The delivery of teacher education programmes in regional Victoria, Australia: Opportunities and challenges

Bonnie Yim, Louise Paatsch, Janet Moles, Bernadette Walker-Gibbs and Terri Redpath
Deakin University, Australia

A significant number of Australian universities have multiple campuses (Winchester and Sterk 2006). To manage successful student learning outcomes, Winchester and Sterk (2006) argue that universities may experience challenging teaching and learning issues such as fragmentation, duplication, inconsistency and lack of equitable opportunities for students across the various sites.

In recent years, online educational technology has enabled Australian universities to rethink the ways in which they deliver programmes (Smith, Ling and Hill 2006). Such a paradigm and technological shift provide a ‘window of opportunity’ to meet the challenging demands of serving multiple campuses (Bottomley 2000), especially those in regional areas. In Victoria, at June 2012, the regional population was 1.38 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). However, Polesel’s (2009) report found that students from regional areas defer university at twice the rate of metropolitan students. There is also evidence that students in regional areas, on the one hand, consider such areas as a learning environment with many advantages (e.g. small classes and a compact campus)(Ellis et al. 2005). On the other hand, students’ different interests can often be overlooked in educational settings (Semke and Sheridan 2012).

This paper will report on the results of a baseline study using survey methodology, which examined the challenges and opportunities of delivering elements of two undergraduate programmes in regional areas in Victoria, Australia. In particular, the research focused on two selected undergraduate teacher education programmes: (1) primary education; and (2) early childhood education. Focused discussion data, gathered from academics involved in delivering the programmes in the regional campuses will be presented as an analysis of issues and practices of teaching and learning in the 21st century. Implications for the provision of a quality learning experience and environment for students and for the course marketing strategies will be discussed.