How the University of Technology Sydney is wasting your taxpayer dollars

Interesting article from the Sydney Morning Herald, August 20, 2010, on page 67:

The Labshare consortium’s objectives are:

Empirical studies

Not done: To conduct a national review on the status and opportunities of engineering laboratories in Australian Universities

An empirical study has not been conducted, though it is necessary to conduct a focus group and longitudinal survey study of Australian primary, secondary, tertiary (including both TAFE and University), and professional education, in order to understand spending patterns, as well as technological and pedagogical requirements. It seems intuitive schools desire the technology to teach and because of the more complex level of University education, require supplementary learning materials, which will include documentation, work sheets, and video lectures. Current extensive use of the java technology has proven to be slow and not readily accessible by most user browsers, meaning decreased accessibility. However, development in the alternative Flash technology popularized by YouTube proves to be technologically challenging. The key driver has been determined as the quality of (1) lab; and (2) remote technology.

Not done: Trials with students using initial labs followed by experience survey and feasibility evaluation

No trials with schools have been completed, meaning a feasibility empirical study has not been possible. It is ambiguous as to whether consortium members are unable to partner with local schools, or whether mismanagement has delayed fulfilling this goal.

Done: Refine the aforementioned model

The Labshare model has been refined by ditto (by way of corporate espionage or otherwise) of current competitive techniques, including environmental design, schedule, tutor, library system, 3D environment, increased experiment options, improved sharing ability and auto-restart

Marketing communications

Not done: Design an online resource kit containing guidelines on the appropriate selection, design and utilization of remote labs

Though a basic website has been setup, no guidelines have been provided for the selection, design, utilization of remote labs.

Not done: Provide technical interface specifications and user documentation that supports lab development

No technical specifications or documentations has been produced of commercial grade as a result of complications in coordination.

Not done: Develop starter pack of material for Universities and schools

Starter pack for Universities and schools not completed.

Not done: Develop website, quarterly newsletters, annual workshops, biannual practical workshops

Though basic website setup, newsletters, workshops, not provided for.

Technical development

Not done: Implement laboratory software library for resource development

No software library has been developed for inter-University use, because of the game theory principle that unless quid pro quo each member can obtain benefit from another party, their closed source is hard to disclose.

Not done: Develop at least 4 remote labs in different engineering disciplines capable of supporting a minimum of 1000 students each

Due to unequal distribution of funding by the University of Technology, Sydney, allegedly due to nepotism, the other four consortium members have been unable to obtain funding for developing their remote labs. The University of Technology, Sydney have been criticized by fellow Labshare consortium members for micromanaging the project, as evident by all but one member of management committee as faculty members of UTS, with no representation from the University of South Australia, Queensland University of Technology and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Furthermore, all technical engineering staff employed were by the University of Technology, Sydney. The University of Technology, Sydney has been criticized by academics as lacking project management ability, having achieved very little progress despite 50% of the allocated time has already elapsed; and cherry picking facts to showcase to government, using non-denial denial when responding to budget inquiries, and using euphemisms to bury bad news.

Financial modeling and contractual arrangements

Not done: Define shared models, with appropriate formal contract agreements used for implementing organizational models

Lack of legal understanding, especially in the area of mediation has prevented further development in this area. Furthermore, an appropriate financial model is still being considered, though there is consensus parties should have free access to each partner’s remote labs. The contentious issue is how much third party users should be charged, and what economic modelling should predict this. In order to develop an economic pricing model, further market research in the education sector needs to be conducted, and subsequently analyzed in statistical software. Subsequently, the appropriate contract needs to be drafted so the technology can be adapted to various commercial and non-commercial organizations, which will require similar analysis of human resource needs.

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