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You are reading: Good Practice in Online Teacher Education

Janet Dyment, Jill Downing, Cathy Stone, Naomi Milthorpe, Tracey Muir, Elizabeth Freeman and Belinda Hopwood

Published by the University of Tasmania
July 2019


The growth in online Initial Teacher Education

Online learning is fast becoming the preferred mode of study for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students in Australia. Between 2007 and 2016, the proportion of ITE students studying online has increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent (Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), 2018a).

Why the growth?

Online study offers accessibility and flexibility. It is particularly attractive for students who are older, with family commitments, work responsibilities, or those who live in remote settings (Stone, 2017).

What does it mean to study online?

The age of digitalisation has seen a remarkable shift in the delivery of ITE programs. Where on-campus lectures and tutorials once characterised teacher education studies, today a range of study patterns are available for students: some students will study fully on-campus; others might complete their studies fully online and never set foot on a campus; others might do a mix of online and on-campus study that might vary by unit, semester, or year of study; and others might adopt a blended approach of listening to lectures online but attending on-campus tutorials. Whichever model students choose, the use of technology will be embedded into ITE program delivery in some way and the principles and checklist are relevant for all ITE students and teacher educators.

How do online students fare?

THE GOOD NEWS: Research suggests that students who study teaching online can achieve similar academic results and are equally satisfied with their online studies as on-campus students. There is no evidence that mode of attendance negatively affects graduate quality (AITSL, 2018 a,b; Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards, 2014).
THE BAD NEWS: Students studying online have lower retention, success, and completion rates than their on-campus counterparts. Completion rates are even lower for online students who are studying from a remote location, younger than 19, have an Indigenous background, or have a disability (AISTL, 2018 a,b).

Is it hard to teach teaching online?

For teacher educators, the transition to teaching online can be challenging for a number of reasons (Downing & Dyment, 2013). In a profession centred on relationships, trust, and support, the lack of face to face contact and opportunities to effectively model classroom teaching skills can threaten the traditional identity of a teacher educator. Teacher educators may experience technical challenges in designing, developing, and delivering online ITE, leading to dissatisfaction and concerns about the efficacy of online teacher education. They may struggle to adapt their pedagogies from classroom teaching into the online space.

Who should read this document?

This document responds to the growth in online ITE around Australia and the concerning statistics about lower retention, success, and completion rates of online ITE students. It is intended to be used by teacher educators working in the online space. It will also have relevance for educators working in other discipline areas in higher education who teach online.

Where did the principles and checklist come from?

The principles and checklist came from research conducted by teacher educators from the University of Tasmania over a number of years. We conducted a systematic literature review of research related to online ITE to understand baseline knowledge. We interviewed teacher educators around Australia who were leaders in online ITE. And, over a number of years, we have been tracking the experiences of students studying online to understand what engaged them in their online studies. For a list of some of our papers, please see the final page of this document.

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