Learning to Reduce Carbon Emissions with Unified Communications
Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM
Adjunct Lecturer, Australian National University
At Cisco Systems Australia Pty., Ltd., Canberra, 12 Noon, 14 May 2012
Tom Worthington FACS CP
Tom Worthington on USS Blue Ridge
- IT consultant and course designer for vocational and postgraduate university courses
- Canberra ICT Educator of the Year 2010
- Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University
- Fellow of the Australian Computer Society
- Voting Member of the Association for Computing Machinery
- First webmaster for the Department of Defence
Tom Worthington is an IT consultant and course designer for vocational and postgraduate university courses. In 2010 he was awarded Canberra ICT Educator of the Year by the Australian Computer Society, for his work on sustainable e-learning. Tom is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy and was the first webmaster of the Department of Defence. 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.
- New Government Funding for Education
- Learn to Fight Climate Change With Your Networked Device
- Delivering courses in mobile formats
- Getting students to work together on-line
The Prime Minister recently announced extra funding for vocational training. This opens up new business opportunities for innovative e-learning. While eBooks on tablet computers have grabbed media attention, it is communication between people which powers modern education. Tom Worthington discusses his award winning "ICT Sustainability" course and how he uses e-books and on-line discussion forms to deliver globally accredited education to students worldwide. He speculates how "Unified communications" (UC) could be used to revolutionise education.
New opportunities for Learning
- VET Diploma and Advanced Diploma students will have HECS-style loans
- Foundation and entry-level students will have federally subsidised training
- For skills shortages: health, business, hospitality, communications, construction and transport
See: Gillard Government to provide a better deal for thousands of vocational students, Media Release, Prime Minister of Australia, 1 February 2012
On 1 February 2012, the Prime Minister announced low cost loans for vocational students and subsidies for entry-level courses in high demand job categories. Foundation and entry-level courses will be directly subsidised by the federal government, in areas such as health, business, hospitality, communications, construction and transport. For longer Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses, students could apply for a loan to cover the cost (similar to the scheme already in place for university courses). Students would be "guaranteed" a government-subsidised training place, but it is not clear what measures will be put in place to meet the likely demand and so honour that guarantee.
It is not clear how educational standards will be maintained under an increase in demand. Australian governments have funded the development of e-learning for the vocational sector over several years and this would be one way to meet the new demand cost effectively and maintain standards. This would also allow students to more easily study and work at the same time. Students can study via their networked device, on the bus or at a mining camp.
Limited Future for Off-line Lectures
- TEQSA assessing Australian University
- On-line courses which are systematically designed are very popular
- Lecturers who can't deliver quality courses have a limited future
See: "ANU financial repositioning: ensuring ongoing excellence", Professor Ian Young, Vice-Chancellor, the Australian National University, 26 March 2012
In January 2012 the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) commenced assessments of Australian university teaching. Increasingly government funding and revenue from student enrolments will depend on the measured quality of courses.
Promoted by government policy, Australian universities are currently reviewing the quality and viability of their courses. Those courses which do not provide for flexibility of delivery are not likely to rate well and those staff who can't adjust to the new way of teaching will need to find different employment.
While there will still be a role for face-to-face education at universities, those which have flexible courses, offering an on-line option will have an advantage. The discipline and rigour needed to design and deliver on-line courses improves the quality of the education and increases the popularity of the courses with students.
Professor Ian Young, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University has issued ANU financial repositioning: ensuring ongoing excellence" (26 March 2012). This envisions recasting the ANU budget, to increase the surplus to $35M (4 per cent of revenue), so there are funds for growth. It is proposed to make $40M savings from: changed business practices ($15M) and reduction in staff expenses ($25M).
Learn to Fight Climate Change With Your Networked Device
E-learning can be used for vocational/professional education up to postgraduate university level:
- 12 Week E-learning course first run February 2009
- Sponsored by the Australian Computer Society
- Part of the Computer Professional Education Program (first accredited.)
- Masters-level with university articulation
- Offered at ANU from July 2009
- North American version adapted by Brian Stewart at Athabasca University (Canada)
- Students can study from anywhere with Internet access.
E-learning is often thought as a second best form of training, to be used for low level skills, when a real classroom is not available. However, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) provides postgraduate e-learning in advanced business, management and technology topics in their Computer Professional Education Program (CPEP). This is accredited as part of a global program and has Masters-level articulation at several Australian institutions.
The ACS commissioned me to design an E-learning course, which was first run February 2009, as part of the CPEP. The course has been adapted for the Australian National Unviersity (from July 2009) and by Athabasca University (Canada).
Delivering courses in flexible formats
- Content using standard HTML provides simple e-Books on interactive whiteboard, tablets & smart phones
- Collects all material together
- Just about any eBook format will do (HTML, ePub, Kindle, IMS) and any eBook or web tool, such as Moodle Book Module
The Moodle Book Module provides a simple implementation of an e-book, with each chapter as a web page. This can be used to consolidate all of the notes for a course. This prevents students being overwhelmed by the volume of material at the start of the course, but still have access to all notes.
The commonly used eBook formats are based on HTML web formats. Provided simple formats are used, these work on large screens in a classroom, tablet computers and smart phones, as well as desktop computers..
For the technically minded, Apple iPad uses EPUB, a web based e-book format similar to Amazon Kindle format. There are conversion tools available). Learning Management Systems (LMS) use the similar IMS Content package format.
The important point is not the tool used, but standard HTML and accessibility guidelines. The material can then be displayed on a wide range of web browsers, on desktop computers, smart phones and tablet computers (including Google Android and Apple iPad). No special mobile version or "app" is required.
Use Flexible Formats Not Apps for Mobile Devices
Use simple formats, layout and labels:
Rather than create content specifically for mobile devices using "Apps", course content can be prepared using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so that it will work in a wide range of contexts. Test tools such as the W3C mobileOK Checker and TAW are also available to quickly check content.
Much of this involves avoiding complex formatting, using simple layout and labels. As an example, use a template to consistently set headings and fonts. Put captions on images. Lay out content with what the student need to know first, first. Use the same labels consistently throughout the course. If colours or icons are used, remember that not everyone can see them.
Getting students to work together on-line
Use a Learning Management System (such as Moodle) for:
- Online discussion forums
- Tools to author content
The tutors foster discussion, not present content.
Students are marked on group contributions, every week.
See: Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning, David Lindley, IJCIM Special Issues on e-learning, Vol.15 No. SP4, November, 2007.
E-learning need not be just receiving content prepared by teachers. A Learning Management System, such as the free open source Moodle, provides forums for students to discuss what they are learning. This also teaches students how to use the same on-line collaboration techniques in the workplace.
The techniques of using mentored collaborative on-line learning for computer professional education were adapted by David Lindley. A group of no more than 24 students work together with the one tutor for 12 weeks, discussing how the topics presented in the course apply in their workplaces.
The key to getting students to discuss a topic is to reward them with marks every week and provide them with helpful feedback on how to do better. It also helps to have the student answer from the point of view of the workplace: "In your current work place, or one you are familiar with, how would you...".
Planning for Real-Time Events
Real-time audio, video and webinars have a role in education.
Student and staff time is valuable, so real-time online has to be carefully planned.
On-line events should be short and snappy
Provide participants with before, during and after materials.
Real-time online events (called synchronous online learning by educators) have a role in education, to supplement store and forward material (asynchronous). However, traditional lectures do not translate well to the online environment (and are loosing favour in the face to face classroom).
Educators need to carefully prepare and plan online events, making them short and information rich. The typical Events need to be carefully planned in advance with information provided to participants in advance, during the event and afterwards.
Unified communications Needed for Education
Combine real-time and store and forward tools.
Students can chew gum and walk (or video-conference and blog) at the same time
HTML5 Video and Video-tweets may help
We need better tools for unified communications, but don't forget the phone
Teachers currently have too modal an approach to using educational tools and techniques. One tool, the Learning Management System, is used for one part of teaching and the video conference/webinar for another. There is no need to confine an educational activity to one tool or mode. Students can use multiple tools for multiple channels of learning simultaneously.
Learning management systems, such as Moodle, can be used in near-real-time, during a video conference. But better tools are needed to integrate the different modes.
HTML5 Video, which allows recorded (and perhaps live) video to be indexed and searched easily, should make the integration of video with e-learning text much easier. Short audio/video segments, like multimedia Tweets, may help bring more flexibility to live online events.
In all of this remember there is a role for simpler communications technologies: there is still a use for the telephone.
- Next talk: "Green ICT Obligations for Corporates", at the Australian Computer Society Green ICT Special Interest Group, Australian National University, Canberra, 5:30pm for 6:00pm, 23 May 2012 (Register online).
- Conference paper: WORTHINGTON, T. 2012. A green computing professional education course online: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and eBooks. 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education. Melbourne, Australia: IEEE. <http://hdl.handle.net/1885/9013>
- Book: "ICT Sustainability", Tom Worthington, 2011: Kindle, iPad, ePub, PDF eBooks, Paperback and web
- Work-Integrated-Learning: With E-books and E-Learning, for the Australian eLearning Congress, Sydney, 8 February 2012
- Green ICT Strategies COMP7310, Masters program, The Australian National University, from July 2009
- ACS Green ICT Course
- North American version adapted by Brian Stewart, Athabasca University (Canada): Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635)
- Tom Worthington
- This document is available at: www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/green_unified_communications/
Slides for these notes are also available.
Version 1.0, 30 March 2012, Tom Worthington
Learning to Reduce Carbon Emissions with Unified Communications, Tablets, eBooks and Smart phones by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.