Smile for the camera

UTS has advice for people being “virtually interviewed” for a job there. The tips aren’t remarkable (“check your internet connectivity”), that the university is still hiring is.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Leo Goedegebuure on why the NTEU national leadership is right to negotiate with uni managements.

Building collaborative learning communities with big ideas from Amanda White (UTS), Michael Sankey (Griffith U), David Kellerman (UNSW) and Bardo Fraunholz (Deakin U). Content supplied by Microsoft.

Claire Macken‘s pick of learning tech tools. A new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Policy mavens Marshman and Larkins on the three levers Government can pull to help unis.

The Australian Association of University Professors calls for a Senate inquiry into the higher educ crisis.

Free parks for some at Murdoch U

There’s free campus parking for healthcare workers at adjacent Fiona Stanley Hospital, but the university still wants to charge for it

Makes sense, most Murdoch U staff and students aren’t on campus. But management would still like employees to pay for the places they are not using. “We are also asking you to share in this spirit by maintaining your parking permit. … It will be a small gesture for some of WA’s unsung heroes doing a terrific job during this unprecedented health emergency.”
It’s not bad either for university management, which will keep collecting fees from staff who do not stop their payroll deductions for parking.

Unless, of course, Murdoch U intends to donate the parking revenue to the hospital.

Uni Melbourne backs down with a WAM

The university is less hard-line on first semester marks

Academic Board has resolved that due to the impact of COVID-19, first semester results will be excluded in the calculation of Weighted Average Marks, if they are lower than the WAM before this academic year and if students have not completed enough units to establish a benchmark. “Board has been considering this and has listened to the broad range of views shared with us and both acknowledge, and greatly appreciate, the diversity of perspectives of our student body,” a university statement announced yesterday.

However, all subject scores will appear on academic transcripts, with those not contributing to the WAM identified as COVID-19 exclusions.

“We believe this decision is in the best interests of all our students. We will continue to engage with our students as we navigate these challenging times together, the Academic Board states.

This is a biggish move from university management’s position a couple of weeks back, that; “the university will include percentage marks for subjects undertaken in Semester One in the calculation of WAMs using the existing method. We will closely monitor grade and percentage mark distributions after the completion of Semester 1 assessment and prior to the award of final grades,” (CMM April 9).

Next emergency

Raina Macintyre (UNSW) has $500 000 from the Medical Research Future Fund to research the impact of face masks on “respiratory outcomes.”

No, not in this crisis, in the summer fires.  Health Minister Greg Hunt, says the research, “will assist in planning for the next emergency.” And isn’t that something to look for

Cold hard cash for Antarctic research

The feds announce $56m for Monash U and U Tas

Education Minister Dan Tehan announces the Special Research Initiative in Excellence for Antarctic Science.  In what looks rather like a cooperative research centre, the new ARC initiative will receive $36m over seven years for Monash U and partners “to deliver unprecedented research capability.” There is a separate $20m over three years for the University of Tasmania and partners to research changes in the Antarctic and Southern Oceans, “and the impact they are having on the global climate system.”

The SRI appears to be picking up the sort of research the former Antarctic Climate and Eco-systems CRC used to conduct. The centre and its two predecessors were funded from 1991 to last year, way longer than the usual CRC ten-year max, (CMM October 8 2019).

COVID-19 student support

James Cook U will convert fail grades• to withdrawal without penalty and will not count them in GPAs. (• Did not exams or complete assessments, not included).

There is also a range of student support, including $400 cash for students who do not qualify for Government benefits and $2000 for “extreme hardship.”

Ending days for the ATAR

COVID-19 is an opportunity to end the uni admission score as now constructed  

Universities are announcing new and promoting existing alternative entry schemes, arguing the crisis makes the ATAR a variously unfair/impractical way to allocate undergraduate places.

David Curtis (Flinders U) argues the states will use different assessments and it is not possible in performance and placement based subjects.  And he suggests schools hold information on years of individuals’ achievements, which “can be aggregated help build a valid ATAR”.

“In general, the more information that is used to assign a grade, the more reliable is that grade. Schools’ records of student achievement are based on teachers’ judgments of student performance. We should not be concerned about this; we must take the view that the aggregate judgments of experienced and competent professionals are legitimate assessments of student capability.”


Jodieann Daw is to join Uni SA as director of research and innovation. She moves from Flinders U where she managed research development and support. Prior to that she was research and engagement head at the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

On-line ideas for teaching engineering, science and tech

This is the fifth in a series by Steve Mackay and Edwina Ross (Engineering Institute of Technology)

 Do it in teams: One of the greatest advances in education over the past decade is collaborative learning. Capstone projects in teams are regarded highly by engineering regulators.

Successful learning can occur when activities are: * performed in a group collaboratively * undertaken in a project setting * based on authentic real work activities.

This can be achieved as successfully by virtual teams :  Instead of meeting face-to-face the teams can remain geographically scattered, using telecommunications-based technologies, often in an asynchronous manner. Virtual collaborative learning will occur when two or more people work together on an educational project using computers (and the internet) as the interface.

Advantages include: * increased understanding and better retention of course materials compared with a classroom session * appreciation of the opinions and analyses of others * higher level of critical thinking, analysis and assessment when working together on a problem involving conflict resolution * higher motivation for learning when part of a group * lower attrition in on-line learning.

Some disadvantages are: * unequal contributions from different members * team instability in the early part of the term, as class enrolment can fluctuate * leadership issues.

Typical activities in a virtual collaborative group: * analysing case studies * working on an engineering design * discussion/debates with synchronous/asynchronous tools * creating and maintaining communities of practice.

Suggestions for facilitating a virtual team: * focus on specific cases with a possibility of real results * team members have a range of skill sets * simplify projects * effective comms tool * equal workloads * quieten dictatorial team leaders * ensure all members participate fully