On-line learning: what it will be worth

Uni Queensland assures students delivery will improve

“A shout out to our students for getting through week one on-line. We know there were challenges and frustrations. Our teachers and staff are committed to fixing these and improving your experience.” Uni Queensland message to students via Twitter, yesterday. Management will hope they hear it. Today is census date.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Chie Adachi (Deakin U) on  staying connected while social distancing – she has a MOOC on how to do it.

Kevin Bell wraps his series on on-line learning and teaching in crisis-time.

Merlin Crossley’s lab is working from home, here’s how it is going.

What private VET wants

ITECA calls on government to protect the sector that “does the heavy lifting” in VET

Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia says the sector enrols 80 per cent of the nation’s 4.1m VET students, and “will play a lead role in the economic recovery effort.”  Some of what ITECA wants is;

*  a 12-month freeze on tertiary and VET regulators ASQA and TEQSA starting some cost recovery from providers

* a year suspension on the fee students at private providers pay to access HECS-equivalent loans

* federal funding, “to ramp-up” on-line delivery

And then there’s one the public-system will like not at all;

* “allowing independent providers to access under-utilised TAFE facilities.”

Over the horizon supervision

Uni New England went big on remote exams in 2017 and has got bigger since

It uses software that allows a proctor to observe people sitting exams elsewhere. It’s a natural for distance ed-expert UNE, saving students and staff having to travel to exam-centres.  (CMM November 27 2017, September 21 2018).

And now it will be essential for exams in this time of social distancing.  Kylie Day and Jennifer Lawrence explain how UNE does it,  here.

QUT plans for the other side

Meanwhile in a once and (hopefully) future Australia QUT plans a restructure

VP Admin Leanne Harvey proposes to reorganise administrative services. Operating units with similar functions are now independent and this flat organisation structure “is problematic and not conductive to divisional efficiency.”

The proposal takes 14 independent units and combines them into eight portfolios. But what it does not involve is job losses.

“There are no proposed redundancies and all current fixed-term contracts will be honoured. The proposal is not about cost savings but building on the good work that has already been achieved in the division.”

They like restructures at QUT that stay out of the Fair Work Commission.

Murdoch U safety net for students

A joint statement (nice touch) from Provost Romy Lawson and Student Guild President Jethro Schoeman commits $2 million to an assistance fund for students effected by COVID-19 but not eligible for Commonwealth support

There is also money for a Student Guild foodbank, plus $100 data packs and “a limited supply” of laptops.

Plus because of the “considerable disruption” caused by COVID-19 first semester subject fails will not be recorded on transcripts or “negatively affect” grade point averages.

There’s a separate announcement of the same support, for international students (another nice touch) from DVC I Lyn Karstardt and Mr Schoeman.

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

Your content is online, what’s next?  Tip #5: Email students who aren’t logging into the LMS

Today’s online teaching tip is about reaching out to students who need an extra bit of support. You can make a difference in your students’ lives by sending this one simple email.

 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 four was in CMM yesterday.


Edith Cowan U student support

It includes a refund for parking by people who will not be parking

ECU announces a doubled study break, “to give you that little extra time to get on top of things,” plus assignment extensions up to 21 days and “ditching exams.” Plus, there’s an unspecified sum “severe hardship grant” and the university is “working very hard to source” more loan laptops.

The university is also charging students who no longer have in-person classes the off-campus rate student services fee. And it will refund first semester parking fees, “we understand that many of you may not need on-campus parking right now.”  Seems the least, the very least they can do.

Making the case for R&D (as in reform delayed) tax change

Long before COVID-19 had a name people were arguing about the R&D tax incentive. They probably still will be when there’s a vaccine

But Science and Technology Australia is keen to keep the high ground now, arguing R&D will be needed to reboot the recovery. Which is why new CEO Misha Schubert proposes any savings from the incentive should go to a new Research Translation Fund (like the MRFF but not for medicos).

STA also wants a 20 per cent “collaboration premium” for R&D collaborations with research institutes, universities or government agencies.

Labor signed up to half this idea before the last election, committing to a 10 per cent premium (CMM May 8 2019).

The government’s attempt to claw back savings from the research and development spend have gone nowhere for years and that is where they are widely expected stay if a Senate committee ever brings down a report on the latest legislation. A modest new research fund might turn out to be a price the government will end up paying to make some savings.

No injury payment for Qld postgrads

No matter how hard they work higher degree research students in Queensland universities are not workers

The state workers’ compensation regulator rules HDR research students are not workers unless contracted by universities to actually do stuff for them (CMM July 8 2019, CMM Jan 20 2020). It sets aside the Queensland Worker’s Compensation Regulator charging universities insurance payments for HDR students and four claims by students.

The ruling covers all Queensland unis, plus cross-border Southern Cross U.

Swinburne delays census and promises “a fantastic student experience”

Students “will have more time to adapt to studying online”

Census dates were March 31 and April 3 and now they are April 15. “We are confident that our experience delivering high-quality online education means you will be able to successfully transition to a new learning environment. We hope this decision will support you to continue your studies with that same confidence,” says VP students Andrew Smith.

But unless students withdraw by the 15th, they will owe the feds for their course costs. “We are confident our students will continue to receive a fantastic student experience, regardless of mode of study. We are not refunding or reducing fees,” the COVID-19 student FAQs state (as of 4pm yesterday).


ANU announces researcher support

Brian Schmidt announces help for “remote research and research supervision,” there’s some money as well

The vice chancellor says ANU has research admin in-place, there is a package for staff  to supervise research students remotely and candidates will have enrolments extended, “to make sure you have the time you need.”

As well as time, there is cash. “For HDR students who are on scholarships, these payments will continue as long as you remain enrolled,” (and meeting scholarship conditions) Professor Schmidt says.