Plus how Monash students build “personal brands”

White noise

University of Sydney researchers report a big increase in the white fluffballs people mistake for dogs. It is said to be due to more people living high rise lives and presumably wanting dogs that run less (but yap more).


The more they stay the same

NHMRC chair Anne Kelso addressed the Franklin Women (“Australia’s only community for women working in health and medical research related careers,”) in Sydney yesterday. CMM heard that when asked how young women can win grants she talked of administrative changes in council grant schemes being “afoot”. But perhaps not. When asked, the NHMRC response was; “Professor Kelso noted that the NHMRC has put in place a range of initiatives over the past years to address issues that women researchers in health and medical research face. Professor Kelso also highlighted our continuing engagement with institutions to encourage the implementation of policies to support the progression and retention of women in health and medical research.” Which does not sound all that encouraging. There is no doubting women of all ages are doing badly. In 2010 women of all ages won 248 NHMRC project grants, which was down to 184 in 2014 (CMM April 4)

Cause and effect

Yesterday UNSW student organisation Arc tweeted that it was “giving away free donuts! You can decorate them with as many toppings as you like.” In CMM’s feed it was immediately followed by the University of Melbourne tweeting a story, “we are now renovating hospitals to accommodate influx of obese patients. How did we get here.” Dollars to donuts the tweeting gods are telling us something.

CMM ads3

Modest praise

University marketers love ratings that have some good news for just about every institution. Celebratory statements start arriving in CMM’s inbox within minutes of Times Higher and QS ratings being released. But U-Multirank, not so much. This EU funded ranking was released Monday night and despite including 28 Australian universities it took 18 hours before the first self-congratulatory announcement arrived. It appeared in a Perth local paper quoting Edith Cowan University being pleased that it had scored a “very good” rating in U-MR for graduates finding jobs within 50 kms of campus. Not likely to have the same impact as the usual “rated in the world top 50 for water-polo and particle physics” that universities love to boom. This is inevitable given U-MR‘s foundation idea, that comparing universities that do the same thing makes more sense than rating every university against Harvard – however it is hard to sell in a press release. But watch what happens when Times Higher releases its “150 under 50” ranking of young universities on Thursday, every Aus university  that makes the cut will be telling us all about it early and often.

Melbourne wants a win

The University of Melbourne AFL team is looking for win when it plays ANU today, if only for a bit of variety – so far  this year Uni of Adelaide and Monash have beaten it.

Selfie as CV

The chatterati were all a-twitter yesterday over somebody on ABC TV suggesting it took graduates 4 years to find fulltime employment. It isn’t that simply so but the claim does reflect how the idea that a degree does not deliver desirable employment, at least immediately, is taking hold.

This is why astute universities, like Deakin, Swinburne and Macquarie are investing in internships, employment skills and graduate employment programmes. Monash has joined them with Leap into Leadership. It’s a series of seven online modules for Monash students, “that will help you to leap into your career with confidence.” Perhaps too much confidence, one of the units is, “Personal Brand: Stand out from the crowd.”


Electrified blather

Readers worried about the stalled UE16 Electrotechnology Training Package are assured the pace will pick up as the National Electrical Regulators Advisory Council has publicly announced revisions to the 66 essential performance criteria for the Certificate Three Electrician (trade). All that is now needed is for the diploma in decoding bureaucracy to be approved so that trainers can learn what they are allowed to do.

Crisis of the day

While much of the medical research establishment was celebrating the new advisory board for the Medical Research Future Fund yesterday the Lung Foundation was warning of “a funding crisis that is crippling lung health research in the country.”

“Although respiratory illnesses affect 29 per cent of Australians and costs the health system an estimated $4.5 billion per year, research in this area receives little funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council – Australia’s lead health research funding body,” the Foundation said. Short of a cure for death there will never be enough money spent on medical research.

Demand in theory

Thanks to a reader for pointing out the protest wall at the Warrnambool Standard’s site where people are telling Deakin University what they think about its plan to close the campus there. Most commentators make the point that the university is essential to the community, despite Deakin U explaining at length how it has tried and failed to attract local students (CMM, March 21).


Education all about engineering

In a new report Karen E Willcox and colleagues from MIT recommend four initiatives to maximise the impact of online education. First, they call for cross-disciplinary research on how people learn both in-person and on-line, this is especially important to make the most of learning technology. They also advocate a “digital scaffold” in teaching, for “customisation of learning, remote collaboration, just-in-time scenarios, continuous assessment and blended learning.”

New technologies should be used to support teachers and allow them to free up time from conveying content to focus on high-value in-person interactions with students.”

They also propose a model of the categories of people who will drive change, because “in legacy sectors like education change will not happen overnight.”

Fraid so, classroom based education , like newspapers, is now “a legacy sector.”

They also advocate for the “learning engineer;” familiar with state-of-the-art educational technologies, from commercial software to open-source tools, and skilled in the effective use of new online tools.”

More than that, learning engineers will be the people who make the systems work; “formal education today focuses largely on the classroom. We believe that future educators will blend insights from the different fields described in this report—education research, cognitive science, disciplinary knowledge, social science, and so on—to offer each learner a carefully orchestrated experience blending online and face-to-face learning. The design and implementation of these experiences, based on science, will in our view be best carried out by a new breed of professional—the learning engineer.”