Thursday, November 29, 2012

Using Free Linux Software for Teaching Online at Australia's Leading University

The Sydney Linux Users Group (SLUG) were short a speaker for their monthly meeting, so I volunteered with "Linux Software for Teaching Online at Australia's Leading University". SLUG meetings are always interesting, with a wide range of speakers (not just me) and have the bonus of being held at Google Sydney: 6pm for 6:30pm, Friday, 30 November 2012.

Using Free Linux Software for Teaching Online at Australia's Leading University

Tom Worthington

Speaker: Tom Worthington, Adjunct Lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University 

Tom talks about how he used Linux and other free open source software for creating and running an award winning online course at the Australian National University. See also: "A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online with Moodle"

Linux Allows for Using Low Cost Hardware

Kogan Agora Laptop
Use a 11.6 Inch sub-notebook computer which cost less than $500.

Switched off new "Unity" Ubuntu interface for "classic".

Upgraded with a  60 GB Solid State Disk (SSD).

Use a USB wireless modem.

In the home and university offices have desktop screen, keyboard and mouse.

Free Open Source Office Software on the Laptop

  1. LibreOffice suite for word processing and spreadsheet
  2. Mozilla Thunderbird for email
  3. Calibre for creating ebooks
  4. Slidy for web based presentations

Free Software on University Servers

Moodle Learning Management System.

Free in the Cloud

Some Tips

  1. Use HTML in place of PDF and WP
  2. Create text in LibreOffice with default format,
  3. Export course content as HTML to Moodle,
  4. Export as HTML to Calibre to create eBooks,
  5. Use Moodle to communicate with students, not email.

Example: Course Notes Via The Web

  1. eBook exported from Moodle
  2. Published to web, ePub eBook and POD paperback
  3. Notes in Moodle most popular with students and simpler to maintain

E-learning in Sumatra

Tom Worthington at UIN Suska University of Riau
Simple HTML course materials allows translation into Indonesian: " Sustainable Development Through Green ICT: The Role of Education and the Business Sector".

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Online Distance Education for the Mature Student

I just attended a USQ focus group to get the views of students on technology used by the university (I was a USQ education student for two semesters). The focus group was conducted online via Blackboard Collaborate and worked well. It appears that I am a typical mature student who does not want mobile apps, twitter or Facebook, just ordinary old fashioned Moodle, email, lecture recordings and video conferences. ePortfolios appear to be popular and MOOCs may be appealing as a supplement to normal courses. I urged USQ to keep producing well designed online courses, delivered by well trained staff and not get distracted by e-fads.

Australian Transport Future at AusRAIL 2012 in Canberra

Greetings from the National Convention Centre in Canberra where the Australian Railway conference "AusRAIL 2012" is on today. The conference exhibition has spilled out of the exhibition hall into the foyer and upper levels. Heavy engineering companies from around the world are alongside Australian logistics and ICT. The exhibition is free and open to industry, academia and government until 3pm today. The next conference is November 2013 in Sydney.

IBM Intelligent Operations Center Demonstration
One exhibit which sparked my interest were IBM, with Doug Stapleton showing their "IBM Intelligent Operations Centre for Smarter Cities". IBM are partnering with management technology company SMS. Greg Halliday from SMS was showing various Sydney transport monitoring applications brought together on one screen for better co-ordination. I asked if they had a video to show to my ICT Sustainability students.

inReach is a 2 way satellite communicator
Dion Castle from PivoTel was showing  pocket size satellite terminals. The inReach is a 2 way satellite communicator is a solid looking almost cubic device which can be worn on a belt. It has no display and just a few buttons. On its own it can be used to send out a regular message to allow the wearer to be tracks and has an SOS button. But the device also has a Bluetooth interface allowing text messages to be received and sent from a smart phone.

At a time when the emphasis is on higher and higher speed broadband communications, it is important to keep in mind that much can be done with very low bandwidth high latency communications. This is important when you are outside the coverage of urban communications networks, or when those networks fail, especially in an emergency.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hybrid Water/Building Solar Heaters

Nicole Miller will talk on "Economic Feasibility Study of Electric-PV Heating System, at the Australian National University in Canberra, 4pm, 13 December 2012

Economic Feasibility Study of Electric-PV Heating System

Nicole Miller


DATE: 2012-12-13
TIME: 16:00:00 - 17:00:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room
The photovoltaic (PV) market has experienced a remarkably high rate of growth in recent times. An increase in the up take of domestic mounted roof top PV systems has been observed as a result of the dramatic reduction in the cost of PV systems and the fact grid parity is fast approaching in the majority of Australia. Urban PV rooftop systems (on the retail side of electricity meters) threaten the business models of utilities. Consequently, there have been reductions in the feed-in tariffs available. For example, Melbourne has reduced the feed-in tariff to 8c/kWh compared with the general tariff of 20c/kWh. This encourages self-consumptions of the generated electricity in order to avoid the general tariff.
With domestic heating of water and space being the largest proportion of householdas energy usage, utilising the PV generated electricity for this purpose is an attractive prospect. The objective of this work is to determine whether a rooftop PV system coupled with a heat pump is able to deliver both water and space heating competitively with more conventional heating methods. Specifically, a comparison will be made with electric and gas heating, which are the most common methods found in Australian households.
An appropriate comparative cost model is built that will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of each system. The model is built based on the scenario that a 3kW PV system already exists on the house and in order to employ the heat pump system the household would incur the additional cost of expanding to a 5kW system. Two locations, Melbourne and Canberra, will be analysed to highlight the impact that the different feed-in tariff available in the respective jurisdiction has in determining the most feasible system.

Nicole is currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Systems Engineering at the Australian National University. Nicole has developed her modelling and analytical skills through both her academic and professional experience. After completing her Commerce major in Finance, she completed an internship with the professional services firm PwC. The role involved significant use of Excel in creating models to forecast how major transactions would impact upon firm value. By also majoring in Renewable Energy Systems she has developed a particular interest in clean energy and alternative methods of producing electricity. Furthermore, Nicole is currently working part time with GHD within the Building Services division. The position has allowed Nicole to gain exposure to the design and delivery of engineering solutions that aim to maximise returns on capital investment and improve sustainability.

Energy Saving for Mobile Computing Using the Cloud

Qiufen Xia will speak on "Offloading Algorithms for Mobile Computing" at the Australian National University in Canberra,11:30am, 30 November 2012.

Offloading Algorithms for Mobile Computing

Qiufen Xia

 (ANU, Research School of Computer Science)


DATE: 2012-11-30
TIME: 11:30:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101

Mobile devices such as netbooks and smart phones,have made computing ubiquitous. However such battery powered devices often have limited computing power for the benefit of an extended runtime. Offloading is an effective method for extending the lifetime of mobile devices by executing some partitioned components of applications remotely(eg.,on the server in a data center or in a cloud). To achieve energy saving while satisfying the given constraints, such as execution time, many partitioning and offloading algorithms have been presented. In this presentation, I will briefly talk about some of these algorithms.

Reducing the electricity cost of cloud data centers via geographical load balancing

Zichuan Xu will speak on "Reducing the electricity cost of cloud data centers via geographical load balancing" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 11am, 30 November 2012.

Reducing the electricity cost of cloud data centers via geographical load balancing

Zichuan Xu (ANU, Research School of Computer Science)


DATE: 2012-11-30
TIME: 11:00:00 - 11:30:00
LOCATION: CSIT Seminar Room, N101 ...

Data centers, serving as infrastructures for cloud services, are growing both in number and scale. However, they usually consume an enormous amount of electric power, which leads to high operation cost of cloud service providers. Reducing the operation cost of data centers is recognized as a challenging but complex task. In this talk, we will introduce the minimum operation cost problem for fair request allocations in a distributed cloud environment where its data centers and web portals are geographically located in different regions, by incorporating the diversity of spatio-temporal electricity prices in these regions, with an objective to allocate requests to different data centers for processing while the negotiated Service Level Agreements between request users and the cloud service provider are guaranteed.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Relevance Versus Diversity for Web Search Results

Greetings from the CSIRO ICT Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a presentation on web search research by Kar Wai Lim of ANU & NICTA. The object of the exercise is to come up with web documents as the result of a search which are relevant but not all too much the same (diverse). For example, if you get ten copies of essentially the same document, that is not much use. It turns out that there is a mathematical equation which shows the trade-off between relevance and diversity. The details are published in a short paper, which I don't pretend to understand:
Kar Wai Lim, Scott Sanner, and Shengbo Guo. 2012. On the mathematical relationship between expected n-call@k and the relevance vs. diversity trade-off. In Proceedings of the 35th international ACM SIGIR conference on Research and development in information retrieval (SIGIR '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1117-1118. DOI=10.1145/2348283.2348497

ORCID Researcher ID

ORCID is a free open access system to provide  persistent digital identifiers for researchers, so that they can easily identify what they published. I signed up for and Orcid: ORCID Entry fro Tom Worthington 0000-0003-4799-8464

The system is still under development but looks promising. Along the way I found a letter to New Scientist I wrote. But I could not find an easy way to upload my other publications, which ORCID did not know about

Wikimedia Australia Education Workshop in Indonesia

Wikimedia Australia is organising LangCamp 2012 in Depok, Indonesia, 6–7 December 2012, to foster non-English wikis. This includes The "Open educational resources" (OER; Sumber pembelajaran terbuka) for universities.

In my view Wikimedia's approach to online education is far more useful than all the hype about Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs).

ps: It happens I was at UIN Suska University of Riau (Fakultas Sains Dan Teknologi, Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kasim Riau), a few weeks ago, discussing an Indonesian version of my ICT Sustainability course.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells for Transport

Professor Kevin Kendall FRS will talk on "Hydrogen and Fuel Cells for Transport" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 11.00am 7 December 2012 in the Leonard Huxley Lecture Theatre.

Distinguished Lecturer Prof Kevin Kendall FRS

Prof Kendall received his surface physics PhD in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge in 1970. After post-docs in Monash and Akron he joined ICI in Runcorn to study polymers and fine particles.  20 years later, he returned to Academe, first in Keele, then in Birmingham in 2000 as Professor of Formulation Engineering.  He was elected FRS in 1993.
HYDROGEN & FUEL CELLS FOR TRANSPORT-energy storage problem

Using hydrogen and fuel cells (HFCs) for transport should double the efficiency and reduce emissions to zero, except for water vapour exhaust.  The most famous application is the NASA moon missions where auxiliary power and drinking water were provided by a 10kW alkali stack.  Now that aircraft are going more electric, fuel cells are being investigated but compressed hydrogen is shown to be poor in terms of weight and volume.  For large planes, liquid hydrogen is good, but for small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) propane is difficult to beat.

Ground transport includes forklifts, bikes, buses and cars.  Here the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) is being tested and progress is being made in performance, lifetime and cost. Lithium ion batteries and supercapacitors are beneficial in hybrids.  Compressed hydrogen at 350 and 700 bar is the standard fuel at present. At Birmingham, 5 HFC cars have been tested on campus since the first UK hydrogen filling station was installed there by Prof Kendall in 2008.  The results show that the prototypes beat all combustion cars in fuel economy, largely because of lightweight construction. Surprisingly, the results fitted a Coulomb friction law line. Further improvement of the drive train showed that these cars were ultimately better than all other HFC cars. The race to market in 2015 is now taking place between the major manufacturers
 Tour Details:
Canberra on Friday 7th December 2012
Location: ANU
Leonard Huxley Lecture Theatre - Bld56, End of Mills Road, Acton
Time: 11.00am

Friday, November 23, 2012

Open Access in Europe

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Bernard Rentier, Rector, University of Liege, Belgium, is speaking on "Open Access to Scholarly Publications: A European Perspective". He pointed out that open access was opposed by most publishers as it conflicted with their business model, whereas it fitted the university's business model. Within universities the researchers who create publications do not pay for them, the library does.

Professor Rentier suggested the Liege Model could be adopted more widely. The university started creating a repository and a policy requiring authors to deposit their publications with it. He pointed out that it is difficult to get academics to comply with such a policy, but it was possible. One way is to incorporate this in the requirements for research grants: the researcher is required to agree to deposit their publication in the repository or they do not get a grant.

Future of Moodle from Moodle Founder

Martin Dougiamas at the Parthenon
Greetings from the Inspire Centre at University of Canberra where Martin Dougiamas, Moodle Founder is speaking at the MoodlePosium 2012. Martin started by attributing Moodle's success to it being free, flexible, personal and open. He suggested that 20% of the features were used by 80% of the people and we don't know about the learning outcomes from Moodle.
Martin suggested that Moodle was an attempt to re-engineering education, with 26 people at Moodle HQ. They look at the Moodle forums, bug tracker, commercial partners, conferences and social media. The first Moodle Research Conference was in Heraklion, Crete, Greece in 2012. The idea is to address education issues and what e-learning can do.

Moodel is made up of a core, Mods, and plugins. There are then interfaces to other software, preferably using standards. Moodle 2.4 will concentrate on performance, with a Moodle Universal Cache (MUC). There will be Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) for icons (in theory this is a good idea, but I suggest in practice it will cause problems). Course formats will be redesigned to allow developers to modify the course look (by default they will look the same as before). Plugins will be upgradable via a web interface. Netspot has contributed new assignment features, such as groups and blind marking. The calandar can import iCal. Enrolment can synchronise cohorts to groups, so you can easily manage groups of students. The editor will have configurable buttons and plugins.

Martin suggested that timely feedback is essential to education.He suggests the feedback loop can be tighter by using better analytics and reporting. He emphasises this was not about automating the teacher, but giving them better tools to identify where students need help.

Martin described work for Moodle 2.5 and 2.6 with "Outcomes", which can be used for skills assessment, as is done in vocational education.  With this approach, the student needs to demonstrate they can meet each individual requirement, not just get an aggregate mark which passes the course. However, This "reductionist" approach is not as well regarded in higher education.

Moodle HQ is having another attempt at a Mobile App for Moodle. The previous attempt was an iPhone app which was then adapted for Android. The new approach uses HTML5 and JavaScript. This is a better approach, but I still doubt the value of having a separate Moodle application for mobile devices. It would be better to just have one interface which adapts for mobile devices. However, if the Mobile App works well it could be sued in place of the standard Moodle interface. It may also be a good way for educational institutions to provide a mobile web interface, rather than products such as Blackboard Mobile.

An area where I suggest Moodle needs to be improved is support for real time ("synchronous" in educational terms) and near real time learning. This would address Martin's wish for timely feedback. At present Moodle works in a store and forward mode (asynchronous). Where synchronous learning is required a separate software product is used, As a result the features of Moodle are not available for the synchronous session and many of the same Moodle features have to be duplicated in the other software. Making Moodle real time would be difficult, so I suggest making it near real time.

ps: The mix of features creates a technical issue for massively online open courses (MOOCs). The overhead of the LMS can cause problems with large numbers of users.I suggest this could be improved with some computer science techniques such as compiler optimisation and run time optimisation. With this the course materials would be automatically examined to see what features of the LMS software were actually going to be used and then those features not used would be left out. This would make the software run better.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Online Research Supervision using Moodle

Tom Worthington aboard USS Blue RidgeThese are some notes for an unconference session at  MoodlePosium 2012 on the topic "Online Research Supervision".
Moodle can be used for well structured course-work, but can it be used for supervising more fluid student projects and postgraduate research?

Tom Worthington has designed and run award winning on-line courses. He is now looking at how to apply this experience to supervising university student projects and postgraduate higher degrees, as a way to promote social inclusion.

A year ago I set out to look at "Learning On-line Tertiary Teaching for Research-Led Education" (August 20, 2011).

Some thoughts:
  1. Teach all degree students to communicate, mentor and lead (ie: teach them to teach).
  2. Blend vocational, higher education coursework and research, using online tools (Moodle and e-Portfolios).
See: "On-line Professional Education For Australian Research-Intensive Universities in the Asian Century".

Fifteen years of online education

Greetings from MoodlePosium 2012 in Canberra, where Dr. Shirley Reushle, Associate Director of the Australian Digital Futures Institute  is talking on fifteen years of online education at USQ. She made the point that students like active learning and interaction with other students, which is possible online.

Dr. Reushle broke out of the usual Powerpoint mode of conference presentations by running a live feedback session using Polleverywhere.  She asked the question "How is interacting and collaborating online different to collaborating in a face-to-face situation?" and invited the audience to respond by SMS or web. This worked remarkably well.She then showed a number of videos from here students discussing the topic, which was less useful.

Dr. Reushle was describing a very personal version of online education, which I have had the benefit of. However, my worry is that a more mechanical version of online education, designed to reduce costs and teach "facts". Australian educators may produce excellent online courses, only to find they are replaced by MOOCs from overseas, simply because these are cheaper.

There is a tendency to have an idealistic view of new communications technology changing education. Beat Generation authors Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs expressed a view on instructional technology in Chapter 7 of their 1945 novel "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks". One of the characters expresses the view that recordings of university lectures will be broadcast by radio 24 hours a day, allowing access for anyone. The narrator of the story expresses skepticism over this idea. That skepticism was well founded.

Australian National University Going Mobile

Greetings from MoodlePosium 2012 at the the University of Canberra where about 200 educators from the tertiary sector are looking at e-learning. The theme of this year's conference is how to how to enhance the use of the Moodle learning management system. The key speaker is, of course, Martin Dougiamas, Moodle Founder and Lead Developer, Moodle HQ.

As first speaker, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at ANU announced that ANU will be introducing Blackboard Mobile, with applications designed for accessibility and well as use on mobile devices. Also Equella and Turnitin will be introduced. Also BlackBoard Collaborate is being evaluated.

I will be demonstrating my ANU on-line green ICT course materials which are designed for accessible and mobile use at 11:50am in "A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online with Moodle" (being just back from seeing how to do this in Indonesia).

Professor Nick Klomp, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Canberra, then discussed the use of the Mahara e-Portfolio tool for students to plan what they wanted to achieve at university. He proposed working jointly with other universities to enhance the Mahara software, which is open source, to improve it use for universities. It happens I will be leading a discussion of this topic at at 4:20pm:
Moodle can be used for well structured course-work, but can it be used for supervising more fluid student projects and postgraduate research?

Tom Worthington has designed and run award winning on-line courses. He is now looking at how to apply this experience to supervising university student projects and postgraduate higher degrees, as a way to promote social inclusion. See: "On-line Professional Education For Australian Research-Intensive Universities in the Asian Century".

ps: The audience is made up mostly of staff from University of Canberra, ANU, CIT and USQ. For the last year I have been a student of ANU, USQ and CIT, as well as attending seminars at University of Canberra. So I feel very much at home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is the Thomson Reuters Data Citation Index Worth Paying For?

Greetings from the Hancock Learning Commons at the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a presentation on the Thomson Reuters Data Citation Index. This attempts to add data to the traditional papers and books which academics get credit for producing. Thomson Reuters' offering was released a few weeks ago and ANU has been trying it out. Initially there were 2 million records in 69 repositories, including the Australian Data Archive (ADA). About half the current contents are from the USA, 42% from Europe. About half is from the life sciences.

What was not clear to me is what benefit the academic and research community gain by using Thomson Reuters' service. Presumably Thomson Reuters will charge money for use of their service. The information being indexed is almost all free open access material paid for by the public. It is not clear why academics should then pay Thomson Reuters for accessing free information.

The Australian Government funded Australian National Data Service the Australian Research Data Commons and similar free open access repositories are being linked up around the world.

If Thomson Reuters can add value to this, then the benefits they are offering need to be compared with what they propose to charge and a decision made if this investment is in the public interest.  It may not be a good use of public money for each university in Australia individually buy a subscription from Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters collect up the metadata provided by repositories around the world and provide a global search facility to subscribers. The same service could be provided by others by harvesting this metadata.

The other service which is likely to be of more interest to academics, is that they harvest the citations of the datasets. Academics get hired and promoted partly on how many times their work is mentioned (cited) in published work. It is now possible to cite a dataset in the same way as publications, such as using APA. This will then increase the academics' citation ranking. If a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is used, this makes the collection of the citations relatively easy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Teaching Research-Led Education

The capstone course for the Graduate Certificate in Higher Education requires me to reflect on what I have done so far. There was a one day workshop and here are my notes on the accompanying readings:

Akerlind (2005) reports research into academics' perceptions of their development. This is useful in seeing the motivations of academics, for further development, but can't tell us how accurate those perceptions are. Akerlind discusses the rise of university centres for academic development and undertook the work at ANU.
Akerlind (2005) criticizes the literature for concentrating on delivery options and development of teaching. However, not all university centres for academic development have prospered, I suggest because some have concentrated on research, rather than delivery of quality teaching. As a result university lecturers have not been enthusiastic to sign up for such courses and those who did sign up have not completed, due to poor course design. As a result such centres, face the prospect of being replaced by outsourced and on-line courses.
Akerlind (2005) summarised their findings into six categories:
  1. Development as becoming more productive and efficient in one’s work output;
  2. Development as achieving academic credibility and recognition for one’s work;
  3. Development as ongoing improvements in the quality and effectiveness of one’s work;
  4. Development as the ongoing accumulation of personal knowledge and skills;
  5. Development as increasing depth and sophistication of understanding in one’s field;
  6. Development as contributing to disciplinary growth or social change.
The first point, productivity and efficiency, is one often overlooked in university education courses, which tend to emphasise improving education as an esoteric goal, rather than improving the productivity of teachers. If university teaching courses were to emphasise techniques for making teaching and assessment more efficient (and less burdensome for lecturers), these courses might be more popular. Akerlind (2005) points to synergies between teaching and research for development, which is very relevant to a research-intensive university, such as ANU. Unfortunately they do not appear to have gone on to develop this idea. Brew (2010) argues “... new ideas about scholarship need to become central to academic life ...” and this will help academics cope with change. One difficulty with this is that Brew seems to be searching for one generally accepted view of what scholarship is and how universities do what they do. But I suggest a diversity of views is essential to the vital nature of university life. Brew interviewed academics about their conceptions of scholarship. Perhaps also legislators and others who fund and set regulations for universities should have been interviewed about their views. Some of the difficulties academics are currently experiencing are due to their forgetting that they are funded by the wider community and so must live up to that community's expectations. Brew argues that to teach, academics need knowledge of their subject and of pedagogical principles. But I suggest more is needed: academics also need to be trained and tested in teaching methods: it is not enough to know the principles, academics need to be able to put them into practice. Brew argues that graduate certificates in higher education allow academics to go beyond the mechanics of teaching to a higher level of reflection. But if the academic has not first been trained in basic teaching techniques, how will they get to the higher level? This, I suggest, has been the basic flaw in many university teaching programs: a failure to first build a sound teaching foundation at the technical level, before moving on to communicative and emancipatory levels. My colleagues from the Australian Computer Society are meeting shortly with government and industry to discuss how to improve education of ICT professionals. It is likely there will be pressure to use overseas on-line courses for basic education, in place of Australian face-to-face vocational and university courses. In theory, Australian educational institutions can then concentrate on advanced courses and research supervision. But I suggest without the basics, the Australian education system will be fatally weakened. The same issues are likely to arise with teaching of educators. Brew asks why problem solving is confined to the teaching and learning domain. Such a question shows a lack of knowledge of what goes on elsewhere in the university. Many other disciplines, including engineering and ICT (where I work) concentrate on problem solving. One of the problems of Brew's analysis is that it focuses in on teaching, as if that is an end in itself (likewise universities focus in on themselves), rather than being part of communities and disciplines. Brookfield (1995) starts out with somewhat flowery language about love and justice (perhaps inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:4). After that some useful questions are asked such as “What Makes Reflection critical?” but these questions are never answered. Perhaps because this is a chapter taken from a book the content makes little sense by being taken out of context. I get the impression that Brookfield is addressing a reader other than myself (I am someone wanting to learn how to teach). McAlpine, and Hopwood (2007) assert that the aim of doctoral education is the development of researchers and scholars. However, the Australian Qualifications Framework (July 2011), describes a doctoral degree as including “professional practice". Those undertaking a professional degree are doing so in order to work in a profession, not undertake research. Even those undertaking a traditional research PHD and remaining in academia are likely to spend most of their time teaching and administering, not researching. So McAlpine, and Hopwood's concept of ‘academic practice’ should be broadened to 'professional practice', in order to equip the graduate for the role they will be undertaking. Boyer’s four scholarships could still be applied (discovery, teaching, engagement and integration) as these are applicable to professional practice. As an example, the skills a PHD will need to supervise research are simpler to those need to mentor staff in the workplace.


Akerlind, G. (2005). Academic Growth and development – How do university academics experience it? Higher Education. Vol.50, pp.1-32 Brew, A. (2010). Transforming academic practice through scholarship. International Journal for Academic Development. Vol. 15, No. 2, pp.105-116 Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass (Chapter One: What it means to be a critically reflective teacher) McAlpine, L. & Hopwood, N. (2007) Conceptualising the research PhD: Towards an integrative approach. Retrieved November 10, 2010 from McGill University at www.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Epidamnus

The New Theatre's current production of "The Venetian Twins" by Nick Enright and Terence Clarke is a little bit classical, a little Broadway musical and a lot Christmas pantomime. I found it best to ignore the origins of the work in the Italian I due gemelli veneziani, and Plautus' Menaechmi, and instead enjoy it as a music hall romp.

Identical twin brothers cause confusion when they turn up in the same town. By the end (almost) everyone is reconciled and (almost) all the comical confusions are resolved.

The production has an excellent set and consumes evoking Italian commedia dell'arte. The acting is broad, with some bawdy humour. The songs are mostly good.

The band are excellent, belting out the tunes and timing with the actors perfectly. It is disappointing that we only ever get to see the band members as a shadow through the backcloth of the stage.

The actors had trouble being heard over the band and there may have been some technical problems with the sound system at last Saturday night's performance I attended.

Exactly where "Goondiwindi" (mentioned in some of the New Theatre material) fits into the plot I did not quite follow. Like many musical comedies, bits seemed to be borrowed from eclectic sources and it is best just to enjoy the fun and not try to follow the plot.

New Theatre's current production is on in Newtown, Sydney until 15 December 2012.

Inside the Defence Labs

Dr Alex Zelinsky, Chief Defence ScientistDr Alex Zelinsky, Chief Defence Scientist and Head of Australian Defence Science, will talk about what makes for good research in "Inside the Researchers Lab", at the Australian National University, 5 December 2012. The event is free, but bookings are required. 

Inside the Researchers Lab with Dr Alex Zelinksy (DSTO) & Prof Hans Bachor (ANU)

This series of colloquia aims to provide insights into successful research by successful researchers.
In the style of Hollywood's "Inside the Actors Studio", and modelled on "Proust’s Questionnaire", our two guest speakers, Dr Alex Zelinsky (Chief Defence Scientist and Head of Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO)) and Emeritus Professor Hans Bachor (Research School of Physics & Engineering, ANU), will go head-to-head and answer 10 pithy questions on what makes a good research problem, posed by our MC, Emeritus Professor John Richards (ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science).
Join us for this master class with a difference to gather new and personal insights from leading scientists.
Afterwards, network with friends, colleagues and alumni over drinks and finger food.
Please RSVP at least two days before the event.
Bookings are essential as seats are limited. Preference will be given to current academic staff and HDR students in CECS, special guests and our alumni.
Please arrive promptly as interviews are filmed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Classic Google Blogger Interface Please

Some weeks ago Google introduced a new interface for their Blogger product. Like many new web interfaces this is highly interactive and does not work very well on a slow Internet connections. But unlike Fastmail, who have the option "Use classic interface" on the log-on screen, I have not found a way to switch Blogger to a simpler interface.

This evening I was blogging Ian Rankin's talk and Blogger's poor quality interface resulted in the loss of my post. I had to rewrite the post and send out a corrected web address for it.

Similarly Qantas, appear to have decided that they do not want customers who have slow internet connections, (presumably because these are customers with less money).

Ian Rankin on Standing in Another Man’s Grave

Greetings from the Australian National University, where crime fiction author Ian Rankin in conversation with former ANU Librarian Colin Steele. Ian started by explaining the five year gap between his latest Rebus novel Standing in Another Man's Grave and the previous one. The book are set in real time and Rebus had reached the retirement age for a Scottish detective, so the author retired the character. The return is explained by a change in retirement age.

Neville Dawson's 1982, Portrait of Manning Clark
At one point in the explanation of his writing process, Rankin looked over the heads of the packed lecture theatre and declaimed "Sean Connery!". What he had seen is Neville Dawson's 1982, Portrait of Manning Clark, the professor after whom the building is named. 

Sean Connery in 2008The painting has some resemblance to Conney. This then brought on a reminiscence, complete with Connery accent, about how the famous actor had expressed a wish to play the character Rebus in a film.

This was an entertaining evening for
Rankin fans. He will also be appearing:

ACS Canberra ICT Award Winners

The 2012 ACS Canberra ICT Awards were announced 15 November 2012:

Online Award - The Express Plus Project Team
Education Award - Dickson College UAV Program
Green ICT Award - Windlab
Best Practice Improvement Award - Fire Control Centre (FCC) Project, Switchplus
Student Project Award - Orion Diabetes App, ANU
Telecommunications Award - InterfereX
 Next Generation Small Cell and Heterogeneous Network Solutions 

Leoni Warne Award (Women in ICT Medal) - Narelle Dotta
Pearcey Medals - Dr Vickram Sharma and (Quintessence Labs) and Joshua Luongo (student)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Poor Business Process Design by GIO General Limited

Returning from a few days away I found three paper letters from GIO General Limited in my letterbox. These appear to have been sent a few days apart and were all about my company worker's compensation Insurance.

The first paper envelope I opened was an invoice for renewal of the insurance, the second was a tax invoice and the third a certificate of currency. Had I opened these one at a time on different days, I may well have paid the premium twice, as I received two invoices.

As I opened all the envelopes at once, I almost did not pay at all. The "Certificate of Currency" shows my insurance current for another year, suggesting I had already paid the premium.

I can think of no good reason why GIO wastes my time and their money by sending three documents in three envelopes. It would make more sense to send one invoice (which can also be a tax invoice) and then send the Certificate of Currency after payment. Ideally there should be the option of receiving these electronically, rather than on paper: who sends out paper invoices any more?

Assessing for quality decision making at university

ANU Sciences Teaching Building
ANU Sciences Teaching Building
Greetings from the Australian National University  Science Teaching and Learning Colloquium on Research Led Education, where  by Professor Geoffrey Crisp, is talking on "Assessing for quality decision making at university". He began by pointing out that he had presented on the same spot in 2007, in a demountable building.

As with the 2007 presentation, Professor Crisp started with an image from a medieval painting of a lecture in a monastery. He then showed an image of a modern lecture theatre and suggested not much had changed. e argues that assessment needs to be authentic, being related to real world tasks. He pointed out that a three hour paper based examination is unlikely to relate to what the student needs to know.

Professor Crisp's 2007 talk and his book "e-Assessment Handbook" gave me the courage to decide to give up setting conventional examinations for the university courses I design. What I found surprising is that five years later there would be a need to make this case again. By now the idea that assessment needs to be aligned with the teaching and based on real world tasks should be conventional wisdom and three hour paper examinations relegated to history.

One theme emerging from the event today from several speakers is that learning is partly a socialisation process. University lecturers need to help students learn how to learn, so as to be academics and professionals.

Geoff showed is own  Transforming Assessment website (which I noticed is implemented with Moodle).

Also he recommended the Sbl Interactive scenario software. This was developed at University of Queensland for presenting a scenario to a student  who then makes a decision and the scenario displays the consequences. The software can be used for free if the developed scenarios are shared. I could not find any listed scenarios on ICT. The "Living Without Water" scenario from Engineers Without Boarders shows the potential.

Implementation of eLearning: key factors for success

Greetings from the Australian National University  Science Teaching and Learning Colloquium on Research Led Education, where  Alex Webb is discussing online interactive eLearning
resources. She is showing materials for learning radiological anatomy at University of Southampton. The effectiveness of this material for undergraduate medical students at the University of Southampton and postgraduate-entry medical students at the ANU. While university study, these courses also have a vocational aspect, in that medical students are required to meet national standards for their practice, as well as learn theory and undertake research.

Dr. Webb mentioned that accessibility to the material was important. However, I tried looking at the "
Radiological Anatomy" from University of Southampton and was not able to access it. The materials required an Adobe x-director plug-in, which does not appear to be available for Linux. The  screenshots  have tiny text, too small for me to read. The UK, where University of Southampton is located,  has similar disability discrimination legislation to Australia and the university has a web page on how to design and assess accessible materials

e-Learning at ANU

ANU Sciences Teaching Building
ANU Sciences Teaching Building
Greetings from the new new Sciences Teaching Building at the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a Science Teaching and Learning Colloquium on Research Led Education. The event is being held in one of the 150 seat flexible learning spaces. 
The keynote is from Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman, University of Sydney, on the ‘Sydney Scientist’ project.
The ‘Sydney Scientist’ project involves a collaboration between the Faculty of Science, the Library and the Learning Centre at The University of Sydney. The project seeks to renew the BSc curriculum through the embedding of graduate attributes and academic skills across first year units. The project simultaneously aims to enhance the transition of students into the culture of the Faculty through the ‘First Year Science eCommunity’.
Professor Bridgeman described how the sciences program was modified to remove "core" units and  make use of online systems for carefully designing units and ensuring each student gets the required skills. The students document their work with an eportfolio.
Coincidentally, yesterday I visited the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) to have my teaching experience assessed for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)  in a Graduate Certificate iV in Teaching and Assessment. The process described by Professor Bridgeman for University of Sydney is very much like the systematic process which CIT and the vocational sector in Australia has been using for decades.

Previously I have proposed using such a system at ANU, but this was seen by many of my colleagues as trivializing education with a vocational model, not suited to a leading research university. So since last November I have been looking at the educational theory behind such an approach. This would seem to be the right time to propose: "On-line Professional Education For Australian Research-Intensive Universities in the Asian Century".

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Australian Government Digital Transition Policy

Greetings from Canberra, where the National Archives of Australia (NAA) are explaining the new "Australian Government Digital Transition Policy". This requires records to be archived electronically from 2016. NAA are running  "Digital Edge workshops" to help agencies implement the new policy. It should be noted that it is not just government departments subject to archives policy, for example the Australian National University (ANU) is subject to the Archives Act.

The NAA presenter mentioned there is a gap between short in-service training courses and the formal studies offered by universities. In response I am looking at revamping my online course "Electronic Document and Records Management" (COMP7420) at the Australian National University. This will be available to students doing traditional degrees in business and computing.

Also ANU  students can make up their own program using ANU Graduate Studies Select. As part of this I am looking at how to satisfy the formal requirements of professional bodies such as Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia (RIMPA), while remaining flexible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Amazon Cloud Server in Sydney

Amazon have announced a centre in Sydney, Australia for their Amazon Web Services "cloud" server. This answers the concerns I had about Australian organisations having to move their data to other countries for processing.

By specifying the Australian server, the data can remain in Australia, under Australia law. This is particularly useful for organisations handling personal data which is subject to the Privacy Act. Moving data offshore to a jurisdiction which does not have the same privacy protections as Australia is unlawful. Organisations such as government departments and agencies, banks, telecommunications companies and universities risk prosecution if they place client data in "the cloud" outside Australia.

Australian provider Ninefold seem happy with the Amazon announcement as it legitimises them as an alternative.

Accessible Ebooks for Education

At the web accessibility for education workshop at Canberra Institute of Technology yesterday, the topic of making ebooks accessible for those with a disability came up. As I briefly explained, many of the ebook and e-learning module formats used for education are based on the HTML format as used for web pages. Most of the ebook formats are essentially  of web pages zipped into a file for offline use (you can unzip many ebooks with a standard archive tool and examine their source code). As a result the same web accessibility techniques can be applied to ebooks as to web pages.

However, ebook readers have limited hardware (most kindles cannot display colour for example) and the versions of HTML used are limited compared to those on a desktop computer or even a tablet computer. This has its good points and bad points. On the one had some accessibility techniques cannot be used with ebooks and other hand some are not applicable and so need not be worried about.

The approach I suggest, if you are producing basic text based notes, perhaps with some illustrations, is to create  your content using the minimum of standard formatting. The document can be created in a word processor or a HTML editor. Use the standard headings, fonts, lists and the like. The content should then easily convert to most ebook formats. Depending on the ebook format used, you will be able to add colours and styles to make the content look prettier, but at least it will be readable on most devices. As an example see my "Demonstration of Using Moodle for Postgraduate Professional Education with eBooks and Smart phones".

If you have audio or video content I suggest not packaging it in the ebook, unless you are sure the student has broadband and a device which can view the video. Adding video can make the ebook file ten times larger (video can instead be supplied separately). As an example, Box Hill Institute of TAFE's excellent ebook for "Hand make timber joints" is 284 Mbytes. If the video is deleted from the ebook, the file reduces to 16 Mbytes, less than one tenth the size.

Ebook formats
  1. Moodle Book Module: Moodle has its own simple ebook format called "Moodle Book Module". This uses the Moodle WYSIWYG HTML editor to create web p[ages which are book chapters. Moodle will convert the content to IMS Content Packages and also allow the student to export the content chaper or whole book as a web page. If you are creating content for Moodle this is a simple choice.
  2. IMS Content Package and SCORM: The, IMS Content Packages and the closely related SCORM packages consist of a zipped file containing HTML, CSS and other web format documents. SCORM is popular for vocational education.
  3. EPUB: Apple iPads have popularised the EPUB eBook format. If you are producing an ebook for a wide readership, this is the format you are likely to use.
  4. Tagged PDF:  The version of  "Tagged PDF" provides some accessibility features, implemented using XML. It might be useful for those committed to PDF, but for others, one of the HTML based ebook formats would be better.
  5. Kindle Format: Amazon Kindle ebooks use HTML  (newer files use HTML5). This is the format you would use for publishing via But t\note that Kindle devices can read PDF files as well and ordinary web pages (but not EPUB).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Drop in University ICT Enrolments

According to the 2012 ACS Statistical Compendium, released today. This 80 page document provides an overview of the state of the digital economy, employment and education in the computer and telecommunications industry in Australia. The rrport found there were 543,992 ICT workers in Australia, contributing $100.62 Billion to the Digital Economy each year, with $4.5b exports. The report was produced by CIIER and Whitehorse, edited by Ian Dennis.

One area of concern identified by the report is the decline in university ICT  enrolments:
The completions data results and future completions analysis are alarming. Not only have we seen a decrease in ICT completions since 2003 of nearly 30% overall, almost all of this decline has occurred in domestic students at over 52% decline, down from 9,000 graduates a year in 2003 to 4,300 in 2010.
For the last year I have been looking at how to have more flexible education for ICT professionals. At ANU I have been looking at how to combine industry certification with formal university programs. Over the next two months I will be preparing some more details proposals to blends some of the techniques ACS uses for education and certification, alongside traditional university programs. This would remove the current restriction where students have to enrol in one restricted certified course, in order to have their degree recognized by ACS. This might increase the pool of potential ICT professionals.


Why This Publication?     4
How Should We Read This?     5
At a Glance     6
Defining ICT     7
Who We Are     13
Learning ICT      15
Vocational Education & Training (VET)      19
ICT Migration     21
Women in ICT     23
Where We Work     28
What We Are Paid     30
ICT Industry     41
What We Do     49
How We Do IT     60
How Do We Compare?     62
Where Have We Come From - And 70
Where Are We Going   
New Projection     73
Australia’s Digital Future     74 ...

From: 2011 ACS Statistical Compendium,  Ian Dennis, CIIER and Whitehorse, or ACS, 13 November 2012

Web accessibility for online education

Greetings from the Canberra Institute of Technology, where I am attending the one day workshop "What web accessibility and implementing WCAG 2.0 mean for you" by Kristena Gladman and Felicity Hanrahan.The National VET E-learning strategy has a set of materials design to help with accessibility for vocational education:
These are intended to help not only with the design of courses delivered online, but also materials such as books and Apps, used in face-to-face classes. I became involved with web accessibility in 1999, when asked to be an expert witness in the case of Maguire V Sydney Organizing Committee for the 2000 Olympic Games. This was using WGAC Version 1.0.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 are now an international standard: ISO/IEC 40500:2012. In my view it is not of value to explain the details of the standards and the legal requirements for web accessibility. In my view a better approach is to explain to teachers simple ways to implement accessibility techniques and how these can save them time and effort, while providing better learning materials for their students. That will then motivate them to act.

Part of accessibility can be to empower content developers, including teachers,  to make their materials simpler and therefore more readable for everyone. As an example, rather than have to work out how to highlight a label "Read this first" half way down a page of course notes, the designer can instead place it first, so it is read first. This makes the document more readable for everyone. It would be possible to then use CSS styles to mark part of text "read this first" and move it lower down the page, for aesthetic reasons, but readability perhaps should come first.

For most content developers, including educators, accessibility is mostly about what not to do, not what to do. The content will normally be used within an existing system, such as a Learning management System. The content creator should therefore not be specifying fonts, colours and the like for their course materials, for example. They should use the defaults, so that the styles set for their corporate web site will be automatically applied. If they do use their own fonts and styles, this will like result in more work by someone else who as to go through and remove this, so it is better not to put it in the first place.

As an example,  rather then use PDF, I use the HTML editor built into Moodle to prepare course notes. I avoid fancy formatting, just having one column of text and using default fonts. As a result the notes are very quick to download and display on a wide range of mobile and other devices.

Also the notes can be run through a web translator into other languages. I also use HTML for presentations, in place of Powerpoint, gaining the same advantages. This takes me a little more time to set up initially, but is much easier to maintain. As an example, my notes for a talk in Indonesia last week, could be translated from English to Indonesian. I have offered the Indonesian university I visited my ICT Sustainability Course Notes in Indonesian.

What web accessibility and implementing WCAG 2.0

Kristena Gladman and Felicity Hanrahan

The National VET E-learning strategy


In late 2009 the Online and Communications Council, a subcommittee of COAG, endorsed the implementation of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These are a set of standards that make web content accessible to a wide range of users. WCAG 2.0 requires all federal, state and territory websites to conform to the guidelines.

Many people assume 'accessibility' only applies to online content, but it's not just about websites. Web accessibility also applies to all web content formats – that is all file formats and information that can be delivered on the web.

This one day workshop is intended to help participants understand what WCAG 2.0 means for them and will be delivered as a series of sessions, beginning with a session that provides an overview of:
10:00am - 12:30pm: Overview
  • the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0)
  • the legal status of WCAG 2.0
  • the government’s Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS)
  • the application of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
  • how people with disabilities access the web
1:30 - 4:30pm: Streams (the overview will be followed by sessions split into streams based on the roles and responsibilities of the participants)
Stream 1: policy, management and project management:
This session will be focused on ensuring that policy makers, managers and project managers are in a position to manage risk and maximise the benefits of addressing accessibility through giving the participants a better understanding of the requirements for WCAG 2.0 conformance. The session will help them to determine what level of accessibility understanding they need in order to scope and resource projects, and identify what questions they should ask of the design and development team before publishing.

Stream 2: design and content:
This session will be focused on design solutions with the intention of giving participants a better understanding of how the WCAG 2 Success Criteria impact upon the design, creation and editing of content, what they need to provide to the technical implementers and how to avoid common pitfalls and reworking designs. For further information visit:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Broadband and the future of education

The latest issue of the Telecommunications Journal of Australia  (Vol 62, No 5 2012) features education. The guest editorial, Learning fast: Broadband and the future of education, by Kate Cornick and Jock Given is freely available, but other articles require a subscription, or ACS membership.

As well as the content, the format of TJA is also worth studying. The Canadian developed free open source Open Journal Systems software is used, with papers published as HTML for on screen reading, as well as PDF for printing.

Table of Contents

Guest editorial


Broadband applications to education

Energy Efficient Internet Research

The Telecommunication Society Journal (TSJ, Vol 62, No 5 2012) is reporting on energy efficiency of the  Internet:

Towards an energy efficient Internet

University Green IT Guidelines

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has issued an "ICT Guideline for Green IT" (30 October 2012). This aims to reduce the USQ’s ICT carbon footprint. Measure include consolidating applications and selection of energy efficient equipment. Recycling to avoid eWaste is also discussed.

No figures on existing emissions or ewaste are given and no targets are set, so the USQ's commitment to ICT Sustainability is questionable. The document is the equivalent of 2 A4 pages and at 159 kbytes is not efficiently formatted, thus wasting ICT resources.
Strategic areas of focus for ICT Services include:
  • Optimise resource usage and reduce waste and inefficient resource application by ensuring that appropriate technologies are chosen to support business requirements.
  • Manage resource consumption and demand through consolidation and virtualisation. Specific initiatives include:
    • Consolidate servers and manage optimised shared virtual infrastructure;
    • Consolidate applications and infrastructure by promoting the use of shared services including cloud computing where appropriate;
    • Build and manage more efficient data centers with a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) rating of less than 2.0 and approaching 1.0;
    • Consolidate and reduce the number of computer laboratories to ensure optimal utilisation;
    • Consolidate the number of printers in use and replace these with more efficient larger capacity multi-function printing devices;
    • Improve the ratio of desktop computers to printer ratio.
  • Encourage electronic collaboration through the use of the learning management system, Microsoft
  • SharePoint technologies and other collaboration tools which can improve the collaborative effort and effectiveness of all staff and students;
  • Implement new computing infrastructures including increased use of mobile devices or thin clients, as replacements for more intensive, less flexible computing devices.
  • Safe and responsible disposal and recycling of ICT equipment and eWaste (Refer also to ICT Procurement Guidelines);
  • Consider energy efficiency in technology selection and acquisition. Improvements in sustainable procurement including procurement of green equipment such as Electronic Product Environmental
  • Assessment Tool (EPEATTM)1 registered desktop computers, laptops and monitors or purchasing products with a high ENERGY STAR® 2 and EPEATTM rating;
  • Centralisation of ICT procurement, deployment and disposal assists with improving asset management, reuse and recycling across the University;
  • Provide alternatives to travel by using remote communication technologies.

What can you do as an individual?

  • Minimise energy consumption of idle devices, specifically desktop computers and mobile devices (ie turn off computer equipment when not in use).
  • Safe disposal and recycling of ICT equipment and eWaste (Refer also to ICT Procurement Guidelines).
  • Reduce unnecessary travel by using remote communication technologies. Reduce unnecessary printing.

Green Printing

The University continues to investigate a number of specific strategies to reduce the amount of unnecessary printing including:
  • All networked printers and multi-function devices are configured (by default) to print duplex.
  • Multi-function devices enable greater use of scanning features rather than printing.
  • Meeting agendas and associated material are published online to reduce the requirement to print meeting material. ...
From:  ICT Guideline for Green IT, Executive Director, ICT Services, University of Southern Queensland, 30 October 2012