This has not been the year that any of us expected it to be. Few of us would choose to relive it, but it is worth reflecting on the remarkable level of resilience, adaptation and collaboration that got us all through it. As the year closes and we eagerly set our sights on an almost normal Term 1, 2021, we wanted to pause and consider what has been achieved, despite all the challenges.
At the end of 2019, Compass co-founder and CEO John de la Motte suggested that the Compass team would spend the next year focused on “analytics, improved parent communication and experiences, the mobile app and an updated brand and logo”. While things certainly didn’t go as planned, this has still largely been the case - with all the inevitable ‘pivoting’ along the way.
Most importantly, we could not have achieved any of this without school communities: your invaluable feedback, thoughts and suggestions have shaped all that we have done this year, and we’re proud to have been in the position to support you.
With all that said, let’s take a look at what we got up to in 2020.
It wasn’t just the COVID-19 pandemic that caused substantial challenges for school communities. The 2019/20 bushfire season had a devastating impact across the country, and it was impossible not to be haunted by the images that emerged from regions that had been impacted.
One of our first acts at the start of Term One, 2020 was to offer free school photo reprints to families who had been affected, in collaboration with our school photography partners at MSP. As we said at the time, “it’s only a small gesture, but it’s one we hope families who have been affected by the devastation will find meaningful.”
March was the month when everything changed. As the reality of the pandemic hit, there was little time to plan or prepare; it was also not entirely clear what was happening, especially as far as schools were concerned.
While the entire Compass team switched to remote working by mid-March, school communities across the country were still receiving conflicting advice on remote teaching and learning. This was a matter that parents and carers quickly took into their own hands, and by March 24th Compass’ own data was cited in the Australian Financial Review and other publications as evidence that absenteeism had increased substantially as students were kept at home. Indeed we recorded that, absenteeism hit almost 50% across the country on Monday, March 23rd.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this led to a significant rise in automated SMS absence notifications being sent, with our Operations team responding instantly to increase the capacity of our notification system. Meanwhile, a large number of schools began to use our Learning Tasks module to assign classwork to students remotely, with a webinar dedicated to using Compass for remote teaching and learning attended by over 500 users.
In March we also launched our Compass Schools Community group on Facebook, which proved to be an invaluable tool for connecting with Compass users directly during this period and beyond.
By the end of March, across all Australian states and territories, schools had switched to either remote teaching or a hybrid model with a limited number of students in classrooms. As such, in April we refocused our product roadmap in order to support schools in using Compass for this purpose. Updates included:
With the start of Term 2 in April, we saw use of Compass climb to six times the previous peak while over 90,000 activities were created within our Learning Tasks module per week. This made us the most used SIS platform for supporting remote education in Australia, according to Pivot (an appropriate name, considering the circumstances).
Finally, a month after we made the papers for recording a record level of school absenteeism, in April we found that there were "record low levels of absenteeism in Victoria and Queensland" with online learning.
In May we continued our focus on increasing functionality within Learning Tasks with our most significant update to the module since its initial release, Compass Discussions.
Discussions allows students and their teachers to have conversations in a forum-like environment within Compass. Teachers can instigate classwide discussions on topics without requiring all participants to be online at the same time, while students can seek clarity from teachers and their classmates on coursework.
After the release of Discussions at the end of May, we saw a large number of schools adopt the feature - many of whom have continued to use it beyond remote teaching for extracurricular activities.
We also had to find new ways to reach school communities. While in 2019 we attended, sponsored and organised a plethora of events and conferences, including our own Compass Catch-ups for clients, the pandemic forced us to go digital this year - with impressive results. Our inaugural Compass Connect webinar was attended by school leaders from across the country, featuring an overview of the Compass roadmap for the year ahead and a demonstration of the Compass product.
In keeping with our commitment to finding new ways of reaching school communities during the pandemic (and beyond), in July we launched our monthly Product Update Blog and relaunched the Compass Newsletter.
Items covered in our first Product Update Blog and newsletter included:
With events back on the agenda for our team in WA, the first ever WA Compass Huddle was held at the end of July. Kindly hosted by Bob Hawke College, the Huddle brought together over 50 school leaders in the state to share ideas and best practice for managing wellbeing issues through Compass.
After the success of our first webinar, we decided to organise another, this time designed to promote contact-free school communities through the use of our Course Confirmations module. Representatives from nearly 400 schools discovered how their school communities near year enrolments process COVID-safe.
Our August newsletter and Product Update Blog were also packed with updates to the product, including:
In September we launched Compass Pulse, our data visualisation and insights module. Compass Pulse is our brand new data visualisation and insights module. Get the inside scoop on the story behind Pulse with this exclusive guest blog from Catherine Elliot-Jones, General Manager of Data and Analytics at Compass.
We also continued to release updates and new functionality, as documented in September’s Product Update Blog:
With the new school year in our sights, we turned our attention to assisting schools in enabling parents and carers get the most out of Compass - especially if they’re new to the school community.
Compass Schools’ Consultant Jeremy Johnston wrote a blog with tips for engaging parents and carers, and we launched a brand new animated video to encourage parents and carers to begin using Compass.
Meanwhile, the Product team released two substantial updates to existing modules, Compass Meetings and Learning Tasks Categories.
Learning Tasks Categories allows teachers to assign tasks into one of five categories (‘Assessment’, ‘Assignment’, ‘General’, ‘Homework’, ‘Practice Task’); in turn, staff, parents and students can filter their list of tasks via the category that has been assigned.
Compass Meetings allows staff to choose from a range of custom meeting templates to create an entry to explain why a student isn't in their regular class, while simultaneously updating the student’s attendance data.
Discover more about each on October’s Product Update Blog.
Finally we've finished off the year with a big move: we have a brand new HQ in Melbourne that we're excited to head back to in the new year - after nearly a year of working remotely, we can't wait to get back for an even bigger 2021.