On silent

Monash U students taking supervised on-line exams are allowed toilet breaks but they, “will be asked to leave their phone visible in front of the camera.”. Good thing, says CMM’s Breaking Bad correspondent, that none would ever dream of stashing a second mobile in the dunny.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

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 on extraordinary examples of learning tech tools. A new essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in learning and teaching.

The Australian Association of University Professors  calls for a Senate inquiry into the mess universities are in and how to get them out.

Plus, Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins  on the three policy levers Canberra can pull to help universities recover from the COVID-19 crisis

And  how to teach molecular biology from home, Crossley Lab style.

Supportive silence for TEQSA

People grumble about the regulator, just not in public

The federal audit agency’s report, released late Thursday was not scathing about the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency but it did point to a bunch things it could do better.

To which the HE community responded by not responding.  As of this morning only the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia has expressed an opinion; noting some of TEQSA’s failings the audit identified but overall suggesting TEQSA is, “a good regulator and one that is positively engaged with the independent tertiary education sector.

“ITECA members are largely comfortable with the approach of TEQSA to its compliance activity and there is a shared belief that it is the best of the four regulators in the tertiary education sector across Australia.”

CMM is taking the silence of generally vocal lobbies as concurrence.

COVID-19 student support

Deakin U reports it has 4800 applications for its hardship support fund (4000 internationals, 800 locals). That will make a dent in the $25m the university allocated to helping students in strife.

Charles Sturt U announces $500 support payments for FT students (pro-rata for PT), who have “incurred additional study-related expenses”.

New Linkage Grants

It’s a good thing the world always awaits ARC grant announcements, otherwise the latest Linkage round might have been missed

Education Minister Tehan announced the latest 25 awards 3.30pm Friday. UNSW has seven, Monash U five, Uni Queensland four and Uni Sydney three.

Research especially suited for the times include, a dry powder inhaler for the treatment of respiratory diseases, which affect 6.2m Australians (Monash U).

A Uni Sydney – construction unions super fund will research why people don’t save enough while working and don’t spend enough when retired.

Taken to the cleaners

Universities are saving money where they can – including on cleaning costs

Which can mean less work for contractors’ casual staff, who, learned readers point out, include students – international students.

Murdoch U abolishes DVC International

Lyn Karstadt leaves on Friday

“I have taken the difficult decision that the role of DVC International is no longer required in the context of the significant impact of COVID-19,” Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen told staff Friday.

Professor Karstadt, “has been instrumental in putting in place strong foundations for our international recruitment and promoted further development of the transnational education portfolio and our advancement activities so they can continue to flourish into the future,” the VC said.

TNE staff will now report the provost, Romy Lawson.

Overblown exam over-sight

Monash U relaxes on exam and assessments

“It’s our education and research quality which attracts our students to study with us. We are working to ensure your degree is still delivered to the highest standard of academic integrity,” DVC E Susan Elliott tells students.

She then sets out a range of changes to suit the times.

withdrawal: students can now withdraw from a unit after the exam, so no fail grades appears on academic transcripts or counts to the grade point average/weighted average mark

no invigilated exams: unless required to “ensure academic integrity

on-line exam supervision: using external overseers is off and using Monash U staff is on, with student details and event-recording kept secure.

Uni Queensland students want no external oversight of on-line exams

The student union is unhappy with the way private provider Proctor U wants to monitor people sitting remote exams, using the camera in students’ computers and recording bibliometric data. According to the union, Proctor U will retain the data.

“We understand that these are unprecedented and difficult times, and that academic integrity is an important concern for both the university and UQU. However, filming students in their homes and allowing third party corporations to store and commodify their personal data crosses the line


Uni SA, commits to “preserving employment”

Vice Chancellor David Lloyd sets out the COVID-19 situation and tells staff, “we’ve got this”

 Bad news but not for jobs: The University of South Australia is projecting COVID-19 revenue losses through to end 2021 ranging from $30, to $120m this year, compounding next. However, Professor Lloyd assured staff Friday, “we are committed to preserving employment levels in the university as our highest priority.”  He adds that although he is taking a 20 per cent pay cut and his senior staff 10 per cent, “at this time we are not seeking to reduce anyone else’s salary.”

Yes, staff savings: “could further assist in balancing our books, while still preserving our employment levels.” They could include “pausing” salary increment rises, reducing the university’s leave liabilities and “in the worst of worst cases” reduced FTE fractions.

But everybody gets a say: “Should we ever need to implement those measures, it will only be following frank and open conversation and consultation among us all, and a collective decision to progress those changes which are necessary to preserve employment in the organisation.”

And discussions would start from a better place than many: Professor Lloyd outlines savings that can be made but adds there is no big capex, nil debt, “good” domestic enrolments and “a diversified international student cohort” both, “the best we have ever had.” “This doesn’t confer immunity on us from revenue losses, it just positions us to weather them differently from some other institutions,” he says,

Lloyds take:  The vice chancellor warns he still might have to do what other vice chancellors are doing and, “write formally to staff (to) foreshadow significant interventions and downturn. I could easily pen such a letter to our community. But he adds;

“In my Zoom meetings, I have a backdrop snapshot of the giant boulder rolling down the ramp towards Indiana Jones, a still image grabbed from Raiders. It sits over my shoulder rolling towards the camera’s perspective. I call it the COVID-19 boulder. Spoiler alert. It’s outrun. We’ve got this.”

New on-line teaching ideas for engineering, science and tech

Today’s are the  fourth in a series by Steve Mackay and Edwina Ross (Engineering Institute of Technology)

Virtual touchy feely is best with remote online labs

Experiential learning – or hands-on education – is one of the most optimal ways of gaining engineering expertise; online learning, therefore, must accommodate it. The ongoing virtualisation of instruments (e.g. oscilloscopes and signal generators controlled and viewed from PCs or tablets) is the key – the impetus for using remote labs. For example, it is common for mining trucks and plant equipment to be controlled remotely; this illustrates that virtualisation of work and equipment is growing apace.

Some traditional teachers of engineering remain sceptical; they suggest that remote labs lack authentic, hands-on work. Despite this, learners find a well-constructed remote lab (with a simple interface) useful and equivalent to a traditional lab.

Pointers for successful remote labs: * build them with a clear understanding that there will be multiple users * employ a scheduling system for the lab users – this can assist with system overload, * reduce system response times – they should remain below 150 milliseconds, * aim for “reality” – with an easy-to-use graphical user interface * use good lighting, * ensure teachers are well-trained and supportive, *encourage students to reuse labs to improve results * use lab work as part of a student’s final grade.

Design principles for the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for remote labs: * keep it simple and intuitive, * aim for authenticity, * ensure multiple users can work together, * enable a student to interface with a standard computer (preferably within a browser) with minimal software add-ons, * ensure the GUI displays key information swiftly, *use plain English, * have a quick exit option from unwanted menu selections, * standardise interfaces and make them consistent, * do not make the steps, within the GUI, necessary to remember, *simplify and clarify error messages.

Overall design considerations: *experiment type: how will the architecture impact on the experiment; multiple users and queuing issues? *scalability: how will the system cope when the number of users peaks? * maintainability: does it integrate easily into the overall IT services/systems? * security: has this been a key part of the design and are secure communication protocols supported? * dependence on protocols: does the architecture require a specific protocol?


More here .