Network for Learning (N4L) is providing free school internet health checks, available through regional partners, to ensure students have a good online exam experience this year.
The news come as minister of education Chris Hipkins announced a $69 million boost to online learning and examinations in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.
"Schools and students adapted to online learning quickly during the lockdown, so we have an opportunity to build on this momentum and give learners more options to learn safely online," Hipkins said today.
“We’re on track to ensure that at least two-thirds of NCEA exams can be delivered digitally by 2022. To support the roll out of NCEA Online, we are investing $20 million to develop digital identities for secondary students so they can log on to access their exams and results when they’re released.
“We expect this work a little bit like a Facebook or Google login where people have an online profile and can login into a wide range of websites and services."
The Government is also bolstering centralised ICT and cyber security support to give all state and state-integrated schools the option to sign up. This would reduce the burden on individual schools to provide the support and upgrades themselves, Hipkins said.
“This means that school leaders and boards can focus on teaching and learning rather than worrying about how they’re going to keep their students safe online. The upgrade to school ICT network and services will cost $49 million over four years.”
Two-thirds of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams can be delivered digitally in 2020 thanks to a funding boost announced by the minister of education said in June.
With more schools expected to offer the exams online this year, N4L has again hooked up with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to assess exam room internet speeds and security, to determine if there were any "dead spots" without connectivity, and to check wireless equipment can cope with the extra demand.
More than 300 schools were expected to take up the offer of the network assurance check (NAC), which will be delivered by N4L's regional ICT partners.
This is the second year N4L has offered the NACs while also supporting schools throughout the exam period with its helpdesk.
Orewa College was among 140 schools assessed last year and deputy principal Sue McCarthny, who expected around 700 of her students to sit at least 17 online exams in November, has signed up again for 2020.
“These assessments give our school the assurance we need that there will be no unexpected surprises during the exam period,” McCarthny said.
N4L CEO Larrie Moore says the there was a heightened focus on safety and security with the checks this year.
“Giving schools the confidence their internet will work properly, is protected from outside intruders, and is set up to stop students going where they shouldn’t is crucial to fostering an environment where students are able to fully focus on their exams so they can do their very best on the big day,” he said.
Last year, N4L was able to ensure a school undergoing an online security attack could continue with its digital exam.
Andrea Gray, NZQA’s digital assessment transformation deputy chief executive, said having N4L on hand last year helped resolve connectivity issues quickly and no candidate was adversely affected.
"Providing the right technical support for schools is a critical part of their preparation so they are confident of delivering a good exam experience for their students.”
Delivery partners include Aiscorp, Cyclone Computer Company, Fusion Networks, Glenn Cook Technologies, New Era IT, NORRCOM, Our School, pcMedia Technologies, RepairIT and Smart Computer Systems.