A strategic vision for digital education allowed Haileybury to seamlessly transition to an online environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lessons learned are also helping to shape the School’s K-12 classrooms for the future.
Haileybury is Australia’s largest independent school, boasting over 4,700 students and 850 staff, with six campuses across Melbourne, Darwin and China. The campuses work like the separate limbs of a single body and connectivity is the lifeblood of the Haileybury model. A couple of years ago, when the School was looking for a connectivity solution to support its ambitious digital strategy, the ICT team turned to AARNet for advice. A scalable high-speed 10G AARNet internet connection and AARNet Zoom services were subsequently deployed. The high performance and reliability of this solution has empowered teachers to use new technologies and helped to revolutionise teaching and learning.
Deputy Principal Anna Sever says, investing in infrastructure, technologies, and developing digital teaching and learning capabilities, were fundamental for delivering the school’s long-term vision for digitally-driven education.
“When we implemented Zoom and the Canvas learning management system, teachers quickly adapted to these technologies and we saw a huge uplift in skills across the entire school in a very short time,” she said.
When COVID-19 spread in early 2020 and lockdown sent teachers and students home, it was the mastery of these digital technologies and skills that enabled Haileybury to quickly transition to an online learning environment. The School was able to keep students on track with little change to their learning habits.
“We were very fortunate to have had our teachers already trained up in digital technologies, which helped us to move the entire curriculum online and switch to remote learning a lot quicker than other schools,” said Sever. “We didn’t take a day off. We just went from being at school one day, to being online the next day.”
Haileybury uses AARNet Zoom services to hold virtual classrooms. Zoom conferences allow for up to three hundred participants in video and text chat. Multiple live streams run flawlessly over AARNet’s high-speed connection and can be recorded for student revision.
Prior to the pandemic, Haileybury was already taking advantage of Zoom for delivering classes across campuses, used in tandem with Canvas for coursework, assignment tracking and reporting to parents. For example, with experienced teachers of specialist subjects such as Latin particularly hard to find, being able to deliver a single class across all four campuses simultaneously via Zoom had allowed Haileybury to maintain a varied and high-quality curriculum.
Having virtual classroom practices and processes already in place meant that Haileybury was able to quickly adapt and implement them for online learning across the entire school when the lockdown was enforced.
With all classes delivered via AARNet’s Zoom platform, maintaining student and teacher security became the next priority. Reports in the media about security issues increased as Zoom usage soared around the world. In response, AARNet’s Zoom support team worked with Haileybury to ensure that necessary security settings were enacted, including waiting rooms, authentication of users, and logging, so that the classes students were attending and where they were accessing them from could be tracked.
How to monitor exams and assessments to ensure the integrity of results was another hurdle for teaching in an online environment. This was particularly important for Haileybury’s senior school students. By combining a number of processes and technologies, including Zoom, a LockDown browser, and a secondary device to view students’ workspaces, Haileybury teachers were able to proctor exams by quickly and easily cycling through each student’s camera and workspace.
Although the teachers were already familiar with digital teaching and the transition was mostly seamless, Sever says it was far from easy.
“Haileybury’s staff needed to work harder than they ever had before,” she said.
To help staff retain some balance, the School ran professional development and other activities for staff via Zoom, including physical fitness sessions, skill building programs, and even coffee connoisseur workshops hosted by an ex-barista.
“This provided staff with some well-earned respite from the rigours of online teaching, and helped them stay connected during difficult times in lockdown,” said Sever. “For our school, it was the work ethic, the long-term vision of the School, and the leadership that allowed us to be successful through an extremely challenging time.”
While times were tough through the COVID-19-imposed lockdowns, the lessons Haileybury learned under difficult circumstances have been invaluable. When on-campus teaching and learning returned, a lot of the techniques refined during that time were retained, creating an innovative digitally-driven environment, enabled by the School’s high-speed AARNet connection.
With teachers needing to rely on Canvas even more during the lockdown, they became more familiar with its functionality, and a positive outcome is that students are now offered self-paced classes. This approach also allows students to catch up if they miss a class, which is not always possible with traditional in-class teaching.
Haileybury also now offers more bimodal classes, where some students are in the classroom with the teacher, while students from other campuses are conferenced into the room via Zoom. This allows the school to offer a wide range of subjects, including English Literature, Latin and Chinese, delivered by one teacher to students across all four campuses. By fitting out rooms with multiple cameras and TV screens for beaming in the remote students, Haileybury provides a fully integrated experience so that students both on Zoom and on-site are given equal opportunities in class.
Sever says one of the biggest lessons for Haileybury from those challenging times is that having all of this technology in place means that the School is no longer beholden to traditional methods of teaching or teacher recruitment.
For example, faced with a limited pipeline of local teachers, particularly for specialist subjects, the School recently recruited a teacher based in the United States. This teacher delivers classes via Zoom to students at the Melbourne campuses.
“Technology has opened up a whole new world of teachers. Looking beyond local talent and using technology in innovative ways ensures that Haileybury can provides the best education for its students,” said Sever. “We can now have the best teachers in front of the class, no matter where they are in the world.”
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“When we implemented Zoom and the Canvas learning management system, teachers quickly adapted to these technologies and we saw a huge uplift in skills across the entire school in a very short time.”