Learn to distinguish

The feds announce new agency Genomics Australia, which will “help propel the integration of genomics into mainstream healthcare.” Not to be confused with Australian Genomics, “ a national collaboration supporting the translation of genomic research into clinical practice.” Apparently the former will, “build on six years work” by the latter.

COVID a cover for job shedding

In Features this morning Frank Larkins (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) sets out 2019-21 FTE job losses for casuals and total staff at hardest-hit institutions

Some of which are sadly spectacular, notably La Trobe U, where there was a 59 per cent decrease in FTE casuals and a 20 per cent drop in total staff. “These are very high attrition numbers that must seriously impact on university operations,” Professor Larkins suggests.

But staff cuts in multiple universities were not necessarily caused by the pandemic.

“There is almost no correlation between the total staff losses shown in the figures and the percentage reduction in overseas student enrolments. Some universities have used additional opportunistic strategies to determine their staff reduction policies within the pandemic environment,” he writes

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

The scholarship of learning and teaching too often rates behind research and the demands of the working. It shouldn’t and it needed.  Shannon Johnston and Michelle Picard (Murdoch U) suggest ways it can be incorporated in the work of the “everyday scholar”.  This week’ selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Maree Meredith (Flinders U’s Poche Centre) proposes  new approached on closing the gap in health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

LNP and Labor say nay to ARC final grants say

Kim Carr announced in advance the fate of the Greens Bill to end ministerial power to block funding for Australian Research Council recommended research

There might be grounds on security or criminal intelligence that requires the minister to intervene.” As a way of protecting researchers, “this bill is not politically viable” he said in a Senate committee hearing (CMM March 10).

Which is pretty much what Labor and Government members of the Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee reported yesterday.

Government senators reported:“removing ministerial discretion would raise serious questions about whether the minister was fulfilling their obligations under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It would also prevent the minister from preventing projects being funded where there are due diligence or national security concerns—both grounds that were identified as reasonable and necessary by some stakeholders, particularly as the ARC is unlikely to have access to all the information available to the minister.”

Labor members of the committee concluded: “The ministerial veto contained in the ARC Act is a mechanism to facilitate the accountability of executive government.”

But they want transparency: They recommend amending the ARC Act to require a minister to table within 15 days, “the reasons, evidence and advice” they received to veto a grant.

And a review of the  “ role and governance of the ARC to ensure its independence and prevent any—real or perceived—political interference.” The senators state ARC “sensitivity files” on researchers, “do not inspire confidence.”

It could be much worse for supporters of the existing grants model. It may well be if the Coalition is returned : Government senators used the inquiry to advance the government’s commitment to research as part of industry policy. They call for an “independent review of the ARC, with a view to maximising the impact of public investment in university research and driving a strong national system of research and development. “

As for the Greens: “Politics has trumped good policy-making with both the Government and Labor refusing to concede their political power to interfere and intervene in individual research grants,”  the bill’s author, NSW senator, Mehreen Faruqi reports.

ANU announces “student safety plan”

It is intended to “to tackle sexual assault and harassment in its community”

The plan builds on the university’s in-place sexual violence prevention strategy. ANU also adopts recommendations in an independent review.

The plan includes an emphasis on safety in student residences.

ANU also intends council to “oversight” the plan “and keep the university accountable.”

The university previously reported that all of the 21 investigated cases of sexual misconduct in 2021 last year led to a misconduct finding against respondents, leading to exclusion, suspension or conditions on enrolments (CMM March 3)

Opportunity for Uni Melbourne to address lowered PhD pay rates

Management says it’s working on standards – they may want to explain what they are

Uni Melbourne stopped paying casuals with a PhD a rate for all teaching, including work specified as not requiring a higher degree,  which upset the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union.  The cancelled arrangement is, “is consistent with the academic classification and promotion system, under which employees are paid different rates depending on their academic standing,” the union says (CMM March 3).

But the university appears not for moving and so the union has referred the matter to the Fair Work Commission, where CMM suspects management could repeat its previous explanation.

“In some instances, decisions have been made that a PhD is not specifically required for the work, and a lower rate of pay has been applied.  As part of a broader programme of work that we are now initiating, we intend to look in more detail at this issue with a view to developing consistent standards and qualification requirements for casual sessional teaching across all of our faculties,” a Uni Melbourne representative told CMM at the beginning of the month .


Colin Simpson’s ed tech must-reads of the week

Proof points: college students often don’t know when they’re learning from The Hechinger Report

Lurking in the background of discussions about student evaluations of teaching and collaborating with them on learning design is the question of whether students know what good learning and teaching practice actually is. This article discusses Harvard research demonstrating that while students taught physics with active learning showed greater mastery, they felt that they had learned more from traditional lectures. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t engage with students about their learning experiences – they will always know when it’s bad – but we do need to reflect more on what they think is good and why.

Big tech always fails at doing radio from Matt on audio

While this article is about moves by big tech companies like Spotify and Amazon to create ‘radio 2.0’ without a deep understanding of what makes radio work, it isn’t hard to draw comparisons to the edupreneurs who try to disrupt learning and teaching without engaging with educators. Matt Deegan identifies two key flaws in the approach taken by big tech with their radio replacements – a lack of understanding of how/why people consume radio and their walled garden approach to the medium. Both of these arguably are a result of the needs of these new platforms to be successful and the constraints of working only with music licensed in their particular ecosystems.

OK google: what’s the answer? characteristics of students who searched the internet during an online chemistry examination from Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education

As high-stakes assessment has shifted online during the pandemic, maintaining academic integrity has become ever more pressing for universities. This study from Schult et al. (2022) delves into the behaviours and motivations of chemistry students in online exams, with as many as a third being at least tempted to cheat for “maintaining positive self-perception and having a low expectation of being caught”. Part of their rationale was that they expected their peers to cheat and didn’t want to be disadvantaged. Lack of prior knowledge and low engagement were also tied to these behaviours. The authors go on to suggest options for designing better exams including more scanning of handwritten work.

Blogging an Unpublished Paper: South African & Egyptian Academic Developers’ Perceptions of AI in Education: Process from Maha Bali

Maha Bali is a leading light in the education design and faculty development space and brings vital perspectives from the wider world. She blogs here about a paper that she wrote about academic developer perspectives on the practical use of AI in teaching which missed a publication deadline but was recently resurrected and updated. It will be ‘published’ on her blog in digestible chunks and the first can be found here.

GameGuruMax from The Game Creators

Building video games can seem like a massively daunting venture, with arcane coding, asset design and creation and the development of literal worlds. In truth, there have been tools on the market for many years to greatly simplify this process, reducing it to dragging and dropping. In a past life, I got very excited about using something called First Person Shooter Creator to build (non-shooty) educational games. The quality of my work may have been mixed but as a non-coder, making a thing was thrilling. The creators of that software are this week releasing GameGuruMax, a greatly updated version of that software. (It’s around $40 until Friday) I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

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 @gamerlearner


Paul Fitzgerald is the inaugural director of ANU’s School of Medicine and Psychology. He moves from Monash U. The school was created in last year’s restructure of the College of Health and Medicine (CMM May 14 2021).

Kathryn North (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) is the inaugural chair of the new federally funded Genomics Australia.