Keynotes / Invited speakers


Prof. Carmel McNaught
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Carmel McNaught is Emeritus Professor of Learning Enhancement at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She was the former Director of the Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research (CLEAR). Currently, Carmel is a consultant, mostly working in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UAE and the UK. Recent publications and activities can be viewed at

Since the early 1970s, Carmel has worked in higher education in Australasia, southern Africa and the UK in the fields of chemistry, science education, second-language learning, eLearning, and higher-education curriculum and policy matters.

Current research interests include evaluation of innovation in higher education, strategies for embedding learning support into the curriculum, and understanding the broader implementation of the use of technology in higher education.

She is actively involved in several professional organizations and is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education (AACE); is a university quality-assurance consultant and auditor for both Australia and Hong Kong; has served on the editorial boards of 18 international journals; and is a prolific author with well over 300 academic publications.

ascilite2014: Technology-supported innovation: do we have adequate evidence for claims about success?
In this talk, I will suggest a way forward to what I see as an impasse in the field of learning technologies. Despite there being a great deal of information and experience about how to design meaningful learning experiences for our students, the use of educational technologies in the tool set for design is still sub-optimal. My way forward is a call for greater scholarship in our work in the field, a call for focused and rigorous evaluation and research (what I call evaluation research).

There are heaps of Principles for Excellent Teaching, and these principles apply cross-culturally, Also, for a very long time, we have had an increasing range of excellent tools that are constantly improving. So why do our institutional web logs show remarkable little engagement with active and interactive learning designs? Why is technology-supported innovation in teaching and learning still ‘on the fringe’? The answer to these questions is complex, and this presentation will only focus on a partial solution. The argument I will present is that, to date, we have not produced sufficient rigorous evaluation data that is grounded in empirical research focused on improved student learning. We do not have adequately persuasive evidence to offer our colleagues that will move the majority of teachers into seriously reflecting on the learning designs they use and how best to implement them. We don’t need to ‘beat ourselves up’ about this but we do need to take stock and consider how best to address the issue.

The presentation will be grounded in a framework that links evaluation research into the scholarship of teaching and learning. The need for a formal evaluation-research plan will be explored. There is a wide range of research strategies that can be adopted and adapted to technology-supported innovation and a vast amount of data – both quantitative and qualitative – that can be used, and all of this needs to be logically and systematically linked to the evaluation-research questions that are of particular interest in any context. I will advocate the use of mixed methods in teasing out the nuance of what really supports student learning. Summative course evaluations provide useful data but, in my view, need to be seen as part of a more holistic evaluation research plan.

I will use a number of examples to illustrate how good evaluation research can enhance technology-supported innovation: from the work of individual teachers trying out a new idea in an established module to very large, funded projects designed to support very large classes. These examples include the use of ePortfolios for English-language learning; students producing learning materials for their peers in a number of disciplines; and supporting group projects in class sizes of more than 1,000 students in chemistry.

I am well aware that what I am suggesting means more work for teachers – at least in conceptual terms – and that work needs to be recognized and rewarded. There are therefore implications for institutional policy in a number of areas – e.g. infrastructure, academic and technical support, and HR policies – and I will give some examples of where useful changes in these areas have been made.

Prof. Niki Davis
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Niki Davis is Professor of e-Learning at the University of Canterbury, Director of the e-Learning Lab, and coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (e-learning and digital technologies). In addition to teaching, she leads research in the area of open and flexible learning and capacity building for leadership in innovative learning environments. In collaboration with UNESCO OER Chair Wayne Mackintosh, she first introduced micro MOOC into the international OERu consortium and New Zealand.

Niki’s multidisciplinary background is in education, psychology and computing. She is known internationally for her leadership in information and communication technologies within teacher education. Leadership as Chair of the International Federation of Information Processing’s committee for research in education, President of the Society of IT in Teacher Education and the New Zealand association for open flexible and distance education (DEANZ), attest to her international reputation. Extensive publications include editing of CITE, JTPE journals and currently JOFDL, the scholarly flagship of DEANZ.

ascilite2014: Prizing Open Education
In this keynote, I explore and illustrate the many meanings of ‘Prizing Open Education’, and encourage the ASCILITE community to join me in this process. As a future focussed Professor of e-Learning, I research and develop e-learning to open education to more people, and raise awareness of the rhetoric and realities of information and communication technologies in learning, teaching and professional development.

A focus of this talk is developing the use of digital technologies as levers to open access over distance and time while also addressing language and other complexities. For example, with Jo Fletcher and colleagues in the University of Canterbury, we have researched e-learning for adults with literacy and numeracy needs. Their access issues are not simple. Our detailed case studies supported by a comprehensive literature review, reveal that literacy is very hard work for adults. Recent findings in neuroscience bear this out. Adults with literacy needs have to work hard to ‘prize open’ education with support from others, including family and whanau. The most effective learning programmes are carefully designed to fit each individual’s needs and lifestyle, his or her proficiency with digital technologies, and his or her level of reading literacy. For example, parents and grandparents with small children can be highly motivated and supported for literacy learning alongside the children. This personalisation to each adult is the key to the necessary extensive and intensive engagement with language that has not occurred previously.

Prising open educational resources has been a dimension of my work since 1980s when I created a national online network to support the embedding of basic skills within foundation and vocational courses in the UK, before the World Wide Web emerged. At that time the nation recognised the need for young people to gain and transfer basic skills into vocational contexts so that they became work ready. Foundation courses in colleges and secondary schools demanded new approaches to embedding literacy and numeracy, so I led the nationwide Regional Curriculum Bases to establish an online catalogue called ResCue of published resources plus full text assignments for tutors. Ahead of its time, the reality was that few of our tutors had the skills or authority to access an online database at that time. Even today, 24/7 access remains a myth for many literacy tutors in many islands in the Pacific.

In 2013, Wayne Mackintosh and I ‘prized open’ the first micro MOOC offered from New Zealand in collaboration with the OERu and students in my University of Canterbury postgraduate course; ‘Change with digital technologies in education’. The reality of MOOCs is that while many students register for the courses, the reality is that few sustain their engagement. By opening up a section of a course with a pedagogy that enhances the experience for both formally enrolled students and those studying in the ‘open’ around the world, this micro MOOC provided a strategy to sustain engagement and adoption of OER. Appraised by the international OERu consortium, our strategy addresses some of the MOOC rhetoric with the reality of both OER and scalable collaborative learning online.

Future trends are identified in our research and development with the New Zealand association of open, flexible and distance learning (DEANZ) and Ako Aotearoa, the national Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. While 2020 vision is impossible, co-evolution of learning and digital technologies is visible in our Ako scenario set for the future of tertiary education in New Zealand (#DEANZ2016). Education is opening globally, accompanied by more student autonomy and stakeholder engagement, and this is stimulating increasing change within and across our educational systems. Educational systems are as chaotic as economies worldwide. Although trends are promising, the reality is that increasing equitable access to education will remain challenging. Finally in this keynote, I will consider the ways in which ‘prizing’ open education can promote quality innovations and resources with careful quality control of awards and distinctions. For example, UNESCO’s only award for ICT in education adopts a different theme each year to raise the profile equitable strategies worldwide that provide a beacon for others to adopt and adapt. This keynote aims to stimulate ASCILITE to increase its support for Prizing Open Education too.


Prof. Sara de Freitas
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Sara de Freitas is Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Learning and Teaching at Murdoch University. In her role, she leads strategy for learning and teaching across the university, and provides academic leadership for the Centre for University Teaching and Learning (CUTL).

In her previous role as Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor and Professor of Teaching and Learning at Curtin University, she led the Teaching and Learning team which serves 62,000 on-campus and online students.

Before coming to Australia, Sara was Director of Research at the Serious Games Institute, Coventry University, UK. There she led the formation and development of a hybrid model of research, business and study, the first institute of its kind. While at Birkbeck College, University of London, she helped to establish the well-known London Knowledge Lab, with its focus upon digital learning.

Sara currently holds a Visiting Professorship at Coventry University in the UK, Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of London and is an Adjunct Professor in Malta University. Her research interests are focused in learning analytics, technology enhanced learning, higher educational policy and leadership and advanced educational games research and development.

Sara has published extensively and currently sits on over 100 programme committees and advisory boards and has presented many keynotes. Her most recent book, Education in Computer Generated Environments (2013) has been published in hardback as part of the Routledge Research in Education Series. To read more about Sara’s work go to:

ascilite2014: Educational games: negative rhetoric and the future reality?
In this talk, Sara will discuss the negative media rhetoric around game use and game research in education. Negative rhetoric has occurred despite scientific research findings which show that game-based approaches to learning are more effective than traditional approaches.

Over time the serious games movement and the rise of gamification, as well as the pervasiveness of games, including social and mobile games, has transformed our understanding of learning. In the future, higher education students and their teachers may have no option but to engage in gaming environments since today’s children are increasingly exposed to games in schools to encourage engagement and to foster higher cognitive learning. As with online learning, the evidence and findings from game research have been broadly ignored by educationalists, perhaps due to the conservative nature of the sector or the negative publicity about entertainment games.

Due to this negative perception, games have certainly not been broadly considered as viable educational tools to date. Recently this perception has been changing. The scientific evidence is beginning to gain traction even in higher education where game elements are becoming normalised as methods for engaging students in recruitment, induction and educational processes. Examples of contemporary educational games, a retrospective on some early games, research evidence and the impact of games upon our learning futures will be discussed. In addition, Sara will engage the audience in debates around the use of learning game analytics as a way to collect data, provide feedback and inform assessment models of the future.


Invited speakers

Assoc. Prof. Shane Dawson
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Shane Dawson is Associate Professor, and Director (Acting) of the Learning and Teaching Unit at the University of South Australia. Shane’s research focuses on the use of social network analysis and learner ICT interaction data to inform and benchmark teaching and learning quality. Shane’s research has demonstrated the use of learner interaction and network data to provide lead indicators of student self-regulated learning, sense of community, academic success and course satisfaction. He is a founding executive member of the Society for Learning Analytics Research, and past conference chair of the Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference and the international Learning Analytics Summer Institute. Shane is a co-developer of SNAPP an open source social network visualization tool designed for teaching staff to better understand, identify and evaluate student learning, engagement, academic performance and creative capacity.

ascilite2014: What are we learning from learning analytics?
Learning analytics has been touted as a “game changer” for education for its capacity to provide a sustainable competitive advantage for education institutions. In this talk, Shane will confront learning analytics rhetoric and explore its challenges.

The Australian Government has proposed radical reforms to the higher education (HE) sector including further reductions in funding, the deregulation of student fees and changes to the higher education loans program (HELP). The message for higher education is very clear: individual universities must rapidly establish quality programs and practices for a sustainable model that is competitive, adaptable and resilient in the face of a global market. The considered integration of technologies into the HE learning experience has demonstrated significant costs savings alongside dramatic improvements in the quality of learning. However, this often requires substantial institutional change: change in terms of new educational pathways and new models for teaching and learning to achieve the potential opportunities inherent in a technology driven economy. Education providers are beginning to grapple with concepts such as micro-credentialing, and the modularisation of courses amidst demands for greater pedagogical flexibility, lower costs and the demonstration of quality practice. In this context, learning analytics, big data, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other forms of digital learning have been widely heralded as the practices that will serve to radically revolutionise education.

The theme of ASCILITE 2014, rhetoric to reality – provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the promises of fields such as learning analytics and big data and their capacity to deliver new forms of educational practice. That is, the rise and enculturation of data-informed learning and teaching, the provision of early alert systems, flexible and personalised learning opportunities enacted through recommender systems and the development of individualised learner profiles. The complexities of educational systems will be explored to better understand why learning analytics remains largely in the developmental phases and how these challenges can be addressed at a systemic sector-wide level. All of this and more will be delivered with good humour, fun pictures and giggles.


Dr Wayne Mackintosh
Link to presentation
Dr Wayne Mackintosh is the founding director of the OER (Open Education Resources) Foundation. He is Director of the International Centre for Open Education based at Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand where he holds the UNESCO, Commonwealth of Learning and ICDE (International Council for Open and Distance Education) Chair in OER.

Wayne is coordinating the establishment of the OERu (Open Education Resource universitas (, an international innovation partnership aiming to provide free worldwide learning and credentialing. He founded WikiEducator, an international community of educators, and is elected Chair of the Community Council. Wayne has extensive international experience in educational technology, learning design and the theory and practice of open and distance learning (ODL). He is a strategy innovator with a passion for making educational futures happen.

ascilite2014: The OERu unplugged: From vision to reality
Leaving the rhetoric of the “motherhood and apple pie” of open education behind, this session will interrogate the internal operations of the OERu.

The Open Educational Resource universitas (OERu) is an international collaboration of thirty five universities, colleges and polytechnics spanning six regions of the world which will provide free learning opportunities using courses based solely on Open Educational Resources (OER) with pathways to obtain credible degrees. The OERu offers a philanthropic alternative to the commercial Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) startups with the added value for learners to gain formal academic credit.

Headquartered at the OER Foundation based at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, the implementation of the OERu is a designated project of the UNESCO, Commonwealth of Learning and International Council of Open Distance Education OER Chair Network. The OERu innovation partnership is distinctively open with all planning activities conducted openly and transparently. During this session, the UNESCO, COL and ICDE Chair in OER at the OER Foundation and Otago Polytechnic will openly share the lessons learned and key challenges the network has experienced to date, including:

  • What we have learned through the WikiEducator community from facilitating hundreds of open online courses since January 2007.
  • What educators around the world deem fair and reasonable practice regarding sharing of digital learning materials.
  • The absurdity of all rights reserved copyright in the public higher education sector in a digital age.
  • How the OERu is implementing personal learning environments and appropriate technologies for collaborative design, remix and reuse of OER across multiple delivery platforms.
  • The complexities of virtual student mobility for credit transfer and course articulation on a global scale.
  • How the OERu is succeeding in shifting the question from how to achieve a fiscally sustainable OER initiative to respond to how will education in your institutions remain sustainable without OER?
  • What does our research data shows regarding retention rates and engagement in open online courses.
  • The rewards and challenges of open collaborative design.

The OERu is a low cost, low risk but high impact innovation and we are committed to sharing our knowledge freely for the benefit of the higher education sector.