April 2018

Welcome to the first CIC newsletter of 2018!

Dear Colleagues,

The Connected Intelligence Centre (CIC) is a strategic innovation centre providing UTS with research-based educational data science tools, and internal analytics consulting. Working in close partnership with faculties and business units, we are building UTS capacity to gain more insight from current data, as well as new forms of digital data.

UTS is now asking itself — what will be the student experience in 3, 6, 10 years...? Part of that jigsaw is that through the judicious, research-validated deployment of data science and AI learning technology, they will receive personalised, timely feedback that doesn't 'infantilise' them, but helps equip them with the qualities they need to tackle the wicked problems society will throw at them. Another piece is that students will develop critical literacies when engaging with machine intelligence. We are testing that future now in UTS.

So it’s my pleasure to share with you some of the headlines from the first quarter of 2018.

Please get in touch to discuss how CIC might help you, whether in teaching and learning, research or business operations. We can't solve everything ourselves, but we're also very good at connecting expertise across UTS (the clue's in the name!).

Simon Buckingham Shum
Director, Connected Intelligence Centre
Professor of Learning Informatics


Have you met our Data Scientist?

Are you wrestling with how to analyse quantitative data, especially at scale? Do you wonder if machine learning might open new avenues for you?

In 2017, Mike Pracy joined the CIC team as a Data Scientist providing consulting for UTS. While Mike has an academic background (a PhD in astrophysics, no less), in  CIC he provides a professional, applied service role. Read on to see how he might build your capacity to benefit from data science. Read on...


What's it like to get your writing annotated by an AI system? 

Students are getting used to the idea that computers can now understand complex speech and text, but this is still relatively rare in universities. We need to understand what factors will lead academics and students to trust such tools. Here's what happened when we tested the waters in the Law Faculty. Read on...


What makes CIC distinctive as an analytics centre? 

CIC is not your typical educational data science research group, but nor is it your typical business intelligence team. It's a hybrid. The current edition of EDUCAUSE Review showcases the UTS strategic leadership that led to the hybrid innovation/impact centre that is CIC, and compares notes with another ground-breaking centre at University of Michigan. Read on...


How can the ATN build its capacity in Text Analytics? Meet H.E.T.A.

The Australian Technology Network has funded the Higher Education Text Analytics project, led by CIC. The mission of the project is to build capacity in our institutions to gain new insights into textual data using natural language processing. CIC ran training for academics and tech teams, and three teams formed to work in the coming year on writing feedback, student survey comments, and mapping curriculum materials to the jobs market. Read on...



The International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge (LAK) is the premier research conference in the field of Learning Analytics. CIC’s Director Simon Buckingham Shum was a scientific Program Co-Chair, and all of CIC’s researchers were active. In addition, UTS DVC & Vice President (Education & Students) Shirley Alexander was an invited speaker at the Leadership Summit, on a panel discussing the role of university leadership in building a data-intensive educational culture fit for the future. Read on...


How can AI help PhD students get their work published?

Students struggle to learn how to make the hallmark ‘moves’ that reviewers are looking. Ideally, they'd get feedback instantly, any hour, on draft after draft (any volunteers?). This is where AI may help. CIC PhD student Sophie Abel is tuning our AcaWriter website to the specific needs of HDR writing. Got some PhD students who would benefit? Read on...


Can imperfect AI still help students?

The usual narrative about AI is that it will improve society by helping to remove human error from complex systems beyond our ken. This is true when increasing the accuracy of the algorithms results directly in better system outcomes. However, in the educational domain this  assumption might not hold, for a number of rather interesting reasons. And what do Navajo rugs have to do with it? Read on...


Data Storytelling in Student Dashboards 

As we drown in information, “dashboards” have become pervasive, but how we present the information is a challenge. Dashboards are often too complex, bombarding users with irrelevant information. CIC PhD student Vanessa Echeverria is using Data Storytelling techniques to enhance conventional visualisations to foreground the key messages. Read on...

CIC@UTS Postgraduate Expo

CIC will be at the UTS Postgraduate Expo on Monday 16 April 2018. Come and see us at the Graduate Research School Stand and talk to our academics about our Doctoral Program in Learning Analytics. There will be staff on site who can help you with academic and career advice, as well as advise on course fees. Plus you can sit in on talks by industry leaders. Read on... 


Visiting Thought Leaders

Professor Cristina Conati (University of British Columbia) spent two days developing collaborative projects with CIC around personalised visualisations, a topic in which she is a world leader. A packed room saw her give a great seminar on whether AI can adapt visualisations to individual user competencies. Read on...

CIC also hosted Prof Tom Fikes and Dr Elle Wang, from EdPlus Action Lab at the "most innovative university in the US" — Arizona State University. They spent a productive morning comparing notes with us on how to use advanced analytics to provide insight into student learning.


Summer@UTS Workshops

Summer@UTS provided a rich array of faculty-based subjects, university-wide electives, internships and workshops to help increase students' employability and academic skills. CIC hosted two half-day learning workshops.  The first – Building Your Resilience for Complexity – provided hands-on experience to take the CLARA survey and reflect on how to get better at grappling with complex learning outside one's comfort zones. Read on...

The second training session focused on Visualisation for Wicked Problems, introducing participants to mapping issues, ideas and arguments using the research-validated Compendium visual hypertext tool for mapping wicked problems. Students practised with pen and paper first, mapping increasingly complex issues, and discussed potential applications in their own studies. Read on... 


Replay Humans, Data, AI and Ethics

Suddenly, everyone is talking AI, algorithms, data and ethics. The Connected Intelligence Centre (CIC) assembled a stellar line up of UTS academics and students, industry and government speakers to discuss the future world we must navigate, including a lively public debate on the motion "humans have blown it — let's hand the planet over to the machines." Replay this, and most of the whole day’s events. Read on...


CIC team welcomes writing analytics Endeavour Scholar

Rianne Conijn recently arrived at CIC from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. She follows Bikalpa Neupane as the second PhD student to win an Australian Government Endeavour Scholarship, spending 5 months contributing her expertise to CIC’s work, and learning from the team here. Read on... 


CIC Farewells Staff

At the end of 2017, we said goodbye to six of the team! Theresa Anderson, Simon Knight, Jack Schmidt, Kailash Awati, Andrew Gibson and Georgia Markakis, as they move on to new chapters. Read on...