Cowra students, teacher part of a new dawn for online education

Bright new dawn education future: student Xavier and Brady Barlow with Aurora College teacher Steve Howard.
Bright new dawn education future: student Xavier and Brady Barlow with Aurora College teacher Steve Howard.

Students from Cowra High School will join a new virtual school next year, Aurora College.

With plenty of experience teaching years 7-10 through Western NSW's Xsel online program, Cowra High School's Steve Howard is also joining the teaching ranks at Aurora.

"It will be similar toXsel but on a much larger scale," he said.

"Xsel was such as success in Western Region it has been extended throughout the state, and is now gazetted into an official school."

Covering all areas of NSW except Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, Aurora College allows young people to study courses matched to their abilities and interests with a group of high performing peers, or to study subjects not available in their own schools.

Students sit a selected school entry test, with eight students from Cowra High School joining the virtual project.

"On a day to day basis, the teachers use specialised computers in our offices that use Adobe Connect and it's a fairly regular lesson- the same work as they'd be getting in an ordinary class," Mr Howard said.

"In a way however it's easier to extend the students more, with instant links to various websites and online learning really opens up the classroom for them."

While Xsel was originally based in Dubbo, Aurora College's headquarters will now be located in Sydney to cater for the increased numbers.

Aurora College has been named after the Aurora Australis - a stunning display of bright light only seen in the southern hemisphere.

Member for Burrinjuck, Katrina Hodgkinson said $8 million had been allocated for the establishment of the school as part of the NSW Government's Rural and Remote Blueprint for Action, announced in November 2013.

"The school is the first of its kind in Australia and it will grow over time with a new selective intake added every year," Ms Hodgkinson said.

"Providing high performing students in regional areas with the same opportunities as their metropolitan peers will go a long way towards closing the gap in educational achievement between city and country students."