With face-to-face learning the norm once again, Australian teachers and educational authorities are embracing data-driven technologies to support students, boosting educational outcomes and helping them stay globally competitive.
Much of that reform – which includes the passage and introduction of an overhauled Australian Curriculum 9.0 – has focused on broad agendas around subject matter, curriculum objectives, and future skills requirements.
Yet for schools concerned with improving the day-to-day learning experience, a more student-centric approach is required – and data is providing the means to deliver it.
Centralised, data-driven analytics systems are helping educators, parents, pastoral staff, and students track student performance over time and adjust their learning practices – in the present, where they still have the power to change outcomes.
Western Australia’s Hale School, for example, has seen substantial benefits from a school analytics platform that uses over 20 years’ worth of detailed assessment data to help teachers benchmark current students and quickly engage those who are struggling.
Catholic Schools NSW, for its part, is using a large-scale, Microsoft Azure and Power BI-based analytics environment to streamline administration across 598 NSW Catholic schools, freeing up hundreds of hours per month that can instead be spent on improving education.
“Big data drives system change,” notes Peter Goss, a PwC director who is head of school education consulting with the technology firm, “But small data drives learning.”
Letting data guide the learning
Recognising the value of data-driven learning, PwC has been working with a range of Australian schools to help them leverage their investment in Microsoft technology to unleash a broad range of new operational and academic insights.
Designed as a multi-faceted, data-driven platform, PwC’s Connected Schools Solution embodies those goals by providing a fully integrated, cloud-based end-to-end school management solution built around cloud-based Microsoft platforms including Microsoft Dynamics 365, Azure, M365, and the Power Platform.
Connected Schools Solution – which also leverages Microsoft’s K-12 Education Transformation Framework – was designed to support educators with the success of their students at the centre, providing meaningful insight into the factors that affect students’ learning outcomes.
Data-driven dashboards provide teachers with instant access to data about their students’ performance down to the individual subject level – helping them identify which students are struggling and which students are performing much higher than their peers.
Rather than waiting for end-of-term assessments, continuous visibility of student achievement is helping teachers to develop new learning opportunities, or to engage students with peer mentors, while they can still make a difference.
“Relying on retrospective analyses of student performance may help policymaking, but it misses the chance to help individual students while they are still learning,” said PwC partner Peter Stock. “As a community of solvers, we are committed to finding new ways that analytics can help teachers identify potential areas for improvement – and engage with each student with tailored interventions while they can still make a difference.”
The accumulation of data about student performance is not only valuable as a monitoring and intervention tool, but has predictive value in an educational climate where many administrators focus on top-level metrics like Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) examination scores.
By tracking performance over time and benchmarking it against previous data, analytics platforms empower schools to predict a student’s future success – and help those students choose subjects that will increase their academic success, better positioning them for a meaningful and rewarding future career.
Putting the human in ‘humanities’
The Connected Schools Solution framework includes a series of steps, ranging from migration of the foundation technologies to digital teaching and learning tools, to platforms for school management.
This includes student, course, event, fund, asset, vendor and partner management capabilities as well as tools for administering HR, school finance, and commerce operations such as uniform shops.
Anchored on a framework developed by subject-matter experts at PwC – a Microsoft gold partner in 18 active competencies and one of just three global players for Microsoft Open Education for Analytics – the Connected Schools Solution also incorporates analytics and insights that are designed for various school stakeholders and delivered through digital portals tailored for students, caregivers, staff, alumni, leaders, and system leaders.
By building a data-driven information system that shapes insight around the key elements of running a school and delivering education, the Connected Schools Solution paves the way for a range of innovative teaching technologies including artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and Internet of Things (IoT) driven smart classrooms and schools.
Although technology is the enabler for this change, its focus is on people – with PwC’s community of solvers helping the school community along a transformation journey shaped by PwC’s unique Business, Experience, and Technology (BXT) methodology.
Each of these three elements is essential for enacting successful, genuine transformation. And in a time where students, educators and administrators are still feeling their way back to normal, Stock says, providing timely access to data-driven insights has become more important than ever.
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure,” he explains. “Data and analytics with AI can help improve student outcomes, as well as streamline operations across an education ecosystem.”