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Ara and Open Polytechnic launch new secondary tertiary pilot

Published with permission from Ara Institute of Canterbury and Open Polytechnic. 

A new secondary tertiary pilot programme has been launched which sees secondary students enrolled in selected trades and design courses with Ara now able to study online with Open Polytechnic as part of their school timetable.
A new partnership between Ara Institute of Canterbury, the South Island’s largest vocational education provider, and Open Polytechnic, New Zealand’s leading online and distance learning provider, aims to create improved access and opportunities for secondary students to follow their preferred vocational pathway.  

Under the partnership, a new secondary tertiary pilot programme has been launched which sees secondary students enrolled in selected trades and design courses with Ara now able to study online as part of their school timetable. Students attend the Ara campus for a day every three weeks as part of their studies.  

Youth and Community Development Manager at Ara, Mark Simons says, “Secondary tertiary programmes can be the difference between a student staying in a supportive school environment and leaving school before they’re ready. Through the hands-on learning experiences provided at Ara students are prepared for higher-level study, or to move into an apprenticeship or employment.” 

Simons adds, “Introducing programmes that can be completed in a blended delivery (online as well as face to face delivery) model allows more students access to participate and achieve, particularly where their location may hinder participation.” 

Ara has an established suite of successful Secondary Tertiary programmes which enables learners to earn NCEA credits, and get a feel for tertiary study, while remaining in school.  

Simons says the blended delivery model of the pilot is a great example of institutes working together, under the unification of Te Pūkenga. 

“This collaboration helps both institutes to meet students’ needs for flexible delivery. We hope to build upon this pilot for the future, to continue to provide greater access for all learners; including exploring options to provide a similar blended delivery model for some fulltime programmes,” he says. 

Open Polytechnic Executive Director of School Strategy, Alex MacCreadie, says the partnership draws on the strengths of the two organisations to both engage and improve learner access to vocational education.   

“Open Polytechnic’s role has been to take an existing Ara face to face course and adapt it using learning design for online delivery,” says MacCreadie. “We have also trained Ara staff on best practice online facilitation using our iQualify for Schools online learning platform.” 

The pilot has initially been rolled out in Christchurch, with a number of participants travelling in from North Canterbury and Ashburton to prioritise improving access to tertiary for rural secondary school students.  

“One of the benefits of this new partnership is that secondary school students who weren’t able to travel into the Christchurch region on a regular basis to attend face to face classes, now have greater access to this kind of vocational learning.”  

Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Caroline Seelig says the pilot will be used to provide learnings and insights to inform a wider roll out.   

“We are excited to collaborate with Ara on this secondary tertiary pilot programme and in the future hope to deliver on a wider scale in both the Canterbury region and throughout the network of Te Pūkenga subsidiaries. It’s about sharing our resources and online skills to support secondary school learners who want to pursue a vocational study pathway with their local polytechnics.”  

Currently the pilot is being run for a Level 2 electrical course which started on 11 February and a Level 2 design course which started on 25 February. 15 secondary students are currently enrolled. 

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