Online learning part of biggest school reform in 30 years

By Nicholas Jones, Anna Whyte

1 comment
Schools, approved tertiary providers and school-age students can now turn to online learning. Pictured, Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon. PHOTO/FILE
Schools, approved tertiary providers and school-age students can now turn to online learning. Pictured, Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon. PHOTO/FILE

Schools, approved tertiary providers and school-age students can now turn to online learning, under new legislation.

Any school-age student would be able to enrol in a "community of online learning" (COOL), with the education provider deciding if students needed to attend the school for a full or partial day.

Regulations would be set to measure attendance in an online learning environment.

The move has been called the biggest update of New Zealand education in 30-years by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

"This innovative way of delivering education offers a digital option to engage students, grow their digital fluency, and connect them even more to 21st century opportunities," she said.

"There will be a rigorous accreditation process alongside ongoing monitoring to ensure quality education is being provided."

NZEI national executive general member and Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti was sceptical of the way the model was being presented.

"It worries me that it is not looking at all the needs of the student, like well-being and social needs, what schools do really well."

She said the blend of face-to-face and online learning was already being used by schools.

"We have a great and strong...digital approach and integration in our curriculum. My question would be, why isn't it being funded more appropriately to make that stronger? Why do we have to create something new?"

Ms Tinetti said she was concerned about COOL being in competition with the existing correspondence school Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu.

A spokeswoman for Ms Parata said the correspondence school Te Kura would become an accredited online provider.

Matahui Road School principal Max Muller said there had been a lot of hype around COOL, but he thought many schools it would not have a significant impact.

"Most New Zealand schools have had online learning for a long time, it's just how it's going to be adapted and modified."

"Kids have been in the 21st century long before we got here."

Mount Maunganui principal Russell Gordon said the notion that COOL would cause students to no longer need to physically attend school was more "scare mongering".

"I can't see that meaning that students would choose to learn at home isolated from their peers, I honestly believe schools can make use of this system to extend or expand their curriculum," he said.

"Rather than being scared of this, it provides a really useful tool for schools to become far more flexible and accommodating for their students."

Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic marketing adviser Loretta Crawford said they were not currently an accredited provider, but would, "be interested in exploring the opportunity to meet the needs of schools through this mechanism in the future."

Help at home

Kayla Davison, 17, had been home schooled since she was in Year 9.

"Home schooling can be very boring because you never get social interaction with other kids and doing work online can be very hard if you don't know what your doing," she said.

She thought COOL would benefit the older students who knew their way around online learning.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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