Friday, September 28, 2012

On-line Professional Education for ANU

This is in response to a media report on proposed changes to the Australian National University (ANU) higher education portfolio  (Nairn, 2012). While supporting the changes, I suggest ANU could also continue to offer an education program.

As I understand it, ANU is considering phasing out its Graduate Certificate and Master of Higher Education. In their place e-learning would be used to improve staff skills in teaching, supervision and administration. Those staff wanting formal qualifications in these fields would  be encouraged to undertake programs at universities with specialist programmes.

In making these changes, I suggest ANU could continue to offer formal professional skills courses to retain its position as a leading university.

Professional Skills Modules for Staff and Students

The skills which ANU academics need, to be able to teach and to supervise research, are also required by professionals in the workplace. Professionals are required to take charge of their own learning, as well as mentor, teach and supervise staff. These are skills which do not come naturally, requiring formal training and testing.

In place of "teaching" courses for staff, I suggest ANU offer modules in professional skills to all postgraduate students in all programs. This will provide sufficient student numbers to make such training viable. The same modules can be undertaken by ANU staff and also used in formal courses.

As has been demonstrated with my course "ICT Sustainability" (offered by ANU as COMP7310), it is possible to bridge the divide between professional education and the requirements of higher education (Worthington, 2012). This shows it is possible to deliver quality education to professionals in the work place, in the same on-line class as postgraduate university students.

As well as being offered to computer science and engineering postgraduate students at ANU, COMP7310 is also available through ANU Graduate Studies Select. The flexibility of that program offers a way for ANU to continue to offer an education program.

Education Program via Graduate Studies Select

ANU Graduate Studies Select allows students to choose from courses across the ANU and allied universities. The ANU Graduate Certificate and Master of Higher Education could be replaced with Graduate Studies Select equivalents. Students would undertake some basic education courses at other institutions and advanced courses at ANU.

In anticipation of changes in ANU's education portfolio, in 2011 I arranged with my academic adviser to undertake the first half of the ANU Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, by distance education. I selected two on-line courses offered by the ANU's alliance partner, the University of Southern Queensland (USQ): Assessment and Online Pedagogy. These proved a good fit with ANU's own course in Research Supervision (EDUC8004). This custom program in Research-Led Education, could be a model for ANU.

Teach Students and Staff How to Manage Their Own Learning

The ANU already offers numerous on-line and face-to-face short training modules and development activities for staff and students. I suggest these could be incorporated into formal courses which teach students and staff how to manage their own learning. The courses would teach the use of tools such as e-portfolios, to assemble the evidence of skills gained, to obtain formal course credit.

ANU cannot simply rely on short courses and those of other institutions. To retain its status as a leading university, the ANU needs to continue its own research into how education and research are undertaken and to impart that new knowledge to ANU students and staff.


These views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ANU, or any other organisation.

Tom Worthington FACS CP
Consulting Computer Professional, and
Adjunct Lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, The Australian National University


Nairn, J. (2012, 2012-09-18T14:23:03+1000). More jobs to go as ANU cuts courses, Current, ABC News. Retrieved from

Worthington, T. (2012). A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks. Paper presented at the Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 2012 7th International Conference on, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved from

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