On the on-line front-line

Use of video conferencing product ZOOM isn’t roaring ahead at every university as staff and students new to it start

On-line tech types at unis from Adelaide to the east Coast report waves of “it’s not working” messages, when often it is. As Uni Newcastle VC Alex Zelinsky tactfully suggested to staff yesterday, “Given the demand on the IT teams at present, it will be helpful to all if you seek to be as self-sufficient as you can in resolving IT matters.”

Turn off vid sharing from students, mute microphones when not speaking, close big bandwidth apps and read instructions on updates, experts advise.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Kevin Bell’s “on-line teaching in a crisis: why it works,” it’s part two in his series. Part One is here.

Plus, Amanda White (UTS) on dealing with contract cheating in COVID-19 time.

And Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle) and Nicole Crawford (Curtin U and Uni Tasmania) on three essentials in the move on-line

As well as forgetting Tim Winkler’s new rules of engagement for domestic student recruitment


Shine wants a light on COVID-19 data

The Australian Academy of Science wants the data driving government policy made public

Academy president John Shine says the evidence shaping decisions should be released so, “the scientific know-how of the nation can be brought to bear.”

“While Australian governments have correctly been listening to and acting on the advice of health and medical professions and rightly taking into account the economic impact of their actions, more could be done by publishing the data and evidence underpinning their response.”

Professor Shine adds “Australia must make full use of leading scientists’ expertise to deepen our understanding of COVID-19 and to sharpen our response.”

Where research applications are, and aren’t, flexible

The ARC is sticking to its grant schedule, other organisations are flexible

Like the National Health and Medical Research Council. In a high EQ message to researchers, CEO Anne Kelso sets out the implications of application extensions, changes to peer review process and acknowledges COVID-19’s different impacts on the research community.

Professor Kelso also outlines the big challenge for peer-review if funding applications are extended, reduce process time or take out steps in assessment. Professor Kelso acknowledges, “strong views across the sector,” and says the NHMRC “will do our best” to take them into account.

The Australian Academy of the Humanities also extended 2020 grants and award application deadlines, from April 20 to June 5. So, has the Eureka Prizes organisers, by two weeks, until May 15.

In contrast, the Australian Research Council has now twice stated it is sticking to schedule. “At this stage, we are not moving to longer or blanket extensions because of the cumulative impact this will have on the necessary peer review processes and being able to commence funding in the future,” (CMM Tuesday).

The ARC made the point again yesterday, tweeting that Linkage infrastructure grant apps, (LIEF) are due Wednesday and that anybody who wants a COVID-19 extension, “can contact their grants office for assistance.”

Alex Zelinsky thanks staff at the sharp-end

The Uni Newcastle VC acknowledges the people turning up for work on campus

“While some staff – academic and professional – are working from home, I also want to acknowledge those of you who continue, given the nature of your roles, to engage face-to-face with students. Not all students have their own computer or unlimited WiFi and will continue to use our libraries, which remain open as study hubs, and support our campus cafes, which are providing takeaway services.” Correct response.

Dawn Gilmore’s on-line learning tip of the day

The second in a CMM series

“Your content is online, what’s next? Tip #2: Tell students about their first webinar

Peak your students’ interests by telling them about your webinars in advance.  Here’s what they’ll want to know.”

Dr Gilmore is Director, Teaching and Learning at RMIT Online. She has a masters in education design from Uni Pennsylvania and a PhD in on-line learning from Swinburne U. Tip One was in CMM yesterday.

Remembrance of Monash U past

The architects of the university’s new chancellery have a smic indeed presentation about the building

And very nice it appears to, but the chancellery does rather look like an edifice from another-age, when money was not all that much of an object and the university was keen to display its wealth and sophistication. If not geography; “Monash’s new chancellery is a ceremonial front door for the Clayton campus,” the presentation announces.   Good-o, but as learned readers advise, it’s actually well inside campus and not all that easy for outsiders to find.

ANU shuts down Monday

It, “will still operate as the nation’s university, but likely not from our campus,” says Brian Schmidt 

As of this morning most staff are not on campus, except for some very limited and select cases and from Monday, “all teaching will be remote”.

““ANU medical experts are clear: to control the spread of COVID-19 we must take tough action to reduce the number of interactions on our campus, and take it now. And that is what we are doing,” Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt says.

The only people working on campus are in payments and payroll, security and research infrastructure. Childcare centres remain open until government decides they should not be, as do student residences.

The shutdown is in place until June 27.  “Staff will continue to be paid as per usual arrangements,” (or previous announcements).

No sneezing in the stacks

Buried in the prime minister’s Tuesday night announcement was a ban on libraries opening

But he did he mean university libraries? UTS, Uni Sydney, Macquarie U and La Trobe U appear to think so, announcing last night their physical libraries were going dark.

However, the University of Wollongong argues, “unlike community libraries, which are widely used as gathering spaces, university libraries are considered critical infrastructure supporting research and education. UOW Libraries will remain open, with appropriate social distancing arrangements implemented in library workplaces and visitor areas.”

“As well as visiting students and academics, library staff will continue to have access to the building so they can continue their essential work supporting faculties as they prepare for remote course delivery and supporting students’ learning needs.

Private HE wants help moving courses on-line

Gosh, who could they be thinking about?

“No members have ceased to operate and we have no evidence of any providers being faced with critical circumstances or considering closure,” Independent Higher Education Australia’s Simon Finn says.

However, IHEA says members need financial support, “for rapid capacity building so that course materials can be quickly adapted for quality online delivery.”

And they need “timely access to online platforms so that they can urgently up-skill teaching and support staff to manage these platforms.”

Anything in mind? “Open Universities Australia is an example of an established platform provider that is well placed to minimise disruption for all higher education students through sector-wide access.”

The first four student support services needed on-line

“Now is the time to throw our students a life raft”

Ben Hallett from peer tutoring programme provider (and CMM advertiser) Vygo suggests priorities;

* advisory staff: “to help students cut through the information noise and give them the confidence that they will be listened”

* mental health and wellbeing: “to help students cope with the new wave of stress”

* academic support: “so students have the tools they need to thrive off-campus and they feel the institution has not cut their offering to them”

* peer support: “so students still feel tied to their institution. … The more personalised (faculty, gender, language, interests) the better”

TEQSA’s time to prepare audit response

Anthony McClaran has left the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (back to the UK to be a VC)

The agency advises, “arrangements are being finalised for Chief Commissioner Nicholas Saunders to act as CEO.

Hopefully they will in-place by the time the Australian National Audit Office releases its report on the agency. Which should not be hard.  The ANAO planned to table the report in April but with parliament not back until August, Professor Saunders, or the new CEO has ample time to get TEQSA’s response straight.

COVID-19 wrap: new moves

The majority of Uni Newcastle courses are now being delivered on remote

Full study from home expected to be in-place Monday.

La Trobe U tells staff working from home is now “the default”

The arrangement applies from Friday, until further notice. The only exceptions are “essential” on-site staff, people who need to be on campus to teach on-line and designated researchers.

In NSW, the Universities Admission Centre is preparing for student services on the other side

Applications for courses starting in the next two semesters open on schedule April 1. “Special arrangements” for Y12 students will be announced over weeks/months, “to ensure no student is disadvantaged in relation to university entry in 2021.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre is compiling an inventory of resources

“As the situation develops, there may be a need for the goods you manufacture, the supplies you hold or the skills you have to be called upon.” The register is

here.  The AMGC is one of the federal government’s Industry Growth Centres, which “drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness.”

The launch of the Australian Catholic U, Deakin U school principal occupational health survey for 2019 is postponed to a date to be fixed

CMM imagines partner organisations have a bit on just now.