Computer Professionals Providing Mobile Learning for the Digital Economy

Tom Worthington

Slides and notes:
For National IT Conference 2018, 9 am, 3 October, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Description: Our digital economy depends on computer professionals to build and maintain secure, reliable systems. Those professionals need initial training and life long learning to maintain their skills. Training computer professionals is a role for specialists with skills in both computing and teaching. Education has been identified as a field of specialism by the Australian Computer Society for computer professionals. We can use mobile learning to accelerate the training of computer professionals in the area of education and they can then use mobile learning for their students. Specialist computer educators can also provide their expertise in on-line education to other disciplines. To measure the success at training and delivering mobile education, we can monitor two key performance indicators: What proportion of your computer educators are dual qualified in computing and education? What proportion of your courses are offered on-line via mobile devices?

  1. IT Professionals Change Everything
  2. Drive the Digital Economy Through Education
  3. Changes Needed in Education
  4. Key Metrics

About the Speaker: Tom Worthington is an independent computer professional, educational designer and an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

A Certified Professional member of the Australian Computer Society, in 2015 Tom received a national gold Digital Disruptors Award for "ICT Education" and in 2010 was Canberra ICT Educator of the Year. Tom previously worked on IT policy for the Australian Government, and in 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. He is a Past President, Honorary Life Member, Certified Professional and a Certified Computer Professional of the society as well as a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Tom has a Masters in Education (specializing in Distance Education) from Athabasca University, a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education from the Australian National University and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment from the Canberra Institute of Technology. He blogs as the He blogs as the

While an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the Australian National University, a member of the Blockchain Technical Committee and the Professional Education Governance Committee of the Australian Computer Society, his views here do not necessarily reflect those of either organization.

These are the notes for the presentation using HTML Slidy. If viewing the slides you can press "A" to display these notes (and press "A" again to hide them). To advance to the next slide, press "page down", or click the left mouse button.

Tom Worthington MEd FHEA FACS CP

Tom Worthington

Honorary Lecturer in Computer Science at the Australian National University

Past President, Honorary Life Member and Fellow of the Australian Computer Society

Member of the ACS Professional Education Governance & Blockchain committees

Blogs as the Higher Education Whisperer

UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

UN Sustainable Development Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Computer professionals can help:

4: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all"

9: "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation"

From: UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015).

Two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are to Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (Goal 4 and Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation (Goal 9). These can be aided by computer professionals using their technical skills to help provide education.


UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015). Retrieved from

China's Belt and Road Education Plan

China's Belt and Road Portal

Map of China's Belt and Road

Part of the Belt and Road Initiative

Chinese universities & joint ventures:

  1. Two-Way Student Exchange
  2. Co-Operation in Running Educational Institutions
  3. Teacher Training
  4. Joint Education and Training

Add m-learning?

China's Belt and Road Education Plan envisages students from the Indo-Pacific region studying at campuses in China and also on regional joint venture campuses. However, the plan appears to cover only on-campus face-to-face education. This provides the opportunity to enhance the plan by offering online learning using mobile devices. The techniques to provide such education are proven. A limiting factor is teaching staff who are competent in both the subject area, in education and in the delivery technology. Computer professionals already have the subject matter knowledge of computing and much of the knowledge needed for online delivery, they just need some training in teaching.


Australian Department of Education. China's Belt and Road Initiative – Education, 2017. URL network/china/PolicyUpdates-China/Pages/Chinas-Belt-and-Road- Initiative-.aspx

China Ministry of Education. Education Action Plan for the Belt and Road Initiative, 2016. URL

IT Professionals Change Everything

Digital Teaching In Higher Education (book)

IT developments depend on trained computer professionals to make them happen:

Async-Sync Learning System being built at ANU.

Combine classroom and online education with free open source software:

In a series of papers I proposed combining the features of both Asynchronous and Synchronous education in the one package (Worthington, p. 619, 2013, Worthington & Wu, 2015). An ANU student is now working on implementing a Moodle module to allow a live recording to include quizzes.


Drive the Digital Economy Through Education

ICT Sustainability (book)

Education is an under-recognized specialist area for computer professionals.

Example: Free open online ICT Sustainability Courseware funded by ACS and used by ANU and Athabasca.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) funded the development of ICT Sustainability Courseware now used by the Australian National University and Athabasca University (Canada). The course-ware is designed for the Australian developed Moodle Learning Management System for delivery to mobile devices. The course-ware is free under a Creative Commons license.

Computer Professional Education Specialists

ACS Certification

ACS recognizes education as a specialism:

  1. Learning and development assessment
  2. Learning and development management
  3. Learning delivery
  4. Learning design and development
  5. Teaching and subject formation

From Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA)

Computer professionals are accredited under the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3). The Australian IP3 member is the Australian Computer Society (ACS), who certify professionals specialist area. ACS use the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) to identify skills, five of which relate to education and training development, assessment, management, delivery and subject formation.

This would enable computer professionals working in higher education to be certified in education relevant to their discipline. This could be of value to improve the quality of education across the Indo-Pacific.

How to Teach Online

Provide: eBooks, discussion forums, tools for inquiry and assessment.

Pictographs by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US).

In studying education, I have read many theories and techniques for distance education. Designing an online course is much the same as face-to-face. However, there is not the time or resources to teach all of this to the tutors and lecturers who do the teaching at universities. Something simpler and quicker to teach, understand and implement is needed.

The cover of my book "Digital Teaching" is illustrated with the four pictographs by Carlos Sarmento (from the Noun Project CC BY 3.0 US). This summarizes an approach with four steps:

  1. Provide eBooks and other curated content on the topic;
  2. Facilitate discussion between the students;
  3. Teach tools and techniques for the student to explore the topic; and
  4. Assess, including formative feedback, to help them learn.

The instructor can get away with making up a face-to-face course as they go along, but an online course needs to be carefully designed and tested in advance.

Keep in mind that what students like is not necessarily the same as what helps them learn, or what they will use. Offered the option of face-to-face lectures, students will say they want them, but most will then not turn up. Students prefer high-quality videos, but video quality makes no difference to learning.

Blended Learning is Now

ANU Union Court Redevelopment

New ANU Buildings (artists' impression).

ANU Students attended less than half of the lectures offered

ANU has demolished the central lecture theaters

Replacement buildings are for flexible learning

Five years of online study made me appreciate the value of classroom teaching. The typical university student still want to meet face-to-face with other students and an instructor. However, this time should not be wasted on lectures, or tutorials, where the student sits passively.

The Australian National University (ANU) found that after the first two weeks only 30% of students attend a typical lecture. In a semester, that works out to less than 50% attendance.

ANU demolished the central Manning Clark Centre lecture theaters in late 2017, to be replaced by "a number of multi-purpose, multimodal, flexible learning spaces which will be embedded with new digital infrastructure".

No preferred learning approach has been set centrally by ANU. However, I suggest replacing lectures with a flipped classroom, will provide a better learning experience while halving the teaching space required. A typical "on-campus" student can be expected to be in "class" for no more than 10% of their study time. For a full-time student studying 40 hours a week, this would be 4 hours. A full-time student might spend as little as one day per week on campus, a part-time student, one day a month.

Improving Engagement of Online Students

UBC Irving K Barber Learning Centre

UBC Irving K Barber Learning Centre, Photo by Tom Worthington CC-By 3.0 2015

Online students are less: engaged, likely to complete and satisfied,

Need to design engagement with university & other students into the assessed curriculum.

This engagement will also help notionally "on-campus" students.

Online students are more focused on individual courses and assessment tasks. This is due to their being physically remote from the university. The student does not perceive the "university" as more than an administrative entity. Also, online students are more likely to be older, part-time and undertaking studies for work purposes. As a result, these students are focused on completing the assessment. The result is isolated, unhappy students.

The solution is activities to introduce the students to the online services the university provides and getting the students to help each other. These have to be compulsory, formal, assessed, for-credit activities. It is not enough to have optional extra-curricular activities, as the task-driven online student will not do these. It is also not enough to have one introductory activity, as the student will revert to their previous isolated behavior.

Educational designers who know how to produce such activities for students. The challenge is to convince discipline specific academics to make room in degree programs for these "soft skills".

While the problem with engagement has been seen with distance education students, the use of blended learning on-campus will see the increase in the same problem. The same techniques can be used to help engage these students.

With this approach, the soft-skill activities wrap around the classroom time, much as the new glass and steel of the Irving K Barber Learning Centre, wraps around an old stone building at the University of British Colombia.

M-learning Made Easy With Responsive Web Design

Moodle course in mobile mode

Course on Smartphone

Responsive web design is now incorporated into learning software, such as Moodle

Interface adjusts for desktop or mobile screen automatically

The designer still has to curate suitable content.

Desktop software used for e-learning, such as the Australian Moodle free open source learning management system, has been upgraded to operate on mobile devices, including smart phones. Two interfaces are provided: an App for mobile devices and a responsive web design. The responsive design automatically adjusts the interface when displayed on a mobile device (see video "Demonstrating Responsive Web Design"). The responsive web design can also be used on a large screen for a conventional lecture, or in a flexible classroom.

This still requires the educational designer to consider the context of where the learner is. The mobile interface is useful for presenting small amounts of information and asking for a short response. However, the student is unlikely to be able to write a 4,000 word essay, while sitting on a bus. Even so it removes the need to produce two, or three versions of course materials.

See also:


New Zealand Qualifications Authority

New Zealand micro-credentials are 1 to 8 weeks study

3 x 1 week teaching micro-credentials for IT professionals?

  1. Delivery
  2. Assessment
  3. Design

M-learning can be over shorter periods and targeted at specific skills. The New Zealand government is recognizing micro-credentials from tertiary education organizations as of 22 August 2018. The NZ credentials can be the equivalent of 1 to 8 weeks study. The shortest qualification typically issued by Australian universities is a 12 week graduate certificate.

As an example, one approach would be to design a teaching qualification for computer professionals consisting of the equivalent of 3 weeks study. This could be made up of 3 one week micro-credentials, the equivalent of a one semester, one quarter full time load, graduate certificate course. Students could undertake the three micro-credentials separately, or as part of a graduate certificate, graduate diploma, or masters degree.


New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Recognising micro-credentials in New Zealand. URL reviews/recognising-micro-credentials/

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Parts 1 to 10


Digitally Certified University Certificate

  1. Each student with hundreds of micro-qualifications
  2. Employers want to check qualifications automatically
  3. ACS Blockchain Technical Committee looking at this.

Life long learning and micro-credentials will result in worker having several hundred qualifications. This would be unmanageable with paper certificates and even with web based e-certificates, such as those issued by "My eQuals" in Australia (the image shows my Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, issued by ANU). Employers will want to be able to automatically check qualifications against job requirements. One technology which may be used is block-chain. There is an ACS Blockchain technical committee looking at this, as one use for the technology.


Higher Ed Services, Welcome to My eQuals. URL

A. Grech, & A. F. Camilleri, Blockchain in education, 2017. URL _Blockchain_in_Education.pdf#page=68

Summary: Changes Needed in Education

A flat floor large classroom at ANU, with large mobile LCD screens used to relay presentation to the back of the room.

ANU Techlauncher in Flat Floor Classroom

  1. Qualify computer professionals as education specialists at higher education institutions.
  2. Accelerate their training, using mobile learning.
  3. Have these professionals design and deliver mobile learning.
  4. Teach these techniques to educators in other disciplines and other education systems.

Key Metrics

ANU Union Court Redevelopment

New ANU Buildings (artists' impression).

More Information

  1. The presentation notes are at:
  2. Slides for these notes are also available
  3. Digital Teaching In Higher Education: Designing E-learning for International Students of Technology, Innovation and the Environment (book), 2017
  4. Tom Worthington

A preview of this presentation was given under the title "Mobile Learning from Canberra with Microcredentials and Blockchain for the Indo-Pacific: Colombo Plan 2.0" at the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch Conference, 1:15 pm, 4 September 2018, in Canberra (replacing the "Security" presentation listed in the program).

Version 1.1, 11 September 2018, Tom Worthington.

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Computer Professionals Providing Mobile Learning for the Digital Economy by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.