Virtual School Meanderings

May 16, 2014

Media Release for the Virtual Learning Awards 2014

One for my Kiwi readers to begin the day…

Virtual Learning Awards release info;

On 15 April 2014 the Virtual Learning Network Community (VLNC) held their Annual General Meeting in Wellington. As part of that event the delegates were joined by the Associate Minister of Education the Hon. Nikki Kaye who spoke about the work of the sector and the vision and passion she sees as essential in the ongoing efforts towards a brighter future for education in New Zealand. As well as speaking to the group, the Minister was invited to be part of the presentation ceremony for the inaugural Virtual Learning Awards. The awards were instigated by the VLNC Council and have been developed to honour some of the exceptional individuals within the virtual learning community, and to highlight aspects of the range of outstanding work undertaken by the community as a whole.

The inaugural awards event was sponsored by Asnet technologies, who have been part of the journey alongside the Virtual Learning Network Community of schools. The VLNC delegates were joined by senior management and several staff members of Asnet technologies an integral part of the awards event, as well as providing the technology and support to enable members of the community and families from around the country to attend both the meeting and awards ceremony.

2014 VLA winners joined by members of the VLNC Council and Senior members of Asnet Technologies


From the left Back row: Rachel Roberts, Eric Greenop, Richard Bishop, Sue Winters, Gary Pasco, Chris Nielsen
Front row: Madeline Campbell, Meghan Scanlon, Kanyakon Kosinanonth, Carolyn Alexander-Bennet, Jo-Anne Stuart

Citations for the Virtual Learning Awards

Rachel Roberts:

Rachel has been nominated for her work within the VLN Communities of Schools in terms of her development of the VLN Primary. The nomination highlighted the personal touch Rachel brings to guidance and management of the burgeoning number of primary schools joining such activities as the Rural Schools project and over the back fence. With her can do attitude and readiness to be available and problem solve Rachel is the go-to within the participants of the VLNP and the We-Learn website. Rachel is also active in the VLPD and ethos communities, and generously shares her vision for the pedagogical underpinnings of her work as well as her advocacy for the VLN Primary within the community of users on the Virtual Learning Network.

Rachel is receiving the Virtual Learning Award for Innovation

– – –

Madeline Campbell

Madeline is a relative newcomer to the field of eTeaching and has embraced the potential of the medium with unmatched commitment and enthusiasm. Madeline has engaged her students in learning in new ways through inquiry and knowledge building to gain excellent grades. If this were not enough of a challenge she is modelling her rethinking the teacher’s role and motivating her peers with her collaborative approach to teaching and learning. Madeline is proactive in sharing her work across the Virtual Learning Network Communities and is highly regarded as an educator among her colleagues.

Madeline is receiving the Virtual Learning Award for Enabling Elearning

– – –

Carolyn Alexander-Bennet

Carolyn has been nominated for this award for her passion and dedication for the VLNC whanau, for online learning opportunities and maximising them for both rural and urban education communities. Many across the VLN Community of Schools have personal experience of the benefit of Carolyn’s knowledge and dedication in her work with the local community as well as her advocacy and passion for the VLNC as a whole. Carolyn exhibits admirable leadership qualities and advocates for the VLNC on many working groups and committees as well as maintaining an organisational role, supporting and mentoring others and all without impacting on her dedication to her own teaching with her level 3 Accounting class.

Carolyn Alexander-Bennet is receiving the Virtual Learning Award for Leadership

– – –

Jo-Anne Stuart

This nomination was submitted by a fellow staff member inspired by Jo-Anne’s professionalism and organisational skills in her role as E-Dean and her advocacy for the benefits of the Virtual Learning Network Community as a vehicle for ensuring students can get the best of opportunities available. Jo-Anne is credited with the growth in numbers of students accessing courses through the VLN and in her developing and support for the elearning student cohort, which she does without receiving extra timetable allocation or remuneration.

Jo-Anne Stuart is receiving the Virtual Learning Award for Building Capacity

– –
Kanyakon Kosinanonth (Maija)

Kanyakon’s nomination is a list of achievements by an exceptional, self-motivated and conscientious student. With Thai being Kanyakon’s first language she has demonstrated an incredible resilience to study multiple subjects via Video Conferencing, in a second language and achieve, three subjects with merit endorsements. As well as being credited with being a great student Kanyakon is an inspiration to others and was also awarded Dux of Ruapehu College for 2013.

Kanyakon is receiving the Virtual Learning Award for Achievement

– –
Meghan Scanlan

Meghan’s nomination for these awards showcases an exemplary student in both her studies and in her all round capabilities in sports, engaging in the school culture and being a young leader. She modelled 100% commitment to both her learning and her extra curricular activities and by meeting her own high expectations set a standard for other students to aspire to. This awards joins a long list of achievements that Meghan has been awarded and she is obviously very highly regarded in her school and community.

Meghan Scanlan is receiving the Virtual Learning Award for Achievement

April 20, 2014

HD Video Bridge Launched – Old Bridge to be Retired

For my Kiwi readers to begin their week…

Tam made a new blog post.

HD Video Bridge Launched – Old Bridge to be Retired

Over the last 12 months the Ministry of Education in conjunction with Asnet Technologies has improved the quality of VC bridging with the introduction and progressive testing of a high definition bridge. This has included expanding the options for desktop VC, the introduction of continuous presence (Brady bunch) conferencing layouts and assisting individual schools to improve their VC experiences.

What is happening

Effective from the beginning of Term 2, the old standard definition VC bridge will be retired from service – this means that all conferences from this point will be hosted on the high definition bridge.

Please note that all the classroom and conference pins that were set up on the old bridge will remain unchanged on the new bridge. The only aspect that will change is the bridge access number that will change from the existing 0600 Classroom access code to the new access code of 0605 Classroom

Also in anticipation that not all schools or students may get to hear about this in time, we will initially redirect all 0600 Classroom access from the directory to the new bridge.

What this means for my school

The good news is not much will change for individual users. Over the school holidays Asnet Technologies will make individual changes to the directory entries to include0605 Classroom directory options and redirect 0600 Classroom directory options.

All pins on the new bridge will remain unchanged – e.g. if you used the meeting room ID 12345# on the old bridge it will remain the unchanged on the new bridge.

There will be one big improvement – all conferences will now be set to continuous presence allowing (finally) all participants to be seen on the screen at the same time. Some people also call this the Brady Bunch setting.

And finally…

If you require further information on this or any other changes please contact the VC Help Desk team for assistance.

View and comment on the new blog post:

March 26, 2014

Virtual Learning Awards (New Zealand) – Media Release

This came through my electronic networks from several sources over the past 36 hours…

The first Virtual Learning Awards instigated by the Virtual Learning Network Community (VLNC) and sponsored by Asnet Technologies will honour six recipients selected from across the education spectrum. The accolades will be awarded to outstanding individuals from within the communities of schools who participate in learning and teaching through the Ministry of Education supported Virtual Learning Network (VLN).

The Virtual Learning Awards provide recognition of high performance, a significant and unique contribution to the VLNC Online Learning spaces, and excellence in the field of learning through digital technologies. The awards will be presented by the Hon Nikki Kaye at an awards ceremony on Tuesday April 15 in Wellington and as part of the VLNC AGM day.

The link to a media release for download:

More information can be found through the Education Gazette Article here:

Contact: Sue Winters (VLNC Council Chair) to reserve your place for the awards event in Wellington

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 acknowledge and further encourage 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.

Online learning enables interactivity between students, teachers and experts. Collaboration through distance learning is achieved via digital media, including audio and video conferencing, collaborative 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 invitation 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 which brings 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.

Media Enquiries
For media enquiries and further information, including the photo opportunities at the event, contact:

Vicki Smith
Virtual Learning Network Community – Marketing Coordinator
Mobile 021 778 067

Darlene Mathieson
Asnet Technologies Ltd – Marketing Coordinator
Mobile 0211 560-861


September 25, 2013

CORE Education – Virtual Learning As An Impetous For Educational Change: Charting A Way Forward For Learning In New Zealand

Virtual Learning as an Impetous for Educational Change: Charting a Way Forward for Learning in New Zealand

The purpose of this white paper is to examine the current state of virtual learning in the schools sector, as well as chart a vision for the virtual learning in 2016 and beyond. In this document, first, we trace the history and development of the main types of providers of distance education to establish the context for the current provision of online distance and blended learning in New Zealand. Second, we examine the organisational models designed to allow for the continued development of these initiatives. These models are outlined in the DEANZ’s report entitled Primary and Secondary e-Learning: Examining the Process of Achieving Maturity and the CORE Education report entitled Business Case: Virtual Learning Network Community (VLN-C). Finally, we consolidate and expand these two organisational models to chart a specific vision for the future of education in New Zealand’s school’s sector.

Key findings:

Given the multitude of differing players in the virtual learning environment in New Zealand, we submit there is one potential organisational structure that could be accommodated within the existing and impending realities that allows schools to become more networked in their own orientation towards student learning. Under this organisational structure, ideally one national body would have three main responsibilities:

  1. provide and support asynchronous and synchronous tools for virtual learning (e.g., video-conferencing, virtual classrooms, learning management systems, student information systems, e-portfolio programmes, etc.),
  2. develop and maintain a repository of online course content that is available to users free-of-charge, and
  3. provide brokerage services for users that wish to provide excess capacity to or collaborate with others.

This structure would allow existing distance education providers to focus specifically upon the provision of distance education and professional development (potentially even to specialise with certain geographic, pedagogical, eth- nic, gender, etc. foci). It would also allow individual schools and teachers to use virtual learning tools and virtual learning content with their face-to-face students in a blended format or a “flipped classroom” model. It would also allow individual or multiple schools to consider creative scheduling and delivery options.

This structure would change the nature of individual schools – at least in terms of potential membership and governance. It would encourage schools to belong to or associate with a variety of geographic and thematic networks. This structure could also encourage schools to cooperate across schools, where two teachers located at two different schools – possibly in geographic proximity to each other, but not necessarily – could team-teach the same course to students located at both schools.

Finally, this structure has the potential to re-envision the physical nature of a school. If some or much of the learning is completed in a virtual environment, is there a need for ALL students to physically be in a school for ALL of the school day. For some students, under this structure, there may not be a need for them to be physically present in the school building all of the time; which opens up interesting opportunities to create open learning spaces that could be used by more than a single school. This vision of multiple schools coordinating their use of one or more shared spaces – possibly even using shared or collaborative staffing models – calls for a new vision of what is a school and how this “school” should be governed or managed.

Download the full report:

Virtual Learning as an Impetous for Educational Change: reportVirtual Learning as an Impetous for Educational Change Research report
by M.K Barbour and D. Wenmoth (PDF, 1.6MB)

Project manager:

See also:

September 19, 2013

Crossposted: Charting A Way Forward for Virtual Learning in New Zealand

Earlier today iNACOL announced a new Research in Review Blog (see  This entry is cross-posted from that new blog.  Comments have been closed here, so please visit to leave feedback.

First of all I would like to congratulate the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) on the creation of this research into practice blog. It is a positive resource that is long overdue. I would also like to thank Kathryn Kennedy for allowing me to post the first entry to this new blog. As a long-time K-12 online learning blogger (see Virtual School Meanderings), I am honored to be given this task.

Like many jurisdictions, distance education at the K-12 or primary and secondary level has a long history in New Zealand. The introduction of distance education to the schools sector (i.e., K-12 environment) began around 1922 with the introduction of The Correspondence School (Rumble, 1989). By the 1990s many rural area schools were facing challenges with providing a wide range of curricular opportunities, particularly in the senior secondary levels. These challenges led seven area schools in the Canterbury region to create the Canterbury Area School’s Association Technology project (CASAtech) (Wenmoth, 1996). The Kaupapa Ara Whakawhiti Mätauranga (KAWM) project began in 2000 and was the first e-learning cluster to develop (Roberts, 2009). Over the next decade, these early initiatives would serve as the model for approximate 20 e-learning clusters that would eventually become the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) – a loose coalition of individual providers of online distance education. At present, there are five main types of providers currently responsible for the delivery of distance education, including online and blended learning, in the schools sector in New Zealand: Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu/The Correspondence School; approximately 20 VLN e-learning clusters; three regional health schools; 13 urban-based, regional fiber-based loops; and some tertiary institutions.

The past two years there have seen significant changes in the provision of virtual learning in the schools sector in New Zealand. During 2010 the Ministry of Education (MOE), along with CORE Education, revised and updated the Learning Communities Online Handbook – a document designed to provide e-learning clusters with guidance as they moved on their journey from a conceptual idea to a mature and sustainable cluster (Ministry of Education, 2011a). The MOE also announced its plans for the Ultrafast Broadband in Schools (UFBiS) initiative will ensure Internet access to 95% of the nation’s schools by 2016 (Ministry of Education, 2012). In 2011, the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) commissioned a study into the development of virtual learning in New Zealand (Barbour, 2011), while the Virtual Learning Network-Community (VLN-C) commissioned CORE Education provide future direction to this national virtual learning organization (Wenmoth, 2011). Later in the year, the MOE announced that it would create a Network for Learning to provide significant tools and resources for schools (Ministry of Education, 2011b). Finally, this past year a Parliamentary Inquiry into twenty-first century learning environments and digital literacy was conducted (New Zealand Parliament, 2012).

The purpose of the forthcoming CORE Education white paper is to examine the current state of virtual learning in the schools sector, as well as chart a vision for the virtual learning in 2016 and beyond (i.e., following the completion of the UFBiS initiative).

Primary and Secondary e-Learning: Examining the Process of Achieving Maturity

During the 2011 school year, as a study commission by the DEANZ, I examined the development of the VLN e-learning clusters and the barriers these clusters faced in achieving sustainability and maturity (Barbour, 2011). I recommended a significant re-organization to the way primary and secondary online learning was structured and supported. The organizational model recommended was focused upon expanding the brokerage role of the MOE, providing more regional support to allow for greater regional cooperation, and continuing to provide individual e-learning clusters the flexibility to address local needs.

Expanding the Brokerage Role of the Ministry of Education

At present, the MOE provides a brokerage of services that are focused on tools. The MOE currently supports a videoconferencing bridge that allows many of the VLN clusters to conduct their synchronous instruction. The MOE also provides support for the learning management system (LMS) Moodle, along with a variety of other tools that could be used for asynchronous online instruction. Finally, the MOE provides a registration system that allows schools to enroll their students into distance courses – both from the cluster that they may be a member of and also from other clusters that may have excess capacity (see The individual VLN clusters are responsible for course development and, in many instances, the teachers from those individual clusters had independently created multiple versions of the same course. This has resulted in two, three, four, five and, even, six different versions of a course being developed; which is a considerable waste of resources. It was recommended that the MOE‘s brokerage services be expanded to include the consolidation and further development of an online course content repository.

Providing More Regional Support to Allow for Greater Regional Cooperation

From 2007 to 2009 the MOE provided funding for 18 administrative positions for the leadership of the various VLN e-learning clusters. Barbour noted that each of the individual ePrincipals, along with the principals and deputy principals from schools participating in various e-learning clusters, all spoke of the need for one or more funded leadership positions with the e-learning cluster. However, the full-time equivalent enrolment for the individual e-learning clusters ranged from a low of 8-10 students to a high of 300-400 students. Yet there was value in having regional leadership that had a closer proximity to the individual e-learning clusters and was able to understand the local needs of each cluster. As such, it was recommended that the MOE fund five to eight part-time or full-time regional coordinators responsible for specific geographic regions.

Continuing to Provide Individual e-Learning Clusters Flexibility to Address Local Needs

Historically, each of the VLN e-learning clusters was initiated to address one or more specific local needs. In some instances, this was due to the criteria of a particular request for proposals from some national funding scheme. However, in many instances the needs being addressed were genuine needs that the geographic collection of schools felt existed. The growth of the VLN from two or three isolated clusters to approximately 15-20 individual e-learning clusters is an illustration of the importance of addressing local needs through the initial developmental stage. It was important that this local connection was not lost. While there was a call for a greater level of services to be provided at the national level, as well as the creation of regional coordinators and a call for increased rationalization of the existing e-learning clusters, it was recognized that the needs of local schools could not be met solely through a centralized, national structure. There was a need for local e-learning clusters that were organized around geographic or like-minded visions (e.g., boys schools, character schools, Mãori schools, etc.).

Business Case: Virtual Learning Network Community (VLN-C)

In 2011 the VLN-C commissioned Derek Wenmoth of CORE Education to prepare a business case that examined the future organizational and legal structure of a sustainable VLN-C. The timing of this request came shortly ahead of a review of the current funding support for the VLN, and the MOE were looking to the VLN-C to provide a substantive case for why funding should continue. Three options were presented as a basis for moving forward (Wenmoth, 2011).

Option One: Establish the VLN as a business unit within the Ministry of Education

This would involve the MOE taking responsibility for treating the operation of the VLN as a part of its own internal operations in providing services for schools. Funding would be provided through an annual appropriation that supported all areas of activity of the VLN. The VLN-C council would exist as an expert reference group to the MOE, and as a professional coordination and advocacy group within the VLN-C. This option would guarantee ongoing funding for the VLN and allow the VLN-C to remain influential at a national level, while focusing attention on operational issues and support. However, the overall locus of control would shift to the MOE.

Option Two: Establish the VLN-C Trust as an independent company.

This option would enable the collection of clusters nationally to operate in a federated sense – consistent with the notion of a “fractal” organization, or “network of networks.” This would require the VLN-C to establish a fully self-funded model, with funding coming through a variety of channels, including individual membership fees, cluster membership fees and fees for service through the brokerage model. The national organization would act as a broker on behalf of the member organizations, leveraging the scale of membership to negotiate deals on services for members. The company would coordinate the provision of advice for members, negotiating and providing professional development and other consulting services. A formally established governance model would be required, with a board and operations staff employed by the company. This option enables the VLN-C to operate independently from the MOE, in a sustainable business model.

Option Three: Establish the VLN Trust as a professional organization

The primary focus in this option is on representation and advocacy, along the lines of other professional organizations. This is essentially a representational model, focused on advocacy and influence. The interests of the constituent members are “held in trust” by the elected members of the professional organization. Funding for this model would come from the payment of a membership fee. As a professional organization funded by members the VLN-C would be able to provide an “independent voice” on matters relating to the operation of the clusters, and be strongly represented in all policy and strategy development.

Consolidating a Way Forward for New Zealand Schools

While the DEANZ report to the MOE (i.e., Barbour [2011]) and the business case for the VLN-C (i.e., Wenmoth [2011]) were tasked with separate goals, there is a great deal of overlap in the model proposed by Barbour and the first two options proposed by Wenmoth. However, one of the main limitations of both of these reports was the strict focus on the VLN e-learning clusters and the VLN-C. This VLN focus meant that the broader range of providers of primary and secondary a distance education were not considered in either of the proposed models. For example, the role and funding provided to The Correspondence School and the SuperLoops – along with the operation of the three health schools and the growing number of tertiary providers – are all a part of the context of virtual learning in New Zealand’s schools sector and should be considered within the context of a new organizational model.

Given this multitude of differing players in the virtual learning environment in New Zealand, there is one potential organizational structure that could be accommodated within the existing and impending realities that allows schools to become more networked in their own orientation towards student learning.

Figure 1. Potential organizational structure for the delivery of virtual learning in New Zealand

Under this organizational structure, one or more (ideally one) national body would have three main responsibilities:

  1. provide and support asynchronous and synchronous tools for virtual learning (e.g., video-conferencing, virtual classrooms, LMS, student information systems, e-portfolio programs, etc.),
  2. develop and maintain a repository of online course content that is available to users free-of-charge, and
  3. provide brokerage services for users that wish to provide excess capacity to or collaborate with others.

This structure would allow existing distance education providers to focus specifically upon the provision of distance education and professional development (potentially even to specialize with certain geographic, pedagogical, ethnic, gender, etc. foci). It would also allow individual schools and teachers to use virtual learning tools and virtual learning content with their face-to-face students in a blended format or a “flipped classroom” model. Finally, it would allow individual or multiple schools to consider creative scheduling and delivery options (e.g., a course in a school where the teacher is scheduled in one slot and the students are scheduled throughout the day or where two teachers at two different schools collaborate to combine their students into a single class – see the “Opening Classrooms” section of Barbour [2011]).

Practical Implications

While the history, context, and recommendations this particular white paper are quite specific to New Zealand, there are some more generalized practical implications to a broader audience. Within the North American environment, we have seen number legislative and regulatory changes to encourage – as well as a general push for the greater incorporation of – online and blended learning in K-12 education. As Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, and Rapp (2012) have reported, district-based programs – particularly blended learning initiatives – appear to be the fastest growing form of K-12 online and blended learning. Further, Stalker and Horn (2012) have described several different models that these blended learning opportunities can be provided (beyond the traditional supplemental or full-time online learning).

The provision of access to the technology (e.g., LMS, student information system, synchronous tools, etc.), as well as technical support, from a centralized source removes one of the main barriers that prevent schools and school districts from implement online and/or blended learning. Another barrier to the implementation of these online and blended learning models is access to high quality virtual learning content. In most instances, school and school districts have to invest money to create their own content or pay annual fees to lease propriety content. The creation of a centralized online course repository that schools and school districts could access free-of-charge would remove a second major barrier.

There are some North American jurisdictions that can provide a model that could be implemented through Canada and the United States (and internationally). Canadian provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador all provide a centralized learning management system and online course repository that all of the virtual learning programs and brick-and-mortar schools in the respective province can use free-of-charge. In the United States, iNACOL recently released a report entitled Open Educational Resources and Collaborative Content Development: A Practical Guide for State and School Leaders, which provided educational leaders with a guide describing the benefits of OER, a framework for planning, and strategies for successful collaborative content development. This was followed by a second report entitled OER State Policy in K-12 Education: Benefits, Strategies, and Recommendations for Open Access, Open Sharing, which provided a rationale for policymakers on why open education resources were important and recommendations on how to implement strategies to ensure greater sharing of learning materials. iNACOL has also been significant supporters of initiatives like the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) and the open courseware initiative undertaken by the Open High School of Utah (now Mountain Highs Academy) – both of which have been featured in numerous webinars and presentations at the annual Virtual School Symposium (now iNACOL Symposium). The CORE Education white paper, which is available at, provides a useful organizational framework and policy model that could be implemented at the state/province or regional level to encourage the growth of K-12 online and blended learning.


Barbour, M. K. (2011). Primary and secondary e-learning: Examining the process of achieving maturity. Christchurch, New Zealand: Distance Education Association of New Zealand. Retrieved from

Bliss, T. J., Tonks, D., & Patrick, S. (2013). Open educational resources and collaborative content development: A practical guide for state and school leaders. Vienna, VA: International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2011a). Learning communities online handbook. Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2011b). Innovative learning network to lift student achievement. Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2012). Ultra-fast broadband in schools. Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from

New Zealand Parliament. (2012). Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy. Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from

Roberts, R. (2009). Video conferencing in distance learning: A New Zealand schools’ perspective. Journal of Distance Learning, 13(1), 91-107. Retrieved from

Rumble, G. (1989). The role of distance education in national and international development: An overview. Distance Education, 10(1), 83-107.

Stalker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K-12 blended learning. San Mateo, CA: Innosight Institute. Retrieved from

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K-12 online and blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from

Wenmoth, D. (1996). Learning in the distributed classroom. SET Research Information for Teachers, 2(4). 1–4.

Wenmoth, D. (2011). Business case: Virtual Learning Network-Community (VLN-C). Christchurch, New Zealand: CORE Education.

Michael K. Barbour is the Director of Doctoral Studies for the Isabelle Farrington College of Education and an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Sacred Heart University. He has been involved with K-12 online learning for over a decade as a researcher, evaluator, teacher, course designer, and administrator. His research has focused on the effective design, delivery, and support of K-12 online learning, particularly for students located in rural jurisdictions. Recently, Dr. Barbour’s focus has shifted to policy related to effective online learning environments, which has resulted in his testifying before House and Senate committees in several states, as well as consulting for Ministries of Education across Canada and in New Zealand.

Again, this entry is cross-posted from the iNACOL Research in Review Blog at Comments have been closed here, so please visit to leave feedback.

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