Rise in online teacher education
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Rapid rise in online initial teacher education

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has released a new report that details a rapid rise in online enrolments for initial teacher education (ITE) courses in Australia.

Figures reveal that enrolments for ITE are outnumbering the average growth for all other online tertiary courses by six-to-one.

In 2007, 9267 Australians were studying to be a teacher either online or off-campus. In 2016, this number increased to 22,100, with one-in-four of the country’s 87,134 student teachers now choosing online ITE courses.

AITSL Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Rodgers, said while the mini-boom in online ITE is bringing higher education to more aspiring teachers, they must be classroom ready when they graduate. “No matter where a student completes an ITE course in Australia, the number one focus needs to remain on a student’s practice, skills and knowledge so that the highest quality graduates are entering the profession, ready to teach from day one.”

She said that people living in regional or remote locations, or those having to juggle becoming a teacher with work or family commitments were among those choosing to study online ITE.

Like all ITE courses, those studied online also have a mandatory practical teaching component, where student teachers are required to be placed in school classrooms, to teach school students.

“These new teachers are often entering later in life via non-traditional pathways outside the cities, with the potential to further diversify the teaching workforce and mitigate teacher shortages, particularly in regions typically difficult to staff,” said Ms Rodgers. “Our research also shows the typical online ITE student is female, older than 25, has children, works full-time, studies part-time, and lives in a regional or outer-metropolitan area.”

She added, “Some of the data we’re sharing could also help accredited ITE providers see the bigger patterns, opportunities and challenges presented by a growing, national cohort of online student teachers. For instance, we’ve identified approximately 30 per cent of student teachers studying online are enrolled with an interstate provider not in their home state. Giving them the access and support for classroom placements in their home state or territory is important and we know many providers are focused on using technology and more traditional measures to do just that.”

Despite the rapid rise in online ITE from 2007 to 2016, on-campus ITE enrolment figures have remained relatively stable. The report also found that student engagement in online learning, and supporting students via distance are challenges requiring further investigation and research.

To view the full report, titled ‘The rise of online initial teacher education: what do we know?, click here.