To go boldly where no merch has gone before

There’s a 10 per cent off sale of Australian Space Agency caps, t-shirts and such, at Questacon on-line. The Gateway to Industry Schools Programme for Aerospace on Facebook tells all. Maybe a hoodie in space is an agency objective.

There’s more in the Mail

Airdre Grant on the most important element in on-line teaching

Practitioner-experts on building on-line learning communities. 

Peter Goodyear (Uni Sydney) on teaching as design for learning. It is an addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Hard ask

Uni Wollongong asks staff to donate

When casuals log-on to enter their time-sheets they find a screen which reminds them times are tough, that there is an “UoW resilience fund” and that “now is your chance to play a part in UoW’s financial stability, by considering donating to the UoW Resilience Fund.” 

Perhaps management could go-easy on the grab until casuals know whether the next pay is their last.

More unis sign-on for up-skill expansion

Swinburne and Flinders announce Tehan short courses

Swinburne U joins the universities signing-up for Education Minister Dan Tehan’s short-course push for people wanting to up-skill while they wait for the pandemic to pass (CMM April 14).

Swinburne On-Line will provide federally funded certificate courses, mainly starting in May and July, with the majority done by December. Courses announced now are in ICT, health administration, education and cybersecurity.

This is home-turf for Swinburne U, already in micro-courses. Last year it launched four-six hours a week for a month and a half units in AI and related (CMM April 1 2019).

Flinders U is also signing-on, announcing two six-month higher education certificates “in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” They are in aged care and cyber security.

Swinburne and Flinders joins universities variously strong in distance education and applied technologies picking up the government’s funding, including Uni SA, ACU, Uni Notre Dame, and USQ (to come).

Big tick for S P Jain

Sydney-based private biz ed operator S P Jain School of Global Management is renewed by TEQSA for seven years

Jain does not get a bunch of biz ed media coverage but it has managed to do here what Aus schools don’t often achieve in India, exist, let alone prosper.  The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency says SPJ gets a tick for scholarship, benchmarking, academic leadership and “well-targeted” student support. Course SPJ, like everybody else, has to get through this year, before it benefits.

(Thanks to the learned Claire Field for the pointer).

Performing like no one is watching at Uni Melbourne

Its census day and performance arts students aren’t happy

So unhappy with on-line learning, that a meeting of students at the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music demanded “fee relief.”

“Nobody is blaming the VCA and MCM for a global pandemic but they have decided to continue with classes on-line. They need to take responsibility and acknowledge that learning how to dance, act, and play in music ensembles is diminished in on-line environments,” the VCA student association says.

That the chance of a fee cut is somewhere between buckleys and none does not diminish the students’ point; “nobody should expect 18 and 19-year old students to take on debts when they are learning how to dance in their bedrooms or trying to play in orchestras via Zoom.”

The university’s response will not encourage them; dean of fine arts and music Barry Conyngham sets out how staff are adapting teaching and deferring what will not work for COVID-19 quarantined students but adds, “our focus continues to be on delivering relevant, creative learning that enables students to continue a meaningful, coordinated arts education in the meantime.”

The reviews on “meaningful” arts education await results in this census and next.

No news is good news

ANU astronomer Brad Tucker reports an asteroid whizzed past us last night. 1998 OR2, to its pals, is four kms in diameter and mooching along at 36 000 kms an hour. Dr Tucker says it was visible but harmless – tell that to people who remember The Andromeda Strain  

Funds to help internationals: not enough without the feds

Victoria joins the other states and territories (ex NSW) as well as a bunch of universities in creating relief funding for international students whose jobs are gone and in cases can’t go home.

The $45m from Spring Street is way better than the nothing which the feds are providing, but without Commonwealth assistance, the Vic cash will likely last to tomorrow lunchtime. Deakin U has already had 12 500 applications from internationals for support from its $25m emergency fund.

Unless the feds step-up, warns the Australian Business Deans Council, “we stand to lose tens of thousands of students who will rightly feel let down by a country that has been all too ready to take their money but has shown no willingness to help them in their time of need.”

The deans should know, the ABDC says its members “graduate more than half the country’s international university students.”

Swinburners decide where their pay goes

Last week Swinburne U suggested staff could work a voluntary nine-day fortnight, with pay for the tenth being “contribution leave,” to help fill a $30m budget hole (CMM April 24).

But a plan for the Payroll Office to bulk-book such contributions, did not go down well with some Swinburne staff.

Many of you have said you would prefer to book the voluntary contribution leave yourselves,” management acknowledges.

The university does not add what some Swinburners argue, that for anybody but individuals to redirect pay would breach the enterprise agreement.

Whatever its thinking, the university says, “we have taken this suggestion on board and changed our processes.” Staff who want to make the ten per cent contribution can do it as of tomorrow via the on-line pay site.

Real fast research

Before Easter the feds commissioned papers on the education impact of COVID-19-required remote learning on disadvantaged kids. And lo, it is done. That’s this Easter at the beginning of the month.

The rapid-fire research is by;

Natalie Brown and colleagues, (U Tas): Learning at home during COVID-19: effects on vulnerable young Australians

Geoff Masters, Australian Council for Educational Research: Impact on outcomes

Janet Clinton (Uni Melbourne): Supporting vulnerable children in the pandemic

Stephen Lamb (Victoria U): Outcomes for disadvantaged children

Sarah O’Shea (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education): Impact of learning from home


Ray Fleming leaves Microsoft, where he was HE lead, for Google to be HE education projects manager.

Kathy Nicholson becomes operations manager at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning.

Macquarie U’s Centre for Ancient Cultural Heritage announces Ronika Power as new director.