No big packed lectures allowed if we’re to safely bring uni students back to campus



Flickr/Michael Coghlan, CC BY-SA

Geoff Hanmer, University of Adelaide

A return to face to face teaching at universities and technical colleges “where possible” is one of the goals of the Morrison government’s three step framework for a COVIDsafe Australia.

A look at the space available for teaching shows some return of students is possible.

But nearly all tiered lecture theatres will not comply with the social distancing rule of staying 1.5m apart, assuming they are seated at capacity. Those lectures will have to remain online or the rules around class sizes will need to change.

Back to the campus

Universities moved teaching operations off campus to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lectures and tutorials are now done online.

The campuses have been quiet since teaching moved online.
Flickr/Gordon Wrigley, CC BY

Universities have the challenge of working out how to safely get staff, students (and researchers) back to campus.




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But the teaching space data from eight Australian universities reveals a number of problems in returning to campus while meeting social distancing rules. Some of these can be overcome, but others, including the key goal of increasing face to face teaching, will be much harder.

Until we reach Step 3, when up to 100 people may be permitted to gather in one space, opening up a campus is impractical. Under Steps 1 and 2 only 20 people are allowed in one space.

Come up to the lab

It should be possible to reestablish most laboratory based teaching and research to meet Step 3 guidelines without too many complications. The space data shows most laboratories provide about 4m² per person on average, although space between benches in some older labs may pose issues.

Where open plan offices are being used, they will have to meet social distancing rules.

Most university open plan offices have a density that is significantly lower than the 4m² average set by the guidelines, although achieving the 1.5m distancing rule may require some adaptations, such as additional screens.

Staff will be needed on campus as students return, but simple provisions similar to that used in retail shops, including floor signs and barriers, will be adequate to achieve the distancing guidelines. The continuing trend to move student services online will also help.

Cramped lecture rooms

Teaching space is much more problematic. The space data shows it is not possible to deliver conventional lectures in most existing tiered auditoriums during Step 3 restrictions. The absolute limit of 100 students in one space, narrow seat aisles and close seat spacing make them difficult to adapt.

Online lectures will still be necessary for the foreseeable future.

It is possible to deliver small group teaching, in groups of 19 to 100, but the space data we examined show only about one-third of non-lecture and non-laboratory teaching hours could be delivered on campus across a typical 50-hour week.

The smallest room that could accommodate a group of 19 students and an academic is 80m² under Step 3 guidelines. Only about 20% of campus teaching spaces are big enough although this percentage does vary from campus to campus.

Universities will need to move the furniture to keep students safely distanced apart.
Flickr/Dan Munnerley, CC BY-NC-ND

Successfully delivering small group teaching will probably require a lot of work on existing course structures and plenty of furniture relocation. But the opportunity to provide this type of teaching to the limit of capacity will be valuable in supporting retention and improving student experience.

Students love campus life

A campus is the largest capital investment a university makes and there are valid reasons why this is so. Attrition, retention and student experience data all suggest face to face teaching and other aspects of campus life are effective ways to attract, engage and retain undergraduate students.

A campus is also essential to deliver laboratory-based research. STEM research accounts for the majority of university research income and delivers many useful things, including perhaps a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

The timing of Step 3 is in the hands of state governments. For example, Queensland says it will move to Step 3 on July 10 while Tasmania has chosen July 13.

By the start of Semester 2 in late July or early August, it is probable that most states will have moved to Step 3.

UNSW, which moved to a three term model last year, will commence Term 2 on June 1, too early for Step 3.

Getting to campus

Another challenge though for universities is that of getting staff and students to campus on time. The capacity of public transport has been severely reduced by social distancing rules under Step 3.




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In many cases it will not be practical to operate a campus with a full student or staff load.

Because campus populations are likely to be considerably reduced for a significant period of time, the challenges currently faced by on campus shops, food outlets and recreational facilities will continue.

The faint silver lining to all of this could be a long-term shift towards small group teaching, supplemented by high quality online materials, rather than reverting to the large lecture as we knew it.The Conversation

Students will need to keep their distance at campus cafes and shops.
Flickr/Kaya, CC BY-NC-ND

Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID-19 increases risk to international students’ mental health. Australia urgently needs to step up



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Hannah Soong, University of South Australia

The Victorian and ACT governments in recent days released support packages for international students facing hardship due to COVID-19.

Victoria has committed A$45 million under which international students could be eligible for relief payments of up to $1,100, co-contributed by Victorian universities. The ACT has committed A$450,000 to support vulnerable people on temporary visas and international students without income due to COVID-19.

The Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia all have varying amounts of help available for international students – whether it be one-off payments, free mental health support or help with food and shelter.

These moves by the states are in stark contrast to the federal government. International students, most of whom are on temporary visas, have been excluded from the goverment’s A$130 billion stimulus package. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international students unable to support themselves could return to their home countries.

Such comments can put a sizeable dent in Australia’s international education reputation. The way Australia supports international students studying here now may cement its global reputation as a country of choice to study.

Recent reports show Australia’s competitors for international students – Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland – have offered support to those in hardship. This includes access to government welfare and flexibility on visas.




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Even before this pandemic, international students were exposed to several unique hardships. These are compounded by COVID-19.

Not only are they stranded in a foreign country unable or unsure about going home, many have no or little support from family or close friends in Australia.

It is therefore critical for Australian universities to act collectively, swiftly and decisively to provide a model of care for international students’ well-being. And it’s important for the Prime Minister to show he understands their unique vulnerabilities.

How international students are vulnerable

There is a perception that the majority of Chinese international students come from wealthy households. But a study of 652 Chinese students revealed significant differences in both demographics and backgrounds, as well as sources of funding for their studies.

While the majority (67%) had their studies funded by parents, 17% funded them through personal savings. The majority of self-financed students experienced added emotional and psychological challenges during their studies overseas.

Chinese students make up the majority (around 40%) of international students in Australia, but tens of thousands also come from other Asian countries including India, Nepal, Vietnam and Pakistan.

About half of international students, who are private renters, rely on work to pay rent. Like many, they too have lost their jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic – but they are not eligible for JobKeeper wage subsidies.

On March 30, Scott Morrison announced the National Cabinet had agreed to put in place a six-month moratorium on evictions.

This helps but is only one part of the rental issue for international students. Many international students enrolled in Australia for study, are unable to return to their homeland. Nor are they allowed to break their leases early without penalty.

The spread of this coronavirus has unfortunately also accelerated racist sentiments against Asian Australians and international students from Asia. In February, a student who had returned from visiting family in Malaysia found she had been evicted from her rental, as her landlord assumed she had travelled to China for Chinese New Year.




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The protracted uncertainty of not knowing if students can pursue or complete their studies or continue to pay their rent can significantly affect their mental health.

A recent report found due to culture, language and academic barriers international students are at a higher risk of mental ill-health than domestic students.

In 2019, the Victorian Coroners Prevention Unit found 27 international students died by suicide between 2009 and 2015 in the state. But the coroner said this was likely to be an underestimation.

After the Victorian Coroner’s finding, the state government appointed Orygen Youth Health to undertake research to formulate a model of care that looks at mental health support and services for international students.

What can Australia do?

Australia can lead the way by developing a model of care that is responsive to the needs of affected COVID-19 international students. It should be informed by policies and programs that prevent international students feeling a worsening sense of entrapment, or being boxed-in by their circumstances.

The Australian government must work closely with both international students and universities to formulate practical support designed to mitigate the drivers of mental distress. Support and assistance can be informed by our national mental health policy settings, and aim to ensure the widest possible range of proven interventions that promote well-being, and reduce mental distress and vulnerability




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Financial support to ease pressure must be paralleled with culturally competent and easily accessible mental-health support. How Australia, as a society, responds and supports international students during the pandemic and its aftermath will be a defining moment for Australian international education.

In view of strengthening Australia as a trusted and reputable international education destination for current and future international students, COVID-19 provides us an opportunity to live out our depth of empathy, as an egalitarian and cosmopolitan society.The Conversation

Hannah Soong, Senior Lecturer and Socio-cultural researcher, UniSA Education Futures, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

90,000 foreign graduates are stuck in Australia without financial support: it’s a humanitarian and economic crisis in the making



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Ly Tran, Deakin University and George Tan, University of Adelaide

COVID-19 has left governments scrambling for balanced economic, social and ethical policy responses.

The Australian government’s A$130 billion JobKeeper payment – a wage subsidy to keep Australians in work – is vital for our response to the pandemic and future economic recovery.

But temporary visa holders, including international temporary graduates, have fallen through the cracks. The temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) is for international graduates of a qualification from an Australian institution. It allows them to stay in Australia for two to four years to gain work experience.




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There are nearly 90,000 temporary graduate visa holders in Australia.

International graduates on temporary visas rely solely on wage income to cover their living expenses. These visa holders mainly work in industries that have suffered majored losses, such as hospitality, and they are not entitled to the JobKeeker payment.

The Tasmanian government has just announced a $3 million support package for temporary visa holders which would include 485 visa holders.

This is a first from any state or territory government and will hopefully spur similar support from universities and other jurisdictions – including from the federal government.

It’s time for Australia to be reciprocal and take care of international graduates, who are major contributors to our economy and society, in their time of need. It’s both a humanitarian issue and a sensible economic strategy.

A major drawcard for Australia

International education is Australia’s third largest export – behind iron ore and coal – and its largest services export. It contributes almost $40 billion to the Australian economy and creates around 250,000 full time jobs.

The 485 visa was introduced in 2008 and updated in 2013, taking on recommendations from the 2011 Knight Review, which recognised post-study work rights for international students as crucial for Australia to remain competitive in the education export market.

Since then, the temporary graduate visa has become a drawcard for international students. In our 2017-19 study, 76% international students indicated access to this visa was an important factor when choosing Australia as their study destination.




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The top five citizenship countries of 485 visa holders in Australia have mirrored the top five source countries of international enrolments in Masters by coursework programs since 2013.

Many temporary graduate visa holders become skilled migrants or international students again. Of the of 30,952 visa holders who transitioned to other visas in the 2018-19 financial year, 45.3% became skilled migrants and 34.9% became international students again.

While international temporary graduates contribute to Australian tax revenues, they are not entitled to subsidised government services. This means they bring net income to the Australian economy.

Our temporary graduate visa survey and interviews show international graduates often desperately need work experience and an income to cover their living costs in Australia.

They do not want to compromise their career goals or permanent residency outcomes.

For this reason, they may be exploited and willing to accept jobs outside their field and in industries most vulnerable to job losses during a crisis.



Census data shows cleaning, sales and hospitality are among the top five jobs for international temporary graduates. And many are front-line workers serving the Australian community, especially in aged care, health care, supermarkets and the cleaning sector.

Other countries support them

Australia’s key competing destinations for international education are giving their international students, international graduates and other temporary workers access to their welfare schemes.

New Zealand is not restricting international students and graduates from accessing its wage subsidy scheme. Britain and Canada allow international students and graduates access to the Coronavirus Job Retention Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, respectively.

Australia’s current policy jeopardises not only these international graduates’ security but also its competitiveness as a destination for international students.

On April 3, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent out a chilling message that international students and other temporary visa holders can return to their home countries if they were unable to support themselves.

Apart from the fact international graduates can’t return to their home countries due to border closures, many have signed rental contracts in Australia.

Others may be doing further studies.

Temporary graduates are no longer international students. As a result, they do not qualify for their former university’s hardship support funds, loans and food banks or any other resources for international students.

The international education sector and universities, which rely on the 485 visa to attract international students, have a duty of care to these visa recipients.

Universities are projected to incur significant losses for the next three years due to its loss of international students.




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There are many factors that will determine how well Australia’s international education industry recovers. These include the recovery of other major provider countries of international education such as China and India who continue to grapple with this pandemic.

But when the appetite for international education returns, Australia’s efforts to manage its international students and alumni in this period could reinstate its reputation and help its economic recovery.The Conversation

Ly Tran, Professor and ARC Future Fellow, Deakin University and George Tan, Adjunct Fellow, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cyber threats at home: how to keep kids safe while they’re learning online



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Paul Haskell-Dowland, Edith Cowan University and Ismini Vasileiou, De Montfort University

Before COVID-19, children would spend a lot of the day at school. There they would be taught about internet safety and be protected when going online by systems that filter or restrict access to online content.

Schools provide protective environments to restrict access to content such as pornography and gambling. They also protect children from various threats such as viruses and unmoderated social media.

This is usually done using filters and blacklists (lists of websites or other resources that aren’t allowed) applied to school devices or through the school internet connection.

But with many children learning from home, parents may not be aware of the need for the same safeguards.

Many parents are also working from home, which may limit the time to explore and set up a secure online environment for their children.

So, what threats are children exposed to and what can parents do to keep them safe?

What threats might children face?

With an increased use of web-based tools, downloading new applications and a dependence on email, children could be exposed to a new batch of malware threats in the absence of school-based controls.

This can include viruses and ransomware – for example, CovidLock (an application offering coronavirus related information) that targets the Android operating system and changes the PIN code for the lock-screen. If infected, the user can lose complete access to their device.

Children working at home are not usually protected by the filters provided by their school.

Seemingly innocent teaching activities like the use of YouTube can expose children to unexpected risks given the breadth of inappropriate adult content available.

Most videos end with links to a number of related resources, the selection of which is not controlled by the school. Even using YouTube Kids, a subset of curated YouTube content filtered for appropriateness, has some risks. There have been reports of content featuring violence, suicidal themes and sexual references.




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Many schools are using video conferencing tools to maintain social interaction with students. There have been reports of cases of class-hijacking, including Zoom-bombing where uninvited guests enter the video-conference session.

The FBI Boston field office has documented inappropriate comments and imagery introduced into an online class. A similar case in Connecticut resulted in a teenager being arrested after further Zoom-bombing incidents.




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Because video conferencing is becoming normalised, malicious actors (including paedophiles) may seek to exploit this level of familiarity. They can persuade children to engage in actions that can escalate to inappropriate sexual behaviours.

The eSafety Office has reported a significant increase in a range of incidents of online harm since early March.

In a particularly sickening example, eSafety Office investigators said:

In one forum, paedophiles noted that isolation measures have increased opportunities to contact children remotely and engage in their “passion” for sexual abuse via platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and random webchat services.

Some families may be using older or borrowed devices if there aren’t enough for their children to use. These devices may not offer the same level of protection against common internet threats (such as viruses) as they may no longer be supported by the vendor (such as Microsoft or Apple) and be missing vital updates.

They may also be unable to run the latest protective software (such as antivirus) due to incompatibilities or simply being under-powered.

Error message when attempting to install a new application on an older device.
Author provided

What can parents do to protect children?

It’s worth speaking with the school to determine what safeguards may still function while away from the school site.

Some solutions operate at device-level rather than based on their location, so it is possible the standard protections will still be applicable at home.

Some devices support filters and controls natively. For example, many Apple devices offer ScreenTime controls to limit access to apps and websites and apply time limits to device use (recent Android devices might have the Digital Wellbeing feature with similar capabilities).

Traditional mechanisms like firewalls and anti-virus tools are still essential on laptops and desktop systems. It is important these are not just installed and forgotten. Just like the operating systems, they need to be regularly updated.

There is a wealth of advice available to support children using technology at home.

The Australian eSafety Commissioner’s website, for instance, provides access to:

But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by these materials, some key messages include:

  • ensuring (where appropriate) the device is regularly updated. This can include updating the operating system such as Windows, Android or Mac

  • using appropriate antivirus software (and ensuring it is also kept up to date)

  • applying parental controls to limit screen time, specific app use (blocking or limiting use), or specific website blocks (such as blocking access to YouTube)

  • on some devices, parental controls can limit use of the camera and microphone to prevent external communication

  • applying age restrictions to media content and websites (the Communications Alliance has a list of accredited family friendly filters)

  • monitoring your child’s use of apps or web browsing activities

  • when installing apps for children, checking online and talking to other parents about them

  • configuring web browsers to use “safe search”

  • ensuring children use devices in sight of parents

  • talking to your children about online behaviours.




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While technology can play a part, ensuring children work in an environment where there is (at least periodic) oversight by parents is still an important factor.The Conversation

Paul Haskell-Dowland, Associate Dean (Computing and Security), Edith Cowan University and Ismini Vasileiou, Associate Professor in Information Systems, De Montfort University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

NSW ‘staggered’ return to school: some students may need in-class time more than others


Andrew J. Martin, UNSW

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday announced school students would return to face-to-face classrooms in a staggered fashion from May 11, the third week of term. She said students would initially return for one day a week, and their time at school would be increased as the term progressed.

She said by term three, she hoped all students would be back at school full time.

But schools were given flexibility on how this return may look. NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell said

We want them [schools] to make sure they are having about a quarter of students [from each grade] on campus each day […] But how they break that group up will be a matter for them.

The NSW government said students would complete the same coursework whether they were at home or on campus during the staggered return.

This announcement is a quick turnaround from only a few weeks ago, when the NSW government said parents must keep their children at home if they could. In the latest press conference, the government said 95% of students were working from home during the final weeks of term one.

There are a few possible reasons for NSW to have made this decision. It allows children to re-connect with teachers and peers; it is one way to have fewer students on campus at any one time; it helps parents observe physical distancing during drop-off and pick-up times; and it allows a systematic escalation to two days, then three days and so on.

A staggered return to school starts moving the wheels of school campuses and infrastructure out of hibernation, at the same time helping some parents and carers return to work.

But as an educational psychologist, I am also considering this difficult decision from the perspective of the students who may be most at need of returning to class. These include those in year 12 and students in kindergarten.

Specific year groups should take precedence

It’s worth schools considering staggering the return to school from a “whole-cohort perspective” (such as all of year 12). This tries to take into account what specific cohorts of students need, developmentally and educationally.

Schools will differ in how they implement these ideas and will need to balance educational with physical distancing concerns – and their capacity to manage groups of students in the context of their physical and staffing environment.

Year 12s

The cohort that has the least amount of time to acquire time-sensitive learning would be all of year 12. There are university-bound year 12 students who would benefit from being well on top of the syllabus knowledge that is assumed in their target university course.




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There are also students bound for TAFE and apprenticeships who need to get practical experience, key competencies or work placement hours.

So if the health advice allows for the staggered approach the NSW government is proposing, it is worth considering that all year 12s return to school five days per week.

Kindergarten

Moving into “big school” is a massive developmental transition which has been disrupted for the 2020 kindergarten cohort.

These children need a solid early foundation of core social, emotional, literacy and numeracy competencies.




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Years six and seven

Year six is the final year of primary school. It is where social, emotional and academic competencies are being honed and rounded ready for high school. And for year sevens, the transition to high school is a major psychological and academic adjustment, laying important foundations for their high school journey.

Year 11

Some universities are considering last year’s year 11 results for application for 2021 course entry. While the hope is everything will be back to normal come next year, there is the brutal reality that some nations have experienced second waves of COVID-19.

There is no vaccine yet, and we are only very gingerly taking baby-steps in easing restrictions.

This means we may need to take actions this year to insure year 11s against the possibility of school and assessment disruptions when they are in year 12 next year.

Disadvantaged students

We need to do our best to avoid widening any existing learning gaps during the remote learning period. Schools could encourage academically at-risk students – such as those with learning disorders, or executive function disorders such as ADHD – to start attending targeted in-class learning. This could allow for some bridging instruction so these students can make a strong start when the rest of their year group returns to in-class instruction.

Managing the numbers

An approach where initially only some year levels go to school while others remain learning remotely may make it easier for teachers.

It is not straightforward to develop both an in-class and a remote learning instructional program to accommodate a one day return, then two days and the like. Teachers are concerned at the extra workload this approach may mean for them.

There may also be significant between-school and between-teacher differences in how this is done – potentially leading to an uneven playing field for a given year group.

Teachers know how to teach a whole year group in class for five days of the week – and students know very well how to learn in this mode.

As we continue to navigate uncharted waters, there will be no perfect approach. Whatever the decision and however it is implemented, we must continue to be guided by our health experts, and we must hasten slowly.The Conversation

Andrew J. Martin, Scientia Professor and Professor of Educational Psychology, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lecture recordings mean fewer students are turning up – does it matter?



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Natalie Skead, University of Western Australia; Fiona McGaughey, University of Western Australia; Kate Offer, University of Western Australia; Liam Elphick, University of Western Australia, and Murray Wesson, University of Western Australia

In 2017, a business lecturer posted a photo on LinkedIn showing a completely empty university classroom, 15 minutes after the class had been scheduled to start.

This is not an isolated incident. Anecdotally, lecture and tutorial attendance has been declining steadily in Australian universities and faculties for many years.

Declining attendance may affect students’ academic performance and their sense of connectedness. University doesn’t only teach content but develops attributes such as oral communication and interpersonal skills including teamwork.

Students are less likely to develop these skills if they don’t physically attend class.

We conducted a large-scale study in our law school to uncover whether lecture recordings are responsible for declining student attendance and what motivates students to attend or miss class.

By manually counting how many students were in lectures across sixteen different subjects, we found attendance rates averaged just 38% of total enrolments across the semester.

A Deakin University lecturer’s empty classroom 15 minutes after the class was due to start.
Adrian Raftery/LinkedIn

There was a natural ebb and flow of lecture attendance throughout the semester. There was peak attendance at the beginning (57%), a significant drop in the middle as assessments became due (26%) and a rebound at the end of semester as exam season hit (35%).

We also asked students to self-report their lecture attendance. The most common answer given, by far, was “almost all of the time” and 59% of students said they attended lectures the majority of the time.

Clearly there is a dissonance between this self-perception and reality.

Are recordings to blame?

Lecture recording is now common in Australian universities. Anecdotally, it’s often held responsible for declining attendance rates. But there is little research on the relationship between student attendance and lecture recording.

While lectures are usually recorded and available to students in streamed or downloadable format once the class ends, tutorials and other smaller classes are not usually recorded.




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Our study found students aren’t ditching tutorials, seminars and workshops as much as they are lectures. Tutorials averaged a whopping 84% attendance rate. This could partly be explained by the fact teachers assess students on their participation in tutorials.

We also surveyed 900 students to find out their reasons for attending and not attending lectures, tutorials and workshops.

Availability of lecture recordings was the most common reason students gave for not attending lectures (18% of students said this). But work commitments were a close second (16%). Then it was timetable conflicts (12%), the time and day of lectures (11%) and assessments being due (8%).

Students lead complex lives

Universities provide students with lecture recordings for several reasons. These include giving students an alternative study tool and supporting students with disabilities or from non-English speaking backgrounds (who can slow down or pause recordings if necessary).

Our survey and focus groups showed students lead complex lives often balancing work, family and other commitments alongside their studies.

One student said:

[…] if some [lectures] are so early as 8am, that would involve waking up at 6am, which is difficult as I work in hospitality at night and if I’ve worked the night before I wouldn’t be getting to bed until after midnight.

I likely would be fatigued during that lecture and have difficulty concentrating and taking in the content, compared to if I watched the recording and took notes later that afternoon.

Other students said they relied on lecture recordings to enhance their learning. One said:

I find I get more out of the lecture by listening to it in my own time and at my own pace […] I prefer to be able to pause the recorded video to research more in-depth into cases and theories to add to my notes.

Some students with additional learning needs said the option not to attend class, and to access lecture recordings, was an important equity measure.

What should we do?

Lecture recordings bring important benefits for students. They can also be necessary for students with personal, work or health difficulties.

But recordings are clearly contributing to declining lecture attendance, too. We propose three possible paths forward for universities and teachers, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

First, we can simply persist with the traditional model of recorded lectures. Teachers will need to accept attendance will likely be low and student learning, experience and wellness should instead be the focus of tutorials and other small group classes.

Second, we can introduce more active learning into lectures to encourage greater attendance. This could include small group exercises, in-class polling or role-plays.




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But this would mean lecture recordings would be less useful for students. It would undercut the flexibility recordings offer and may cause equity concerns.

Third, we can change our teaching methodology to a “flipped” approach. This means the main way students would get information would be through online resources and activities. Face-to-face classes would then be dedicated to engaging students in deeper learning through collaborative activities.

Though this frees up lecture time for more effective learning, it would require appropriate support and training for teachers. Teachers, many of whom already work under significant time constraints, would need to invest more time and energy into their lessons.

Unfortunately there is not a one-size fits all answer to the conundrum of declining lecture attendance. But learning and teaching policies, such as mandatory lecture recording, should be informed by an evidence-based understanding of the likely consequences for staff and students.The Conversation

Natalie Skead, Professor, Dean of Law School, University of Western Australia; Fiona McGaughey, Senior Lecturer, Law School, University of Western Australia; Kate Offer, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia; Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia, and Murray Wesson, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A familiar place among the chaos: how schools can help students cope after the bushfires


Rachael Jacobs, Western Sydney University and Carol Mutch, University of Auckland

School will start on a somewhat sombre note this year. Some schools will still be shrouded in smog from the bushfires. Some students will be grieving the loss of property, animals or even family and friends. Some remain evacuated and others are part of the recovery effort.

In recent days, Australia’s education minister Dan Tehan highlighted the importance of schools supporting students in the aftermaths of the bushfires.

Announcing A$8 million for mental-health liaison officers and clinicians to work with schools and early childhood services in affected communities, Tehan said:

[…] child care centres, preschools, schools and universities are important community touchpoints that are helping families and children get back on their feet after the bushfires.

Even students not directly affected by the fires might be distressed by images they have seen or stories they have heard.

So, what can schools and teachers do to help students cope in the aftermaths of this crisis?




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A sense of control

Schools can provide a sense of familiarity, routine and security among chaos. Even if a school has been affected by fires, it’s important it still feel like school with familiar things such as books, desks and chairs, classes and lunch breaks.

But these same structures should, for a time, be more flexible than before. Time spent on activities might be shorter, the breaks a little longer and the pace a little slower. Providing options to share or respond in different ways gives students a sense of control in a world that, for a time, seemed out of control.

Schools are also supportive communities. Researchers who studied the experiences and the responses of schools in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, suggest it is important to provide opportunities for students to process their experiences in a safe and structured way.

Students should not be forced to share their feelings but can be guided in a calm manner that avoids further trauma. A teacher who provided help after Hurricane Sandy suggested teachers model calm and optimistic behaviour, acknowledging students’ distress but demonstrating constructive actions that provide hope for the future.

For example, creating a photoboard of communities coming together in recovery can be a powerful civics lesson. Or students could write letters of thanks to volunteers in a literacy lesson.




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Creative activities are helpful for students to express their experience. This could be done through writing, drawing, painting, making things with their hands, moving to or creating music, singing, drama or photography.

Some older students may have controversial questions or opinions about climate change or the funding of emergency services. Teachers can lean into difficult conversations and allow for respectful debate.

Perhaps collate a reputable series of articles for students who want to know more.

‘A teaspoon of light’ project helped students deal with the trauma of earthquakes using drama.

Distracting children from going over things they find distressing is important too. There comes a time when teachers can gently move on from acknowledging students’ fears or sadness to another activity – especially calming ones such as relaxation exercises, listening to a story or quiet music.

Following the 2010 Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand, researchers suggested teachers help students regulate their emotions with relaxation exercises or using play, and re-frame their thoughts more positively such as by thinking of happy things like their pets.

Traumatised children

Young people who have been injured, or have suffered a major loss (a loved one or a home) might have difficulty adjusting to returning to school. Those who have experienced prior trauma or have a history of mental illness are more at risk of adjustment difficulties.

It helps if schools can brief teachers on signs of trauma and ways to notice unusual behaviours, such as becoming quiet and withdrawn or appearing nervous and fidgety. Some students might cry, some might get angry and some might even laugh inappropriately. Some might be frightened by sudden noises.

There is no blueprint for how or when people might respond to their experiences. Students might appear fine initially but later display unusual behaviours. With younger children, this might be nighttime (or even daytime wetting), clinginess, restlessness or tiredness.

Older children might display hyperactivity, aggression, withdrawal, lethargy or panic. Teenagers could also have poor impulse control or show a loss of interest in friends and activities. Students might have arrived at school distressed, but over time gain control of their feelings, or they might take it all in their stride.

Research shows most students who have experienced trauma as a result of natural disaster adjust in a year or two but might have ups and downs depending on other factors in their lives, such as family relocation or financial difficulties. But up to 20% of these young people might have prolonged symptoms that stop them engaging in or enjoying everyday activities.

These students will need professional help beyond what teachers can provide. This is why keeping in touch with parents is essential. If necessary, teachers and parents should agree on strategies that will support students at home and school.




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Eventually, a school in recovery will settle into the routine of a new normal, in which students become a little more used to their changed lives and continually changing world – although they may have occasional emotional or behavioural wobbles.

And it is still OK to have fun. Playing games, re-reading a favourite story or watching a video can help lift the mood. Dancing or getting outdoors can release energy and tension. Talking about the future and discussing what has been learned from the experience is also part of healing and moving forward.The Conversation

Rachael Jacobs, Lecturer in Arts Education, Western Sydney University and Carol Mutch, Professor in Education, University of Auckland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Students from China may defend their country but that doesn’t make them Communist Party agents



Chinese students come to Australia to study for the same reasons as other international students.
from shutterstock.com

Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, Monash University and Jonathan Benney, Monash University

Chinese students with nationalist sentiments can be seen as agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such concerns were particularly evident during reports of clashes at Australian and New Zealand universities between pro-CCP and pro-Hong Kong students.

In similar recent clashes in Sheffield, UK, onlookers claimed Chinese students were threatening citizens’ right to protest and freedom of speech. There have been concerns the Chinese government is extending its influence into Western universities, threatening academic freedom, freedom of speech and liberal values.

Confucius Institutes are criticised as tools through which the Chinese government spreads its propaganda under the guise of teaching Chinese culture and language. Chinese students who aggressively protect their country’s reputation may be lumped into the same category.




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But research shows Chinese students come to Australia to study for much the same reasons as students from other countries – to gain a competitive edge over graduates in their home country by learning English and experiencing another culture.

Why students from China go overseas

Over the past 20 years, Chinese international students have become highly visible on Australian campuses. International students account for more than 50% of enrolments at some Australian universities and Chinese students make up nearly 40% of all international students.

While Chinese students study in Australia for many reasons, a recent study showed most were here for economic reasons. Having an international degree and English language skills can give job seekers an edge over their locally educated peers.

Acquiring permanent residency in Australia is also a common aim, although changes in policy are making this increasingly difficult. A 2010 study showed an American degree can also increase Chinese students’ social status in China.

A 2018 study of Chinese women studying in Australia showed studying abroad could be an opportunity to escape traditional expectations such as marrying early and having children. It also provides a chance for the students to explore their sexuality.

Does the CCP control Chinese students overseas?

Since the 1990s China has intensified its “ideological education” or “moral education” programs. These begin in the early years of school and continue throughout university. Ideological education aims to bolster support for the CCP and make liberal democracy less attractive.

Chinese international students have grown up with this education and have benefited from the economic success of the China Model. Some students from China fear political change inside China could threaten the country’s stability. But this doesn’t automatically mean they are hostile to liberal values.




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Some students believe democracy is suited to Western nations only, or that multi-party democracies are more responsive to citizen demands. Others may be supportive of democracy, but still see criticism of China as Western bias.

The CCP recognises that international education can have a liberalising impact on students. In response, it seeks to extend its influence over students abroad, especially by providing economic and employment incentives to international students who support the CCP on their return to China.

Chinese Students and Scholars Associations maintain links between the PRC and Chinese students by holding social events and emphasising patriotism.

Some students who engage in anti-CCP activities have reported being threatened by the CCP. One Chinese student, who discussed sensitive political issues on social media in the US, claimed she was questioned for hours by state security when she returned to China.

The CCP encourages overseas students to challenge liberal values and shape China’s global image. Some Chinese students have challenged Australian lecturers who criticise China. If these challenges become hostile, students and lecturers may avoid discussing contentious topics such as human rights, the status of Taiwan, or the Tienanmen protests.

But students who reject criticism of China also demonstrate that they are expressing their right to free speech and confronting and learning about ideas contrary to their beliefs.




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When Chinese students don’t support the CCP, it is still pragmatic for them to show support for the PRC, or at least keep a low profile to avoid risk to themselves and their families. Upholding the safety of students in Australia should be a priority for universities, even if it upsets the CCP.

Australian universities’ responsibilities to students from China

Australian universities promote themselves as internationalised, culturally diverse places where students can build global friendships. However, international students’ experiences often don’t reflect this.

Studying overseas is frequently alienating, and Chinese students’ experiences in Australia are no different.

PRC students mostly live in a “parallel society” without Australian friends. Brief interactions, or group work at university, can increase negative feelings because both international and local students believe the other’s opinions are biased, while language barriers also cause frustration.

Ideally, engaging Chinese students with liberal values would involve them studying social sciences in small classes. But universities and students have not pursued this; almost 80% of Chinese international students in Australia study engineering, science, IT, commerce and architecture in large lecture-style classes.

Encouraging students to engage in politics is an effective way of exposing them to democratic political processes and values. Discouraging or denying Chinese students the right to participate in student and national politics because of suspicions about their political loyalty is the exact opposite of the approach universities should be taking.The Conversation

Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, PhD student, Monash University and Jonathan Benney, Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why Chinese and Hong Kong students clash in Australia: the patriotic v the protest movement


Christine Cunningham, Edith Cowan University; Clive Barstow, Edith Cowan University, and Wei Zhang, Edith Cowan University

The protests in Hong Kong have led to some open clashes here in Australia between students from mainland China and others from Hong Kong.

There were angry scenes between pro-China and pro-Hong Kong groups in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as at universities in Brisbane and Adelaide.

These clashes are troubling for the Australian university sector, which enrols 182,555 mainland Chinese and 11,822 Hong Kongers as international students at various education institutions.




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Our current research suggests differences in the curriculum studied by mainland Chinese and Hong Kong students may help to explain the beliefs underpinning the protest movements.

Our research involved in-depth interviews of a random sample of more than a dozen international postgraduate students from mainland China who are studying, or very recently have been, at Western Australian universities.

The interviews took place in late 2018 – before the recent Hong Kong protests. We asked the participants about their experiences studying in Chinese schools where Moral Education is a compulsory subject.

Lessons in China

The Moral Education curriculum teaches Chinese children to be politically proud of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and loyal to the ideals of a One-China worldview.

Moral Education is a stand-alone subject and also embedded within other subjects, such as history and Chinese literacy studies. Moral Education starts being taught in the early years of schooling and continues throughout high school and during undergraduate university studies.

In primary school, all Chinese children are supposed to join the Young Pioneers, a 130 million-strong youth organisation controlled by the CCP.

In high school, teachers invites students who achieve highly academically and morally to join the Communist Youth League. In university, excellent students are invited to join the Communist Party.

In contrast, Hong Kong students do not study Moral Education and cannot join the Young Pioneers, Youth League or the Communist Party.

When East meets West

Preliminary indications from our interviews suggest that when mainland Chinese students arrive in Western countries for postgraduate studies they carry with them a moral duty to uphold their national identity. This identity is arguably constructed through the Moral Education lessons.

The following are translated Mandarin quotes from participants in our study. Each quote comes from a different student, but we have de-identified them to protect their identity. They are talking about their experiences of studying Moral Education in their primary and high school years:

I was taught to love our motherland and love our country. It’s the right thing to do.

We were taught many slogans that were inspirational, positive and patriotic. It taught us to love our country, our family and our society.

In secondary school Moral Education made us all feel we are part of one China and what the government is doing is to give us a better life.

We are also learning from our interviews that even after mainland Chinese students study in Western universities for several years, they are unlikely to change their previously learnt ideological positions.

I think although the Communist Party is a one-party dictatorship, because in a big country like China it is very difficult to apply democracy and maintain the sustainability otherwise it will be too chaotic.

When I was standing under the party flag and sworn in to join our Communist Party it was so exciting. After so many years of ideological and political education, I believe that the Communist Party is the most advanced organisation of our society.

Now, especially when we are living overseas, if you hear the Chinese national anthem it brings me to tears of pride, belonging and identity.

Sympathy for the Communist Party

Another phenomenon our interviews revealed is that many of our participants expressed strong sympathy towards the CCP government.

That holds even after they learn about facts and events that have been censored in China, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

I will most likely participate (in) rallies like welcoming President Xi’s visit to Australia because I am […] Chinese and I have a sense of belonging and responsibility attached to this Chinese identity. I also will be vocal about protecting China’s sovereignty.

China is a big country with a large population and there are still many people who are not well educated, therefore they are easy to be incited by others. Although the one party is never 100% perfect, it at least proved itself that most people in China have a good life under its leadership.

Isolated in Australia

Over the course of three interviews with each participant in our study, we discovered many Chinese international students feel isolated from Australian friendship circles.

They expressed concern at the lack of opportunities to truly engage with Australian students during their time living here. Many worry that local Australian students just aren’t interested in them.

Actually I have little knowledge about how Australian society works – aside from the common social norms. I don’t know where I can access such knowledge. Some locals take it for granted that we should have known this, but we really don’t as we grew up in a totally different place.

For me I tend to have the impression that the local students believe we Chinese students are not interested in talking to them, so they would not take the initiative and talk to us either. I suggest that our university can do more about it like organising activities so we could access local friendships.




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International education should be a two-way transaction, deep in its engagement and fluid in its ability to change as we change.

But what these interviews show is the strong feelings many students from mainland China have about their country and government, which perhaps explains why they feel anger towards those who protest against that way of life.

The growing trend of these Chinese graduates returning to their homeland for work opportunities also has a bearing on their continuing patriotism and sense of national identity.The Conversation

Christine Cunningham, Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership, Edith Cowan University; Clive Barstow, Professor of Creative Arts / Executive Dean Arts & Humanities, Edith Cowan University, and Wei Zhang, PhD candidate, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Article: Students Suffer from Lack of Sleep


The link below is to an article that makes for an interesting follow-up from an earlier article on ADHD (https://pbaptist.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/adhd-wrong-diagnosis/) – this one looks at students suffering from a lack of sleep around the world.

For more visit:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22209818