We see what you did there

“Did you know magnetic brain stimulation is a key part of treating schizophrenia and can also be used for depression?” We do now. Thanks SA Health and Medical Research Institute, via Twitter yesterday

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Enabling programmes must be the new normal in higher education – without them wider access is unfair. Pranit Anand (QUT) makes the case in this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus, the new NTU research-paper ranking is a good guide to what the next big bibliometric performance measures will reveal – the signs are still ok for Australia. Angel Calderon (RMIT) explains the NTU, how it works, why it matters and where the locals sit (it’s a good result for QUT, Macquarie U and RMIT).

and Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on problems – they can expand to occupy all available brain-space but good scientists chose ones they can solve.

 with James Guthrie (Macquarie U)  on the University of Adelaide’s strong 2020 financials (and yet there are more cuts).

Uni Melbourne gives staff a break

There are five “recharge days” on top of annual leave

“The ongoing restrictions present varying challenges for each of us …  None of this is easy and people are in need of a break,” Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell told staff yesterday.

Staff are free to take their five days, which are on top of annual leave, in whatever combination they want but Professor Maskell urges everybody “to put your wellbeing first and take this leave sooner rather than later.”

But which staff? The leave is for continuing and fixed-term staff, with no mention of people in the precariat. “That the university still refuses to acknowledge the position of casuals during this crisis is hugely disappointing,” the National Tertiary Education Union’s Nick Robinson says.

Uni Melbourne joins Monash U and RMIT in providing extra leave (CMM yesterday and August 19).

Cashed up at Keypath

Keypath Education increased revenues by 77 per cent last financial year to US$98m but recorded a net loss of US$78.7m as it continues to expand

Keypath creates course-content and provides student support and recruitment for universities in Australia, the UK, US and Malaysia.

Founded in the US in 2014, Keypath has focused on Australia, generating 51 per cent of FY2021 revenue here. Local partners are Deakin U, Edith Cowan U, James Cook U, RMIT, Southern Cross U, Uni Canberra, UNSW, UTS and Victoria U.

RMIT in-coming VC Alec Cameron is already a customer, signing with Keypath when VC at Aston U in the UK (CMM July 21 2017).

More (and different) change at Deakin U

VC Iain Martin briefs staff this morning “on potential organisational change”

It’s about the “Deakin reimagined” programme which went to staff for feedback in March. And while that was occurring a programme team reporting to the Chief Finance Officer was working on how it can happen.

Which makes change-fatigued staff nervous. The university community endured a long and at time bitterly disputed restructure last year which cut jobs across 15 operating units.

But today is unlikely to be about doing more of the same with less people – DU observers suggest it is about ways to implement, sorry reimagine, Vice Chancellor Iain Martin’s grand-plan to transform the university over the next ten years (CMM December 2).

Which would mean way more change to the way people work now.

No fly zone

UNSW is hosting the Air Transport Research Society’s  annual conference – a convenient 10 km away from Sydney’s (original and best) airport. Or it would be if the event wasn’t on-line. You know things are serious when these frequent flyers can’t


Old news is good news on training numbers

Last year was bad but got better

There’s good news in a new analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on apprentice and trainees last year.  “The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had (and still has) the potential to cause large-scale job losses among apprentices and trainees. However, this is not reflected in the data to date,” Michelle Hall writes in a new analysis for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Active trainee and apprentice contracts collapsed last year as COVID-19 crunched the economy, with suspensions up 650 per cent in March-April and 300 per cent in May on 2019. But cancellations and withdrawals “were less pronounced” due to government job support and apprentices and trainees not quitting for other, non-existent, jobs.  Commencements went down and then up – in June they were higher than 2019, before the long Victorian lock-down.  But in October they rose “dramatically, due to a Commonwealth apprentice wage subsidy, plus “an underlying employer need for apprentices and trainees to avoid future shortage.” Overall, December-quarter commencements were up in all industry sectors – although suspensions were up in some – including food services.

Good-o but while the past is no predictor of the future what happened in response to COVID-19 in 2020 may be way better than what happens now NSW and Victoria are locked down again.

Chief Scientist gets the nod on open access

Cathy Foley’s workplan is signed-off by the minister – she will have to get cracking

Industry Minister Christian Porter ticked the plan last week – which is good, except that it is for 2021.

Most of the tasks are of the standard advise and participate kind, but two give Dr Foley space, if not time, to get things done

* create a government scientists group, “to leverage the government’s investment in science and identify opportunities for collaboration.” She is also tasked with increasing awareness of the scitech advice available to government “including improvement of mechanisms for its delivery.”  Perhaps this could encourage her to suggest an independent parliamentary science office, as knocked-back by the government the other week (CMM August 12).

* “Champion Open Access … including development of a roadmap, with links to research integrity.”  This is an issue the Chief Scientist is already engaged with. In March Dr Foley was “closely considering” OA as one of her priorities. “Access to information is the great enabler for innovation and for research commercialisation.  Lack of access to information is a real roadblock, and hinders our ability to compete internationally,” she said (CMM March 18).

All dressed up and nowhere to go at Australian Catholic U

People aren’t taking their holidays

Back in March Australian Catholic U told staff it “expects” everybody to take their 20 days annual leave every year. And that there would be “regular monitoring” of leave balances, to ensure they are managed in-line with the enterprise agreement.

Problem was management can expect all it likes but the enterprise agreement specifies the people it can direct to take leave are those with 40 days or more owing – which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union reminded management.

So, what’s the university’s problem? “Leave management is an ongoing strategy for all universities including ACU. The context of COVID-19 and lockdowns and closed domestic and international borders has made this strategy more challenging in 2020 and 2021,” Chief Operating Office Stephen Weller says.

CMM thinks this means people would rather keep working when there is nowhere to go on holidays.

Colin Simpson’s edtech must reads (and listens) of the week  

 Identifying, Evaluating, and Adopting New Teaching and Learning Technologies from Educause Review

The most common questions/complaints that I hear as an education technologist from academics wanting to use a new tool in their teaching revolve around the time it takes to add them to institutional systems. “But the nice salesperson told me that it only takes 30 mins to install – why has it been 6 weeks already?”  This article from Pat Reid draws back the curtain on many of the things that need to happen behind the scenes to ensure that an education technology is fit for purpose, supportable and will work with an institution’s many needs. It offers some useful insights into the practical realities that are frequently overlooked in most discussions of learning technologies.


Ranking Multiple-Choice Answers to Increase Cognition from The Effortful Educator

Multi-choice quizzes are a mainstay of on-line learning because they provide opportunities for learners to check their understanding of course material without the workload overhead for teachers of manually grading hundreds of responses. Legitimate concerns are raised though about MCQs test recall v understanding and how authentic they are in relation to use of knowledge in practice. This post draws on research in the cognitive sciences to suggest an alternative approach to MCQs, asking students to explain why they think the options are right or wrong. There are clearly workload implications but it’s thought provoking.


Meet the man behind Tveeder, the no-frills live TV transcript that became an Australian media hero from The Guardian

Captioning and transcription of video for accessibility and also as a learning resource has come to the fore in recent years. Tveeder is a Melbourne based tool that aggregates the captioning feeds from Australian free-to-air TV in real time, for free. Given that many people parse text more quickly than video, and prefer to do so, this offers a handy resource for capturing relevant, real-world information that could be used in many teaching scenarios


Myth No More – Student Blackmailed by Cheating Provider from The Cheat Sheet

This email exchange between a student and a contract cheating service, shared by academic integrity newsletter The Cheat Sheet, highlights the real risks students choose.


Academics talk about The Chair – new podcast

The new Netflix series The Chair, a six-episode dramedy about wheelings and dealings in an English department in a mid-level American university has unsurprisingly sparked much discussion in academia. Local Higher Ed notables Inger Mewburn, Narelle Lemon, Megan McPherson and Anitra Nottingham forensically and amusingly dissect the show episode by episode – definitely worth a listen.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology in the tertiary sector since 2003 and is employed by Monash University’s Education Innovation team. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner


Appointments, achievements 

Ian Douglas (UNSW) becomes a fellow of the Air Transport Research Society.

Jessica Gallagher is the inaugural DVC External Engagement at Uni Adelaide, starting November. She moves from Uni Queensland where she is PVC Global Engagement and Entrepreneurship.

At Uni Sydney FASS dean Annamarie Jagose is appointed provost. She starts mid-October. An interim FASS dean will be appointed “ahead of an international search” for a permanent one.

Lisa Singh becomes director of Uni Melbourne’s Australia India Institute. The former Labor senator for Tasmania moves from government advocacy at the Minderoo Foundation.