Australia continues to think outside the box

So today, I had the opportunity to host an Microsoft Executive Briefing with the leading eLearning Companies in Australia.  I am so excited by what I learned and what it means for education across the world and specifically in the new five years.  I would like to share with you some thoughts and hope it challenges other governments to think BIG like Australia and I can only hope we in the United States will learn from their lead and follow suite.

In April 2009, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that the government would commit A$43 billion (US$30 billion) to building a broadband network across Australia, calling it “the single largest nation-building infrastructure project in Australia’s history” and promising it would play a role in “turbo-charging Australia’s economic future.” He likened it to Australia’s 19th-century cross-continental railroads—an investment that linked the nation’s sparsely populated inland to its coasts. Considering the economic stakes for Australia, which had lagged behind other nations in broadband access, Rudd said the nation had to bypass private bids to build the broadband network and fund the network through public spending.  In other words, every Australian citizen will have access to state-of-the-art fiber broadband. The social and economic impact of this will be enormous.  The new superfast network will:

  • connect homes, schools and workplaces with optical fiber providing broadband services to Australians in urban and regional towns with speeds
    of 100 megabits per second – 100 times faster than those currently used by
    most people extending to towns with a population of around 1,000 or more
    people
  • use next generation wireless and satellite technologies that will be
    able to deliver 12 megabits per second or more to people living in more
    remote parts of rural Australia
  • provide fiber optic transmission links connecting cities, major
    regional centers and rural towns
  • be Australia’s first national wholesale-only, open access broadband
    network
  • be built and operated on a commercial basis by a company established
    at arm’s length from Government and involve private sector investment
  • be expected to be rolled-out, simultaneously, in metropolitan,
    regional, and rural areas.

Every person and business in Australia, no-matter where they are located, will have access to affordable, fast broadband at their fingertips.  This then leads to what can this mean for education and truly student centered learning.  Education without walls that really enables anytime, anywhere learning 24/7.

What excited me the most is the amazing work happening by the eLearning Companies and the hope I have of them coming to the US market and supporting countries around the world.

B online Learning: http://www.bonlinelearning.com.au:They have an amazing Master eLearning Course where they help companies think through their employee professional development, build customize eLearning programs and look at a comprehensive approach.  All their courses are delivered as fully interactive eLearning and collaborative programs with students supported by a Learning Coach.

Kinetic Education: http://www.kineticeducation.com.au: Focusing on literacy and numerous with an amazing line up of eLearning for Math, Science and English.  If we think about in early learning when students are learning the basics and then they don’t
receive competence but move on to the next grade level and then they continue to fall further and further behind.  Their online learning solutions help students get back on track.

Mediasphere: http://www.mediasphere.com.au/: One of Australia’s largest digital publishers they have eLearning solutions for corporations, governments and education.
I was most impressed by their Powerhouse CAMPUS solution it is much more than just a LMS.  And I hope to see their solution plug into Office 365 for Education very soon…

Training4Work: http://www.trainingforwork.com.au/I love what they do in 1:1 training for employees at companies focusing 3-4 weeks 1-2 hours structured coaching sessions with assessments and training.  At the end of the employees training 50% of the credit goes towards 3 year Bachelor Degree Programs in top Australian Universities.  I can really see the potential once they take this online and use powerful virtual tools like Microsoft Lync to connect trainers with students 1:1 virtually.  With the work I have done in Hawaii, I can see this being a great programs for several of the tourism and retail companies.

Open Universities Australia: http://www.open.edu.au: I love this concept! They work with 18 different universities across Australia and when a student enrolls at Open University they select one of the Universities as the University in which they will receive their diploma and follow program guidelines but a student can take a class from any of the 18 partners if they see a class that may meet his/her needs better.  Everything is online with super high quality classes and professors from the 18 universities.

I wanted to thank the folks for the time they spent with me and I do love Auzzies!

Another area I learned about was the work an Australia NGO is doing in the USA, Australia and with European Schoolnet and 38 countries in the EU creating a Global Learning Resource Connection. This will map education resources, curriculum, learning, national standards and assessments.  You can learn more here-http://www.jesandco.org/weblink-cat-ourprojects/web-cat-glrc
It is super powerful and amazing work.    I am really excited about the possibilities in education in the next 5 years.  Where Australia will go, the innovations in education and how the career training and academic online learning worlds will collide with the need for countries to be more competitive and help students with the skills to be succesful in work and life.  The power of Microsoft Azure, Xbox Kinect and Windows Phone 7 to
help companies like these scale their solutions so they can be utilized all over the world in different modalities and not just in Australia or a few places in the US.  I hope the USA can become as innovative as Australia!  Can we make the jump to scale and not just pockets of innovation?

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ATC21S Calling all Crowd Sourcers

I have the pleasure to help spupport an effort to enable 21st century skills learning and assessment in schools and countries through a partnership with Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and the University of Melbourne.  Learn more about the project at http://atc21s.org

The ATC21S project is developing new forms of assessment and teaching approaches to meet the demands of the 21st century. One of the areas of interest is the assessment and teaching of collaborative problem solving. The goal is to deliver the assessment strategy through open source automated assessment technologies that can alert teachers to the appropriate learning intervention and give instant feedback to the students in order to improve their collaborative problem solving skills.

This is being done to capitalise on the effect of increasing availability of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the fact that it has changed the way that people access and use information and collaborate to solve problems. Education systems are changing the way they respond by encouraging and instilling in students the skills necessary for collaborative work.

Since the start of the ATC21S project, the University of Melbourne Project Office has received hundreds of requests from individuals and organisations to become actively involved and contribute to the project. Thus far we have not been able to fully accommodate such a large number of requests.

On 5th April 2011, ATC21S will launch a Crowdsourcing Challenge (hosted by innocentive.com) to make use of the talents of those interested in contributing to the goals of the ATC21S project. The prize up for grabs is $US20,000. “Crowdsourcing” or “open innovation” are terms used to describe the use of work done by the public at large.

The Challenge is to create software module required for assessment of collaborative problem solving skills in schools. ATC21S envisages a multiplayer Flash game template & GUI that can export process log-files that describe user actions to other software modules which will eventually be part of the system. A range of open source and proprietary software is currently available for developing collaborative gaming scenarios. ATC21S anticipates that code from existing software could be adapted for this Challenge. To receive an award, the successful Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to ATC21S. Instead, they will grant to ATC21S non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. Any winning software will be will be in the public domain and able to be used freely by educational users in the development of assessment tasks.

More detailed information about this challenge including how to participate will be available at:  The InnoCentive website: https://www.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/overview/9932750
The Economist website: http://ideas.economist.com/challenges

I hope you are interested and please share with friends, colleagues, researchers and other innovators and help us transform education and support countries around the world to help skill up their citizens.