Seven non-government schools in the Kew area of Melbourne took advantage of their geographical proximity and formed a collaborative consortium to co-invest in fibre optic infrastructure with AARNet.
A dedicated optical circuit, initially lit up at 1Gigabit per second (Gbps) and scalable up to multiple Gbps on demand, has been deployed at each of the schools in the consortium.
Even though the schools compete with each other, co-investing to ensure that future bandwidth needs could be met in a cost efficient way was an attractive proposition.
“We were quick to recognise the potential advantages of this arrangement,” said Janet Smith, Director of Technology and Curriculum at Methodist Ladies College, one of the participating schools.
She said the shared-infrastructure idea became viable because, “Other nearby schools had common learning and curriculum goals that would be advanced with the faster internet connection.”
John Weymouth, IT Manager Camberwell Grammar School concurs. He said, “AARNet offered a fantastic solution that benefited Kew schools. Although we are ‘competing’ with each other, everyone believed that through working together, we could reach a solution with AARNet that benefited everyone.”
Each of the schools involved identified their long-term bandwidth needs, factoring in the current growth of devices on their respective networks and the increasing availability of and demand for digital curriculum resources and services.
“A key challenge for schools today is to provide a solid, robust and high performing network that provides the students and staff with the tools to support their teaching and learning,” said Mark Glover, Business Manager for Genazzano FCJ, listing bandwidth, wireless capacity and effective on-line learning management systems as critical for the delivery of education.
“It made economic and practical sense to collaborate to ensure we all benefited from a high speed and first class quality internet link for our schools,” he said. “The cost efficiency was critical and it was so pleasing to see us all work together for a common outcome.”
The advantages for teachers and students are many, Smith says, including the reliable high speed connectivity AARNet provides to an increasingly sophisticated suite of teaching tools used to support and enhance the classroom experience.
Trinity Grammar’s IT Director Rob Flavell agrees and says that while AARNet delivering a fast connection at a price the school can afford is key, the relationships AARNet has with the broader research and education communities, including entities such as the CSIRO, are also of great interest and value.
Another advantage of the collaboration for local schools, Flavell says, is that there may be other on-going mutual benefits.
“We’ve started discussing possible offsite backup solutions where we hand over part of our server room to another school in exchange for the same thing in their server room – mutually beneficial and cost effective,” he said.
AARNet is collaborating with Camberwell Grammar School to test the provision of private circuit capability enabling connected schools to leverage their investment in AARNet infrastructure. The private circuit delivers all or part of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) function from nominated external hosted services providers, such as private cloud storage, in addition to an AARNet high speed internet service.
This shared-infrastructure model has been deployed to other school collaborative consortia projects. Independent schools in one consortium in the Australian Capital Territory and two in Western Australia share their investment in AARNet fibre optic infrastructure.
There are many ways schools can connect to AARNet. For more information, please contact Nick Cross, Education Outreach Manager.
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