Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of students across Australia were forced to turn to remote learning. This included students at CoreSenses, a Sydney-based education centre that specialises in supporting those with learning difficulties, and who may suffer from autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Like most education organisations, CoreSenses did not have a remote learning system in place. However, unlike a typical classroom where students are set tasks to complete on their own before notifying their teacher, the centre had to consider several factors about its students before it could establish its online learning environment on Zoom.
"Normal online meeting scenarios doesn't really work because the students need their own space, they also need to be supervised, and have continual engagement and interaction. It's quite a high-needs area. We couldn't just give them a login and password and say, 'Go for it and let us know when you're done'. It doesn't work," CoreSenses technology and learning director David Commisso told ZDNet.
He said implementing a continuous supervision aspect into the platform was crucial, especially given that remote learning can be a lonely experience for students.
The company partnered with Citrix Systems and Com-X to deliver a "video switching" system that enables teachers to run 15 concurrent Zoom breakout classrooms from their own Windows PC. Using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops and Gateway Enterprise, teachers can select to privately speak to an individual student, while retaining supervision of the whole classroom at the same time.
"It's like doing your work in the classroom but seeing a teacher in the distance with another student. You still know someone is around," Commisso said.
"We can also automatically annotate on different breakout rooms' sharing screen. There's a threshold where if a student asks for help and to not give them feedback within a few seconds it's pretty daunting for them -- especially for students with learning difficulties they start getting very anxious -- but we're able to able to respond to that request, even if you can't go into the room straight away, we're able to write on their screen, 'coming in a minute' or 'keep going'. That relieves a lot of that anxiety and loneliness."
In addition to being able to deliver the personalised attention to its students, Commisso added it gives parents piece of mind that students are being supervised.
"We very much encourage parents not to be with them because we're supervising them the whole time, so it's not a traditional kind of school, in terms of like setting work and then checking in with the teacher when that works done because in this space, it just doesn't work. we just don't get the results and we learned that very early on," he said.
The shift to remote learning has enabled CoreSenses to grow its business during the pandemic, with Commisso pointing out that it's now able to reach students across the country, particularly in rural areas.
"We have doubled our student numbers, and more crucially, we now have an elastic technology infrastructure that can maintain growth and support virtual learning situations based on student preferences or health-related closures. No student is ever left waiting for a teacher, even when the teacher is with another student," said Commisso.