Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning to teach in the virtual classroom

Greeting from the ANU Menzies Library Flex Lab (which appears to have been designed by a dentist), where I am in a course on how to use Wimba products for online education. At the moment we are learning about "Wimba Classroom" which appears to be an adaptation of a classic video conferencing interface (and similar to DimDim). This provides audio, video, electronic whiteboard, text chat and similar. This appears intended for real time classes, but does include an "archive" option which records all the interactions. It is suggested to have at least 56kbps. It can also be used in a physical classroom. What is interesting about this is the assumed educational and business model behind the mode of teaching.

Apart from Wimba Classroom, there are an assortment of other Wimba products. What surprised me was that these do not appear to be integrated: Wimba seems to have bought a series of separate applications for creating course content and different forms of communication and then just re-branded them all with "Wimba". As an example Wimba Pronto is a course content creation tool, previously sold under another name and similar to USQ ICE.

Wimba Classroom seems to work as well as other video conference products. It also has the same limitations as other such products. Sufficient bandwidth is required and also low enough latency if video or audio is used. There is an appreciable delay in slide dis-play even when we are all in the same physical room, connected to the ANU's very high speed network.

In addition the application emphasises visual aspects, as an example, slides are displayed for a presentation as bit mapped images. Apart for requiring more bandwidth, this precludes reading of the slides by people with a limited (or no) vision. Even with the presenter's slides in the demonstration I had difficulty seeing. Web pages and documents in some other formats can be designed to allow use with assistive technology. But this assumes there is some text in the content for a Braille or text-to-speech system to use. The bit-map images in Wimba Classroom and similar system do not allow for this. Institutions using such facilities need to keep in mind that Australian law requires access for the disabled, where possible: this is possible and so required.

Wimba Classroom can be integrated with Moodle (also used by ANU). I was easlity able to add an entry in a Moodle course for a Wimba Classroom. The idea is the students can read notes and then at the scheduled time enter the real time online classroom. Unfortunately at this point Wimba Classroom failed. I was impressed with the real time support provided by the company supporting ANU's e-learning system. Within seconds we were in contact with the support staff by real time chat, they excluded the problem to the "NOC" (Network Operations Centre) somewhere, who diagnosed a new problem with the interface between Moodle and Wimba and got to work to fix it. This incident highlights the need for good support for these e-learning facilities, particularly those working in real time.

There appears to be much more work needed in the design of the integration of e-learning tools. This is not just a matter of ensuring that the software works and the links are fast enough. Currently there appears to be a disconnect between the text rich non-real time tools such as Moodle, and graphic rich real time tools such as Wimba Classroom. Some continuum between the two should be technically possible. This would allow for more graceful dealing with technical problems: rather than the student being simply cut off, the system would degrade into a non-real time mode. Students who could not see images, because of limited bandwidth (or because they are blind) would get alternative content. Also this would allow for more andragogical modes of teaching: students could select a form of content and interaction which suited them.

Wimba Classroom and similar products force the participant to select a mode of communication, such as text, audio or video, rather than being able to communicate using whatever media is avialable and suitable.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book on designing classrooms

Space and learning: lessons in architecture 3 (Herman Hertzberger, 2008) seems a book out of its time. It provides 208 pages of theory and case studies on the design of everything from preschools to university and schools in the community. This work might be better described as the Montessori approach to school design as many of Hertzberger's case studies are of Montessori schools. To me the photos and descriptions seem to be more aligned to the radical 1960s than this century, but perhaps that is the nature of pioneering work.

Many of the concepts of the school designs in the book (and the Montessori method of education), when stripped of their philosophical superstructure, are very similar to current approaches to e-learning, pedagogy and andragogy. These assume that the student is self motivated to study. The educator aims to provide resorces which the student can choose to use when they need them, rather than according to an external timetable.Different learning materials are provided to suit different student's requirements. The education includes social skills working together with other students, with the educator to guide, not tell the students what to do. Exercises are grounded in real world problems, rather than academic theory. Students with different skills and experience can learn from each other.

The book can be previewed at Google books.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Planning the Future of IT Higher Education in Austrlaia

Greetings from the Australian National University, School of Computer Science retreat taking place near Canberra. Twenty nine people are spending two days working out where to take research and teaching in information and communications technology. In the afternoon I will be talking about "Forums and Feedback for e-Learning". The issued to be discussed are very much along the lines Professor Paul Ramsden, was discussing yesterday.

So far some issues were how to keep an emphasis on research (the ANU being a leader in the field) and how this could be combined with education. The classic way to do this is to have excellent postgraduate researchers and have them do the teaching. Another topic was masters by coursework. This particularly interests me as my Green ICT course is part of the ANU Graduate Studies Select program, which allows students to choose from subjects across the university disciplines (and some other universities), including online courses.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Forums and Feedback for e-Learning

I have written some notes for a ten minute presentation on "Forums and Feedback for e-Learning" for the Australian National University School of Computer Science. Comments and suggestions would be welcome. It essentially says that students teach each other via online forums, with the tutor asking a few clear questions to get things started and providing feedback.

This will be just a brief talk on the end of Lauren Kane's "Blended Learning in Higher Education".

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Experiments in Virtual and Distance Education

Dr Euan Lindsay will give a free seminar on "Virtual and Distance Experiments: Pedagogical Alternatives, not Logistical Alternatives" at the Ian Ross Seminar Room, The Australian National University, 2 October 2009 1pm:
Laboratory classes are an integral part of undergraduate engineering education, providing a valuable alternative to lectures and tutorials. Recently there has been a trend towards providing these laboratory classes through remote or simulated access - where the students are separated from the hardware and interact through a technology-mediated interface. This trend is driven by a demand to provide increased flexibility and opportunities in the delivery of laboratory classes to students, but it also has the consequence of affecting the learning outcomes of the laboratory class.

Dr Lindsay's work in Remote and Virtual laboratory classes has shown that there are significant differences not only in students' learning outcomes but also in their perceptions of these outcomes, when they are exposed to the different access modes. These differences have powerful implications for the design of remote and virtual laboratory classes in the future, and also provide an opportunity to match alternative access modes to the intended learning outcomes that they enhance.

This presentation will address not only the nature of these changes and the factors that cause them, but also the place that remote and virtual laboratory classes have within an undergraduate engineering curriculum. ...

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Evaluation of Online Learning

The report "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies" from the US Department of Education suggests that online learning is more effective than face to face classroom learning, that blended learning is no more effective than purely online learning and that video and online quizzes do not improve online learning.

It should be noted that the US study has limitations: it is a "meta" analysis, that is analysis of previous results, not new data collection. Also this was not covering K-12 students and may only be applicable to vocational, university or adult learning.

That said, the report supports the approach I have been using in Green ICT Strategies and will be discussing in Mentored and Collaborative e-Learning for Postgraduate Professional Education, for the Computer Science Seminar, The Australian National University, Computer Science and Information Technology Building, Canberra, 4pm, 27 August 2009.

The ful US report is 93 page (819 Kbytes) of PDF. Here is the executive summary, minus footnotes:
Executive Summary

Online learning—for students and for teachers—is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology. The National Center for Education Statistics (2008) estimated that the number of K-12 public school students enrolling in a technology-based distance education course grew by 65 percent in the two years from 2002-03 to 2004-05. On the basis of a more recent district survey, Picciano and Seaman (2009) estimated that more than a million K–12 students took online courses in school year 2007–08.

Online learning overlaps with the broader category of distance learning, which encompasses earlier technologies such as correspondence courses, educational television and videoconferencing. Earlier studies of distance learning concluded that these technologies were not significantly different from regular classroom learning in terms of effectiveness. Policy-makers reasoned that if online instruction is no worse than traditional instruction in terms of student outcomes, then online education initiatives could be justified on the basis of cost efficiency or need to provide access to learners in settings where face-to-face instruction is not feasible. The question of the relative efficacy of online and face-to-face instruction needs to be revisited, however, in light of today’s online learning applications, which can take advantage of a wide range of Web resources, including not only multimedia but also Web-based applications and new collaboration technologies. These forms of online learning are a far cry from the televised broadcasts and videoconferencing that characterized earlier generations of distance education. Moreover, interest in hybrid approaches that blend in-class and online activities is increasing. Policy-makers and practitioners want to know about the effectiveness of Internet-based, interactive online learning approaches and need information about the conditions under which online learning is effective.

The findings presented here are derived from (a) a systematic search for empirical studies of the effectiveness of online learning and (b) a meta-analysis of those studies from which effect sizes that contrasted online and face-to-face instruction could be extracted or estimated. A narrative summary of studies comparing different forms of online learning is also provided.

These activities were undertaken to address four research questions:
  1. How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction?
  2. Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?
  3. What practices are associated with more effective online learning?
  4. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?
This meta-analysis and review of empirical online learning research are part of a broader study of practices in online learning being conducted by SRI International for the Policy and Program Studies Service of the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the study as a whole is to provide policy-makers, administrators and educators with research-based guidance about how to implement online learning for K–12 education and teacher preparation. An unexpected finding of the literature search, however, was the small number of published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K–12 students. Because the search encompassed the research literature not only on K–12 education but also on career technology, medical and higher education, as well as corporate and military training, it yielded enough studies with older learners to justify a quantitative meta-analysis. Thus, analytic findings with implications for K–12 learning are reported here, but caution is required in generalizing to the K–12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education).

This literature review and meta-analysis differ from recent meta-analyses of distance learning in that they
  • Limit the search to studies of Web-based instruction (i.e., eliminating studies of video- and audio-based telecourses or stand-alone, computer-based instruction);
  • Include only studies with random-assignment or controlled quasi-experimental designs; and
  • Examine effects only for objective measures of student learning (e.g., discarding effects for student or teacher perceptions of learning or course quality, student affect, etc.).
This analysis and review distinguish between instruction that is offered entirely online and instruction that combines online and face-to-face elements. The first of the alternatives to classroom-based instruction, entirely online instruction, is attractive on the basis of cost and convenience as long as it is as effective as classroom instruction. The second alternative, which the online learning field generally refers to as blended or hybrid learning, needs to be more effective than conventional face-to-face instruction to justify the additional time and costs it entails. Because the evaluation criteria for the two types of learning differ, this meta-analysis presents separate estimates of mean effect size for the two subsets of studies.

Literature Search

The most unexpected finding was that an extensive initial search of the published literature from 1996 through 2006 found no experimental or controlled quasi-experimental studies that both compared the learning effectiveness of online and face-to-face instruction for K–12 students and provided sufficient data for inclusion in a meta-analysis. A subsequent search extended the time frame for studies through July 2008.

The computerized searches of online databases and citations in prior meta-analyses of distance learning as well as a manual search of the last three years of key journals returned 1,132 abstracts. In two stages of screening of the abstracts and full texts of the articles, 176 online learning research studies published between 1996 and 2008 were identified that used an experimental or quasi-experimental design and objectively measured student learning outcomes. Of these 176 studies, 99 had at least one contrast between an included online or blended learning condition and face-to-face (offline) instruction that potentially could be used in the quantitative meta-analysis. Just nine of these 99 involved K–12 learners. The 77 studies without a face-to-face condition compared different variations of online learning (without a face-to-face control condition) and were set aside for narrative synthesis.


Meta-analysis is a technique for combining the results of multiple experiments or quasi-experiments to obtain a composite estimate of the size of the effect. The result of each experiment is expressed as an effect size, which is the difference between the mean for the treatment group and the mean for the control group, divided by the pooled standard deviation. Of the 99 studies comparing online and face-to-face conditions, 46 provided sufficient data to compute or estimate 51 independent effect sizes (some studies included more than one effect). Four of the nine studies involving K–12 learners were excluded from the meta-analysis: Two were quasi-experiments without statistical control for preexisting group differences; the other two failed to provide sufficient information to support computation of an effect size.

Most of the articles containing the 51 effects in the meta-analysis were published in 2004 or more recently. The split between studies of purely online learning and those contrasting blended online/face-to-face conditions against face-to-face instruction was fairly even, with 28 effects in the first category and 23 in the second. The 51 estimated effect sizes included seven contrasts from five studies conducted with K–12 learners—two from eighth-grade students in social studies classes, one for eighth- and ninth-grade students taking Algebra I, two from a study of middle school students taking Spanish, one for fifth-grade students in science classes in Taiwan, and one from elementary-age students in special education classes. The types of learners in the remaining studies were about evenly split between college or community college students and graduate students or adults receiving professional training. All but two of the studies involved formal instruction.

The most common subject matter was medicine or health care. Other content
types were computer science, teacher education, mathematics, languages, science, social science, and business. Among the 49 contrasts from studies that indicated the time period over which instruction occurred, 19 involved instructional time frames of less than a month, and the remainder involved longer periods. In terms of instructional features, the online learning conditions in these studies were less likely to be instructor-directed (8 contrasts) than they were to be student-directed, independent learning (17 contrasts) or interactive and collaborative in nature (23 contrasts).

Effect sizes were computed or estimated for this final set of 51 contrasts. Among the 51 individual study effects, 11 were significantly positive, favoring the online or blended learning condition. Two contrasts found a statistically significant effect favoring the traditional face-to-face condition.

Narrative Synthesis

In addition to the meta-analysis comparing online learning conditions with face-to-face instruction, analysts reviewed and summarized experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting different versions of online learning. Some of these studies contrasted purely online learning conditions with classes that combined online and face-to-face interactions. Others explored online learning with and without elements such as video, online quizzes, assigned groups, or guidance for online activities. Five of these studies involved K–12 learners.

Key Findings

The main finding from the literature review was that
  • Few rigorous research studies of the effectiveness of online learning for K–12 students have been published. A systematic search of the research literature from 1994 through 2006 found no experimental or controlled quasi-experimental studies comparing the learning effects of online versus face-to-face instruction for K–12 students that provide sufficient data to compute an effect size. A subsequent search that expanded the time frame through July 2008 identified just five published studies meeting meta-analysis criteria.
  • Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction. Learning outcomes for students who engaged in online learning exceeded those of students receiving face-to-face instruction, with an average effect size of +0.24 favoring online conditions. The mean difference between online and face-to-face conditions across the 51 contrasts is statistically significant at the p < .01 level.4 Interpretations of this result, however, should take into consideration the fact that online and face-to-face conditions generally differed on multiple dimensions, including the amount of time that learners spent on task. The advantages observed for online learning conditions therefore may be the product of aspects of those treatment conditions other than the instructional delivery medium per se.
  • Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction. The mean effect size in studies comparing blended with face-to-face instruction was +0.35, p < .001. This effect size is larger than that for studies comparing purely online and purely face-to-face conditions, which had an average effect size of +0.14, p < .05. An important issue to keep in mind in reviewing these findings is that many studies did not attempt to equate (a) all the curriculum materials, (b) aspects of pedagogy and (c) learning time in the treatment and control conditions. Indeed, some authors asserted that it would be impossible to have done so. Hence, the observed advantage for online learning in general, and blended learning conditions in particular, is not necessarily rooted in the media used per se and may reflect differences in content, pedagogy and learning time.
  • Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than students in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning. The mean effect size for studies with more time spent by online learners was +0.46 compared with +0.19 for studies in which the learners in the face-to-face condition spent as much time or more on task (Q = 3.88, p < .05).6
  • Most of the variations in the way in which different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly. Analysts examined 13 online learning practices as potential sources of variation in the effectiveness of online learning compared with face-to-face instruction. Of those variables, (a) the use of a blended rather than a purely online approach and (b) the expansion of time on task for online learners were the only statistically significant influences on effectiveness. The other 11 online learning practice variables that were analyzed did not affect student learning significantly. However, the relatively small number of studies contrasting learning outcomes for online and face-to-face instruction that included information about any specific aspect of implementation impeded efforts to identify online instructional practices that affect learning outcomes.
  • The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types. Online learning appeared to be an effective option for both undergraduates (mean effect of +0.35, p < .001) and for graduate students and professionals (+0.17, p < .05) in a wide range of academic and professional studies. Though positive, the mean effect size is not significant for the seven contrasts involving K–12 students, but the number of K–12 studies is too small to warrant much confidence in the mean effect estimate for this learner group. Three of the K–12 studies had significant effects favoring a blended learning condition, one had a significant negative effect favoring face-to-face instruction, and three contrasts did not attain statistical significance. The test for learner type as a moderator variable was nonsignificant.
  • Effect sizes were larger for studies in which the online and face-to-face conditions varied in terms of curriculum materials and aspects of instructional approach in addition to the medium of instruction. Analysts examined the characteristics of the studies in the meta-analysis to ascertain whether features of the studies’ methodologies could account for obtained effects. Six methodological variables were tested as potential moderators: (a) sample size, (b) type of knowledge tested, (c) strength of study design, (d) unit of assignment to condition, (e) instructor equivalence across conditions, and (f) equivalence of curriculum and instructional approach across conditions. Only equivalence of curriculum and instruction emerged as a significant moderator variable (Q = 5.40, p < .05). Studies in which analysts judged the curriculum and instruction to be identical or almost identical in online and face-to-face conditions had smaller effects than those studies where the two conditions varied in terms of multiple aspects of instruction (+0.20 compared with +0.42, respectively). Instruction could differ in terms of the way activities were organized (for example as group work in one condition and independent work in another) or in the inclusion of instructional resources (such as a simulation or instructor lectures) in one condition but not the other.
The narrative review of experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting different online learning practices found that the majority of available studies suggest the following:
  • Blended and purely online learning conditions implemented within a single study generally result in similar student learning outcomes. When a study contrasts blended and purely online conditions, student learning is usually comparable across the two conditions.
  • Elements such as video or online quizzes do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in online classes. The research does not support the use of some frequently recommended online learning practices. Inclusion of more media in an online application does not appear to enhance learning. The practice of providing online quizzes does not seem to be more effective than other tactics such as assigning homework.
  • Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection. Studies indicate that manipulations that trigger learner activity or learner reflection and self-monitoring of understanding are effective when students pursue online learning as individuals.
  • Providing guidance for learning for groups of students appears less successful than does using such mechanisms with individual learners. When groups of students are learning together online, support mechanisms such as guiding questions generally influence the way students interact, but not the amount they learn.

In recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches. Even when used by itself, online learning appears to offer a modest advantage over conventional classroom instruction.

However, several caveats are in order: Despite what appears to be strong support for online learning applications, the studies in this meta-analysis do not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium, In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages. At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction.

In addition, although the types of research designs used by the studies in the meta-analysis were strong (i.e., experimental or controlled quasi-experimental), many of the studies suffered from weaknesses such as small sample sizes; failure to report retention rates for students in the conditions being contrasted; and, in many cases, potential bias stemming from the authors’ dual roles as experimenters and instructors.

Finally, the great majority of estimated effect sizes in the meta-analysis are for undergraduate and older students, not elementary or secondary learners. Although this meta-analysis did not find a significant effect by learner type, when learners’ age groups are considered separately, the mean effect size is significantly positive for undergraduate and other older learners but not for K–12 students.

Another consideration is that various online learning implementation practices may have differing effectiveness for K–12 learners than they do for older students. It is certainly possible that younger students could benefit more from a different degree of teacher or computer-based guidance than would college students and older learners. Without new random assignment or controlled quasi-experimental studies of the effects of online learning options for K–12 students, policy-makers will lack scientific evidence of the effectiveness of these emerging alternatives to face-to-face instruction. ...

From: "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning
A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies
" by Barbara Means, Yukie Toyama, Robert Murphy, Marianne Bakia, Karla Jones, Center for Technology in Learning, published by US Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, May 2009 (footnotes have been omitted from this excerpt).

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Implementing ICT in Australian education and training has produced a series of reports for Australian Government on the use of technology for education. There is "strategic ICT advisory service 2009:key messages" giving an overview and summary of recommendations. Unfortunately like the individual reports, this is a hard to find, hard to read PDF document. At 15 pages the key messages document is a bit long. I have extracted the recommendations below. needs to provide a web page with a guide to their material, not longer than two A4 pages, with hypertext links.

While it might still be necessary to produce a couple of pretty looking printed copies of such reports for PR proposes, these are a waste of time and money for actual practical use. Government policy makers have entered the digital age and are capable of using web pages. It is not necessary to give them electronic documents in PDF format which closely mimic paper reports.

In my policy development work I have found that if you provide policy advisers easy to read simply formatted electronic material, your recommendations are more likely to adopted. This is because the busy advisers can more easily understand what you are proposing and if they like it, can simply copy and paste from your document into their report. In contrast's PDF reports are hard to read on screen and can't easily be copied from.

One of the lessons from the success of the Internet is that the use of this technology comes from actually using it. have written an excellent set of recommendations, but have not really taken them to heart by providing them using the technology they are recommending be used. needs to lead by example, if they want their recommendations to be credible.
Summary of recommendations

The SICTAS project was commissioned by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) to undertake the Strategic ICT Advisory Service (SICTAS) project during the 2008 – 09 financial year.

The purpose of SICTAS was to provide DEEWR with strategic advice to assist policy makers in the development of policy and programs to support the implementation of ICT in Australia’s education and training sectors.

The SICTAS project was commissioned as a response to the complex environment in which policy makers are currently working. The environment is made complex by a range of factors including Australia’s political structure of cooperative federalism, the range of approaches required to address the needs of multiple sectors within education and training, and the rapidly changing technological environment. developed a program for the SICTAS project that incorporated a range of inter-related activities. These activities were designed to respond to DEEWR’s requirements for advice relating to the implementation of ICT across all education and training sectors, and to engage with stakeholders in the sectors, both through providing avenues for them to contribute to the thinking underpinning the investigative research program and through publishing and broadly promoting the findings.

SICTAS activities included the following:
  • an investigative research program that delivered five published reports on topics, including
    • ICT in collaborative teaching and learning
    • site-blocking of Web 2.0 tools and services
    • national software infrastructure with an emphasis on gaining the most benefit for education and training from Web 2.0 tools and services
    • professional learning for in-service teachers in schools
    • e-portfolios as lifelong learning and career development tools beyond education and training
  • a think tank program that engaged leading thinkers across the education and training sectors, incorporating online discussion and a national symposium
  • a report on emerging technologies that synthesised the findings of the investigative research program and the think tank around the implications of new and emerging technologies for
    • learning and learners
    • professional learning
    • infrastructure for supporting implementation of ICT in education and training
  • two short papers, referred to as hot topics, that provided information on issues arising during the course of the project including
    • a set of case studies to build a model of characteristics of successful ICT support for the implementation of ICT in schools and VET
    • a review of the approach to embedding the use of ICT in teacher training for pre-service teachers.

Summary of recommendations

Collaboration in teaching and learning

The Collaboration in teaching and learning report, focused on collaborative learning as it relates to ICT.

Collaborative learning is a broad term for educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Considerable evidence has been found for its educational benefits, and the success factors required to support it have been identified.

This investigation finds that effective collaborative learning using ICT is dependent on services and skills that are not specific to collaborative learning, but are essential for the provision of ICT in
education more generally. The report provides a number of recommendations that focus on leveraging from the considerable investment by the Australian Government in ICT for education and training to provide benefits across all sectors and to support the delivery of education options to disenfranchised groups such as remote and regional users.


Provide access to post-secondary education options for remote and regional users leveraging the investments being made through the schools-focused DER and existing broadband initiatives.

Extend the digital education revolution concept to the VET and University sectors.

Task a national body to work through national partnerships to reduce fragmentation of effort, and making best use of the investments made in ICT in education at a broad level, and collaborative learning in particular.

Embed new media literacy skills into Australia’s national curriculum in a consistent way independent of specific technologies.

Web 2.0 site blocking in schools

The rapid emergence of Web 2.0 has presented the education and training sectors with a dilemma. On the one hand, Web 2.0 tools and services provide rich opportunities to improve student learning by significantly contributing to personalised, collaborative learning and supporting the development of internet literacy. On the other hand, teachers and school policy makers face a number of challenges in regard to effective use of Web 2.0 in teaching and learning, ranging from lack of teacher knowledge, confidence and expertise in the use of Web 2.0 tools and ervices to the inflexibility of site blocking policies and systems.

The Web 2.0 site blocking in schools report investigates current practices across schools with relation to site blocking and makes a number of recommendations related to the role of the Australian Government in policy development and implementation and in the establishment of national collaboration to showcase and share best practice in the development of tools and techniques in Web 2.0-aware content filtering, tools and safe access to rich media content.


Establish a national collaboration to identify, promote and share best practice in the development and implementation of Web 2.0-style collaborative online learning policies within schools.
Establish a national collaboration to showcase and share tools and techniques in Web 2.0-aware content filtering, tools and safe access to rich media content.

Towards a 21st Century national software infrastructure for education

This investigation builds upon the Collaboration in teaching and learning and Web 2.0 site blocking in schools reports and provides a picture of the essential elements of national software infrastructure for education and training.

An overarching focus of the SICTAS project has been on the need for a culture that embraces and seeks to benefit from ongoing technological change. Accordingly, the Towards a 21st Century national software infrastructure for education report emphasises infrastructure that supports and enables the integration of Web 2.0 tools and services and new and emerging
technologies ongoing.

The Towards a 21st Century National Software Infrastructure for Education report provides an analysis of current national infrastructure and identifies gaps and opportunities for integration of existing services and projects. The recommendations are focused on the three key elements of national software infrastructure – software services, interoperability standards, and governance, leadership and operations.


Add support for learner-centric identity and collaboration services to the existing national software infrastructure.
  • Commence trials to inform the development of integration of strong authenticated trust services (as currently provided by the Australian Access Federation) with Web 2.0 user-centric identity and social networking services.
  • Extend the Australian Access Federation (AAF) into a national cross-sectoral service for Trust, Identity and Access Control.
Commence trials to inform development of a national Web 2.0-enabled collaborative interoperability service.

Develop an ongoing national collaborative capability to sustain and enhance the national software infrastructure in a rapidly changing technology environment.

Teacher professional learning: Planning for change


The investigation into teacher professional learning for in-service teachers looked at the challenges for schools in integrating ICT into teaching and learning, and was informed by input from one of the tankettes. The report includes case studies of four schools (including public and private, primary and secondary) which are addressing the challenges of providing appropriate professional learning for teachers to encourage an integrated approach to using ICT with their students.

The Teacher professional learning: Planning for change report states that professional learning for teachers needs to be supported by the establishment and maintenance of ICT standards in schools for both students and teachers and makes recommendations that indicate the importance of the Australian Government’s role in developing a national approach in this area.

The report also recommends the development of a national strategy for professional learning, citing the example of LearnScope, the professional learning program for the VET sector administered through the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework).


That the Australian Government take a leadership role in collaboration with the jurisdictions to develop a national professional learning strategy for schools, based on sound research into good practice school improvement. That this strategy frames the Australian Government's support for ICT-
related professional learning.

That the Australian Government takes a leadership role, through the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and in collaboration with the states and territories, to develop
and maintain ICT standards in schools. The standards should build on existing state, territory and other jurisdiction plans and provide a common language and direction for the integration of ICT in the school curriculum.

That the Australian Government take a leadership role, in partnership with other education authorities and entities, in implementing and maintaining the ICT competency framework for teachers as described in the Raising the Standards18 report. A key component of the described framework is teacher standards.

The Government should task AICTEC, through its advisory bodies, to develop teacher ICT standards for:
  • pre-service teachers
  • practising teachers
  • school leaders
  • teacher educators.
E-portfolios beyond education and training

A large amount of work has already been and is currently being undertaken around the use of e-portfolios within education and training. This investigation has sought to provide insight into use of e-portfolios in Australia’s current economic climate, where policy makers are challenged regarding how best to support and manage Australia’s workforce.

E-portfolios arguably become most important as they are used to help prepare and support transitions. These may be transitions within educational settings, between education and employment (and vice versa), or changes in employment status.

The E-portfolios beyond education and training report provides case studies of a number of international examples of the use of e-portfolios to assist people in the workforce and in career development. It makes recommendations that include enhancing current national infrastructure to enable Australians to use an e-portfolio to enhance career development, lifelong learning, and
workforce participation.


Expand Myfuture to include the following:
  • the types of e-portfolio services offered by Careers Wales
  • features that address labour market adjustment issues, particularly the needs of workers dealing with unemployment and trying to get back into the workforce
  • multiple user interfaces to support different audiences
  • appropriate communications tools for collaborative reflection in professional development.
Fund e-portfolio trials in areas of particular relevance to Australia.
Fund interoperability trials between the recommended ‘Myfuture’ e-portfolio and existing Australian institutional e-portfolios.

Annual report on emerging technologies: planning for change

The Annual report on emerging technologies: Planning for change report is the culmination of SICTAS’ investigative research program. It incorporates and extends the recommendations made in the preceding reports and includes strategies and actions that support the recommendations.

The work of this report is informed by the tankettes, the symposium and submissions from invited peak bodies.

Extensive research is already available into particular technologies through such projects as Horizon. Accordingly, the Annual report on emerging technologies: Planning for change focuses on the implications of continuous and rapid technological change for learning and learners, for professional learning and educators, and for national infrastructure and policy makers.

The report’s recommendations highlight the Australian Government’s crucial role in providing strong and visionary leadership and coordinating development of policy and programs to support the integration of ICT in education and training. The focus is on how to leverage extensive work at national and jurisdictional levels to provide benefits for all users of education and training across Australia.


Implement an ICT in teaching and learning continuum so that learners’ new media literacy skills and abilities are augmented as they move through the education sectors.

Task a national body to support national collaborative partnerships to reduce fragmentation of effort, and make best use of the existing and future investments made in ICT.

Commit to providing ongoing resourcing and funding to maintain, sustain and enhance a technology rich environment for the education and training sector.

Develop and implement a national approach to software infrastructure that minimises the barriers to effective use and sharing of resources, and maximises access.

Address the complications of Australian copyright law in a way that encourages sharing and exchange of resources in the education and training sector, including the implementation of Creative Commons across Australian education and training.

That the Australian Government take a leadership role in collaboration with jurisdictions, sectors and educational institutions to develop a national professional learning strategy based on sound research into good practice.

The Australian Government take a leadership role, in partnership with other education authorities and entities, in implementing and maintaining the ICT competency framework for teachers as described in the ‘Raising the Standards’ report, but look to apply this to teachers in each of the education sectors.

A key component of the described framework is teacher standards. The Government should undertake to task AICTEC, through its advisory bodies to develop teacher ICT standards for:
  • Pre-service teachers
  • Practicing teachers
  • School leaders
  • Teacher educators
  • VET teachers
  • University teachers.
Hot topics

The SICTAS project team undertook two rapid response papers on issues arising during the course of the project. The reports provided some directions for the future.

Hot topic: ICT teaching and learning support services

This report uses a series of case studes to develop a dynamic and responsive ICT service model that attends to the day-to-day user demands and the ever-changing ICT environment, but at the same time, maintains standards and security.


The essential and interrelated components of this model are:

  1. Sound governance: the ICT unit is represented in and accountable to the highest level of management in the organisation.
  2. User-centred culture: the ICT unit adopts a responsive service-oriented mode of operation, following ITIL standards.
  3. ICT staff competence: ICT staff are selected on the basis of their competency and capacity to embrace change.
  4. Robust infrastructure: the infrastructure is stable, secure, reliable and modular, to enable growth with ever-increasing levels of demand.
  5. Open and flexible adoption of software applications: Open Source technologies are critically evaluated and embraced where appropriate.
  6. Secure Internet access.
  7. Robust and responsive technical operations: central to this is an online and phone help service desk to manage help requests.
  8. Vigorous user digital literacy training and mentoring: a continuous, decentralised and highly targeted training regime.
  9. Robust communication.
  10. Sound performance measures: the performance of the ICT is reviewed regularly against an agreed set of standards and resources allocated accordingly.
Hot topic: ICT in pre-service teacher training

This hot topic investigated the current experience of student teachers in applying ICT in pedagogy, any barriers to using technology at University, challenges in the practicum and ways to improve their experience of ICT in their pre-service.


The evidence presented in this paper strongly points to fundamental systemic flaws in the pre-service teacher education system in Australia in terms of developing teacher competence in embedding ICTs in pedagogy and practice.

The report proposed future directions related to
  • a suite of virtual world schools as teaching and learning simulation environments
  • individual on-line identities
  • e-portfolios
  • research and infrastructure
  • accreditation and registration
  • private sector engagement. ...
From: "strategic ICT advisory service 2009: key messages",, 2009

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Friday, July 17, 2009

e-Learning and the Olive Tree

Greetings from Matthew Allen's online learning seminar in Canberra. Matthew's morning workshop sponsored by ALTC was "Innovative education online: Ideas for the future of learning and the Internet", and the afternoon session is "Exploring online learning via Web 2.0 and a knowledge networking approach".

The event has a slightly surreal feel to it. We are at the campus of the Australian Defence Force (ADFA). This is a little different to the usual university campus, with most of the people on campus in uniform and marching around in step. The corridor walls are lined with hooks for the students to hang their hats on. What also makes the event a little odd, is that we have collected from around Australia to discuss how to do academic activities online. This makes me wonder why the ALTC materials are not online with some online forums.

Matthew is from a humanities background and while his scholarship and wisdom on the Internet is great, he tends to deliver it as an old fashioned paper. The material is presented verbally, from a prepared speech, with no visuals and lots of big words. After about five minutes I started to go to sleep. After 30 minutes I started to wonder why I was there, but at that point it suddenly got interesting. This was because we now had enough context to have a useful discussion.

After that we had some question and answer and then Matthew got us to do several very useful group exercises. There was then a break during which I made the event a little surreal for some of my fellow participants. One of the issues Matthew explored was innovative was for Internet-enabled education and for me this raised the issue of how much of what seems new with e-learning is just old learning prettied up with new technology. This is not necessarily a bad thing: taking proven educational techniques and using the Internet to make them work better is a useful strategy.

Over a cup of coffee I found myself relating to participants how I walked the sacred way at Delphi and had stood under an olive tree at where the ancient philosophers once gave their lessons. This caused some perplexed looks from others who thought I was using a metaphor for some form of spiritual journey. I had to explain that I had been on holiday and literally walked the sacred way at Delphi: the olive tree is a real tree, which is where the ancient philosophers did their teaching. Many of the techniques of e-learning could be seen as technological translations of what was done near the olive tree at Delphi.

The major issue for me which came from the day was how to make the Internet tools safe for student use. Matthew argues that teachers have to take risks and use up to date Internet tools. Learning Management Systems are useful for the administration of courses but Matthew argues there are so many more resources out there online for the actual learning.

What occurs to me is that a LMS might be built which only does the administration and interfaces to external tools in a safe way for the actual learning and tools. As an example, Moodle has a built in wiki tool, but it is not a very good wiki. Instead Moodle could interface to an external wiki, authenticate the user and provide a given level of protection of their contnet. The system would then collect up automatically the learner's content and put it in their e-portfolio, for assessment and other purposes.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Student perspective on Australian university teaching practices

The Australian National University Students’ Association has issued the "Undergraduate Review of Teaching and Learning 2008" (25 September 2008). This is a comprehensive 107 page document providing ANU staff and students with an evaluation of teaching and learning practices from the student's point of view. This brings a useful viewpoint to some controversial issues in education, such as Anonymous Assessment, Electronic Communication with Students, Digital Lecture Delivery, Electronic Submission of Assessment Items and Use of Plagiarism Detection Software. This report will be of value to educators a looking at how these topics are being addressed.
Presented by Jamila Rizvi on behalf of ANUSA 2008 Page 3
Anonymous Assessment
Compiled by Madeleine Firth Page 4
Electronic Communication with Students
Compiled by Sham Sara Page 8
Marking Rubrics
Compiled by Mark Smyth Page 11
Digital Lecture Delivery
Compiled by Madeleine Firth Page 14
Consultation on Means of Assessment
Compiled by Mark Smyth Page 18
Special Consideration and Special Examinations
Compiled by Jamila Rizvi Page 20
Student Representation
Compiled by Jamila Rizvi Page 22
Examinations and In Class Assessment outside of Examination Period
Compiled by Mark Smyth Page 25
Electronic Submission of Assessment Items
Compiled by Anya Aidman Page 27
Teacher Quality and CEDAM Forms
Compiled by Jamila Rizvi Page 31
Use of Plagiarism Detection Software
Compiled by Sham Sara Page 33
Online Course Description
Compiled by Anya Aidman Page 35
Viewing Examination Script Books
Compiled by Tim Caddey Page 38
Plagiarism and other Academic Misconduct
Compiled by Jamila Rizvi Page 43
Student Complaints and Appeals
Compiled by Matt Sherman Page 47
Course Flexibility
Compiled by Jamila Rizvi Page 59
Word Counts
Compiled by Alex Rafalowicz Page 62
Common Content for Course Outlines
Compiled by Jamila Rizvi Page 64
Appendix A: Extracts, NSW Ombudsman Report Complaint Handling at Universities
Appendix B: Benchmarks for Industry-based Customer Dispute Resolution Schemes
Appendix C: College of Law DRAFT Paper on student academic honesty (2008)
Appendix D: ANUSA all-student survey (numerical academic answers only) (2008)
Appendix E: Paper for Education Committee, ’10% Rule’ (2008)
Appendix F: Paper for Education Committee, ‘Course Information Publication’ (2008)
Appendix G: ANUSA Paper for College Deans on Digital Lecture Delivery (2007)
Appendix H: ANU Law Students’ Society paper on Word Counts (2008)

From: Undergraduate Review of Teaching and Learning 2008, ANUSA, 25 September 2008

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Professional Network for Educators in Australia

Someone posted a comment on my web site and asked for a response but did not say who they were. In the process of trying to reply to them, I came across My Edna and signed up for it.

This is billed as a "Professional Network for Educators" and provides a place to set up a professional profile, similar to LinkedIn with blogging and social networking type facilities. The service is relatively new, but already has some interesting features. I entered the address of my Blog's RSS feed and this now appears under my profile to show people what I have been working on. You can choose which parts of your profile you want public, or only known to people registered with MyEdna, or only with people you have specifically nominated.

EdNa is run by the Australia state and federal education ministers. It is an excellent source of information about education, but can be difficult to come to grips with. There is a useful catalog of resources (some of which I contributed). I suspect that EdNA already does many of the things which the new federal government envisages in its education revolution, but most educators don't know about it. Hopefully, My Edna will make it more accessible.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Architecture for Andragogy

Browsing in the recent serials at the National Library of Australia I came across an edition of Architecture Australia (Sep/Oct 07) on design of schools. While covering secondary schools, much of the discussion of flexible learning centres is is applicable to adult learning (andragogy) at universities and post school technical training. AA have previously had articles on this subject.

In "Pedagogy and Architecture", Ken Fisher categorises learning activity zones, based on the noise level and activity. He points out that developments such as low cost laptops and wireless networking, as well as better teaching training have overcome the problems of 1970's style "open plan" classrooms.

In "Spaces for Learning" Richars Leonard shows the design of the Wallan Secondary College of Art, with a large open area featuring common learning studios, seminar areas and presentation areas in one large space delineated with partitions, but no doors (there are some traditional rooms with walls for specialised functions).

What I found interesting was the idea of a mix of different layouts for different purposes, all withing the one room. However, this will create some practical problems for administration, as it will not be possible to lock up a room when not in use and enforce the allocation of teaching spaces based on who has the key.

While described as flexible learning spaces, the designs in the articles seem to be based on a fixed layout, dedicated to a particular function. This might be due to the needs of the technology, with computers still requiring power cables, if not data ones. It may also reflect the need to have some fixed structure for the user to plan their activities around (Ken Fisher refers to the "student home base").

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