No harm done

Uni SA advises that a burst water pipe has led to the relocation of an exhibition  of “immersive screen-based art works.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

As the great and the good assemble for the Universities Australia conference Maree Meredith (Uni Canberra) calls on university communities to speak up on the Voice to Parliament HERE

plus Claire Macken from RMIT Vietnam and colleagues, explain why campus buzzes seven days a week

with Sandhya Maranna (Uni SA) and colleagues, who set out the top five enablers and barriers for on-line educators. New in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed now in learning and teaching.

The burden of bureaucracy on paying casuals

At Senate Estimates last week Rachel Volzke from the Fair Work Ombudsman mentioned the way universities manage paying casual academics; “across the university sector, there did seem to be a culture of divesting responsibility for payments, recording of hours et cetera without central regulation and oversight of payment methods as well,” HERE 

Work University of Sydney has done on its systems rather makes her general point.

Last year the university announced workshops and surveys, “to get a clearer understanding of current practices and procedures for the engagement, work allocation, supervision and payment of casual academics staff.”

Provost AnnaMarie Jagose explained the need thus (CMM October 18 2022),

“the individual teaching approach of each faculty, school or discipline, and the devolved nature of work classification and allocation across the university means, however, that local practises have varied historically. Different interpretations have been taken to the application of the Enterprise Agreement, potentially resulting in inconsistency in local guidance, timesheet completion or payment errors.”

What the uni did

The university tells CMM that there was “feedback” from over 70 school and faculty/workshops, and “we’re making improvements to our processes for allocating and documenting casual academic work and for reconciling timesheets.”

And what it wants to happen

“We want to free academic staff from some of the administrative responsibilities and give them more time to focus on teaching and research – by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of academic and professional staff in engagement and payment matters, and providing more administrative support,” a Uni Sydney spokesperson said yesterday.

The new approach will be piloted in the arts and science faculties from March.

And there’s more!

The university is developing guidelines “to support consistent practice around the engagement and remuneration of casual academic staff across the university, in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement.”

“If any practices are subsequently identified that have resulted in payment errors to casual academic staff, they will be addressed and remediation payments made.”

Good-o, except

The (now expired) but still in place Enterprise Agreement was adopted in 2018 – which rather suggests all the work now underway should have been done before now, probably long before then.

Quite a few words

The reference group appointed by Education Minister Jason Clare to be “a sounding board and source of advice” to the Universities Accord team meets with the minister today

And a marathon it will be if all of the 13 individuals and representatives of 20 organisations (CMM December 15 2022) are intent on saying a few words.

Edith Cowan U starts going to town

Work starts on its Perth CBD campus site 

The project is part of the Perth City Deal, a state-federal programme that dates from the days of PM Turnbull (Turnbull? oh come-on, you remember Malcolm the urbane). Originally the deal also included Murdoch U – but MU bailed last year, on its 2020 plan for an international college with 10 000 staff and students, stating that it would focus on a big development (CMM June 22 2022) on its campus, across the river from the city,(CMM June 22 2022), which opened last week.

Still ECU’s city-digs will be a deal indeed – including business and law, arts and humanities and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, now at the Mount Lawley campus.

Sounds a snip for $853m in Commonwealth, State and university funding, – but not quite the snip it was. The original cost was $695m (CMM November 18 2020, March 21 2022).

RMIT invests in air-superiority

It announces 24 “brand new aircraft” join its existing wing to support “demand for global aviation workforce skills and training”

RMIT also announces partnerships with Vietnam Airlines and VietJet to “upskill pilots” at its Bendigo Airport base.

It claims to have Australia’s largest university air-wing, including a Super Decatholon  “aerobatic aircraft” – presumably for days when pilots get bored straightening up and flying right.


Curtin U loses staff vote

Question is what it will do next

Curtin U management has not announced the actual vote on its proposed enterprise agreement offer (CMM yesterday). But Provost Jeremy Kilburn and COO Fiona Notley did tell staff  “that a majority of our employees who voted did not approve the proposed new agreement.”

How big a majority will not be known for a week – which means management have an opportunity to think what to do next. If the vote was close, they could have another go at putting an agreement to staff, without union endorsement. It has been known to happen – just not successfully in recent years – Victoria U staff voting twice knocked back management offers opposed by the union (CMM  February 20 2019).

But if not, it is back to bargaining over pay and conditions with the National Tertiary Education  Union.

All the university would tell CMM yesterday was, “Curtin respects the voice of its staff and will carefully consider the result and the broader considerations before determining next steps.”


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

Perspective Chapter: The Learning Management System of 2028 and How we Start Planning for this Now from Higher Education – Reflections from the Field

With the myriad changes looming in the ed tech space, this insightful piece of crystal-ball gazing from Michael Sankey (Charles Darwin U) and Stephen Marshall (Victoria U of Wellington) about the current and likely future states of the LMS is well worth your time. The authors follow the steady progress of the LMS from single source of learning to the heart of a complex ed tech ecosystem. Along the way they raise interesting ideas about whether the future may look more like MS Teams or Slack (I’m unconvinced for now) and touch on necessary changes to teaching practice wrought by AI that these systems will need to accommodate.


From Cognitive Load Theory to Collaborative Cognitive Load Theory from International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning

I stumbled up this 2018 article recently and with the discussion of “cognitive offloading” and the need for new approaches to assessment that is occurring in the AI space, it seems like something worth revisiting. Kirschner et al. expand previous work on cognitive load in learners to collaborative learning activities, seeking to understand why some collaborative activities succeed while others fail. Broadly, they find that the transactional nature of collaborative learning and group dynamics should be considered in designing these kinds of tasks.


Australian privacy reform moves forward with new government report from International Association of Privacy Professionals

Privacy in education is often discussed more in principle than practice but it is worth being aware that the Australian government is currently reviewing the 1988 Privacy Act and institutions and individual educators will need to consider how they treat student data once the work is done. A closer alignment with the very user-centred EU GDPR model, which gives people rights to have their information deleted from databases, appears likely.


Is ChatGPT Smarter than a Student in Principles of Economics? From SSRN

Another day, another test of GenAI tools to see whether they could technically qualify as professional practitioners. This time we see ChatGPT making it into the 99th percentile for macroeconomists via the US Test of Understanding in College Economics.


The two ‘AIs’ – academic integrity and artificial intelligence – Webinar Thurs 23rd Feb, 12 noon AEDT from ASCILITE TELedvisors Network

Following on from the wildly popular AI (ChatGPT) Future webinar in early Feb, the TELedvisors Network presents another in the series, with a stronger focus on assessment and academic integrity questions. Alex Sims from Uni Auckland Business School explores these key issues in the first half, with an open discussion in the second.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 at CIT, ANU, Swinburne University and Monash University. He is also one of the leaders of the ASCILITE TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner (or @[email protected] on Mastodon)


Mark Harris will become head of Uni Adelaide’s humanities school, in May. He will join from University of St Andrews, in Scotland.

 David Peetz (recently retired from Griffith U) becomes Distinguished Research Fellow at the Centre for Future Work’s Carmichael Centre