Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Supporting new tertiary teachers

Recommendations for improving teaching by early career academics were discussed at the Australian National University Teaching & Learning Forum, 16 October 2009. The ANU has conducted a survey on issue with Early Career Academics (ECAs) and made recommendations (results are available to staff). Much of this would be applicable more widely for teaching at other universities.

One result I found interesting was that only 36% of the ECAs were full time staff. The others are sessional, part time and "other". The result is that many programs designed to help new staff, such as induction training, are not available to the people they are intended for. This will become more of an issue as more flexible and online courses are introduced. In some cases the teacher may never be on the campus during office hours when support is available, or may never be on campus at all.

The obvious way to address this issue is with programs which use similar technologies and resources to the online students. That is the resources should be available online, supplemented by on campus facilities.

Other issues are the tension between teaching and research at the university. There is a danger in overly rigid procedures for teaching, as to some extent, it has to be lead by the research to get the benefits of the unviersity environment.

ANU has an innovative approach in this area by emphasising research in support of teaching, so that they complement, rather than compete.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Teaching by early career academics

Recommendations for improving teaching by early career academics will be discussed at the ANU Teaching & Learning Forum, 16 October 2009, 12:30-2:00pm, Room R214, Ian Ross Building, Bldg 31, the Australian National University. This event is free, but for catering purposes, please RSVP to srinivas.chemboli@anu.edu.au by Wednesday 14 October.

It would seem, to me, to be an ideal time to think about the needs of early career academics, as they will be teaching in a very different environment to that which exists now. The ANU has introduced its Wattle e-learning system and flexible courses (such as COMP7310). It is likely that conventional face to face large scale lectures will begin to be phased out during 2010 and be all but obsolete by 2011. New academics will need to learn techniques for designing online teaching materials and how to tutor online, as this will be the standard educational technique for most courses. Many courses will retain small group face to face tutorials and lab work, but these may also require new techniques for the use of "blended" mode teaching, where computers are used in the classroom.

2009 ECA Survey: Recommendations

  1. That a structured induction program be available to ECAs in each semester.
  2. That all ECAs receive an ANU induction kit containing information common across all Colleges.
  3. That a central website be created to coordinate all ECA-related activities throughout various Schools and Colleges.
  4. That ANU actively promote a culture of acceptance of ECAs.
  5. That a local area mentor be appointed for each ECA.
  6. That training programs be offered to ECAs for enhancing their teaching practice and professional development.
  7. That roles and responsibilities of the ECA be clearly defined.
  8. That course budgets be based on realistic estimates of ECA workload, and that mechanisms be available to resolve discrepancies between planned hours and actual hours of work.
  9. That entry and exit interviews for ECAs be held in all Colleges.

Friday 16 October 2009
R214 Ian Ross Building (Bld 31), North Rd.

This teaching forum will discuss the outcomes of the SIDECARS ECA Survey and subsequent Official Report. It will examine the nine recommendations and consider how these could be adopted across the ANU.

More information about the research, including the major findings from this survey and the Official Report to the Vice Chancellor can be found at: http://alliance.anu.edu.au/autoreg/sidecars

For catering purposes, please RSVP to srinivas.chemboli@anu.edu.au by Wednesday 14 October.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Teaching Computer-Mediated Communication for Governance

At the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group on Wednesday we discussed what was required for a learning management system (LMS). What quickly became apparent was that selecting an LMS should be treated like other requirements analysis for an ICT system. Rather than start with a shopping list of features found in typical LMS, we should work out what the learning objectives are, the appropriate learning styles for that learning and then how ICT can support it.

LMS can have document creation and document/record management facilities, person to person and person to group communication, meeting management, assessment management and course delivery features. What many of these have in common is computer-mediated communication (CMC):
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is defined as any communicative transaction which occurs through the use of two or more networked computers.[1] While the term has traditionally referred to those communications that occur via computer-mediated formats (i.e., instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms) it has also been applied to other forms of text-based interaction such as text messaging. [2] Research on CMC focuses largely on the social effects of different computer-supported communication technologies. Many recent studies involve Internet-based social networking supported by social software.

From: Computer-Mediated Communication, Wikipedia, 28 September 2008, at 11:06
Even the document/record management facilities and assessment, could be considered a form of communication. The record management facilities are used for communicating from now to the future, and the assessed is the assessor communicating to those who may wish to employ the student.

This analysis should work well for the courses on web design and electronic document management I present, as the topic of the course is also Computer-Mediated Communication.

To test if this would be a useful approach I tried the same technique wh9och I had used with "learning commons". A web search on CMC, returned about 2.5 million hits. Narrowing the search to the last 24 hours, produced just over 10,000 documents. This suggested the term was widely used, but the real surprise came when I narrowed the search to CMC for 24 hours at ANU, which found 4 documents, including an announcement of a seminar a few hundred metres from my office by an expert in lexicography and computer-mediated communication: The 5-Concentric Circles Model & the Australian English Dictionary, Vincent B Y Ooi, The Australian National Dictionary Centre, CEDAM Seminar Room, Building #96, 10 October 2008.

Rather than arguing the merits of Wiki, Blog, Podcast, Webinar, Feed or whatever new technology may be around the corner, it should be possible to apply the analysis developed for CMC, such as synchronicity, persistence, multimodality, privacy and security.

My courses on web design and e-document management largely address the needs of governance. This could be generalised as CMC for governance; that is using computer based systems to coordinate an organisation, or a society. In this way we can step back from the detail of how email or word processing documents should be archived in a company or a government agency and look at how computers can be used to make decisions, have those decisions implemented and satisfy the community the process was properly carried out. Different forms of CMC can then be assessed to see how they assist governance.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Learning Management Systems for multi-disciplinary teaching

Srinivas ChemboliSrinivas Chemboli runs the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra. This week's meeting is on learning management systems (LMSs) for multi-disciplinary teaching (all welcome):
The Varietas TiG will meet today at 11:30 at N329, CSIT Building [Bldg 108]

  • LMS needs for multi-disciplinary and disciplinary teaching/research/collaboration
    • What should a wish-list for a LMS comprise of?
    • Document creation/management tools
    • Focus on function and goals, not specific technologies
    • Communicate/discuss the proposed draft outline for group activities via LMS
    • Support for logically ordered communication
    • Calendaring/meeting-manager support
    • Support for blended/flexible learning
  • Set up a time-frame/agree upon an action-plan to draft the needs statements for an LMS
  • Assess existing LMS options in the context of the needs statements
  • Integrating cross-disciplinary strengths in teaching
  • The logistics of a cross-disciplinary group course

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ANU Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group

Srinivas ChemboliSrinivas Chemboli has issued an invitation to those interested in Multidisciplinary Teaching to join the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group at the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra:

Varietas-TIG is a Teaching Interest Group (TIG) that focuses on multi-disciplinary themes in teaching.

Wednesday, 17 September, 16:00 - 17:30, N335 CSIT Bldg (Bldg 108)

Topics of discussion will cover (but are not necessarily limited to):
1) A multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and course management
2) Reconciling different pedagogical approaches across disciplines
3) Incorporating a wider spectrum of research-led themes as guides for teaching
4) Integrating reusable knowledge across disciplines in skills and services-oriented curriculum
5) Develop an effective methodology to reuse the semantic richness of multiple disciplines

Website: http://alliance.anu.edu.au/autoreg/varietas
Topics for Discussion This Week:
  • Format/ideas for TiG activities
  • Multi-disciplinary activities at the ANU
  • Discussing the practice and personal experience in cross/multi-disciplinary teaching
  • Equity in multi-disciplinary courses, a pipe-dream?
    • Suggested activities for analyzing the trend in cross/multi/inter-stream courses
  • Tying in assessment with disciplinary objectives
  • Paper discussion: Multidisciplinary students and instructors: a second-year games course

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reassuring children about the world's end

In "Reassuring children about the world's end" (Caroline McClatchey,
BBC News Magazine,11:17 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008) the worry which talk of black holes generated by the Large Hadron Collider would cause for children was discussed. An educational psychologist was quoted. It happens my brother is an educational psychologist and prepared advice for teachers on what to do in such situations. This may also be of use to parents: "In stressful times what can we as teachers do?".

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Web standards compliance

Lecturing to university students is a daunting experience. While telling them how to design web pages one student asked how come only the first page of my own web pages printed out.

I found my web pages were effected by a known bug with printing in Microsoft Internet Explorer. If the CSS "float" property is used, then the part of the floated element is not printed after a page break. I use "Float" to position the main content of may page, so only the first page prints.

To fix this I added "float:none" in my print style sheet. The float is not really needed for printing, as it was used to wrap the main text around a menu, which is not displayed on the printed version.

While I was at it I found a couple of more problems, in the formatting. I had made any link text 95% the width of the page on the print version. That broke up any sentence with a link in it with large amounts of white space. I removed the 95% to fix the problem.

Finally I noticed that when printing with a small font then images tended to bunch up together on the page. The images are floated on the right, so remove the problem I added "clear: right". This way they got one under the other.

You might ask why I don't just provide a PDF version of the notes so they will print well. But the precise formatting control of PDF is not really needed for the notes. Also it can impede readability, as with a web page the user can resize the text, omit images and the like, for printing. New standards, such as CSS3 Paged Media, should all but remove the need for PDF, by providing control over headers, footers and the like in web pages.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Making popular and accessible web pages

Tenix-Navantia Proposal for the Australian Defence Amphibious Ships ProjectAccessible web design can make your web pages very popular. I am talking about this in "Teaching Web Accessibility at an Australian University" at a forum of the Web Accessibility Network for Australian Universities. The forum is on at the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee office in Canberra Wednesday 11 April.

An example of a popular web page is one I did last year on the Australian Defence Amphibious Ships Project. This has a short summary of the multi-billion dollar project to build two new Australian aircraft carriers. I hadn't realized how popular this was until I had a message from one of the international defence industry consortia bidding for the project. They explained my page was the most referred to one on the project and suggested some extra links. In a nice touch they provided a link for the rival bider as well as their own.

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