Bridging the gap of distance has always been the focus of our school, a story which began more than one hundred years ago. In 1909, the school was originally established to provide training for teachers who needed tuition to gain their teaching qualifications, but were unable, due to distance, to attend classes at the Melbourne Teachers College. By 1911, 600 student-teachers were studying by correspondence.
Students first began using the services of the school in 1914, after an urgent letter from a mother in a remote area concerned about the prospects of educating her two sons. A small group of six trainee teachers volunteered to draw up sets of lessons for the boys who received work every fortnight.
So enrolments of remote students began. The number of student-teachers required to service the students increased in 1915, and by 1922, 212 children, including 4 from the Northern Territory were being taught via the mailbag.
In 1932 the school was formally named the ‘Correspondence School’, and catered for both Primary and Secondary Students. 1953 saw the introduction of short-wave broadcasts, finally allowing students to hear their teacher’s voices (and vice versa), something most children take for granted, but a new experience for remote rural student.
The ‘Correspondence School’ entered the final decade of the century with a name change now becoming known as the ‘Distance Education Centre, Victoria’(DECV). The name was not the only change that occurred, with methods of course provision developing inline with current technology.
The DECV has evolved from its humble beginnings of student-teachers and two remote students, to a P – 12 school with over 3000 enrolments, providing education for students in categories as diverse as: Medical, Referral, Travelers and of course the original Distance Category. Students currently attending regular schools who are unable to study the subjects they require during VCE also make up a large section of enrolments, along with students in unique situations such as: students in Youth Training Centres, actors, athletes, ballet students, and even a student preparing to sail solo around the world! (whilst completing some VCE subjects) Students may be as close as suburban Melbourne with a medical condition, or as distant as Kyrgyzstan (formerly USSR) with parents working for an aid agency.
From the original handwritten courses the DECV has evolved, now with a rich web presence and on-line interactive courses. With both the traditional print based courses and the development of the virtual classroom, the DECV is striving to ensure that all students can receive the best possible education, regardless of their location or circumstances.
Now in Thornbury, the DECV’s operations continue to incorporate elements of the old and the new. As at the very start of our history, we still have students who receive coursework and submit work by mail. At the same time, there is much less ‘distance’ between these students and their teachers than was originally the case. Telephone contact, online classes, online collaboration email, and seminars at the school have been critical in breaking down this distance.
Another vital way in which the situation of distance education students is being improved is through the continuing development of pastoral care programs in which students have the guidance of a pastoral care teacher and their progress is tracked as they move through the school.
The virtual classroom has been a major feature of this school for a number of years and many of our students regularly use email, forums and chat to submit work or contact their teachers. Using Janison
s Solutions Toolbox as a on-line delivery and communication system, the distance between staff and students and between students and other students through is greatly reduced. Students are now able to interact with each other through asynchronous discussion groups and through online chat groups.
The DECV continues to grow, dedicated to making education accessible to all who need it – flexible learning for all.