Archive for May, 2010

‘If I were the Australian Minister for Agriculture…’

May 24th, 2010

The question, ‘What if I were the Australian Minister for Agriculture?’, has also been posited to four authors with expertise in farm policy and knowledge of Australian agriculture:
Professor Paul Martin (AgLaw, UNE), Professor David Pannell (School of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Western Australia), Dr Alistair Watson (a freelance agricultural economist) and Professor Margaret Alston, (Department of Social Work at the Faculty Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University).

The May 2010 Farm Policy Journal will include the winning two papers from AFI’s recent Writers Competition asking entrants to imagine themselves in the Minister’s shoes.

If you were the Australian Minister for Agriculture, what would be your aims for the future of agriculture, and what measures or programs would you implement to make that happen? This was a challenge given to both professional and amateur agricultural policy-makers, with the added incentive of a prize for the two best ‘amateur’ efforts.

The May 2010 Farm Policy Journal will be released in early June.

Biosecurity and post-border surveillance

May 24th, 2010

Two agricultural and resource economists at the School of BEPP have been collaborating with government agencies and major universities in Australia and overseas to help design efficient surveillance strategies to prevent the entry and spread of invasive species and diseases. Over the past three years, Dr Susan Hester and A/Prof. Oscar Cacho have received grants from several sources and have established productive partnerships with leading weed scientists, ecologists, economists, mathematicians and pest managers at Biosecurity Queensland, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Th e University of Queensland, Melbourne University, Monash University and ANU. Soft ware they have developed to evaluate weed eradication projects, has been used in Hawaii, California, the Galapagos Islands and Australia.
Oscar has also been involved in a research consultancy to help evaluate and plan the eradication of fire ants from Brisbane. Recently, with colleagues at Melbourne University, Susie has produced a review of national and international research on post-border surveillance techniques. Stakeholders in government and industry have enthusiastically received this document. The next step in this project is to develop case studies and scenarios that illustrate the use of these techniques.
The impact of the work undertaken by Oscar and Susie is set to grow through the establishment of a relationship with the Australian Biosecurity Intelligence Network, an organisation that promotes the use of tools and technologies that have been developed to improve decision making surrounding biosecurity issues.

Services in Local Governments

May 24th, 2010

Professor Brian Dollery, Director of the Centre for Local Government at UNE, was recently invited by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Council Manager Magazine to write substantial pieces on topics related to services in local governments. The article in the SMH on March 16, entitled “Long-term financial sustainability key issue for councils”, addressed the factors on which that sustainability hinges in the long-term.
Professor Dollery’s research at the UNE Centre for Local Government has identified those factors as: demographic trends, council revenue, council expenditure, financial management and council governance.
He states in the article that without additional taxation powers, costshifting ensures councils will never be self-sufficient.
The article in the Council Manager Magazine, co-written with Dr Bligh Grant, analysed the case for local government shared services, including what shared service models may suit Australian councils.

Perceptions of Leadership at UNE

May 24th, 2010

Melanie Fleming (Lecturer in Higher Education, TLC) and Kay Hempsall (Lecturer in Management, BEPP) are conducting research into perceptions and experiences of leadership at UNE.

This project is examining staff perceptions of leadership and how leadership behaviours and practices differ in higher education compared with other organisations and aims to develop a comprehensive view of leadership needs, views and behaviours to inform staff development and to contribute to the development of leadership in higher education theory. The project evolved from the pilot of a specialised leadership development program for course and unit coordinators facilitated by Fleming and Hempsall in 2009, where it emerged that perceptions of leadership might significantly influence the outcomes of such development programs. Initial findings suggest that perceptions of leadership hinder the development of capabilities and practice of leadership throughout the organisation. A further factor that emerged during the pilot was the potential influence of organisational structure and culture on the efficacy of leadership development efforts. It is anticipated that the accurate mapping of these perceptions will enable more sophisticated and more effective leadership development programs to be created, and it is expected that this project will shed light on these influences and from this lead to organisational culture development strategies.

Any staff member who would like to participate in this research project is encouraged to contact either researcher (mflemin6@une.edu.au; khempsa2@une.edu.au).

ICT’s participatory potential in higher education collaborations: reality or just talk

May 11th, 2010

DEHub; Dr Ros James

Recent reviews of the literature by Dr Ros James and Professor Tynan accepted for presentation and publication at ALT-C, (UK)  in September has revealed that overall, in Australia, adoption of virtual collaboration tools has been lower than expected. Even under current connectivity conditions without the new National Broadband Network, access does not seem to be a major problem—it seems even in rural areas, >90% of students can access dialup, broadband or satellite internet (Chan and McLoughlin 2008). Since many Web2.0 tools are free and user-friendly, availability and accessibility cannot be a major deterrent to their use: that leaves appropriation as the culprit.

Significantly higher numbers of students (Kennedy et al. 2006) and professionals (CCH 2008) use blogging, instant messaging and other Web 2.0 tools for socialising rather than for work/study, suggesting that these primarily social devices and tools have not yet been recognised for their beneficial work applications. With blogs, instant messaging, social networking, texting, RSS feeds and downloading MP3s, more frequent use leads to greater awareness of their potential in study contexts (Kennedy et al. 2008). Therefore, we need to provide training and use testimonials to clearly illustrate to students, researchers and professionals the usefulness of the new Web 2.0 tools, when their use is appropriate relative to specific tasks and projects and how they can be integrated into work processes. Not surprisingly, simply making ICTs available does not lead to their use (Montoya et al. 2009). Adoption of ICT is also not a determinant of productivity, unless to save time and cut costs, collaborators focus more on technology utilization and business process redesign (Wang and Tadisina 2007).

HE traditionally favours competition over collaboration. In preparing our graduates for globalizing labour markets, the central challenge is re-orienting our educational systems so as to encourage more people to create, collaborate, contribute and participate. We need to develop guidelines for engaging with Web 2.0 technologies to develop a skill-set that matches to appropriate 21st-century learning skills and employability skills–namely, communication, collaboration, creativity, leadership and technology proficiency. Information literacies (searching, retrieving, critically evaluating and attributing information from a range of appropriate sources) represent significant and growing deficit areas that should be urgently addressed.

Australian researchers have barely scratched the surface of e-collaboration research. A number of authors (e.g. Jirotka et al. 2006; Munkvold and Zigurs 2007) have stressed the need for further research worldwide. Our review suggests that in an Australian context, we need to research and develop

  • methodologies for the formative evaluation of e-collaborations;
  • case studies of e-collaboration projects, including failures and successes;
  • evaluation of technologies and tools for supporting small and large scale collaborations across time and distance;
  • better understanding of user acceptance and choice of technologies and interpersonal trust, accountability and ethics within distributed, technology-mediated communities;
  • strategies, policies and tools for ownership, management and sharing of resources across virtual organisations;
  • guidelines for best practice in organisational implementation and integration of emerging e-collaboration technologies into existing infrastructure and work practices;
  • user training and procedural guidance for embedding ICTs; and
  • demonstrated applications of Web 2.0 tools.

It is obvious there are major gaps in our research and that the field of e-collaboration offers fertile ground for future research into a broad range of challenges. For the moment, e-collaboration in higher education is just so much talk, with the participatory potential of ICTs yet to be fully realised.

For more information of this research and the reference list do not hesitate to contact Dr Rosalind James rjames6@une.edu.au

e-Teaching Leadership: Planning and Implementing a Benefits-Oriented Costs Model for Technology Enhanced Learning (ALTC Funded project 2009-2011 $220,000)

May 11th, 2010

DEHUB: Project lead Professor Belinda Tynan: University of New England  Project manager Dr Deb Vale: University of New England Project partners and team Professor Yoni Ryan: Australian Catholic University Professor Alan Smith: University of Southern Queensland Dr Leone Hinton: Central Queensland University (www.dehub.edu.au)

While academics often show relatively little interest in cost studies, the costs of various types of  teaching delivery are particularly important in a time of increasing student numbers, declining budgets, pressures to maintain quality and substantial expenditure on new technologies to support e-learning. While it is widely known anecdotally that online learning often costs more than traditional methods, unfortunately despite a long tradition of costing for distance education, relatively little information is available on the relative costs of online versus face-to-face teaching(Rumble 1997). Reliable and relevant cost information can assist universities to make better informed choices, particularly with regard to mixes of particular technologies, choice of units for wholly online delivery, class sizes and allocation of duties to particular staff members. Costs of online teaching are difficult to quantify for a number of reasons, including lack of agreement about which costs should be taken into account, lack of reliable data because key information is not collected in a systematic manner, lack of data on how costs vary over time and because some data may not be publicly available on the grounds of confidentiality. This research project aims to answer the following lead questions i) What data and insights currently inform Australian universities about the financial and staff costs in teaching online, and how do Schools in the participating universities calculate staff workloads for online teaching? And, ii) What are the various teaching demands of online programs, and are workload demands lighter, heavier or the same for online teaching compared with face-to-face teaching? Interviews are currently being conducted across the three universities. Contact Belinda Tynan for more information belinda.tynan@une.edu.au.

A systematic review and environmental analysis of the use of 3D immersive virtual worlds in Australian and New Zealand higher education institutions

May 11th, 2010

de-hub-logoDEHub: Professor Belinda Tynan, Sue Gregory, Dr Nathan Wise, University of New England, in collaboration with Associate Professor Barney Dalgarno, Mark J. W. Lee, Lauren Carlson, School of Education, Charles Sturt University

DEHub with Charles Sturt University is currently undertaking a study seeking to achieve a broad understanding of the current ‘state of play’ or ‘lie of the land’ of virtual worlds technology in the Australian and New Zealand higher education environment. The project is being undertaken as part of DE Hub, a research collaboration focused on Distance Education involving UNE, CSU, USQ and CQU, funded by DEEWR. Particular emphasis will be placed on university teachers’, educational designers’ and IT support staff members’ perceptions and experiences relating to the use of the technology for learning and teaching. Specifically, the review will:

· Locate and document a range of examples of current, past or planned virtual worlds usage at the various institutions for learning and teaching purposes;

· Examine the costs and perceived benefits for learning and teaching (as well as the actual benefits, where these have been evaluated);

· Collate an annotated bibliography;

· Identify the current level(s) of access to and support for virtual worlds provided by the institutions to their students and staff, as well as any training provided in their use; and

· Provide a forum for collating and disseminating lessons learnt by academics and institutions, both individually and collectively.

A secondary goal of the review will be to outline the nature of and reasons behind actual and perceived barriers within institutions, and to develop advice on how academics and institutions can effectively overcome such barriers to promote successful adoption, uptake and use.

A survey has just been developed and has passed through the trial stage and will shortly be available for distribution. For further information please contact Sue Gregory sgregor4@une.edu.au

Understanding Open Source for Open Education

May 11th, 2010

de-hub-logoDE Hub: Lindy Klein, University of New England

Open Education is a phrase used to refer to various types of education offerings.  This paper has been accepted for presentation at the Global Learn Asia Pacific Conference, held by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, and  examines the history of the New Age Open Education, providing information for individuals to learn more about, and become involved in, Open Source Education.  Explanations of Open Source within a historical context are provided, as are examples of modern day Open Source activity in the education sector, including MIT Open Course Ware, Moodle, Sakai, the Cape Town Declaration on Open Education, Wiki Educator and Mahara.  Educators are encouraged to overcome anxieties related to technology uptake, and to integrate Open Source underlying beliefs in their current course development – to the extent with which they are comfortable.

Rod Gerber Scholarship 2010

May 10th, 2010

The recipient of this year’s Rod Gerber Scholarship is Isabel Tasker (pictured above). Isabel is an internal PhD student, whose studies cross both the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Faculty of The Professions. She is supervised by Dr Liz Ellis and Dr Robyn Smyth. Isabel hopes to submit in October 2011.

Isabel’s research project is a longitudinal study of Australian long-term adult learners of Chinese as a foreign language. “It concerns their learning journeys, and their transitions from distance learning to self-directed learning. These transitions are especially interesting because they are taking place in the context of rapid change in two very relevant areas: first in the global profile of China and Chinese and in attitudes to Mandarin learning, and secondly in terms of the emergence of new learning environments afforded by developments in accessible technologies for learning and communication. This is a multiple case study involving qualitative analysis of interview, survey and self-report data.”

Isabel has presented at a number of national and international conferences and has a number of outstanding peer reviewed publications. She is a peer reviewer for the journal Babel and was an invited participant at at the National Forum on the Future of Chinese Language Education in Australian Schools, organised by the Asia Education Foundation. Melbourne, October 2008.

She has also received a number of awards during her candidature including an ALTC Citation, which enabled her to further her studies art the Graduate Summer Institute in Applied Linguistics at Penn State University in 2009.