LEAPing into the Digital Future: Regional and Remote Students

In higher education, incoming students are assumed to have foundational digital literacy reflecting their access to technology in schools and at home (Kennedy et al., 2008).

While benchmark tracking for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) proficiency in primary and secondary school students is conducted and monitored by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (via NAP-ICT), evidence of benchmark practice or evaluation is not apparent in university institutions.

Research shows that there is a growing gap in the digital competencies between low socio-economic status (low SES) students and the rest of the general student population (Russo et al., 2016). This is more evident in regional and remote areas, where schools have technology but often struggle with poor bandwidth and lack of digital skills amongst teachers and students.

LEAP-Links Digital Literacy program

To equip future tertiary students from low SES regional and remote areas with the confidence and skills to effectively bridge the ‘digital divide’, Widening Participation Unit (WPU) piloted a digital literacy program over the last year.

The top three digital literacy skills university students from regional and remote areas (n=84) recommended were:

1. Working with Spreadsheets

2. Online Researching

3. Referencing

There is an evident gap in understanding incoming students’ actual ICT preparedness versus assumed skill levels. To address this, teacher professional development workshop were developed.

Teacher Professional Development Workshops

Accreditation from New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) was granted for the workshop materials developed for teachers:

  • Three face-to-face registered NESA-accredited workshops were delivered in 3 schools, across 3 NSW regions that included: North Coast, Central West and Far West
  • A total of 18 teachers from 6 different schools participated in the workshops.
  • Participating teachers were credited 7 hours for the program in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). 5.5hrs for face-to-face workshop time and 1.5hrs for the follow-on online unit.

Moving forward the Academy of Continuing Professional Development in Education in the Department of Educational Studies will be delivering the LEAP – Digital Literacy (Teacher PD) program to schools situated in low socio-economic communities.

If you would like to find out more about the program or how you could contribute, please contact me at sonal.singh@mq.edu.au or the Academy at acpde@mq.edu.au.

The project was funded by the Commonwealth Government’s National Priorities Pool (NPP) Grant.


References

Kennedy, G. E., Judd, T. S., Churchward, A., & Gray, K. (2008). First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 108-122.

Russo, K. Eagle, L. Emtage, N. & Low, D. (2016). The Digital Divide and Higher Education, Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) Conference, 4-7 July, Freemantle.

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Posted by Sonal Singh

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