Thursday, March 9, 2017

Education System for Rural and Regional Students

Senator Bridget McKenzie, Chair of the Senate Education and Employment Standing Committee writes that "The education system has failed students in rural and regional areas" (The Australian,"... regional and remote students suffer significant disadvantage simply because of where they live". 

For the last five years, I have been a graduate student of education, looking into the question of how to provide quality higher education in regional areas. I found that Australia was a pioneer in this field, providing a form of Distance Education at regional universities which was later adopted by the UK for its Open University. More recently Australia produced the Moodle free open source learning management system, used around the world.

What I suggest is to "blend" and "flip" the delivery of education for upper secondary, vocational and university students in Australia. In this way all Australian students can be given a high quality education which also happens to be accessible to regional and remote students. Students would study on-line, supported by real time on-line and, where possible, classroom based education.

Rather than design courses and curricular for city campuses and then think how to adapt this for regional students, flip the approach. Design courses and curricular for on-line delivery, wherever the students happen to be. The on-line courses can then be supplemented with classroom activities for those students who can get to a campus regularly. For those students can't get to a campus, or who don't have a specialist teacher for their subject, a combination of real time on-line classes and short intensive sessions can be provided.

What is needed is for policy makers to get over the idea that quality education requires a teacher standing out the front of a class talking at students. Quality education is provided where students work with each other, learning to solve real world problems, with the help of a teacher. We have the technology and the educational techniques to do this, backed up by decades of research to show it works, as detailed in my book "digital teaching".

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