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Huge educational spinoffs if Timaru wins Gigatown competition

13 Nov 14

Huge educational spinoffs are expected if Timaru wins the Gigatown competition and becomes the country’s technology hub.

Alex Cabrera, Aoraki Polytechnic chief executive, says technology is playing an increasingly important role in the delivery of programmes at Aoraki Polytechnic.

If Timaru became Gigatown, the role of technology could be further boosted.

As Gigatown, Timaru would have the country’s fastest internet. Cabrera says this would increase the institute’s ability to deliver quality education to the region and beyond.

Cabrera says technology, and in particular the speed and quality of data transfer, was a key to this success. A 1-gigabit-per-second internet was promised to the winning town.

The polytechnic is responding to the call for more flexible programme delivery options and using technology to achieve this.

People already in the workforce made up the majority of those seeking new training programmes. Cabrera saysthese people wanted courses that were flexible enough to accommodate their work and personal lives.

Already, many of the polytechnic’s programmes used technology to deliver parts of the course. For instance, video conferencing was used in its business and agribusiness management programmes.

By 2017, the majority of programmes would have a flexible delivery option.

Cabrera says faster and better data quality would also mean better teaching and learning opportunities for our communities.

“Young people in Timaru are increasingly digitally aware and expect to be connected to the world and have to be supported by leading edge educational technology.

“Academic staff and students will have access to best practise teaching and learning materials from across the sector, including specialist tutors who may not be available in Timaru.’’

Agricultural programmes are a key focus for the polytechnic.

As Gigatown, Cabrera says Timaru would be ideally placed to become the prime site for research in all areas of the primary sector.

“The challenge of collecting, analysing, and transferring data from dispersed agricultural locations could be alleviated.’’

The polytechnic would also continue to boost its international programme by increasing student access to its programmes through offshore delivery and business development.

Aoraki Polytechnic is hosting the Timaru GIGLAB 2014 today. Coordinated by Aoraki Development Business and Tourism, this is an expo-type showcase of some of the latest innovations from around the region. The event is open to the public from 4pm to 8pm.

Cabrera says the polytechnic campus was the ideal location for ongoing Gig lab activities and applied research, providing both students and industry leaders an opportunity to explore and experiment with technology innovations happening locally.

The Gigatown competition is being run by telecommunications company Chorus.

Timaru is battling it out against Dunedin, Wanaka, Nelson, and Gisborne for the country’s fastest internet.

Winning could position the successful town to become a technology hub in New Zealand.