Earlier this week the Education Minister, Hekia Parata, introduced to Parliament the Education (Update) Amendment Bill which includes proposals to legislate for the provision of Communities of online learning (COOLs). As the charitable company that organises many online NCEA courses for learners in schools across New Zealand, NetNZ welcomes this proposal. NetNZ is funded entirely by our member schools who are spread across the South Island. This year we are running over 50 courses and have more than 600 students participating in NCEA Level 1, 2, 3 and Scholarship Mentoring programmes. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that operational procedures for COOLs provide the greatest possible benefits to NetNZ’s member schools and their learners.
“The future is not something that is done to us, but an ongoing process in which we can intervene.”(1)
Virtual education is a growing phenomenon both nationally and internationally. Teaching practice adapted from online learning is influencing the ‘traditional’ classroom and will bring about a significant system-wide shift in how we educate learners. NetNZ thinks it is unlikely this will herald the end of the physical schools as others have suggested, but it will change how they operate. Schools will remain an extremely important social hub that is capable of “…supporting communities and students to come together to imagine and build sustainable futures for all.”(1)
However, it is important that we recognise that the rate of technological development is bringing unprecedented change in all we do, including education. The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into 21st Century Learning along with the formation of the Network for Learning has signalled the potential for technology to transform education in New Zealand. The future norm will enable learners to interact with a range of education providers while being based at a single physical school. This disaggregation of physical location and educational provision is realised by the provision of high speed internet across New Zealand and now, potentially, the recent Education Amendment Bill.
NetNZ students have been learning and achieving in online NCEA courses for more than 20 years. Many of these students have gone on to study further, often in subjects that they otherwise would not have been able to do had they not had opportunity to learn through a NetNZ course. For example Computer Science or Asian Languages. Invariably, students adapt quickly to learning online. Most of our students take just one or two online courses, and blend these in with their remaining studies at their school. The new bill may allow more learners to benefit from NetNZ’s courses.
Our model of online learning is based on the New Zealand curriculum and provides an authentic context for the learner to gain the dispositions and attitudes that are an integral part of modern society. NetNZ students are supported to manage themselves, solve problems, and use their initiative. They learn to enjoy the flexibility that online learning offers but, importantly, in ways that allow them to learn about learning. We see learning as a social process, and our programmes enable learners to connect with people and ideas far beyond the four walls of any traditional classroom. All our programmes are based on connected approaches to learning in which NetNZ learners work together as a community. Technology is used to provide easy access to information, but more importantly, to people. The human factor is integral to what NetNZ and our member schools do.
NetNZ is a community of nearly 60 secondary and area schools stretching across the South Island who work together to provide online learning opportunities for their students based on the New Zealand Curriculum.
NetNZ’s mission statement recognises that, above all, it specialises in innovative education regardless of location:
“To develop an environment for sustained innovation and development of quality, online learning experiences, for anyone, anywhere across New Zealand and beyond.”
The origins of NetNZ can be traced back to Oxford Area School in 1994, when a group of area schools, driven by the need to innovate in order to maintain rolls, shared resources to create our very first online network of schools. Since that time, the provision of online learning across New Zealand, and in particular rural schools, has evolved and grown to the point that our learners can access a wide curriculum across a national network of schools . While NetNZ’s foundations are rural, we are now seeing continued growth into urban areas with a number of these schools realising the potential online learning provides.
- Facer, K. (2011, March 29). Learning futures. Taylor & Francis
- “Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy.” 2012. 13 Jun. 2013 https://www.parliament.nz/resource/0000243164