The joint effort, driven by Torrens University, is a significant move by Australian higher education institutions, now collaborating to address some challenges currently facing high school students.
Torrens University Australia President Linda Brown says it demonstrates the sector is at a critical juncture – one where institutions need to lean in and become truly open.
“This is a time when higher education must collaborate, open our doors and network,” Brown says.
“Where once we worked in our own silos, this is when we have to come together and build confidence in high school students about their future.”
Virtual collaboration to support young Australians
The 2020 Virtual Careers Expo is designed to offer an experience similar to what Year 12 students encounter at careers expos in their cities.
“The guiding principle here is that this year’s Year 11 and 12 students will be experiencing a significant gap in information access because of cancellations,” Brown says.
“Normally the students would attend an expo and be presented with 80 or 90 higher education institutions exhibiting. The students would walk around, guided by their interests and talk to people they feel can give them information for their future.”
“But now we will have a platform that allows those interactions to take place online. Not just that, it will have a national focus.”
Year 12 is arguably one of the most important years of a young Australian adult’s life. It is not just the culmination of high school education. It is also the year final exams that are widely regarded as setting students up for the rest of their lives and their future. The pressure is enormous.
Right now, many students and their families are feeling an extraordinary pressure amplified by coronavirus. There is uncertainty about school closures, practical investigations, the spontaneity of face to face language classes and more. Students are already nervous about the impact on Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores – or even if their exams will go ahead.
Their future lies in the hands of the Federal Government’s Education Minister and his country’s state and territory counterparts who are currently in dialogue about whether exams should go ahead or ATAR scores adjusted to account for disruptions.
The cancellation of events, which allow students to assess their future and stay focused on entering career pathways would remove an important source of empowerment for the students.
For Torrens University and our partners, providing the 2020 Virtual Careers Expo will be critical to ensuring that the young adults feel confident and supported, despite the disruptions and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
“As community leaders, we must be focused on care and hope. And hope is looking to the future and helping potential students plan to skill up and be in control of their choices,” Linda Brown says.
Participating institutions include the University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales, Charles Sturt University, Monash University and James Cook University, along with a host of vocational providers and private colleges.
The Festival will take place on the 7th and 8th of May and is expected to attract thousands of students from across Australia.
The Vice Chancellor of Torrens University, Professor Alwyn Louw says taking the experience online should not be considered out of the ordinary.
“This is the new norm,” Professor Louw said.
“At Torrens University, all our students are already immersed in the reality of a fully integrated online environment.
“So at the Virtual Careers Expo, Year 12 students will be engaging with us, the way they would if they are already our students.”
Linda Brown says students and their parents will have rich experiences exploring campuses online.
“They will be able to interact. They will be able to view video content,” she says.
They can get a feel of our campuses through guided tours online, just as they would be able to do in a physical expo. Right now we are also looking at how we can replicate the virtual reality gadgets students explore at physical expos.”
Beyond the experience of websites
But in this age of all Year 12 students being digital natives and ubiquity of higher education websites, why can’t year the final year high school students simply explore their options online?
Linda Brown says the importance of assessing career options and moving from institution to institution, side by side cannot be underestimated.
“The website is static content. So they will click on a website. They will go through and read a few pages. What a website doesn’t have is the element of presentation and display,” Brown says.
“At the Virtual Career Expo, students will watch the live presentation, just as in a physical expo.
“Each will have something ‘really cool’ to show. Each will have the opportunity to ‘govern the floor’ and present to a live audience.’
“There will also be an inclusive parents section, where they can come and talk through their options or their concerns with us and with the other institutions.
Such is the anticipated demand, that the organizers are not taking any chances with capacity.
“The expo platform itself will hold 5000 concurrent attendees. We will however allocate timeslots for special presentations,” Linda Brown says.
“We do that by state and by regions so that schools are aware when they should be on the platforms.
“This will ensure there is no drop in quality or user-experience.”
More than 50 institutions are participating in the virtual careers expo, including Torrens University (Qld, NSW, Vic, SA), University of Wollongong (NSW), University of New South Wales (NSW), Monash University (Vic), University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide (SA), Deakin University (Vic), RMIT (Vic), Macquarie University (NSW), University of Canberra (ACT), Charles Sturt University (NSW), Charles Darwin University (NT), Bond University (QLD), University of Tasmania, Murdoch University (WA), Curtin University (WA), Australian Catholic University (Vic, SA, NSW, Qld, ACT), Federation University (Vic), Flinders University (SA), Central Queensland University, Defence Force Recruiting, TAFE and Macleay College (Vic), along with a host of vocational providers and private colleges.