Understanding the ARC

Last week was rich in Australian Research Council announcements but a learned reader, wise in the ways of such things struggled to follow some. The LR proposes an ARC training centre for working out where to find things on the council website.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, James Smith (Menzies School of Health Research-Darwin) on the need for a performance framework for Indigenous HE outcomes @ https://bit.ly/33qiaQz  . It’s a new essay in commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in learning and teaching.

Learning analytics: what students want unis to know

What do students think about their records being used for learning analytics? The Innovative Research Universities asked some

The IRU student survey and focus groups was part of a project on the use of learning analytic dashboards, including check-lists for programmes and codes of institutional behaviour

Overall it appears students accept universities collecting performance data.

“Most students felt the university was using their information to support their learning and make determinations about service provision. Interestingly, students often reported a more sophisticated use of data by the university than is currently possible or implemented.”

They also assume universities are organised in the way they use it; “Students were happy for their information to be provided to university support services and a number thought that all areas of the university already had access to their information and were frustrated that they had to keep repeating their story.”

However, students do not like tracking of their wifi and mobile app use. And they want to, “feel secure that their data would only be used by the university and not sold to third parties.”

The report proposes six university data do’s.

* be explicit when asking for student consent about what data will be connected and to what purpose

* remind students that their data is being collected

* develop “student-facing” dashboards related to available study services and material, “regardless of student grades” and information on study habits

* “exhibit caution” in including dashboard data on a student’s progress compared to peers

*  give students information on, but the power to turn off, dashboards and “push notifications”

* be cautious in using collected data “to trigger student support services

The guide also includes a code of practice for learning analytics and checklists for student data protection, academic interaction, student dashboard ICT support, and change comms.

The project authors are, Deborah West (Flinders U), Bill Searle (Charles Darwin U), Jessica Vanderlelie (La Trobe U), Danny Toohey (Murdoch U), Ann Luzeckyj (Flinders U) and Kevin Bell (Western Sydney U).

The report is open-access, in common with the substantial suite of resources in the IRU’s national innovation case study collection.

Regulator “considering” Murdoch U response to allegations about international student standards

TEQSA’s interest in academic performance and admissions comes before the start of Murdoch U’s re-registration process  

After the Four Corner’s programme on international student standards in May the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency told CMM “senior TEQSA Officers spoke with the vice chancellor of Murdoch University following the Four Corners program,” (CMM May 13).

The university had strongly rejected claims made on the programme with Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen telling staff they were “not true,” “manifestly wrong” and “incorrect” (CMM May 9)

Contact continued, on Friday a TEQSA spokesperson said it “has sought a range of information from Murdoch University, regarding allegations concerning admissions and academic performance of international students. The requested information has now been received and we are considering the university’s response.”

This is TEQSA core business: The very first of the Higher Education Standards it enforces states, “admissions policies, requirements and procedures are documented, are applied fairly and consistently, and are designed to ensure that admitted students have the academic preparation and proficiency in English needed to participate in their intended study.”

Last year TEQSA CEO Anthony McClaran spoke out on the importance of “strong protections for international students;”

“TEQSA’s 70-strong staff are dedicated to ensuring that all higher education providers meet their legislated requirements, and if we become aware of threats to student interests, or compliance with legislation we administer during our regular monitoring of the sector, we take prompt, proportionate action. … This work occurs through cyclical assessments, sector monitoring and complaints management, and is a vital part of the agency’s operation.”

What happens next: TEQSA’s request for, and now consideration of, information on admissions and academic performance of international students at Murdoch U occurs in the lead-up to the university’s re-registration process.

Murdoch U’s registration ends next July and the assessment process should start in February. TEQSA assesses every higher education provider’s performance under the Higher Education Standards and can register a university for up to seven years. This generally happens for public providers – Murdoch U was registered for seven years in 2013, with no conditions. But it does not have to. In April Charles Sturt U was re-registered for four years, with six conditions attached, (one was withdrawn within a month when the university dealt with the issue).

TEQSA states it can undertake an “extended scope of assessment,” in the registration process if it, “has identified a significant trend or specific issue that requires consideration.”  One of them is if, “issues relating to academic standards have been identified (including for example English language proficiency of students or graduates).”

Uni Adelaide five-year plan to go big in on-line learning

The uni’s new strategic plan commits to expanding on-line learning. It’s about to start

The university launches this morning a five-year partnership with Pearson, “the world’s leading learning company” to provide on-line programmes, “attracting several thousand on-line learners” by 2024.

Study is underway in a new grad dip of data science (course cost: $30 600) with a grad dip in psychology ($34 000) starting in a fortnight.

The programme of on-line courses, “will align with the University of Adelaide’s industry engagement priorities”. These are, * defence, cyber and space, *energy, mining and resources * health and biotech * creative and cultural * agrifood and wine.

The university will provide academic oversight and content, Pearson student support.

Uni Adelaide’s neighbour, University SA is already big in the on-line space, launching courses two years ago, (CMM September 5 2017).  However. the two appear to complement rather than compete. While Uni Adelaide says its new venture, will “contributing strongly to upskilling and reskilling the current workforce,Uni SA provides a range undergraduate degrees, with Commonwealth Supported Places.

The services that help VET students complete   

Government campaigns to attract young people to training is one thing, the challenge is to help them complete

New research from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research points to the importance of Group Training Organisations in helping apprentices and trainees.

GTOs employ apprentices/trainees and place them with employers, generally small and medium enterprises. But GTOs do more than manage the admin, they provide pastoral care and support that SMEs often don’t.

To assess the impact of such support Lisel O’Dwyer and Patrick Korbel compared completion rates at SMEs who employ via GTOs and those who manage for themselves. They found completion rates for apprentices and trainees employed by GTOs are “substantially higher” than those with SMEs. In the case of non-trade apprentices and trainees GTO completions are higher than for SMEs and large employers who manage their own people. However, GTOs had trade completion rates, “well below” large direct employers.

The NCVER authors report the main advantages of GTO employment/placement include security and correct rates of pay, support from field officers/mentors and experience with different employers and skills. Direct employers not familiar with GTOs suggest apprentices/trainees receive better train and are pushed harder when working in the workplace where they were hired.

Murdoch U is suing a staff member

The university’s management takes a stern view of critics

Last year Murdoch U  sued union officials over an article which it claimed included false and deceptive content. In the end the university dropped the case. Now, as widely reported, it makes a claim against one of its own academics, Gerd Schroder-Turk, for loss of income and reputation, following his going public with concerns about the English standards of some international students at the university.

This is not going down-well on social media. The National Tertiary Education Union is calling on the university, “to drop the legal action immediately.”

“Academic staff not only have the right, but also an obligation to the public to speak out about matters of importance to higher education, including to criticise their employers when necessary,” federal president Alison Barnes says.

And on Friday an on-line petition started, calling on the university to drop its case and for “a transparent inquiry” into the international student standard issues raised.  It had 1570 signatures last night.

Vic science tall popples in appointments, achievements

Fiona Haslem Mackenzie (UWA) joins the board of the WA Environmental Protection Authority.

The Victorian Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are announced, including

Anne Abbott – stroke prevention (Monash U).  YTP of the year, Lauren Ayton – eye disease (Uni Melbourne). Amir Cheema –wifi indoor navigation (Monash U). Heiko Dietrich – computational group theory (Monash U). Joseph Doyle – hepatitis C treatment uptake (Burnet Institute and Monash U). Kate Fox – patient-specific implants (RMIT). Michelle Hall – osteoarthritis (Uni Melbourne). Laura Jobson – post-traumatic stress disorder (Monash U).  Bartlomiej Kolodziejczyk – generating hydrogen (H2SG Energy). Daniel Edgington Mitchell – high-speed fluid flow (Monash U).  Joshua Ooi – autoimmune disease (Monash U).