Regional university access: a case study from the south west
Faculty of Regional Professional Studies
School of Regional Professional Studies Deans Office
A study examined university service delivery in an isolated, inland region of south Western Australia. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews with students and former students found that many pre-university youths leave the area because education is only offered through year 10. Therefore, college students in the area tend to be mature-aged. Key issues for these students included isolation and lack of peer interaction/support; limited access to academic resources; and the need for enormous levels of motivation. Particularly, students who commuted long distances to campus faced expenses involved with transportation, lodging, child care, and time off from work; transportation difficulties; and time constraints as they tried to juggle family, commuting, study, and work. Students who studied externally noted difficulties communicating with lecturers and tutors; a strong need for independent study skills; long time-lags between start of courses and completion; and difficulties in completing degrees when degree programs were changed or courses were not offered externally. Recommendations are offered for increasing access to other students, lecturers, other people relevant to the learning process, texts and research materials, quiet places to study, university information, and general academic support. Informed and proactive tutors, a reduced need to travel, and ways of presenting material appropriate to long-distance study were also recommended. The heart of successful service lies less in technology than in methodology--understanding the culture of learning and responding in creative ways.