$1M Experiential Learning Innovation Grants Program to help >100,000 young people build employability skills

Australian edtech startup Practera has distributed more than $550,000 in in-kind grants to 16 Australian Universities to accelerate online experiential learning programs through Covid.

Across 2 rounds in March and May 2020 Practera’s Experiential Learning Innovation Grants program has supported 26 projects at 12 Universities with the potential to benefit more than 100,000 learners through its platform technology. 

The program aims to help University educators continue to innovate valuable experiential learning programs in the face of Covid-19 resource constraints and challenges. Practera will commit $1M in support through this program in 2020, with the next round in August / September.

Angie Knaggs, Senior Educational Designer in the UQ Faculty of Business, Economics and Law received a round 1 grant to work with Practera to develop a Faculty Capstone program – Learning by Doing in a Disruptive World. She said “We had already determined that Practera was the right platform for this flagship program, which is a highly applied, interdisciplinary and team based unit with strong industry engagement, feedback loops and project based collaboration. It was obviously however a challenging time to request funds for new technology, so from our perspective the grant came at just the right time to enable us to move forward. The design & configuration project is underway and the Practera team are great to work with – we appreciate their investment in our program!”

Round 2 projects funded 16 projects across 12 Universities worth $317,000, and included;

  • University of Adelaide; Adaptive Trade Leadership executive education program
  • Macquarie University; HDR career mentoring program
  • University of Melbourne; reflection & micro-credentialing system for global mobility
  • SCU, Kaher Institute & India partners; professional placement nurse mentoring for Indian nursing graduates
  • WSU ‘Venture Makers’; whole of University innovation & entrepreneurship industry accelerator
  • QUT; Transdisciplinary curriculum embedded industry project program
  • RMIT; in curriculum virtual projects for Business & Engineering
  • UWA; digital industry projects
  • UQ; WEF 21C Skills Career Decidedness Program
  • University of Canberra; virtual internships & industry project platform
  • La Trobe University; cross-faculty innovation & entrepreneurship skills accelerator
  • VU Business School; choose your own adventure’ career planner

Round 1 committed $250,000 in a first round of in-kind support for the following 10 projects;

  • UQ BEL Faculty Capstone, Learning by Doing in a Disruptive World
  • Nurse mentoring for Southern Cross University School of Health & Human Sciences 
  • Virtual student projects with ECU School of Business & Law, University of Adelaide School of the Professions, and UNSW Business School
  • 10x Program alumni mentoring with UNSW Entrepreneurship
  • Work simulations for the University of Sydney Business School
  • International alumni mentoring for the University of Sydney

If you want to learn more about our products, please get in touch. We are looking forward to having a chat!


Beau Leese

Co-Founder & co-CEO, Practera


Mob. 0433 262 855

Practera platform allowed learning to go on during virus shutdown

A version of this article about our Practera programs was first published in The Australian on 19 Feb 2020.

Around Australia, Universities are currently responding to a serious challenge – how to support the international students – predominantly from China – whose commencement has been impacted by novel Coronavirus. As of the first week of February, 106,680 Chinese international students with visas to study at universities and schools remain stuck outside Australia, – 56% of the entire cohort. Estimates of the potential adverse economic impact on Australia currently range from $3 – $8 billion.

Projects Programs supporting the majority of Australian Universities

Edtech startup Practera is currently supporting more than 20 Australian Universities and a number of State Governments to provide industry project experiences with hundreds of Australian employers to thousands of international students. However this year, a substantial proportion of the participating students – more than 20% – have been impacted by Coronavirus travel restrictions.

Davina Potts, Associate Director Careers, Employability & Global Learning at Melbourne University has a number of impacted students participating in Study Melbourne’s Live Projects program. Live Projects is a 3 week industry project experience where students work to solve a challenge for an Australian business, government or community organisation. It ordinarily involves both in-person meetings and online collaboration. Davina said that “Work Integrated Learning experiences like Live Projects help our students develop invaluable, authentic Australian workplace experience. We were pleased that the Practera platform was able to be quickly reconfigured to support a high quality online only WIL experience for our impacted international students.”

GET A FREE DEMO TODAY – call 0449 192 291 or message programs@practera.com

A focus on student experience and industry engagement

Monash University Commerce student and Study Melbourne Student Ambassador Yi Su, arrived in Australia just hours before the travel ban was put into place and decided to self-quarantine. From her home in Melbourne’s suburbs, she is working collaboratively with her team of Chinese students at home in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, and stuck in a hotel room in Bangkok to complete their project for an Australian tech startup. Yi Su – “It is a very challenging time, and I am grateful that we have been offered a solution for students who can’t be here in person. This virtual Live Project allows my peers and I to improve our employability skills and practice online collaboration by engaging in a real project with an Australian company. Our client and mentor have been really encouraging and supportive of our situation.”

Industry clients and mentors have been keen to support the students. Yi Su’s team Mentor Li Zhang is the CEO of the Australia-China Economic Trade & Investment Expo (ACETIE) “I have been trying to be extra supportive to the team who are working hard and are grateful to be able to complete this project. I’ve been emphasising that the future of work will demand transnational online collaboration, and therefore this was a great experience to work collaboratively in a digital environment to deliver a great project outcome.”

Practera online learning at equivalent quality to face to face models

Hayley Bolding, Practera Executive Director ANZ and her team have been working with customers like Davina around Australia to respond to the evolving situation. Hayley said, “The flexibility of our technology platform has allowed us to adapt the program seamlessly to an online environment, replacing in-person elements with virtual ones. We’re confident in making adjustments as our technology has been demonstrated to enable delivery of online project based learning at equivalent quality to face to face models. Our engineering team including members in China, have been able to work quickly to ensure Practera is configured to support an high quality user experience in mainland China”

In NSW, Careers Service Manager, Lucinda Crossley-Meates from the University of Sydney Business School, manages Job Smart, the Business’ School’s award winning digitally enabled employability program for international students. She is facing a similar challenge, how to adapt to engage and support incoming students in the face of travel restrictions and delays. “Working together with a technology partner like Practera shows how we can flexibly overcome significant challenges to support our international students. Using innovative models like online projects and work simulations in our Job Smart program, the University of Sydney Business School is preparing to support the student experience for our students whose commencement may be impacted. Practera is helping us with optionality for our planning to meet a range of scenarios.”

If you want to GET A DEMO or learn more about how you can offer our projects to your students, reach out directly to Hayley Bolding, Executive Director, Practera Australia & New Zealand (M. 0449 192 291) or learn more on our projects programs website.

Practera Nano Projects: How we run successful team-based industry projects for students – 100% online

We often see surprised faces when we talk about our success in partnering with universities to provide our Nano Projects: full-service authentic work experiences for their students – 100% online and at the lowest cost in the market. That’s why we decided to write about how it works and what the experience is like for students, participating industry partners and universities.

Practera is collaborating with 20 Australian Universities to provide online project experiences, a unique experiential learning opportunity that matches student teams to industry partners, to thousands of domestic and international students.

In their team, each students is expected to spend about 25h of effort to solve a real business challenge described in their project brief.

By offering these guided 3-week industry projects, students learn critical 21st century employability skills like communication, teamwork and problem solving and start building their professional network.

The projects are sourced from hundreds of Australian employers, who provide direct feedback on the student deliverables. Because of the short duration, we call these short-term, high-impact online experiences “Nano Projects”.

For example, we have a team of Chinese students who are at home in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dalian, which will complete their project with an Australian company virtually, guided and facilitated by their Practera app.

Due to our large network of industry providers, we are able to provide Nano Projects that are relevant to the student’s degree or major.


Innovative technology is the secret to success

The Nano Projects, as well as all of our other services and programs, are delivered via our experiential learning technology platform. The flexibility the platform has allowed us to transform traditional projects into our Nano Projects format, replacing in-person elements with virtual ones and adapting the program seamlessly to an online environment.

Program coordinators are able to monitor and keep track of everyone’s learning experience through the Practera administrator interface. Data analytics and automated recommendations on how to improve participant satisfaction and learning outcomes give educators the super powers needed to manage and quality assure large online cohorts.

Based on experiential learning pedagogy and backed by research

Due to our recent research of the quality of online project based learning, we know how to make these changes while preserving the authenticity and educational value of the experience in online projects. By analysing more than 200 projects, were able to prove that these experiences are pedagogically sound and of the same quality than comparable in-person project based learning experiences. Our “Quality in online Project-based Learning” research white paper is available for free and was presented at ACEN conference in 2018.

Nano Projects – A simple, scalable solution for higher education providers

“Practera is an innovative technology and programs partners for the University of Melbourne in delivering experiential learning. Practera have delivered online and in person projects for hundreds of students across faculties with outstanding results.”

Dr. Davina Potts
Director Global Leadership and Employability University of Melbourne

We offer Nano Projects as a full-service product. Additionally to the technology, which hosts any of our experiential learning experiences, we provide 5 key services to enable a truly end-to-end solution without extra effort for university customers.

Client sourcing & matching: We source real, authentic clients who provide us with project briefs. You can choose the discipline and our team of experts ensures that all projects are appropriate for your students.

Content & platform: Throughout their project, your students will be guided by high quality content delivered through the Practera mobile interface. Pre-defined milestones, activities and tasks ensure that student teams know what to do and when to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Participant support: Each project is supported by dedicated Practera support staff who ensure that teams and project clients are on track. Our support staff consists of educators and practitioners with years of experience in delivering experiential learning programs.

Digital Certificate: At the end of every project, all participants receive a digital certificate.

Reporting & Quality Assurance: Our expert program coordinators ensure the quality of each experience by monitoring and proactively nudging students towards successful project outcomes. At the conclusion of each experience, a cohort report of all your participating students is provided to you and your team.

“Practera has delivered high quality, industry engaged project programs for the Business School at reasonable cost, both in curriculum and extracurricular. Practera has been a trusted, reliable partner for more than 5 years.”

Lucinda Crossley-Meates
Manager, University of Sydney, Business School Careers & Employability Office

Success in numbers

In 2019, we have successfully provided Nano projects to more than 2,000 students from most of Australia’s universities. Our satisfaction ratings from students, industry clients and university customers are constantly exceeding expectations.

With >90% engagement and completion rates for these often extra-curricular activities, we are proud to have created a successful offer to systematically build students work experience, 21st century skills and professional networks alongside study.

For 2020, we are on track to triple the number of students in our Programs and hope to collaborate with you soon.

Get started today

If you are interested in our Nano Projects for your students at small, medium or large scale, please feel free to reach out to us: programs@practera.com or visit our programs page.

Note: All our programs can be run in-house as well, we are happy to teach you the ropes and provide access to the Practera platform to give you and your colleagues the super powers needed to effectively and efficiently create, deliver and quality assure your experiential learning programs.

Christmas Newsletter 2019

As 2019 draws to a close the Practera team wish you and your families a happy festive season and bright 2020. We’ve had an awesome 2019 and hope you have too.


Enabling inspiring experiential learning programs

We’re very proud that in 2019 we helped more educators deliver high quality experiential learning to more to students and professionals than ever before. We doubled our customer base in Australia, US and Canada, now including >60% of Australian Universities. Some highlights include;

The University of Sydney won a prestigious AFR Higher Education award for the Job Smart employability program powered by Practera, which has helped improve employment outcomes of more than 10,000 students by 300% 

Practera has been adopted for professional development applications by US thought leaders Northeastern University and Institute for Experiential Learning

7 Universities piloted a new low cost, high quality digital ‘nano project’ model, which grew from 0 – 1,000 students and will be adopted by 20 Universities for 2020 – download the research

Boston University expanded its transnational health development projects program to 17 developing countries in Africa, Central and South America

Practera is enabling Study Perth to provide digital employability experiences and micro-credentialing for 50,000 international students in Western Australia – see a product demo here

4 Australian State Governments are using Practera to break down employability barriers with authentic 3-week industry projects to >1000 globally diverse students from 25 Universities with >150 employers

Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre Association adopted Practera as its experiential learning platform to enhance University-industry R&D collaboration

Redfern Legal Centre have launched a ground breaking legal information resource on Practera for NSW’s 260,000 international students in 7 languages – see a demo

If you are looking to strengthen or setup an experiential learning program, we would be happy to help!


Building the worlds leading platform for experiential learning

Rolling out ELSA, our first generation AI product. Experiential Learning Support Assistance automatically detects the most common issues and helps you resolve these with recommended actions, templates and smart tracking- see it in action

Winning a $2M grant to develop world leading student data privacy & security capability to keep your student’s data secure

If you would like to get a demo of Practera, just let us know!


The team behind our success

We’re super proud of our diverse team living our values in 6 countries around the world;

In 2019 we expanded to 4 Australian offices to better serve our customers, appointing new leaders Suzy Watson in Perth and Jamie Ford in Brisbane

Megan Underwood had a massive year, promoted to VP Canada, opening our Canada office and announced as a Global Learning 30under30 leader

Beenish Sami was promoted to Director of Engineering

Co-founder Suzy Watson was named as an Austrade Women in Tech finalist for 2019

Fun fact; 70% of our team are female from leadership team down and 70% culturally and linguistically diverse – a key contributor to our success


What we write, publish and present at events and conferences

Practera’s state based projects program was a finalist at the QS-Wharton Reimagine awards, our Skills Passport module won best in show at the Canadian e-learning conference, finalist at the Study NSW international education awards

Next year catch us at the following range of global conferences; APAIE (Canada), GIC (Canada), ACEN (Australia), AIEC (Australia), NAGCAS (Australia), ASU-GSV (US), LearnLaunch (US)

We are excited about how experiential learning will change the way we teach and how it will prepare the next generation of learners for the future of work.

If you’d like to learn more or discuss your experiential learning program please contact us

Practera Projects Programs Shortlisted for the Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Award

We are extremely proud to announce that our “Projects Programs” for Business Students have been shortlisted for the Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Nurturing Employability Award. Up against over 1500 applications from educational innovators from 39 countries we convinced the judges with our proven results of more than 3,000 students who boosted their employability skills through our programs.


Practera’s Projects Programs are offered to all Australian and US Higher Education institutions and help educators to prepare their students for the future of work with authentic and relevant industry projects, without compromising on quality of learning outcomes. 

The projects, which are sourced from Practera’s extensive network of project providers, give students the opportunity to participate in short, team-based experiential learning. Participants work with an industry professional on their real world problem, find solutions and present the findings to their client. Students frequently mention and demonstrate immense improvements in critical 21st century skills like critical thinking, complex problem solving, teamwork and communication.

If you’d like to learn more about Practera’s Projects Program offerings and how you could enrol your students in on of our full-service programs, please get in touch with Hayley Bolding, Executive Director of Programs hayley@practera.com

Practera will showcase their Business Projects Program to over 600 educational leaders at the 2019 Reimagine Education Conference in London, England this December 9th & 10th.

Edtech Startup Practera opens Perth office

Experiential learning startup Practera will open a Perth office to work more closely with customers in WA, including making the Practera platform available to all 50,000 international students through StudyPerth’s “Employability Perth” initiative.

Speaking at the 2019 Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) in Perth today, StudyPerth Executive Director Philip Payne said, “Through digital technologies, we are aiming to put Employability at the heart of the Perth International student value proposition – demonstrating that Perth is not just a great place to live and learn, but to launch global careers.” 

Practera will deliver a ‘Welcome to Perth’ orientation experience, Peer Mentoring ‘Buddy’ program and a Skills Passport eportfolio & microcredential platform.

Practera’s COO and Co-Founder Suzy Watson, a Perth expat, UWA Science and Curtin Accounting alumna, and a 2019 Australian Women in Tech finalist, is relocating to Perth to spearhead local operations following 12 years in Sydney. 

At AIEC, Watson spoke about Practera’s involvement in providing the technology to power scalable micro-credentialling & employability initiatives for international students with Study Perth, the Australian Government through the Australia Awards program and the Queensland Government through Study Queensland. 

About Perth she said, “I’m really excited about working on a world leading initiative in my hometown to deliver digitally enabled employability skills, experiences and micro-credentials to international students at large scale. I look forward to deepening our relationships with customers here in WA as well, and hopefully sharing some of our experience from Australia and around the world.”

Practera works with more than a third of the Universities in Australia and a range of Government agencies & businesses to power skill building programs and better prepare learners for the future of work. These are programs like team projects, work simulations, accelerators, mentoring, internships, study abroad and competency credentialling. In addition to Perth, Practera has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the US and Canada.

If you’d like to know more, contact suzy@practera.com 

We’re excited to be a core part of the Employability Perth vision, for every international student to have the opportunity to undertake a range of authentic experiences which build their skills, experience and employability around their study – leading to a unique personal portfolio accessible to their future employers. 

Edtech startup Practera invests in Queensland HQ

Experiential learning edtech company Practera has appointed a Queensland leader & partnerships and opened a Brisbane office to work more closely with customers in the state.

Practera Co-Founder & Co-CEO Beau Leese said, “I was privileged to work closely with Study Queensland over the past 12 months as an education innovator in residence. I found that employability and experiential learning are high on the agenda for many institutions, and there is a great deal of energy & innovation in this space around the state. Examples of exciting projects already using the Practera platform in Queensland include a world leading skills micro-credentialling pilot with Study Cairns and Study Queensland, mentoring for nursing graduates from SCU and CQU in regional Queensland, and industry project programs for UQ.”

Incoming Executive Director, Queensland Jamie Ford joins Practera from her most recent role as General Manager Customer Experience & Innovation with UnitingCare Queensland. Prior to that she was a Senior Manager with EY’s Queensland Advisory practice specialising in Higher Education and customer led transformation. She is a regular guest lecturer at UQ Business School, UQ MBA Graduate and Not-for-Profit Board member.

Ford said, “I am really proud to join the Practera team. Practera is an exciting growth stage edtech company that is achieving great outcomes for Universities in Australia and globally. I am a big believer in customer value, innovation and creating opportunities for people through new pathways and skills. I’m very excited about working with educators and industry partners in Queensland to deliver enhanced employability outcomes for students.”

Practera will also form a partnership with Brisbane based employability provider Startup Interns. Practera and Startup Interns collaborated on a recent successful Study Queensland funded program pairing students with startups. Leese continued “Students are seeking to understand career opportunities in fast growth startups, and startups are hungry for talent & mindset with the capability to work entrepreneurially. Startup interns founders Ocean Cheung and Dongjin (DJ) You have done a terrific job building energy in this space in Queensland, and we’re excited to take this program forward with them.”

Startup Interns co-founder & Managing Director Ocean Cheung said, “This partnership with Practera will see us able to advance our mission to deepen the cycle between startup founders and entrepreneurial students through practical experience of working together. Practera are at the global leading edge in this space and will help us achieve our mission at broader scale.”

Practera Queensland’s doors are open and is ready to continue partnering with educators and industry alike to achieve high quality employability outcomes for students. 

Reach out to Jamie Ford (jamie@practera.com) or Ocean Cheung (ocean@startupinterns.co) to find out more.


Practera helps put a lawyer in students’ pockets with groundbreaking mobile app

Macquarie University has today become the first tertiary institution to launch the My Legal Mate (MLM) legal advisory app to all 11,000 of its international students. MLM is an innovative new mobile app offering on-the-go legal information to international students in NSW, developed by Redfern Legal Centre on the Practera platform.

Funded and supported by Study NSW, City of Sydney, Fair Work Ombudsman My Legal Mate is an Australian first. The app uses interactive video in seven languages to provide international students with instant legal information on problems like underpayment at work, accommodation issues and sexual assault.

“International students studying away from home can face a variety of urgent legal issues,” Redfern Legal Centre CEO Joanna Shulman said. “Many students lack knowledge about the law in Australia and simply don’t know where to get help.”

“We’re proud to partner with Macquarie University to enhance the wellbeing of its vibrant international student population, providing accessible and culturally appropriate legal information,” Ms Shulman said.

“The partnership between Macquarie University and Redfern Legal Centre is a direct response to the fact that 1 in 3 international students encounter legal issues whilst studying in Australia,” Gail White, Executive Director – Student Engagement and Registrar at Macquarie University said.

Practera Co-Founder & Co-CEO Beau Leese said – My Legal Mate is an exciting innovation “three-peat” – it is a groundbreaking and well thought through legal resource for international students and an example of how professional services can be digitised and automated. “The Practera experiential learning platform was selected to go beyond digital services and create a learning opportunity based on real world experience. Delivering MLM has been a great project for Practera, and we’re also extremely proud to be making a contribution to the welfare of International Students in Australia.”

MLM is available to all tertiary education providers in NSW, and versions for other states are in development – to enquire about access and pricing, please contact Redfern Legal Centre through their website.


Or contact us directly: 

Joanna Shulman, CEO Redfern Legal Centre

p. 02 9698 7277| mob. 0401 933 789 | joanna@rlc.org.au

Beau Leese, Co-Founder & Co-CEO Practera

Mob. 0433 262 855 | beau@practera.com

How can Sydney educate 100M students by 2050? A look at future trends and opportunities for government and the education industry.

International education over the past 10 years has been an enormous success story for Australia, and nowhere more than Sydney. According to Study NSW, more than 260,000 onshore students, $13bn in exports, 95,000 jobs and double digit annual growth over the past 5 years.

So what will international education look like in 2050? How can Sydney benefit from and plan for these changes? At the City of Sydney and Study NSW International Education forum last week, the question was asked of myself and my fellow panellists including economists, scientists, entrepreneurs, students and human rights lawyers.

Panel L-R; Beau Leese Practera, Sean Stimson Redfern Legal Centre, Natasha Munasinghe, The Frank Team, Hugh Durrant Whyte NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Susana Ng City of Sydney, Ian Aird International Education Initiatives

What does the future of international education hold?

2050 is a long time, but not all that long – as far as today from 1990. Some things will be very different, but we’re not talking Starship Enterprise here. Among many, three key megatrends in evidence today will have a profound influence in the opportunities for international education. These are 1) the future of work, 2) global demographic & development shifts and 3) new technologies for work & learning.

The future of work is changing more rapidly than ever. Whether we accept that 47% of today’s jobs will disappear due to automation and other technologies, the world of work is changing. The average number of jobs in a given career is going up, and the lifespan of specific knowledge is going down. This means that 2 billion knowledge workers will need to upskill and reskill faster than ever before. Without taking anything away from the importance of foundational knowledge, in response education will become more personalised, modular, lifelong and experiential in nature. International education will be highly exposed to this trend, driven by student demand for an employability return on their education investment. The postgraduate, post work experience international education market will become more important. The human skills that complement increasing automation and are best taught experientially like creativity, problem solving and service orientation are more important.

Changing global demographic growth and economic development trends will reshape international education to 2050. Global student mobility will more than double grow from 5m to 10m annually. With the development of domestic higher education systems, China, developed East Asia and India student export growth will slow but with large absolute populations of 15-24 year olds and growing middle classes still account for the bulk of growth to 2027. Developing economies in South Asia & West Asia will provide important growth markets around this period, and by 2050 Africa is projected to be the high growth international education market, with 35% of young people aged 15-24 globally. One of the big challenges and opportunities for Australia will be that the vast bulk of students will continue to study and work at home, with increasingly sophisticated domestic economies and higher education systems providing competition for onshore students.

New technologies used for work & learning. Not all learning will be virtual – students will still value personal connections with professors and peers, but new technologies will be integrated into the educational mix, and a higher proportion of learning will be purely online. For those readers whose memories stretch far enough, think of the difference of the daily use of technology between 1990 and now in the workplace and higher ed. Expect pervasive applications of technologies including AI + machine learning, VR / AR, blockchain based credentialing, and later on human-machine interface. With all students firmly digital and mobile native, platform distribution means that awesome and highly personalised programs and solutions for specific niches can be distributed globally, generating economies of specialisation and scale. Just like physical goods supply chains – services and software supply chains will become truly global, where a great lecture, an industry project, a predictive algorithm can be deployed as easily in Dalian or Tanzania as Haymarket.

What can Sydney do to seize opportunity in this future?

Much of the discussion was framed around the onshore student experience, with the implication that growth will require a lot of urban planning and debates about who is congesting the buses. While this is undoubtedly the case, there is an aspect which is underplayed – the opportunity and the benefit of education technology and offshore delivery.

Sydney isn’t just part of Australia. Unique among Australian cities it occupies a privileged position as a global destination city, as part of a network of 20-30 truly global cities which concentrate the worlds human capital, creativity, economic growth and job creation to a degree unprecedented in human history. It enjoys a comparative advantage that other Australian jurisdictions do not.

Beyond fostering continued strong growth in onshore enrolments, Sydney education providers have a phenomenal opportunity to leverage the cities brand, institutions and strengths to facilitate exponential growth in delivering educational products, programs, credentials and expertise offshore and transnationally.

As learning and work become ever more digitally enabled, education providers in all industry sectors can adopt and adapt education technology to co-create new and potentially disruptive models building on world class brands, expertise and IP. One of the great potential enablers of this is a thriving local edtech sector. Of >350 edtechs in Australia, approximately 150 are based here in Sydney, according to EduGrowth and Austrade. The 2018 Startup Muster report demonstrated that more than 1/3 of startup founders are born overseas, including many international students. Edtech is the second largest industry vertical for tech startups. Examples of scaleup stage edtech companies that have raised significant capital and gained international traction in specific niches include Open Learning in Massive Online Open Course platform, Go One in corporate training, Smart Sparrow in adaptive learning, Learnosity in assessments and Practera in experiential learning.

As an example, Practera has worked with Study NSW and 10 NSW Universities to develop the NSW Global Scope program, which connects thousands of international students in digitally enabled projects with hundreds of Government, business + community organisations to solve real problems. This model is informing our collaboration with Northeastern University in the US to design a projects program with the capacity to serve >100,000 community college students in Masachussets. Boston University is using the platform to manage health development projects in 17 developing countries. 

‘Experiential learning’ is rapidly evolving as key response to educational needs and models like these could deliver a broader economic & social dividend for Sydney. For example students, educators and industry from Sydney and global cities can be connected today through high-impact and high-quality online projects and accelerators. Transnational experiential learning brings an unfair share of the worlds human capital into building opportunity with Sydney institutions, industries and students. This initiative alone would promote connection and innovation through facilitating collaboration between Higher Education and business on which Australia ranks poorly on a global basis. It would promote the development of more global connections and collaborations for Sydney. It would promote a more just and sustainable city through offering industry experience and connections to many more students, including from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Government has a key role to play in facilitating initiatives like this, in bringing actors together and providing the brands, seed funding, license to operate and connections required to facilitate large scale cross sector collaboration.

More systematically, across the many niches and opportunities of a world of education that is more modular, experiential and lifelong, a city like Sydney can ask itself the question – not can we handle half a million international students in our city, but can we educate 100 million learners globally?

About the author

Beau Leese is Co-Founder & Co-Chief Executive Officer of Practera

Remarks adapted from City of Sydney / Study NSW International Education Forum 2019

$2M for edtech company Practera to develop world leading student data privacy technology

Education Technology (EdTech) startup Practera and its collaboration partners have been awarded $1.995 million in government funding as part of a $7.45M project to develop a data privacy protection product for online student data.

Practera’s was one of sixteen projects awarded a total of $30 million by the Commonwealth’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Round 7 grants program. Collaboration partners in the project include CSIRO’s Data61, University of South Australia, global education company Navitas, Education Technology peak body EduGrowth, and cyber security solution provider Cybermerc.

Learning analytics and AI research while preserving student privacy

The project will develop a product for education providers to provably preserve the privacy of student data records. This will enable education companies to maximise the value of their student datasets, for example in learning analytics and training of artificial intelligence algorithms. The product will be applied initially to Practera’s experiential learning platform which supports programs such as project programs, internships and skills credentialing.

EduGrowth CEO David Linke said that “Learners globally are demanding more control over the data from their learning.  So having Australia at the centre of building this incredibly important tool will be a global advantage for our education providers, the EdTech sector and most importantly the learners themselves.”

Ruth Marshall, Practera’s Director R&D and Data Integrity and leader of the project said “Learning Analytics on student data provides the insights that EdTech companies need to deliver increasingly valuable and personalised insights, evolve their products and compete in the global marketplace. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly important for EdTech systems to provably protect personal and confidential data.”

Global education companies need to meet increasingly complex privacy requirements

The CRC-P grant will pay for research to apply and further enhance privacy-preserving technology and techniques developed by CSIRO’s Data61 for other applications. “We are very interested to apply these techniques in the Education industry” said Professor Dali Kaafar, Group Leader of the Information Security and Privacy Group. “The techniques we have developed at Data61 aim to quantify and measure the “privacy risks” of personal identification or re-identification, and then reduce that risk using mathematically provable risk reduction techniques.”

Professor Kaafar elaborated, “Removing obvious identifiers such as names and addresses is not sufficient to protect users from re-identification, with a linking attack for example”. Linking attacks use data from other sources such as social media to determine the identity of individuals from an anonymized data set.  A famous example is New York City taxis who released a “de-identified” set of trip data in 2014 to have it re-identified within the hour using information found on Twitter and online news.

Marshall continued, “Edtech companies with global operations like Practera need to meet increasingly complex privacy requirements around the world. Provable anonymisation of data offers a tremendous business advantage. Our customers like Universities and education providers like Navitas will be increasingly required to prove that their data remains private under regimes like the EU’s GDPR. This is becoming more important as multiple systems are used, some or all operate in the cloud and the provider has multinational operations.” The project will enhance the privacy & security capabilities of Practera in the first instance, but we certainly envisage that we are building product in its own right with application for other EdTechs.”

Media Contact

Ruth Marshall

Mob. +61 0411 222 040

Email ruth@practera.com