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TEACHER'S AIDE COURSES ONLINE: IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?

Teacher's Aide Course Online: Is it Right for You?


This article answers the 14 of the most common questions for those considering studying a teacher’s aide course online.

what online study is like with FTTA

Online study is popular and provides flexibility to mature age students with life commitments.


Don’t settle for second best – your education is important, and it could be a life-changing experience that transforms your lifestyle, your income potential, your self-esteem, your confidence and finally your career. Investing in your own education is the best thing that you can do for your future and your family’s future.


About 8000 students graduate from teacher’s aide courses per year in Australia. That number is increasing year on year. So is the number of students enrolling in online courses as opposed to class- based courses. This is due to a range of reasons such as the availability of faster internet connections and devices, community acceptance of online learning as ‘normal’ and the ease that providers can create high-quality content and make it available for consumption 24/7.


The ability to study online has been a boon for parents, especially women, who can study at a time that suits them, and who don’t need to take time off work or spend money to put children into child care. The average age of our students is 37 and most of them have very busy lives – hence the benefits and popularity of online study cannot be understated.


Take-outs:

  • Online study mode is popular with busy adults due to the flexibility it providers.
  • You will need regular support from your trainer including face to face and phone contact.
  • Online study does not mean zero contact - many students attend tutorials and webinars.
  • Consider the full cost of your course - child care costs etc. and consider more than just the course fee (support, reputation of provider, friendly trainers, contactable etc.).
  • Teacher's aide courses are not difficult in the sense that they are not technical courses like programming or accounting.
  • All courses require dedication, time and a consistent routine.
  • If you are not compfortable with IT - organise a friend to help you especially early in your course.
  • Class-based study suits some people. Students say that they enjoy the social aspect.

1. Can a teacher’s aide course be studied online?

Almost all teacher’s aide courses can be studied online. However, this can depend on the training provider, government funding rules and other factors. For example, some courses are only available class based whereas others are only available online. Speak to your chosen provider or check their website. The two main teacher’s aide courses that can be studied online are:

  • CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support
  • CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support

2. Is studying online the right choice for you?

what mode of study is best?

Class based may be preferred by some especially if you enjoy social interaction. FTTA class pictured.


We get asked this all the time. Sometimes however, students want to study online, and it probably isn’t the right mode of study for them. It is important to think carefully about which mode you will enrol in. There are several questions that you need to ask yourself before enrolling online:

  • Is this the first time you have studied before?
  • Can you use a computer? Can you comfortably watch online videos for example?
  • Are you motivated enough to study at home on your own?
  • Do you need a flexible learning program due to your commitments or can you attend classes?
  • How well do you speak English? Have you been learning English for less than 5 years?
  • Does your provider have a good reputation?
  • Does your provider offer support services?

Not all providers are the same – be sure your provider is experienced and have good trainers that you feel comfortable with. Also make sure that they visit you when you are on placement – this is very important.


Bear in mind that you can easily transfer to a different mode, depending on your provider. There may be fees to transfer to a different mode. If you find that you are enrolled in a particular mode, and it isn’t working from you, then you should speak with your trainer about alternative options such as attending more regular tutorials, weekly contact from your trainer or even transfer to class based – this could be the difference between finishing or not finishing your course.


3. What does ‘online study’ mean exactly?

It is also important to remember that ‘online’ is a broad term that can mean many different things. It often doesn’t mean that you sit in front of a computer for your entire course and never speak to another human being. Studying online simply means that you access a range of resources via a student portal (often called a Learning Management System). In addition, good providers will offer various services and resources as part of their program such as:

  • Interactive webinars where students can ask questions and speak with each other
  • Face to face tutorials or workshops in small groups (1-2 hours and up to a full day)
  • Regular phone and email contact from the trainer
  • Short courses relevant to the course
  • Interactive online activities

Also, don’t forget about the placement (discussed further below) which is certainly NOT an online activity.

4. What is the (true) cost of studying online?

I recommend reading my article A Guide to Government Funded Teacher’s Aide Courses and specifically the section “Is free really free? Why cheap courses can be really expensive.”


Some people ask whether studying online is cheaper and, in some cases it is. However, enrolling with the cheapest provider may not be the cheapest overall – in fact, it may cost you even more in terms of time and money. You should also consider:

  • Are there additional costs involved?
  • Will studying online take more time? Being in class you can ask questions straight away.
  • Will studying online take you longer to finish?
  • Am I comfirtable with the provider?
  • Does the provider have a good reputation?
  • Will your provider visit you on placement?
  • Do you have access to your trainers to ask questions? Can you email, phone or meet them face to face?
real cost of studying online

Having a supportive trainer is essential – make sure you can meet with your trainer, attend tutorials etc.

5. Is studying online hard?

It depends on your provider and on the individual student. For some students studying online is much harder but it is the only way that they can study due to time issues. Other students find studying online easy and flexible.


In many cases, ‘harder’ is probably not quite the correct word – online can be ‘longer’ in some cases. One reason is that students who attend class can ask questions then and there if they are stuck, and trainers tend to give specific due dates and expect submissions on those dates – which is more motivating for many students.


For the majority of students, studying online if perfectly okay provided the student has access to a supportive trainer and high-quality resources such as webinars and learner guides written by their trainers that are practical and easy to follow.


Here are three examples form the learner guide developed by FTTA*


6. Do I need to be good at using computers?

education support work computers

Studying online no longer requires a high level of IT skills.


You will need to have some IT skills in order to enrol in an online course, but not as much as in the past. Some of the common activities that you will undertake include:


  • Opening and reading PDFs
  • Watching videos online
  • Logging into a portal and navigating the portal
  • Using a word document (Microsoft Word for example)
  • Sending and receiving emails
  • Searching on Google and finding information

If you can do these things – you probably have enough computer skills to enrol in an online course.


Hint: If you think you struggle with IT but still want to enrol in a teacher’s aide course via online mode – consider asking someone in your household or a friend to regularly help you from a technological point of view. Once you get started on your course, most topics are similar in terms of the technological needs so you probably will only need help early in your course.


7. Can I studying online and work full time?

Yes! In fact, many students do this. It is the reason why online mode has become so popular – so students don’t need to forgo income in order to study. Many students simply can’t afford to give up work and study full-time.


However, it may be the case that taking some time off work if possible, would be beneficial. Remember that it is important to commit to your course. Bear in mind the reason why you enrolled in the first place – to improve your future. Importantly, the placement will require you to take time off work, so you are available at least one school day per week or for a block of time.


The average age of our students is 37 and many of them have work commitments, particularly part time or casual. Some however are working full time. People come from all walks of like – many looking for a change. So, can you study while working – absolutely!


8. Are there any free online teacher aide courses?

Government funding in most states, if available, normally require students to pay fees (the co-contribution fee in QLD for example) and the government pays for most of your course fees. There are some exceptions such as for high school graduates in QLD where the government picks up the tab completely.


In some cases, such as FTTA’s government funded courses in Queensland, you can enrol from $25 for concession and while not free, is very affordable.


Also bear in mind other relevant considerations:

  • Do you need to purchase textbooks or pay other fees?
  • Do you need to pay unit by unit fees or assessment fees?
  • Does the course require you to attend classes? This means that you need to pay for parking, petrol, child care, forgo wages from work or other opportunity costs like loss of family time?
  • What is the completion rate of the provider? While your course fee may be small, you may also be throwing the whole amount down the drain, if you don’t graduate.
  • If the course takes longer then you are forgoing earnings. This means that you are in sitting in class or on a computer ‘studying’ instead of being in the workplace with your certificate and earning real money.

9. Is studying online popular?

why study online with FTTA

Studying online is now the most popular mode.


More than half of all students these days study online. In fact, some providers don’t even offer class-based studies anymore including many TAFEs. As time goes by, more and more are choosing to study online or prefer to undertake courses that are flexible or ‘blended’. This means that there is some class-based attendance combined with online or home-based study.


Online is a broad phrase that can mean many things. When you ‘study online’ that doesn’t mean that you are just sitting in front of a computer all day. Depending on your RTO it can also mean interaction with other students and trainers such as attending classes or tutorials as well as online webinars.


Author’s note: Some of our online students, enrol in online mode, as they are not sure if they can make it to class regularly due to various commitments or health issues. So, while technically they are online, they also attend on-site quite regularly and keep in close contact with their trainer.


10. Are there additional entry requirements for online courses?

It is important that you don’t enrol in online mode if it isn’t suitable for you. Some students may be better suited to being in class (especially younger students with no experience with children). Sometimes an RTO (Registered Training Provider) will recommend students attend class if they believe that online study is not suitable.


Generally, the provider will want to know that you are a suitable candidate for online study. You may need to complete an interview (phone or face-to-face). This is important as your provider will give you advice on what is best for you – they may suggest that you attend classes or keep in more regular contact with your trainer.


11. Can I study a teacher’s aide course online from anywhere in Australia?

Each provider has a different policy about whether you can enrol from anywhere in Australia. It is best to speak to your provider. Many providers offer their courses throughout Australia, however.


Hint: just because a provider is happy to take your money and enrol you, doesn’t mean you should enrol with them! Will they visit you in the workplace for example? It is really important that your trainer visits you in the workplace to provide feedback and advice on how to improve – this is essential for your long-term professional development.


12. Are government funded teacher’s aide courses available online?

In short – check with your provider. It depends on the state where you reside and not all states have government funding for teacher’s aide courses. Funding is provided on at the state level and changes from time to time. There are also various rules such as eligibility requirements.


13. Do online students still need to do a work placement in a school?

work placement

We recommend enrolling with a provider that visits you in the workplace. This is essential for your professional development.


Yes! Every student enrolled in a nationally recognised teacher’s aide qualification is required to complete a placement – this means logging 100 hours in a registered school and is the minimum required number of hours set down by the government.


It is very important that you ensure that the provider who you enrol with (or are considering enrolling with) intends on visiting you in the workplace. This means that your trainer visits you while you are on work placement. There are several reasons why this is essential:

  • The trainers will give you important advice after observing you – this is key because you may have glaring issues that can be easily fixed – improving your skills quickly and easily.
  • If there are issues, which does happen, you will need the trainer to visit the school to help resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

You may have an idea of what teacher’s aides do, but what do they really do? Here is what the research, studies and literature says about what teacher’s aides do on a day to day basis. You can expect to complete similar tasks on your placement.


A study in 2015, in Queensland Australia, found that teacher’s aides spend most of their time supporting students one on one or in small groups and undertook a limited amount of non-instructional work.


A New Zealand study concluded that the teacher’s aide role in providing support for students with disabilities in a classroom setting is pivotal in ‘disabled students' educational presence, participation and achievement.'


A 2015 study published in the journal The Australian Association for Research in Education, stated that teacher’s aides work:

“with students one on one or in small groups to try to improve their academic outcomes, especially in the core subjects like reading and mathematics.“


A 2018 study conducted in the ACT, stated that teacher’s aides are primarily used to support students with disabilities:

“TAs are now employed to provide learning support in classrooms to enable students with disability and learning difficulties to access learning in mainstream schools… students with disability and learning difficulties are defined as students who receive additional resources to enable them to access classroom support, usually provided by a teacher’s aide.”


Another study from 2011 explained to readers that:

“TAs have inadvertently become the ‘primary mechanism’ enabling students with disability and learning difficulties to attend mainstream schools…”


Howard and Ford (2007), concluded that teacher’s aides support students in the classroom with more complex tasks such as:

“supporting students with disability and learning difficulties were responsible for planning, producing and adapting materials for one-on-one or small-group activities.”


To add to this, here is a page from FTTA’s learner guide explaining what teacher’s aide do, specifically related to a numeracy lesson:

As an education assistant, you have the very important role to support learners’ numeracy development. Depending on the needs of your classroom teacher and the students, you have the responsibility to:

  • Work with individual students to help them learn and practice (such as counting)
  • Work with small groups to help them complete a task (such as a project)
  • Assist the teacher to develop resources, make adjustments to resources and ensure resources are ready for use
  • Work with students who require additional support such as students with disabilities, who are behind or struggling or who have behavioural issues
  • Report to the teacher on a regular basis so s/he can monitor progress and plan appropriately
  • Ensure equipment is prepared, used, cleaned and stored as per the manufacturers guidelines
  • Support the teacher as an extra ‘set of hands’ and an extra ‘set of eyes’
  • Plan for, predict, monitor, act on and follow up on behaviour issues as directed by your teacher to maximise student learning and minimise off task behaviour
  • Work in the best interests of students to achieve the goals of the lesson, task or project
  • Use appropriate strategies to help students acquire new skills and knowledge in order to continually improve
  • Assist with the day to day logistics (organising, cleaning, directing, reinforcing instructions, general tasks)
  • Assist with the cycle of monitoring, reviewing and planning to assist in meeting student needs. This normally involves assisting and providing feedback to the teacher on a regular basis. You will probably also be working within an IEP or IBP (or at least some specific goals related to the curriculum).
    • Monitoring -> observe closely (improvements, problems, behaviours, areas to improve, interests, level of engagement)
    • Review -> provide feedback to the teacher on a lesson by lesson or daily basis based on your monitoring activities. This information is used for future planning, resource development and to share strategies and suggestions.
    • Planning -> Either formally (IEP/IBP) or informally (thinking or conversation) about the best strategies to use in the future to give the student the best possible chance to develop further.
teacher aide course online study

14. What is the difference between online and class based?

This is also a very common question. A similar question is whether class students do the same thing as online students. Both class students and online students do the same activities and assessments for the most part:

  • Assessments are the same
  • Learning materials are the same
  • Trainer support and availability is the same
  • Time to complete or duration is often the same
  • Class lectures are the same (except you will listen/watch them from home)

The only difference, which seems obvious, is that if you enrol in online mode, you probably won’t be attending as much on campus. I said ‘as much’ for good reason – a lot of online students still go to some classes, regular tutorials and may ask for one-on-one meetings with the trainer if they are having issues. Because support (from good providers at least) includes all of these options, the difference between online and class-based isn’t as black and white as it used to be.


Summary

If you are thinking about enrolling in a teacher’s aide course online, there are a few key questions you need to ask. Firstly, is online suitable for you and will you be successful in that mode? Secondly, does the provider offer support and good quality resources for online students such as webinars, tutorials and trainers that you feel comfortable with – after all you will spend A LOT of time over the next 6-12 months on your course – including communicating with the provider and their trainers.


Finally, work out the true cost of studying online – the cheapest is quite often not the cheapest overall. It is best to speak with your provider and ask them as many questions as you can. Don’t settle for second best – your education is important, and it could be a life-changing experience that transforms your lifestyle, your income potential, your self-esteem, your confidence and finally your career. Investing in your own education is the best thing that you can do for your future and your family’s future.


About the author

Adam Green is a former teacher, member of the government’s Education Support Industry Advisory Group, MD at FTTA, and a post-graduate researcher at Murdoch university.


Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is general, may not be relevant to you, is not legal advice and no guarantee of accuracy is provided. Users should seek expert advice before relying on any information provided in this article.

*Here are three examples form the learner guide developed by FTTA:

Example 1:

Additional needs

In any classroom you will need to make adjustments in the strategies you use and the way in which you deliver those chosen strategies. You can read more about the needs of students with disabilities, disorders and difficulties in the disability chapter of this learner guide.


The following table lists and gives a very brief overview of some of the additional needs that you will come across in your work as an education assistant. Remember that learning about additional needs is only half the job – the most important part is combining that information with your knowledge if the learner and coming up with a set of strategies that best suit the learner.

education support worker distance study

ISSUES THAT HAVE AN IMPACT ON LEARNING

Developmental delay

Developmental delay is a delay in one of the developmental areas such as intellectual, physical, language or other area. The level of ability and knowledge for a particular subject is significantly behind that which is expected of other students in the same year group.

Speech

A person who has problems with oral communication due to either a processing or brain related issue or a physical impairment or disability.

Language

Having issues with interpreting and sending messages using a common language. May or may not be caused by a disability. A person may not be experienced with English (recent migrant). This can have a profound effect on their ability to learn (asking questions, confidence to seek support, understanding instructions etc.).

Behavioural

Students who have behavioural issues will spend less time learning. Behaviour issues may or may not be caused by a disability or disorder.

ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. People with this disorder have trouble concentrating and taking in information as well as problems with hyperactivity. The attention and hyperactivity components are related.

Autism

A neurological based disorder characterised by social and communication issues as well as sensory sensitivity. See the disability chapter for details about Autism.

Advanced

Students who are well advanced of their peers and the expectations of their age may be considered advanced. At the higher end gifted and talented students are well beyond their peers. Students in this category need as much attention as any other student (they tend to get ignored especially if they don’t have behaviour issues) as well as challenging tasks.

Dyslexia

Characterised by having issues with symbols such as letters and numbers.

Disability

A legal term meaning anyone with a formal medical diagnosis as having one or more disabilities listed and defined by government or medical associations.

Anxiety

Being stressed and worried to the point where it significantly effects your day to day life such as not being able to leave the house or going long periods without sleep.

Diabetes

When the body has problems producing or using insulin. Many disabilities including diabetes can be a barrier to learning (for example feeling sick, day off due to hospitalisation or doctor appointments, treatments during the day, issues for camps and excursions, constant need for monitoring).

Severe allergic reactions

A bodily reaction to an external stimulus that can range from discomfort to death.

Cultural and linguistic background

Students coming from cultures outside of Australia may have trouble (usually temporarily) interacting with new systems and processes including social and communication related expectations and rules. Other changes that effect children include changes in lifestyle, food choices/diet, social and friendship circles, government laws/policy or societal expectations.

Problems from abuse

See abuse and neglect chapter of this learner guide.

Neglect

When a young person is not adequately cared for by the person responsible for proving food, water, clothing, shelter, security and emotional support - when that person has sufficient means to care for the child (poverty is not neglect).

Trauma

Meaning to suffer mentally or physically from an event that is extremely stressful (such as witnessing a murder).

Loss

The loss of a family member, friend, home, financial resources etc. This can have obvious psychological affects as well as logistical affects such as moving school.

Grief

The intense (and usually temporary) process of reacting to the death of a person who was well known and loved.

Example 2

Active listening

Active listening is just as important as good speaking. Active listening is where you paraphrase the key points of a conversation to show the speaker that you definitely understand the information they are trying to communicate to you.


Below are some strategies to help you communicate effectively with children:

  • Focus your attention on what the child is saying. Give the child your full attention.
  • Sit in a quiet and private place where you won't be interrupted.
  • Listen with purpose. Be positive and try to make meaning of words in the context of the child’s language abilities and vocabulary.
  • Ask open-ended questions at appropriate times throughout the conversation (do not do this in a disclosure situation). Be responsive to what the child is saying to you. Check for meaning and understanding. Ask questions such as:
    • 'You feel … when …'
    • 'Tell me more about your family.'
    • 'Are you able to tell me how you are feeling today?'
  • Allow short periods of silence for thinking.
  • Position yourself close to the child where appropriate. Be respectful to not intrude on a child's personal space.
  • Don't be distracted. Active listening can take place in the classroom, outside during recess or when you are on an excursion.
  • Show interest in what the child is saying by using body language (e.g. nodding of the head, leaning forward, making eye contact).
  • Be aware of cultural issues. Keep an open mind - don't rush to make judgements.
  • Don't give opinions and emotional responses in relation to a topic – you are listening only.
  • Check understanding by paraphrasing or summarising. Say: 'Okay, so what you're saying is …?'
  • Finish the conversation. Don't just get up and walk away.
active listening example

Example 3

Day to day strategies

Below is a list of strategies that may assist you in your role to support students with disabilities. You will hear of many more strategies during your time in schools. Your job is to consciously think carefully and critically about the best strategy to use in a particular situation. You may also choose to implement strategies that are described in other parts of this learner guide.

  • Routines - Children with Autism for example need strong routines and can have very strong reactions when there are changes to their routines. Often an education assistant will show a child with Autism a visual timetable of their day when they arrive to school. There is safety and security in routine. Classrooms are generally very routine places. Stick to routines as much as you can while at school (for example, half hour for play should be exactly half hour).
  • Rapport building - The best behaviour management strategy is to build positive and professional relationships with students. This means that you learn about the student and show interest in them. Be friendly but firm. The easiest way to build rapport is to ask the child a few simple questions about what they did on the weekend or what hobbies they are interested in. If you have good rapport with a student, they are less likely to misbehave and more likely to listen to what you say and follow your instructions.
  • Positive support - Give specific compliments to students on something they have achieved to help build confidence and a willingness to attempt future tasks. At the same time give students honest feedback on how they could improve and explain that there is always room to improve (even for adults). Teach children that they are good at some things and not good at other things.
  • Scaffolding - One of the most important and commonly used educational strategies. This involves breaking a task or activity down into smaller bite-sized chunks. This makes tasks more approachable, less stressful and increases the chances of success. Students can also feel a sense of achievement when they complete each step in the overall process. For example, a project can be broken down into 10 achievable steps. Note that you will need to break down tasks depending on the needs of the student - some students will need 3 steps, whereas others will need 20 steps.
  • Modelling - This strategy involves showing a child how to do something. This can be in terms of behaviour (such as reading quietly in the library) or producing a product (such as how to complete a type of maths problem). Some students will require more modelling than others. You can combine modelling with scaffolding (model each part of the process).
  • Differentiated instruction – This strategy basically means that each student has different needs and hence will need different strategies, resources and approaches. For example, two students at very different levels may be able to complete very different projects or activities at school. Each student may have different interests which if considered can increase student motivation and participation.

Assistive technologies

Assistive technology allows people with disabilities to perform tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. You may come across such technology in mainstream classrooms and special needs programs. Some common types of assistive technology include:

  • Aids for daily living
  • Alternative and augmentative communication
  • Mobility aids
  • Seating and positioning equipment
  • Computer access aids
  • Environmental controls
  • Home modifications, vehicle modifications and workplace modifications
  • Prosthetics and orthodontics
  • Sensory aids
  • Recreation devices

You may see the following devices used in education facilities:

  • Headphones
  • Tables and screens
  • Talking calculators
  • Tactile rulers or markers
  • Tactile maps and graphics
  • Braille compasses
  • Real world objects
  • Smartboards
  • Low vision aids
  • Spectacles
  • Magnification devices
  • Closed circuit TV
  • Tinted lenses
  • Dark lined books for writing
  • Dark pens or pencils
  • Hats or shades
  • Enlarged or embossed worksheets
assistive technologies

Devices like smartphones and tablet are being used to provide people with disability - as well as people who experience chronic illness or have another identified need - with support.


Contemporary technology devices differ from more traditional types of aids and equipment in particular ways:

  • They are often multi-purpose devices that have been developed for general use, rather than being developed for people with a disability
  • They often include inbuilt accessibility features and are relatively affordable, in comparison to disability-specific aids
  • They are changing and evolving very quickly, as a result of progress with technology and demand for universal design

Source: Queensland Government, 2015

Visual tools

visual tools example

A common strategy that is implemented with students with disabilities is the use of visual tools and resources. This is especially important if working with students with Autism. Below you will see several examples of visual tools from an actual school in Western Australia.


Above: A social story used in an Education Support Centre year 4 upwards

OUR TEACHER'S AIDE COURSES

CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support & CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support

TEACHER'S AIDE COURSE

CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support

Enrol in the entry level teacher;s Aide course for those beginning their career.

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TEACHER'S AIDE COURSE

CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support

Enrol in the highest level teacher's aide course and maximise your job prospects.

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With more than 4000 graduates, FTTA is the go-to provider for teacher's aide courses. 1 in 2 students choose to study the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support with FTTA.

              

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