Newsletter - April 2002Welcome to the first edition of the ascilite newsletter for 2002. Our lead article is by Rhonda Riachi who reflected on her recent visit to Australia with the study tour from ALT and SURF. Have a look at the papers from the Melbourne conference, now available on the ascilite site and we check out some of the interesting publications on the Evaluations and Investigations Programme site.
ascilite Newsletter is produced three times per year and we welcome article suggestions from our readers. Send your article suggestions to any of the editors.
Editor for this edition: Gerry Lefoe
Editorial team: Tony Gilding, Cathy Gunn, Meg O'Reilly, Russ Pennell, Gerry Lefoe
Web Editor: Russ Penne Gerry Lefoell
ALT goes SURFing Down Under
What's interesting on the ascilite website?
What's interesting elsewhere?
ALT goes SURFing Down UnderRhonda Riachi
For two weeks in March a group of 16 educational specialists from the UK and the Netherlands toured Australia to investigate the use of computers in higher and further education. The tour was supported by the SURF Education Foundation in the Netherlands and the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) in the UK, with the assistance of ascilite. This was the first experience of Australia for many of the participants and most of us were relative strangers, so the potential for information and cultural overload was quite high. However, we survived the ravages of barbecues, beaches and Chardonnay to bring back some strong impressions of the different approaches to ICT in Australia.
On our first evening in Sydney we met all the current ascilite committee members, which helped us to put names to faces and get our bearings. The next morning we split into 3 groups to visit the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney and Charles Sturt University respectively.
My impressions from CEDIR, EMLab and the library at Wollongong were very positive; here was an award-winning university which was taking technology seriously and working hard to develop the teams of staff necessary to move towards more flexible provision of courseware. In some respects it appeared that Wollongong was ahead of many UK universities, although the pedagogical and technical challenges posed by the roll-out of WebCT courses was familiar territory for UK colleagues. (It was understandable that Doug Siviter, an ALT member formerly of South Bank University, London, had moved to Wollongong a month earlier!)
We reconvened in Sydney for our first evaluation session hosted by John Findlay at the Zing conferencing facility in the Australia Technology Park. This was another first for most of us - seeing all our comments collated on screen and being able to draw out common themes was a valuable tool in helping the group to work together. We used the Zing programme again in Melbourne on our last morning as guests of the Victorian Regional Office for the Department of Education and Training.
The group split into three again for the Perth visit. This included a visit to West One and we were very impressed by the amount that had been achieved by putting FE courses online on a relatively tight budget compared with the universities we were visiting. The group who visited Southern Cross University at Lismore had a very enjoyable time and some of them wanted to stay (something to do with the beaches, barbecues and koalas, I suspect).
I joined the group in Brisbane and saw Queensland University of Technology, a large university with economies of scale that most UK universities can only dream of. We were struck by the strictly corporate approach QUT has taken - developing its own virtual learning environment and excluding proprietary versions. Clearly there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach - creativity in ICT development within faculties may be stifled in order to achieve uniformity, and uniformity is not something to which most academics aspire. Deputy Vice Chancellor Peter Coaldrake was categorical that a change of culture was needed if universities were to survive in the more competitive world that is higher education today. An interesting development we witnessed at QUT was the senior management job swap. The respective heads of IT, the Library, and Teaching and Learning Support Services at QUT had all swapped jobs for one month and were meeting weekly to exchange notes on what they were finding. Could we do the same back home, I wondered?
After a weekend break I headed with another group to Griffith University. The Logan campus provided both inspiration and lessons for us all. Peter Taylor was literally in his last week at Griffith while showing us round. We learned that State and Government funding had moved mountains to create a campus in a deprived area based on a flexible learning model, with informal learning areas and positive encouragement of group work. However, problems had set in during the later phases when the technical support staff who were responsible for putting materials online had to be shifted to other parts of the university. In spite of the fact that many of the original, enthusiastic staff have now moved on, I feel that the Logan campus is still an example that has few comparators and deserves more attention from the academic community.
Our last visits took us to Melbourne where I visited the University of Melbourne, remarkably like a much larger, more modern version of Oxford. Not surprisingly, the emphasis in Melbourne is more on research than teaching, but there is now a sizeable team assembled around the production and collation of online materials (Mike Keppell included), along with a dedicated intellectual property specialist, Julie Rodman.
Reports on each institution are being written now and the final report will be published as a book in the autumn. The book will include visit reports for each site; chapters covering institutional ICT strategies, the effect of ICT on teaching and learning, staff development, and relationships; as well as reactions from Australian colleagues and emerging issues. Presentations at ALT-C 2002 in Sunderland (9-11 September) and the ICT conference in Rotterdam (2-4 September) are being planned.
The sixteen jetlagged ALT and SURF members have all now returned (some more reluctantly than others). We were warmly welcomed at all institutions and, on the whole, our hosts were quite frank about the shortcomings as well as the advantages of the approaches they had taken to ICT implementation. Everyone felt they had learnt a lot from the trip, both from our site visits and from each other, and we have all taken away something to inspire us in our use of learning technology back home. We send our heartfelt thanks to everyone in Australia who helped make it such a success.
Some useful web sites: Association for Learning Technology: www.alt.ac.uk
SURF Education Foundation: www.surf.nl
Zing Technologies: www.anyzing.com
Rhonda Riachi, Director of ALT firstname.lastname@example.org
What's interesting on the ascilite website?Go to the conferences page to view all the papers from past conferences. If you weren't able to attend the Melbourne conference last year, and even if you did, here's your chance to browse the papers from last year's conference. You can do a keyword search or you can check out the award winning papers:
Bennett, S., Harper, B., && Hedberg, J. Designing real-life cases to support authentic design activities.
Draper, S., Cargill, J., && Cutts, Q. Electronically enhanced classroom interaction.
Kennedy, D., Webster, L., Benson, R., James, D., && Bailey, N. The Monash portal: More than just a virtual gateway.
Lefoe, G., Gunn, C., && Hedberg, J. Recommendations for teaching in a distributed learning environment: The students' perspective.
O'Reilly, M., && Newton, D. Interaction online: Above and beyond requirements of assessment.
What's interesting elsewhere?Evaluations and Investigations Programme (EIP) http://www.dest.gov.au/highered/eippubs.htm
Keeping up to date with what is happening in Higher Education in Australia is a challenge for all of us. The EIP publications, located within the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training site (formerly DETYA), provide an opportunity to keep up to date with the sector through these commissioned reports. Most reports have an online summary available with a full copy available for downloading in portable document format (pdf).
Some of the reports available in the last twelve months include: 01/7 Online Learning in a Borderless Market. Proceedings of a conference held 15-16 February 2001 at Griffith University Gold Coast Campus 01/3 Validating Scholarship in University Teaching: Constructing a national scheme for external peer review of ICT-based teaching and learning resources by Peter G Taylor and Angela S Richardson
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|ALT: Association of Learning Technology||ALT is an educational organisation which seeks to bring together all those with an interest in the use of learning technology in higher and further education.||UK
ALT is affiliated with ascilite and we have a reciprocal arrangement for conference attendance at the membership rates.
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