The Impact of NBN Advancements on Education

Since the launch of the NBN high speed network, the nation can now keep pace with similar initiatives happening across the globe. With countries such as the UK simply installing new and better quality broadband cables and fibre optics, we can definitely say that we are leading the pathway for high quality, affordable digital networks. The NBN, in terms of digital infrastructure is assuring that Australia can keep pace in the new age of economic competitiveness and digital beginnings. For those of us still waiting for the network or who have not heard of the initiative, the general consensus is that the overall network is a merging of companies such as iiNet and Telesta to create one overriding provider of high speed broadband. Even though we are still in the initial roll out stage, national broadband network iinet is already deploying the fibre network to their clients as quickly as they can and are hoping that the complete roll out will be finished quicker than the projected 2020 deadline.

NBN Advancements on Education

The NBN Rollout Timeline

The NBN network has been continually rolled out, month upon month since 2010, which, as of December 2012 has now been taken up by over 190,000 people, which will continue to increase over the next 12 months. The average length of time from inclusion into our homes, companies and education establishments will reportedly take 12 months from the start of the network construction in the roll out area to the point when customers can access the network and services. However, it looks as though this may take longer, and the plan is to ultimately see 100% of the country at least covered by the fixed wireless and satellite technology by the end of 2015.

In Albury-Wodonga, the fibre network construction is in line with the current rollout plans. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2013 and is anticipated to proceed in stages, with the last construction phase estimated to end by June 2014.

Eventually the NBN network will be the norm and high speed accessible broadband will start to make an impact in to our private lives as well as the education system.

The NBN Impact on Education

When considering the impact that the NBN network will have on our education system, the first and most obvious educational organisation that will see a direct impact will be the Open Universities of Australia. Over the past decade, the OUA has become more and more heavily reliant upon high speed broadband, even more so as the organisation now serves around 43,000 students with university courses that are all online based. Take for example, a lecture that is live streamed – a move that more physical universities are also making. In order for the student to appropriately learn from the session, they first and foremost need to be able to view the lecture without lag and slow network speeds.

OUA’s Cheif Executive recently told Computerworld Australia that the teaching methods employed by the organisation and involving more and more virtual learning, including the use of clouds and broaching a move away from the traditional CD ROMs; making high seed broadband integral.

It may be clear how the OUA has and will benefit from the inclusion of the NBN network, but what will change in terms of learning styles and educational benefits for the next generation of school graduates? One of the first schools to join the network was the Circular Head Christian School in Smithton, Tasmania. The location of the school, 380 kilometers from Hobart, in the north west of Tasmania, had uncovered broadband speed issues in the past due to their remote location. The benefits from the introduction of the NBN network during the trial period had not gone unnoticed by the principal Patrick Bakes. Bakes believed that the inclusion of interactive white boards, YouTube and Web Based learning resources were integral to the educational advancement of the students. Since the trial Bakes has enthusiastically told various publications that the NBN network has meant that;

Our teachers can now use online programs to teach the students. The school has subscribed to Intrepica, an online-based learning platform, and our students use this daily.The teachers also use other Web-based resources on our interactive whiteboards and projectors within all the home rooms of the school.

One of the most note-table-positive effects of an inclusive network for the education system is the networking and sharing capabilities of many resources that have previously been out of reach due to speed and connection limitations. With more and more libraries, museum and galleries becoming just as interactive as they are physical, the speed that information can be found will be of great benefit to both the teaching staff and the pupils.

There is a need to remember though, that the NBN will never be completely inclusive of all education institutions and it has certainly never promised to be, this means that we can’t completely bridge the digital gap between our urban hubs and the region as a whole. However, it is certainly making the right steps towards a better digital network for the majority of students and institutions. The inclusion and impact will be a slow process and we do have to have a degree of patience, but the connectivity has already begun and the right steps have been made. As Emilie Ditton, Verticals Analyst for IDC states;

The NBN is not promising to reach all students in regional Australia, but it certainly will deliver better Internet connectivity to more students in regional Australia, and a much higher quality service to those students in regional Australia who already have it. I don’t think it will end the digital divide, but it will improve it.

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