Living language

NSW Police abbreviate coronavirus to “rona” (via Twitter)

It’s another entry for the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s list of new pandemic terms, (CMM yesterday).

And in NSW small bars can home-deliver cocktails

Or, as they are now known (thanks Phoebe Loomes at “quarantinis.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning;

Kevin Bell’s big picture on making on-line teaching work.

Amanda White (UTS) explains why COVID-19 is a perfect storm for contract-cheating and what can be done about it.

Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle) and Nicole Crawford (Curtin U and U Tas), on thinking about the students: three essentials to engage students on-line.

Tim Winkler (Twig Marketing) explains why it’s time to get cracking on 2021 student recruitment.

And scroll down for Dawn Gilmore’s on-line teaching tip of the day.

Monash U closes more on campus

But staff who have to stay can apply for reduced parking fees

Attendance at lectures face-to-face is no longer permitted. Lectures will only be available via livestream and as recording post lectures.  Tutorials, workshops and seminars will continue in online mode,” Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner tells staff.

The ban is in place until April 30.  However, 20 essential services, plus support for their staff continue on campus. The list includes “core IT,” research services, student services, accounts payable and revenue, plus comms. In admirable optimism student recruitment is considered essential.

Professor Gardner previously thanked, “the many, many staff who continue to go above and beyond in managing what is a very difficult situation. Your efforts, commitment and dedication are noticed,” (CMM, Monday). But apparently not enough to waive parking fees. The VC advises people who are still working on-campus, “will also be eligible to apply for part of their parking permits costs to be rebated.”

Some Monash U staff are also unhappy about who will qualify the new university isolation leave, to care for their kids over this week’s extended school holidays brought in by the Victorian state government. This is not available to staff who had already applied for leave over the schools break.

Alan Finkel back on the tools

Decades before the Chief Scientist became a policy visionary he was an entrepreneur, he is again

Alan Finkel used to be an electrical engineer and then he got interested in biophysics, combing them in a company making precision instruments for research in neuroscience.

He’s back at it, meeting an immediate market need in the complicated space where medicine meets engineering. Not that he’s talking about it.

But Health Minister Greg Hunt is.

In his eleventy-first doorstop on COVID-19 yesterday Mr Hunt mentioned, “work is being done, led by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel in conjunction with others on Australian production which could add an additional 5000 invasive and non-invasive respiratory and ventilator units to the Australian capacity.”

Lobbies back bigger benefits for local students and ask about internationals

The feds have extended the $225 a week Coronavirus supplement, to students on Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance. Uni lobbies like it a lot

One expected result is that young people will not drop-out of study to score the higher benefit now being paid to job-seekers, (another might be students not going hungry or homeless).

Conor King (Innovative Research Universities) thanks the government for “quickly accepting” the argument the move was needed.  “Extending the Coronavirus Supplement to eligible students will remove the perverse incentive for young people to stop studying, during this particularly challenging time.”

Universities Australia agrees, “many students were weighing up whether they could continue to study and pay the rent and will be hugely relieved by this announcement,” CEO Catriona Jackson says.

The Regional Universities Network also “welcomes” the policy change. Chair Helen Bartlett says it will help member students who lose their jobs to, “stay studying at university in regional Australia.”

And the Australian Technology Network points out 230 000 FT students receive the payments. They will be, “an important part of our economic recovery after the crisis, but they need our support to get through this now,” acting ED Sally Way says

Students giving up study would also be a blow to universities.

If they left before census dates, institutions would not receive first semester government payments for their study.

Internationals also in need

Mr King points to international students who do not qualify for the new payment but who, “may struggle to make ends meet during the current crisis.”

National Union of Students president Molly Wilmott extends the argument and offers a solution.

Ms Willmott calls for extending the virus payment to internationals and visa changes to allow them to study part-time. She also has ideas for universities, including delaying census dates by a month, to allow internationals to assess study-load now courses are on-line. And she urges institutions to reduce course fees by 20 per cent. “International students, who already pay a premium for education in Australia are now paying for rent, overseas student health cover insurance, visa costs and living expenses for an on-line degree they could receive anywhere in the world.”

Dawn Gilmore’s on-line learning tip of the day

Dr Gilmore is Director, Teaching and Learning at RMIT Online. She has a masters in education design from Uni Pennsylvania and a PhD in on-line learning from Swinburne U. Today’s tip is the first in a CMM series

Your content is on-line, what’s next? Start by telling your students how you will be interacting with them.

 Today’s teaching tip is about laying the foundation for how you and your students will be interacting over the next few months. The transition on-line can be overwhelming for you and your students but it does not have to be confusing. Here’s how get started.

Appointments, achievements

Claire Macken is promoted to deputy PVC, learning and teaching in RMIT’s College of Business and Law. Professor Macken joined RMIT On-Line in September as director of Future Learning, (CMM September 27).

Kumar Raghav (Charles Sturt U School of Dentistry) receives the International Association of Dental Research’s Giddon Award (for work in behavioural sciences). It is for his work on a joint study on virtual-reality exposure therapy for dental phobia.

Claire Field says it is time to invest in skills and that takes on-line learning


There is plenty of evidence of its educational benefits

As we all reel from the scale of business closures and layoffs across Australia this week, we are also all increasingly cognisant that more business closures and more staff layoffs are inevitable. Informed estimates say that 2 million Australians could end up unemployed, with an unemployment rate as high as 15 per cent by the time the COVID-19 crisis is over.

The months ahead are filled with uncertainty, but from a tertiary education perspective there are two groups who are particularly vulnerable:

* domestic and international students who lose their employment, and

* workers in a range of industries who lose their jobs and need help to stay motivated and engaged – especially during a likely period of enforced self-isolation across the country.

The government has recognised that domestic students who lose their jobs need proper financial support and has made them eligible for the coronavirus supplement. This was a crucial decision and international students will need similar help if they face the same circumstances.

For other workers facing unemployment – Australia must follow the lead of Singapore and use this time to invest in the skills base of the population.

To do this we will need to get past our bias against on-line learning and concerns that a rush to on-line learning is a recipe for poor educational outcomes and wasted public money.

There is plenty of evidence of the educational benefits of good on-line learning. And in an on-line world the auditors can be on-line too – auditing provider’s records, lessons and assessments in real time. There’s more here on the specific measures I think the tertiary education sector (and different providers) need in the months ahead, on the Singapore government’s initiative to lift skill levels during the coronavirus crisis, and how ASQA and TEQSA can regulate effectively for high quality, engaging online delivery.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education

Lights-off at RMIT

On-campus learning and teaching is off “until further notice” and research infrastructure is locked-down

The university states, “RMIT’s Australian campuses, buildings and libraries will not be accessible in-person until further notice.”

Lectures are on-line now, with tutes starting Monday as will VET “applied experiences”.

As to research, “the majority of research infrastructure will be transitioned to a status where it can remain safely in a lock-down state for an extended period of time.

“Tools and systems” are in-place, “to support our staff in working flexibly and remotely.”  But for those who can’t; “special leave arrangements are in place for staff impacted by COVID-19 and who are unable to work.”


Expert opinion on the need for experts

The Association of Australian University Professors is recruiting, telling potential members “their research expertise” should “inform public debate.” The still-forming association has 400 members, “representing all 39 Australian universities.”

COVID-19 wrap

Content providers have removed paywalls during COVID-19. CAUL is keeping track

The Council of Australian University Librarians reports “a very strong response” from vendors. The latest list is  here .

The big for-profits are on it, including Elsevier; although Emerald might want to update its deadline. A compilation of COVID-19 resources is open access to March 31.

Delayed med school admission test still happening

The Graduate Medical School Admission Test originally scheduled for March 21 will now be run on-line “at the end of May.” Ralph Saubern from administrator, Australian Council for Educational Research says, “we are working hard to ensure that any impact on the time-frames for interviews and offers is minimised.”

But the NCVER pulls the pin on its annual conference

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has cancelled this year’s “No frills” conference, scheduled for Perth, July 8-10.

Back to the bench

The Australian Society for Microbiology is compiling a database of people who can assist hospital labs with COVID-19 tests or share reagents.

But no classes next week at Deakin U

While almost all courses are now in the cloud, the university intended to resume on-campus, face-to-face labs and pracs on Monday, but not now.

Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told students yesterday that (ex, “a very small number of courses”) “students are no longer required on-campus. As to students who live there, “residential facilities remain a critical and essential service for those students who have no alternative to continue living on campus.”

Federation U falls-in with other Vic unis

All TAFE and HE campus-classes are off today for the rest of the week. TAFE will then break for Easter but HE teaching will return on Monday, mostly on-line. Staff who are not afflicted with COVID-19 but required to self-isolate should work from home and if they can’t they will be on-leave. Casuals and sessionals will also have paid leave, based on hours scheduled to work if ill/self-isolated/ unable to work from home. Policies are broadly in line with universities across the state.