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Supporting learning for students with disability in rural and remote locations

Nominated by the Department of Education and Training

Challenge statement

This challenge is to provide a technological solution that supports improved interactive visual educational services to students with disability in rural and remote locations. This is to provide direct or indirect therapy and learning support to primary and secondary school students with disability (in accordance with the definition of disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)). The scope of this challenge is limited to state schools only, including students of the schools of distance education.

Applications to solve this challenge closed at 2pm (AEST) 26 September 2017.


If you are interested in collaborating to address this challenge, you may wish to review or register for inclusion on the list of organisations seeking partners.

Challenge imperative

The Department of Education and Training (DET) is developing strategies for rural and remote education to ensure that all state school students, regardless of where they live in Queensland, have access to high quality learning and therapy opportunities in their local communities and beyond. DET considers it critical to:

  • improve academic achievement for all students
  • improve reading and writing for all students
  • improve Year 12 certification rates
  • close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • improve the participation and achievement of students with disability.

Almost half of Queensland’s schools are located in rural and remote locations, with around one quarter of state school students enrolled in these schools. This presents a range of challenges in terms of providing support for schools and students to ensure that all students are learning and achieving to their potential.

Students in rural and remote locations must have access to the same quality and quantity of supports as their urban counterparts. Improving educational support is vital to ensure that all Queenslanders, including those with disability, are prepared with the knowledge, skills and confidence to participate successfully in the economy and broader community.

High quality support by education teams is ideally delivered through interactive services between the student and school-based education team including specialists, teachers, teacher aides and parents. Additionally, students with disability often require significant personalisation of services. Support may be delivered through various means including face to face interactions, or high quality, real time videoconferencing services. These approaches are not always achievable because of the vast distances between students and specialists, and the limitations of digital services including bandwidth and connectivity.

Innovative solutions are needed to augment face-to-face interactions with education and therapy professionals, that facilitate access to curriculum resources and personalised support, in a way that is accessible, cost effective and safe for students and families in remote and rural areas.

A solution to this challenge is key to ensuring that we are able to address the unique needs of students and ensure successful transitions through each phase of learning. Reliable mechanisms for collaboration across the system are an essential part of student success.   

Challenge context

The stakeholders involved

The Challenge Owner is the Department of Education and Training (DET).

Consideration must be given to a number of areas within DET, including Information Technology, State Schools Disability and Inclusion, Rural and Remote Schooling Branch, and State Schools Operations.

Providing support to students with disability in rural and remote areas is a complex and stakeholder-rich issue. Key groups of stakeholders include students with disability and their families and support networks, service providers to students including teachers and therapists.

The current situation

Personalised, real-time support for rural and remote students with disability has been shown to be effective for the delivery of learning and therapy support. While face-to-face contact is preferable, the intensity of support that may be required is difficult to provide, given the remote location of many of Queensland’s students. Travel will remain a necessity for rural and remote education and therapy, however given the associated loss of service delivery time, face-to-face contact must be augmented with technological learning solutions.

There are a range of technology-based services currently in use to provide interactive education and therapy services to students with disabilities in rural and remote locations as a complement to face-to-face, in person interactions. These include video conferencing, phone calls and use of email. Additionally, enablers (including government per student funding allowances) are in place to ensure students have access to the software and hardware necessary to fully participate in their education.

The primary issue associated with maximising the usefulness of the existing systems and hardware is connectivity and bandwidth. Connectivity and bandwidth limitations can result in unreliable video conferencing and resultant delays in provision of support services to the student and the students’ families and peer groups. This can lead to a risk of low achievement, contributing to student disengagement, and a heightened risk of negative behavioural and mental health outcomes.

Connectivity and bandwidth issues have two primary impacts on how education services are provided to rural and remote locations.

Firstly, bandwidth restrictions impact smooth, real-time video conferencing. Effective delivery is dependent on highly interactive, real-time communication without transmission delays. Examples where such a service is essential include:

  • where students may have cognitive and processing difficulties that impact on attention and comprehension, and fluency of transmission is fundamental for their learning
  • cases where assistance via an interactive visual medium is essential for educational or therapeutic outcomes. This includes services with a strong visual component including speech pathology and Auslan education which are particularly dependent on clear, high frame rate transmission without buffering delays.
  • to develop professional networks for isolated teachers.
  • providing the opportunity for isolated students with disability to interact and develop social networks (e.g. for deaf students using Auslan or students who use speech-generating devices).

Secondly, bandwidth issues restrict the ability to download large files in a timely way, which may form a large portion of education or therapy resources provided in these locations.

DET is not aware of any current market offerings that address this challenge.

Solution design parameters

The solution will augment existing face-to-face support for students with disability and their teachers in rural and remote locations to achieve learning success. It will also facilitate case management and professional development outcomes between teachers and specialists, which underpin teacher support with their delivery of learning to the students.

Technical considerations

The successful solution will need to address the following technical requirements:

  • meet the minimum requirements for students with sensory impairments (e.g. be compatible with a specialist screen reader for a student who is blind, switch and scanning capability, easy instructions, appropriate visual contrast or magnification, captioning or alternative keyboard compatibility)
  • be able to be provided consistently across a wide geographic distance and varying population centre sizes
  • be able to overcome issues of low bandwidth in rural and remote areas so that download, resolution, frame rate and audio are all delivered simultaneously with high quality outputs
  • must overcome related logistical issues including the need for physical infrastructure (and associated issues of logistics, supply and maintenance)
  • where necessary, be able to integrate with a variety of software and hardware across rural and remote locations, in state school environments, community hubs such as libraries and home classrooms in the case of students of the School of Distance Education
  • can be used on a range of hardware including portable devices such as departmental laptops, tablets and mobile phones
  • be accessible ‘on demand’ regardless of usual business or school hours and be intuitive to ensure error free access
  • take into account the security of information online for the users of the system, a key portion of whom will be under the age of 18, and aligned with relevant legislative and policy requirements including:
    1. Australian Government Privacy and Cloud Computing Framework (PDF, 524KB) (if required)
    2. Queensland Government Cloud Computing Strategy (if required)
    3. Queensland Government Enterprise Architecture, specifically
    4. Queensland Information Privacy Act 2009 (PDF, 1.31MB),
    5. Queensland Government Information Security Framework

It is also essential for students with disability to be involved in development and pilot testing of the selected solution to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Design benefits

The successful solution will provide an improved technology solution for delivery of educational and therapeutic support to students with disabilities in rural and remote areas. It must understand and be compatible with the needs of the users. It must:

  • facilitate virtual educational collaboration and social interaction in a secure online environment
  • improve the ease of delivery of quality education and therapy services
  • be user friendly for all users, including students, therapists, support staff and teachers, including ease of installation or initial setup
  • allow for a level of personalisation so the solution can be tailored to a variety of end users in a variety of personal and cultural circumstances, ensuring equitable access for students with a disability including visual, cognitive, physical and auditory solutions.
  • be able to provide clear (in regards to both resolution and frame rate), visual support for interactive, real-time consultation and support
  • be useable across a variety of locations, which will include a school, home classroom or community environment (e.g. a library)  and on demand regardless of usual business or school hours
  • allow for the more efficient delivery of resources to students and families, which may include very large file sizes
  • be cost effective in terms of implementation, operation and maintenance.

Commercial opportunities

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program aims to provide commercial opportunities for applicants, while at the same time, solving Queensland Government challenges via an innovative procurement process.

Successful applicants will receive funding to research, develop and test their idea. At the end of the process, applicants have the potential to secure a contract with the Queensland Government. Additionally, intellectual property developed within the SBIR program is retained by the party who developed it, allowing applicants the potential to access broader commercial opportunities.

In addition to immediate opportunities for selected applicants, the selected solution may have application across other schools both within and outside of Queensland. Additionally, a solution may assist in providing other government services to rural and remote areas through innovative models of service delivery which bridge the divide caused by limitations in connectivity due to low bandwidth.

Additional information

The following additional information has been provided:

How will applications be assessed?

Applications to this challenge will be assessed by an evaluation panel assembled by DET in accordance with all relevant Queensland Government Procurement policies.

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  1. Addresses the challenge (Weighting: 30%)
    1. How well does the proposed solution deliver the benefits sought and address the constraints identified in the challenge statement?
    2. How innovative is the proposed solution – new to market, or novel application of existing technology?
    3. How feasible is the proposed solution when scaled to address the challenge statement?
  2. Capability to deliver (Weighting: 25%)
    1. Does the applicant have the experience, skills and capacity to deliver the solution?
    2. Does the applicant have access to any necessary intellectual property?
    3. How viable is the development and supply of the proposed solution within the timeframes of the SBIR?
  3. Commercial potential (Weighting: 10%)
    1. How viable is the identified route to commercialise the proposed solution?
    2. Does the solution appear financially and commercially viable?
  4. Fair market value (Weighting: 15%)
    1. To what extent do the proposed development costs represent fair market value?
  5. Broader benefits for Queensland (Weighting: 10%)
    1. To what extent does the proposed solution offer broader benefits for Queensland?
  6. ICT SME Participation Scheme (Weighting 10%)
    1. What proportion of work is being performed by an SME?

The Information Communication Technology (ICT) Small-to-Medium Enterprise (SME) Participation Scheme is a whole-of-Government policy which aims to help more SMEs supply ICT to the Queensland Government.

Under the ICT SME Participation Scheme, applicants to some challenges can receive up to 10% in additional weighting in their evaluation depending on their level of SME participation. Examples of how this is applied are available.

For the purposes of the ICT SME Participation Scheme, SMEs are businesses who employ less than 200 people at the time applications to the SBIR close. As a guide, 'people' are both employees and contractors employed by the business.

Find out more about the ICT SME Participation Scheme.

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
25 September, 2017

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