Education

Current State and Future Vision

Every student in the Far West Region will have high-speed broadband access both in the home and in the classroom and the requisite skills and understanding to access online education. Education providers will have the ability to provide specialised web based training from the region to the world. The Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health’s community campus model will be rolled out to different disciplines such as business and law and attract many more students to Broken Hill and the Far West Region. It will be widely recognised as a world class education methodology.

The internet has already transformed how we learn. Google’s mission “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” seemed unattainable less than two decades ago. It has been delivering on that mission more effectively with each passing year and we now have access to more information than we could ever have imagined 20 years ago. This access to information has fundamentally changed the way we learn and seek knowledge.

Increasingly, video and interactive content is where the best information is available to students and researchers. Access to this information requires broadband speeds. The disadvantages to those without access to high speed broadband are increasing with each passing year. Education will be increasingly delivered via the internet. While all schools in Australia will have access to broadband internet, it is equally important that high speed internet is available in the home, so that students can take advantage of online learning tools in their home environment.

A well-known worldwide example of how education is changing and how (free) education is being delivered over the internet is www.khanacademy.com . This service originally began when Salman Khan began tutoring his nephews online. His maths tutorials were delivered via the internet. Khan decided to record the sessions and make them available online (via Youtube). He soon realised that his nephews preferred the recorded tutorials, opening his eyes to the power of online education. The service has grown from those beginning and having received funding from the Bill Gates has grown to now include over 2600 online tutorials and virtual classroom software that anyone can access anywhere.

Khan Academy illustrates the kind of services that will be available to students allowing them access to extensive video libraries, practice exercises, and assessments from any computer with access to the web. In addition to regular classroom education, students will have access to these types of tools that are:

  • customised self-paced learning tools
  • dynamic systems that allow students to confidently seek help (unlike asking for extra help in a classroom environment)

In the future parents, teachers and tutors can expect to have full visibility into what their students are learning and doing. A teacher will have:

  • the ability to see any students progress in detail
  • real-time class report for all students
  • better intelligence for doing targeted interventions to assist those students with difficulties.

Parents, students and educators who aren’t aware of online education initiatives or don’t have the skills to access these initiatives will be at a huge educational disadvantage.

The Far West NSW region must ensure that access and education is available for every student, parent and educator, both in the classroom and at home.  See a recent Economist article “ Flipping the Classroom: Hopes that the internet can improve teaching may at last be bearing fruit”(http://www.economist.com/node/21529062).

In the Far West NSW region education providers are doing some interesting work. We spoke to secondary and tertiary education providers in compiling information for this report.

Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health

As discussed in the health section of this report, the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health campus has experienced major successes in providing practical training for health clinicians. The aim is to now transfer this learning framework to other disciplines such as business, law, and engineering. The search for funding is currently underway with the objective being to fund the expansion of the campus program to these new disciplines. Hear about the plans from Associate Professor David Perkins:

TAFE Western Institute & Robinson College

New courses are planned for Far West NSW students in the future. There is an ongoing need to increase participation in education by rural and remote students as they can gain new access to technology. TAFE also plans to continue its use of social media to communicate with students and to continue to engage with other new technologies as they become available. TAFE is also a key partner in the community helping to drive innovative solutions to barriers and challenges that are presented. In the following videos, local training managers and mentors highlight issues of relevance in providing education services over such large geographic areas, and discuss why participation in education by young people is essential, given the empowering features of knowledge and the significant contribution an education can contribute in order to avoid creating a digital divide in our region.

Robinson College

Robinson College is a not-for-profit community organisation that is funded by the NSW Department of Education and Training to deliver Vocational Education and Training programs in Broken Hill, Menindee, Wilcannia and Far Western NSW. The college provides funded opportunities for people to gain vocational skills in a variety of industries. See the manager in the following video discuss the current programs offered in the Far West NSW region:

Robinson College recognises that high speed broadband will assist with:

    • Flexibility in learning, access to learning. An increased number of courses can be offered and web-based e-learning capabilities, currently restricted due to poor bandwidth, will improve.
    • Simple management of web resources will improve. Due to poor speeds, simple tasks like updating the web site, is inefficient.
    • Offer courses worldwide. The college offers course in “Land Management” specific to arid regions. With global warming arid regions are increasing and the skills and knowledge of the Far West NSW region will increasingly be in demand worldwide. This expertise and knowledge can be shared via online education and elearning. Likewise, mining-specific courses could be delivered online.

Actions

What do we want to do Why Who will do it When Resources
Encourage our education service providers to pursue funds under the DEEWR Education Investment Fund (EIF)(see more please go to http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Programs/EIF/Pages/EIFRegPrioRound.aspx – Regional Priorities Round. Develop a robust education funding strategy for the region. There is a lot of education funding being made available  through federal and state initiatives including Our local education service providers ongoing Grant funding opportunities as they present
National VET E-learning Strategy(http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/)
Possible Digital hubs and digital enterprise funding through the Department of Broadband(http://www.dbcde.gov.au/funding_and_programs) (at present this is only available to the first 40 regions but may be extended).
Have a standardised approach to attracting university students to the region. At present no single register of all the universities sending students to Broken Hill exists. The BHUDRH initiative is one of the most well known and accessed university programs in the area. Many others have not been documented. A documented process for attracting universities to send students to the region will assist in systematically increasing the number of students spending time in Broken Hill and Far West NSW. The social and professional exchanges are of great benefit to all parties. RDA Far West NSW will communicate with universities to identify current formal and informal programs in the region. ongoing RDA Far West NSW, BHCC, BHUDRH, others
Develop a clear process in the region for applying for the funding mentioned above. The region is not getting the educational funding it currently needs RDA Far West NSW ongoing RDA Far West NSW
Local providers to continue and increase its provision of niche and specialised education in mining, land management in arid regions and indigenous Australian art and culture These are areas where the region has unique and specialised expertise that can be exported around the world Robinson College, TAFE, BHUDRH ongoing Robinson College, TAFE

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