Supporting Rural and Remote Students with Hybrid and Flexible Learning

The Bachelor of Midwifery at Ara Institute underwent a massive change from face-to-face to blended learning in 2009. The change was driven by issues relating to access and equity particularly for students living in rural areas or from outside main centres to be able to study Midwifery, so they did not have to uproot their families/whanau by having to travel to urban centres to study, with the potential consequence that they may not return to their home location.

Ara Midwifery were selected as an exemplar of hybrid and flexible learning in the ASCILITE 2022-2023 Contextualising Horizon Report

This programme involves the use of hybrid and flexible teaching models with technologies that support synchronous and asynchronous delivery. It is based on a distributed model of blended learning and a network approach in its curriculum design and design of learning opportunities.

Educational experiences are distributed across a variety of geographic settings, time and various interactive media. The programme is distributed across the upper South Island/Te Waipounamu, with satellite students and lecturers/kaiako from across Canterbury, as well as Nelson, Marlborough, and the West Coast. The educational experiences involve small regional tutorial groups, centrally located block courses, and midwifery practice placements in community, hospital and virtual reality. Technologies (i.e. online network learning, a virtual reality birthing woman, and e-portfolios) are used to network learners with other learners, with lecturers and experts.

An overview of the Ara Bachelor of Midwifery (video prepared for the DEL22 Conference)

Enabling students to join the programme flexibly

Their HyFlex approach incorporates aspects of Kaupapa Māori and Pasifika values, eportfolios, simulation and VR (see Fig below). It has enabled students to complete most of the programme from their home areas, only traveling to Christchurch for a block week of face-to-face classroom sessions and specialist practice placements. By enabling local midwifery practice placements (supported by a local lecturer) complemented by online learning opportunities for midwifery practice placements have been increased, along with numbers of students that can be accepted into the programme.

The Ara Institute collection of graduate destination outcomes statistics indicates with this new programme, most of the students have remained in their home areas after graduation. This outcome has made a significant difference in rectifying midwifery shortages in the regional and rural areas of the upper South Island and supports the 2010 WHO recommendations for improving the recruitment and retention of rural and remote health workers.

Excerpted from book chapter: Daellenbach et al. 2022.

Publications and Resources