Monday, March 22, 2010

E-portfolio Privacy Guidelines

A report and draft guidelines have been released on privacy of e-portfolios. These were produced for the vocational training sector in Australia, but are likely to be useful for higher education as well. Funding guidelines for the 2010 E-portfolio Implementation Trials are to be released 24 March.

  1. VET E-portfolio Privacy Draft
    Considerations for managers of learner information and
    e-portfolio service providers
    , by Christine Cowper and Malcolm Crompton (Information Integrity Solutions Pty Ltd), for Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Allison Miller), March 2010 (36 pages, PDF, 214 Kbytes).
  2. VET E-portfolio Privacy Impact
    Assessment research report:
    Determining the privacy requirements for
    e-portfolio use in the Australian VET sector
    , by Christine Cowper and Malcolm Crompton (Information Integrity Solutions Pty Ltd), for Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Allison Miller), March 2010 (45 pages, PDF, 300 Kbytes).
1. Introduction and overview
These draft guidelines have been developed for e-portfolio service providers (service providers)1 and managers of learner information (MLI)2 in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

They are intended to offer practical guidance and some tools to assist service providers to:
• comply with obligations under applicable privacy law and avoid compliance problems which could lead to the need for costly changes or for e-portfolio systems to be under-utilised and
• assure learners that they are in control of the personal information held in an e-portfolio system and that this information will remain secure and confidential, thereby building trust and confidence, and therefore take-up,
amongst learners.

These guidelines focus on privacy compliance and good practice for service providers. They are intended to complement, not replace, service providers’ existing
privacy policies and procedures.

The advice in these draft guidelines is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Rather, it is general advice about good privacy practice. If there were any conflict between these draft guidelines and relevant law or existing service provider guidelines the latter would take precedence.

These draft guidelines contain:
• a checklist of matters of privacy to consider when establishing an e-portfolio system, with some explanatory notes and tools
• an overview of privacy principles and some tips for compliance
• sample e-portfolio use cases, identifying key privacy compliance issues
• issues to consider in developing terms and conditions for e-portfolio system use.

These draft guidelines are a result of a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) of the use of e-portfolios in VET in 2009. The PIA was undertaken by Information Integrity
Solutions (IIS) on behalf of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s (Framework3) E-portfolios business activity4, as outlined in the VET E-portfolio
Roadmap (Roadmap5). The VET E-portfolio Privacy Impact Assessment Report6 details the outcomes of this PIA.

1.1 About privacy

Broadly speaking, the concept of privacy includes information, bodily, territorial and communications privacy7. Put another way, privacy is “...the right to control access to one's person and information about one's self. The right to privacy means that individuals get to decide what and how much information to give up, to whom it is given, and for what uses8”.

Australia’s sets of privacy laws focus on protecting personal information (called data protection in some international jurisdictions). They operate by setting information handling rules called privacy principles. The rules follow the information life cycle (the flow of information through an organisation), and aim to balance and take account of the interests of individuals, organisations and wider society.

Generally, privacy principles set limits and expectations about the handling of personal information. For example:
• Personal information should only be collected if necessary, and only for a specified purpose.
• Individuals should be told about matters effecting their personal information, such as to who the information might be passed on to and, in some laws, asked for consent to the collection of sensitive information. Where possible and appropriate, the anonymity of the information should be maintained.
• Personal information should be used or disclosed only in ways consistent with the stated purpose of collection, unless exceptions apply including where consent is given or law enforcement or health or safety needs apply.
• Appropriate steps must be implemented to ensure personal information is held and managed safely, as well as be accurate, up-to-date and complete.
• Individuals’ rights of access to the information held about them, and the need for corrections to be made to any inaccurate information must be explained.

1.2 E-portfolios and privacy risks

E-portfolios are becoming increasingly popular in the VET sector. They are exciting and potentially powerful tools for learners:
• undertaking course work
• collating evidence of skills and achievements
• to assist in the recognition of prior learning (RPL), or
• when seeking employment.

However, e-portfolios can hold a variety of information, including personal information about learners, some of which may be quite sensitive.

While service providers often will be providing access to an e-portfolio for learning or assessment activities, learners will largely generate the content to be stored in the e-portfolio. Learners may also be primarily responsible for mediating access to their e-portfolio by service provider staff, employers or the wider world.
This combination of factors means there is considerable potential for learners’ personal information to be inappropriately disclosed or otherwise misused (including by learners themselves). For learners, privacy risks include:

• the potential for the learner to inadvertently disclose inappropriate information, for example about a health issue or a poor assignment results, to an employer or the world at large
• that the use of an e-portfolio exposes them to online security risks such as hacking or identity fraud or theft
• that the contents of an e-portfolio are used or disclosed in ways they did not expect or welcome, either by service providers or other parties and either intentionally or unintentionally.

The consequences for learners could be severe. There is potential for embarrassment, harm to reputation, impact on current or future employment, and possibly an increased risk of identity theft. The risk increases where the e-portfolio is not confined to the ‘walled garden’ of an organisation but rather is used to actively engage in the online environment.

For service providers, failure to set up procedures to govern access, use, or disclosure of personal information in an e-portfolio system, or to support learners to
use e-portfolios safely, may lead to privacy complaints, risk to reputation or under utilisation of the e-portfolio system. ...

1 An e-portfolio service provider is an organisation which hosts an e-portfolio system.
2 People within a RTO who are responsible for the information held about learners – for example, ICT and administrative support personnel, ICT and educational managers.
3 The Framework is the national training system’s e-learning strategy:
4 The E-portfolios business activity supports the evelopment of national e-portfolio standards to improve the portability of learner-collected evidence of learning: The VET E-portfolio Roadmap is a national strategic plan designed to support the diverse requirements for e-portfolios in VET, and aims to assist in the evelopment of a standards based framework:
6 VET E-portfolio Privacy Impact Assessment Report :
7 For a detailed discussion of the concept of privacy see the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report 108 For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice:
8 Privacy Commissioner of Canada Speech at Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Conference, 13 June 2002.

From: VET E-portfolio Privacy Draft
Considerations for managers of learner information and
e-portfolio service providers
, by Christine Cowper and Malcolm Crompton (Information Integrity Solutions Pty Ltd), for Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Allison Miller), March 2010 (36 pages, PDF, 214 Kbytes).


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Baird Report on International Students

The Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, welcomed today's release of "Stronger, simpler, smarter ESOS: supporting international students" by Bruce Baird. This recommends improved regulation of Australia’s international education sector, support for international students, improved information improved support for for students and consumer protection mechanisms.

The report is a 108 page 1.2Mbyte PDF document (Executive Summary and Contents appended).

The Government supports recommendations to amend the ESOS Act to increase the standard for education providers and restricting unethical student recruitment practices. Other changes will require state legislation.

It occurs to me that many of the proposed recommendations, such as improving information to students and consumer protection, would also benefit Australian students. The legislation could be drafted to apply to all students and institutions, not just international ones. Also the government could bring forward its proposed "My University" website, to supply better information on universities to all students and expand it to include the vocational sector for information on TAFEs and commercial training organisations. Rather than setting up complex and expensive state based services for international students, the Commonwealth could fund services avialable online for all students.

Executive summary
Australia’s international education sector provides life-changing opportunities for international students, strengthens Australia’s diplomatic relations, brings considerable benefits to our education institutions and builds on our already unique and successful multicultural society. In addition,
international education is Australia’s fourth largest export industry generating substantial income and jobs. ...

This report proposes a number of recommendations that aim to strengthen, simplify and streamline ESOS, which would in turn provide greater support for international students in Australia and protect Australia’s reputation for quality education. Changes are also required beyond ESOS around student safety, access to transport concessions, accommodation and community engagement—key factors that contribute to a student’s overall experience in Australia.

Supporting students
Adequately and appropriately supporting students in Australia is at the heart of the sustainability of the sector.

Recommendations to better support students include requirements for improved information prior to students coming to Australia and during their stay, an enhanced process to address the role of education agents, more support to study and live in Australia, including having somewhere to go when problems arise, and stronger consumer protection mechanisms.

When students are making decisions about moving to Australia to study they require clear, accurate information. They need to be able to choose which city they would like to live in, what type of provider they wish to enrol with, and what courses they would like to study. Students need to be able to compare consistent information to make the most accurate choices. Students also need to be aware of what it is like living in Australia: culture and customs, services and resources as well as protections, rights and responsibilities.

Currently some providers and overseas education agents are issuing incomplete, irrelevant, old and/or misleading information to students. There is a need for strengthened requirements for information provision about learning and living in Australia by both providers and governments and increased emphasis on providers taking responsibility for their agents’ actions. Once in Australia, international students need ongoing access to comprehensive, informative and relevant orientation programs and ongoing access to orientation information.

Students need somewhere to go for support and advice, referral services, information on how to engage with the community and an avenue to have their voice heard. This review supports the International Student Roundtable recommendation and the suggestion from many students throughout the ESOS review consultation process to create international student hubs in all capital cities.

Even with improved information and support, there will still be times when international students have a complaint. Providers are already required to have suitable dispute resolution processes but the review considers the final step in this process—an independent, robust external complaints handling process—would be improved by mandating all providers use the relevant Ombudsman.

The recent dramatic growth in students coming to Australia, alongside the increase in vocational education and training (VET) providers offering a narrow range of courses linked to migration outcomes and sourcing students from a limited number of countries, has increased the risk of closures. This has put considerable pressure on the current tuition protection framework, with fears it is unsustainable. Consultation with key stakeholders and independent actuarial advice has informed the recommendation to replace the current arrangements with a single tuition protection service.

This service would be fully funded by industry and could either be run by a Commonwealth body or outsourced and independently operated.

Protecting Australia’s reputation for quality education Whilst recognising the primacy of domestic education quality frameworks, recommendations have also been made to rebuild and assure Australia’s reputation for quality education. This includes improved regulation of providers, enforcement of clear minimum standards and support for better integrated and automated systems for information sharing.

Education is important for domestic and international students alike and there is no need to duplicate education quality assurance frameworks already in place. However, more needs to be done to improve the link between ESOS and education quality assurance frameworks.

The entry requirements need to be strengthened for providers wanting to enter the sector.

Changes need to be made to ensure providers have the financial resources to operate and a sustainable business model. They need to have the right capacity, capability and intent to operate successfully.

Risk needs to be better identified at entry into the sector and a range of indicators need to be used that go to the heart of whether the provider will be able to operate successfully now and in the future.

This assessment of risk should guide whether the provider gains entry to the sector, and it should be used to test and scrutinise providers already through the gateway.

There needs to be a much stronger regulatory presence and the move to national regulators is a step in the right direction. However, there also needs to be greater transparency of regulatory activity so that both providers and students can monitor the level of regulatory activity and be informed by its outcomes.

Beyond ESOS
Migration-skewed demand has undoubtedly impacted on the reputation of our international education sector but the recent changes to general skilled migration will go some way to address this. Where possible, future changes should be grandfathered to soften the impact for students.

Beyond ESOS, Australia’s international education reputation depends on how well we provide for the wellbeing of international students and their whole experience of studying and living in Australia.

We need to ensure they are safe, have appropriate health insurance, have access to adequate and appropriate accommodation and are not being exploited by landlords or in the workplace.

The development of COAG’s strategy for international students is an important step in this regard.

The inequitable treatment of transport concessions for international students by some state governments is strongly felt by affected students.

The recommendations and findings in this report acknowledge the challenging environment in which the sector is operating and are designed to build on what is working and improve those areas that are not.

Immediate implementation of the recommendations in this report will position Australia’s international education sector for a sustainable future. All stakeholders—governments, providers, peak bodies, students, agents and the wider Australian community—need to play their part in delivering these much needed changes.

Recommendations and findings

Chapter 2—Enhancing Australia’s reputation for quality education

1. That ESOS be amended to require providers to demonstrate that the:
a. delivery arrangements for each course do not undermine the integrity of the student visa program
b. English language entry levels and support are appropriate for the course and, where relevant, the expected professional outcomes.

Chapter 3—Building a stronger gateway

2. That ESOS registration be amended to only allow providers to be registered and maintain registration if they have:
a. access to the financial resources to meet the objects of ESOS
b. a sustainable business model
c. the capacity, capability, governance structures and management to uphold Australia’s reputation for quality education and training to international students.
3. That ESOS regulators adopt a consistent, comprehensive risk management approach developed
and maintained in consultation with stakeholders and experts to:
a. profile providers at entry to determine the level of scrutiny, evidence, tests and costs that apply at registration and through the period of registration
b. update every provider’s profile on a regular basis to reassess the level of scrutiny and tests that should apply.
4. That ESOS be amended to support better risk management by:
a. allowing conditions on initial registration and throughout the registration period so a provider can be subject to additional scrutiny and tests as their risk profile demands
b. limiting the period of registration for each provider.

Chapter 4—Stronger, simpler, smarter regulation

5. That ESOS be made stronger by:
a. introducing financial penalties for a broader range of non-compliant behaviour
b. establishing clear, objective and enforceable standards that providers must meet
c. ensuring resourcing levels for regulatory activities are adequate
d. publishing targets and regularly reporting on all regulatory activities undertaken.

6. That ESOS be made simpler by:
a. allowing national registration of providers with assessment of the suitability and capacity of individual courses at each location
b. supporting the principle that wherever possible each provider should have only one regulator
c. developing shared regulatory philosophies and business practices to ensure a consistent and effective approach to regulation.

7. That ESOS be made smarter by:

a. giving the Australian Government Minister for Education the discretion to exercise otherwise delegated powers where necessary, and authority to issue directions as to the consistent application of ESOS
b. ensuring the level of prescription in the standards is only that which is required to achieve the intent.
8. That ESOS be amended to specify that all providers must utilise a statutorily independent complaints body as their external complaints and appeals process, and amend the Ombudsman Act 1976 to extend the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s jurisdiction to include those providers without access to such a body.
9. That the Migration Act 1958 be amended to enable a more flexible approach to the current visa cancellation requirements for students who are reported for failing to maintain satisfactory course progress or attendance.

Chapter 5—Ensuring accurate information and ethical recruitment
10. That ESOS be amended to ensure students can accurately compare potential study choices by requiring information from all providers relating to the:
a. history, scope, location and type of provider
b. student cohort
c. course, including entrance standards, costs, award and anticipated professional outcomes
d. academic and student support services offered
e. local employment opportunities, the accommodation situation in the locality and safety risks.
11. That the Australian Government expands the Study in Australia website to include a comprehensive international student manual, available in the languages of major source countries.
12. That ESOS be amended to restrict unethical recruitment practices by:
a. introducing financial penalties for providers whose offshore agents act unethically
b. implementing a unique identifier for each student
c. requiring all provider payments to agents to be contingent upon disclosure of the recruiting agent and their commission structure to both students and regulators
d. expanding the requirements of student written agreements to more completely describe the course, course costs, refund provisions and transfer limitations
e. prohibiting the payment of any commission or inducement to anyone for securing the transfer of any currently studying onshore international students
f. prohibiting a provider from enrolling a student who is currently studying with another provider and who has yet to complete the first study period of their initial course.
13. That the Australian Government should work with industry stakeholders and foreign governments to strengthen students’ consumer protection rights in their home country; and continue to support the professional development of education agents.

Chapter 6—Supporting students in Australia

14. That ESOS be amended to require providers to demonstrate that they deliver a comprehensive induction program and access to information on a continuing basis that:
a. is reasonably adapted to the needs of their students
b. allows students to easily access the information on an ongoing basis
c. includes information on safety, student rights, and where to seek support in making complaints.
15. That the Australian Government, working in conjunction with states and territories, establish international student hubs in each capital city as a place for international students to seek information, access referral and advocacy services, build ties with the Australian community and strengthen the voice of international students to providers and government.

Chapter 7—Safeguarding students’ interests: stronger tuition protection

16. That ESOS be amended to establish a single Tuition Protection Service that:
a. provides a single mechanism to place students when a provider cannot meet its refund obligations and as a last resort provide refunds
b. allows placement with any appropriate provider
c. makes the cost of being a member of a tuition protection scheme risk based
d. requires providers to regularly maintain student contact details in PRISMS and other information on a risk basis
e. removes providers having ministerial exemptions from membership of a tuition protection scheme.
17. That ESOS be amended to:
a. only refund the portion of the course not delivered or assessed when the provider fails to meet their obligation
b. establish that where a provider does not meet their refund obligations, this would be an issue in the fit and proper test for any future registration application.
18. That ESOS regulators impose conditions on higher risk providers that only allow the collection of ‘course monies’ as defined in ESOS.
19. That the Australian Government explores harmonising tuition protection arrangements for domestic and international students.


Chapter 2—Enhancing Australia’s reputation for quality education

i. Education Ministers should:
a. ensure the vulnerabilities exposed in the education quality assurance frameworks by unscrupulous international education providers are addressed
b. consider whether the current education quality assurance frameworks appropriately assure Australian education and training delivered offshore
c. ensure regulators and policy makers actively take into consideration student outcomes and industry benchmarks, where available, when considering the adequacy of a provider’s resources, facilities, teachers and support services.

ii. The Australian Government should:

a. consider changing the skilled migration program settings to remove the bias towards particular courses and instead focus on higher skilled qualifications in the VET and higher education sectors
b. ‘grandfather’ future changes to skilled migration policy, where possible and appropriate, for international students and recent graduates.
iii. The Australian Government should work with the sector to adapt the Good Practice Principles for English Language Proficiency for International Students in Australian Universities to each education sector and encourage implementation.

Chapter 6—Supporting students in Australia

iv. Further research should be undertaken to better understand the causes and frequency of violence against international students.
v. The state and territory police forces should work with providers, student representative bodies and the international student hubs to deliver better safety information to international students.
vi. International students should have access to equitable travel concessions.
vii. Providers should play a more active role in securing accommodation for international students.
viii. The Fair Work Ombudsman should continue to deliver outreach programs that work with providers, unions, students and peak bodies to promote and enforce the safeguards of the Australian industrial relations system.
ix. The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), in consultation with international students, should work with health insurance providers to make a wider range of health insurance policies available to international students. ...

From: Stronger, simpler, smarter ESOS: supporting international students, Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000, Bruce Baird, Australian Education International, ISBN 978-0-642-32945-5, March 2010.

Government response to recommendations:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5(a,b,d), 12(c,d,f)

Support in principle and begin action to implement.

5(c), 10, 11, 14, 15

Begin immediate consultation with States and Territories through the Ministerial Council process and COAG.

13, 14, 16, 17 ,18

Begin immediate consultation with the International Education industry.

6, 7, 12(b), 19

Issues to be considered via TEQSA and the National VET regulator.

8, 9

For consultation with the Attorney General and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

From: Baird review into International Students final report, Media release, Julia Gillard, Minister for Education, 9 March, 2010

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vocational Education Broadband Network

The Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has issued a Request for Expression of Interest for the provision of Vocational Education Broadband Network Backbone Network Provider. This is for a $80M Vocational Education Broadband Network (VEN) announced by the Prime Minister 22 April 2009, in response to the 2020 Summit. The RFI is deficient in not addressing inter-working with Australia's existing educational backbone network (AARnet) and not requiring IPv6.

The new backbone will interconnect the state TAFEs and other vocation training organisations. There is a requirements document available for downloading (366 KByte,Ms-word format) .

No Mention of AARnet

What is not clear from the RFI is why Australia needs a second national education network backbone. The Australia Academic and Research Network (AARNet) is run by a not-for-profit company to connect Australian universities and the CSIRO. AARNet has been at forefront of the development of the Internet in Australia for twenty years. AARNet already connects many vocational educational providers in Australia, were these are provided in conjunction with universities. There is no good reason to duplicate this service.

As an example, AARnet now provides a roaming service "EduRoam", which allows those from one educational institution to use the network at another. This service would be very useful if extended to the vocational sector and preferable to that sector having to establish its own system.

The vocational network RFI requirements document does not mention AARnet.

No requirement for IPv6

The RFI document specifies the use of the IPv4 address space. This address space is reaching its limits. Other deficiencies with IPv4 have been identified, particularly security and IPv6 was developed to address this. AARnet supports IPv6. The lack of any mention of IPv6 for the vocational network appears to be a fundamental flaw.

Lack of Coordination of Vocational and Higher Education Policies

Data networking is one example of a general lack of coordination of IT resources between vocational and higher education in Australia. The Australian Government is funding duplicated programs for e-learning for the vocational and university sectors. In many cases these parallel programs are duplicating effort, working on essentially the same requirement and coming up with the same answers.

From the Vocational Education Broadband Network RFI:



Broadband infrastructure is an essential platform for world class teaching, learning and research. The education and training sector needs access to broadband infrastructure on terms that are affordable, predictable and priced in ways that ensure it can be used to maximum educational effect. Currently, broadband connections in the education and training sector are variable in quality and speed.

In this context, the Prime Minister announced funding of $80 million for a high speed Vocational Education Broadband Network (VEN) on 22 April 2009. The announcement formed part of the Australian Government’s Response to the 2020 Summit.

An implementation strategy for the VEN has been developed, endorsed by senior Commonwealth and State officials and noted by the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE). The implementation strategy and any further background information and documentation relating to the VEN may be accessed on the DEEWR website at It is noted in the implementation strategy that up to $70m will be available for the broadband element of the VEN.

This Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) relates to the establishment and operation of a VEN Backbone Network (VBN) that will:

  1. leverage existing infrastructure as far as possible;
  2. provide interconnections between existing networks serving Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions in each state and territory; and
  3. be able to be accessed by non-TAFE registered training organisations, school authorities, peering networks and providers of online education and training resources.


The Commonwealth, represented by and acting through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), invites expressions of interest (responses) from interested organisations to establish and operate the VBN for an initial period of three years.

Subject to further consideration by Government, there may be potential to extend the initial period.

DEEWR's objectives

In broad terms, DEEWR intends that the VBN will achieve the following objectives (Overall Objectives):

  1. Provide high-capacity connectivity across Australia, with at least one point-of-presence (PoP) in each state and territory. The desired location and/or number of PoPs will be determined having regard to responses received through this REOI and the views of State and Territory stakeholders.
  2. Provide redundancy mechanisms, including alternative routes between major PoPs to limit the loss of connectivity between major PoPs in the event of a single link failure.
  3. In each state and territory, provide a peering connection between the VBN PoP and a designated PoP for the whole of government or other government network operating in that state or territory. Advice from stakeholders will be required relating to such connections.
  4. Provide sufficient capacity to enable bandwidth-intensive applications, such as near-high definition video conferencing, to be delivered across State and Territory boundaries to the PoPs in each jurisdiction. DEEWR expects that the initial capacity of the backbone network links will generally not be less than 1 Gbps, although lower initial speeds may be acceptable on links to less populous States and Territories, where these would be sufficient to meet expected needs.
  5. Be capable of being upgraded readily and at reasonable cost.
  6. Be capable of providing peering links to non-training organisations, and online resource providers of interest to TAFE institutions, routed in ways that do not incur additional charges (e.g. traffic charges).
  7. Be accessible to other (non-TAFE) registered training organisations. It is intended that such providers will have access to the services, applications and content available on the VEN on commercial terms and conditions.
  8. Be accessible to, and have sufficient capacity to allow connection by, school authorities that may wish to connect to it.
  9. Leverage existing infrastructure as far as possible.

DEEWR has set out in Schedule 2 (Other Information) its initial views as to how these Overall Objectives may be achieved. ...

Schedule 2 – Other information

Essential requirements

Respondents should include in their response evidence that it meets the Essential Requirement in relation to Capability (see paragraph 2.3.1 of the REOI).

Detailed solution

Respondents should include in their response details of their proposed solution, with a particular focus on how that solution will meet the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI.

Respondents may propose more than one solution.

Where supporting material is provided, the respondent must clearly specify which paragraphs of that material are relevant to the requirements listed in this Schedule 2 (Other Information).

Respondents should also include a response to each of the attributes described below in Section 3 of this Schedule 2 (Other Information).


Architecture and Topology

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution should include the following attributes:

Provide Internet Protocol (IP) network-centric architecture.

Make use of the IPv4 address space.

Be capable of providing for IPv4 multicast traffic.

Be capable of meeting industry standards in the delivery of low latency network design specifications for the delivery of real-time voice and video services.

Be capable of supporting Quality of Service (QoS) delivery mechanisms that ensure service levels across multiple classes of services for end users can be met.

Support any-to-any connectivity between connected VBN users.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not meet these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Network Capacity

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will include the following attributes.

Provide actual bandwidth of 1Gbps or more (uncontested) on the major VBN backbone links (Adelaide-Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane) that support the high availability of the core VBN backbone.

Provide capacity of at least 100Mbps or more on any other identified links (Adelaide-Perth, Adelaide-Darwin, Brisbane-Darwin, Melbourne-Hobart).

Provide symmetrical bandwidth for peer-to-peer traffic between VBN users.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not meet these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

how the respondent's solution could be scaled up and the likely cost and timeframe for doing this.

Points-of-Presence (PoPs)

DEEWR's initial view is that PoPs will be required in each of the following locations:









Please detail:

if the respondent's solution will include the PoPs described above;

if applicable, any recommendations as to why alternative PoPs should be considered; and

if alternative PoPs were adopted, how these will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

any additional PoP locations at which the respondent has existing infrastructure.


DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution should include the following attributes:

Provide a peering connection in each state and territory between the VBN PoP and:

a designated PoP for the whole of government; or

other government network PoPs operating in that state or territory (e.g., Education and Training authority PoPs).

Be capable of peering with other private educational authorities as and when required.

Be capable of peering with non-educational organisations and content providers.

Be structured and priced in a way that ensures that traffic between peering users that traverses the VBN does not incur additional traffic charges.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not meet these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

VBN Access

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will need to be capable of providing connectivity to users through the use of a variety of access methods and carrier connections.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will provide connectivity to users;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, a variety of access methods and carrier connections may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not include a variety of access methods and carrier connections, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.


DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will need to include the following attributes:

Provide redundancy mechanisms, including alternative routes between major PoPs to limit the loss of connectivity in the event of a single point of failure.

Be supported by the establishment of at least two PoPs serving as VBN core nodes (i.e. primary and secondary nodes).

Make use of other redundancy mechanisms, such as:

Additional fibre routes,

Redundant network hardware,

Redundant power systems (including generators, multi-phased power),

Virtual switching technologies used for automated fail-over,

The use of leveraging underpinning third-party wholesale carriage services.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver each of these attributes;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, any of these attributes may not be required; and

where the respondent's solution does not deliver these attributes, describe how the respondent's solution will:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.


DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN would need to include the following attributes:

be available at least 99.9% of each calendar month, measured on a 24 x 7 basis (excluded agreed maintenance windows); and

meet other minimum service levels for voice and video service classes in relation to:

end-to-end delay;

end-to-end jitter; and

error threshold (packet loss ratio).

Please set out what service levels the respondent would be prepared to commit to in relation to:

availability (as a percentage);

end-to-end delay (one way) (in milliseconds);

end-to-end jitter (one way) (in milliseconds); and

error threshold (packet loss ratio) (shown as a percentage).

Where the availability service level is lower than the level set above, please explain how this will achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI and provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Please also provide information in relation to:

the mechanisms that would be used to measure whether the service level is being achieved; and

the rebates and other remedies that may be available to DEEWR if the service levels are not achieved.


The VBN solution will need to have a design and an operational environment that is secure against malicious and non-malicious threats. The design and operational environment should provide identification, authentication and access control mechanisms that protect against:

Unauthorised access to the VBN and its connected networks; and

Access to VBN stakeholder connected networks by means considered unauthorised and/or inappropriate.


detail what security methods the respondent's solution will employ; and

provide information about the current security level classifications and certifications of network infrastructure and systems currently operated by the respondent within Australia.

Internet Access

DEEWR's initial view is that the VBN solution will need to provide parties which are connected to the VBN with the option of accessing traffic from the wider internet via a VBN provided internet gateway or via peering connections to Whole-of-Government or education and training arrangements, incorporating network and security mechanisms that restrict unauthorised access.

Please detail:

how the respondent's solution will deliver internet access;

if applicable, why, in the respondent's opinion, internet access may not be required to be delivered in accordance with the approach set out above; and

where the respondent's solution does not deliver internet access in accordance with the approach set out above:

better achieve the Overall Objectives in paragraph 1.3 of the REOI; and/or

provide a lower cost solution for DEEWR.

Please also outline the secured internet network design and its key components.

Operational Support and Services

The VBN solution will need to include the provision of high quality operational support and services.


describe the respondent's approach to service support and provide details of the minimum levels of support the respondent is able to provide;

identify the range of service support offerings available to DEEWR that deliver proactive monitoring and support of the VBN;

outline the management tools and processes for service management reporting to stakeholders; and

provide supporting information relating to the proposed account management practices for the operation of the VBN. ...

From: Request for Expression of Interest for the provision of Vocational Education Broadband Network Backbone Network Provider, ATM ID DEEWR EOI PRN24590, DEEWR, 18 February 2010

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

e-Learning needs better tools

The webinar on “Trends in Personal Learning” by Stephen Downes, at Canberra Institute of Technology today was disappointing. Stephen was billed as "a reliable forecaster of trends and events in online learning", citing his "prescient" 'Future of Online Learning' and other works. But the technology for the webinar did not work properly. This made anything he said about using such technology less credible: if a guru of the technology can't get it to work, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

There were difficulties with the sound quality for the first part of the talk. I was tempted to offer to help (as I have a CIT certificate in A/V production), but the staff fixed it after about ten minutes. However, there remained intermittent problems with the audio, video and slides.

As for the content, what we got was a rambling monologue. Stephen was not able to get effective and timely feedback on the presentation due to the technical problems. This confirmed my view that such video conference presentations are of little value when used as a substitute for live presentations. Either the technical facilities have to be of a very high quality, or the system and presentation format has to be adapted to allow for the inevitable problems. The technique I have used in the past is to pre-record the presentation and only use live links for the question and answer time. This reduces the need for a reliable high speed connection (it also forces the presenter to present a well crafted, succinct presentation).

As for the content of the presentation I liked the description of the iPad as personal and portable. Stephen addressed the issue of the lack of content creation tools by arguing that later versions and similar devices will add those tools. Essentially the iPad is not important as a device, but because as a way to popularise the idea of highly portable devices for taking notes and for learning. Ironically I was using a cheap netbook with a keyboard to take my notes (which works very well for education and costs half as much as the iPad).

Stephen argued that new tools will spark creativity to create new content. Unfortunately what he was showing in reality were poor quality Powerpoint slides. This largely lowered the credibility of the argument. If these new tools are so good, then why wasn't he using them?

Stephen then discussed the value of videoconferencing. Ironically in the middle of that the image cut out. Of the video events I attend, only about one in twenty works well. The rest were as this webinar was, with much of the time taken up trying to fix problems with audio, video and slides. Even when the technology is working, what is presented much of the time are poorly prepared rambling monologues. I do not believe that this is the future of education, or of human communication in general. It is disappointing that after so many years of claims for video-conferencing the technology has advanced so little.

I had not heard of by Stephen Downes before CIT invited me to this event and I did not learn much more about him or his ideas from it.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Trends in Personal Learning Webinar

Canberra Institute of Technology are hosting a seminar on “Trends in Personal Learning” by Stephen Downes, 12 noon, 4 February 2010, in Room A108 on their South Side Campus, and online (RSVP: Penny Neuendorf).
Canberra Institute of Technology

The Gaggle invitation

Stephen Downes has long been a reliable forecaster of trends and events in online learning, making his mark in 1998 with the prescient 'Future of Online Learning' and in 2005 with 'e-Learning 2.0'. More recently, he authored the volume, 'The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On'. Downes has also informed the development of online learning technologies with
papers such as 'Learning Objects', 'Resource Profiles' and
'Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge'.

Thursday 4th February 12.00pm - 1.00pm
Where - At your desk or come and join us in Room A108 for light refreshments.

Log in at:
and enter the relevant details. If you have not used Wimba before, please run the Wimba Wizard prior to the event.

  • Online learning environments
  • Networked learning aproaches
  • Implications for the future of learning
  • Are you an e-learning practitioner?
  • Educational Designer? Or Developer?
  • Based in the ACT and surrounding region?

Today’s presentation: “Trends in Personal Learning” by Stephen Downes

Educators have been earning experience in social networks and other Web 2.0 technologies for several years now, and as e-learning 2.0 becomes more familiar it is beginning to transform into a more robust and personalized form. Newer and more powerful collaboration tools, such as Google Wave, are appearing. Individualized applications, such as the Personal Learning Environment, are appearing. Tomorrow`s
e-learning student can look forward to having a range of powerful tools at his or her fingertips. This presentation outlines trends in the development of these tools, and
describes what an education system that uses them will look like.

RSVP: Penny Neuendorf
E penny.neuendorf(a) T 6207 4041

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

E-portfolios for Vocational Education

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework have announced some very small grants for E-portfolio Implementation Trials in 2010 ($25,000 in total for three trials). Also there are: VET E-portfolio Data Protection Assessment, Verification of Learner Information Investigation, and the VET E-portfolios Roadmap.

It should be noted that these are vocational training initiatives funded by a consortium of the federal and state governments for TAFEs and other Registeed Training Organisations (RTOs). There are also e-portfolio initiatives within the higher education sector, funded by the federal government. So university courses already make use of e-portfolios, such as the ANU Engineering Internship (ENGN3200), where this makes up 20% of the assesment.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings

Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings, provides a useful, timely credible information about Australian student and staff access, use and views on information technology for education. The research is from 2008 an covers primary and secondary schools, vocational education (TAFE), universities. Communication and group work activities was one commonly valued use for email and discussion lists. Online games, social networking and media sites were of interest.

There was an interesting split with most of primary students indicating social networking sites are for fun, not learning and should not be accessed at school. In contrast adult students believe social networking can be used for education. But all levels expect to have access to computers and the Internet at educational institutions and home. They also expect the teachers to be be able to use the technology to communicate with them.

Unfortunately the report is difficult to read, being a large PDF document. Here is the Executive summary as text:
This report outlines findings collected from listening to and analysing the views and expectations of students within Australian education and training institutions about learning with technologies. The overarching question for this research was: ‘what are the views of students and early career educators, about learning with technologies in Australian education and training?’ In 2008, students in primary and secondary schools, vocational education and training (VET) institutions, international students studying education in universities and pre-service teacher education students contributed to the research based upon their current experiences and views. Early career teachers were asked to reflect on their experiences as pre-service teachers. Data was collected through online surveys and focus groups. The research design was informed by a literature review, which is available at:

The purposes of this research were:
(a) To gain an improved and contemporary understanding of the expectations and experiences of learners and early career educators, of how information and
communication technologies (ICT) may be utilized to improve learning outcomes; and
(b) To develop a better understanding of students’ and educators’ requirements regarding ICT in education and training.

The data collected shows that within their educational institutions and at home, students and early career educators have access to and use a range of technologies for teaching and learning purposes, but in particular, use computers and the Internet. Access and convenience to computers and the Internet within education and training institutions varied for the different respondent groups, according to specific locations, including within their education and training institutions. In general, more use of the computer and Internet for educational purposes is made by students as they progress through the respective levels of education. Participants indicated they use technologies to research information; for communication and group work activities with other students and educators; for solving problems; presenting assignments; and for reflection, planning and for creative purposes.

All cohorts indicated the importance of high quality teachers who form positive
relationships and can construct relevant and engaging learning contexts, with and without technologies. Survey and focus group responses identified the following benefits of including technologies in education and training:
  • Access to detailed and easy-to-access information;
  • Skill building through problem-solving;
  • Development of maths and other literacies;
  • Opportunities to practice tasks;
  • Increased motivation to learn through self-directed and interest-focused work;
  • Improved presentation of work including the use of office productivity and multimedia software applications;
  • Personalized learning that supports different learning styles and levels; and
  • Increased control of their own learning.

The value of technologies for communication and group work activities was recognised by all cohorts. Tertiary students in particular, indicated they value communication with their lecturers through using technologies such as email and discussion lists. Despite students’ preferences for varying approaches to learning however, many students reported their classroom activities often involve considerable teacher/lecturer information-giving.

Online games and social networking and media sites were reported to be of interest and used frequently by many respondent groups, particularly outside of educational institutions.

Despite some concerns about possible distractions, over half of the respondents from most groups indicated that educational games should be more widely used because of their motivational and educational benefits.

The value of social networking sites for learning received variable responses. MSN was commonly identified as ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ being used across all groups. Unique to secondary students however, was the extent of their involvement in chatting online with other students in regard to their studies, with over 70% of online survey respondents indicating they did so.

There were mixed responses about the value of Myspace, Instant Messaging, Facebook, Although 50% of primary students reported using MSN for learning, around 70% of primary students indicated they believe sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube are more for fun than for learning, and should be accessed from home rather for from schools.

On the other hand, about half of the post-school, adult respondents disagreed with the younger students. The adult students instead indicated they believe social networking and media sites such as YouTube and Flickr can be used for educational purposes.

All respondents indicated they have high expectations about access to and use of computers and the Internet at various education and training locations and want intranet access from home. Respondents also indicated they expect teachers and lecturers to have confidence in using technologies and to use email to communicate with them.

Across all cohorts concerns were raised about issues related to teaching and learning with technologies. These concerns included insufficient time, lack of access to and use of the Internet, concerns about the speed of the Internet, and concerns about the level of teacher/lecturer skills. These concerns were raised by about half of respondents in most groups, although some issues were identified as being of greater concern for some respondent categories than others.

About a third of adult participants indicated they believe that improving lecturers’ knowledge of online games would improve students’ learning. Over 40% of primary students and 60% of secondary students raised concerns about online sites being blocked at their educational institutions and the impact of this filtering on their studies. Issues such as plagiarizing, distractions in lessons caused by playing games, online bullying, and viruses were raised by some in focus groups. In the surveys, these issues were not seen as a concern by around half of respondents in all groups.

All cohorts emphasized the importance of good relationships and communication between students and educators, and indicated they would like to receive more formative feedback from their teachers and/or lecturers.

Participants also indicated they would like greater variety and more interesting learning approaches, more personalized learning that caters for their individual requirements, and the opportunity for individual help. Importantly however, focus group respondents highlighted the importance of face-to-face teaching aided by technologies, rather than advocating only face-to-face or only online learning. Furthermore, while more up-to-date technology, faster Internet speed, more accessible computers such as laptops, and less blocked Internet sites were suggested by respondents, the quality of the teachers and lecturers was reiterated across all cohorts. The challenges then are before us. ...

From: Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings, Associate Professor Kathryn Moyle PhD, University of Canberra and Dr Susanne Owen, Executive Director, Owen Educational Consultancy, for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Australian E-portfolio Plan

A "VET E-portfolio Roadmap: A strategic roadmap for e-portfolios to support lifelong learning" (640 kbytes PDF, 16 June 2009) has been released by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. This provides a useful 26 page overview of what electronic portfolios are, how they are useful in education and how they can be applied in Australia. Unfortunately AFLF published the plan as a difficult to read PDF document, rather than web format (excerpts appended).

AFLF is a state and federal funded body to support e-learning and has issued a call for participation in
a VET E-portfolios Showcase in October 2009. Unfortunately the VET and higher education sectors are not coordinating their e-learning initiatives in Australia, with the federal government funding the wasted duplicated effort resulting from this. This is mostly the fault of the universities, who have difficulty accepting that the TAFEs are more advanced in e-learning than the universities are. This is dispite some reports recommended cooperation, such as QUT's "AeP ePortfolio Project - Final Project Report" (August 2008) which said something similar from the university point of view. This creates problems for organisations, such as ACS, which are involved in both vocational and masters level postgraduate education.
Section 1: Introduction 1
What is an e-portfolio? 2
Why are e-portfolios important to VET learners? 2
What is an e-portfolio system? 3
Activities or processes for a VET e-portfolio system 4
A reference model for VET e-portfolio systems 4
Section 2: VET E-portfolio Roadmap goals 6
Section 3: VET E-portfolio Roadmap key outputs 8
3.1 National guidelines for VET managers of learner information 8
3.2 Functional specifi cations for e-portfolio system implementers and developers 9
3.3 Strategies for embedding e-portfolios into VET 9
Section 4: VET E-portfolio Roadmap implementation strategy 10
Roadmap implementation strategy 10
Section 5: Getting involved 14
The role of jurisdictions and RTOs 14
For more information 15
Appendix 1: Summary of the VET E-portfolio Roadmap 16
Appendix 2: Key national policy drivers 19
Appendix 3: Defi nition of e-portfolio system services 21 ...

Appendix 1: Summary of the VET E-portfolio Roadmap

Goal 1: Enable portable e-portfolios and associated content to effectively support learner transitions and lifelong learning.

Requirements: A learner should be able to access and develop their e-portfolio throughout their lifelong learning journey. This will require them to be able to move their e-portfolio between various e-portfolio systems.

Strategy: A technical method for associating competencies, employability skills and other relevant frameworks/classifi cations to e-portfolio content/evidence will be investigated and recommended for the VET sector.

Import/export functional requirements for e-portfolio systems will be recommended and agreed nationally.

The use of a VET person profi le to facilitate the portability of e-portfolios which is interoperable with specifi cations such as auEduPerson8 specifi cation will be investigated.

This roadmap was commissioned by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s national E-portfolio business activity1
in 2008 to assist in the development of work to suppsaining system.

Goal 2: Enable electronic verifi cation of educational qualifi cations, membership of professional associations or trade/occupational licensing information.

Requirements: The ability to electronically verify evidence will help to streamline applications for employment, course admissions and recognition of prior learning processes.

Strategy: Existing systems for validating claims including Qualsearch9, Purple Passport10 and Digitary11 will be evaluated for their potential suitability in an Australian VET context. The Australian Graduation Statement for Higher Education and European Diploma Supplement will also be considered as part of this investigation.

Goal 3: Ensure that personal data is protected and under the control of the e-portfolio owner.

Requirements: There are legal requirements for privacy which, along with agreements on ownership of content, need to be clearly articulated and addressed in e-portfolio implementations.

Strategy: Generic legal advice will be sought regarding privacy issues and the roles and responsibilities associated with the delivery of e-portfolio services.

Information and advice on privacy and ownership policies will be researched and guidelines for RTOs and developers of e-portfolio systems. This information will be based on best and emerging
practice in this area and use-cases illustrating common issues and scenarios will be provided.

Goal 4: Ensure key stakeholders, including e-portfolio owners (learners) and organisations hosting e-portfolios systems, understand their copyright and intellectual property (IP)

Requirements: Copyright and IP considerations can affect the access and usage rights for a range of different types of e-portfolio content.

Strategy: Guidelines concerning the management of copyright and IP in e-portfolio implementation will be developed for the VET sector. In particular:

• guidelines on licensing of materials and usage of third party materials
• guidelines on appropriae content.

The E-portfolio business activity will monitor relevant developments such as Creative Commons Australia, in particular ccLearn initiatives.12

Access control
Goal 5: Enable effective authentication methods for third parties seeking access to sensitive personal information.

Requirements: Effective digital security facilitates learners’ privacy rights under law, allowing only authorised access to protected content and services.

Strategy: A set of representative VET use-cases for identity, authentication and access control will be developed based on further stakeholder consultations. Although focused on e-portfolios, an identity framework for the VET sector will need to be broader in scope.

A trial of a user-centric identity framework approach such as OpenID or Information Cards will be undertaken.

The sector will also need to engage in related activities such as the higher education sector, auEduPerson and the work of the schools sector in developing a localised version of the SIF data model13 to form a common agreement on data attributes for students. (see actions under Portability above).

Guidance and support for RTOs implementing e-portfolio systems will be provided.

Goal 6: Advocate the availability of suffi cient web connectivity, appropriate access devices, and suffi cient digital infrastructure.
Requirements: Access to appropriate infrastructure is required to support widespread adoption of e-portfolios within the sector.

Strategy: Infrastructure requirements for learners, e-portfolios and e-portfolio systems to support lifelong learning will be communicated to RTOs, jurisdictions and federal government (including the Digital Education Revolution initiative) and other relevant stakeholders.

Goal 7: Establish a shared understanding of storage issues and requirements for e-portfolios in VET.

Requirements: Storage agreements need to take into account that some e-portfolio content will be stored in the e-portfolio system, whilst some content will be stored in other systems or on the

Strategy: Guidance on storage of digital content for e-portfolios will be developed and agreed upon. This guidance will be informed by a number of key resources including higher education
sector’s Australian E-portfolio Project’s e-portfolio toolkit14 and JISC e-portfolio15 resources. It will be aimed at balancing the needs of learners, RTOs and the requirement for longevity of

Guidelines on supporting the longevity requirements for e-portfolios will be developed.

Goal 8: Establish a strategic approach to developing effective e-portfolio practice.

Requirements: The uptake of e-portfolios as a teaching, learning and recognition tool needs to be accompanied through professional development, adequate business structures and support.

Strategy: The Framework’s E-portfolio business activity will play a central role in supporting the establishment and facilitation of communities of practice to provide assistance, dissemination of
information and a mentoring role for new users.

The business activity will also seek FLAG16 and AICTEC17 support to advocate the establishment of a cross sectoral working/reference group that focuses on issues such as policy, professional learning, standards and advocacy at national level to support a standards-based approach to e-portfolios across the sectors.

Goal 9: Promote e-portfolio good practice which supports learner transitions and key national policy drivers such as RPL (recognition of prior learning) and fast-tracking apprenticeships.

Requirements: E-portfolios provide a means for presenting a variety of evidence from formal and informal learning environments which have been acquired through workplace and life-wide experiences.

Strategy: Pilot projects within the VET sector will be encouraged to further develop an understanding of the technical and policy requirements of learner transitions.

The COAG RPL community will be engaged to ensure e-portfolios support RPL processes. ...

From: "VET E-portfolio Roadmap: A strategic roadmap for e-portfolios to support lifelong learning", Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 16 June 2009

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Emerging technologies for education

The Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) has tasked the Strategic ICT Advisory Service (SICTAS) to report on the policy implications of emerging technologies for education. Submissions have been invited from education and training bodies by April 10, 2009.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Green ICT at Petersham TAFE

After the Australian Computer Society hosted a presentation from TAFE NSW on their new ICT sustainability courses. The course developer, Stanley Tonkins, invited me along to the Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE to meet the class of 2008 and see their work.

Sydney Institute Petersham College has three campuses, with the Green ICT at the Crystal Street Campus, 27 Crystal Street, Petersham. This is a few minutes walk from Norton Street, Sydney's little Italy. While I have been along Crystal Street many times, I had never noticed the TAFE buildings. There is a modern brick building from the 1980s, but the IT department is in an older "Mechanics Institute" arts and crafts style building. This has very high ceiling and a wooden staircase, somewhat like an old boarding school. The modern computer equipment and interactive white boards look a little out of place, as does the solar panel on the roof which powers some of the computers.

The students do hands on projects, upgrading the hardware and software in desktop PCs and servers, wiring up networks. They also undertake study for "certified engineer" examinations. I was shown some exciting projects, including a very old and slightly rusty looking desktop PC which had been upgraded with a low power PC motherboard, a low power laptop type disk and a socket for a high capacity solid state flash drive.

There was also a rack mount server rescued from the tip, which had its memory upgraded and a free copy of a virtual operating system manager installed. This allowed Linux and Microsoft Windows to be run simultaneously. The student doing the work gave me an impromptu presentation, including a short video they had made for their report.

In the centre of the room, surrounded by computers, was what appeared to be an exercise bicycle. This is a prototype pedal powered generator for use in African hospitals. The unit was made from bicycle components and a car alternator. It is designed to run computers and medical equipment in a hospital during a power failure. I suggested to Stanley he might sell some of these to the local fitness centres: the customers could pedal to power the TV screens they watch.

What was most impressive about all this work was its practical hands-on nature and that the students were required to be able to explain what they were doing. Many university level students are able to work with complex ICT theories, but struggle to put them into practice, or to explain what it is they are doing. With Green ICT, as with many technological challenges, the problem is not so much getting the technology to work, but convincing peers and clients to use it.

After a talk to the students we adjourned to a cafe in Norton Street for end of semester coffee, cake and ice cream.

Next year new modules developed by TAFE NSW will be available:
  1. Install and Test Power Saving Hardware
  2. Install and Test Power Management Software
  3. Install and Test Renewable Energy System for ICT Networks
  4. Implement Server Virtualisation for a sustainable ICT System
  5. Install and Test Web 2.0 OS and Applications on a Low Powered Workstation Fed by Power Over Ethernet
Some links from the TAFE:
  1. Sustainability Project Presentation 2nd July 2008
  2. Certificate IV in IT Semester 2 2007: VirtualServerImplementation
  3. and Case Study - Low energy deshtop system Patjarr School
  4. Certificate IV in IT Semester 1 2008: low energy desktop design considerations and Operating system on USB flash drive
  5. Ubuntu server with renewable energy system supply - design.ppt
  6. Diploma in IT Semester 1 2008: Solar Panel and Wind Generator
  7. Solar Panel Installation and System Testing Presentation: Low Energy Consumption PC Cary

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Workforce Development Starter Tool

The NISC will be talking about their workforce development starter tool at the 2008 Industry e-learning forum in Sydney on Wednesday 26 November. They invited feedback on the initial version of the tool, so I had a look at it.

The first problem I had was discovering what the "
National Industry Skills Council" was. It was easy enough to find the tool itself, but there is no link from the tool home page to the organisation sponsoring it, nor is the name of the organisation in the text of the web page. It took several web searches to realise that I should be looking for the "National Industry Skills Committee", not "Council" (as listed on the e-learning forum program).

The next problem was working out what the tool did. The login page just says:
This web-based tool comprises a series of dynamic and interactive screens, which enable the user to enter basic information about their organisation to receive summary details about potential factors impacting on their workforce.
This could be a generic description of just about any computer program. What sort of information do you enter about your organisation? What factors impacting on the workforce are reported? There did not seem to be any way to find out without registering.

The registration screen required the usual information and required entering visually displayed security text. There was no audio alternative to the visual code for people who couldn't see it, which may breech Australian disability legislation. Apart from that the application looked as though it would be reasonably accessible (although I did not conduct formal tests). Graphics can be switched off to speed the application and it looks like it would work well on a smartphone.

I filled in the registration form and an activation email arrived a minute or so later. The system then provided a little more information about what it was for:

The NISC Online Workforce Development Starter Tool is intended to assist enterprises and employers in planning for the skills needs of their future workforce. ...
More useful for an overview of the application was the well designed menu:
My Organisation
What Things Affect My Workforce?

My Current Workforce

If I Change Nothing, Where am I Heading?
My Workforce Concerns
My Desired Future Workforce

My Potential Workforce Gaps
Good Practice Recommendations
Print My Workforce Report
My Profile
Links Page
However, it was still not clear to me why I should type information about my company into this system, if I could trust the people providing the system, or what I would get out of it. But as my company has only one employee (me) I felt I had little to be lost. ;-)

A My Organisation page then asks for some details about the organisation's employees. This is easy enough to fill in, except for the occupations, which are selected from an excessively long pull down menu. This would be very difficult to fill in for a large organisation. Saving the page takes a few seconds.

Then a What Things Affect My Workforce? page is displayed. This lists a series of issues which might be considered. You then check a box to remove the irrelevant ones. An example is:
Impacts of Globalisation on Skill Demand: The rise of the global economy has meant that companies are not only increasingly competing for customers the world over but are also competing for resources that may originate anywhere in the world, including skilled staff. Australia’s powerful skilled migration program is an example of this global competition. By 2006, the Federal Government had increased the number of skilled migration visa places available nine times consecutively over the period from 1998/99 to 2006/07. Department of Immigration and Citizenship Statistics ...
The "click to remove" interface was a little unnatural and I found myself click the items I wanted. The bottom of the screen offered to print a customised report (presumably of the selected items) or downloading an Australian Workforce Environment Report (whatever that is).

The next screen was "My Current Workforce ・Overview", which allowed the qualifications and current training opportunities of the staff to be entered. At this point I started to see what the application was for. It seems to be well designed for leading someone through the process of assessing the training needs of their staff. Also I noticed that the steps I was being taken through were the same and the same sequence as the menu, which is useful.

I decided to skip to the end and produced a "My Workforce Report". One problem is that the menu item is labelled "Print My Workforce Report", but I didn't want to print the report, just generate an electronic document. In any case that is what the menu option did: generating a reasonably formatted web page suitable for printing. The report could be improved by removing the excessive formatting so it could be copied and pasted into a word processor or a web based system. It looks a little odd with blog formatting, but is still readable:

Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd Ltd Workforce Development Report
04 Nov 2008
Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd Profile:
The following details were entered into the Workforce Development Starter Tool as characteristics of the Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd workforce.

Education Industry
Small business (less than 20 employees)
100% workforce in ACT
Key skill groups:
  • ICT Business Analyst
Factors Potentially Impacting on the Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd workforce:
An important step in considering your future workforce requirements is understanding the environment in which your organisation operates and the factors and issues which may impact on your organisation's future.
Given the information which you entered in the online Workforce Development Starter Tool, the following factors have been identified as potentially impacting on the Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd.
Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd may wish to consider how or if these factors are likely to affect the Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd future workforce.
Because of...You should consider...
Impacts of Globalisation on Skill Demand: The rise of the global economy has meant that companies are not only increasingly competing for customers the world over but are also competing for resources that may originate anywhere in the world, including skilled staff. Australia’s powerful skilled migration program is an example of this global competition. By 2006, the Federal Government had increased the number of skilled migration visa places available nine times consecutively over the period from 1998/99 to 2006/07.Department of Immigration and Citizenship Statistics
Future Employment Growth by Skill-Level: Employment is expected to grow more quickly in higher skilled occupations than in lower skilled occupations. High employment growth is forecast in high-skill occupations (managers and administrators, professionals and associate professionals). In advanced clerical and service and trades, a decline is forecast, although in the trades the decline is marginal. In all other occupations, the forecast is for relatively moderate growth. Consequently, the occupational profile is expected to shift towards high-skill occupations. By 2016, more Australians will be employed as associate professionals than tradespersons.National Training Reform Taskforce Report

Ageing Australian Workforce (2): The Workforce Tomorrow publication, produced by DEWR, provides projections on the impacts of population ageing for the Australian workforce by state/territory, industry, region and occupation, and can be found at the following link:

Workforce Tomorrow Report
Australian States & Territories - Labour Market Overview - The Australian Jobs 2007 publication, produced by the Department of Employment and Workforce Relations, provides comprehensive information about the Australian labour market for each state/territory: including employment trends over the past 5 years, projected employment growth by industry and workforce profile characteristics.Click on the link below to access this publication.Australian Jobs Report 2007
Impact of Skill Shortages on Business Innovation: A national survey of 492 CEO's in the manufacturing, services and construction sectors examines the extent to which skill shortages are restricting the capacity of Australian businesses to be innovative. The survey results also highlight the extent of skill shortages within industry sectors and by occupations. Click on the following link to access this report.AIG & Deloitte National CEO Survey (April 2008)

Broad Industry Growth Trends: On an industry basis, the same broad industries which accounted for most job growth over the past ten years (construction, business services, community and health services, and tourism, retail and recreation) are projected to do likewise for the next decade.

Access Economics Report

Key Workforce Trends: Over the coming years, demographic, socio-political, technological and economic changes will lead to a dramatic shift in the make-up of the workforce. Trends that will influence the way organisations recruit and retain key talent in the future include: A smaller pool of talent from which to recruit for key positions; an increasingly global market for new talent; an increasingly virtual workplace; a vastly diverse workforce – in terms of age, race and culture; and a workforce with independent access to information about their own and other organisations. Click on the following link to access the Hewitt report on Next-Generation Talent Management - Insights on How Workforce Trends are Changing the Face of Talent Management.

Hewitt Report

Education Industry Profile: The Education industry in Australia is significant in size. It accounts for 720,000 jobs and has experienced average jobs growth over the past five years (over 72,000 new jobs). Most of this growth has been concentrated in the schools sector although some has also occurred in the pre and post-schooling education sectors. Employment growth is anticipated to moderate over the next five years with about 33,200 expected to be created over that time period. The Education industry has an ageing workforce with almost half of its employees over the age of 45 years. This is a significant issue for this industry with a strong need for it to find workers to replace those retiring over the next two decades.

DEWR Report 2007

Education Workforce Trends: The Education industry and its workforce face major challenges in the coming years. Participation in post-compulsory education has been increasing for some time, placing greater demands on the existing workforce and generating the need for more educators across the country. Most States and Territories are known to be suffering form acute shortages of school teachers, particularly in regional areas where living conditions may not be considered as attractive as those on offer in metropolitan areas. The Australian Education Union has proposed a number of strategies to address these shortages in regional areas:

· Monetary incentives;

· Availability of adequate subsidised housing;

· Paid travel including the provision of vehicles;

· Additional leave entitlements for travel and training;

· Targeted professional development programs for country teachers;

· Promotion opportunities;

· Guaranteed return to metropolitan areas;

· Incentives to remain in rural and remote areas.

AEU A National Teacher Shortage

The top five occupations in the industry include:

Primary School Teachers 140,800 people
Secondary School Teachers 128,700 people
Teachers’ Aides 54,500 people
University Lecturers and Tutors 38,800 people
Music, Dance and Other Teachers 25,500 people

Monash University forecasts average per annum growth between 2007/08 and 2014/15 as follows:

Primary School Teachers 1.2%
Secondary School Teachers 2.2%
Teachers’ Aides n/a
University Lecturers and Tutors 1.9%

Music, Dance and Other Teachers 1.5%

Employment growth in the Education industry (11.1%) has been just below the national average of 12.8% over the past five years. The female share of employment in the industry (69%) is much higher than the average across all industries (45%) and has risen by 7% since 1987. The industry is highly qualified with 64.8% of workers holding a Bachelors degree (well above the national industry average of 24.2%). The industry workforce is older than the average across all industries with 49% of workers aged 45 years and or older compared to the national average of 37%, suggesting a strong replacement demand will emerge over the next two decades.

Australian Jobs 2007
Education Industry Trends: Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IPSA) has prepared an Environmental Scan (2008) of broad factors and trends impacting on skill and training needs across a range of industry sectors, including education. Click on the following link to access this reportIBSA Report
Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd Current Workforce
Based on the information you entered in the online tool, a profile of the current Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd workforce is presented below.
For planning to be successful, Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd must understand the workforce they have, in terms of quantitative and qualitative characteristics.
The following information was provided to the tool to describe the Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd Workforce.
Current Qualification Profile

Other VET Certificate Qualification 100%
Current Occupations Employed

ICT Business Analyst

If Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd change nothing where are they heading?
Based on the turnover and the recruitment details that you entered in the online tool, the following presents a broad indicative forecast of where your organisation could be heading over the next 1,3 and 5 years based on the scenario 'if I change nothing'.

● Your workforce is in Growth Mode

Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd Desired Future Workforce
There are no absolutes when considering what will happen ‘tomorrow’ – be it in one, three or five years time. However preparation is the key to maximising options and minimising risks. Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd has identified the following profile for its desired future workforce.
The Future View is determining the organisation’s needs considering the emerging trends and issues within the context of the organisation’s environment.

The following is how Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd views it’s future workforce – their preferred future.

Future Qualification Profile

Degree or Higher Qualified 0% Other VET Certificate Qualification 0%
Trade Qualified 0% Year 12 or Below 0%
Diploma Qualified 0% Other 0%

Future Special skills and level of capability within Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd will be:

Future Occupations Employed:

Future Demographic/Employment Profile




Employment Type






Age Range

25 and under




56 and over

Length of service range







21 and over


All Employees

Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd Future Workforce Gaps
A comparison of the Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd current workforce and its desired future workforce reveals that your preferred future includes the following key changes.

Workforce Profile Changes
● Decrease percentage "Other VET Certificate Quailfication" from 100% to 0%
Desired Change in Skills and Competencies

Good Practice Recommendations
Your Workforce Development efforts will count for little unless you invest time in determining appropriate actions to address the gaps identified.
Based on the workforce concerns or issues that Tomw Communcations Pty Ltd has identified, you may be interested in reviewing the following workforce strategies and practices being implemented by some organisations.
In the area of...You might consider...

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