Distance Education

Most of my education has been by one form or other of distance education.  My first 2 years of schooling were Grade 1 and Grade 2 at Meadows Primary School, then just as I was starting Grade 3, we moved out bush.  Our farm was 20km from the nearest bus stop, and the school was a 1 1/4 hour bus ride from that bus stop.  Rather than spend such a huge chunk of time sitting on a bus each school day, I was introduced to the South Australian Correspondence School (now SA Open Access College) and began my lifelong love affair with distance learning.  Every fortnight I would receive a package from the Correspondence School, which I would complete in 2 or 3 days then have the rest of the fortnight off.  Compared to the boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation of the classroom environment, it was Utopia!  It wasn’t until Year 11 that I had to spend more than a week to complete each fortnight’s package, and my grade sheets showed A’s across the board.

I left school at the end of Year 11 to start work as a farm labourer, shearer, grain handler, truck driver, and fence fixer.  The plan was to get together enough resources to acquire my own land and become a farmer.  I was given the opportunity to do some cereal sharefarming in the mid 1980’s which was to be my foot in the door.  Unfortunately both crops I was involved in financing failed, and I saw the writing on the wall.  Now what to do?  I decided to go back to school and complete Year 12, then go to university.  Year 12 was a culture shock, as I was 21 in a crowd of 17-year-olds, and had not set foot in a classroom since early 1974.  However, my independent study skills learned from the Correspondence School helped me to do well and complete Year 12 with a 96% grade.

Then came four years at university trying to find out what I wanted to do.  A year of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, a year of Mechanical Engineering, and two years of Surveying left me still confused what I was going to do.  During all of this, I was a volunteer Ambulance Officer, and in my second year of Surveying I starting going out with the daughter of a GP.  I spend many hours with this GP (and the daughter of course!!) discussing health care etc, and she suggested I should try medicine as a career.  So I applied, but was knocked back as a bad risk due to three uncompleted degrees already.  The Dean of the School of Medicine at Adelaide University suggested I acquire a nursing degree, then if I achieved high grades he would give me a place in medical school.

Three years later I graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing with the highest grade point average of my class over the three years.  Much of what I learned during my nursing degree was self-directed as I quickly found the lectures and tutorials were pitched at the lowest common denominator and were unbelievably boring.  So I spent much of the three years teaching myself from textbooks and journal articles, just like I used to do with the Correspondence School.  It worked for me, as I achieved a high enough grade (High Distinction average) to go to medical school.  Unfortunately for entering medical school, but fortunately for my life in general, I married Anita shortly after graduation and decided to stick with nursing for the time being as I was sick of being a penniless student.

My next educational endeavour was two years later when I was working is a busy metropolitan ED, and began a graduate program for Emergency Nursing.  This was almost entirely by distance education, and left me with a graduate certificate in Emergency Nursing.

Then after yet another change in my career, I ended up working as a Remote Area Nurse in Oodnadatta SA.  It didn’t take me long to realise that I knew almost nothing that I needed to know to be effective, so it was back to distance education to fill the gaps.  I enrolled in the Master of Remote Health Practice and completed it over 3 years, then the Master of Remote Health Management over two more years.  The possibility of becoming a Remote Nurse Practitioner became achievable in 2010, so I then completed a bridging course to convert my first Masters to a Master of Remote Health (Nurse Practitioner).

What’s next?  Well right now I’m refreshing my ALS certification via an online unit with CRANAplus, and in the next few months it is possible that I’ll have the opportunity to start a PhD program.  So the love affair with learning, and in particular distance education, continues.  I am thrilled that my children have had the opportunity to do some of their schooling via Alice Springs School of the Air, as it has exposed them to the self-discipline, challenges and rewards of distance education.  If the skills they acquire through this form of learning are as useful to their lives as they have been in mine, then they will be fortunate indeed.

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