I have enrolled on the SDN MOOC with Coursera, as an experiment to witness the student experience.

There is no equivalent to the "introductory handout" to a course listing the due dates. So it is more difficult to keep track of what is due when than with a in-person course. Perhaps a calendar on the first page, or perhaps e-mails a few days shy of due dates.

The videos are slides with a talking head. The regular reminder of where you are in the course outline is useful, but annoying. Perhaps better done with a CNN-style text ribbon at the start of each video.

The Week 0 pop quiz didn't have much relationship to the course content, required obscure knowledge and the answers were debatable. Coursera does allow for the "correct" answer to each question to be accompanied by an explanation. This really should be filled in for every question.

The downloaded videos look good on a Nexus 4 mobile phone and are playable with VLC. This is my preferred way of watching the videos as it allows effective use of the hours spend on planes, trains and buses.

During the week I was chatting with an friend who is a junior academic in a CompSci school. Thirty percent of his time is taken with dealing with student work that is likely plagiarised and the resulting investigation, admonishment and administration.

I've often thought of honor codes -- such as that of Caltech -- as being a bit twee. But having seen the alternative, I now think that they are a fine notion.

Q: What do you call the people who put the books back on the library shelves at your local university?

A: Doctor.

To extend that answer, the push for international students means that poeple who do the casual work at universities are massively overqualified. So why don't these people have real jobs? They could certainly get them, and in the areas these people know we are crying out for expertise.

The answer is Australia's immigration processes. Our immigration process is completely stuffed when it comes to encouraging people with knowledge and talent useful to Australia to remain here.

You can't get a job without a visa. Fair enough. But I know a few people on "interim" visas (the visa you get whilst Immigration is processing your residency application for the next 6-12 months). And despite the near inevitability of these people getting residency visas and the automatic re-issue of interim visas until that happens, an employer calling Immigration to ask about the job applicant's visa (as they must) is told it is only valid for three months. That is, the person is only good for a casual job.

To get a visa you must pass an "English" exam -- IELTS. If you don't pass your visa expires and you leave the country. And you though you were under exam pressure in Year 12?

You can imagine my shock when people I can readily comprehend fail the IELTS. One the the best seminars I've ever attended was given by a person who failed the IELTS the following month. How can that be? And why can't we simply attest to our experience of that person's excellent English skills?

Let's be blunt. Someone who has spent the last seven years of their life investigating water saving technologies is someone we need to keep. And by "keep" I don't mean stacking shelves, whether at libraries or supermarkets. These people are the salt of the earth -- they're bright, committed to Australia, they're already working hard (most studying and doing the jobs no Australian-born person wants). And we're making their life hell with petty bureaucracy. We're fortunate to have them; fortunate they want to stay after all we've put them through.

It's time Immigration ran a "reverse dob in" line. You could report people who should simply be immediately given a residence visa and welcomed to our country.

Just read the syllabus and it is rubbish, absolute rubbish. There's only a limited time in a high school school room. It shouldn't be spent teaching outdated irrelevancies. Here's a partial list:

Simplex, half duplex, full duplex. Synchronous and asynchronous. Error checking, including parity, checksums and CRCs. Star, bus and ring topologies. Network administration tasks, such as client installation and adding users. A/D, D/A conversions.

This stuff was written in an era of PSTN modem communications and when networking software was an add-on to operating systems rather than being an essential part of the OS.


Glen Turner

August 2017

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