Private school goes public online

Three finalists are in the running for the Computerworld "Excellence in the use of IT in education" award, at the tertiary, community and commercial levels.

Three finalists are in the running for the Computerworld “Excellence in the use of IT in education” award, at the tertiary, community and commercial levels.

King’s Institute, which is part of King’s College, runs Scholarnet, a subscription-based online service for schools and individuals. The school says its service is achieving what many have tried and failed at – attracting large numbers of users willing to pay for content. Scholarnet claims 3000 individuals were paying $55 a year for maths content up to December last year, after nine months of the service’s availability.

MathsOnline is one of Scholarnet’s three curriculum areas; the others are ScienceOnline, launched last month, and EconomicsOnline.

"Over half the secondary schools in New Zealand have registered to use Scholarnet," says King’s Institute director Jan Kerr.

"We have had really good feedback about the quality of the material and teachers especially seem to like the fact that it is updated for NCEA, the new school qualification."

Slightly more girls than boys are subscribing. Of the registered users, 53% are female and 47% male. The average length of a visit is 32 minutes with over 40,000 hits a day, Kerr says.

Scholarnet grew out of King’s College’s intranet activities. The South Auckland private school had developed about 60 internal websites, which it realised could be useful to outside users. Before going commercial with MathsOnline, it was tested within the school and made publicly available free for 18 months, running on a Macintosh server within the school.

Scholarnet is now hosted externally, and ongoing development handled in conjunction with Greenwood Technology.

Victoria University worked with TelstraClear to create an online service which is the second finalist in this category. The Student Computing Services Remote Access Project enables secure, authenticated off-campus access to university computing resources, including electronic library resources and other online services.

Students can access a web-based mail service, personal files, library databases, campus links and university-related notices. According to the university, the system – or portal – has resulted in greater use of library databases. It has also led to greater use of online administration services, including the ability to enrol remotely.

The portal is hosted on a TelstraClear-owned server running Linux and the Apache web server.

The last education finalist was also a finalist last year. Auckland-based Bubbledome started out two years ago as a fantasy problem-solving story site aimed at seven to 12-year-olds that was to be supported by advertising.

Now it is evolving from a pure education website into a fuller e-commerce operation. It is branching out into online sales of Bubbledome products, such as books and CDs based on its online content; next year the plan is to relaunch the website with subscription-based education services.

The company says it is also moving into website development for the New Zealand Kindergarten Association and for the charity ECPAT NZ (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes), with the goal of showing kids how to be "safe" on the web.

Bubbledome has also completed a maths learning tool for government agency Learning Media and is developing a Maori language version. The Onehunga firm also has links with Xtra kids, the children’s section of the Telecom ISPs website.

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