Case Study: Vocational Training Success at Loganlea State High School
The Queensland Government, through the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training, funds the ICT Gateway to Industry Schools project – a digital technology program run by the ACS that is designed to support the next generation of developers.
As a proud partner of this program, we have provided local schools with access to our platform – one of which was Loganlea State High School.
This Queensland secondary school incorporated Zenva Schools into their Digital Innovation program, and experienced a wide range of positive outcomes – they found that Zenva Schools provided them with the high-quality, modern resources that they needed, and significantly increased student motivation and engagement. The courses were accessible and easy to use for ESL students, and met many of the needs of their VET Certificate III in IT qualification. It also enabled students to easily continue learning at home, and suited the learning styles of their older students.
This case study examines how the lessons on Zenva Schools were used in class, and explores how the above positive outcomes were achieved.
This case study focuses on the Digital Innovation program run by Brendan Harman, the IT teacher and Digital Innovation Co-ordinator. This includes the VET Certificate III in IT class (featuring 28 students), as well as Junior IT – the excellence program for juniors (which includes around 15 students).
The majority of the students in the class are non-native English speakers – for instance, in the Certificate III class, 17-18 of the 28 students hail from Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria, and English is often their third or fourth language.
Classes met three times a week, with blocks lasting two and a half hours.
Loganlea State High School faced several challenges when it came to delivering lessons on programming.
Firstly, the teachers at the school had limited experience in game development, the focus of the upcoming semester. “I’ve had some C# coding and really minor game development experience in the past, but I’ve just done basic hobby-type things”, Jason stated, “My Head of Department’s also tinkered with it in the past as well, but we’re not experts by any means.”
Initially, Brendan had tried to create his own learning resources for students – he downloaded some asset packs from the Unity store (a tanks game), coded them, deleted some code, and gave it to the students so they could fill in the blanks.
This ended up being far too complex for students to start with, and so Brendan had to return to the drawing board.
Additionally, it was a challenge to simultaneously support students who were progressing at different speeds – especially with a high percentage of non-native English speakers in the class.
For Brendan, the most important thing was providing students with the skills, confidence, and motivation needed for them to create their own unique projects: “The hardest thing for us was… how do we refine it to such a basic level where we introduce it to kids, and then they eventually become confident, and by the end of the semester they can produce their own game, or at least make something from scratch and then have them be proud of that?”
Additionally, he had the goal of providing his students with engaging and accessible content, so that all students in his diverse student cohort could succeed.
Using Zenva Schools
Loganlea State High School primarily used Zenva Schools to provide students with simple and effective game development courses. They started their students with Intro to Game Development with Unity, the first course in Zenva Schools’ Unity series.
More advanced students who progressed at a faster rate went on to complete other project-based courses, such as Unity Project – 3D Platformer, which allowed them to practice applying their skills.
Because his class featured students with a wide range of proficiencies, Brendan decided to take a self-paced approach to Zenva’s courses. “So we have a big box of headphones… usually at the start of every single lesson, I’ll say, “Right, guys, we’re just going to continue with the tutorials. Off we go”‘. Brendan would then walk around and check in on students one at a time to see how they were progressing.
Brendan was also able to incorporate the Zenva Schools courses into his VET Certificate III in IT assessments. “What I found was really good with the Zenva tutorials is the fact that a lot of the learning that’s taking place, it’s aligning directly to competencies that the students are being assessed on.” When the school was audited, Brendan was able to demonstrate how he’d mapped Zenva’s content. For instance, Zenva’s courses feature quizzes and interactive exercises that allow students to test snippets of code. This met the requirements for Performance Criteria 5.2 – Create and conduct simple tests and confirm code meets design specification: “The comment I made next to that was the fact that after a certain amount of time, students will be following a tutorial and then they’ll get quizzed… We got audited for that, and [the auditors] were like, ‘Yep, that meets that too. That’s perfect'”.
When it came to assessing the students individually, Brendan paid close attention to the code that the students produced as part of the course, as this was crucial to their achieving the Certificate III qualification. Students would upload their work to a folder on the school’s cloud network, and he would look at their script to ensure that they had actually completed the work. “I’d see if there’s an executable. I’d play it. So I’d spend a bit of time on it. But with that, you have to really, really pay attention to detail. You need to make sure that all that stuff is there, because if it’s not there and you tick off a kid and you say they’re competent, that student can lose QCE points, and they could have their certificate potentially taken from them.”
Being referred to Zenva Schools through the ACS ICT Gateway to Industry Schools Program was a “game-changer” for Brendan: “I had a look at the tutorials and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is brilliant’. I really wish I had this in term one. It would have made my life a lot easier and I probably would have had a much better Christmas break not doing a lot of work on my own.”
From the speed of delivery, to the varied learning materials, overall Zenva Schools contributed towards a more engaging class experience. As Brendan describes, “I feel like the pacing is better, the resources, just the guidance, just the guidance alone.” He recognized that during such long sessions, watching a teacher stand at the front of the room to teach just wasn’t keeping the students’ attention.
“Some kids are visual, some kids are auditory. Everyone learns a bit different. And I feel like with the Zenva tutorials, it’s just been a massive success because it ticks all those boxes for me and for the kids. You’ve got the lesson notes there. So if you don’t want to watch the video, you can just read the lesson notes. There’s a PDF you can download beforehand.”
Allowing students to work at their own pace was a style that Brendan believed to better suit the class’s age level – “Because with seniors, they want to feel independent. And I feel like Zenva gives them that outlet, which is great”.
Another positive aspect was how Zenva’s courses facilitated learning at home. “I’ve had kids take it home as well, the PDF, and they just try it on their computers and stuff like that. It’s brilliant for that.”
It wasn’t just Brendan who enjoyed using Zenva Schools – the feedback that he’s received from the students has all been excellent – especially from those who were non-native English speakers: “A lot of the testimonials or feedback I got was actually them saying they are able to follow the courses and understand it really easily, which was a huge, huge win for me… The slower playback speed, and the subtitles too, they were able to actually follow along and read [the PDFs] as well.”
Brendan was also impressed at how motivated his students were to use the platform. One of his students was especially interested in the Excel courses: “She actually was interested in doing the Excel stuff. And what started from just doing one, she eventually did [all eight courses], and she was like, ‘Oh, this is great.’ Because for a 15 or 16-year-old kid, trying to engage them with Excel is hard. And the fact that she went out of her way and she was doing it at home, I was like, ‘Oh my God. That’s great.'”
Analysis & Conclusion
Brendan intends to continue using Zenva Schools next term. When asked if he’d change how he would use it, he said that he’d continue to implement the courses in the same way – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. He found our courses to be valuable and effective, and looks forward to branching out into the VR content next.
He also intends to onboard other teachers at his school to the platform, and to “give some sort of PD or just some sort of demonstration, I suppose, in how easy it is to use.”
Brendan extended that recommendation to other schools and teachers who are considering Zenva Schools: “It’s super easy. And if my English as a third or fourth language kids can understand it and access it, I really don’t see how any other students who are proficient in English and somewhat familiar with computers would struggle at all. So, yeah, I’m a big advocate for just having those teachers just at least give it a try.”