St Hilda’s program to help children in remote areas has resulted in some of the world’s best, free online education courses.

Story Ken Eastwood

In what could be regarded as one of the most unorthodox business models of any private school in Australia, St Hilda’s School, on the Gold Coast, gives away much of its excellently crafted teaching materials online. Free. To anyone with a computer.

The courses are so well regarded that they are among the most downloaded school educational courses in the world, and the engineering course at one stage was number 1 in the world on the iTunes site, even beating engineering courses put out by the far better known Stanford University in California, USA.

There are currently 150 St Hilda’s courses available online. “They’re all completely free – that’s the whole preface for it,” says Geoff Powell, head of the St Hilda’s Learning Institute. “Depending on the time of year we have 2500–7500 unique visitors a week, and we just cracked our 500,000 visit since April 2013.”

Geoff says he was inspired to start offering courses for free when he was speaking at a USA conference on iPads in schools. Another speaker, Salman Khan, spoke of his dream to give every child in the world the opportunity to improve their educational outcomes – especially in the field of mathematics. Geoff was taken by this idea and thought it fitted in with both St Hilda’s motto (non nobis solum  – “not for ourselves alone”) and the school’s desire to better serve its incoming rural and remote students by providing courses that would help familiarise them with the language and style of St Hilda’s teaching. 

“We’re very big on living the motto,” Geoff says. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #113

Outback Magazine: June/July 2017