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PETAA Case Study:
Choosing the right tech solution

How PETAA chose the right tech solution for their learning management system and became an industry leader in online training during a time of crisis

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PETAA is one of the largest associations for primary educators in Australia. We are proud to include over 3500 schools across Australia in our membership.

The Primary English Teaching Association of Australia (PETAA) is one of the largest associations for primary educators in Australia and includes over 3500 schools across the country in their membership.

The 50-year-old association is a nationwide not-for-profit that supports primary educators with a range of services such as professional learning, publications and other evidence-based resources to ensure every child in every Australian classroom receives a powerful literacy education.

In 2017, to provide training opportunities for all members no matter their location, PETAA initiated an online learning system. After delivering this service to hundreds of members for almost two years, the association made it a strategic goal to expand their online professional learning offerings significantly.

However, the limitations of the original learning system were inhibiting this expansion.

So when current General Manager Megan Edwards entered her role in late 2019, selecting and implementing a more flexible and robust learning management system (LMS) became an immediate priority.

Megan Edwards, General Manager of PETAA

Key challenges of the old system

• Did not leverage the latest technological innovations

Heavily manual processes and limited functionality meant the inability to expand course content and scale the number of educational offerings. The inadequate system wouldn’t see PETAA through the next 3-5 years of required growth.

• Lack of internal staff and systems in place to manage virtual learning environments

Not having people internally with the knowledge and capability to manage the system impacted customer service as requests for assistance from either students or facilitators were delayed or directed outside the organisation.

• Primarily run through third-party contractors

Engaging outside contractors made it difficult to obtain and manage the collateral belonging to the association, which introduced concerns around information security. Additionally, the associated costs of the external providers were largely unregulated, which made expansion – possibly even continuation – of the online professional training uncertain.

Ultimately, the old system was deemed both inefficient and financially unsustainable. Yet, selecting precisely the right LMS with which to move forward had the organisation locked in indecision for months.

“It was critical for the organisation to increase the volume of courses we were offering online so that there was equity in access to the full suite of educational materials for members across Australia and in rural and remote areas.”

Megan Edwards

PETAA’s answer to this impasse was to engage the services of business technology expert Frieda Maher.

SalesPod’s customised consulting solution Tame Your Tech was created to support organisations like PETAA that feel unable to move forward due to old or inefficient technology systems.

Putting the decision-making power back in PETAA’s hands

PETAA deliberately chose not to hire a learning management system specialist who might skew their recommendation towards one type of solution.

Instead, they selected a consultant with knowledge across many technology systems who would seek to understand the organisational needs first, then find the product to match.

Bringing in Frieda helped PETAA cut through the noise of technology software marketing, allowing them to see past the glitz and glamour of fancy-looking capabilities.

Starting with an analysis of what would work from a technical perspective, Frieda then dived deep with the General Manager and professional learning team to discover their critical operational needs.

Then, whittling down a potential list of ten or more options to just a few strong contenders, Frieda arranged product demonstrations, the results of which Megan could then present to the board.

Successfully navigating competing needs within the organisation and strict budgetary parameters, Frieda’s expert recommendations helped Megan and her board finally decide on an LMS with functionality appropriate and relevant for their business, one which would help move them towards their strategic goals.

“Frieda really listened. She sat down and spoke with my Head of Professional Learning who, as a former Deputy Principal, is incredibly smart and knows literacy inside out but doesn’t have a deep knowledge of technology.
Frieda was very good at extracting the information she needed to be clear on what PETAA would need our systems to do, both now and for the next few years.”

High-value outcomes

Early 2020 saw PETAA start to implement their chosen LMS, and they were ready to go live within only a few weeks of the unexpected COVID-19 shutdowns. The time invested to meticulously analyse and select exactly the right system meant PETAA was prepared to support their members’ online learning needs.

A year and a half later they are now a leader in their space as others struggle to match the same level of progress.

“2020 would have looked very different for us had we not had that virtual professional learning capacity already set up. The fact that it was already underway meant that we just had to turn up the dial; we weren’t starting from scratch. Everyone else was in panic mode, but there was no panic about what we were doing.”

The success of the new system quickly propelled PETAA towards their desired expansion.

It was not only participant numbers that marked this a successful project for PETAA. The careful consideration and selection of an appropriate LMS under the guidance of Frieda has helped resolve all the key constraints that were inhibiting growth:

●  Embracing the latest tech advances,

gave PETAA flexibility and scalability in professional development deliverables and allowed them to equitably serve all their member’s training needs Australia-wide.

●  PETAA’s expanded professional learning team is in complete control of the new LMS,

with the ability to set up courses from scratch, liaise directly with facilitators, and resolve issues without referring outside the organisation.

●  Training collateral is now in one place –

not spread around different third-party providers. This means all materials are under PETAA’s control, backed up, and any potential risk eliminated.

● Costs are controlled and sustainable

Financial security ensures the continuation of PETAA’s online training programs and allows them to be responsive to the growing virtual training needs of their members.

“2019-2020 saw an increase by more than 200% in course sessions and participants. And to September 2021, we have already doubled that again.”

“There was no way we could have grown this part of the organisation if we’d continued in the way that we were. Now, all those challenges have entirely disappeared.”

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