Visit NSW's First Virtual Highschool

Visit NSW's First Virtual Highschool

Just like most year 8 students, the highlight of Harry Bottero's school day is often hanging out in the playground with his friends.


The only difference is that when this 13-year-old catches up with his mates, it is in a virtual quadrangle, connected to each other via the internet from the most remote corners of NSW.


If Harry and his friends are not in the virtual playground, you might find them searching for books in the virtual library or even relaxing in the virtual coffee lounge. Then it is back to their virtual classrooms for a maths, English or science lesson.


This is not science fiction. Harry is a student at Aurora College, the state's first virtual high school, a selective school for some of the brightest students in NSW.


Established just two years ago, Aurora College already has more than 200 students, 180 of whom were accepted into the school after sitting the highly competitive state-wide selective schools test.


The students are from some of the most rural and remote areas of the state, stretching from Kyogle in northern NSW to Eden in the south and west to Broken Hill. They attend their local school but log-in to Aurora's online conferencing system each day for lessons.


The college's principal, Chris Robertson, said Aurora was the first school of its kind in Australia, if not the world.


"Aurora gives students the chance to stay in their local community but they are able to part of a cohort of like-minded students," he said.

But Aurora isn't just a modern-day distance education school. Mr Robertson said because of continuing advances in technology, Aurora could offer students specialised lessons or master classes from leading scholars around the world.


The students have had a science class from an astrophysicist who was in his loungeroom in Switzerland, as well as a European human rights lawyer who got up at 3am to talk to the students. The CSIRO also do regular master classes with the students.


As well as the virtual classrooms and playground, there is a virtual lecture theatre and even a virtual hall, which is where the school holds its assemblies and parent-teacher nights.


Mr Robertson said the school was growing quickly and he expected it to exceed 500 students within five years.


This week Aurora students travelled to Sydney for a week-long residential stay that happens twice a year. For the teenagers, it is a novelty because they get to see their friends and teachers.


The students come from 68 different schools around the state. There are 34 teachers from across NSW who are also part of the college.


Eva Knox, 14, is in year 9. Her home school is Guyra Central School but she is also a student at Aurora.


"I love going to Aurora, I adore it, because I love being able to extend myself," Eva said.


"The residential stay is the highlight of the year because we get to see our friends and seeing our teachers in real life is great too."

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