A report prepared by the Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES) has found that online courses for the qualification of teachers are on par with on-campus learning. These findings were made in the recently released BOSTES report, 'Online Initial Teacher Education in NSW' (the Report). The Australian reports that stakeholders 'have long argued that too many students are trained to become teachers, that there is not enough focus on practical skills in their training and that there is a mismatch between graduates and the types of jobs available'.
The Report was an initiative of the 'Great Teaching, Inspired Learning - Blueprint for Action' strategy of the NSW government. That strategy mandated that 'the extent and quality of online study in teacher education will be examined'. The Report surveyed the landscape of initial teacher qualifications (such as Bachelor of Education degrees) in NSW. It found that:
- 'overall... students who study online can achieve equivalent academic results and are equally or more satisfied with their online programs as on-campus students';
- 'students who undertake [online study] are overwhelmingly mature aged, female and studying part time';
- noting that 'the models for program delivery vary', 'students find some aspects of online delivery preferable to on-campus delivery and some aspects of on-campus programs preferable to online programs'; and
- 'ultimately all providers agree that it is the pedagogy, not the mode of delivery that determines the quality of programs'.
The findings are succinctly stated in the executive summary of the Report.
The shift towards online learning has implications for current, as well as prospective teachers. In NSW, the government recently mandated that all teachers must be accredited by 2017, and that this would involve 100 hours of professional development. We reported on those changes in this article.
Given that the new requirement will affect 75,000 teachers, it is an apt time to be discussing the method of delivery for education to teachers. Although the Report confines itself to teacher qualification, its findings reflect a trend of online learning. The report notes the advantages of online learning, such as cost, flexibility, and efficiency. It also notes that online learning provides for a diversity of learning programs meaning that more courses can be delivered to teachers.
In recognition of the fact that teachers are faced with increasing bureaucratic and administrative burdens - from marking, excursion management and planning, and other out-of-classroom duties, the Report provides a rationale for providing learning to teachers in a mode that suits them.
The BOSTES website has a list of approved professional development providers for NSW teachers to access for education to meet their accreditation requirements.