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In mid-2013, Swinburne University of Technology set out to increase Indigenous participation in higher education using online learning platforms and new methods of student support. More than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students participated in the Indigenous Futures Collaboration project between 2014 and 2016, most of them based in remote areas of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Nine partner organisations were involved in the project at various levels, including student recruitment, course design, and delivery.
In this report, we use evidence from the Indigenous Futures Collaboration to examine the extent to which online delivery can help overcome barriers to education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in regional and remote areas.
The report looks at two different cohorts of students: those who were qualified to enter into Bachelor degree courses, and those who were not. For the former group, the focus of the IFC project was on financial assistance and student support as a means to retain students doing degrees through Swinburne Online. For those who did not meet degree entry requirements, the IFC project offered certificate-level courses as pathways into higher education. In both cases, the project set out to reach people who were excluded from studying on campus at Swinburne due to geographic distance or other barriers.
The Indigenous Futures Collaboration demonstrated that online education can assist more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in higher education. However, the partners also discovered that creating successful pathways is a multi-dimensional and resource-intensive task. This report looks at how factors external to course design and delivery – including student and provider motivations and digital exclusion – can influence outcomes.