A new work week at Uni SA

Uni SA VC David Lloyd wants “workplace flexibility arrangements” to be “an on-going policy position.” How flexible? 40 per cent of working time “remote,” he suggests. After March, some reply.  Scroll down.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Rowena HarperKatrina Strampel, and Ratna Selvaratnam on how Edith Cowan U used an institution-wide approach in professional learning to meet the COVID-19 teaching challenge. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on finding the excellent teachers universities need.

What “world” means for research metrics

The Australian Research Council releases draft guidelines for next year’s Excellence in Research for Australia

The council states changes for submissions flow from recommendations in the review of ERA and its companion, Engagement and Impact.

Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert also has some ideas. In his December “letter of expectation”  to the ARC, Mr Robert called for a new ERA scale, “that sets the ‘world standard’ benchmark against those nations and universities that are at the forefront of research.”

While the new guidelines don’t define “world standard,” the ARC is probably on to this. The last ERA/EI review recommended an “expert working party” to address what “world” must mean, by first half ’22. So that should help university submissions meet the minister’s request for, “a benchmarking structure that is clear in its ambition and provides granular and meaningful reporting of the level of achievement across different universities.”

Great and powerful friends

The Group of Eight and UK’s Russell Group of 24 ally

The research-rich combination, will, “find new ways of delivering ground-breaking research, trade, investment and boost both countries’ economies.

It follows December’s Aus-UK FTA .

Back to the office at Uni SA

In January management decided staff, with approval, could work all-remotely until end March – no longer

It was part of the university’s COVID-19 response, but there’s a change. From Monday management will want staff on campus for 60 per cent of working hours.

Lectures will remain on-line, “with all other teaching, learning and research activities transitioning back to our previously established ‘Covid-safe’ face-to-face on-campus delivery modes,” by end February.

The new arrangements apply, “until state-wide requirements are further significantly modified.”

The announcement is an unsettling surprise for some, “very disconcerting for a number of vulnerable staff or those who care for vulnerable people,” one Uni SA person says.

However Vice Chancellor David Lloyd explains the early return to the office, telling staff the university is “cognisant” of the impact, “such sustained measures would have on commencing and returning domestic and international students and their Uni SA experience, particularly as we approach Orientation.”

Back to campus, he says is, “commensurate with our commitment to recognising the endemic nature of the virus, mirroring those enacted in the wider general community, and are central to us normalising our reaction to its occurrence in our population. We will continue to manage Covid-19 in accordance with all applicable health regulations and advice, and as we would any other communicable illness that may occur within a population as large and diverse as the university community.”

Policy options

Uni Canberra announces grad certs/dip/masters courses on developing/engaging with public policy

Apparently the on-line courses “are all about influencing change through public policy” and appear designed for people investing in achieving senior positions, what with a dip costing $25 000. Uni Canberra explains it “widely researched the market … and saw a gap.”  Presumably one Uni Canberra thinks ANU’s extensive public service courses have not got covered for on-line audiences.

Research commercialisation: time waits for no plan

The Government needs to appoint people to get its University Research Commercialisation Action Plan happening – timing could be a problem

The  plan includes an advisory board and six “priority managers” to work with early stage funded researchers. The intent is to appoint/engage them by the middle of the year. Which will be hard, unless it is impossible.

The Government’s research commercialisation strategy requires legislation and both houses sit this week and next. After that they are back for the budget in March but even if any bill passed the Reps the senators might send it off to the scrutiny of bills committee, delaying it at least until May sitting weeks.

Which are unlikely to happen, what with the election imminent.

This would make it tight for appointing people by mid-year– if at all.

An incoming Labor government might have altogether different ideas for research policy.

Micro-credentials: coming regulated or not

TAFE Directors are talking micro-credentials says their association’s head, Jenny Dodd, sometime because  training packages, “have not caught up with industry demand.”  

And the need for speed means there are MCs which are assessed, but not accredited.

“Micro-credentials allow a qualification to be broken down to what people need, as they need it,” she writes.

Which rather makes the point that regulators either catch up on MCs are ignored in the market.

ARC and pre-prints: this time they are asking

To date, the ineligibility of pre-prints in ERA has not been raised as an issue,” the agency suggests in a consultation paper, so the council is raising it

Perhaps this is because the ARC copped a hiding last year for originally excluding research applications that cited pre-prints. Whatever the reason, the agency is now asking what people think of allowing pre-prints in submissions for next year’s Excellence in Research for Australia.

In particular the ARC asks if they are ok for citation analysis and up to 30 per cent of submissions in disciplines that use peer review.

As to including pre-prints at all it rather looks like the ARC thinks it has made up its mind.

“There is a growing acknowledgement of their role alongside peer reviewed research and an increasing number of preprint repositories across a broader range of disciplines. Furthermore, what constitutes a preprint is also evolving as various preprint repositories are incorporating some version of peer review such as open peer review as part of their processes.”

Colin Simpson’s ed-tech reads of the week

Course Hero, Ed-Tech Company, Hires Ed-Tech Critic from Inside Higher Ed

Ed Tech Twitter has been, well, all atwitter in the last week over the news that Sean Michael Morris, a notable in the digital pedagogy field, has taken a job at Course Hero. Course Hero describes itself as “an online learning platform for course-specific study resources”. Other people are less charitable in their descriptions, raising concerns about academic integrity, abuse of IP and monetisation of student data. (See the next post). Much of the discussion has centred around whether a well-intentioned academic can affect meaningful ethical change in a $3.6B ed tech megalith. Personally, I have my doubts but would be delighted to be proven wrong.


We don’t need another hero from Medium

Karen Costa is another well-regarded expert in faculty (academic) development with some strong opinions about education technology ethics, Course Hero and their business model. This detailed piece explores how people use this platform, learner agency and power relationships.


Implementing H5P Online Interactive Activities at Scale from Chen et al. (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education 2021)

Interactive HTML5 resources have exploded in education in recent years, particularly since the drawn-out demise of Flash. Among tools supporting the creation of these, H5P reigns supreme. It is user-friendly and offers a rich set of activity options. This paper from last year’s ASCILITE conference describes the holistic process Victoria University went through to roll this tool out at an institutional level. Most ed tech research focuses on local interventions, so this offers invaluable insights into the big picture thinking required to ensure that a technology can be used successfully and sustainably at scale.


Get rid of the green buttons. It’s pure manipulation from Dataethics.eu

I’ve shared stories here before about Dark Patterns in website design, the use of psychological tricks to influence user behaviour. This includes things like making one button green and the other (less desired) button look greyed out. The EU has long been a champion of Internet user rights, creating the General Data Protection Regulation in 2016 which dramatically shifted online privacy rights. With the recent passing of the Digital Service Act, they have effectively banned these kinds of questionable design approaches. This article is well worth a read.


Creating a how-to guide with the Tango plugin in Chrome from me

At some point, everyone working in or with education technology needs to create a detailed set of instructions for some computer-based activity. In the last week or so I’ve been playing with a Google Chrome plugin called Tango which essentially lets you record a process, taking screenshots and creating basic descriptive text for each step along the way. After some judicious editing, this can then output to PDF or a webpage like the one I’ve shared about how to use Tango. (How very meta). I think it has some promise.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 and is employed by Monash University’s Education Innovation team. He is also one of the leaders of the TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter