Sautee then slather

“Making sunscreen from mushroom waste”, University of Adelaide says is one of the projects to be funded by a SA government backed agriculture-waste research project at its Waite campus.  The marketing might take some work.

There’s more in the Mail

Commissioning Editor Sally Kift weaves the warp and weft of HE reviews into a seamless guide to what we need now for literacy in tertiary education.

Australians rate universities tops for trust

Universities and their staff are the most trusted institutions/people in the country. The press is the least

Who’s respected and who’s not: The 29th ANU poll finds just on 80 per cent of people surveyed have confidence in universities, their researchers and lecturers, just ahead of schools and their teachers. In contrast around 20 per cent have confidence in the media – behind the banks.

What people approve, more or less: However, confidence is not blind with lower support on what universities teach, notably among graduates. “Having attended a university may have increased confidence in the university, but it does not mean that a person thinks the curriculum is being designed or delivered in the right way, ANU’s Nicholas Biddle and Karuna Reddy suggest.

What they want, or not: There is also bipartisan support for numerous core university activities, with training students for the workforce and developing new ideas around 90 per cent. However, coalition supporters are less impressed with universities providing “an environment for controversial ideas to be expressed and debated”, while 85 per cent still agreed, just over half thought “holding universities to account” is a role for universities.

As to international students, the closer people are to them the more they welcome them. A quarter of present university students surveyed support reducing international numbers, compared to 51 per cent of respondents who have never attended university.

Which creates a question: Overall this is excellent news for the HE community – conforming what the growth in student numbers shows, Australians believe in education and trust the people who provide it. So why does the electorate appear indifferent to calls for more money for teaching and research?

And the golden vac goes to …

Four ANZ inventions are on the global top 20 list for the Dyson Award

The Dyson award (as in Sir James of the vac) is for engineering, product and industrial design undergrads and recent graduates, whose invention “solves a problem,” (CMM May 3).

Locals with a chance to clean-up are:

 Alexander Ghent (UNSW): The Eddy, “a retro-fittable filtration system for washing machines, designed to stop micro-plastic pollution from synthetic clothing reaching the marine environment.”

Frederique Sunstrum (UNSW): Continuity, “monitor glucose levels and deliver insulin ‘non-invasively’ ” for people with Type One Diabetes

Ryan Tilley (RMIT): Gecko Traxx, “a portable and affordable manual wheelchair accessory that enables off-road access”

Hannah Tillsley and Chamonix Stuart (Victoria U of Wellington): Nah Yeah Buoy, “a buoy that can detect a rip and change colour depending on the danger of the rip”

Contract cheating challenge: authentic tasks, bogus answers

Authentic assessment is good for student learning, but it does not necessarily stop contract cheating

What should work: Assessing students on tasks, “that better reflect the complex challenges they will face in the real world” is often assumed to be an answer to contract cheating, because the challenge is so interesting students will want to do the work and because it is way too hard for somebody else to complete for them.

But may not: Optimistic assumption, shame about the evidence. Cath Ellis (UNSW) and colleagues analysed assignment orders placed on academic-writing websites, and a set of assessment tasks where contract cheating was detected, using five authenticity factors. They conclude students “routinely outsource” assessment tasks.

What’s going on: There, is, they found, “no conclusive evidence of a relationship between the authenticity score of an assessment task and the detection of paid contract cheating.”

But cheating isn’t all the same, with some intriguing apparent, (if not necessarily real) outliers. While “a high proportion of students in engineering admit to cheating behaviours,” Ellis et al.’s analysis found contract cheating cases “infrequently identified”. They suggest, this might be because engineering students collude among themselves rather than use commercial providers.

They also identified “relatively few orders” for commercial providers to complete assignments for education students, but those they did had high authenticity factors. “This may indicate that assessment tasks in that discipline are more likely to be highly authentic and/or that students in that discipline are more likely to outsource highly authentic tasks.”

Be warned: “The findings from this research have the potential to change the landscape of academic integrity advice, where educators have been encouraged to create authentic, meaningful and engaging assessments to ensure that students do not want to cheat,” they warn.

“While we agree with other educational researchers that authentic assessment, with its emphasis on engaging students in real-world, complex tasks linked to professional practice is good for learning, our research challenges the belief that, in itself, authentic assessment will assure academic integrity.”

It might be too hard: The authors argue that because authentic assessment is based on “realistic, professionally focussed and complex tasks” the approach, “may be unfamiliar to many academically and linguistically diverse students.”

“Providing the appropriate time-intensive and scaffolded support to familiarise these students with these authentic contexts and environments may not be feasible in the current under-resourced higher-education environment, leaving some students adrift and tempted to seek unauthorised assistance

At Uni Sydney, they’ll do it their way

The university proposes adopting the French review of free speech on campus by amending its own charter of academic freedom

A report going to Academic Board next month includes,

* extending academic freedom to comment to professional staff “engaged in academic activities”

* “clarifying” professional staff are “free to express their lawful opinions about the university

* “making clear” the university does not restrict/inhibit all staff making public comment in personal capacities

* “reaffirming” freedom of expression and protest, “respectful argument and disagreement are essential elements of the core mission of a university to advance knowledge”

If Academic Board adopts the proposal the university “should” review its non-statutory rules, codes and policies to ensure consistency with the new charter.

This could be a precedent for other universities considering how to handle Mr French’s recommendations. While coalition backbenchers may want universities to simply sign-up to his proposed code, no university is going to willingly accept a charter they cannot claim as their own. But with the Uni Sydney approach honour may be satisfied.

Future-proofing qualifications

The enormously anticipated, immensely complicated, review of the Australian Qualifications Framework is out this morning

Peter Noonan and colleagues say the AQF needs “significant reform,” warning the existing structure, “results in poor differentiation between some qualification types, and descriptions of skills and knowledge that do not reflect existing leading practice, let alone meet future requirements.”

The review proposes revising specifications for attributes and outcomes at qualification level and proposes possible new qualification types, a higher diploma, available in VET and HE and one at doctoral level, “that provides recognition of professional achievement and innovation.”

The panel also call for a comprehensive updating, including acknowledging micro-credentials, via recognition of prior learning, and proposes prototyping a national credit points system to, “give students a better sense of the learning outcomes they have attained in comparison to other qualifications.”

“A focus on credit recognition and RPL is essential to support lifelong learning as it will affect the return on investment of a new learning experience,” they add.

But while “stakeholders” do not support “shorter-form credentials” as AQF qualification types, Professor Noonan and colleagues, “formed the view that credit recognition was the preferred way of recognising shorter form credentials. They also suggest, “aligning a shorter form credential to an AQF band would show providers the complexity of material studied for credit purposes, as well as showing students and employers what outcomes to expect from the credential.”

Overall, they propose an AQF;

* which is less complex, with eight bands of knowledge and six bands of skills “more flexibly applied”

* where skills are defined as actions a person should be able to undertake

* with general capabilities – for example, digital literacy and ethical decision making – identified in individual qualifications

* provides credit recognition across AQF qualifications and recognition of shorter form credentials, including micro-credentials, towards AQF qualifications.

* includes a prototype for a voluntary national credit points system


Appointments, achievements

Adam Boyton is the (interim) National Skills Commissioner. Skills Minister Michaelia Cash says he, “will ensure the design of the National Skills Commission is fit for purpose for our current and future skills needs.” Mr Boyton has previously been both an MD of Deutsche Bank and chief economist of the Business Council of Australia. As of July, he was a member of the NSW Skills Board.

The Prime Minister’s Literary Prizes are announced, including Paul Genoni (Curtin U) and Tanya Dalziell (UWA) for Writers, dreamers and drifters in Hydra 1955-‘64