How ‘COVID-19’ has dramatically increased learning opportunities for rural and remote Australians

One of the positive responses to COVID-19 has been the immediate and widespread use of online platforms (Zoom, Webex, Whats App, GoogleTeams etc.) for workshops, seminars, meetings and discussions.

The use of internet streaming and online webinars and workshops, not at all common before COVID-19, now offers the same learning opportunities to most Australians, regardless of whether they live in the city or the bush. This has created huge opportunities for people living in rural and remote areas.

Before, compared to now

Pre-COVID-19, most professional and personal development events took place on site in capital cities and large regional towns. Those events were not accessible to many Australians living in rural, small regional or remote areas, due to long travel time and/or expense.

During COVID-19 almost all professional and personal development events are held on online, and hopefully, this practice will continue into the future. These events are far less expensive to run than on-site events. The cost of attendance is also far less expensive; in fact, many of these events are free of charge.

My online professional development

As a professional editor, I have always tried to attend a relevant training or development event every two or three months.

Pre-COVID-19, this was difficult because there were only a few online courses available; it was time-consuming and a little expensive for me to travel to Melbourne where almost all of editor training events took place.

I compromised by occasionally attending a Melbourne event (such as an all-day conference) face-to-face, and participating in online editors, writers or professional networking events whenever they were available.

But now, the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) or its branches, and other organisations, are holding all of their professional development events online. I have  attended a range of different events which have been:

  • either very reasonably priced, or free, so very affordable
  • easy to attend (because you’re attending from your own office/home)
  • usually recorded, so you can watch/listen to them again afterwards
  • held in various locations including Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane and Canberra.

So, the development of online webinars or courses – whether professional or personal – has made attendance both accessible and affordable.

People to whom online events are not accessible

While the lower cost (or free-of-charge) nature of online events means that most courses are accessible to attendees whether they live in the bush or the city, it is important to remember that some people still do not have access to the same professional and personal development opportunities as others:

  • people who cannot afford the internet, or the cost of some of the events
  • people who are not internet – or computer-literate
  • people who live in areas where there is no NBN or where the internet speed does not enable them to attend/participate in online events
  • people for whom the language or method of presentation used in the events is not accessible for them
  • people with disabilities that prevent them from attending the events.

In the post-COVID-19 world

After the COVID-19 social restrictions have passed, I am sure we will all be so used to organising and attending online events, that organisations will continue to run most of their events online.

That far more learning opportunities are now available to most people, but are not available to people who cannot access online learning, means that those who cannot access online learning are being discriminated against. This is a problem that needs to be addressed; for example, financial or other support could be offered to help people access the internet and online learning.

If we ensure people’s access to online learning is equitable, we will continue to go forwards in making all learning opportunities available online, and accessible to all Australians.

Edited by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading

Image: Pixabay (Creative Commons Licence)

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