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School Clusters and LCOs

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Last updated by Glen


Schools linking together as clusters are not a new thing. Clusters have formed in the past for a variety of reasons, including professional development, sharing of resources, or for sporting or cultural linkages etc.
Learning communities online (LCOs) have emerged where two things are present:

  • A commitment to collaborate in meeting the learning needs of students, and;
  • An enabling set of technologies and infrastructure.

Typically, the choice of infrastructure and technology has been addressed after the commitment to collaborate has been made.

As we see the spread of Ultra-fast Broadband (UFB) around New Zealand, schools are finding themselves connected to a high speed infrastructure and clusters are being defined by the region they belong to. These schools are now exploring the opportunities this provides for collaboration and becoming a learning community online.

The following diagram provides a way of visualising what is happening.




The central focus in the LCO is the school, which in turn, is catering for the needs of learners in terms of access and services.

Schools once were responsible for all aspects of the learner’s learning - including subject expertise, learning to learn, learning support, careers guidance, counselling, social, cultural and emotional development. It is now possible to separate some of these things out so that learners have access to them from the right people at the right time.

Schools will remain important as the physical place of meeting, and where significant personal, social, and cultural learning opportunities are provided However it is the collective of schools in the LCO that will ensure all learners needs are met.


Once connected to a high speed network, schools can have access to a range of services that do not need to reside within the school’s own network space, including:
Content services, e.g.

  • streaming video
  • online storage

Learning services, e.g.

  • online PD
  • online projects
  • portfolios

Management services, e.g.

  • student management system
  • learning management system
  • financial and accounting system

Support Services, e.g.

  • back-up and failover
  • online support
  • remote hosting

Internet services, e.g.

  • internet service provider (ISP)
  • security
  • filtering

The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) is an essential service to schools in this mix.

Aggregation Point

The aggregation point in a local network is like the exchange in a telephone network. It is the point that connects all of the schools and users with all of the services that schools may want to connect with. The aggregation point will also provide the link to the point of presence (POP) for the internet and the dedicated education network in the local region.


The library icon represents a range of public utilities and services that can be linked to an urban fibre network and thus be accessed by schools. In some circumstances, local library services can be integrated with a school library collection so that users experience a seamless integration of services in their quest for information. The National Library also has a significant role to play here.


Commodity, (publicly accessible), internet has been used by schools for some time now. A variety of internet service providers (ISPs) provide commodity internet and associated services (i.e. filtering, security etc.).

Information travelling over the internet is a little like traffic on the roads. Its flow will be determined by the number of lanes, traffic signals and the volume of traffic travelling at any one time.

Other Educational Organisations

This icon represents the range of other educational organizations that may provide teaching and learning services across the network. Examples of organizations that may have a contribution to make here include:

  • Universities
  • Polytechnics
  • Te Papa and other museums

The relationship with community education and vocational education programmes is also represented here.

These links open up new opportunities for career planning and life-long learning connections for learners beyond life at school.

Dedicated Education Network

The Government is investigating the viability of a dedicated education network that could potentially provide all New Zealand schools with high speed online access to education and administrative content and services. There are many examples of education networks globally for example CaIREN in the US and nen.govt.uk.

A ‘National Education Network’ trial involving approximately 100 New Zealand schools is currently underway and will inform the development of this network if the Government decides to proceed (a decision is expected later in 2011).


The learner in this diagram can represent anyone in the community who is active in the learning process – including:

  • students
  • teachers
  • family/whanau

Learners access to the network is shown as coming through the school connection, or directly from the place they live – the key is flexibility and ubiquity. With services (including applications and content) available in the ‘cloud’, and not locked inside a school’s network, access can be available from anywhere, at any time.