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Orientation for External Support Workers in Tertiary Settings

Building your understanding and confidence when working with students with disability in tertiary education is an essential element to supporting inclusion. How you communicate, interact and respond to the needs of the people you support can positively influence their experience and educational outcomes. Providing assistance that builds independence will not only increase the quality of the student’s tertiary education and training experience but also provide transferable skills for future employment.

Overview of Program

Welcome to this e-learning program which has been developed by the National Disability Coordination Officer Program and the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training.

This program focuses on the roles and responsibilities of workers who are externally employed (paid or unpaid) by individuals and organisations to provide support to students with disability in tertiary settings. The program aims to develop your understanding of how you can best provide this support and manage your responsibilities.

The four modules must be completed in successive order. Each module ends with a short quiz to allow you to demonstrate your understanding. You can complete the e-learning program at your own pace—you do not need to complete the training in one sitting, you can log out and log back in at any time. The entire course should take an average of 45–60 minutes to complete. At the successful completion of all components, you will be eligible to download a certificate of achievement.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this program, you will have:

  • increased understanding of your role and responsibilities in the tertiary setting
  • better knowledge of contemporary practices and approaches in supporting students with disability in the tertiary setting.

Language and Terminology

There is a range of language and terminology used in each state/territory. The following terms have been used consistently throughout this program of training and are interchangeable with the range of associated terms.

  • Tertiary providers (includes universities, colleges, TAFE and other registered training organisations, adult community education)
  • Support workers (includes academic and education support workers, participation assistants/integration aides, personal care assistants/attendant carers, family supporters/carers, peer support workers, scribes, readers, note takers)
  • Students with disability (includes ongoing or temporary health and medical conditions)
  • Learning Access Plan (includes Individual Learning Plan, Disability Access Plan, Learning Access Plan, Learning Support Plan, Individual Education Access Plan)
  • Educators (includes teachers, lecturers, tutors, trainers and assessors)
  • Equity services (includes student services, access services, disability services)

There is a glossary of terms [DOCX 26KB] that you can refer to at any time during the training. You can also download or print this document for future reference.

External Links

This resource contains links to external websites, and these links are designed to open within the same window. If you would like to open the link in a different tab or window, right click and select ‘open link in a new tab/new window’.


The development of this training is funded by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment in partnership with the National Disability Coordination Officer Program and the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training. This project would not have been possible without the support and efforts of numerous tertiary practitioners and professionals. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all those who willingly and graciously participated and contributed [DOCX 21KB].