Research Funding

Research Contract: C. Szabo, K. Falkner, A. Szorenyi and D. Michell, Understanding Australia’s Teaching Culture with Respect to Gender Diversity, Google Australia, $26,764 (2017)

The underrepresentation of women in Computer Science (CS) remains a crucial problem despite significant efforts by both industry and academia to redress the issue. What is still missing is a clear understanding of the precise, practical actions that can be taken to improve the current situation, and an overview of existing efforts. The lack of an overview of what is currently being done causes duplication of efforts in some cases, a repeat of past mistakes, as well as the concentration of efforts in some places, at the expense of others. For example, outreach activities undertaken by University and Industry bodies often focus on the same subset of secondary or primary schools, or identified ‘catchment areas’, while other regions struggle to identify outreach partners and opportunities. These problems are the result of a lack of overall information and a lack of awareness of activity at a national level. This project will conduct a survey which will provide a broad understanding of culture, perceptions of equity and engagement approaches within the Australian teaching community. The survey will aim to collect broad, quantitative and qualitative data on three aspects of CS teaching in secondary schools: 1. Whether gender (and other forms of) diversity in teaching are perceived as an issue by teachers; a. If so, what teachers do to foster inclusion 2. What curriculum, policies and resources are currently in place in schools to support CS teaching and learning in a diverse classroom; 3. Whether teachers believe the current resourcing to support diversity initiatives is adequate and if not, what more is needed.

Research Contract: K. Falkner, R. Vivian and T. Atapattu, Understanding the relationship between social community formation and progression within MOOC environments, Research Contract, Google Australia, $37,687 (2017)

This project will support the next stage in the collaborative research arrangement between the University of Adelaide and Google Australia to support the design and development of effective online learning environments for teacher professional development. This project will support the analysis of data collected over two years of our collaborative MOOC projects to better understand and explore the relationship between social community formation and course engagement, activity and progression. This analysis will explore a detailed dataset of 1,800 teachers including community interactions (contributions, comments, likes) and teacher participation (lesson participation, lesson completion, video engagement, overall completion) along with the related timing of such interactions.

Research Contract: Assessment for the F-10 Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, Education Services Australia (ESA) Research Contract. R. Vivian & K. Falkner. (2016-2018)

K-10 Computer Science (CS) Education is a new domain with very limited resourcing in respect of assessment. The Australian Digital Technologies and Learning Forum (2015) identified assessment as a critical area for further work, and consultation with stakeholders has indicated that teachers do not have adequate experience and knowledge of this domain to make refined and precise judgements about student progress. This project aims to develop our understanding of, and supporting resources for, assessment of student learning in F-10 CS education. This project will involve an extensive review of K-10 CS education research literature related to assessment and the curation and review of existing assessment materials. Further, the research will result in the development of practical resources, including a F-10 assessment framework, assessment materials and an assessment guide to support teachers to assess student learning across the Australian F-10 Curriculum: Digital Technologies.

Research Contract: For the Expanded Rollout and Support of the University of Adelaide Digital Technology MOOCS – Closing the Digital Divide for Disadvantaged Students, Department of Education and Training. K. Falkner, R. Vivian, N. Falkner and C. Szabo ($6,900,000) (2016-2020)

This research project enables us to expand our CSER MOOC offerings through the introduction of a national face-to-face support program, designed to assist Australian teachers with engaging with online professional learning resources, with a specific focus on supporting disadvantaged and Indigenous schools. We will be able to establish facilitated support programs across Australia, supported by the development of unplugged course resources, and a national lending library to ensure that all Australian schools have access to current education technology for Digital Technologies. We will also be able to expand our research into professional learning models and online learning, and the development of appropriate K-10 assessment and pedagogy for Digital Technologies.

Research Contract: Expanding Teacher Professional Development – Beyond the CSER MOOC, Google Research Contract. K. Falkner, R. Vivian. ($95,101) (2016)

This project proposes to leverage the CSER Foundations-6 MOOC materials with an overlay of structured PD activities that can be used by ICT champions in Schools or regions to help them support their peers in developing confidence and skill in delivering the new curriculum area. Building upon the CSER MOOC Community contributions for professional development, we will construct exemplar PD activities for each year-band, that explore the breadth of computational thinking and systems thinking processes as defined within the Australian curriculum.

Research Contract: Pathways to Computer Science: Enabling Equity and Diversity, Google Research Contract. K. Falkner, C. Szabo, A. Szorenyi, and D. Michell. ($55,000) (2015-2016)

The underrepresentation of women in Computer Science (CS) remains a crucial problem despite significant efforts by both industry and academia to redress the issue. A large number of studies exist in the literature focusing on the reasons why female students do not take up Computer Science or do not stay, and how the pipeline, i.e., the path from kindergarten to university, is broken. To address this underrepresentation, industry and academia have invested significant funds across a number of outreach programs, designed to increase participation and change negative perceptions about the CS discipline. However, what is missing is a clear understanding of the precise activities that are known to actually work, and – perhaps more importantly – identification of those activities that are ineffective. Despite this significant investment of funds, we are yet to see any significant increase in participation by women in the field. If we are to address this issue, we need to better understand what makes an outreach program effective, what programs or activities actually work in engaging women, and why they work.

Research Grant: Automated Analysis of MOOC Discussion Content to Support Personalised Learning, K. Falkner, Google MOOC Focused Research Awards. ($50,000 US) (2015-2016)

Discussion forums or communities form a significant component of many MOOCs and the interaction between MOOC participants is essential in assisting their learning. However, participants reportedly struggle with the overwhelming abundance of information and the requirement of self-directed learning common within MOOC environments, making it difficult to identify useful discussion content and contribute effectively. The workload required to manage the magnitude of existing discussions in any massive participant environment, along with the fact that discussions may develop around any course topic at any point in time, makes it difficult for teaching staff to effectively focus their attention and support for learners. The objective of this research is to develop an open-source discussion analytics platform to assist in personalised learning at large scale, containing a suite of analysis and visualisation tools, and operating on discussion data imported from the discussion forums or communities associated with MOOCs.

Research Contract: Coding Across the Curriculum – Curriculum Mapping and Analysis. K. Falkner and R. Vivian. ($77,889) (2015)

This research project involves the development of a semi-systematic review to identify, categorise and assess available offline and online computer science resources for students and teachers that are suitable for use with the Technologies learning area. We will analyse available resources against their capacity to support the learning objectives of the Technologies learning area, and identify research and development opportunities for future resource development.

Research Contract: Building Digital Technologies Capacity. K. Falkner and R. Vivian, Google Research Contract ($48,312) (2014-2015)

This new MOOC will extend our work in identifying pedagogy for teaching and learning of computational thinking concepts within early teaching, as an extension course designed to extend teachers who have mastered fundamental skill, and are now looking to lead the implementation of digital technologies curriculum. This course will focus on the development of visual programming and computational thinking skills, through building solutions to problems that can be integrated with other learning areas. Such a course will help teachers become capable as digital producers themselves, while develop their knowledge and strengthen cross­curricular connections. The MOOC will explore appropriate pedagogy, both in terms of how do we teach teachers, and appropriate pedagogy for teachers to learn the skills for designing learning activities and content to address the specific learning objectives at that respective grade levels for the digital technologies curriculum.

Sponsorship Contract: Addressing the Challenge of the Digital Technologies Curriculum (Years 7&8). K. Falkner, R. Vivian, N. Falkner and C. Szabo, Digital Careers Sponsorship Agreement ($119,588) (2014-2015).

The project proposes the development of a MOOC designed to assist secondary school teachers in developing the skills and experience in teaching computation thinking and, correspondingly, the new Digital Technologies Curriculum. Following the structure of the curriculum, we propose this MOOC course, building on our existing work in establishing a MOOC to address the Digital Technologies Curriculum (F-6). In this course, we address the transition from visual programming to the introduction of standard programming languages, the introduction of more complex computational thinking concepts, and the development of more sophisticated problem solving and computational design skills.

Improving Gender Equity in Computer Science and ICT, Dr A. Szorenyi and A/Prof K. Falkner, HUMSS Faculty Research Centre Competitive Funding Scheme ($4,985) (2014)

In this project we aim to take first steps towards improving our understanding of perceptions of ICT and how they are generated. In this project, and building upon an existing literature review, we will undertake a series of focus groups with current University students who met the prerequisite requirements to study ICT but chose not to, exploring their perceptions of ICT as a career, and how they arose.

Experiences of first year students in ICT courses: best practices in teaching introductory programming in ICT courses, A/Prof J. Sheard, Dr M. Morgan, Dr M. Butler, A/Prof K. Falkner, Dr A. Weerasinghe, Simon, ACDICT ALTA Commissioned Good Practice Report ($14,937) (2014)

This projects funds a commissioned research report analysing the experiences of first year ICT students in Australian programs, exploring literature and good practice case studies across the following dimensions: what we teach, how we teach, where we teach, how we assess our students, and how we support out students.

Addressing the Challenges of the Digital Technologies Curriculum: MOOCs for Teacher Development, K. Falkner, N. Falkner and R. Vivian, Google Research Contract ($65,000 + in-kind) (2013-2014)

This project will assist teachers in primary and secondary schools to meet the challenges introduced by the new Australian National Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum. This project involves the development of a MOOC designed to assist primary and secondary school teachers in developing the skills and experience in teaching computational thinking and, correspondingly, the new Digital Technologies Curriculum. The MOOC will explore appropriate pedagogy, both in terms of how do we teach teachers, and appropriate pedagogy for teachers to learn the skills for designing learning activities and content to address the specific learning objectives at that respective grade levels for the digital technologies curriculum. As part of this work, a review of current best practice and learning activity examples will be undertaken to provide both best practice examples as MOOC content, and linkage with the broader community to assist in ongoing teacher development.

An evidenced-based approach to the design and redevelopment of inclusive, technology-enhanced learning environments, Prof D. Wood (Leader), Dr L. Glenny, Dr C. Snowden, A/Prof S. Scutter, Dr. T. Du, D. Tedmanson, B. Underwood, T. Johnson, Prof N. Lindsay, A/Prof K. Falkner, R. Vivian and Prof H. Partridge, OLT Innovation and Development Grant, $211,000 (2013-2014)

This project will: 1) demonstrate the benefits of an evidence-based approach to the design of inclusive technology-enhanced learning environments; 2) provide guidelines for academics on the design and redevelopment of inclusive online curricula; and 3) develop a prototype of an open source responsive learning system which adapts to individual student needs.

Digital Inclusion and Indigenous Australians, Prof. Lester-Irabinna Rigney, A/Prof Katrina Falkner, Dr Peter Radoll and Dr Mike Wilmore. Telstra Foundation Research Contract, $75,000 (2013).

The rationale and significance of the proposed project intends to determine and define digital inclusion and its implications for Indigenous Australians. A review of literature and relevant case studies will be investigated in terms of the dimensions namely digital Access, Capacity, Cyber-safety, Engagement of Users, Empowerment and Opportunity. The discussion paper, therefore, will provide insights into digital exclusion and strategies for inclusion.

E-Learning: Integrating technology to maximise student learning and minimise additional teacher workload. N. Falkner, C. Willis, M. Docherty, Simon, E. Sitnikova, C. Pigrim, J. Amarego, Australian Council of Deans of ICT Learning and Teaching Academy Learning and Teaching Grant Competitive Grant Scheme ($15,000), (2012-2013)

Our aim is to produce an electronically distributed package to demonstrate how educators in higher education ICT can integrate technology into their existing courses to increase student understanding, while potentially reducing their long-term teaching workload.

Review of Model Driven Software Engineering Practice: Development of Curriculum. K. Falkner, DSTO Research Project Contract ($70,000) (2010)

The development of complex software systems for Defence applications is undergoing a step change in the approach and methodology used, with the trend moving toward the use of Model Based Systems Engineering and Model Driven Development. There is a need for defence organisations to understand the issues and benefits that arise out of the use of such approaches, and how to leverage the techniques to best effect. Further, in order to work with the complex, component-based systems required in Defence, there is a need for current Computer Science graduates to develop skills in modern software architecture techniques, including Model Driven Architecture and Model Driven Development. This project endeavours to address both these aims by initiating research into innovative and best-practice course delivery and assessment mechanisms for an honours-level course suited to the areas of model driven architecture and model driven development. In order to provide an authentic learning environment, this project will involve the development of real-world case studies that can be used in the teaching and assessment of these techniques. A deeper understanding of the relevant software practices will be a direct spin-off of this work, with a particular emphasis on distributed realtime systems in the maritime environment.

Early Intervention Strategies for At Risk Students in ECMS, Dr Katrina Falkner, Lachlan Coleman, University Implementation Grant for Learning and Teaching Enhancements ($12,000) (2010).

This project targets the area of attrition, and in particular, the development of early intervention strategies for struggling students. This project aims to develop resources to assist students in identifying problems that may impact upon their academic performance, and in identifying strategies to overcome these problems prior to their development as significant obstacles. These resources will provide students and academic staff with the tools and guidance necessary to help them identify problems, the need to seek assistance, and appropriate avenues for seeking assistance within the University system.

Sustained Sessional Teacher Support,  K. Falkner, T. Rainsford, C. Kestell, J. Denier, University Learning and Teaching Performance Fund Grant ($50,000) (2009-2010)

Sessional teachers play a crucial role within the University system, acting as the main point of contact with the University for many first year students, and providing the majority of one-on-one learning opportunities. However, sessional teachers are often untrained and underprepared for their role. The requirements of these teachers are complex, in that they must quickly transition from student expectations to those of a teacher. They must provide appropriate support for our diverse classes, encompassing international and domestic students, high school leavers and adult learners, who are each dealing with their own transition concerns. Within this environment, sessional teachers must offer both generic approaches to academic study as well as discipline- and course-specific support. This project proposes the development of a sustained sessional teacher support programme that provides exposure to relevant pedagogical approaches, and opportunities for community reflection on the nature of pedagogy within a discipline-specific context.

A Problem Solving Curriculum in Computing, B. Alexander, K. Falkner, H. el-Gindy, F. Brown, Z. Michalewicz, Google Research Grant ($46,500) (2007-2008)

University graduates with good problem-solving skills are a rare and highly-prized resource. This scarcity limits innovation and the creation of wealth world wide. Part of this shortfall is natural – innovation, by itself, creates new niches and challenges and new demand for problem solvers. However, it can be argues that part of this scarcity is artificial – people have an innate desire to solve problems but, for the most part, our education systems do little to hone an develop problem-solving skills. This deficiency is perhaps most acute in Universities where it is generally assumed that students are already accomplished at weaving new information into their problem-solving repertoire. This proposal works toward two broad objectives: to create a curriculum to develop student’s problem solving skills at all levels of University study and distribute this curriculum widely. The specific aim of the proposal is to develop, test, and distribute the first two courses in this curriculum to lay the foundation for the remainder. The curriculum has an emphasis on computing because computing problems pervade almost all modern endeavours.

Evaluating effectiveness, defining standards and sharing effective methods of assessment across disciplines, E. Palmer, K. Falkner, J. McEntee, B. Alexander, S. Al-Sarawi, M. Coulson, J. Botten, L. Rogers, University of Adelaide Learning and Teaching Grant ($32,000) (2007)

The purpose of this project is to promote quality learning, and create a positive learning environment, by collating, evaluating and disseminating examples of ‘best practice’ with regard to aligning course content, assessments and learning objectives. The project is designed to help teachers maximise the potential assessment has to extend student’s knowledge, skills and attitudes such that they meet the standards expressed by the University’s Graduate Attributes. The project foregrounds the way in which well-thought out and carefully evaluated assessments can help prepare students for life long learning.

Establishing links between High School Mathematics and Different University Pathways, K. Falkner (Industry Partner), Premier’s Industry Awards for Teachers of Science and Mathematics (in-kind contribution) (2007)

The aims of the project include providing an understanding of how Mathematics and Science impact upon Computer Science and studying applications of Mathematics and Science in Computer Science. Some of the application areas that are available include Computer Science Education, Computer Vision, Optimisation and Evolutionary Algorithms, and High Performance Computing. As such, the project may adopt an education focus, or it may adopt an applications focus, where the participant explores a practical application of their field within Computer Science.