Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning to teach in the virtual classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Indian education agreement with Australia to boost e-learning?

The Australian Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, has signed a Joint Ministerial Statement on education with the Indian Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal. The agreement covers schools, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education, technical and professional education. Australia will help provide with Indian teacher training and exchange for teaching, research and curriculum development. Work is also under way in the vocational education sector.

The obvious implication is Australian university and TAFE setting up in India. What might be more interesting is cooperative arrangements for e-learning online between India and Australia. Current educational practices in Australia are not efficient enough for the scale of the Indian market, being the equivalent of the "horse and buggy" era before the invention of the car production line. As an example of what is needed, last October, Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) announced 3G mobile education for its 2.5 million of students.

ANU is hosting a forum for educators Monday and I will be talking about how I have done online vocational postgraduate education (with much of the class being Indian IT and engineering students).

The India-Australia agreement covers:
  1. qualification and quality frameworks
  2. skills demand and emerging needs areas
  3. credit transfer arrangements
  4. supporting the Bureau for Vocational Education and Training Collaboration (BVET) and similar
  5. education, training and research
  6. exchange of officials and educators for professional development
  7. developing and monitoring standards and regulations for education agents
  8. An India-Australia Education Council
Available are:
  1. Australia Consolidates Educational Links with India, Media release, The Joint Ministerial Statement, Hon Julia Gillard MP, issued 8 April 2010 (pre-dated 9 April, 2010)
  2. Joint Ministerial Statement, Between the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of the Government of Australia and the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India, 8 April 2010 (56Kbytes PDF)

Australian Government logo

Indian Government logo



Minister for Education

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister for Social Inclusion


Minister of Human Resource Development


Between the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of the Government of Australia and the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India

8 April 2010

We, the Education Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Republic of India, reaffirm our commitment to continue to expand collaboration in education, training and research between Australia and India.

We acknowledge our ongoing bilateral cooperation in education and training through the Education Exchange Program Between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of India on Cooperation in the Fields of Education and Training, signed on 23‚ October 2003. This Joint Ministerial Statement supplements this Exchange Program.

We reaffirm our agreement at our meeting in New Delhi in August 2009 to meet annually.

Through this Joint Ministerial Statement, we mutually consent to expand the existing exchange program agreement to include greater cooperation across all education sectors - schools, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education including technical and professional education through:

  1. Sharing expertise in qualification and quality frameworks and standards for education, research and training;
  2. Providing mutual assistance in fields of agreed benefit, with a particular focus on skills demand and emerging needs areas;
  3. Working together to evolve credit transfer arrangements between Australia and India;
  4. Actively initiating and supporting formal working groups, such as the Bureau for Vocational Education and Training Collaboration (BVETC), to improve understanding of our respective education and training systems and to discuss and periodically review progress on mutually agreed activities;
  5. Strengthening lines of communication for exchange of information on new policy initiatives and opportunities for development of education, training and research activities of both countries;
  6. Supporting the exchange of government officials and educationists for continuous professional development;
  7. Agreeing to establish a Memorandum of Cooperation to progress common interests in developing and monitoring standards and regulations applicable to the operations and activities of education agents and the movement and wellbeing of Indian students to Australia;
  8. Enabling the participation of a third party on joint activities upon mutual agreement;
  9. Mutual agreement on funding arrangements to cover expenses for cooperation activities, subject to availability of funds; and
  10. Exploration of the possible agreement to set-up an India-Australia Education Council as a bi-national body with representation from academia, policy makers and industry to interact on issues related to education and to further collaboration between both sides.

This Joint Ministerial Statement supplements the Education Exchange Program between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of India on Cooperation in the Fields of Education and Training and should be read in conjunction with it.


India and Australia are at an exciting time in their relationship. As envisaged in the Joint Statement of both Prime Ministers in 2009, India and Australia are building a broad knowledge partnership, including developing collaborative projects in education. The higher education institutions (universities and vocational training institutions) in both nations have an important role to play in such partnership including cooperation in science and technology. We recognize that education is central to sustained, inclusive and equitable growth.

People-to-people contacts are at the heart of the bilateral relationship. Students studying in both countries play an important role in building bridges of friendship and understanding and are a significant resource for future development of the relationship. Both countries attach high priority to the safety and wellbeing of students as they play an important part in the knowledge partnership envisaged between the two countries.


India and Australia are both embarking on significant education reforms focussed on developing curriculum to meet the needs of 21st century learners in a rapidly globalising world.

Implementing significant reforms requires capacity building of school leaders including the exploration of relevant research and exchanging best practices. Both sides recognise the importance of Australia-India Principals/Teachers Exchange Program organised through the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) with support from Australian Education International (AEI) India. The program focuses on school leadership, school management and innovation, curriculum and assessment. Australia and India agree to examine expanding the existing program to provide more scholarships and a greater degree of exchange of principals, teachers and administrators dealing with school education.

Melbourne City Council, with the assistance of AEF and AEI India, will support eight scholarships for School Principals from Delhi (government and non-government schools) to visit Melbourne schools for two weeks in 2010 to further their professional development and links between Australia and India.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), India and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in programs and initiatives which will apply international best practices in educational research and assessment to support educational development.

Vocational Education and Training

India and Australia recognise the valuable contribution that vocational education and training plays in improving skills to enhance employability, increase productivity, strengthen national competitiveness and support sustainable development to adapt to climate change.

The Australia - India VET Mission (31 January - 5 February 2010) was the first high level delegation of Indian government officials and industry representatives focusing on vocational education and training to visit Australia. The mission achieved its aim to increase understanding about vocational education and training in both countries and to assist in long-term engagement in vocational education and training.

Both countries are keen to build on the success of the mission and achieve progress in the identified areas of cooperation and opportunities for collaboration. The Bureau of Vocational Education and Training Collaboration (BVETC), established out of the Australia-India Joint Working Group in October 2009, will direct and facilitate continuing collaboration in vocational education and training between the two countries, including the following activities:

  1. Government to government

    Both Governments will work towards supporting quality vocational education and training systems in India and Australia. Australia will collaborate with India in the systemic development of National Quality Assurance arrangements. These may include developing a national qualifications framework and training quality standards.

    The Australian National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) and the National Council of Educational, Research and Training (NCERT) and the Central Staff Training and Research Institute (CSTARI) will collaborate on vocational training and research. Both sides will engage in joint activities to work towards developing a sound and evidence based system for providing information, data and policy inputs for policy makers in India and Australia in the areas of vocational education and training.

  2. Industry to industry - Industry Skills Councils

    Both sides are planning to better engage industry in their vocational education and training systems.

    In the short term, Australian industry skills councils are keen to build mutually beneficial relationships with Indian industry as follows:

    • Business Forums in India, with support from the Government of India, will link with Service Skills Australia, in the retail sector, to customise qualifications and competencies to meet the needs of the Indian industry.
    • Service Skills Australia seeks to partner with Indian industry and government in the hospitality and tourism sectors,
    • The Construction and Property Industry Skills Council will continue to link with the Confederation of Indian Industry and/or the National Academy of Construction, Hyderabad to further their already established relationship. The aim is to promote cooperation in areas such as setting up quality processes and staff training in the Indian building and construction industry.

    The experience gained in these collaborations will form the basis for long term partnership between the Australian Government, Australian industry skills councils and the Indian Government and Indian industry to develop sector skills councils in India.

  3. Institution to institution

    Australian institutions are keen to work with comparable institutions in India to complement existing expertise, support innovation and implement projects. The training of teachers, organisational governance, recognition of prior learning and engaging youth through innovative models of training delivery are examples of areas of mutual focus. The intention is also to better integrate learning between vocational training sectors and higher education institutions.

    The Bureau of Vocational Education and Training Collaboration (BVETC) will continue to bring together Australian and Indian institutes and identify suitable partner institutes for further development of collaboration at the institutional level.

Higher Education

The Governments of Australia and India recognise that the relationship between our higher education systems is a mature and productive one and is based on a long standing history of cooperation and exchange to the benefit of both countries.

We are pleased to be able to announce a range of collaborative activities to help build on this strong foundation and note that beyond those activities announced today, new institution to institution links will continue to develop and grow. We aim to ensure that our students, academics and institutions continue to reap the benefits of cultural and knowledge exchange and collaboration. Cooperation in quality assurance, dialogue between sector representatives, research collaboration and institutional partnerships will all help to progress this aim.

The Governments of Australia and India will work with UGC and other relevant bodies, including the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and Universities Australia (UA), in developing methods for facilitating mutual recognition of qualifications and credit transfer arrangements between Australia and India.

To encourage academic exchange, both sides agree to hold joint seminars on mutually agreed themes to be inaugurated in India in 2010 and coordinated by DEEWR and the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The UGC will provide necessary financial support on a reciprocal and sharing basis for the agreed schemes and programs for collaboration between India and Australia.

We agree to facilitate the organisation of an Australia-India Inter-University Convention of Vice-Chancellors and Academia to interact on issues of mutual concern among academics.

We are also pleased to note the commitment by Universities Australia to co-sponsor a national education forum in New Delhi in late 2010 with its partner organisation, the Association of Indian Universities and interested others to discuss a number of topics including regulation and governance, transnational education issues and collaborative research.‚

Australia and India also agree to continue to expand cultural and academic ties through the Australia India Institute (AII) and the Australia India Council (AIC) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) of India.

Australia's Group of Eight (Go8) universities have opened a dialogue with Indian Institutes of Technology about establishing a staff exchange program between the two groups of leading higher education institutions.

The Go8-IIT staff exchange program will underpin longer-term relationships, such as in research collaboration. It will also improve understanding between Australian and Indian universities and increase the level of student, staff and research exchange between our two countries.

In addition, we agree to facilitate the initiation of a Joint Faculty Development Program through regular exchange of faculty for mutual learning in areas of teaching, research and curriculum development.

Both sides acknowledge and support the increasing partnerships between our education institutions in research, such as:

  • activities under the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) - a joint undertaking of both governments which the Prime Ministers of Australia and India agreed in November 2009 to extend and expand with an Australian contribution of A$50 million (Rs‚ 200‚ crore) over the next five years, matched by the Government of India; and
  • Australia and India agree to explore suitable partnerships with one or more of India's proposed 14 Innovation Universities and the proposed Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development to be set up in Delhi.

We are pleased to note that the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) will undertake joint research workshops, seminars and exchange of personnel for mutual learning and benefit on quality assurance in higher education. This builds on the strong relationship between AUQA and NAAC, as expressed through successive Memoranda of Cooperation.

Signed in Melbourne on 8 April 2010 in two original copies


Joint Ministerial Statement, Between the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of the Government of Australia and the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India, 8 April 2010 (56Kbytes PDF)

The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister for Social Inclusion

Deputy Prime Minister

9 April, 2010

Media release

Australia Consolidates Educational Links with India

Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, and India’s Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, today signed a Joint Ministerial Statement to build on the cooperative ties between the two nations in the education sector.

The Joint Ministerial Statement confirms Australia and India’s commitment to expand the current education exchange program to achieve greater cooperation between the two countries’ schools, higher education, vocational education and training sectors.

The aim of the Ministerial Statement is to strengthen what is already a solid partnership with the Indian Government and open up more avenues to share expertise in the education arena.

Today’s meeting was the result of a commitment made in New Delhi last August to start an annual dialogue between the two Ministers.

Leading education providers and businesses both in Australia and India will also participate in the discussions, providing an opportunity for all levels of the industry to consider ideas and share expertise.

The Ministers also agreed to investigate the establishment of an India-Australia Education Council to improve collaboration on education-related issues.

The Council would consist of academics, policy-makers and industry representatives and will be tasked to explore new partnership opportunities in key fields such as skills demand and education resources.

Ms Gillard took today’s meeting as an opportunity to officially congratulate Minister Sibal and his Government on their Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 which came into affect in India on April 1.

The Act makes education a fundamental right for all Indian children between the ages of six and 14.

One of the key challenges Minister Sibal and his Government now face is the recruitment of up to 800,000 new teachers to fulfil the aims of the act.

The Australian Government today confirmed our commitment to help provide assistance to Indian institutions with teacher training initiatives. Australian providers are also looking forward to the opportunity for increase involvement once the Indian Government had passed their Foreign Education Institutional Bill.

Building on the 135 institutional partnerships already in place between the two countries, there was agreement today to initiate a Joint Faculty Development program. This will allow for regular exchanges in mutual areas of teaching, research and curriculum development.

Australian representatives from the VET industry are also working with their Indian counterparts on the establishment of an Australia/ India Bureau designed to assist with the development of the Indian VET system.

The Joint Ministerial Statement is available at

The Statement supplements the Education Exchange Program between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of India on Cooperation in the Fields of Education and Training, which is available at ...

From: Australia Consolidates Educational Links with India, Media release, The Joint Ministerial Statement, Hon Julia Gillard MP, issued 8 April 2010 (pre-dated 9 April, 2010)

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

E-learning may force Australian education offshore

Last week the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) sent me their March 2010 newsletter "Connect" for casual and sessional staff and asked me to consider rejoining the union. This was timely as the Australian university system does not appear to have a viable strategy to deal with the implications of e-learning. If current trends continue, the result may be that most Australian teaching staff will end up casual employees of overseas universities.

Australian universities need a viable strategy to provide cost effective and attractive online courses. Otherwise they will not be able to compete with overseas offerings which will be available online to Australian students and to students who would otherwise come to Australia for an education. Australian universities then may become just campuses of overseas universities, with a few Australian staff employed casually to do some tutoring.

Australian universities need to offer competitive, efficient and attractive online courses. As part of this they need to plan how to use part time staff with the needed mix of education and vocational skills effectively These can be high status "e-oxbridge" courses using mentored and collaborative e-learning techniques.

One aspect of the NTEU policy I found worrying is that the Union seeks to place limits on the proportion of casual staff employed. As someone who is casual by choice, not necessity, I find this a little insulting. It suggests that casual staff are in some way inferior and are only casual because they can't get a full time permanent job. Under the union policy I may not be able to be a casual employee of an Australian university. In that case I would have to seek an affiliation with an overseas university. My skills and much of the income I generate from teaching, would then be lost to Australia.

The letter and newsletter from the Union was was a little ironic, as the reason I resigned from the NTEU was that it was the only way to stop them sending me junk mail.

As I was doing some tertiary teaching I decided I should join the relevant union about a year ago (they have a special discount rate for casual teachers). However, they kept sending me send me newsletters by email. I tried several times to stop getting newsletters as large PDF attachments to email. But in the end I gave up and resigned.

I found their latest newsletter about conditions for casual staff very relevant and have offered to rejoin on condition they agree not to send me large email messages. I teach web design and Internet use and have offered advice on how to communicate effectively online.

Apart from the email problem, the Union's web site could do with improvement. Their casual newsletter is 8Mbytes of PDF. Casual teachers are more likely to be using their home Internet link, rather than one from a university office. I found the newsletter too large to download using my slow wireless link.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Government receptive to e-learning advice?

This is to request comments on how receptive to advice the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations was for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the establishment of the Australian research and education network (AREN) and AARNet3.

The Department is seeking advice on IT for education with a Applied Information and Communications Technology in Education Panel. However, the process seems overly bureaucratic, requiring applicants to fill in an 87 page form, when two pages would be sufficient. Assuming I was to correctly fill in this form and was selected for the panel, how likely is it that the department would listen to any advice given?

My concern is that if the department is unable to do something relatively simple, like streamline its tender process to take advantage of online technology, would they listen to advice on how to improve the efficiency of education across Australia using online technology?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Government ICT Education Panel

The federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has issued a Request for Tender for an Applied Information and Communications Technology in Education Panel (ATM ID DEEWR RFT PRN24602 17 February 2010). There is a 126 page document avialable to prospective tenderers (1.48Mbyte MS-Word). The table of contents is 20 pages long.

Purpose of the Applied ICT in Education Panel

      1. DEEWR requires a panel of experienced consultants with strong technical knowledge and a good understanding of the use of ICT in the education sector to form the Applied ICT in Education Panel (‘the Panel’). Panel Members must have detailed knowledge and a demonstrated understanding of the design and implementation of ICT infrastructure, networking and eLearning in the education sector. Members of the panel will have demonstrated capacity, expertise and experience in providing high quality technical advice and analysis services in relation to government ICT in education initiatives.

Types of Services Required

      1. The panel may be used by DEEWR to support the development, implementation and evaluation of initiatives that support the use of ICT in education including the Digital Education Revolution (DER) and the Vocational Education Broadband Network (VEN).

Use of the Applied ICT in Education Panel



      1. The Australian Government has made it a national priority to create a world class education and training system for Australia. It is committed to increasing the proportion of Australians with educational qualifications and through the Council of Australian Governments, has set targets for 2020 and 2024 in order to secure Australia’s long term economic prosperity.

      2. The Government is supporting the education and training sector to achieve this objective through the investment of $2.2 billion under the DER and $80 million under the VEN initiatives. Reflecting Government policies DEEWR aims to promote the effective integration of ICT in teaching and learning in Australia.

      3. DEEWR has identified a need to have access to ongoing external specialist technical advice. The panel arrangements which are the subject of this tender will assist in the timely delivery of technical and specialist advice and reports to support the activities set out ...

From: Applied Information and Communications Technology in Education Panel , Request for Tender ATM ID DEEWR RFT PRN24602, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 17 February 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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Sunday, January 31, 2010

School of One

School of One is a pilot program by the New York City Department of Education to customise education for each student. The result is similar to the flexible learning techniques being used by vocational and higher learning institutions. Each student has a custom daily schedule of one-to-one tutoring, independent study, e-learning and traditional classroom education. Students proceed at their own pace, with testing to help determine not only what level they are at, but what learning style will suit.

Architectural Record, January 2010 ("School of One" Charles Linn) features possible designs for schools to support the School of One. The designs appear very simpler to Australian design for flexible school buildings, with an emphasis on open plan, using changes in direction to replace walls and doors. The article describes a reception area, similar to a business lobby with display screens,. where students would get their plan for the day.

Interestingly for the first School of One, with four teachers and 80 students, the library of a NY school was used. Modular tables and screens were arranged into different configurations. This suggests a more flexible arrangement similar to the learning centre which many vocational and higher education libraries are evolving into.

The School of One idea suffers from some obvious limitations: it downplays the role of groups in learning by emphasising each student as an individual unit. It treats the student as a passive consumer of education to be given their daily program of education, rather than an active decision maker. It assumes a greater level of resources to be able to provide the student with more individual and custom programs. It ignores the role of the Internet and the wider world in learning.

The same issue of Architectural Record also contains an article on the renovation of an old school building for the "Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School" in Washington, D.C. (Architects Hickok Cole, article by Joann Gonchar). This provides a more realistic model for the school of the future, as it is having to adapt the old school infrastructure to a more flexible style of learning.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mobile real-time e-learning tools needed

Is online real time interaction feasible on limited Internet connections, such as those on mobile devices? I was invited to try "Learn Central" with the Elluminate Live! collaboration tool. However, this requires a Java download which will take 11 minutes on my slow wireless Internet connection. Even after that I was not confident that Elluminate would have options suitable for a low speed high latency connection to my low performance Linux netbook computer. That may seem an unusual configuration of computer. But it is not that different to the smart phones many people have and could use for education, if a workable configuration could be found. As it is, it seems that every week or so someone offers me what they claim to be a revolutionary online education tool, which turns out not to run on anything other than a Microsoft Windows computer with a high speed broadband connection and a lot of very fragile add-on software. What we need are some really revolutionary tools which are not just adaptions of business video conferencing.

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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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Digital Education Revolution Resources

The Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) has a useful list of Digital Education Revolution Resources. Unfortunately these are on a very poorly designed web page. It is a shame that this excellent work, which is costing Australian tax payers many hundreds of millions of dollars is so poorly presented. A few hours work would make the material far more accessible. The page is headed "Experience the Digital Education Revolution". The web address is not linked to a web page and entering that web address manually ends up back on the same page on the DEEWR web site. The list of links to resources on the page do not seem to work. These are supposed to link to further down on the same page, but actually go nowhere. This is unfortunate as the education resources listed are excellent, if you can find them. Many of the materials are in the form of hard to get, hard to read, poorly formatted, large PDF files.An example of this is "Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings" which is so poorly formatted that DEEWR offer to mail a printed copy.
  • Listening to Students’ and Educators’ Voices: Research Findings
  • Digital Education Revolution Fact Sheet – March 2009
  • Review of Legitimate and Additional Financial Implications of the National Secondary School Computer Fund
  • Better Practice Guide - ICT in Schools
  • Cyber-safety in schools
  • Exemplar Schools: Using Innovative Learning Technologies Report and Digistories
  • Partnerships in Information Communication Technology Learning (PICTL) Report and Case Studies
  • Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
  • Australian Information and Communications Technology in Education Committee (AICTEC)
  • Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
  • Curriculum Corporation
  • MCEETYA ICT in Schools Taskforce (ICTST)
  • – through Teacher PD/PD forum
  • the Le@rning Federation

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Questions about e-Learning

After my presentation at the ANU meeting of educational designers today ("The Gaggle"), I was asked a series of rapid fire questions by an unidentified attendee who was obviously frustrated by the lack of opportunity to ask questions earlier on. He then commented he had Twitted the questions, with the tag Gaggle. This was poetic justice and at the previous event I had become frustrated by the inability to ask my questions and blogged about it. Perhaps these events should adopt the Public Sphere/Barcamp web enhanced technique, but this can take some getting used to for the uninitiated.

Later I was able to find that the Tweets were from Leigh Blackall (leighblackall), who according to his blog, works in Educational Development for the Otago Polytechnic and specialises in developing open educational resources. Here is my attempt to answer his questions more fully:

What if anyone could pick and chose anything from anywhere to make a degree? Why limit it to institutions?

You can pick and choose anything for your education. But it may help to have someone help you pick and choose. That is part of what institutions do. They also provide a form of quality control for you, and for others, to say what you studied and what you did with it was worthwhile. This particularly applies to education for professions which effect on people's lives.

I help educate engineers and other professionals where mistakes can result in causalities, as well large financial loss. The students and society therefore need some assurance they know what they are doing. In the case of the green ICT course we are attempting to help arrest the greenhouse effect. Failure will result in the suffering of millions of people.

It is possible to structure courses which allow for more freedom. My Green ICT course (COMP7310) is part of the ANU Graduate Studies Select program which allows student to pick courses across the university from any discipline. One student is at another Australian university and one works for a Canadian university and is just doing the course for interest.

Exploring a topic with a guide is essentially what is done in Masters and PHD research. This does not happen so much at undergraduate level. But the ANU ICT undergraduates can do projects, where they explore a topic with guidance from a supervisor. But with this freedom comes very hard work and a much higher risk of failure

Some examples of project work from my students are: Semantic Web for Museums and Evaluating Emergency Management Websites. The work on museums has been taken up for building indigenous databases. The work on emergency web sites was studied carefully by the ACT bushfire authorities, but regrettably not by their Victorian counterparts.

An idea expressed by an anti web Guy, design describing researchers adding info to archived artifacts. Um, internet?

Not sure about this one. The ANU is centre for work on how to build e-archives. But a lot of what is in those archives can look frustratingly old fashioned, such as PDF facsimiles of traditional academic papers and books. But it helps to keep that stuff and make it available online, even when conceiving new formats.

One of my students worked on a publishing system for the ACS. This resulted in the IFIP Digital Library. While a useful service, it is frustrating that the content indexed is either in PDF or in a copyright commercial database. The Australian National Data Service is providing access to research data in a more flexible way, with generated maps , for example.

Oh dear, I have very little in common with the ANU experiences

We probably have a lot in common. That may not have come across in this forum.

If I engage with a www network, instead of your closed moodle group, will I fail your little group work assessment?

Yes, the course requires the students to work in the closed Moodle group. This to help teach the students how to work together and to help them teach each other. Also it is to protect the students from the world at large and protect the world from the students.

Some of the students have very little experience, having come from an undergraduate university course at a university. They find discussing a topic difficult, especially a topic new to them. They find it very confronting having to discuss it with people they don't know.

Other students have work experience and are more able to hold an open discussion. However, these students may be working in the field and prohibited by their employer from discussing the topic in public. Some of my students hold positions in governments and corporations and while they can discuss some of their work in a closed university group, they cannot discuss it in public.

Also the partly trained students may be a danger to the public. As an example the students will frequently make mistakes in my course when calculating greenhouse gas emissions. They commonly confuse units of measure, with results which are wrong by orders of magnitude.

Me and my big mouth. I need to try to question less confrontationally.

That is nothing. For real confrontation, try giving a seminar at Cambridge University Computer Lab. I once tried giving a seminar at the lab on security. The group swiftly tired of my general talk and started a very detailed discussion of how they had hacked the British banking system.

ps: Thanks for the questions.

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Training Lawyers Online

Greetings from the meeting of educational designers at the Australian National University in Canberra. One interesting presentation is on training Lawyers online. The idea is that the students do a finishing school in a simulated law firm, which makes heavy use of online tools. This is by Jonathan Powles, College of Law: The development of a simulated professional learning environment for law. Apart from the value in improved education, this has proved popular with the students and profitable for the university.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Educational Design in Canberra

The next meeting of educational designers at the Australian National University will be in Canberra, 16 October, 4-6pm. The event is free and open to interested educators from academia, government and industry (please RSVP). I will be giving a brief presentation on my Green ICT masters course, which is delivered without lectures or examinations.
Educational Design at the ANU
GAGGLE Program
4-6pm, 16 October 2009,
Sir Roland Wilson Building, Short Course Room 1 (on the left at the top of the stairs)

The ANU has educational designers, developers and technologists in every
College, each engaged in activities with a College-specific focus. This group meets regularly, but while there are common themes to their work, each area is using a slightly different approach to the issues.

In this session, representatives from each area will speak briefly about their
work, their professional practice, and the current focus of their operational activity. Each speaker will make a 10 minutes presentation, and then there will be a panel discussion about the issues and implications.

Session A: 1 hour

1. Megan Poore, College of Arts and the Social Sciences: New media
literacy in the new knowledge space
2. Aliya Steed / Jonathan Powles, College of Law: The development
of a simulated professional learning environment for law
3. Lauren Kane / Debbie Pioch, College of Engineering and Computer
Science: Online management of course information / CECS and the hubs and spokes project with UniSA
4. James Meek, College of Asia and the Pacific: The Conference
Model (and alternative to lectures) and Hidden Treasures (archival
source material)
5. Paula Newitt, Colleges of Science: Research experiences in the
undergraduate curriculum
6. Deborah Veness, College of Economics and Business: Finding a way
to make standards descriptors useful to a University teacher in the
business disciplines

Session B: 1/2 hour

Each speaker will finish with a provocative question, which will lead
into a group discussion.

Session C: 15-20 minutes

Finally, Tom Worthington will give us a brief presentation on his Green
ICT course
, which is delivered without lectures or examinations.

Everyone is welcome, so please pass this invitation on to any of your colleagues not already on the mailing list. Please remind them to let me know if they are coming ... by 12 noon on Thursday.

Deborah Veness | Manager | Education Innovation Office | College of
Business & Economics | The Australian National University | Canberra ACT
0200, Australia

t: 61 (0)2 6125 9504 | e: | office: Rm 1136
Copland Building 24

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Creativity in teaching and learning

The Australian National University is holding a free teaching forum in Canberra on "Creativity in teaching and learning", 12:30 PM, 7 October 2009. All welcome, but please RSVP:
This semester break, come along to a teaching forum on creativity in teaching and innovation in the academic learning environment.

Professor Mandy ThomasProfessor Mandy Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University will be giving a talk entitled The Senses in Teaching.

Dr Thomas NielsenDr Thomas Nielsen, an expert in Imaginative Education, will talk on Emotions, creativity and imagination: keys to a whole person approach to education.

Stephen DarwinFrom the Centre for Educational Development and Academic Methods, Stephen Darwin, who works to improve the quality and integration of educational evaluation, will be discussing expansive learning in light of the impact of new technologies and approaches to teaching.

Lunch will be provided, please RSVP by COB Friday 2nd October to
Speaker/Host: Professor Mandy Thomas, Dr Stephen Darwin and Dr Thomas Nielsen
Venue: Forestry Room 1.02, Building 48
Date: Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Time: 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Enquiries: Vivien Silvey on 6125 2606

From: Creativity in teaching and learning, What's On @ ANU, 2009

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Creative Industries Content for the Digital Education Revolution

Public Sphere #3: Australian ICT & Creative Industries Development is now taking place in Wollongong and online. One issue I would like to see addressed is government and industry strategies for the creative industries to be involved in producing content for education, thus providing synergy with the Government's Digital Education Revolution.

Ideally, Australian industry can produce educational content for use in Australian schools, universities and TAFES, and the for use around the world. One problem with this is that the creative industry policies tend to emphasise entertainment and culture, seeing education and not very interesting or profitable. But Australia is spending billions of dollars on equipping schools for computer and Internet assisted education. It would be a shame if all this system delivered was booring and not relivant content from the USA and the UK.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One Laptop per Child at Google Sydney

Sugar interface on the OLPCThe monthly talk at the Sydney Linux Users Group (SLUG) this Friday is on the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) educational computer for developing nations. The free talk is worth attending even if just to see the venue, which is Google's Sydney office:

General Talk
Mitchell Seaton: The OLPC Battleground

OLPC gears up during the rest of this year with the development of the XO 1.5 laptop, SugarLabs pushes forth with the SoaS (Sugar on a Stick) and Sugar v0.86, and deployments continue around the world. In this talk, Mitchell will discuss the current state of play, future directions and the world-wide support community at the heart of it all. ...

From: SLUG monthly talk August Announcement.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Social inclusion by cooperative e-learning

Greetings from the Australian Collaborative Education Network forum on social inclusion and cooperative education at University of Sydney. I am speaking from my ICT point of view on how to do that with social networking and mobile accessible web design. I have some reinforcement with Doug O'Hara from the ACS Foundation in the audience.

One point which came out is that the Australian Minister for Social Inclusion is also the Deputy PM, Minister for Education and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. This should make it easier to apply social inclusion principles in the education and workplace.

One of the other panellists is an Indian ICT graduate who related his experience in first staying in an Australian country town. This was a mirror image to my experience in staying in an Indian village, he was worried by the spare population, whereas it was the crowd which unsettled me.

Australian institutions can learn from others. As an example P
rofessor Uma Kanjilal, Director of the School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU), visited some weeks ago and talked about the problems of scale in her institution.

Another issues which came up was defining graduate attributes. This is an area I am working up a research proposal for in the business end of computing (information studies). My solutions for this may not be popular with elite universities, as it would involve building on the work which professional bodies have done in defining what skills practitioners need and the work the vocation education sector has done in carefully describing their courses. This may involve some loss of autonomy by the universities. Anyone interested in being involved, please let me know.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of recommendations

Collaboration in teaching and learning

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Web 2.0 site blocking in schools

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

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


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

Towards a 21st Century national software infrastructure for education

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

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

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


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

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

Teacher professional learning: Planning for change


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Annual report on emerging technologies: planning for change

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot topic: ICT teaching and learning support services

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


The essential and interrelated components of this model are:

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

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


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

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

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