Aus education innovation: more than an emergency response  


A raft of teaching and learning practices were being developed well before COVID-19

Much of the discussion in the sector over the last 18 months has focussed on the challenges of shifting overnight to fully on-line delivery.

While this was a significant sector-wide challenge, we should not ignore the raft of innovative teaching and learning practices which were changing education well before COVID-19.

One of the more innovative examples is the University of Queensland’s RiPPLE platform. Dr Hassan Khosravi in the university’s Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation wanted to provide more personalised learning opportunities to students, even across very large cohorts. RiPPLE therefore uses algorithms to adapt learning materials based on student performance, to estimate each student’s skills, and to actively monitor student progress. Not only is there less need for on-going teacher feedback, but it is the students who are the content creators on the platform, as they participate in different learning activities. To ensure the integrity of the resources, Dr Khosravi has patented a methodology to determine the quality of the learner-developed content.

Uni Queensland is not alone in bringing innovation to teaching and learning. There are many other examples across the university sector of virtual and augmented reality in use (particularly in the sciences); of gamification (including virtual escape rooms) being used to engage students, reduce attrition and improve academic performance; and assessments requiring students to develop apps to solve real world problems.

In the VET sector too, there was considerable innovation in online learning underway pre-pandemic. TAFE NSW launched TAFE Digital in 2018 and pre-COVID it had 47 innovation projects underway, eight AR/VR prototypes in development, and had produced 2,500 digital course assets. Its learner analytics are used to improve student achievement and reduce attrition. The NSW government has in turn used this innovation to support more virtual VET in Schools activity.

And private providers have also been harnessing the best in EdTech – either in partnership, e.g. UP Education’s partnership with Swinburne University to deliver their online VET programs through ‘Swinburne Open Education’, or through their own accredited and non-accredited offerings e.g. Academy Xi, DDLS, General Assembly, Generation Australia, and Goanna Education’s involvement in the Victorian government’s Digital Jobs Program.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector