Schools may need look no further than online training to fix classroom woes, a revealing audit has found.
The report by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BoSTES) showed that students participating in online courses academically perform just as well as their peers on campus – and in some cases even better.
However, some worry that the lack of tangible and interactive learning will only hurt new teachers once they face the tough reality of student-packed classrooms.
Still, the benefits of online education appeal to many prospective teachers who feel marginalised by large university lecture halls and find solace in online courses. In this way they work at their own pace and engage interactively in online discussion groups.
Charles Sturt University's faculty of education executive dean, Toni Downes, told The Australian that distance training for student teachers has also become preferable to the painstaking “fly-in-fly-out mining model” that forces many prospective teachers to live in rural areas they would prefer not to.
“The vast majority of people who study in the region in which they live end up working in the region in which they live; online courses give us the opportunity to widen the pool for more quality teachers,” Professor Downes said.
“The model of taking the best and brightest and shipping them off to the country, that’s the fly-in, fly-out mining model and it doesn’t work.”
The BoSTES report went on to reveal that the success of online students suggests that it is the content provided and not the way it is delivered, that is proving to be increasingly more important.
“Initial teacher education students who study online can achieve equivalent academic results and are equally or more satisfied with their online programs as on-campus students,” the report stated.
But is the online trend evidence that teaching of education in universities is lacking in quality? Furthermore, is it possible that the less tangible online courses may create a generation of new teachers unprepared for the challenging dynamics of physical classroom teaching?
The answers to those questions will undoubtedly step into the classrooms alongside the next generation of teachers.