The cutting-edge 'DNA' of a top school

Melbourne Girls' Grammar School's (MGGS) innovative use of a digital mascot to represent its students and streamline communication within the school has been turning heads.  

Mary-Louise O’Brien, director of eLearning at MGGS, told The Educator about the inception, evolution and future of her school's ground-breaking program.

Six years ago, O’Brien was tasked with finding a new Learning Management System (LMS) that would also incorporate a parent portal, but the absence of local options in terms of accessing servers and help desks inspired her to try something new.

A year later in 2010, O’Brien approached software company Schoolbox and, with her extensive background in e-Commerce and online marketing, worked with them to create an LMS with a unique personalised avatar.

“A lot of the products that are used for e-learning in universities are geared for adult learners, but we wanted something that was appropriate for our early learning centre right through to Year 12, but could also be a parent portal,” O’Brien told The Educator.

“I wanted a name that the girls could relate to, so I came up with the idea of using an avatar that would represent any MGGS girl within this learning management system, and something they could relate to.”

O’Brien explained that the ‘e’ represents the electronic portal, while the ‘v’ and ‘I’ stand for virtual innovation.

The principal pointed out to O’Brien that the VI is the Roman numeral for 6 and that it was the school’s sixth learning precinct.

“It was meant to be. eVI is a girl’s name – we’re a girls’ school – as far as branding is concerned, it was perfect,” O’Brien said.

eVI - which now forms an integral component of in-house communications at MGGS - gives 940 MGGS students and 280 staff access to their school’s resources online from any Internet connected device.

“eVI’s image is represented in a number of different ways depending on what type of service students are accessing within the school. We have ‘arty eVI’, ‘sporty eVI’, ‘social service eVI’ and even ‘boarding eVI’, who is shown carrying suitcases,” O’Brien said.

Five years since the creation of the program, eVI has become so deeply embedded in the day-to-day interactions of students, staff and parents that it could be considered part of the school’s DNA.

“Everything is now in eVI, our whole school’s calendar, as well as every single school policy - and because it’s in the cloud, it’s accessible from anywhere. It certainly is unique and something I haven’t seen before,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said that MGGS continues to be approached by other schools’ principals and deputy principals who are interested in launching a similar project at their schools.

Other schools have attempted a similar program, applying relevant avatars for their LMS'. Toorak College’s equivalent - ‘iVE’ – was visually represented by an ivy leaf, representing the ivy leaves that wrap the facade of a historic building on the school's grounds.

“Because MGGS was one of the very first schools to sign up with this product, Schoolbox has always sent other schools to me to talk about how we managed the rollout.”