Using Atomi to teach the new HSC syllabus

Robert Barakat

Co-founder & Co-CEO at Atomi


min read

As the drama of the release of the first new syllabuses in 16 years is settling down, we’re all really starting to consider the reality of tackling a whole new syllabus with new topics and a new focus.

At Atomi, highly specific videos are the core of what we do. So yes, that means we are making big changes to our content to make sure we’re really hitting the mark for the new syllabuses.

With these changes, we’re hoping to deliver you a highly specialised teaching resource that can assist in driving base-level understanding for students so you can focus classroom time on extending ideas, applying new concepts and some serious critical thinking.

So, to cut to the chase, here are the changes we have in the pipeline and exactly how to use Atomi in transitioning to and teaching the shiny new syllabuses.

1. A specialised resource

The introduction of a new syllabus is sure to limit the usefulness of current teaching resources whether it’s relevant textbooks, teaching guides or past papers. Even relying on your own experience might be tricky if you’re up against a topic or module that you’ve never taught before. Like, for example, the new statistics topics in Advanced Maths.

With that in mind, our aim is to provide a truly comprehensive and precise resource for you to:

  • Familiarise yourself with new content - particularly to assist in the PD of new topics
  • Use in the classroom instead of an outdated textbook
  • Provide students with access to accurate and engaging information

We’re already well in the midst of producing new videos and courses that are highly specific to the new syllabuses and will have them up and running by Term 4, 2018 for the full HSC year. With a fast, digital platform, we can afford to get started straight away and still anticipate making changes as marking guidelines and support documents are slowly released.

As well as introducing new topics, the syllabus is asking students to know more about each module, topic and point - even if they remain from the original syllabus. So, to reflect that depth of knowledge, we’re making two big changes to the structure of our courses:

More videos

The new courses are being made of more videos than before so we can dig deeper into each dot point and each topic. It’s also a great opportunity for us to offer some higher level videos in each subject for students who really want to extend their learning (a common request among teachers).

For example, we cover chemical equilibrium in one video at the moment but our new course will tackle the topic in three separate videos so students have a deep knowledge of the whole concept instead of a superficial understanding. While we’re still driving clarity, nothing is being simplified or cut out.

Separating content and application

We’re a big fan of students knowing how to apply their knowledge - content in context - but with these new syllabuses, we don’t want that to eat into truly mastering the content.

At the moment, about two-thirds of a video is spent on content and a third on application but now, they’re breaking up. This change will give us the opportunity to spend 90% of a video on a more in-depth, comprehensive lesson on the theory without losing that key skill of application.

On the flip side, we will now have more videos dedicated solely to application so we can spend a good 6-7 minutes breaking down questions and constructing Band 6 responses without overwhelming students.

2. Driving base-level understanding

The new syllabuses are pushing students to have a deep understanding of complex and abstract ideas and be able to critically apply them.

It’s no small ask for teachers so we see our role as really driving the base-level understanding in an efficient and engaging way. If you can nail down those foundations before class or early on then you are free to capitalise on that face-to-face class time to address what are going to be more difficult concepts.

In designing our new videos, we’re doubling down on taking the videos further away from simply providing facts or memory aids and instead, really focusing on facilitating student understanding. Here are some of the key changes we are making:

Video Length

You’ll be seeing videos in the new courses are consistently shorter to help students stay engaged with the ideas and really retain their understanding. We’re aiming for 6 - 7 minutes per video with a maximum of 9 minutes.

Video Structure

We’re going to be sticking to a clear structural template for each video that isolates and identifies each section and concept. Students will actually be able to see progressive and logical paths to understanding.

With visual cues that track the structure of a video, students will be able to pause a video at any point and see exactly what idea is being explained and where it fits into understanding the whole syllabus point.

Example and Analogy

We know we aren’t reinventing the wheel by using examples and analogies but we are re-prioritising our efforts to explain content in unique ways. The new videos will be relying more on analogies and examples so that students can more easily relate to an abstract concept and allow it to ‘click’ in their brain.

Video Design

Our new, specialised video design team has redeveloped the process of producing visuals for each video. We are creating some exciting animations that support the content of each script by summarising, reteaching and emphasising the most important points. It’s a two-pronged approach to understanding that taps into that powerful visual memory.

For example, physics problems that can appear abstract and confusing to students - such as those in our new special relativity series - can now be demonstrated clearly with motion graphics.

We’re also able to tackle complicated maths problems - and the new Extension II Mathematics - with dynamic and engaging diagrams for maths problems that can guide a student’s attention to the most important pieces of working on the screen.

3. A touch of inspiration

If you’re still not exactly sure how to tackle the syllabus transition then, at the very least, you can draw inspiration from the changes we’re making here! Each decision has been the product of intense analysis of the new syllabuses as well as the feedback and experience we receive from teachers we work closely with.

The bottom line is that we’re changing our approach to the new syllabuses to support teachers in their classrooms!


Published on

March 29, 2017

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