Changes over the past ten years have broadened the options for students enrolling in courses for the New South Wales Higher School Certificate. Students are no longer confined to a mostly academic pathway or limited to courses that can be taught at their schools. It is now possible to study using several different modes of delivery, attending different campuses and institutions, pursuing various pathways over a number of years.
Online, flexible delivery courses have been made available to students in systemic, congregational and independent Catholic schools to cater for specific student needs.
Online courses are not intended to replace existing face-to-face classes. What schools are endeavouring to do is to maintain a Catholic education for these students and to provide them with access to subjects that traditionally have created timetable difficulties due to their very small class size.
The Online Education Centre commenced operation in 2003 in the Diocese of Lismore. With the assistance of the Maitland-Newcastle, Broken Bay and Wagga Wagga Dioceses, it has grown significantly to deliver an increasing number of online courses to senior high school students in Catholic schools across New South Wales.
The subjects delivered are ones which schools traditionally have difficulty running due to small candidature, lack of expertise at the local school level or timetable clashes.
What is Distance Education?
Online learning is an evolving form of distance education that is experiencing tremendous growth as a result of increased use of personal computers, growth in internet access and lower technology costs.
It is in widespread use in higher education institutions and is now enjoying strong support in many high schools.
It is essentially a form of teaching and learning that uses computer based internet technologies where students, regardless of location, have access to staff and services. The technology provides a gateway for instruction, communication and the provision of links to other educational resources to enhance the learning experience.
How does it operate?
Catholic students across NSW may enrol in the Online Education Centre to study a single subject. They attend their home school for all other subjects. Through an internet presence and various technologies, the provision of an online teacher, a school based mentor and both online and supplementary materials, we are able to provide a means of delivering course content to students regardless of their location. Students will have time each week with the teacher and fellow students connected via the internet in lecture and tutorial sessions out of school hours. Students follow up these lessons by completing set work in their own time either at school or at home.
Ongoing feedback is given by the teacher who is available to provide assistance on a daily basis. Students are required to attend a workshop with the teacher and fellow students once each term at a regional centre close to their home school.
What is involved?
It is a reasonable expectation that students spend between six to eight hours each week working on an online course. This includes both class time and time spent at school in study periods as well as essential homework time.i
1. Live Lesson / Tutorial Sessions. These are an essential part of the teaching/learning process and involve students logging in with the teacher to a ‘live’ online discussion of course work for a one to one and a half hour session each week outside school time, usually in the evening.
2. Pre-recorded Lessons. These are also an essential part of the teaching/learning process and involve students logging in to view lesson content pre-recorded by the teacher for a specific topic or area of study. Students are able to view these recordings either at school or at home in their own time. Each recording would have activities attached to complete later.
3. Weekly Quizzes and/or Homework Exercises. These involve short questions that are answered online and deal with essential concepts in the course. Student responses to the quiz also act as a “roll call” component, indicating that the students have logged onto the course website, at least once in the week.
4. Weekly Tasks. The course websites present a schedule of weekly readings, tasks, forums and journals throughout the course. The solutions to these tasks are also available. Students are expected to complete all tasks to the best of their ability. Some tasks are self assessed. Students then seek help, through email messages or during tutorial sessions. This is unquestionably the most important process in the online delivery of the courses.
5. Topic Assignments. During and at the completion of each topic students may be required to submit for marking an assignment which will focus on the material from the preceding weeks’ tasks. The assignments will contain HSC examination style questions.
6. Formal Assessment Tasks. There are up to five formal tasks which combine to produce the course assessment mark. These include tests, projects, essays and a final exam. The assessment schedule will show you the dates, content and value of each of these tasks. It is available on each course website.