Detailed insights into how a large institution is transforming – Chisholm Institute


As an essential service, Chisholm Institute has been continually operational and working closely with the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to plan for, and respond to, the current and potential impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on our students, staff and the wider community.  To date, we have had no reported or confirmed cases of the virus.

At the time of the break-out of the pandemic, Chisholm Institute had almost 27,000 students to manage both on-shore and off-shore, along with almost 1,200 staff, partner organisations, employers, local schools and the broader community.  Chisholm student numbers at the time included:

  • 26,899 total students on and off-shore;
  • 21,115 onshore students which included 3,557 VET for Secondary School Students;
  • 200 courses of which 30 are delivered to VET for Secondary School Students located across 124 schools across the South-East of Melbourne;
  • 1,200 staff – a combination of full-time, part-time and casual teachers, professional administration support staff, managers and executive staff.

All onshore delivery has currently moved to online and/or remote, with a return to campus from Monday 4 May for a small number of courses that require practical activities and/or assessment to progress the learning, or to assess skills prior to work placement.  Most courses that were due to commence in April have been postponed to a Semester 2 commencement.

Currently Chisholm has processed 541 formal withdrawals, which is 28% lower than same time last year.

In the space two short weeks including the Easter break, Chisholm had undertaken the following:

Staff management

  • negotiated Temporary Flexible Working Arrangements with staff;
  • co-ordinated the requirements for the majority of staff members to work remotely, including access to laptops and other work equipment, internet access, combination of annual, carers leave and other negotiated arrangements to support childcare arrangements, home schooling and other personal situations;
  • Increased staff access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which has seen a spike in requests;
  • Set up a wellness hub for staff including access to the Springday app;
  • Set up consultation with unions to keep them informed of progress;
  • Established guidelines for working remotely and resuming delivery on campus;
  • Developed and refined Business continuity, Pandemic and Recovery plans;
  • Developed a COVID communication group, to keep all areas of the Institute informed of actions being undertaken;
  • Provided regular communication to all staff within the Institute through “People Talk” newsletters distributed three times per week;
  • Extensive Zoom, Moodle and online delivery training provided to teaching staff. An operational plan has been implemented to ensure all staff have been sufficiently trained to support students in an online environment;
  • Zoom, Moodle and online learning guidelines developed for students to support them with the online learning environment.

Marketing and communication

A major focus for Marketing and Communication has been the communication to students and the wider community.  Over the past month the following has been undertaken:

  • Five Student Newsletters have been distributed over the past month, including generic and tailored communications to international and Higher Education students;
  • Regular email communication has been sent to all students, outlining support available through Chisholm and tailored emails have been supported for the delivery areas to send to students regarding their term 2 delivery information.
  • Regular email communication has been provided to Secondary Schools in partnership with our VETDSS programs, and tailored communication has been sent to those students.
  • Email communication has been sent to local, state and federal politicians in the South-East along with other key community contacts.
  • More than seventy email and social media enquiries have been managed in the past month, directly assisting students or connecting students to the relevant department or individual.
  • Dedicated COVID-19 website landing pages have been developed with web content reviewed and updated daily.
  • Climate specific social media and blog content has been developed and shared.
  • Message on hold has been updated for internal and external phone lines to reflect Chisholm’s COVID-19 response.
  • Marketing & Communications have supported the development of the Wellbeing Covid-19 SharePoint/Internet site in conjunction with People, Culture and Safety.
  • Social Media Community Engagement (no. of interactions) increased by 139% YOY, from 6076 in March 2019 to 14,510 in 2020 as students sought information on Chisholm’s response to Covid-19
  • Marketing has been working on a pilot project to move various recruitment activities online. The first online interactive information session will be piloted with the Chisholm-La Trobe Bachelor of Accounting course team in May/June.

Student support and engagement

All Student Support and Engagement services including Personal Counselling, Financial support and careers education, are being delivered remotely. Requests for counselling services are starting to increase even though the demand is up 173% on last year, and staff will be setting up opportunities for students to remain connected during this time through social clubs and groups set up remotely. Services are available across a range of channels including phone, zoom, webchat, email and via the Library website and Library chat options.  Demand across all services is steady and tracking over 60% higher than same time last year.

Student Services have been delivery content for service delivery through a dedicated Student Support Moodle site. This space will include service information, live streamed workshops with Q&A (e.g. mindfulness, budget management etc) resources, educational material and social connection opportunities. It is anticipated that the Moodle content will be completed, and the site live by the end of April. This will provide, for the first time, access to service delivery 24/7 through a convenient and accessible channel. 


Financial support services are managing students experiencing financial crisis, and a significant piece of work has been undertaken to provide the advice, information and referral options for students.  This information is all available on the Financial Support page. Financial support services staff are also administering the laptop loan scheme for students and Chisholm has had a request for almost 100 laptops.  Further work is being undertaken to access wi-fi internet dongles that will also be provided to students as required.

Student experience

The Student Experience staff have continued to deal with student enquiries and enrolments across all campuses, and limited numbers of staff are still working on campus at Dandenong, Frankston, Berwick and Cranbourne to support walk-in enquiries and enrolments. Most enrolment processes have been modified to be completed with applicants remotely and seem to be progressing well. Over the past two weeks, we have received almost 400 applications and over 220 enrolments.  

Computers have been set up adjacent to the Student Experience spaces for students who may require access to computers and/or wi-fi to complete their on-learning learning.  Student Experience staff are supervising these areas and strict social distancing and hygiene practices are being adhered to in these spaces.  

Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation (CCEF)

Extensive work has been undertaken by the Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation to support existing scholarship holders and support domestic students suffering from financial hardship.   CCEF scholarship holders have been contacted to let them know about the support available and a number of students have been referred for assistance.

Legal advice was sought to determine whether the Foundation could provide assistance to international students.  The advice confirmed that due to the  CCEF funds cannot be used to support international students.  Chisholm is supporting international students directly.

 As an outcome of the support offered through the Foundation, the scholarship numbers are up almost 70% year on year.  

Chisholm Online

Chisholm Online currently delivers twenty courses fully online and a marketing campaign was quickly developed to encourage the community to stay at home and study.  The campaign – Stay Home and Chase Your Calling, was extremely successful and was withdrawn early due to the number of enquiries generated.  The Call Centre was upgraded to manage the number of enquiries and staff re-allocated to answer queries and support the enrolment process.

Chisholm has also responded to the Working for Victoria Initiative and is currently offering six Free TAFE courses fully on-line through this initiative.

Higher education

All Higher Education courses have moved to remote delivery to support students.  Chisholm has recently applied to deliver Higher Education short courses through the Higher Education Relief package.  If successful, these would commence delivery in May.

Facilities, health and hygiene and IT support

Extensive work has been undertaken across all campuses to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff, students and the broader community.  Activities have been consolidated to the four main campuses of the Institute, and to specific building on each campus.  Hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes and disposable gloves were purchased and made available as required. 

Once staff and students were working remotely, cafes and library spaces were closed.  Strict social distancing regimes were implemented into spaces that remained open with floor and wall signage erected

Remote IT support was set up to support students and staff with any IT issues experienced by working remotely.

Further information on Chisholm’s response to the Coronavirus can be found on the Chisholm website.