G21 Regional Secondary Schools and Community Digital Learning Hub and Ecosystem

Education and training Pillar

The Need

Each day in most of the G21 region’s public secondary schools students and teachers can’t access the resources they need due to internet bandwidth limitations.

Without high-capacity internet, students and teachers can’t adequately:

  • use information sites, e-books or education platforms
  • stream online educational classes and events
  • participate in high-definition video conferencing
  • share resources between schools, or
  • deliver the curriculum electronically.

This limits the standard of education that teachers can provide to students.

The G21 Regional Secondary Schools and Community (GSSC) Digital Learning Hub and Ecosystem enable students and teachers in the G21 region to become leaders in a digital age.

It will deliver optimum, high-speed internet through AARNet, which is renowned as an architect, builder and operator of world-class high-speed low-latency network infrastructure.

Most private secondary schools in the G21 region have themselves funded access for their students and teachers to AARNet.

This is unintentionally creating a divide between public and private secondary schools within our region.

At least seven private schools are benefiting from subscriptions to the super-fast high-capacity AARNet internet, while just one public secondary school has been able to afford to do so.  Twenty public secondary schools in the region can’t afford to connect.

The Geelong region has more than 40,000 secondary and primary students, yet the uncomfortable truth is that our school retention and Year 12 completion rates lag well behind state averages.

Almost one-in-three students in our region are not completing Year 12, compared to about one-in-five in Melbourne.

Geelong’s worthy aspiration to be a ‘clever and creative’ city, with a workforce proficient in digital technology to attract high-tech businesses and start-ups, must begin with our students.

The labour market of the future will be highly-skilled, it will require strong education, technical, interpersonal and collaboration competencies. It will be global, with specialists in multiple countries working together to create novel products, services and experiences.

The generation on whom the region’s future in digital technology depends is currently largely unable to access the level of digital learning and world-wide collaboration required to develop and succeed in this increasingly competitive sector.

Unless that changes, incrementally, students in our region will become less competitive in the labour market of the future, compounding the existing socio-economic divisions and skill gaps.

Project Aims

The Digital Learning Hub will deliver optimum high-speed internet via Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet), providing access to a truly unique digital learning network.

AARNet, a not-for-profit research and education network jointly owned by the CSIRO and Australian universities (including Deakin University) will provide each partner with a high-speed connection of 1Gbs to meet the learning requirements of their students, teachers and wider community.

With their own extensive fibre optic cable network, AARNet is orders-of-magnitude faster than the NBN1.  This new network will allow multiple classes across each school to use the internet simultaneously without performance issues.

AARNet will also provide partners with access to eduroam, a global network access service that provides students and teachers with seamless wireless and internet connectivity when moving to or visiting universities, further learning institutions and research facilities worldwide.

Technology upgrades and tools such as SparkBoards will create state-of-the-art Smart Classrooms across the region, providing opportunity for students who currently have limited access to technology.

The ‘Ecosystem’ element of the Digital Hub proposal is designed to expose students and their teachers to new ideas, curriculum content and support opportunities, such as:

  • Digital Schools Network enabling collaboration with schools in Asia, the US and NZ
  • Virtual excursions developed by Curtain, Flinders, La Trobe and Queensland universities
  • Deakin ‘experts in schools’ program making Deakin staff available to provide specialist expertise and knowledge on many subjects.

The Digital Learning Hub and Ecosystem proposal is a partnership of all secondary schools in Geelong, Colac Otway and Surf Coast municipalities, along with Deakin University, The Gordon TAFE, Geelong Regional Library Corporation, with support from G21 through its Education & Training Pillar.

Project Champion

Craig Warren, Deakin eSolutions, Deakin University.

Benefits for Victoria and the G21 region

The GSSC Digital Learning Hub and Ecosystem will:

  • ensure sustainable access to a high-speed digital learning platform for the next 10-15 years
  • provide a world-class digital learning platform with adequate capacity (1Gbs +) to meet contemporary education needs
  • improve the capacity to overcome regional disadvantage, improve student learning outcomes and school engagement
  • provide new and sustainable networks between schools in the region and beyond.

A Business Case for the Digital Learning Hub was released in September 2015.

What is required

  • $4.7 million to deliver a Digital Learning Hub that will provide high-speed learning platforms to each partner location2.
  • $3 million to deliver a Digital Schools Ecosystem that will provide world-leading technology and learning resources to young people at schools across the G21 region3.

A commitment by State and Federal governments to embed GROW training, employment and procurement principles in all government projects within the region.

1 NBN download speeds range from 12mb to 100mb per second while AARNET download speeds range from 1Gb to 100 Gb per second.
2 Each project partner is committed to an initial infrastructure investment and a recurrent ongoing subscription cost to connect to AARNet.
3 Establishment and ongoing operation of the initiative will cost $5 million over three years. Contributions from Deakin (> $1 million) and Cisco/other industry partners leaves a shortfall of $3 million.