Digital education platform sign-ups soar as the long lockdown continues

Online education technology company Hawker Brownlow Digital has launched CARS & STARS Online, a reading comprehension program to improve literacy skills.

The start-up launched in early 2019 and after experiencing an expected loss for the first 12 months, its growth took a massive leap in 2020 and continues to soar in 2021 with a 37% increase in profit due to the ongoing school lockdowns and the adoption of remote learning.

The company now expects to see a profit of over $400k this financial year.

Hawker Brownlow Digital’s CARS & STARS Online

Lockdowns are hard for all and many schools have pivoted to remote learning. The process has been difficult for many teachers in identifying suitable digital platforms for their needs.

Hawker Brownlow Digital seeks to fill this gap and assist teachers move to online learning.

The start-up moved to provide free access to CARS & STARS Online along with personalised support to enable schools to transition to online learning seamlessly and effectively.

This unique tool supports not just students, but also teachers and parents.

The company has since experienced its fastest growth in public schools with New South Wales accounting for 92.63% of growth, Victoria 60.5% and South Australia 32.77% in 2020–21 FY.

The company was co-founded by Richard Brownlow and Daniel Lee

“CARS & STARS Online enables a 360-degree view of learning performance and progress through detailed analytics and reports,” Brownlow explains.

“Educators can get an overview of how an individual student, a group, a classroom, a level or an entire school is progressing in real-time with the click of a button.”

“With the help of the innovative CARS & STARS Online insights, educators can set personalised learning plans with a certainty that has not been possible in a traditional face-to-face setting.”

“The platform caters to parents with access to reports for their child’s learning progress so they can play an active role in their children’s education. And the growth speaks for itself.”

CARS & STARS Online’s educational features

The Active Classroom feature allows teachers to access a live view of student screens to provide guidance and feedback as though they are in a traditional classroom setting.

Many teachers are impressed by this feature of CARS & STARS Online as it has helped to significantly bridge the gap in remote learning between students and teachers.

The goal of the platform is to improve student reading comprehension, a skill that leads to better understanding in other school subjects as well.

Each element of CARS & STARS Online aims to enhance learning or streamline previously laborious tasks so teachers and parents can better focus on what really matters.

Instead of spending time marking student assessments this is done automatically.

Reports and recommendations are immediately available for teachers so their time can be spent on what matters: using the delivered data to tailor instruction for everyone in the class.

It is backed by educational research and aligns to the Australian National Curriculum.

The core reading strategies of the platform form an instructional framework that recurs in every level and provides vital understanding and instruction for students and teachers.

CARS & STARS Online supports each student’s individual reading capabilities from foundation year to year nine through an initial level placement.

Students progress through five pre-tests, benchmarks and post-tests at every level in the module, with a series of multiple-choice questions targeting 12 core reading strategies.

CARS & STARS Online reading strategies include

  1. Finding Main Idea
  2. Recalling Facts and Details
  3. Understanding Sequence
  4. Recognising Cause and Effect
  5. Comparing and Contrasting
  6. Making Predictions
  7. Finding Word Meaning in Context
  8. Drawing Conclusions and Making Inferences
  9. Distinguishing Between Fact and Opinion
  10. Identifying Author’s Purpose
  11. Interpreting Figurative Language
  12. Summarising

CARS & STARS Online deploys modules

The CARS diagnostic module determines strengths and weaknesses in the 12 reading strategies that underpin the entirety of the program allowing tailored instruction.

The same strategies are available in the STARS instructional module which offers guided lessons and directions for teachers to make instructions easily and directly.

In STARS, the in-depth Lesson Plans take teachers through each of the lessons in detail and include correct answers as well as teacher tips.

During the middle of the school year students are given a benchmark assessment, a crucial step in identifying if a student is still struggling in any of the reading strategies.

This facilitates the ability to give teachers the opportunity to indulge in intervention or reinforcement with the new and additional CARS & STARS Online module, FOCUS Reading.

FOCUS Reading can be used for reinforcement or remediation when a child is not thriving and serves to drill down into a strategy and thus facilitate student improvement.

The FOCUS Reading module provides reinforcement in the key reading strategies for on-level readers with targeted intervention for struggling readers and English-language learners.

This reading-strategy module provides practice for students based on the same strategies appearing in the CARS & STARS modules, but focusing on only one strategy at a time.

The FOCUS Reading module is concerned with six of the twelve main reading strategies that involve higher-order thinking skills with which students might require the most help.

CARS & STARS Online is completely digital for both teachers and students.

The platform is digitally accessible from any relatively recent device with an internet connection regardless of make or model, and just as useful at home as it is at school.

The beauty of Hawker Brownlow Digital’s CARS & STARS Online package is that student progress is tracked throughout the entire school journey, year after year, providing valuable insights into a student’s aptitude and growth as they develop as both a reader and a learner.

It is an invaluable tool for teachers receiving new cohorts of students at the start of each year.