New eLearning program increases accessibility for regional students

Online learning
The Victorian Government's new online learning course is a funded initiative under the $22.65m VCE Expansion project to help rural and regional students engage in VCE subjects of their choice. Image: Shutterstock

Students who are geographically remote – or have other factors limiting their ability to attend face-to-face schooling – will benefit from a new virtual online learning program developed by Monash University

Over the last 12 months social distancing restrictions have led schools and universities to improve their eLearning capabilities – with many swapping their physical campuses for highly interactive digital-led classrooms.

Logging in remotely, navigating Zoom lectures and receiving feedback online has become standard practice during times of extended at-home study. And for those living in regional and rural areas? It’s been a major game changer!

“In the past, many young people have not been able to study in ways that allow them to fully participate,” explains Associate Professor Mike Phillips, an expert in digital transformation in the Faculty of Education at Monash University.

“Our research and the experiences of many during remote and distance learning has shown an education system, we can tailor an education system, we can tailor online programs, according to specific student needs.”

Giving all kids a go

In an effort to bridge the education gap between regional and metropolitan students long after restrictions lift, the Victorian Government and Monash University have partnered to give online teaching a significant financial boost.

From next term 100 teachers across the state will be offered a six-week Leading Virtual Learning Teacher course, where they’ll learn how to best design, facilitate and assess in an online environment, through exploration of theories, models, practical strategies and experience.

Co-designed between the Department of Education and Training and Monash University, the program will enhance state-wide capacity to lead the delivery of VCE subjects virtually, supporting rural and regional students to reach their educational goals.

“Providing teachers with access to findings from cutting edge research provides them with ideas and strategies that allow them to engage VCE students in exciting teaching and learning opportunities that sometimes are not possible in face to face classrooms,” stresses Associate Professor Phillips.

“Without the option of online teaching and learning as a component of our educational system, some students in Victoria would simply miss out. As a comprehensive education system, we are driven to ensure that online teaching and learning is equitable and provides all students with opportunities to succeed.”

The course will allow participants the flexibility to engage with the learning according to their geographic location, experience in teaching in virtual settings, professional learning needs and responsibilities in their school.

What other STEM opportunities are there for regional students?

If you’re teaching or studying regionally and are keen to introduce accessible extra-curricular STEM learning initiatives – look into the following industry-led programs.

The Flying Scientists Program: The Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist has collaborated with the Wonder of Science to deliver The Flying Scientists Program – a group of travelling early-mid career researchers that accompany Young Science Ambassadors into regional Queensland centres for community STEM awareness events. More info here.

The Academy of STEM Excellence: Three schools in the Illawarra region of NSW will now have their own academy of STEM excellence under the NSW Department of Education’s STEM Industry School Partnerships (SISP) Program designed to ready young people for the future of work. Sign your school up here.

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Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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