Online but not alone
Whether you’re a child growing up in a remote location studying via distance education, or an adult studying to upskill or change careers, online learning is reshaping the training and education space.
By TAFE Queensland
Sherrise George grew up in Malanda, Far North Queensland. An hour's drive from Cairns and surrounded by beautiful World Heritage listed Wet Tropics rainforest her remote location meant choice and access to training and education was limited.
“I completed my schooling online and via tele-conferences with the Cairns School of Long Distance Education,” Sherrise said.
“My school day typically started with an hour phone lesson with my teacher and other students (some often up to 300 kilemetres away) before breaking out into whatever area of study I wanted to do for that day.”
“I enjoyed not only the flexibility, but also the challenge of personalised self-directed learning. It’s made me who I am today,” she said.
Growing up Sherrise was captivated by computers and information technology (IT).
“Dad was always on the computer. He was an electrician by trade, but has qualifications in IT, training and assessing, and workplace health and safety. He’s the most qualified person I know,” Sherrise said.
“I was three when I got my first computer. It was white and bigger than I was—so different from today’s mobile devices I see little ones using. I remember mum would push my high chair up to the screen and I’d start tapping away on the keys, learning about counting, colours and shapes through online learning games. I loved it,” she said.
Throughout her formative years, Sherrise followed her fascination with IT and started exploring its many applications and uses across a variety of platforms and devices.
“I’ve always had a passion for art, photography and design. I used to sit on my laptop for hours editing and manipulating photos in Adobe,” Sherrise said.
“I can’t draw, I can’t sketch, and I can’t paint. I can’t put what’s in my head down on paper. But using digital tools like Adobe I can. I can somehow create exactly what I see in my mind onto the screen.”
“I knew I’d found what I wanted to do and it was time to pursue my passion,” she said.
Enjoying the freedom and flexibility of studying online at school, Sherrise decided to enrol in an online course at TAFE Queensland. After completing a Certificate IV in Information Technology she has found her home working in IT, moving to the Sunshine Coast to work at Lightbox Radiology in Noosaville.
“I started my education online so I guess it’s no surprise I’m now working in the online learning space—I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Sherrise said.
“I work closely with doctors to design and develop both online and face-to-face medical courses for a range of levels, ranging from medical students and nurses, to specialists. I convert technical content from doctors into something interesting and interactive for industry professionals.”
“Online learning development never gets boring for me. There are always new and exciting ways to enlighten and engage learners through interactive design. Software updates all the time and there will always be new features, new tools and new ways to design and learn things,” she said.
Balancing study with everyday life can be difficult, but from an early age Sherrise learned to take control of her own learning—and it’s paying off.
“Online learning is perfect for those who work, lead hectic lives, or would rather not take time off to study or train. People can access their learning space 24 hours a day, seven days a week and be supported by teachers around the clock,” Sherrise said.
“For me, it’s the perfect way to learn. It allows you to work at your own pace. You’re in charge of your own workload. You determine your priorities, you develop your goals, and you set your deadlines. You’re responsible for your learning outcomes and you’re responsible for your success,” she said.