Enabling the Australian Early Childhood Census to translate data into meaningful insights

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When data integrity is a crucial aspect for the Department of Education

Every 3 years the Department of Education conducts a census on every student in Australia in their first year of schooling. The survey consists of over 170 multiple choice questions for teachers to complete for each of their students. This information is then used to map different measurement domains and geographical areas nationally. The census is initiated from the state level and consists of multiple workflows for a different range of user types. The census itself is run over a 3 month period and collects census information for over 320,000 students across the country. We've designed a custom application to provide seamless management of each workflow required to complete this project successfully.


Designing a nation wide school registration experience

The initial workflow for the application was for a representative of each school to register and activate their school from a communication received from the Department of Education. This communication was in the form of both a printed letter and an email, sent to the school and the principal. The registration of the school, although simple in its requirements, was previously identified as one of the hardest sections to engage the user and complete accurately. A lot of time was spent designing an intuitive workflow that was obvious and expected to reduce end user confusion and increase engagement. 

Teacher activation

Once a school had completed their registration workflow, registered teachers would receive an email asking that they activate their account and prepare their class list. This workflow was fairly small in size; however, critical to the success of the project as this workflow engaged and activated the largest user group and also the user group that would be completing the census. Once activated and a security account created, teachers would either have to enter their students, or if already completed by the school, just select from an existing list of students to create their "Class List".

Seamless invoicing experience

A vital part of the census was the schools' ability to quickly and easily create an accurate invoice for reimbursement for completing the Australian Early Development Census. The reimbursement invoice was defined by a set of rules from the Department of Education and allowed schools to claim a certain amount of money per completed census, as well as certain amount of money for each teacher who completed the training and for each teacher requiring the assistance of an Indigenous Cultural Consultant (ICC).

Accuracy matters

During the project and after its completion, there was a need for significant amounts of data analysis and exports. These exports included survey responses, workflow progress, engagement measurements, and completion predictions. We designed these export processes. Some of them required heavy data analysis through inherent knowledge of the application and the ability to interpret the data with that knowledge. This was identified as a key component attributing to exceeding the target completion rates in each state, and also the overall success of the project.

The challenges

One of the primary challenges with this project was having to meet some of the legislated privacy requirements, including the de-identification of students in certain states.

Part of Websilk’s role was to validate the data provided by each state's coordinator for each school and its children. This required the development of many database validation scripts and algorithms to ensure the data was rational, de-duplicated and met mandatory requirements (including valid formats like email address as an example).

As with any project this size, scope is ever changing with each iteration the client views. Although this is quite a normal occurrence in most Agile projects (and almost the point of an Agile workflow), it does not work so well when there is a fixed timeline, budget and minimum set of requirements that are legislated.

Managing expectations and working on a staged release strategy instead, allowed us to find a happy medium between scope change and delivering quality software each time with little to no regression bugs.