The rural Otago schools benefiting from broadband, thanks to a deal between Telecom and the Otago Community Trust, have added another number to their ranks — The Correspondence School.
Under the deal, signed late last year, the trust would underwrite the cost of providing Telecom’s JetStream service to rural Otago towns if uptake isn’t high enough to exceed Telecom’s costs. The towns’ schools were among the first customers to take up the service and found that when classes for 2002 began, videoconferencing became a possibility.
The Correspondence School has stepped in to offer courses by video, that the schools aren’t able to.
The Correspondence School has been working on the project with Telecom and the trust since last year, says eSection manager Derek Wenmouth.
“The schools realised they didn’t have the capacity to offer the full curriculum and The Correspondence School is offering six courses.” The courses include classics, art history, geography, economics and accounting.
Most of the Otago schools in the scheme can get the 256kbit/s required for reliable videoconferencing, Wenmouth says, but several are at the 197kbit/s mark, which means they can still use the service, “but we have to be a bit more careful about the things we try to achieve — we have to rely more on the audio link”.
The Correspondence School is involved with several other distance learning programmes, including KAWM (Kaupapa ara Whakawhiti Matauranga) on the East Coast and is talking with FarNet, a group of schools in the far north, whose project was launched in September.