A snapshot of what we have been doing, finding and testing

During 2020, Learning Creates established and set up the pre-conditions for a National Social Lab which launched in October 2020.

As well as the development of the Lab and the tools to support it, we spent several months engaging key stakeholders in the ecosystem, aggregating research, and identifying existing innovations and exemplary practices through various forums, campaigns and events.

All of these engagements have been held digitally, mainly due to COVID-19.

The preparation and engagement process around the Lab has been constant and involved a co-design process bringing people together from different sectors and life experiences to ensure that we have a thorough basis of insights, questions, problems, theoretical tools and ideas to draw from.

Following is an outline of the different engagement findings, activities and tools we have developed – all of which will inform the Lab and enable teams to confidently respond to the Lab challenge question. 

From May to September 2020 we engaged with more than 460 diverse perspectives including:

Young people through forums, social media campaigns and DIY toolkits
First Nations leaders and educators
Policy makers, employers, community members and tertiary providers
School principals, teachers, parents, and mentors


Important things raised

During a number of forums, round-tables, engagement sessions and conversations we have seen a number of patterns emerge that we have collectively tried to address. We recognise the work is complex and continually evolving in response to feedback.


The big opportunity around equity

Equity is a key driver and principle of our work. We believe that designing solutions that meet the needs of learners facing barriers to learning within the system will enable a better system of recognition for all learners.

‘Shift the conversation away from a deficit narrative. So many students are categorised as ‘disadvantaged’, ‘low SES’ or ‘alternate’. Instead of being viewed as people.’ - Discussion forum

The perception that we could be replicating work already done
The Learner’s Journey project will recognise, learn from and extend the work of others rather than replicating what is there. Together we are connecting and amplifying existing promising ideas and innovations and celebrating success.

The importance of trust
We will be working with partner communities to build trusted relationships and a shared value exchange. Community partners will act as our first port of call to further understand, develop and test portfolios of ideas that emerge from The Learner’s Journey Social Lab within a real world setting. They will help to ensure the work is grounded in local context, privileges communities faced with complex vulnerabilities and values their experience as experts in their own community.

 ‘We need to design a product that collectively we trust. Who needs to trust it to enable improved learner journeys?’ - Discussion forum

Placing the learner at the centre and learner agency
Learning Creates places learners and their communities at the centre of the work and the process - not just as beneficiaries, but as leaders of the work.

Feedback from young people in the Lab and forums so far has given the broader team confidence that young people have co-designed the approach.

During the pre-conditions phase of the Learner’s Journey, learner agency has been brought to life. Developing agency means that learners are actively part of the process of creating a better future for themselves and others. They are personally invested in this future and prepared to devise goals and back themselves to achieve them.

‘Education was not ‘introduced’ it already existed.’ - Hayley McQuire: This Learning Life

Support for new ways to recognise learning
Overwhelmingly, young people have pointed out that having education goals and subjects with marks and scores to indicate success is not working as a way to indicate what they see as a measure of success.

Engagement to date has strongly revealed that young people want to demonstrate what they know and can do, and they want this to be recognised so they can build the confidence to navigate their future.

The technical reality and challenge ahead
Through the Social Lab, we will be prototyping key innovations that will be required for the development of a suite of products including new assessments, new metrics, new standards, and ultimately new credentials powering the recognition of learners’ journeys.

Australia will have new standards for how we define success that are robust and viable. We are mindful that this requires cultural change as well as changes in the mechanisms to embrace a new form of recognition.

We understand that metrics used in assessment and recognition of learning and in national monitoring are complex, and that it is essential to involve individuals and partners with different experiences of success.

The methodology will integrate the thinking of technical experts, so that solutions are prototyped, modelled, and stress-tested, ensuring that they are feasible and fair, and that they meet the demanding quality standards required of various stakeholders.

‘Online courses that emphasise skill development, flexibility, and lifelong learning will play a critical role in the future of education.’ - Educator: Sentiment Analysis

Learner Profile as a container
During the Social Lab process Learner Profiles will be considered as a container of information that reflects a learner’s journey and experiences. Learner Profiles are digital documents that showcase the entirety of what a young person has learned - inside and outside of formal education experiences.

Measurement and Evaluation Framework

We have partnered with The RAND Corporation to conduct an evaluation of the Social Lab process. This objective of this evaluation is to document the Social Lab process, describe its successes, and help us to refine and improve the experience in order to maximise its potential for larger social impacts.

Living Knowledge Base

We have built a digital and visual database of insights that have been gathered from scheduled events where diverse groups and individuals have discussed topics and asked questions like - what do we think success in learning would look like?
Discussions have included young people, parents, policy leaders and educators.

Sentiment Analysis highlights

What is the public discussing online about education?

Early in 2020, Learning Creates commissioned a sentiment analysis conducted by Quantium Research.

While not representative of all communities, the sentiment analysis enables Learning Creates partners, governments and collaborators to better access and understand current community insights being expressed through social and online forums about education, before and during the global pandemic (COVID-19).

Insights have been collected and collated from educators, parents and young people, drawn from over 3.7million twitter (from 284K users) and select social media posts.

Communities focussed on topics including assessment (1 in 4 tweets were about this topic), ways of learning and learning outcomes, with educators being the most active group on Twitter. Educators tweeted approximately 38 times a year compared to 15 times a year for all users in Australia who posted about education.

Some of our findings so far are below. Further insights will be collected during 2020 as the global pandemic unfolds and continues to impact parents, educators and young people.


Educators reach for new ways of assessment whilst young people discuss the need for help and support.

Ways of learning

Parents are much less focussed on teaching methods (eg. online or digital) than educators. Instead parents focus on how to drive great learning.

Learning outcomes

Educators and young people focus on future skills while parents focus on the importance of the curriculum and young people discuss the value of research.

Some of the key insights generated to date:

fantastic. exciting. inspired.

In general, educators expressed more joy and surprise than parents and young people using words such as fantastic, exciting, inspired:

hate. scared. horrible.

Parents expressed more disgust and anger than educators and young people using words such as hate, scared and horrible.

health. culture. community.

First Nations communities discussed education on Twitter in relation to the above words and themes. Language was a key part of the discussions with the word language used once for every 13 tweets, nearly half of which specifically discussed Indigenous languages.

anxious. scared.

And young people expressed more fear than educators and parents using words such as anxious and scared.

During the height of the move from school learning to online learning during the pandemic, 1 in 2 tweets focussed on students experiencing disadvantage and mentioned ‘access’.

On top of this:

  • Educators want change across every topic with the word new used in nearly 1 in ten tweets. Educators from rural and regional areas discussed system change 1.5 times more than educators in metropolitan areas.
  • Parents focussed on learning in the context of assessment and those from regional areas discussed learning outcomes more than those from metropolitan areas.
  • Young people have a wider outlook than other groups using the word world and future more than educators and parents.

"Our perception of “learning” is shaped by our ATAR, our rank in the school we attend and other factors such as employment opportunities available to us in the future. This is what we’re often told success looks like - but is it?"

Farahnaz Asad Ullah: This Learning Life



What are some of the shifts in thinking around education due to COVID-19?

stress. uncertain.

In 2020, the proportion of online learning tweets using the word stress doubled compared to the same time the previous year with 1 in 5 tweets relating to stress also using the word uncertain.

There has been an increase in discussions on education related topics sparked by COVID-19 with a peak in March 2020 which co-coincided with rapid developments and restrictions around how we live, learn and work during the pandemic. Interestingly, discussions during the pandemic have become more mainstream with increased public engagement.

Discussions also shifted towards online learning (specifically) with 5.8% of tweets in 2020 relating to this topic during COVID-19 compared to the previous year (only 2.7%).