Since the development of the Kiwi Advanced Education and Research Network (KAREN) late in 2006 there has been growing interest in how schools can take advantage of connectivity at gigabit speeds as opposed to the current megabit speeds experienced over existing ADSL connections. Key to this development is an understanding of the way in which the network works—in effect, it is a network of networks, with KAREN providing the national backbone, connecting a range of local networks within metropolitan and regional centres. These networks are referred to as ‘urban fibre networks’ or ‘loops’, and provide the connectivity at a local level, usually involving schools, hospitals, councils, universities, and businesses etc.
These networks will allow the growth in much of what is currently happening in the virtual learning space (with schools sharing classes and teachers via video conferencing). They will create the opportunity for schools to collaborate over the use of shared services such as student management systems, learning management systems, and library management systems for example.