Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Designer of the ACS and ANU Green ICT Courses

Adjunct Lecturer, Australian National University

For the Barcamp Canberra 2012, 17 March 2012.

We have enough computers and telecommunications for a digital education revolution, but it is not just about connecting schools to the Internet and buying tablet computers for students. Teachers need to learn a new (or old) way to teach and students need to take responsibility for their own learning. As a society we need t invest in the skills and systems to do this.


In 2008 I was asked to design an online Green ICT course for computer professionals. This started in January 2009 and is now also offered by Australian National University and Athabasca University (Canada).

Success with e-Learning depends on a balance between the student working on their own and working with others.

Digital Education Revolution (DER)

While the Australian Government is investing $2.4B for ICT in the Digital Education Revolution DER, only $41.2M is being spent on the Online Curriculum Support. The computers and network will be of little use without educational content. The hardware will quickly become obsolete and turn into e-Waste, whereas educational content has a much longer life.

Bradley Review Fails on e-Learning

... A quality student experience in higher education ... An accessible and sophisticated online learning environment. ...

From: Review of Australian Higher Education, Final Report, Denise Bradley, December 2008

While the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education asserts that a higher education requires a sophisticated online learning environment, there is only one mention of "online learning" in the 304 page report. The report contains no mention of the role of the Internet or the web in higher education, apart from noting that some alumni associations run web sites. Computer literacy is mentioned once, with reference to mature-age students who and those from rural and low socio-economic backgrounds.

As the Bradley Review notes, Australia faces a critical moment in the history of higher education. However, the review fails to recognize that ICT will be a major determinate in the reach, quality and performance of Australia's higher education system, rendering much of the detail of the report irrelevant to Australia's educational, economic and social future.

In the late 1990s I was witness to the process by which the Internet arrived, largely unheralded by government ICT policy makers (of which I was one). Carefully developed policies were abandoned and are mostly now forgotten by all but a few archives. In a similar way, web based e-learning is arriving largely unnoticed by education policy makers. Within the next few years his will render the current education policy makers and their policies irrelevant.

Social Inclusion with ICT

Online education can help with:

But requires "Access to the Internet and information technology"

Indicators from: Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators, Australian Social Inclusion Board, Australian Government, 2009

The Australian Social Inclusion Board of the Australian Government issued a Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators in 2009. "Access to the Internet and information technology" is one of the measures listed under "Exclusion from services". There is a risk that using the Internet and computers for education could decrease social inclusion, by decreasing access to education. However, assuming this access can be provided, then the Internet and ICT, particularly mobile phones, can be used to combat other forms of social exclusion.

In particular, Internet and ICT access can assist with "Young people not in education or training", "Persons (adults) with low educational attainment", "Adult literacy", "Academic progress of Year 3 and Year 7 students in Australia", and "Access to services".

Online courses can be provided where and when required, either on their own, or part of a face-to-face program. This can be in a traditional educational setting at a school, TAFE, or universities. But it can also be in a less traditional setting, such as a library, other community facility, or group. This can help keep young people in education or training by making it more relevant and accessible, assisting academic progress. It can also be provided to adults with limited education.

Online education can be used to address adult literacy directly. Also accessibility features of the web can be used to provide access to services for those with limited literacy, as well as to those with a disability.

The Internet can be used to provide access to services, particularly by allowing a simpler path through complex administrant procedures of government and corporate service providers. The techniques developed for presenting information in an easy to understand way on web pages and to test the effectiveness of the information provision, can greatly aid access.

Mobile phones provide a new opportunity for providing access to education and to services. As well as providing a more available way to access the Internet, the limited interface of the mobile phone forces web designers to prioritize the information provided, removing irrelevant material and concentrating on what the client actually needs.

Online Learning Works

From: "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning" by Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia & Jones, Center for Technology in Learning, US Department of Education, May 2009

This recent study suggests that online learning is more effective than face to face classroom learning, that blended learning is no more effective than purely online learning and that video and online quizzes do not improve online learning. But it should be noted that the US study has limitations: it is a "meta" analysis, that is analysis of previous results, not new data collection. Also this was for post K-12 students and may only be applicable to vocational, university or adult learning.

First global Green ICT Course

Green ICT

Students learn how to:

Green ICT (Green IT or Green Computing) is the study and practice of using computers and telecommunications in a way which maximises positive environmental benefit and minimise the negative impact.

The energy efficiency of operating equipment is a major concern of Green ICT. The embodied energy and life-cycle of the materials used in the design, manufacture and reuse and recycling of equipment and components are also concerns. Green ICT seeks to inform accepted management practises to achieve efficient and effective business interaction.

Students Teach Each Other

Moodle e-learning system provides:

  1. Online discussion forums
  2. Tools for students to author content

The tutors fostering discussion, not presenting content.

See: Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning, David Lindley, IJCIM Special Issues on e-learning, Vol.15 No. SP4, November, 2007.

The ACS and the ANU use the Australian developed Moodle open source Learning Management System. This is used to provide forums for students to discuss what they are learning, not just receive content prepared by teachers. This also teaches students how to use the same online collaboration techniques in the workplace.

The techniques of using mentored collaborative online learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley.

Online References Used

  1. The Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program, Sustainable IT Lecture Series, Natural Edge Project, 2008
  2. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), Green Electronics Council. GEC 2006.
  3. Energy Star Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, 2007
  4. The Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy, Tom Worthington, Report and Recommended Plan of Action, prepared for the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Version 1.0, 23 September 2008.

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2009 (Version 1.0, 24 August 2009) Tom Worthington

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