“The Virus” and The Australian Education

Australian education has had less than a handful of pivotal changes in the past 2 decades. These moments changed the direction of Australian education and had a major impact on students and how they learn inside the classroom. One of the major turning points in the recent past is the Rudd government’s ‘National Secondary School’s Computer fund’ as part of the Digital Education Revolution (DER). This has changed the mode of delivery in the classroom and it made a huge impact on the way our teachers teach and the way our children learn in Australian schools.

There is still debate about the impact of the laptop program and its positives and negatives inside the classroom. Nevertheless, Teachers had to go through rigorous changes to adopt technology into their teaching and delivery.

We all are now at a point where mother nature has forced us to make another pivotal change in Australian Education. “The Virus” will force schools to look for other modes of delivery to ensure continuity of service whilst keeping staff and students safe. These include school shutdowns and the mass migration to the online and virtual space to extend the reach of the classroom to people’s homes.

We cannot guarantee that the following changes will happen in Australian education but there is a good chance that Departments and Schools will start reallocating resources as part of an investment in the following:

  • BCP – School Business continuity plans

Every School should have a business continuity plan in place to address the challenges we are facing now due to “The Virus”. The Principal and the leadership team are responsible for the BCP and the IT team has a vital part to play in the School BCP. Now Schools need to dust off their BCPs and get ready to implement it in a matter of days or even hours. This is the time where School management will come under the microscope for their planning, management, and governance of the school. We assume that a number of schools will have to update their BCPs quickly due to not being up to date. There are many templates available online for you to download and use as a guide for your BCP.

  • Learning tools availability and adoption

Schools currently use a significant amount of software to run the school. The main two platforms used in a school are the School management system (SIS/ SMS/ MIS) and the learning management system (LMS). For a school to completely operate during a shutdown, these tools must be available to access outside the school. A number of current school management systems don’t support a 100% web version and the web versions support 80% of the features and the other 20% will only be available in the desktop version. This creates a challenge for teachers and admin staff to do their work remotely.

The second challenge is the adoption of technology in Schools. Some staff, teachers, students and parents are challenged by the increasing demand for technology to augment and replace the standard classroom experience. In a School closedown scenario, we assume that a number of teachers will struggle to operate in a 100% online virtual classroom. Technical fluency and resilience will be key for schools to operate completely online without a physical presence successfully. We believe that Schools will take time to adapt to this change but they eventually managed to do this without a major setback.

  • The future of physical classrooms

“Can the brick and mortar school be replaced by an online school?” This is a topic the Education community has debated over the decades. There was always resistance from parties against this idea of a completely online school. However, it looks like this is going to be a reality in the near future. This is one of the key reasons for the inevitable changes that will start to occur in the Australian education in the future. If Australia and other countries go for a school lockdown for a significant amount of time, this will be the biggest online/ virtual school experiment carried out in the world. With one case study, schools will have an option to move from traditional classrooms to completely online classrooms in the future.

  • Data-driven Vs Observations/ Gut decisions

Once the classrooms are online, teachers will have a limited amount (or zero) of face to face interaction with students. Currently, teachers are heavily relying on observations or their gut feeling in the classrooms for decision making. Student wellbeing mainly depends on teacher observations and online classrooms will have limited options for observations. This will force schools and mainly teachers to use data collected by their current systems and new systems for decision making. The teachers will have less opportunity to work on holistic student growth with an online classroom. This will trigger schools to collect and use student sentiment data more to understand how students are feeling in their environment.

  • Impact of isolation – lack of social interactions

Students and teachers will have a difficult time staying motivated without any social interactions. Students in isolation will create more issues for parents’ isolation and lack of physical activity causes frustration. We believe there will be a huge emotional and behavioral impact on students when they start to join their online schools from home. This can have a long term impact on students and teachers during the lockdown and even after this period.

Conclusion

Australian Schools are at a juncture where they need to adapt to change at a record pace in the next few weeks compared to previous decades. It will be really interesting to see how Australian education will change after this experience in the next few months. In any case, “ The Virus” has added extraordinary momentum to a set of modernizing behaviors that the Government has been unsuccessful in implementing across the last two decades, namely the place and usage of technology as a way to augment and in some cases replace the traditional classroom model.

Hansa Wijayasundara is the Founder Of Octopus BI. A visionary in technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, Hansa brings more than 10 years of professional experience in senior team management. Hansa is driven by a passion for cutting-edge ideas and active leadership. He excels in building highly capable teams of self-motivated individuals who know how to work together to meet and exceed company goals.

Octopus BI is a leading Australian Data and Learning analytics company focusing on the K-12 space. Octopus connects to your existing data sources, Visualises in beautiful and easy to read dashboards and helps you publish those dashboards in your existing SIS, LMS, Portal or website

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