News & Analysis

Sydney startup Smart Sparrow partners with Deakin University to enhance online education

- August 22, 2016 3 MIN READ
Smart Sparrow

Deakin University has become the first Australian university to adopt Inspark courseware, powered by Sydney startup Smart Sparrow, to deliver students digitally enhanced education. Instead of traditional teaching tools, Smart Sparrow looks to tailor each student’s lesson to their needs and abilities through adaptive learning experiences.

Deakin deputy vice-chancellor for education Professor Beverley Oliver said Deakin’s adoption of Inspark courseware will help ensure that students’digital study experiences are more engaging and rewarding than learning in traditional modes.

“At Deakin, we adopt new learning tools, including digital tools, when we see that they can make learning more effective and engaging, so that our students can have a brilliant education where they are and whatever their circumstances,” Oliver said.

“This is particularly important for our growing numbers of students who choose to learn completely online.”

Smart Sparrow has also received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further increase its distribution to more than one million undergraduates. Smart Sparrow allows students to engage with studies through interactive and game-like courses that require logic and reasoning to solve problems. Through built in analytics, teachers are able to access gaps in students’ abilities and can address them straight away.

The latest research for students studying higher forms of education reveals that online courses for students under the age of 25 is increasing in popularity. A report found that postgraduate degrees now constitute 13.8 percent of the online education market, with undergraduate courses claiming 11.3 percent. Distance learning in Australia is now offered by some of the most prestigious universities including, Deakin University, Curtin University, Central Queensland University and also University of New England.

Deakin has more than 53,000 enrolled students, with almost a quarter studying online. The opportunities of the digital age have widened the access to education and lowered the barriers to entry. For many students current approaches not only to teaching science, but many other fields of study are still based on the memorisation of facts. In general, this form of teaching may not result in the best outcomes for all students, which is why investing into new adaptive teaching technologies is important for improving learning behaviour.

As trends towards upskilling increases due to technological advances, Australia is seeing a rapid increase in edutech startups offering online learning. Startups like Academy Xi, Codeacademy, 3P Learning and of course Smart Sparrow look to familiarise students with external learning and upskill those who already have established careers.

CEO of Smart Sparrow Dror Ben-Naim said he is passionate about how higher education can be improved.

“For too long, science has been taught as a collection of facts, rather than a process of exploration that inspires critical thinking. With Inspark courses, instructors are able to leverage adaptive technology and dynamic course content to help students learn through exploration, and ultimately succeed,” he said.

“We are very pleased to partner with Deakin University to bring the Inspark Science Network to our home country.”

In September last year, Smart Sparrow partnered with OpenLearning to create customisable and personal courses. The partnership saw Smart Sparrow’s adaptive learning technology integrated into the OpenLearning platform and has been used by educational institutions including UNSW, University of Canberra and even companies around the US, Europe and Australia with students from over 180 countries studying OpenLearning courses.

The new partnership with Deakin University will allow Smart Sparrow to bring the Inspark Network into digitally powered university courses. Two Inspark Network courses, HabWorlds and BioBeyond, will be rolled out to Deakin science students in the University’s third trimester this year. The adoption of both courses has become part of the University’s investment into improving student learning.

“We believe that Inspark is pioneering a revolutionary approach to the teaching of science, which has broad implications for teaching and learning across other disciplines,” said Oliver.

“We are excited to leverage this work and equip our teaching staff with next-generation tools to help our students succeed.”  

Image: Dror Ben-Naim. Source: Supplied.