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I did an online teaching degree while living in remote Australia

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Balance work, life and study, Education, Online study
ALISHA working with a child in the classroom

Alisha has always dreamed of becoming a teacher and she wasn't about to let remote living stop her from studying a teaching degree. Rather, she embraced the opportunity to study teaching online, while building a fulfilling career - and life. 

Alisha Chapman calls Nhulunbuy home. The remote community is at the top of northern Australia and a 10-hour drive to the nearest major city.

She's has taken a rather circuitous route to end up in her current role as a primary school teacher in Nhulunbuy.

Her goal was always clear. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a child,” she said. What hasn’t always been as clear is how Alisha would reach that goal.

New home, new uni

Alisha reading with children under a tree

Alisha started her studies in Queensland, where she earned a vocational training certificate in education support. But she and her family soon moved to the remote community of Nhulunbuy, in north-east Arnhem Land.

“When we arrived in Nhulunbuy, I went to work as a support worker at the local primary school,” Alisha said. “One day one of the teachers told me I was destined to be the teacher and not the teacher’s aide.”

There was only one problem.

I didn’t think I was clever enough to go to university.

“I didn’t have the confidence, but the teacher told me I would surprise myself with how much I already knew and that university would consolidate the learning I’d acquired on the job. I decided to go for it.”

To get her teaching degree, Alisha enrolled in a Queensland university that offered teaching degrees online, but she soon ran into problems.

I wasn’t happy with the support from the university I originally started my degree with. I was in a remote place and they didn’t understand the conditions I was studying in.

"I transferred to an online teaching degree at Charles Darwin University even though I would lose six subjects that didn’t correspond with CDU’s course. It was worth it to me to study with CDU though, because the lecturers understood my context and provided me with the support I needed,” Alisha said.

Making it work

“Living in Nhulunbuy, I had no option but to study via correspondence. I started my degree part-time and always studied in the summer semesters. After a while I started studying full-time. It took me six years to get my degree and in that time I had a life, had a baby, and raised a family,” Alisha reflected.

My life as a remote teacher is exciting, rewarding—and exhausting. I’m blessed to live in a place where Yolngu culture is so strong that it is incorporated in our teaching and learning.

The highlight for Alisha came when she graduated from CDU with a Bachelor of Education.

By far my greatest experience was walking across the stage at graduation and receiving my degree as my children, husband and parents in the audience cheered me on.

"My eldest daughter Tiana, 14, told me that I inspired her. I showed her that following your passion and your dreams is achievable at any age."

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