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Queensland Department of Education chalks up digital win

Rapid pivot to home learning offers valuable lessons for the future

Over a period of just four weeks Queensland’s Department of Education rolled out Microsoft Teams as its foundation for communication and collaboration to support remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis.

To further enhance the impact of Teams as a learning platform for Queenslanders, Microsoft today announces that it is co-investing with the Department of Education to implement a comprehensive change management and professional development strategy including the establishment of a team of ‘Learning Champions’ to support teachers across the State.

The Department’s Mail and Collaboration Services (MACS) program, which delivered Office 365 to 1,254 school sites with support for up to 680,000 users including students, teachers and corporate staff was completed in 2015.

These robust digital foundations meant that when COVID-19 struck, over a period of just four weeks the Department was able to activate Teams and partnered with Microsoft to use Teams and School Data Sync to build a comprehensive learning platform. It is now well on the way to creating 117,000 Teams across the entire school network.

As Queensland progresses through the COVID recovery phase, the Department is working toward harnessing the best of remote learning and assisting educators to leverage the full Teams platform for both face-to-face teaching and learning from home.

Microsoft Teams provides access for all by creating a safe and secure digital hub for a class, group or community of learners to collaborate on files, for students to join video calls when required by their teacher, and to chat with other students about their learning. With Queensland students now back in classrooms, Teams provides a richly featured environment for hybrid learning – the combination of face-to-face learning supplemented by a technology platform to enhance interactions, collaboration and submission of assessments.

The Department of Education has made Teams available to all schools across Queensland regardless of location, allowing rural and remote schools to have access equal to larger city schools. This provides the opportunity for professional learning experiences and collaboration among teachers across the State in ways previously impossible.

What is of high importance now, for both Queensland Department of Education and Microsoft, is to invest in teacher professional development to ensure these technologies have deep and lasting impact on learning. In addition, we will work closely in partnership with the Department to augment the impact of the Teams platform using analytics services built on the Azure cloud. For teachers, this should provide real time insight for each student in their classroom. Steven Worrall, managing director at Microsoft Australia 

For learners, the inbuilt accessibility tools such as Immersive Reader allow all students to access information in ways that meet their individual learning needs. For many students, the ability to have text read aloud to them is crucial for their understanding as is the ability to dictate their ideas and learning back into a document via speech-to-text.

Steven Worrall, managing director at Microsoft Australia said; “Typically this sort of project would take up to six months to execute. Working closely with the Department, we helped to deploy Teams for 1,237 Queensland schools and 561,000 students in just four weeks.

“What is of high importance now, for both Queensland Department of Education and Microsoft, is to invest in teacher professional development to ensure these technologies have deep and lasting impact on learning. In addition, we will work closely in partnership with the Department to augment the impact of the Teams platform using analytics services built on the Azure cloud. For teachers, this should provide real time insight for each student in their classroom.”

Students also secure digital skills that will stand them in good stead as they prepare to enter the workforce. There are currently more than 150 million global users of Microsoft Teams –   Queensland students are now gaining valuable first-hand experience of a platform already widely embraced in modern workplaces.