video. Disability law requires this, but it can also be a useful alternative for those who can't download large files. This is also good teaching practice, allowing students to choose the format for their learning style.
    2. Low bandwidth options be offered for interactive parts of the course: Text based chat forums are very bandwidth efficient. Video, where offered, should be optional for real time forums, with still slides as an alternative. What should be avoided is putting prerecorded video in the real time session. Allow the students to download the prerecorded video in advance. This is also good teaching practice, allowing students to study material in advance of the interactive session.
    3. Notes in efficient formats: Web format documents should be used for course materials. The web's native HTML format should be used to prepare course notes and reading materials, where possible. Older versions of Microsoft Power-point and Microsoft Word should be avoided, as should PDF, as these create much larger files. The newer Microsoft Office and OpenOffice formats are more efficient, but care should be taken to format images as these can make documents tens or hundreds of times larger than they need be. Where possible use the content creation tools of your Learning Management System to make course notes which download efficiently.

    In my view 56 kbps should be sufficient for the average course. This is fast enough for ordinary web content, for a real time "webinar" with audio and slides and to download some short low quality video.

    It should be noted that video, audio and real time interaction are not necessary for a successful on-line course. I have run a university unit which required no video or audio and with no real time class interaction. The students were instead supplied with about 500 kbytes of text based notes in an e-book at the start of the 12 week course and then posted their input to a text based forum at least twice a week: .

    Many teachers think that if they are not standing in front of the class talking, then they are not "teaching". This is not the case. Research shows that giving hour long talking lectures is one of the least effective ways to teach. Replicating this format on-line with hour long recorded video lectures is therefore not a good idea: it wastes bandwidth and does not significantly help educate students. Text based materials, interspersed with interactive activities is more effective. This can be supplemented by short audio and video segments, with graphics.

    ps: I will be discussing images and video for on-line education at the Australasian National University in Canberra, 29 June 2011.

    Using Images and Video in Online Courses

    My draft notes for "Presenting a good image for your course", are now available for comment. This is for presentation at "Wattle Wednesday", at the Australian National University, Canberra, 29 June 2011.
    Tom Worthington was awarded a certificate in audio-visual production for training, by the then ACT TAFE in 1990. He decided it was time to apply some of those skills to teaching. Tom discusses some shortcuts to including still and moving images and sound in courses.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    The Logic of Global Warming

    Vaughan Pratt, Emeritus Professor (Stanford University) will talk on "The Logic of Global Warming" at the Australian National University, 23 June 2011. Professor Pratt is a graduate of the University of Sydney and recorded on their Hall of Fame.

    Research School of Computer Science

    The Logic of Global Warming

    Vaughan Pratt, Emeritus Professor (Stanford University)


    DATE: 2011-06-23
    TIME: 12:30:00 - 13:30:00
    LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101, Computer Science and Information Technology Building, Australian National University, North Road, Canberra.

    When averaged over anything less than a decade, Earth's surface temperature is difficult to predict. Beyond that however, only three significant contributors to surface temperature are apparent from the global temperature record of the past 160 years, namely two ocean oscillations of apparently long standing, and the quite recent influence of greenhouse gases of human origin. I'll discuss approaches to estimating these including the robustness of such estimates and also look briefly at the more minor contributors to long term global temperature. The talk will be pertinent to Climatologists, Physicists, Engineers and Computer Scientists with an interest in global warming.

    Vaughan Pratt is an emeritus professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and historically interested in a large number of areas of the subject - architecture, algorithms, languages, systems and particularly the application of mathematics. More details of his achievements are available though Wikipedia. He will be visiting CECS for the week of 20-24 June.

    E-waste Rules from Indian Government

    The Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests has announced that "E-waste Management and Handling Rules 2011" (S.O. 1035(E), Government of India Press, 12/05/2011) will come into effect 1 May 2012. These are useful rules for reducing the amount of toxic material from electronic devices polluting the environment, but the Indian government needs an on-line system to make the rules workable.

    The rules apply to producers , bulk consumers and recycling centres for electrical and electronic equipment (batteries, small enterprises and radioactive waste are excluded). Under these rules producers are responsible for recycling of e-waste at the "end of life" of their products, including the cost of collection and recycling centres.

    The rules are contained in a 23 page, 1.3Mb PDF file (also available in Hindi). Unfortunately the English version of the rules appears to be a poorly scanned facsimile of a paper copy. This will make it difficult for organizations to find the rules and prepare internal documentation in order to comply with them.

    Organizations covered by these rules are required to register with their state pollution control board or Pollution Control Committee, keep records of e-waste handling and file annual returns with the government. Unfortunately the forms provided in the rules are poor quality facsimilies of paper copies. It appears that the Government of India's intention is that organizations will fill these forms in on paper and send them through the post. This will create a large administrative burden for the companies and government agencies concerned. It will also create an environmental burden due to the materials and energy consumed in the process. The paper based records produced will be of little value in monitoring e-waste.

    I suggest the Government of India produce a central web based registration system for producers to register and enter their annual returns. Responsible agencies can then also register so they can monitor the activities in their region. The e-forms used could be design to be filled in using a smart phone or other low cost low bandwidth device, so minimal burden will be imposed on industry. The system could be self funding by including advertisements on the web site.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Futuro House at University of Canberra

    The Futuro prefabricated house which was part of the part of the Canberra Planetarium and Observatory has been moved to the University of Canberra and is to be restored by conservation students.

    Devolved email improves Kogan Agora Laptop

    After lowering power use on my Kogan Agora Laptop, by reverting to an older graphical user interface, I have now increased the performance of email by switching from the default "Evolution" email package to the less featured Mozilla Thunderbird.

    Evolution has calendar functions which I did not want and so just added to the complexity of the interface. It also tended to spend a lot of time downloading copies of email over my slow wireless link. Thunderbird just does email, but does it much quicker. So far I have not worked out how to switch off the Evolution icon from the top of the screen. When I am confident Thunderbird is working properly, I will un-install Evolution, which hopefully will remove all trace of it.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Green Technology Strategies on Apple iPad

    Green Technology Strategies
    Apple have my book "Green Technology Strategies" available in ePub format on their iTunes store. This came as quite a surprise. I recall requesting this of LuLu (who distribute the PDF, paperback and hardcover editions) some months ago. This contrasts with the Kindle Edition, which took less than 24 hours to publish.

    The book has been available since 8 June 2011, but it has taken me a week to get around to reading the message I got from LuLu. This said my book was on the "iBookstore", but I had no idea what that was. Apparently this is what Apple called the book part of their on-line store. None of the links in the LuLu message were to LuLu's web site, so I assumed this was a hoax email.

    I am not sure how many people will buy a book from Apple. One curious point is that Apple seem reluctant to say that you do not need an Apple device to read the book: just about any smart phone, tablet computer, laptop or desktop will do.

    The book consists of a 297 kbytes file, which has been zip compressed. The file contains 516 Kbytes, mostly made up of the HTML text of the book, with one HTML file per chapter. The HTML of the ePub version is almost identical to that of the Kindle Edition, the free web version and the IMS Content Package , all of which are derived from the Moodle Learning Management System Course File.

    Green Technology Strategies

    by Tom Worthington

    This book is available on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iBooks and on your computer with iTunes.


    Green Technology Strategies is about how to use computers and telecommunications in a way which maximises positive environmental benefit, with minimum energy and materials use. The book is designed to be used with an online course for professionals, using mentored and collaborative learning techniques. Learn how to: - Estimate the carbon footprint of the ICT operations of an organisation, - Assess ways to reduce the carbon footprint of an organisation, by changes to polices for procurement of ICT, changes to the ICT operations and revising business processes.

    View In iTunes
    • $3.99
    • Available on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
    • Category: Computers
    • Published: Jun 08, 2011
    • Publisher:
    • Seller: Lulu Enterprises, Inc.
    • Print Length: 127 Pages
    • Language: English

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