Report on Incorporating Professional Skills in the ANU Master of Computing

Tom Worthington

Version: 1.0 17 February 2013

Table of Contents




Application of Action Learning

What Generic Skills Should Be Convered in a Master of Computing?

Current Situation

Proposed Changes

Focus of the project

Scope of the project


Implementation Technique


E-Portfolio for Assessment

Skills Teaching and Requirements by Professional Bodies

The Draft Proposals and Feedback

Feedback on initial draft

Revised Proposal

Final Draft




This document reports on preparation over six weeks of a proposal for incorporating professional skills in a new Master of Computing degree for the Australian National University (ANU). A initial draft proposal was prepared and circulated for comment to staff of the ANU. A revised draft was circulated more widely to academia and industry. The comments are summarized in the report and a final proposal presented. The original proposal was for a one semester course to teach communication skills to ICT professionals using e-learning and an e-portfolio. Based on comments received, this was revised to two semester courses as currently used in the ANU Mater of Engineering. With the additional time available in two semester courses, the proposal could be expanded to teach mentoring and assessment skills. The key idea here is that students could learn skills for team work in a government or commercial workplace, but also applicable in research and teaching at a university. These courses could therefore replace the introductory tutor and teaching courses at ANU.


The purpose of this document is to report on preparation of a “Proposal for Incorporating Professional Skills in the ANU Master of Computing” in a new Master of Computing degree for the Australian National University (ANU) (Strazdins, 2012c). The report details the rational behind an emphasis on group work and teaching, e-learning and eportfolios, a survey of their use in other programs, preparation of a proposal for ANU and how it was received by stakeholders. The aim is to use eportfolios to support higher degree programs which are flexible enough to support both professional accreditation and education (Worthington, 2012).


This work is being undertaken as part of the ANU course “Enhancing Your Academic Practice” (EDUC8001). It has not been solicited by the ANU, nor is it an official part of a current university program proposal. The views expressed in this document are those of the author and may not be those of the ANU. The ANU is not obliged to accept any of the recommendations in this document.

Application of Action Learning

The syllabus of EDUC8001  emphasized the use of Action Research (also known as Action Learning). Whitehead & McNiff (2006) put the case that Action Research is valid research technique, alongside those of the social and physical sciences, but with a more personal approach where the researcher is more involved with their subject. Machanick (2005) describe how the action learning cycle can be applied to Computer Science (CS). This cycle starts with desired outcome (the “project”), then a planned to solve the problem, action to apply the plan and then analysis (“reflection”) of the results. The purpose of the current exercise is primarily to learn and so this could be best described as “action learning” (not research). This report documents the development of a draft proposal which was circulated for comment and revised. No claims as to the rigor of the process are made.

Area of Professional Practice Developed

Conceptual frameworks

Gosper et al. (2012) identified governance, planning, resourcing, organizational support, technologies and evaluation as key elements for a framework on e-learning. They then used these in planning focus groups of educational leadership. It is less clear if the frame analysis can be applied ex post facto, with data already collected. Masoumi and Lindström (2012) apply Goffman's frame analysis (1974) to approaches to investigate the embedded norms of culture in an Iranian on-line university. Robinson (1996) notes that Frame Analysis and Alexander's Pattern Language (1977)  emphasize the role of artifacts in interactions. The use of pattern languages will be familiar to computer professionals and architects as a method of codifying good design practices and thus could be seen as a form of frame analysis.

What Generic Skills Should Be Convered in a Master of Computing?

Current Situation

The ANU Research School of Computer Science currently offers a one year “Master of Computing”. This is normally be undertaken following a four year undergraduate degree in a computing with honors.

Proposed Changes

A change to a two year Master of Computing is proposed to satisfy AQF requirements. Also this is designed to appeal to international students, who do not favor a “Graduate Diploma”. The new program in effect incorporates the old one, as students who have a 4 year computing degree or a 3 year computing degree plus experience can be awarded one year (50%) of status. This project aims to add to the proposal training in literacy and the completion of an e-portfolio to satisfy professional accreditation requirements of the ACS, alongside the technical courses. Students would be supplied with a template setting out professional skills and be required to complete this by the end of their program. In addition the e-portfolio can be used by those students wishing to obtain credit for prior work to document their skills.


The AQF is in part designed to align with the Bologna Process (or "Bologna Accords") standardization of higher education qualifications. This has been adopted by most European countries, plus some of Asia. Australian higher education qualifications come under the Bologna Accords through signing of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (the "Lisbon Recognition Convention") in 2002.


The Bologna process has a three level model of degrees and the amount of full time study required for them is generally:

  1. 1.Undergraduate: three years 

  2. 2.Masters: two years 

  3. 3.Doctoral: three years. 

The AQF allows for shorter Masters Coursework programs where the student has a Bachelor Degree in the same discipline: 1.5 years following Bachelor Degree, or 1 year with Honors.

There is therefore an incentive for the student to not undertake Honors., as it would extend their their studies by six months.

Quinlan and Berndtson (2012) describe the background to the Bologna process and point out that it is smaller Western European countries (Scotland, Flemish Belgium, Denmark, Ireland) which have embraced it most enthusiastically, not its instigators (France and Germany). Also they point out this is still a work in progress.

Quinlan and Berndtson (2012) cite the European Commission's nine objectives for higher education reform (EC, 2008):

  1. 1.Break down the barriers around universities in Europe  

  2. 2.Ensure real autonomy and accountability for universities  

  3. 3.Provide incentives for structured partnerships with the business community  

  4. 4.Provide the right mix of skills and competencies for the labor market  

  5. 5.Reduce the funding gap and make funding work more effectively in education and research  

  6. 6.Enhance interdisciplinary and transdisciplinarity  

  7. 7.Activate knowledge through interaction with society  

  8. 8.Reward excellence at the highest level  

  9. 9.Make the European higher education area and the European research area more visible and  attractive in the world  

While expressed in therms of Europe, the objectives are equally applicable for an Australian university with potential students in Asia.

The new program has a conventional course structure, drawing on existing computer science and other ANU courses.

Some difficulties with the proposal are:

  1. 1.Professional accreditation with the Australian Computer Society (ACS): In particular, this requires every student has graduate outcomes of communication skills and professional ethics. These topics are not covered in any particular course and so some way is required to ensure that the student meets these requirements. 

  2. 2.Levels of academic communication: An ongoing problem with postgraduate university courses is students meeting the requirement for academic writing. The problem is most acute with international students who have English as a second language, but is also a problem with domestic students who have undertaken technical undergraduate degrees which do not require formal academic writing. This is not covered in any course within the currently proposed Masters of Computing. It is not clear if requiring ANU College for international students would be sufficient, especially as this would not address problems with domestic students. The ANU Information Literacy Program offers a one semester equivalent “Course Award in Graduate Research Information”, made up of workshops and on-line modules. However, this course is not currently assessed and is offered in face to face workshops, which would cause logistical difficulties. 

Focus of the project

At its core the project aimed to provide for a postgraduate program which is more flexible than a traditional coursework offering, but also meets professional vocational requirements The fundamental issue it aimed to address is if the techniques proven in professional and vocational development programs will meet the Australian quality standards for higher education.

Scope of the project

The project covers only the design of an e-portfolio addition to the proposed new New Master of Computing degree for the Australian National University (Strazdins, 2012c). Two other qualifications were proposed along with the Masters: the general approach is likely to also be applicable to the Graduate Certificate in Computing (2012a) and Graduate Diploma in Computing (Strazdins, 2012b). All three will be need to meet the requirements of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). However, only the Master will be submitted for professional accreditation with the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and so only that qualification was considered for this project.

An interesting option would be to design the three programs so that a student could start with the certificate and then, if they wish, progress through a diploma to the masters. This approach is taken with the ANU Graduate Studies Select program. This should prove popular with mature age students, without recent study experience. As a student of education, I found the prospect of starting with a certificate, with the option of a Masters later, to be attractive. However, this was outside the scope of this project.


Due to the limited time, the process is limited to the preparation of a draft document, which has been circulated for comment, comments will be collated and changes made. There are no plans for  workshops, nor formal analysis of data. In the longer term it is hoped that the project will be a model for other higher degree programs at ANU and more widely. No formal project metholody has been applied.

Implementation Technique

It should be noted that this is a short project and therefore use of a full formal project management methodology is not applicable (Steenkamp, 2002).

Time: Planned: 23 hours of work. This was the estimated time available from the course (120 hours) in proportion to the assessment scheme, less other activities.

Expertise: One student with experience of having completed three courses for the GCHE. Previous experience includes the review of a degree program for an Australian university for the university council, certification of a university course for the ACS and certification of a vocational program for the ACT Government.

Facilities and equipment: Open access materials in the public domain will be used.

Processes: Due to the limited time, the process was limited to the preparation of a draft document, which will then be circulated for comment, comments collated and changes made. There was no workshops, nor formal analysis of data.

Outputs: The project produced a draft and final report.

Outcomes: Comments from stakeholders were collated. But it was not be possible to achieve the ultimate aim, that is accreditation under the AQF and ACS, in the time available.

Impacts: In the longer term it is hoped that the project will be a model for other higher degree programs at ANU and more widely.

Evaluation Technique

The purpose of the project was to prepare a proposal which will meet higher degree program requirements of the ANU, AQF and ACS. It was not be feasible to complete any of those processes within the time-line of the project. The project was therefore limited to evaluating the proposal by collecting feedback from experts.

Further Refinement

One area which has considerable scope for refinement is the use of online tools to support higher degree programs. Much of the program can be provided online, but the details of this were beyond the scope of this project.

Time line

The project commenced 14 January 20113  and completed 28 February 2013. Allowing three days contingency (which were used), that is 43 calendar days for the project.


Days Required

Start Date

Prepare initial draft:



Circulate draft and await feedback:



Collate feedback and revise draft:



Circulate second draft and await feedback:



Collate feedback and revise draft:



Submit final draft to tutor and await feedback:



Revise report:



Submit final report:








At its core the project aims to provide for a postgraduate program which is more flexible than a traditional coursework offering, but also meets internal academic, government quality standards and professional vocational accreditation requirements The fundamental issue it aims to address is if the techniques proven in professional and vocational development programs will meet the Australian quality standards for higher education.

E-Portfolio for Assessment

The Australian Government funded an extensive study into the current and potential uses of e-Portfolios in Australian universities (Hallam and others, 2008). A high level of interest in the potential and some early adoption was found. Since that time there has been limited implementation of e-Portfolios. The report identified six uses for e-Portfolios: Assessment, Presentation, Learning, Personal development, Multiple-owner, Working. The assessment portfolio is of interest for this report. The e-portfolio might also be used to apply for a job ( Presentation), as part of reflection and deeper understanding in a program (Learning),  for career planning (Personal development), to show the work of a group (Multiple-owner) and provide an archive of the students work (Working). However, it is the individual student's meeting the course requirements and the institution meeting accreditation requirements of external bodies, which is of interest here.

Assessing with e-Portfolios at UNSW

The University of NSW (UNSW) provides a useful set of guidelines on "Assessing with ePortfolios" (3 May 2012). ePortfolios are suggested to "support students in planning their personal, educational and career development", "present evidence of achieving program outcomes through artifacts that demonstrate transferable skills"and "in capstone courses and programs that require professional accreditation". UNSW provide a useful list of issues to consider with ePortfolios and further readings. UNSW have installed the Mahara e-portfolio tool (as used by ACS and USQ).

UNE Using an e-Portfolio to Demonstrate Graduate Attributes

The University of New England UNE) "Guidelines for implementation of the Graduate
Attributes Policy and Quality Management processes" (June 2009), include the option of presentation of evidence via a personal ePortfolio. UNE reference UNSW's "Assessing with ePortfolios" and offer students the Mahara e-Portfolio tool.

ANU Software Engineering Internship Requires E-Portfolio

Of most relevance to incorporating an e-portfolio in a new ANU computing graduate degree, is that e-portfolios are already used in undergraduate computing programs. Professional accreditation by Engineering Australia requires the student to undertake at least 60 days work experience.  This is  was accommodated in the ANU Bachelor of Software Engineering with Engineering internships, which were for credit. The course Software Engineering Internship (COMP3820) replaced one semester of full time study for the student. Assessment for the course requires students to reflect on their work experience in an Internship Journal (e-Portfolio).  The students are intended to be able to demonstrate learning and professional development mapped to the Engineers Australia technical competencies. The e-Portfolio makes up 20% of the total assessment for the course, which is equivalent to 80% of a standard one semester course.


The aim of this course is to use the internship experience to enable students to develop their software engineering skills and practice. Students will be placed in industry, working full-time and assessed for academic credit. The internships will be aligned with the aims of the software engineering program. Students will experience a real-life engineering workplace and understand how their software engineering and professional skills and knowledge can be utilized in industry. They will also be able to demonstrate functioning software engineering knowledge, both new and existing, and identify areas of further development for
Software Engineering Internship (COMP3820),Shayne Flint,  ANU  Research School of Computer Science, 2012

Skills Teaching and Requirements by Professional Bodies

The Certified Member Association for Learning Technology Program, the Professional Practice Subject of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) Certified Professional Program and ACS Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Application process all use some form of portfolio.

The ACS Professional Practice Subject of the Certified Professional Program requires four components:

  1. 1.Skill self assessment: the student assesses their own current skills against the Skills for the Information Age (SFIA) framework. Students are required to have reached SFIA Level 4 (generic skills:
    autonomy, influence, complexity and business skills) before commencing the activity.  

  2. 2.Career plan: the student has to identify three areas to develop over the following five years, with  a plan for development,  

  3. 3.Professional profile: the student prepares a professional profile in preparation for career advancement,  

  4. 4.Reflective journal: the student records a weekly reflection on what they have learned, their skills, and workplace experience.  

The guidelines allow for 1 to 3 hours per week for up to 52 weeks for the  the Professional Practice Subject.

The ACS "Key Areas of Knowledge" document provides a list of topics for applicants for membership to address in an application for RPL:

ACS Key Areas of Knowledge
  1. 1.Technology Resources (TR)  

  2. 2.Technology Building (TB)  

  3. 3.Services Management (SM)  

  4. 4.Outcomes Management (OM)  

As these are the topics an applicant for RPL is required to address, it should be possible to use these same topics in an e-portfolio to support membership for students in university programs. However, these topics do not appear to match those which have been used traditionally to define the ICT "Body of Knowledge" (known as the "BoK"). In particular there is no mention of professional skills in communication and ethics. So I should check the latest ACS BoK.

The ACS "
ICT Profession Body of Knowledge" (ACS Professional Standards Board, July 2012), follows the '... approach to educational program design that focuses on the development of professionals rather than taking a strict bottom‐up “curriculum‐driven” approach'.  The BoK cites several international standards and frameworks for defining ICT courses and skills requirements, including the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), the the Seoul Accord graduate attributes and the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). It should be noted that the ACS has been closely involved in the development of these international programs. The BoK states: "It might be expected that a graduate from a degree program would be ready to assume Level 4 responsibilities in their area of specialisation". 

The "CORE Block" of the Core Body of Knowledge has six sub‐components:

  1. 1.ICT Problem Solving (PS)  

  2. 2.Professional Knowledge (PK)  

  3. 3.Technology Building (TB)  

  4. 4.Technology Resources (TR)  

  5. 5.Services Management (SM)  

  6. 6.Outcomes Management (OM).  

The last four of these (TB, TR, SM and OM) are also in the ACS "Key Areas of Knowledge" for RPL (but with TR before TB). It is not clear why "ICT Problem Solving" (PS) and Professional Knowledge (PK) are not included in the RPL process. Perhaps these are covered implicitly by the requirement for the applicant to provide case studies of their work. These two areas are the ones which are lest able to be covered in a traditional course based program and were the e-portfolio is most likely to be of use.

ICT Problem Solving

ICT Problem Solving (PS) covers modeling, abstraction and design. There are many different forms of modeling used in ICT, engineering and related disciplines which could be applied. It is likely that a student undertaking an ICT program will have covered this topic adequately somewhere, but may need to identify where they did and provide evidence of specific work.

Professional Knowledge

Professional Knowledge (PK) covers:

  1. 1.Ethics  

  2. 2.Professionalism  

  3. 3.Teamwork concepts and issues  

  4. 4.Interpersonal communication  

  5. 5.Societal issues/Legal issues/Privacy  

  6. 6.History and status of discipline   

These are the topic which cause most difficulty in a traditional course based university program, as they do not fit within traditional technical categories. Teamwork is likely to be covered in a software engineering course, but less so in computer science. Ethics and other issues may be covered by one or two lectures and an assignment at best. The difficulty for university course designers is where to fit these topics.

Mapping of International Curriculum to ACS CBOK  

The ACS BoK includes an appendix Mapping of International Curriculum to ACS CBOK. This has a table indicating what BoK sub-components correspond to parts of the standard curricular of ACM, IEEE and IEEE CS. Notably ICT Problem Solving (PS) does not appear in the mapping. Professional Knowledge maps to the other curricular.

ACM/IEEE-CS Report on Masters Degree Programs in Europe and the United States

Of relevance to any new Australian Computing Masters is the "Report of the Joint ACM and IEEE-CS Committee on Masters Degree Programs in Europe and the United States" by Lillian N. Cassel, et. al.

 (2012). This report looks at the European standardization of Masters programs under the Bologna model and the different US approach

The report categorises the types of Masters as:

  1. 1.Research: Students are assumed to be continuing  to a PHD.   

  2. 2.Continuation/Integrated: Students undertake an undergraduate degree, then a Masters.  

  3. 3.Conversion: Students enter the masters having an undergraduate degree in another discipline.  

  4. 4.Professional/Industrial: Students study and work at the same time.  

The Continuation/Integrated and Conversion categories match most closely what is proposed for ANU.

The report discusses "
Professional Practice", which matches closely the ACS "Professional Knowledge". The ACS "Code of Professional Conduct and Professional Practice" is cited in the report. Also the "problem solving"and communication skills is addressed. Unfortunately the requirements for Professional Knowledge and Problem Solving are not detailed. Also the report ends without any recommendations on how US style masters can be harmonized with Europe, which is the issue Australia is now facing.

Computer Science Curricula 2013

Computer Science Curricula 2013 (ACM/IEEE CS, Strawman Draft, February 2012) includes a section on "Social and Professional Practice" (SP, also referred to as "Social and Professional Issues" in some parts of the report) which matches closely the ACS "Professional Knowledge". This is covered over nine pages in far more detail than the previously discussed reports. The joint committee which produced the curricula is due to produce an updated draft for comment in February 2013 and the final report in "Summer 2013".

Social and Professional Practice (SP) is allocated 11 Core-Tier 1 hours and 5 Core-Tier 2 hours of the curriculum (no change from 2001  and 2008 versions of the curriculum). In this context "hours"
refers to the time required to present the material in a traditional lecture format, not counting other student work. Tier 1 are introductory and Tier 2 advanced courses. The total hours are 305 (163 Tier 1 and 142 Tier 2). So Social and Professional Practice represents 6.7% of the Tier 1 total hours and 3.5% of Tier 2, making 5.2% of the total program hours. Assuming an undergraduate program consists of 4 courses per semester, 2 semesters per year for 3 years (24 in total), then SP makes up 125% of a course.

Comments on the report are being collected using . This allows anyone to sign up to enter a comment, with contributors able to "earn" higher level access. This is part of the "Ensemble" NSF NSDL Pathways project on computing education. However, little use seems to have been made of the system for this report. I have submitted this comment:

The CS2013 Ironman draft refers to the Knowledge Area "SP" mostly as "Social and Professional Practice" but in a few places as "Social and Professional Issues". I suggest using "Practice" rather than "Issues" throughout. Change: Chapter 1, Page 7, Line 89, Chapter 5, Page 33, Line 136

Social and Professional Practice (SP)
Social and Professional Practice (SP) is made up of ten topics:

SP. Social and Professional Practice





Core-Tier1 hours

Core-Tier2 hours

Includes Electives

SP/Social Context




SP/Analytical Tools




SP/Professional Ethics




SP/Intellectual Property




SP/Privacy and Civil Liberties




SP/Professional Communication












SP/Economies of Computing




SP/Security Policies, Laws and Computer Crimes




Curiously, "Professional Communication", makes up only one hour of the curriculum. This only about 0.3% of the total course, which appears inadequate, given the importance of communication to any professional and the problems computer scientists have had communicating.

SP/ Professional Communication
[1 Core-Tier1 hour]


Learning Outcomes:

  1. 1.Write clear, concise, and accurate technical documents following well-defined standards for format and for including appropriate tables, figures, and references. [Application]  

  2. 2.Evaluate written technical documentation to detect problems of various kinds. [Evaluation]  

  3. 3.Develop and deliver a good quality formal presentation. [Evaluation]  

  4. 4.Plan interactions (e.g. virtual, face-to-face, shared documents) with others in which they are able to get their point across, and are also able to listen carefully and appreciate the points of others, even when they  

  5. 5.disagree, and are able to convey to others that they have heard. [Application]  

  6. 6.Describe the strengths and weaknesses of various forms of communication (e.g. virtual, face-to-face, shared  

  7. 7.documents) [Knowledge]  

  8. 8.Examine appropriate measures used to communicate with stakeholders involved in a project. [Application]  

  9. 9.Compare and contrast various collaboration tools. [Evaluation]  


  1. 1.Discuss ways to influence performance and results in cross-cultural teams. [Knowledge]  

  2. 2.Examine the tradeoffs and common sources of risk in software projects regarding technology, structure/process, quality, people, market and financial. [Application]  

The Draft Proposals and Feedback

Feedback on initial draft

The initial draft was circulated for comment as planned on 23 January 2013 (“Proposal for Incorporating an ePortfolio in the ANU Master of Computing“). It was sent to staff of the ANU Research School of Computer Science (RSCS) responsible for the Master of Computer proposal being discussed, as well as staff with a particular interest in e-portfolios. A circular was also sent to the School “teaching” mailing list, College education forum and the ANU's Yammer forum. However, apart from two “Likes” on Yammer, only one comment was received, from one of the RSCS staff. This contained detailed comments which were very valuable and questioned some of the assumptions the proposal was based on. As a result I decided to delay circulating the proposal outside ANU, until I had addressed these issues.

The comments, with my initial responses:

  1. 1.This document doesn't contain much about this. It is mainly about course content and various attempts to harmonize this across countries etc. 

    This comment points out one of the problems in using a real activity as an assignment for a course. As this is for a course. I am required to include much more theory and background that would be strictly necessary for a real world project. The way I have decided to deal with this is to delete much of that content from the proposal itself and have it in the separate report document. 


  2. 2.Is there a reference for this – I assume you are talking about the BE

    ANU uses e-portfolios in several different courses for engineering degrees in different ways. I should look in more detail at how these differ and why.


  3. 3.So, what you are really proposing is a new course which makes use of eportfolios.

    Yes, ANU uses the approach of programs made up of a collection of “courses”, so the easiest way to incorporate an e-portfolio was to have it as part of a compulsory course. Some universities have e-portfolios as an additional requirement, outside courses. However, it may then be difficult to obtain resources to implement the e-portfolios, as it would not be within the normal administrative structure. Also if the student is not rewarded with credit for undertaking the e-portfolio, them may not value it. 


  4. 4.Isn't this stuff we assume has been covered in undergrad professional degrees. The MCOMP is not a conversion masters – it is for students who have already completed a professional degree. If this material has not been covered before MCOMP, then there is a problem at the undergrad level – shouldn't this course be targeted there?

    The ANU wants to allow people who do not already have a professional degree to undertake the MCOMP and so it must meet the requirements of a professional degree. In particular to be accredited by the ACS it has to meet all the requirements of an undergraduate degree. In effect the e-portfolio can act as an RPL process for those who have the required undergraduate degree and as the training and testing for those who do not. 


  5. 5.Undergrad vs postgrad ??

    The ACS has only one level of accreditation requirements at the first degree level (as do IEEE-CS and ACM in the USA). So there is no need to distinguish between undergraduate and postgraduate.

  6. 6.But honors is quite a different thing. Better to look at it the other way round – get an honors degree for 6mths more study

    My understanding is that honors is intended for students who are going on to postgraduate research, however that is only a small proportion of students. For most students, who are intending to enter the workforce, the issue will be if they have an undergraduate or higher degree. Employers are unlikely to distinguish between ordinary undergraduate degrees and those with honors, just as there is little distinction between a Masters and PHD. 


  7. 7.COMP4800 (0cp) covers the 60 days requirement. All students write a report rather than an LP. COMP3820 is quite separate – although we give status for COMP4800 if students pass COMP3820. Note also, that we have only ever put one cohort of 6 students through COMP{3820. It is not really active anymore. Maybe we should look at your proposal for the BSEng.

    Both COMP4800 and COMP3820 require students to reflect on their experience in the workplace and their professional development. COMP3820 looked to me to be more useful as a model, as it was for credit and appeared to have more structure to it. However, it seemed to me to have some problems, in particular the requirement for the industry supervisor to report on the student could prove difficult to implement and is something which I would not propose to have. Also what I did not make clear in my proposal, is that I would like to see the same approach adopted across all CECS degrees (and ANU professional degrees in other colleges). The idea would be that alongside their specialized training in individual courses, the student would develop professional skills with other students in other specializations and disciplines. I will try to make that more explicit in the second draft of the proposal. 


  8. 8.“... development through mapped to the Engineers ...” Grammar

    Will change to “... development
    by mapping to the Engineers ...” 


  9. 9.“... SFIA Level 4 ...” citation

    Sorry, I had a hypertext link, but I will add a formal reference to the ACS Professional Practice Fact sheet: 


  10. 10.“... the Professional Practice ...” Is this the correct term

    Sorry, it should be “... the Professional Practice Subject ...”


  11. 11.Is this about undergrad or postgrad – I think you need to consider this separation

    As discussed above, the ACS accreditation only considers one level (undergraduate), so that is the only one I am considering.


  12. 12.“Arnold Pears, Michael Casperson Art Pyster, Gordon Davies and Heikki Topi (2012).”

    Okay “Arnold Pears, (2012).” 


  13. 13.“... be going to continue on to a PHD ...”  Grammar

    Changed to “... be continuing  to a PHD”. 


  14. 14.“The Continuation/Integrated and Conversion categories match most closely what is proposed for ANU.” Yes – hence my comments on needing to think about where the material you are talking about should be  covered – undergrad or postgrad – or both, in which case, how is the postgrad coverage different?

    The ANU has to ensure students have the required  skills by the end of the Masters program. Students who undertook the ANU undergraduate degree, or similar degrees at other Australian institutions could be assumed to have the skills on entry. But those from other degrees could not, nor could international students. 


  15. 15.“Also the "problem solving"and communication skills.” Grammar

    Add: “is addressed” 


  16. 16.“Social and Professional Practice (SP) is allocated 11 Core-Tier 1 hours ...” Again, undergrad needs to be separated from postgrad – it's all a bit confusing

    The students can't be assumed to have these skills from an undergraduate degree, so it needs to be covered in the Masters. 

Summarizing the Issues

  1. 1.Should students entering the masters already have these skills from the undergraduate degree? 

  2. 2.Can these skills be addressed within a “course”? 

  3. 3.Exactly what skills are to be acquired? 

  4. 4.Is an e-portfolio needed for these skills? 

  5. 5.Can one Masers program meet the needs of all students? 

  6. 6.Would e-portfolios suit the Engineering Masters better than Computing? 

Rethinking the Topic

In addition to the comments on the draft (discussed above), I also received feedback from the course tutor on my draft plan and advance copies of new papers on the redesign of a ICT degree (discussed below). This caused me to re-evaluate the rationale and scope of the project.  The first step in this re-evaluation was to examine how professional skills are addressed in the ANU engineering masters and see if there were common themes which could be addressed in one common course, first across Computing and Engineering masters, then other professional degrees across ANU.


Two of the five Graduate Attributes for the Master of Computing are:


These attributes should be applicable to engineering graduates and more broadly to all graduates of professional degrees. Rather than just address these in a course for one masters, it should be feasible to address them more broadly. This would also provide the opportunity to have students obtain experience in communicating across disciplines and levels of expertise.

Professional Development in the ANU Engineering Masters

While this project was aimed at the new ANU Master of Computing, the suggestion was made in one comment to look at the Master of Engineering. The current ANU Master of Engineering has a requirement for two professional education semester long courses:

  1. 1.ENGN8150 Professional communication I 

  2. 2.ENGN8160 Professional communication II 

This contrasts with the current ANU Master of Computing has no course requirements for professional education (nor the ANU Master of Information Technology Studies).


Professional Communication I & II, have assessment made up of:

Assessment Item



Continuous assessment in individual and group tasks




Report 1



Report 2



Oral presentation 1



Oral presentation 2



Meeting simulation


Seminar attendance and participation






Summarizing this assessment

Assessment Item


Continuous assessment in individual and group tasks





Oral presentations


Meeting simulation


Seminar attendance and participation





ENGN8150 and ENGN8160 each have one one-hour lecture and one two-hour seminar each week, for 12 weeks. ENGN8150 uses Ibbotson (2008) as a text and ENGN8160 a reading brick.

ICT Degree Redesign Based on Industry Requirements

A redesign of the the ICT courses at University of Tasmania is described in two very useful papers from the 2013 Australasian Computing Education Conference. The first paper (Herbert, Dermoudy, Ellis, et. al. 2013) describes the way stakeholders were consulted and the general issues identified. The second paper (Herbert, de Salas, Lewis, et. al., 2013) details the careers and skills which the course should lead to. This approach of actually asking the customer what they want and then designing a university program to suit is unfortunately rare. The more usual approach is for the university to first address the need of higher degree research programs and leave industry needs as an afterthought, assembling an "industry" program from whatever courses happen to be available.

Staff of the University of Tasmania (UTAS) consulted industry members and "educators" on the curriculum for a bachelor degree in ICT. UTAS is the only university in Tasmania and so sees its role as addressing local needs (Herbert, Dermoudy, Ellis, et. al. 2013) . While a useful social service, it is questionable if this is a good business model, in a global educational environment. Students can undertake studies on-line, or at campuses elsewhere in the world.

UTAS sees its role as providing skilled ICT professionals for the Tasmanian ICT industry. However, it is not clear if Tasmania has a distinct ICT industry. UTAS might be better addressing global ICT skills requirements and so indirectly address the needs of industries in Tasmania which use ICT. It may be damaging to UTAS, the students and Tasmanian industry to limit the courses to existing perceived local needs.

UTAS identified generic professional skills, including communication and teamwork as important, along with business analysis, sourcing and integration, alongside ICT technical skills (Herbert, Dermoudy, Ellis, et. al. 2013) . As a result professional skills units will be introduced from first year of the degree and continued throughout the program. Also student will be required to complete a entrepreneurship, project management and business analysis. A bridging unit will in addition be required for international students who receive advanced standing for the course, to provide more communication and teamwork skills.

An emphasis in the UTAS ICT degree redesign was to reduce the  number of different courses offered (Herbert, de Salas, Lewis, et. al., 2013). It was argued that the wide choice of courses hinders rather than help-s students, but in choosing courses and in their later career. UTAS identified ICT careers using the Queensland Government's "ICT Career Streams" and SFIA. One limitation identified with SIFA is its business focus, with scientific and research careers missing.

Adopting the Engineering Approach for Computer Science

The ANU Master of Engineering has twice the amount of professional communication as I had envisaged for the Master of Computing. This increased emphasis on professional skills is supported by the UTAS consultations with industry (Herbert, Dermoudy, Ellis, et. al. 2013). The proposed on-line techniques with forums and an e-portfolio could still be applied. This would also allow for ICT, engineering and other students to be in the same class, without the administrative complexity of a face-to-face class.


The existing engineering courses could be first adapted for on-line delivery and broadened to include ICT professionals. Both ICT and engineering masters students could then undertake the course. This could then be broadened to include undergraduate ICT and engineering degree students. The courses could later be broadened again for other professional degrees, starting with business information systems. Apart from making the courses more efficient to deliver, this broadening would provide the students with valuable experience at inter-disciplinary communication, as identified by the by the UTAS consultations with industry (Herbert, Dermoudy, Ellis, et. al. 2013).


Similarities Between Professional Skills and Tutoring

In addition to courses for students as part of the degree programs, CECS also runs a Teaching Quality Program (TQP) for tutors and demonstrators. The TQP program runs over two semesters, with one two hour new tutor induction each semester, followed by four one hour seminars. Seminar topics include:

  1. 1.Time management and priority setting 

  2. 2.Being a student centered tutor 

  3. 3.Plain English for Computer Scientists and Engineers: What it is and how to give feedback so that students improve 

  4. 4.Marking effectively 

  5. 5.Helping students with report writing 

  6. 6.Class dynamics and cultural diversity 

  7. 7.Student engagement techniques 

  8. 8.How to teach what you don’t know 

These topics could be seen to applicable more generally to the workplace, if “student” is replaced with “staff”, “tutor” with “supervisor”, “class” with “workplace” and “marking” with “Providing performance feedback”:

  1. 1.Time management and priority setting 

  2. 2.Being a staff centered supervisor 

  3. 3.Plain English for Computer Scientists and Engineers: What it is and how to give feedback so that staff improve 

  4. 4.Providing performance feedback effectively 

  5. 5.Helping staff with report writing 

  6. 6.Workplace dynamics and cultural diversity 

  7. 7.Staff engagement techniques 

  8. 8.How to teach what you don’t know 

Similarities Between Professional Skills and Teaching

The ANU also offers the graduate course EDUC8100 Foundations of University Teaching and Learning. This is a one semester course (6 three-hour workshops). Topics include:


  1. 1.learning from both students’ and teachers’ perspectives 

  2. 2.principles of designing inclusive curricula 

  3. 3.concepts of learning outcomes  

  4. 4.approaches to encourage student engagement and active learning 

  5. 5.student diversity and how that affects teaching 

  6. 6.principles of flexible learning and delivery 

  7. 7.flexible learning technologies 

  8. 8.linking research and teaching, and doing both as academics 

  9. 9.designing assessments that promote learning 

  10. 10.providing effective student feedback for learning 

  11. 11.evaluation to improve teaching quality. 

These topics are broadly similar to those of the CECS TQP and supervisory issues in the workplace. There would be advantages in using the same courses for masters students, tutors and new academic staff. Rather than explore the detail of how to do this, I have decided to release the revised proposal to see what the reaction to the idea would be from stakeholders.

Revised Proposal

Based on the above considerations, a revised “Proposal for Incorporating Professional Skills in the ANU Master of Computing” was issued for comment 7 February 2013. The accompanying announcement explained:


Originally I envisaged teaching masters students how to communicate on-line, but have expanded the proposal to also teach them the basics of teaching. The idea is that if you are going to be a "professional" in any field, then you need people skills very much like teaching. So we might as well teach every masters student how to teach. Those who go into academia will then not require the usual short teaching course and those going into industry will be better able to help their staff. Comments on the revised proposal, by 15 February, would be welcome.

Feedback on the second draft

The second draft was circulated for comment 9 February 2013, five days behind schedule (“Proposal for Incorporating Professional Skills in the ANU Master of Computing“). It was sent to mailing lists for the ANU Research School of Computer Science, ANU's Yammer forum, Link list on Australian network policy and communications, the Australian Computer Society (ACS), International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), ACT E-learning Support Network (via LinkedIn), Google +, Twitter and the author's blog. The second draft produced more and more positive comment than the first. RSCS staff asked for more detail as to the syllabus of the course. Other comments tended to be more general, expressing support for the idea of teaching masters students how to teach.

The comments, with my initial responses:

  1. 1.'Story Telling', at long last, is being recognised as a key skill for IT professionals - connects to your 'teach them how to teach' ideas  

    This comment was somehat enuignatic, but presumed to be positive. 

  2. 2.brilliant idea - well done Tom! What is the real difference between offering advice, explaining, selling, teaching, .... all require trust first, and then some skills. Both would be useful to the graduates.  

  3. 3.interesting. One things that stirkes me though: in the professional skills course, what wil the e-portfolio be about, what will the seminar be about? What will be the teaching task?

    Unfortunately these was not sufficient time in this project to detail the content of the proposed coruses beyond saying they would cover the requirements of the professional ICT and engineering bodies for communcation and teramwork skills as well as the introductory tutor and teaching skills of the current ANU coruses. 

Final Draft

A final draft with minor revisions was issued 17 February 2013.


This project originally aimed to propose a new e-learning course using an e-portfolio to teach professional communication skills to ICT Master of Computing students. In response to comments on the first draft, the proposal was expanded to two courses, adding training in education to the skills the students are to acquire. There was support for this, but the detail of the syllabus for such courses is beyond the scope of this project.


EC. (2008). COMMISSION STAFF WORKING PAPER accompanying document to the REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL on the Council Resolution of 23 November 2007 on Modernising Universities for Europe's competitiveness in a global knowledge economy. Brussels: COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES. Retrieved from

Hallam, G., Harper, W., McCowan, C., Hauville, K., McAllister, L., Creagh, T., . . . Brooks, C. (2008). Australian ePortfolio project, ePortfolio use by university students in Australia: Informing excellence in policy and practice, Final project report: August 2008: Sydney: Australian Teaching and learning Council. Retrieved from

Herbert, N., de Salas, K., Lewis, I., Cameron-Jones, M., Chinthammit, W., Dermoudy, J., . . . Springer, M. (2013). Identifying career outcomes as the first step in ICT curricula
development. In A. Carbone & J. Whalley (Eds.), Fifteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference (Vol. 136, pp. 180). Adelaide, Australia: Australian Computer Society.

Herbert, N., Dermoudy, J., Ellis, L., Cameron-Jones, M., Chinthammit, W., Lewis, I., . . . Springer, M. (2013). Stakeholder-Led Curriculum Redesign. Paper presented at the Fifteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference, Adelaide, Australia.

Ibbotson, M. (2008). Cambridge English for Engineering. Student's Book: Ernst Klett Sprachen.

Machanick, P. (2005, 2005). Peer assessment for action learning of data structures and algorithms. Paper presented at the Seventh Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE2005), Newcastle, Australia. Retrieved from

Masoumi, D., & Lindström, B. (2012). E-Learning as a Cultural Artifact. An empirical study of Iranian Virtual Institutions. Retrieved from

Quinlan, K., & Berndtson, E. (2012). The Emerging European Higher Education Area: Implications for Instructional Development. In E. P. Simon, P (Ed.), Teacher Development in Higher Education: Existing Programs, Program Impact, and Future Trends. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Robinson, M. (1996). Large Scale Communication, Technical Complexity, & Groupware. Groupware-Software für die Teamarbeit der Zukunft, 5, 96. Retrieved from

Steenkamp, A. L. (2002). A standards-based approach to team-based student projects in an information technology curriculum. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference of the International Academy for Information Management. Retrieved from:

Strazdins, P. (2012a). Proposal for a Graduate Certificate in Computing (Version 1 ed.). Canberra: Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University. Retrieved from

Strazdins, P. (2012b). Proposal for a Graduate Diploma in Computing (Version 1 ed.). Canberra: Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University. Retrieved from

Strazdins, P. (2012c). Proposal for a Two Year Master of Computing (Version 8 ed.). Canberra: Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University. Retrieved from

Whitehead, J., & McNiff, J. (2006). Action research: Living theory: Sage Publications Limited.

Worthington, T. (2012a). A green computing professional education course on-line: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and e Books. Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education, Melbourne, Australia. Conference paper retrieved from

Worthington, T. (2012b, October 2012). On-line Professional Education For Australian Research-Intensive Universities in the Asian Century. Retrieved from