ACARA works with Merkle to create a highly flexible Australian Curriculum web app for teachers with Adobe Experience Manager.
Employees: 110 employees and contractors
Page views from 160,000 unique visitors in first four months
Present highly complex Australian Curriculum information in an intuitive manner
Make it easier and faster for teachers to reference information when they need it
Scale infrastructure quickly to support peak times at the start and end of the school year
Extend experiences across digital channels, including social, email and marketing
Adds highly interactive elements to define terms and highlight the connections between achievement standards and content descriptions
Supported 160,000 unique visitors and 1.1M page views in first four months
Received positive feedback from teachers for increased flexibility and ease of use
Developed a foundation for consistent, personalised experiences across digital channels
Education is vital in shaping the lives of children. It helps prepare them for successful futures, which also leads to a prosperous and productive society. That is the vision that drives ACARA, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. The organisation is an independent authority operating under the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to oversee curriculum in Australia.
“ACARA works to improve learning for all young Australians by looking at learning in three ways: curriculum, assessment and reporting,” explains Paul Fraser, Senior Manager, ICT at ACARA. “This includes developing the Australian Curriculum, running the national assessment programme and providing detailed reports on schools as a resource for parents, educators and the community.”
The Australian Curriculum outlines what students are expected to learn in Foundation (the first year of formal schooling) to Year 10. Reviewed and updated every six years, the Australian Curriculum can deliver important information for parents and community members, but it’s critical for teachers. Teachers typically reference the Australian Curriculum when they are planning their teaching and learning programmes. This process involves them using the content descriptions as they outline what content to cover. Teachers need to connect the content to achievement standards so they can assess and report student learning.
For several years, ACARA has provided curriculum information online through the Australian Curriculum website. Fraser and his colleagues at ACARA wanted to make the website more responsive and useful for teachers, giving them a better experience and making it easier for them to look through complex curriculum information.
With support from design and implementation partner Merkle, ACARA recently released a new version of the website using Adobe Experience Manager Sites and Experience Manager Assets, part of Adobe Experience Cloud. The new experience is much faster and more flexible, taking advantage of rich APIs to deliver content through a single-page application (SPA). Adobe Analytics and Target, also part of Experience Cloud, help to optimise and eventually personalise the site for viewers.
“Our goal was to build a digital experience for our teachers, not just a website,” says Fraser. “Adobe Experience Cloud gives us the technology to do more, moving from a static website to an interactive ecosystem with multiple ways of keeping teachers engaged and informed.”
Head of Technology, Merkle
Lana Pacetta, programme manager for ICT at ACARA, describes the previous version of the website as more like a book than a modern digital application. When teachers wanted to check the curriculum before setting their lesson plans for the year, they would access the website, click the information that they wanted and then read through the displayed page.
“The information was very static; some teachers would even just print off the pages instead of accessing it online,” says Pacetta. “We wanted to change how we presented the curriculum to make it more interactive, give teachers more control over what information they see and add supplemental information.”
After comparing technology on the market, ACARA decided to deploy the new website using Experience Manager deployed as a Cloud Service. “As a small organisation, we don’t have the technical staff to spend time managing apps ourselves,” says Fraser. “We feel less risk knowing that there’s a full Adobe team managing upgrades, monitoring systems, fixing issues and scaling capacity even during our peak times at the beginning and end of the school year.”
Most of the information for the Australian Curriculum website comes from data pulled from a backend database. With the heavy reliance on APIs to connect data, Adobe Platinum Partner Merkle recommended that ACARA build the curriculum part of the website as a single-page application (SPA) using a headless implementation.
“Working with a headless implementation makes it easier to reuse Adobe Experience Manager content across social media, email and mobile, allowing ACARA to create a holistic digital experience for teachers, parents, students and the community,” explains Christian Brenner, Head of Technology at Merkle. “It also made sense from a technology point of view, as it’s a fast and flexible way of displaying complex information delivered through APIs.”
Programme Manager, ICT, ACARA
The new Australian Curriculum website operates like a modern interactive app. In the first four months since the site launched, more than 160,000 unique visitors have logged 1.1 million page views on the site. Teachers use simple drop-down menus to choose the subjects and year levels that apply to them. The web app then loads the descriptions, achievement standards and content descriptions for each subject and year level, making it easier for teachers to create lesson plans that deliver the curriculum. Teachers can hover over terms to see definitions, view sample student work and explore related content for potential cross-curriculum learning.
“The flexibility of Adobe Experience Manager puts the site in a teacher’s control,” explains Pacetta. “Rather than showing them everything, we ask them to tell us what they need.”
Feedback from teachers has been very positive. They praise the easy navigation and multiple filters. They especially like how the website allows them to connect achievement standards and content descriptions with a click. For example, Year 1 students should learn how to report information and experiences and express opinions in English class. Clicking this line in the achievement standards highlights different content that teachers should use to address this part of the standard. Teachers could create an assignment where they ask students to recount a story and ask how it relates to their personal experiences.
“Teacher experience is the most important priority for us, which is why it was a goal for us to have analytics in place from day one,” says Fraser. “Adobe Analytics helps us measure the experience and determine how we can optimise the site for teachers. For example, we knew that 97% of teachers view the site through a desktop computer, so we designed for a big screen experience. But if we see mobile usage rise, we could start testing the best ways to display the information on a small screen.”
Senior Manager, ICT, ACARA
The next step for ACARA will involve adding personalisation with Target. While teachers currently select necessary year levels and subjects every time they visit the site, in the future, ACARA hopes to create an experience that remembers what information teachers need to see, even when they look up information on different devices. Adobe Experience Cloud apps will also help ACARA expand its experiences beyond the Australian Curriculum site to reach all stakeholders looking for any type of curriculum, assessment or reporting information.
“Adobe Experience Cloud gives us the features that we need to add analytics, drive personalisation and build experiences for everyone across our digital ecosystem,” says Fraser. “We can build journeys for everyone, including parents, students and the general public, to make education clearer and more accessible for all.”