Parents' needs a major driver behind new edCentre
25 January, 2005
Parents' needs a major driver behind new "edCentre" information gateway
Parents' need for information has been one of the driving forces behind a new web-based education resource launched today by Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope.
Mr Benson-Pope says the new education portal - edCentre - provides people with a single gateway to information on education in New Zealand. It will help raise the level of understanding and awareness of publicly available education information. The web address of edCentre is www.edCentre.govt.nz.
"Helping people to access education information is a key part of the government's strategy to improve the educational achievement of New Zealanders."
EdCentre will help people access important information contained on any one of 28 different Government websites and is a joint initiative of the Career Services rapuara, the Education Review Office, the Ministry of Education, the National Library of New Zealand, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the New Zealand Teachers Council, and the Tertiary Education Commission.
"Specially designed areas within the portal meet the specific information needs of six groups - parents, learners, educators, governance bodies, researchers and the community," said David Benson-Pope.
"Irrespective of their prior knowledge of the education sector, or technical capability, edCentre will be an ideal starting point for people to quickly access the information they are trying to find. By providing easier access to information, more people will be encouraged to take a more active role in learning.
"The edCentre for Parents section, for instance, is structured to help strengthen family and community involvement in learning. It offers access to comprehensive information for parents that can help them plan their children's education and help them to understand what their children are doing at whatever stage of the education system," said Mr Benson-Pope.
The portal is one of a series of information technology projects on which the education sector is working collaboratively, to ensure that New Zealanders - be they parents, learners or educators - can access the information they need.
"Like all websites, edCentre will evolve and grow over time, which will enable the education agencies involved to customise information for those needing it," said David Benson-Pope.
edCentre: Common questions and answers
Why will edCentre be important to parents?
edCentre is provides a comprehensive gateway to education information, which is something parents have been requesting for some time. This is the first time a gateway has been developed in the education sector with the various audiences, particularly parents, in mind. Parents will find comprehensive information to help them plan their children's education and help them to understand what their children are doing at whatever stage of the education system. Users don't need any prior knowledge of the sector or great technical expertise. By providing this user-friendly website we are encouraging people to become more actively involved in learning.
Why is this a good time to be launching edCentre?
The beginning of the year is an important time for parents with regard to education. They're very involved with their children's education and learning and often have a lot of questions at this time, so there's no better time to make this tool available to them.
Aren't other portals and websites already providing this information?
edCentre is the first comprehensive gateway that has been developed in the education sector, with collaboration from all the relevant agencies. It supports and complements existing education portals and websites, which will feature links to edCentre. It covers the whole sector and provides integrated, sector-specific information from all the education agencies without the user needing to have any prior knowledge of which agency in the education sector does what.
How much has edCentre cost?
The total capital budget for edCentre is $720,000 for the development and implementation, communications and project team. An ongoing operating budget will cover the cost for two positions to manage and co-ordinate the information access, the operational hosting costs and depreciation.
Will the portal solve everyone's information-gathering problems?
The launch is the first phase in a longer term plan. The primary aim is to help parents, particularly first-time users, access agencies' information they may not know about. It's important to remember that edCentre is a gateway, with "signposts" to content held on 28 government websites, and does not generate the information itself. Information is generated by, and is the responsibility of, the agencies involved. These agencies have measures in place to ensure their content is up-to-date and accurate, and they will play an ongoing role in the development of the portal to ensure information continues to be relevant to the different user groups. Like most websites and portals, this one will evolve as data is gathered on usability and user sessions, and the functionality and richness of the content will be developed over time. edCentre is one of the many ways in which people can access education information, alongside print, the telephone and face-to-face services.
Does edCentre also provide access to education services?
Some agency websites offer online services, and edCentre will point to these. Any plans to deliver further services through edCentre will form part of the ongoing review and planning process.
How will you measure the success of edCentre?
User feedback is crucial for the ongoing success and usefulness of the portal.
We need users to tell us what they think so the portal can be improved on an ongoing basis and continue to meet their needs. They can use the feedback facility on the portal to do this. There will be carefully designed measures in place, such as web use statistics and user satisfaction surveys, which will report data on user behaviour and satisfaction at a later stage. Findings can then be reported back to stakeholders and used to inform future site development. Content will also be continually reviewed by the agencies involved. It is hoped that initial user feedback and statistics will be available in a few months' time.
How will edCentre be promoted?
Promotion of the portal will utilise existing networks across the education and government sectors, such as links from websites, articles in internal and external publications and communications relating to other education initiatives. A poster has been developed and is being circulated widely to a parent and family audience through early childhood centres, schools, libraries, CareerCentres, branches of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Plunket Family Centres and Parent Centres.
edCentre supports New Zealand's overall education strategies, which include:
- ensuring that New Zealanders engage in learning throughout their lives
- providing all New Zealanders with strong foundations for future learning.
edCentre has been specially designed to meet the needs of different users by:
- providing a starting point for people seeking information about education in New Zealand
- providing a basic, single, seamless, online gateway to education information
- lifting awareness and understanding of publicly available education information
- increasing support for different users of education information, particularly parents
- helping first-time and infrequent users find education information quickly and easily, without having to know with which organisation or website the information resides
- being user-friendly, up-to-date, tailored to audience needs and relevant to all existing and future New Zealanders
- supporting other relevant Government portals by enhancing existing content.
In addition to the six audience-specific sections, edCentre also features sections containing 'news', 'events', and 'tools and resources'.
While the Ministry of Education will administer edCentre on an ongoing basis, edCentre represents the collaborative work of the seven agencies involved. Content channelled through the portal is held on the 28 websites and portals of these agencies and they will be responsible for maintaining their own content.
edCentre is one of the many ways in which people can access education information, alongside print, the telephone, and face-to-face services. People who prefer to use the web to seek information will find it time-saving and cost-effective.
The launch of edCentre is the first phase of a longer-term plan. The success and usability of edCentre will be measured and evaluated over time, for example through user surveys, and the findings will inform its future development.
The agencies involved are collaborating on a number of other programmes to ensure information on education is easily accessible to New Zealanders. These include the Education Sector Architectural Framework (ESAF), which will provide a number of common technology services for agencies to use when delivering information services to New Zealanders.