Students in rural Western Australia embrace flexible learning during COVID-19 – South Regional TAFE

Kyron Nunn has been studying a Diploma of IT Networking online with South Regional TAFE since mid-March.

On a stormy autumn day, Kyron is happy to be rugged up inside his comfortable home listening to his TAFE lecturers online to complete his work schedule.

Kyron moved from the classroom to online study three weeks before the end of first term to protect a member of his family who was susceptible to COVID-19 due to a health condition.

“It’s been a positive experience for me and I’ve had all the resources I’ve needed easily available,” Kyron said.

He said his lecturers had been very supportive and encouraging about the move to online study.

“Working on the networking side of things has been more of a challenge as we are used to having the physical switches, ports and cabling in front of us.

“The lecturers have adjusted their classes accordingly and helped us with any trouble shooting so it’s been good.

We’ve been able to ask questions online and I’ve noticed even some of the quieter students are asking more questions than they normally would in class.”

Kyron added that feeling comfortable at home could be conducive to positive learning experiences.

Although Kyron missed his TAFE class friends, he said they had been chatting online and regularly checking in with each other.

He may return to classes soon but for now, Kyron is happy to continue studying online knowing he can contact his lecturers for help and support.

Nicole Compton has been studying nursing at South Regional TAFE Narrogin campus for about 10 months.

Nicole has been so impressed with at-home learning as part of the blended learning package available for nursing studies during COVID-19 that she is keen to see if it can continue in some way.

Diploma of Enrolled Nursing students were moved to blended learning with an online learning component towards the end of Term 1.

Nicole loved the option to learn online and said she had no problems logging into Collaborate and accessing the lecturer’s presentations. She also enjoyed the options to use the chat tool to post questions and share comments and questions on the whiteboard.

“All the material and assignments we needed were uploaded on Blackboard and I had no problems accessing it,” Nicole said.

Blackboard is an online learning system available through South Regional TAFE for students.

Nicole said that there were a few minor technical issues at first but overall the transition was smooth.

“Personally, I feel the blended learning option gave me more flexibility. I was really enjoying having the option to access online delivery,” she said.

“I have young children and to be able to complete some of the work at home in my own time just makes it easier.

I know some of the students have a lot of travel time to get to campus and having the blended learning option reduces their travel time.

There are definite benefits and the interactions with lecturers are still really good.”

Nicole was clear that because nursing was such a practical course there would always be the need to attend the labs and complete practical assessments, but she said being able to access online components of the course was a great option.

Nicole wants to go on to complete a registered nursing course at university level once she has completed her TAFE studies.

Harvey campus student Jessica Green, Certificate IV in Education Support, is confident she could cope with any new online learning experience after moving to the new study mode in the last two weeks of Term 1.

Jessica has now returned to her education support classes at the Harvey campus (140 kilometres south of Perth) but she enjoyed her online learning experience and was very happy to have the opportunity to continue with her studies from home.

“Our lecturer called us and explained how we would be doing things differently online,” Jessica said.

“She was great and emailed us the information we needed for the Zoom session beforehand,” Jessica said.

“We were able to read any new case studies and have our questions ready for the Zoom session.

I’m not the most computer savvy person but I found it worked really well.

I really like to keep to my routine and keep up with my work, so I made sure I set time aside to login and complete my class work.”

Jessica explained that having school-age children, who were also learning at home, meant she had to be home with them. TAFE classes moving online meant she was able to continue her studies around the needs of her young children.

“Being able to hear my lecturer online and talk to other students helped me feel connected to everyone else in the class and reminded me that we were not alone. We were all in the same boat but able to connect in a positive way.”