Remote students win with $12m broadband boost 


Charles Darwin University (CDU) students from remote and regional Australia will benefit from a multi-million-dollar investment in new satellite-based broadband infrastructure in remote Northern Territory.

The Federal Government’s recently announced Skyconnect program will support delivery of education and health programs through high speed internet to more than 250 locations.

While $4.5 million was awarded through the Australian Government’s Clever Networks Program, the Territory government and CDU will spend an additional $7.5 million over the next five years on the program.

This includes the development of an interactive distance learning laboratory at the CDU Alice Springs campus, providing vocational training to students in homelands, schools, health clinics and School of the Air sites across the NT.

The studio is expected to be in operation by July 2008 and use the latest broadcast technologies.

CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Garnett welcomed the initiative.

‘The Territory’s educational future lies with quality broadband through which we can deliver interactive, engaging training and help open communities to education and the world,’ she said.

The enhanced learning experience will be supported by Northern Territory-developed software, React, which allows face-to-face communication between lecturers and students and means documents and images can be shared easily.

The Alice Springs and Katherine Schools of the Air already use the platform in their delivery to primary and secondary students.

Pro-Vice Chancellor (Community and Access) Don Zoellner said the technology would provide a backbone for education in the bush.

‘CDU aspires to developing learning hubs to help create a notion of a place in each community for learning,’ he said. ‘With this technology, lecturers and students can engage in real time education exchanging documents, video and displays as in the traditional classroom,’ he said.

‘It will allow us to use a mixed mode delivery approach that will maintain consistent contact between lecturers and students and overcomes the vagaries of isolation.’

Skyconnect was initiated by the Department of Employment, Education and Training and developed in partnership with CDU and the Department of Health and Community Services.