Category Archives: resource development

Redefine and reassess everything (around you)

“What is the strange profound attraction that this rectangular piece of concrete holds for them? Do we now observe the rights of passage of a newly emerging civilisation?” – Dr Eugene D Mander (Public Domain, 1988)


“I think skateboarding is a way for people to reassess and redefine everything around them.” – Ian Mackaye

Know the ledge

“Skateboarding is not a hobby. And it is not a sport. Skateboarding is a way of learning how to redefine the world around you. For most people, when they saw a swimming pool, they thought, ‘Let’s take a swim.’ But I thought, ‘Let’s ride it.’ When they saw the curb or a street, they would think about driving on it. I would think about the texture. I slowly developed the ability to look at the world through totally different means.” – Ian MacKaye

Seminar – Rethinking Online Learning: Melding the Best of Teaching, Television and Testing

Today I attended the Rethinking Online Learning: Melding the Best of Teaching, Television and Testing seminar presented by Professor Gosling (Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, USA) as part of the Innovations in Teaching and Learning series of seminars presented by Melbourne University.

Professor Gosling’s seminar was based on the work he’s doing with a colleague from University of Texas in the way of rethinking online learning, particularly a synchronous broadcast delivered to a large number of students. In the description for the seminar, Professor Gosling described his work in the following way:

We teach a Synchronous Massive Online Course (or SMOC), broadcasts live to about 2000 students. With daily quizzes and a television show format, we find that absentee rates are low, test performance high, study habits greatly improved, with large drops in achievement gaps between rich and poor students. The synchronous broadcast model offers a number benefits including facilitating interactive elements and addressing concerns about cheating. Many challenges remain but our experiences (and data) suggest that large online classes taught using this format have great potential.

The seminar

In his seminar Professor Gosling’s spoke about the design, development and delivery of a Synchronous Massive Online Course (or SMOC) for the Introduction to Psychology course at University of Texas. The SMOC was a response to what he called the Big Old Class (BOC) where there was high student attrition and low achievement. Built on Canvas (the learning management system (LMS) by Instructure), Gosling and his colleague were able to broadcast their lecture (in a chat show format with segments such daily news items, lab experiments and interviews with experts) from a studio at the University to a live student audience and students tuned in online. Within the Canvas LMS, students were also able to form mentor-based study groups (known as pods), complete surveys, access online textbooks and resources and complete daily tests (known as benchmarking). Benchmarking featured questions individualised to the student and contained feedback with support that enabled the student to undertake self-regulated learning. Professor Gosling advocated daily benchmarking as a method of providing students with feedback and measurement on their performance in contrast to more traditional mid-term examinations where performance was often measured  too late (which often made it more difficult for the student to do something about it).

The format and production of the SMOC was similar to  live television.
The format and production of the SMOC was similar to live television.

Problems and issues

The only problem or issue with the television show format that was mentioned by Professor Gosling was the cost of production, particularly the team (analagous to live television production) required to coordinate and sequence the broadcast the show.

Although Professor Gosling didn’t mention cheating and collusion as a problem or issue for the course, it isn’t something that’s specific to this course format. It just becomes a little more complex when student behaviour is somewhat obfuscated by online delivery (Professor Gosling did go on to talk about his approach to managing cheating and collusion between his students).


Professor Gosling went on to tell us that the course had a success with its increase in student retention rates and grades. He attributed the success to the television show format, the intensive benchmarking with feedback (which encouraged self-regulated learning), the student mentoring and facilitated discussions (via the study-group pods). The course was also a success as far as gathering data about student behaviour (online) that could be used for further research and continued course enhancement. Although not mentioned by Professor Gosling, this data could also serve as a potential revenue stream. Based on the success of the course, Professor Gosling told us this model was being strongly considered for adoption by other faculties at his university.

Feedback based on results from benchmarking played an important role in encouraging students to undertake their own self regulated study.
Feedback based on results from benchmarking played an important role in encouraging students to undertake their own self regulated study.

Managing cheating and collusion

Professor Gosling and his team managed cheating and collusion between students throughout the daily benchmarking by consigning someone to write some software that monitored and compared in real-time the order of each question that was completed by each student and the amount of time it took each of them them to complete the question. The software then identified patterns of completion and was able to determine the likelihood of collusion between students during benchmarking. Professor Gosling and his team then decided if they were going to send the suspicious student an email warning them their behaviour was being closely monitored.


There’s no denying the the flexible and fun nature of the online television show style broadcast would have been contributing a factor to the increase in student performance, but I can’t help but think the  mentored study groups and the rather rigorous and regimented daily benchmarking would have also been a major contributing factor to the increase in student performance particularly when the benchmarking provided feedback that helped students undertake their own self-regulated learning). Besides, a fair, reasonable and diverse assessment strategy would probably measure student performance and provide them with feedback and support their self-regulated learning anyway.

From what Professor Gosling told us, the SMOC has been a success, but I can’t also help but think the broadcast model is somewhat traditional and doesn’t consider constructivist and connectivist approaches to course design that incorporate the network (as a learning environment with peers) and the large number tools available to enable students to become authors and contribute to course content.

There’s certainly a place for student generated, curated, moderated and broadcast content (with the teacher and other students as well in response to content) particularly with a premise of a television show format. Unfortunately, the broadcast (without feedback or input from students) method of guiding, monitoring and directing students could be considered a fairly regular and popular instructional strategy for those yearning to repetitively deliver learning at scale.

Prototyping AR with processing and blender

I’m interested in exploring the use of augmented reality (AR) in learning experiences.  I’ve decided to prototype my early simple AR experiments with Processing and Blender. These early explorations will make use of augments placed with fiducial markers. My goal is to then explore developing AR learning experiences with Layar that can then be viewed through iOS and Android mobile devices. I’d then like to explore placing augments without using fiducial markers. These augment could be determined by location. One step at a time.

I used Processing, Blender and NyARToolkit to create this very simple zombie wound augment. This needs a bit more work as the augment is displaying bounding box information and the low-poly modelling is not as smooth as it should be. The augment could be made to look a little more integrated with my body with improved modelling and texturing. That will come with the next iteration.

Days later or maybe even weeks later

Days later or maybe even weeks later is a concept for a collaborative workplace/institute/teaching centre-wide activity for staff and students designed to mend the physical and psychological effects of the Victorian government’s $300 million in cuts from the state’s TAFE sector. Physical and psychological effects could include closure of campuses, a reduction of courses being offered and job cuts.

This blog post contains exerpts from a conversation about the concept I had with myself on our organisation’s Yammer network. This blog post attempts to consolidate the concept.

I saw the activity taking place after the catastrophic event. It could’ve been 28 days later or even 28 weeks later. It doesn’t really matter. Just as long as the scenario provides an exposition,  defines the goal(s) to be achieved by staff and students and also describes the resources/materials that are available for use.

I saw the activity involving the every staff member and their respective teaching centre. From the top to the bottom of the organisational chart. The CEO would actually play a pivotal role in activity. They would be responsible for broadcasting/providing updates on the progress of the activity. These updates would also allow activity facilitators to adjust the activity if/when required.

I saw each teaching centre being responsible for helping students contribute a specific artefact or service from their particular area of expertise. The artefact or service (and production of) would contribute to the activity while also satisfying the students scholastic assessment requirements.

Nothing about the activity changes the need for students to demonstrate their skills and provide evidence of their competence. It’s just their output or artefact may change, but not how they work through the process of creating the artefact.

I didn’t want the activity to involve only our Australian based campus. I wanted the activity to be inclusive. What better way to reach out to our state and international counterparts than a part in a inter-campus activity.

Hospitality Tourism planning is highly complex and requires integrated and flexible approaches. The activity would reflect the typical nature of each particular area of study. for example, hospitality and tourism is a complex industry that requires flexible approaches and unique problem solving skills, particularly in the context of responding to a natural disaster. Real-world examples that require application of employability skills and dimensions of competency.

Scientist area always important in an activity involving zombies. They serve as one of the last hopes – finding a cure!

The activity would take place in real time and play-out over an entire semester, perhaps even the entire scholastic year. Although maintaining momentum over this period of time could be difficult. The pacing of the narrative would be informed by the deliverables of each course.

Testing the activity on a teaching centre could be a good way to identify issues.

Then I realised. Yes. This is a zombie game.

This activity would take place openly and in public. Non-students and staff would be able to observe the progress of the activity via the organisation’s website. Completing the activity publicly gives people the opportunity to see the work the students and staff are doing together (Outside an open day, showcase or expo context).

Then I realised the zombie metaphor is problematic.

Staff and students are not to blame for the funding cuts.

Although the activity may not be completely appropriate at this point in time, I do think there is potential for a collaborative workplace/institute/teaching centre-wide activity for staff and students to occur.

Know your audience – Anti-graffiti community service announcement

An interesting approach to an anti-graffiti community service announcement by a local City Council. I’m curious if the outside of the bus is the most effective location for this kind of message. Would the outside of the bus be seen by the intended audience of this message. Are the target audience more likely to be inside the bus? Perhaps locating the community service announcement outside the bus ensures the message is exposed to as many people as possible.

I didn’t see inside the bus, but I reckon this kind of message (framed in the format that it’s warning against) could also be placed inside the bus and perhaps be more likely be seen by the intended audience.

My wave

I shed a little tear every time I receive a reminder email from Google telling me about the looming closure of the Google Wave service. I really liked Wave and where possible I tried to use of it when discussing or reviewing concepts with project team members. I’ll miss it when the service is turned off on April 30.

Here’s a composite of some screen captures from one of my Waves. I also exported this Wave as a PDF with attachments (PDF, 544 KB).

Concept: Slope of the land under classified vegetation determines the severity of a bushfire

Concept for an interactive device that demonstrates how slope of the land under classified vegetation determines the severity of a bushfire.

The learner can increase or decrease the angle of the upslope and downslope. As a result the severity of the approaching bushfire will change. The bushfire’s severity is based on a premise of the fire’s intensity doubling for each 10° rise in slope.

Concept: The distance of vegetation from a building determines the level of bushfire risk to the building

Concept for an interactive device that demonstrates how the distance of vegetation from a building determines the level of bushfire risk to the building. The learner can select a vegetation type, increase or decrease the distance of vegetation from the building and increase or decrease the angle of the slope. The Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating, description and level of bushfire risk for permutations of the vegetation, distance and slope variables are displayed based on learner interaction. The BAL rating, description and level of bushfire risk to building is based on data from the Australian Standard AS 3959–Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas.

Updated working drawing for the Distance of vegetation demonstration with amended distance and slope controls. Show risk consent button has been removed.
Updated working drawing for the Distance of vegetation demonstration with sequencing instructions.
Original working drawing for the Distance of vegetation demonstration