Analytics in Higher Education

This post was written at the Idea13 #idea13 Conference, MCG, 12/11/2013
This session was by Gregor Kennedy, University of Melbourne

Gregor talked about the the promise of ‘big data’ and learning analytics. Everyone is moving into analytics including: Desire2Learn, Pearsons, Blackboard, McGraw Hill (adaptive ebooks) A scary list I thought.

Analytics is the data that you pull out of your LMS and can be used for good purposes, to:

  • Detect at risk students
  • Track student skills development
  • Teaching and learning research and evaluation
  • Formative feedback for adaptive learning

Purdue University developed a program to track student learning and give them feedback (colour coded) on their progress in the course. This was fed back into the LMS. I vow to follow that lead up.

He gave examples of Melbourne Uni’s research, tracking student collaboration and engagement by using analytics and some fancy high-end stuff with some fancy high end maths behind it that lost me!

Uni chief says ‘charge students more’

Just a couple of days after I was lamenting with a friend the death of free university education since the heady post-Whitlam days, and the subsequent changes to campus life, along comes the ‘uni chief’ today in the AGE, arguing that universities should be given the power to set higher student fees, ostensibly to help disadvantaged students.

Monash boss Richard Larkins called for an overhaul of the HECs funding scheme, but this quote was the clincher:

“The student contribution amount for HECS students should be deregulated. There
is no evidence that HECS is a disincentive for students and if our best
universities are to be internationally competitive, a step change in
funding is required.”

Presumably Larkins wants to bring the fees up to a point where they ARE a disincentive for students. With fewer students universities can get on with the key work of being ‘internationally competitive’

Professor Larkins is also the head of
lobby group Universities Australia.

Taking my own advice…

Examples below of me taking my own advice about integrating myself into summer. I just had 10 days in the Marlborough Sounds in NZ, followed by a few days camping at the Prom. Both were great. Now I’m dreading that first ‘Back to School’ sale sign any day now. And I logged into to my school email for the first time today…

So it begins again!


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From the AGE today:

AUSTRALIA was the only developed country to cut public spending on tertiary education in the decade to 2004, according to a new world comparison.
The funding reduction — down 4 per cent compared with an average OECD rise of 49 per cent — resulted in private spending on higher education, including students’ tuition fees,surpass government funding.

By 2004 the Government paid 47.2 per cent of university revenue in Australia, compared with an OECD average of 75.4 per cent.The OECD found private spending soared mainly due to students leaving university with a greater debt after the Federal Government lifted maximum HECS fees in 1997.

Only the US, Japan and Korea charged students more for a public university degree. Australians paid an average $US3855 a year for university study. Conversely, one in three members of the OECD, all of them European countries, offer students free university tuition.

Full report HERE

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NASA TV (repost)

Okay, so now I’m re-posting from old postings, but I was thinking about watching the space shuttle on my laptop computer again and how amazing that actually is.

I blogged just that sentiment a couple of years ago but it was on the old blog (I didn’t know about migrating posts over in those days) so I’m posting it again, because it’s still unbelievable that we can watch spacecraft and we should remember that!

I blogged this on August 1, 2005. I should tag it ‘amazing things that we take for granted in our lives’.  Instead, the only tag I had that vaguely fitted was ‘higher ed’!

Does anyone else think it’s absolutely amazing that we can login to NASA TV and watch live video of the space shuttle Discovery joined to the International Space Station as it orbits the earth while the astronauts space-walk and go about their business?

I mean, just for a moment think through what we are looking at, playing in RealPlayer on my notebook computer in my study in Hawthorn, Victoria: a spaceship orbiting the earth, astronauts working on the space station, our earth tilting below, the blackness of space.

I’ve become addicted to watching it: last night I even watched video taken from one of the booster rockets as it soared into space, then cut out, and split from the rocket and fell back to earth. It was silent for a few moments as the shuttle soared away, and then as the booster fell back to earth there was a spinning grinding , unearthly sound as the thing plunged back towards earth, before it fell finally and peacefully into the sea. It was beautiful!


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Schools should teach more oz-lit

This week the focus was Australian literature, and what schools should be doing about it. A Sydney seminar was responding to Rosemary Neill’s article in the Weekend Australian late last year called, ‘Lost for Words’, which argued that university undergraduates were much less interested in studying Australian writing than in the past.

Various theories emerged. Of course schools are the culprit. If they taught more Australian literature more university courses on it would be needed. I once started a series of blog postings called ‘Things schools should do according to one interest group: #3948949392 in a never-ending series’, and this might have been one of them.

Australian literature is important, and in a bit of a crisis currently. Sales are down, publishers are reluctant to publish it, university courses have shrunk and it hasn’t got the excitement and urgency it had in the 1970s when it was all about the new Australian cultural identity.

But schools DO teach Australian lit. I’m currently teaching Philip Hodgins verse novella Dispossessed, and most senior English courses prescribe Australian content. The seminar acknowledged that Australian fantasy writing was read avidly by students. So, perhaps it’s not the schools, but more to do with the state of Australian culture and history now, an era of university cuts, workplace reform and economic rationalism, or maybe even the way universities themselves are teaching this work. Deconstructionalism and theory dominate many English departments at the expense of the author and the work in a culture.

Elizabeth Webby from University of Sydney concludes:

In general discussion, many other issues were raised, including the need to encourage more teaching of Australian literature in primary and secondary schools. I feel that this is definitely the solution though it would require much revision of current curricula and teacher training, as well as greatly increased funding for the provision of support material and in-service courses. It is also important that none of this be driven by a nationalist agenda, an out-dated sense of what it means to be Australian. Much wonderful writing has been written about this country and the experience of living here; much has been written about what it means to live elsewhere, including in entirely imaginary places. What worries me is that so many people, especially younger people, are missing out on the pleasures of reading it.

More at the ABC.

Henry Lawson picture (above) from University of Sydney ‘Images of Henry Lawson

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The Truth about HECS

Given that I went to university in the halcyon days when it was prioritized by government, I hate to see the path it’s gone down since. So I was interested to read Dick Gunstone, Professor of Science and Technology Education at Monash University systematically dismantle Peter Costello’s recent declaration that:

“Well let me put it this way. I’m sure if you are a student and
you’re looking at that fee, it looks like a big fee. But what I
would say to you is that it is interest-free and it’s only payable
once you get back into the work force.

“And if you compare this system with other systems around the
world, it’s a much more generous system.

In a detailed examination of systems across the world, Gunstone concludes:

The Treasurer’s two one-liners are clearly wrong, and not
even in the same ballpark as the facts.

One hundred thousand dollars a year to go to university in the
US? It is not even 10 per cent of that at the most expensive public
universities. Even in private institutions, such as Stanford and
Harvard, tuition fees are far far less, including for high-cost
postgraduate programs.

Is HECS a “much more generous system” than anywhere else?
Hardly. Only in Britain and the US will you find higher tuition
costs for students, and then only for some courses and at some
universities – and with much more generous possibilities in both
countries for students to obtain direct grants and loans to defray
their costs.

Given the Treasurer’s well-deserved reputation for delivering
good one-liners, here are a couple relating to universities he
might like to use instead of the two from December:

· OECD reports show that the average change in public
university funding across the OECD for the last decade is a 48 per
cent increase; in Australia it is a seven per cent decrease.

· In 2006, the Australian public university system received
just over 40 per cent of its recurrent funds from government. This
is the lowest figure for any public university system in the

The full article is online at the AGE HERE

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Generation HECS

A nice comment in the AGE editorial today, commenting on the Rudd proposal to cut the accumulated HECS debt of a science and maths graduate from more than $21000 to $12000, especially if they worked in a ‘relevant’ occupation, in particular teaching and asking, ‘why just science?’

Given that universities are a nation’s grand halls
of learning, should it be seen that some halls are being better
furnished than others? Notwithstanding the skills shortage, and
The Age has argued that it must be tackled immediately, is
it fair to cut HECS for maths and science and not for arts? Does
Australia not need more philosophers, more dramatists, more poets,
more novelists, too? Of course an economy is not powered by the
musings of a sage, but is it any less worthy in higher learning?
Australia’s public spending on higher education, expressed as a
percentage of GDP, is below the OECD average. When this is coupled
with a 25 per cent increase in HECS fees since 2004 and when 20,000
people in Victoria missed out on a HECS place last month, then
there is an urgent demand to look at the issue in its entirety, not
just in a piecemeal fashion.

more HERE

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