NSW’s virtual school addresses rural gap
NSW’s Aurora College is using virtual reality technology to address the growing gap in achievement between rural and city students in New South Wales schools.
In Australia, fewer children from provincial and remote areas meet standard Year 7 milestones than their metropolitan counterparts. Less than 60 per cent of remote students complete Year 12, compared to 78 per cent in major cities, SBS News reported.
Aurora College, a state-run selective high school, caters for children from rural and remote regions of NSW.
Students sit the Selective High School Placement Test to gain entry to the college in Years 7 to 10, where they study English, math and science. The remaining 60 per cent of the curriculum is delivered by their home school.
The foundation’s principal, Chris Robertson told SBS News what makes Aurora College distinct from other virtual schools around the world is that it offers “synchronous online lessons.”
“We’re not a distance education model with additional technology, but a face-to-face provision with real time lessons,” Mr Robertson said. “That’s quite unique.”
Students log into the school’s online conferencing software and participate in classes led by teachers who can see and hear the students in real time, with the aids of webcams and microphones.
The school features a virtual campus, built using technology developed by the University of Wollongong.
“We’ve been able to provide a virtual playground for the kids to hang out at recess and lunch time with their Aurora mates,” Mr Robertson said.
Other spaces include a lecture theatre, where outsiders can come to give presentations to the students, and the school hall, where parent-teacher evenings will be held later in the year.
Mr Robertson said in the future virtual schools, and the technology they use, will become more common throughout the Australia education system.
“What we have shown is that the technology exists to provide opportunities for groups of schools to work together, to share resources, and to share expertise. And those schools could be geographically remote from each other, as is the case with Aurora College, or it could be that two or three neighbouring Sydney schools could share a timetable and share a classroom teacher in this way using the same technology that we’re using.”