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Virtual Learning Awards launched as e-learning grows

Media Release

Virtual Learning Awards launched as e-learning grows

WELLINGTON, 21 March 2014 – As virtual and blended learning (e-learning) grows steadily within New Zealand education, a national award has been introduced by the Virtual Learning Network Community (VLNC), which will be presented by the Associate Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye.

The inaugural Virtual Learning Awards will be held in Wellington on 15 April 2014, and were set up to encourage further development and learning variety in the classroom. Sponsored by Asnet Technologies Limited, the Awards will be presented in recognition of high performance, a significant and unique contribution to online learning, and excellence in the field of learning through digital technology. Asnet Technologies' long time involvement in education continues with providing management and support for the NZEdNet video conferencing network and the video and audio conferencing Bridge for the Ministry of Education.

VLNC council members and guest judge Eric Greenop, managing director of Asnet Technologies, have chosen six individuals to acknowledge with a Virtual Learning Award. The recipients will be flown to Wellington on April 15 to attend the Awards.

"We are excited to honour the group of standout individuals from within the very strong field of those nominated for the inaugural Virtual Learning Awards. They represent a broad cross section of Virtual Learning Network Community who are collectively developing the significant and future focused practice within the schooling education landscape," says Sue Winters, VLNC Council Chair.

Virtual learning is based on interactivity between students, teachers and experts. Collaboration and distance learning is achieved through digital media, including audio and video conferencing, collaboration websites, tools and software. E-learning also utilises mobile phones, digital cameras, data projectors, and interactive whiteboards.

Students in remote schools easily connect into other classrooms to participate in subjects previously unavailable to them. Because of their proactive choice of subjects and increased motivation, these students are exceeding all expectations, including achieving Merits and Excellence grades in many NCEA subjects at Level 3.

Rural school students are empowered by unrestricted subject choices, and similarly, rural teachers can utilise their specialised skills to teach students across multiple locations. Urban schools are also increasing becoming involved in e-learning and widening their subject choices.

"Asnet Technologies is extremely proud and humbled at the invitaion to be a key partner in the Virtual Learning Awards. Over our past 11 years involvement in education it has been amazing to witness the continued growth and positive impact of practical day to day usage of technology on our students academic achievements," says Eric Greenop.

Growth in e-learning continues to accelerate through the Network for Learning (N4L) government initiative to help schools take advantage of online technology – particularly by utilising fast network connectivity provided by Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

Asnet Technologies recorded a 20 percent increase of usage on the Virtual Learning Network Bridge from 2012 compared to 2013, and the number of locations increased by 25 during the same period. VLNC has also recorded a 600 percent rise in participating schools from 2010 to 2013, who connect via the Ministry of Education Adobe Web Conferencing, which is backed up by the audio Bridge.

"Our significant appreciation goes out to the VLNC Council, ePrincipals, eDeans, and eTeachers for their dedication, tenacity and focus in making real academic choice and achievement possible from anywhere in New Zealand, in a constantly changing technology environment. This is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when everyone is pulling in the same direction," adds Eric Greenop.

Thirty-three of New Zealand's most remote rural schools now have access to peak speeds of broadband internet. The government initiatives are focused on prioritising delivery of UFB into Local Authorities (Municipal), Universities, Schools and Health (MUSH).

With continued innovation in technology and increasing Internet capabilities, the positive effect on New Zealand students is putting them in good stead for their careers, and experience in the future of digital communication.



Virtual Learning Network Community
The Virtual Learning Network Community (VLNC) is a charitable trust bring together members in rural, remote and increasingly urban schools. Mainly organised into one of ten clusters, configured through curriculum delivery and/or geographic proximity, their education reach covers the whole of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands.

Learning is facilitated for students via a range tools including web, audio and video conferencing. They access course related materials and communicate with each other and their teachers through shared online learning environments provided by the Ministry of Education. Collectively these digital learning tools are called the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) through which the Ministry itself and the Virtual Learning Network Community operates.

The Virtual Learning Network Community has been operating successfully for more than ten years in some regions, is just beginning in some schools, and delivers classes and courses to approx 3000 senior secondary students and around 300 hundred primary age students per year. It has a national and global focus, and works toward the benefits for learners and providers within their local communities. The VLNC Council is the elected organisation working in an advocacy role for the school communities that make up that broad picture of schools operating in the e-learning space.

Asnet Technologies In Education
Asnet Technologies has been the leader in bringing virtual learning into classrooms since forming in 1999. Asnet Technologies manages and provides support for the NZEdNet video conferencing network and the video and audio conferencing Bridge for the Ministry of Education. The Bridge provides a day to day service to schools, tertiaries, and the Ministry of Education’s own video conference users throughout the country and is used to support learning programmes, make professional learning possible across geographicallly-dispersed providers and run meetings for planning and administration.

For more information on Asnet Technologies, please visit for company information.

Virtual Learning Awards
The Virtual Learning Network Community is responsible for significant accomplishments in the development of learning through digital technologies within and across geographically dispersed classrooms, promoting the developing practice of blended and online learning. To acknowledge this the VLNC Council developed parameters for awarding recognition to some key individuals from within the member communities as a way to showcase some of these outstanding achievements to the wider education network and general public.

The Virtual Learning Awards are open to nominations of individuals and/or groups within the Virtual Learning Network Community of schools and school clusters. The inaugural Virtual Learning Awards is sponsored by Asnet Technologies, a key provider of services, equipment and support for blended and online learning.

The Virtual Learning Awards have five main categories:
• Achievement
• Enabling eLearning
• Innovation
• Leadership
• Building Capacity

Ultra-Fast Broadband Investment Proposal Finalised
On 16 September 2009, Communications and Information Technology Minister Hon Steven Joyce released the details of the government's $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband investment initiative.

"Access to ultra-fast broadband is part of the essential infrastructure of a productive and growing economy and will be crucial to New Zealand improving its competitive advantage in the global market."

UFB And RBI Programmes Exceed Year Two Targets
On 8 August 2013, Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams released the year two report on the Government’s ultra-fast broadband and rural broadband programmes, which shows the target for both initiatives has been exceeded.

The report also shows that more than 1700 schools are now able to connect to fibre.
Furthermore, 33 of the most remote rural schools in New Zealand now have access to broadband capable of peak speeds of at least 10 megabits per second, which is about four times faster than previous services.

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