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« September 2012 | Blog home | November 2012 »

October 2012

Dorian.jpgJoin us on November 7th for a CoCo Seminar by Dorian Peters titled “eLearning Interface Design: A research-based approach to supporting learning outcomes through design”.

Research has shown that how you design the interface of an online learning experience can affect how well your users learn (Lidwell, Mayer, Marcus, Mikropoulos, Norman, etc.). Yet many people still harbour the misconception that multimedia design is cosmetic. In reality, the ways you use color, graphics, sequencing, animation, controls, navigation, audio, etc. can all change the learning experience. It’s a complex area and will only get more significant as learning experiences become increasingly digital."


Manju Sharmaimages.jpgI am delighted to share the news that A/Prof Manju Sharma has been awarded the Australian Institute of Physics Education Medal for 2012.

This award marks recognition of the sustained and important contributions that A/Prof Manjula Sharma has made both to physics education and to research in physics education. She has produced an outstanding output of creative and important research, presented at leading forums for physics.


A/Prof Manjula Sharma will feature on the expert panel on Big Questions at the Science Teachers' Workshop to be held at the University of Sydnety on the 5th and 6th of November.

The Workshop is held every second year, attracting around 200 teachers, and has been running successfully for some 30 years. The theme for 2012 is "A Big Year", reflecting a pretty spectacular 12-18 months on many fronts with Nobel prizes, Curiosity on Mars, transit of Venus, extrasolar planets, black holes, quantum simulators, photonics chips, Polywell, SKA, AIN and the Higgs boson. Teachers could ask questions from any of these areas as well as on curriculum matters. The workshop has targeted activities related to the HSC and professional development.

Professor Judy Kay, of the STL management team, is an invited speaker at this week's Happiness, Health and Wellbeing @ Work 2012 conference. Judy will present on innovative uses of IT to help people be healthier at work.

The conference takes place on Wednesday 31st October in the University of Sydney Law School Building. It is facilitated by some of Australia's leading experts on psychology, leadership and workplace relations and aims to present the latest research on health and wellbeing programs as well as provideing take home ideas and strategies to improve the workplace. This year's theme is Health and Wellbeing at Work: Making a Difference.


Next month Shaista Bibi (from the Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition) will be presenting a concise paper “Planning to teach with ICT: Some insights into university teachers’ knowledge”, at the ascilite conference. The conference runs from 25th to 28th November in Wellington, New Zealand.

The paper, by Bibi, S., Markauskaite, L., & Ashe, D. , explores the nature and types of knowledge that university teachers draw upon when they are making decisions related to the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their courses.

This will be the 29th annual ascilite conference; ascilite represents a community of innovators, leaders and scholars engaged with the application of technology to enhance teaching and learning in higher education. ascilite aims to be a sustainable and vibrant society that encourages and supports quality research into, and exemplary use of technologies for, teaching and learning in tertiary education throughout Australasia. This year’s theme is “Future Challenges | Sustainable Futures”.

VW.jpg Join us on the 31st of October for a CoCo-CHAI-LATTE seminar by Professor Michael J. Jacobson titled ‘Beyond Serious Games: Computational scientific inquiry with agent-based virtual environments for learning’.

The use of games to serve educational purposes, sometimes referred to as “serious games,” has received considerable recent attention. This talk explores the thesis that virtual experiences may be able to reflect salient aspects of the cultural practices of science as part of the learning activities. A consequence of this perspective is that learning does not wholly occur “in” the virtual experiences of a serious game, but rather, learning is mediated by virtual experiences that reflect culturally authentic practices in modern science.

I discuss research which my team has developed an agent-based virtual environment consisting of an immersive virtual world for experiencing and exploring a complex ecosystem as part of "virtual" biology fieldwork, including findings from a recent school-based study and implications of this approach for learning science.

Michael J. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a Professor and Chair of Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, co-director of CoCo and deputy director of IISME. Most recently, his work has explored learning with immersive virtual environments and agent-based modeling and visualization tools, as well as cognitive and learning issues related to understanding new scientific perspectives emerging from the study of complex systems.

When: Weds Oct 31, 11.00am - 12.30pm (arrive at 10.45am for tea and biscuits)
Where: Education Building (A35), Room 230
More information: Beyond Serious Games
This seminar will be available live online at

Join us this Wednesday for a seminar by CoCo PhD student Daniel Burn titled “Social Networks in eLearning Systems”.

One of the most striking changes in the use of the internet over the last decade has been the emergence of Social Networking Sites, websites whose primary focus is social interaction. Most students attending University today are members of one or more social networking sites. Enormous learning benefits might be found by discovering ways of harnessing for education a tool this popular and attractive to students. This presentation explores a study, in the early stages of data collection, which is building social networking tools into an existing virtual learning environment to explore how this might enhance learning.

When: Weds Oct 24, 11.00am - 11.40am (arrive at 10.45am for tea and biscuits)
Where: Education Building (A35), Room 230
More information: “Social Networks in eLearning Systems”
This seminar will be available live online at

When Argentinean TV channel C5N ran a news segment on education in Australia, and particularly about the University of Sydney, Rafael Calvo was one of the educators whose views they featured. You'll need to speak Spanish to understand what he is saying but you can watch for Rafa at the 3 minute and 4 minute marks when he is discussing the academics at University of Sydney, and how they put everything they have got into their work. Rafa also said that university has a level research quality comparable with the best in Europe and the USA and that up to 50% of the students in his classes are from overseas.

Watch the full clip on YouTube.

The Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education has released An Issue Brief on Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics. It has a healthy emphasis on visual data, use of data for making instructional decisions, “smart data consumers,” and research-education-industry co-operations co-designing LA tools.

“Making visible students’ learning and assessment activities opens up the possibility for students to develop skills in monitoring their own learning and to see directly how their effort improves their success. Teachers gain views into students’ performance that help them adapt their teaching or initiate tutoring, tailored assignments, and the like. <…> Combining data about student performance—online tracking, standardized tests, teacher-generated tests—to form one simplified picture of what a student knows can be difficult and must meet acceptable standards for validity. It also requires careful attention to student and teacher privacy and the ethical obligations associated with knowing and acting on student data.”

It also cites our colleague Kalina Yacef's work.

Some interesting OET's initiatives defining "evidence" in education research are at:

Learning space design in higher education is important because it influences the way students and teachers enact learning and teaching. Advances in technologies enable new designs that support our current understanding of learning and pedagogy - the award winning learning studio in the University's PNR building is a great example of technology-enhanced learning space design on a large scale. Other examples of innovative design include common learning spaces (e.g. Carslaw Learning Hub) which are found at universities around the world. Such environments enhance learning and teaching by integrating the physical environment with digital technologies.


At a recent research symposium at Hong Kong University the opening panel discussion was targeted higher education next generation virtual and physical learning environments. The panel discussed the changing habits of students today and considered the future challenges for institutions. Mobile computer devices and Internet connectivity was thoroughly discussed.

In a paper presented at this symposium I highlight a growing trend to provide access and support for students outside of regular classroom activity. The paper draws attention to the importance of autonomy in new learning spaces and discusses some of the attributes that promote autonomy.

I wish to thank the ongoing support of my research supervisors and colleagues at the CoCo Research Centre and the University through the Postgraduate Research Support Scheme.


We're being asked almost every day for an opinion on MOOCs and whether higher education is coming to an end.

A serious, balanced, well-evidenced analysis has been produced by the Observatory for Borderless Education and is available here


Professor Michael Jacobson of the CoCo Research Centre discusses how innovative multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) can be designed and used in Australian schools to enhance the learning of important scientific knowledge and inquiry skills, and about the project team's experiences in designing and applying educational MUVE the Omosa Project .

Bower.jpg Join us on October 17th when Matt Bower from Macquarie University presents “Research and development in online synchronous learning”.

Matt will present from 11.00am - 12.00pm in the room 230 of the Education Building (A35). His presentation examines what is fundamentally different about synchronous learning and teaching that is enacted online. It raises the question of how to evaluate and somewhat objectively compare different pedagogical approaches that are applied in media-rich online synchronous learning environments, and explains how quantitative multimodal discourse analysis can provide a potential solution.

Matt Bower is a Senior Lecturer in ICT for the School of Education at Macquarie University. His interests centre around how to capitalise upon rapid transformations in the technological and educational landscape.

For more information, and how to attend online, see the full event description on the University calendar.

If you'd like to catch one of our seminars on the sciences and technologies of learning, but can't attend on the day, there are plenty of options for seeing them online.

rf_discuss.jpgThe seminar series runs most Wednesdays during term in room 230 of the Education Building, at the University of Sydney, and is hosted by the CoCo Centre or CoCo-CHAI-LATTE. The series hosts local and international experts, who share and discuss recent research and findings. Seminars are generally available online live using a virtual Adobe Connect seminar room. The recordings created may also be made available after the event, at the discretion of the speaker.


DSC03529.jpg As many of our heads are down, working hard on submissions for the upcoming CSCL conference (the sister conference to ICLS, which CoCo hosted this year ), it’s a nice time to reflect on the variety of work that we do here at CoCo, within this umbrella of the sciences and technologies of learning.

I am currently collaborating with sixteen different people, on various pieces of work, within the laureate team, CoCo, and recent alumni. Topics that we are writing about vary from process mining of patterns of decision making, to analysis of some interesting networked learning environments, and the way that school students used our newly minted Design Studio. I’m often reminded of the opportunities that occur at CoCo for exciting discoveries based on the conversations with our international guests, or encounters in the hallway. This month we will submit our first paper based on the data we collected as part of the Water in the Landscape project. In it, we will examine the combination of tool use, a design framework, and evidence of systems thinking in relation to water and sustainability.

Join us next Wednesday when Dr Maria Northcote and Dr Kevin Gosselin present a CoCo seminar titled “Threshold concepts: Professional development about online teaching”.


Fotolia_9316612_Subscription_sml.jpgSTL were in the spotlight last week when The Australian, highlighted Professor Goodyear's keynote at a recent high-speed broadband and higher education forum.

Professor Goodyear said the pace of change in the higher education environment meant that neither top down management strategies nor grassroots innovation would be able to cope. In order to respond coherently and efficiently to changes in their operating environment, universities need to behave more like 'self managing' ecosystems, informed by ideas about 'good learning'.

He warned that recent research in the learning sciences had not yet been picked up broadly within universities. Flows of data about learning processes and outcomes were still limited.

Measures of student satisfaction, and students' self-reports about what they have learned, are only partial guides to whether their education is proceeding well.

"If you are running a multi-million dollar business and you don't have good data about whether your core product or service is doing what everybody thinks it is supposed to be doing, surely you ought to feel a little bit insecure about that,'' he said.

The article, titled "University management left behind on student learning", was written by Andrew Trounson and published in The Australian's Higher Education section on September 29.

Peter's keynote on "Connected Learning" was part of Creating New Futures, a high-speed broadband and higher education forum, held at the University of Melbourne on Thursday 27th September. Please contact us if you would like more information.


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Research by the University's Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation (CRLI).