Principal’s key online role

Principal Wayne Axford takes as much satisfaction from Canning College’s academic success stories as he does from seeing students take giant strides in their personal development.

Students, who are sometimes nervous when they start, grow into individuals who are engaging, confident and inquisitive.

“They’ll be doing round table discussions, think-pair-share sessions and brainstorming activities where they have to put forward their point of view or creative idea and justify it,” Mr Axford said. “It’s great to see the students blossom and develop those skills over the course of their studies at Canning.”

Canning provides the important pathway to leading universities for international students not ready for direct entry to universities.

The College has a highly developed support system that provides students with additional academic services and a high level of care to give them the best possible chance of success when they reach university.

Mr Axford took on the Principal’s role in April 2020 just as the world was adjusting to the impact of COVID-19.

“We’ve had more challenges this year than we normally would but the level of support from the teachers and other support staff has been fantastic,” he said.

Canning College started delivering international programs via online platforms in July, 2020, and Mr Axford’s understanding of information technology has been a big help.

“A lot of our efforts went into the delivery of online learning,” he said. “We are continuing to make sure that the offshore students are receiving a high quality of online delivery and getting the sort of education that they need to be able to succeed both in the exams but also later at university.

“I think both onshore and offshore students will look back on this year and appreciate the level of support provided by the college. They should also be able to make good use of what they have learned over the year both about themselves and about society.”

Born in Perth, Mr Axford was inspired by his own teachers to pursue a career in education. He started teaching in 1984 at Merredin Senior High School and moved to Harvey Senior High School before joining Canning College in 1990.

“I started as a teacher of Science and Computing,” he said. “Then I progressed to Manager of Computing, Deputy Principal and Vice Principal before becoming the Principal.”

Mr Axford has developed a deeper understanding of international student needs through numerous work trips to mainland China and Hong Kong, where he visited schools and promoted the College’s unique strengths to prospective students and education agents.

Outside of his professional life, Mr Axford enjoys reading, kayaking, beach volleyball, walks along the beautiful Canning River, which is near his home, and the occasional game of golf.

Why online learning matters

In July, 2020, in response to border restrictions imposed to limit the impact of COVID-19, Canning College launched its live and interactive online learning programs.

This week, the College’s 2020-21 Mid-Year WA Universities’ Foundation Program students made history as the first to complete a year-long Canning program in the virtual classroom. This has been no small achievement and the students, who are from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Brunei, deserve congratulations.

Key to this success has been the ability of teachers to adjust to a whole new way of delivering international education programs. In some cases, teachers simultaneously teach both online and in class students, making sure microphones and cameras are carefully positioned for the benefit of those in the virtual classroom, while not interfering with the learning of those on campus.

Equally important to online achievement, has been the role of the students, who have embraced this new challenge, as the College had hoped would be the case.

In some instances, particularly with specific technological challenges, students provided a guiding voice, pointing out when a screen had not been shared, a video was lagging or a microphone had been accidentally muted.

In this new teaching world, delivery comes in many forms. At Canning College, where the majority of students are of senior secondary age, lessons are delivered live and according to a prescribed timetable.

Lessons are not generally recorded so that students can watch (or forget to watch) at their own pace. The concept of a virtual classroom requires that students are in front of their computers, turn on their cameras and interact with teachers and fellow students verbally and through text chat functions.

Live lessons increase the opportunities for genuine engagement and discussion between online and on campus students and their teachers. They also create a daily routine for online students that is similar to those who are physically in class.

VIDEO ABOVE: Canning College staff show their appreciation for graduating online students, who made the most of their virtual classroom experience.

This approach is more suitable to students in south-east Asia where there is little or no time difference with the physical location of the Canning College campus in Perth, Western Australia. However, this has not precluded students in other parts of the world from enrolling in Canning College pathway-to-university programs, with some in Africa and the Middle East adjusting their personal schedules to join the virtual classroom.

Just as COVID caused rapid adjustment around the world, Canning College’s move to online learning came suddenly but not without serious consideration of the challenges, the pitfalls and, of course, the benefits. For students, who were facing disappointment and rejection as international travel ground to a halt, online delivery offered an unexpected opportunity.

Some of the students enrolled in Canning College programs chose to withdraw, some deferred but many others, such as the Mid-Year WAUFP students, who graduated this week, saw online learning as an opportunity to push on towards greater academic and career goals. The experience was entirely different for a student from Singapore, who was the only student to complete the entire program in Perth.

The move to online was not without some trepidation for those at Canning College, whose reputation is grounded in its success in assisting international students to achieve university entry since 1986. At its core, international education is about both academic and personal development. It asks students to consider other cultures, to experience first-hand life in a new city and to develop new global perspectives. Most importantly, it offers students the opportunity to progress to university and pursue career goals.

There are deeper challenges associated with the long-term continuation of online learning, not least the absence of genuine interactions and real-life city experiences that are so important in the development of global citizens. But while travel restrictions persist, at least, and until students (and their parents) feel comfortable leaving their hometowns and cities in pursuit of education, interactive online learning will provide a viable alternative.

Principal’s Term 1 highlights

First term of 2021 has provided many highlights, including the recent appointment of two new Student Ambassadors – Linda, who is from Ho Chi Minh City, and Risto, who is from Hong Kong. We look forward to hearing more from them over the course of the year.

I hope all students – online and with us here on campus – have enjoyed the term and are continuing to make academic progress as they head towards university entry.

Linda and Risto are among a relatively small number of onshore students this year but I am delighted to report that Canning’s reputation for delivering high-quality online lessons has helped more than double the number of online students in 2021 compared to 2020.

2021 Principal with ambassadorsPictured above: Student Ambassadors Risto and Linda in conversation with Principal Wayne Axford.

Our commitment to enhancing the online learning experience has included the installation of new teaching computers in each of our 18 classrooms, allowing teachers to have more resources open and quickly switch between them.

We have also purchased new Surface Pros, which allow teachers more flexibility in their lesson delivery and to mark and return work digitally to ensure timely feedback to students. The speed of video and other content has also been improved by a significant increase in the internet bandwidth thanks to assistance from the Department of Education. By being responsive to student needs, we are confident our programs will assist students in achieving their potential and, ultimately, enrolling in leading universities.

We remain hopeful of being able to welcome international students on to campus in the not-too-distant future but hope you understand that we are not able to predict when that may be. Please be assured, Canning College staff will continue to provide the best learning environment possible for students on campus and studying with us online.

We hope all students enjoy the break and return to Canning College refreshed and ready to go when Term 2 starts on April 20.

– Wayne Axford, Principal

Physio the goal for Singapore student

Moving abroad to study is a huge step for anyone. Add a global pandemic to the mix and the situation can get a little more complicated. But Canning College student Carina Yap is proof that, despite the challenges, things can work out really well.

Hailing from Singapore, Carina graduated from junior college in her home country. Afterwards, she decided to seek out international study, so she set her sights on a physiotherapy degree at Curtin University in Perth.

“I was interested in becoming a physiotherapist due to my interest in sports after years on the school basketball team,” she says. “I wanted to find out more about pursuing physiotherapy as a career and chanced upon a three-month course that prepared people to become therapy assistants in the allied health area.”

She worked as a therapy assistant in a physiotherapy department before arriving in Australia. Her experience demonstrated how physiotherapy extends beyond sport and also deepened her desire to help patients. It was her colleagues who advised her to consider studying in Australia, as the rehabilitation scene is well-established and highly regarded around the world.

“I decided to study at Canning College, as it offered a pathway into the Bachelor of Science (Physiotherapy) course at Curtin University.”

Carina shares that it was initially difficult to adjust to life in Australia, due to the nature of how things unfolded.

“I was supposed to arrive in Perth in April with my mother, and had booked flights and an Airbnb,” she says.

However, the closure of borders in mid-March due to COVID-19 changed everything. She made the last-minute decision to fly to Perth alone and altered plans that were already in place. Luckily, Carina had support from Canning College throughout the process.

“I had reassurance from Canning College that the teachers would do everything they can to assist me in my schoolwork and help me catch up to the rest of my peers,” she says.

2020 WAUFP Carina Singapore 2

Carina joined the April intake for the WA Universities’ Foundation Program. A considerable benefit of the program is the flexible start dates offered to students.

“The assurance that Canning College would make things happen if I were to fly played a big part in my decision of coming over within half a day,” she says.

Carina’s support network pulled through during her isolation period. “I had a friend studying at Curtin University, and he prepared two weeks’ worth of groceries for me before I arrived and delivered my textbooks so I could study and catch up on work during the isolation period,” she says.

The Canning College team also kept in touch to ensure she was OK and to help her settle in. “My teachers gave me their contact numbers so that I could ask them if I had any doubts or queries about my work,” Carina says.

Carina also celebrated a big birthday while in Australia: “I think turning 21 during the isolation period was quite unforgettable and symbolic.”