TEQSA’s minions

Who knew ! Kevin, Stuart and Bob are HE regulators

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency tweets congratulations to HE providers for keeping the agency informed of their actions in these pestilent times. Good-o, but why use video of the Minions to do it? Perhaps, as a learned reader remarks, because Minions are easier to understand than TEQSA missives.

Here we will soon go again

Unions and management at Uni New England urge staff to endorse the proposed enterprise agreement, the final negotiation in the seventh cycle of Juliard enterprise bargaining

While the Fair Work Commission has the power to knock-back the few agreements it is yet to approve short of such VC-union officials’ heads-exploding event it is all over.

But lovers of the Jacobean tragedy that is bargaining need not despair. A first mention of “creeping casualisation” as a big issue in round eight is heard at ANU, where bargaining starts next year, (CMM February 20).

Uni Adelaide law reform for the way the world is

A team is methodically working through state laws of, and for, another age

The South Australian Law Reform Institute (based in the Uni Adelaide Law Schoolreports on the state’s forfeiture rule, which prevents an “unlawful killer” profiting from their crime, by inheritance, for example.

“The rule may produce particularly unfair consequences in the context of family or domestic violence, where the typically (though not inevitably) female victim of such violence kills an abusive spouse and is convicted of manslaughter.”

SALRI has previously reported to government on laws applying to family inheritance, LGBTQI discrimination and surrogacy, (CMM April 18 2019).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Michael Sankey (Griffith U) on what you need to know about  teaching on-line in the present crisis. It follows his essay on why teaching on-line isn’t rocket science, but it is different to face-to-face.

Plus Sean Brawley (Macquarie U) on when we were here before: Australian unis and the Spanish Flu.

And Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the need for stupidity in science research.

What’s the time Professor Wolf?

It depends where lecturers and students are

Troy Heffernan (La Trobe U) reports (via Twitter) he is teaching on-line and recommends everybody checks their watches (ok, phones). His timetable is Australian Eastern Daylight Time but some students were anticipating clocks going back to AEST. There’s more to teaching on-line than whizz-bang tech.

Claire Field on e-learning from the present crisis

Don’t despair – there is a big upheaval coming but there are a lot of potential positives


By Claire Field

A quick comment from me this week as I prepare to do what a number of universities and other tertiary education institutions are doing – switching from face-to-face offerings to fully online.

In my case, it’s the experience of moving a traditional conference with 100+ senior VET leaders, government officials and EdTech entrepreneurs into a virtual offering within a matter of four days.

Unfortunately, after the government’s announcement on Friday too many delegates and speakers were prevented from travelling or attending even smaller events (as institutions move proactively to keep staff safe).

My experience is a microcosm of the experiences tertiary institutions are planning for and executing on. I am enormously lucky that things are on track thanks to a very generous offer to help (and the requisite technical expertise) from Kerri Buttery at VETNexus.

In the next few months all institutions will need help to pivot to a fully on-line offering and while that may seem overwhelming (and the times generally seem gloomy) – it is not all bad news.

One of the conference speakers is Dutch EdTech entrepreneur, Rene Persoon, from aNewSpring. We caught up (with appropriate social distancing) in Sydney yesterday and with Europe ahead of Australia in terms of people being forced to self-isolate and educational institutions therefore delivering on-line – he shared the following:

*  a small number of their clients (VET providers) have suffered and had to close down their operations.

* others are significantly massively expanding their operations to meet the on-line learning needs of people stuck at home and bored with playing PlayStation or watching Netflix.

* on-line education is improving educational outcomes. In The Netherlands they are seeing school students learning as much in two hours of well-developed online learning as they would in a day in a normal classroom.

So don’t despair – there is a big upheaval coming but there are a lot of potential positives.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education

Will they get what they think they should pay for

Census date is nearly upon local students, who have to decide to withdraw or stay in study and incur HECS-HELP debt for the semester

Students are increasingly antsy about staying on at the (fast diminishing) universities running in-person classes. Universities need them to stay – the feds only pay for enrolments at census date.

But what of people who stay in courses that are only available on-line and find what they get is not to a standard they think they should be getting. Sorry, just asking – no idea, what will happen.

COVID 19: the new decisions

Western Sydney U steps-up for sessionals

WSU was COVID-19 free lunchtime yesterday but VC Barney Glover is making ready, just in case.

He wrote to casual academic staff to assure them that if the hours they are employed to work “are impacted” they will be paid for them. While the university will allow them to work from home the pay-commitment also covers their being ill/self-isolated with the virus. They also can access ten days COVID-19 carers leave.

Uni Sydney escalates response

Face to face teaching (ex clinical placements) will end for the semester on Monday with staff being encouraged to work from home. While working on campus is safe “we are taking all necessary steps to reduce the number of students and staff required to,” Vice Chancellor Michael Spence says.  “Remote working arrangements may be required for some time.”

Right time: Macquarie U stops teaching for the week

This is to provide enough hours, “to transition to the on-line delivery of lectures and seminars as feasible” so teaching can re-start Monday week. As for units which can’t be taught thus, “it will allow us to re-design campus-based delivery.” The Easter break (April 13-April 26) will now, “be part of the normal academic teaching period,” (ex Easter Monday). VC S Bruce Dowton tells staff that these and other working from homes measures are, “to support the efforts of slowing community transition” of COVID-19.

This was all well-timed – an MU student tested positive for the virus yesterday

While the university is encouraging working from home Professor Dowton adds M U is still open, “I reiterate the advice from NSW Health is that it is safe to attend campus.”

To all of which business dean Stephen Brammer added that people had strong preferences both for working from home and on campus and that it was up to individuals. However, “my counsel is that as far as is practical we all work remotely,” he said.

Deakin U pauses on-campus teaching

Tuesday afternoon Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told staff campus classes are off from today until Monday week, “to meet the revised social distancing requirements” governments have introduced. All classes will continue “at our cloud campus.”

All mundanely physical campuses are open, mind, and this is “a temporary stop to campus teaching.”

Professor Martin added, “to be clear, none of the changes results from any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Deakin community or because we have identified any new risk.”

ACU will teach-out this week, but that’s it to March 30 – when some campus classes will be back

This means mid-semester break is next week, not April 13-17, as scheduled. During the down-time the university will “work to adapt” campus-based courses for on-line teaching and distribute protocols for “social distancing” for units that require students to be on campus.

Vice Chancellor Greg Graven makes it plain that all Australian Catholic University campuses are open, next week and when classes resume.

Life as they know it (sort of) at Uni Melbourne

Technology-enabled channels” replace face-to-face lectures for classes with 500 plus people as of this morning. Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell tells staff all classes above 25 students will be via “alternate delivery methods” by Monday. However, “tutorials in small groups” will continue. “We will enable these in a range of ways, for example, by using larger spaces to allow for social distancing and interactive technology”.

And campus-life continues, “we will support the continuation of informal group interactions for students on campus in larger areas. The university libraries will remain open, with changes to the density of seating where possible and additional cleaning services.”

In a message yesterday the Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning also encouraged staff to work on campus. “Unless you meet any of the (Vic Health) self-isolation criteria there is no reason for you not to attend work.”

The university is providing paid leave for fixed-term and continuing staff who have to self-isolate or are ill with COVID 19, separate to their personal and sick leave. Casuals will also be paid for hours they were scheduled to work but cannot in those circumstances. But that’s it on emergency leave for now, as a complete campus shut-down is not being discussed.

Help for the flummoxed

On-line course creator Epigeum is  offering two courses open-access. They are “the nuts and bolts” Teaching On-line and Blended Learning – models/approaches and “fostering a blended learning culture”.

UNSW has a second COVID-19 case but is still live on-campus

A student on campus last Monday evening has tested positive, with students in the class contacted. This case appears to be separate from the person who was not contagious on campus (CMM Monday). UNSW says campus is still open, “on advice of NSW Health.” However, it is “minimising face-to-face contact” with on-line classes and remote working. Such measures are in place “at least” until Easter.

As is Uni Southern Queensland

The campus is open but April-May graduations are off, with no new date announced. The university assures students they, will be able to complete courses this semester, including those who are self-isolated. “USQ has a very strong tradition of on-line and flexible learning options,” Vice Chancellor Geraldine Mackenzie says.

She is too modest USQ was teaching on-line when universities now upscaling had staff to help with lecture-theatre projectors.

UTS will be back, despite a confirmed case

A student who has tested positive was in class last Thursday. UTS says 27 students and a staffer are advised this means they must self-quarantine. The good news is that the university had already “paused” teaching this week, to transform face-to-face classes into “modes that support social distancing.”

UTS is adamant that the campus remains open, and that on NSW Health advice, classes start again on Tuesday.

Griffith U is also open

Large lectures (300 students) are already only on-line with all others to follow by Monday. The university will also switch to “remote/on-line” delivery for tutorials/workshops when classes resume from mid-semester break, on April 14. It is also preparing for on-line assessment if end-trimester exams can’t occur on campus.

But despite reports that GU had a campus COVID-19 case, it is not on the hook, at least not yet. Yes, a sessional law academic is infected but the university says he contracted it after he was last on campus.

Quarantining from the top down at James Cook U

Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding is in self-quarantine following a Friday meeting with Nationals senator Susan McDonald. Townsville based Senator McDonald was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday. Professor Harding is advised to be symptom-free fine but on Queensland Health advice will lead the university from home for two weeks.

Uni Notre Dame Australia has issued a 975-word staff statement

It tells staff that campuses are open (although this might end up being only on-line) and that “we must continue to be kind and supportive of each other.” And if staff want to know what is changing, check the website. That was pretty much the substance. Persons of few words they aren’t at UNDA