Establishing a regulatory framework for online learning

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill) proposes to recognise the impact that technology is having on education, by introducing a new mode of education delivery – online learning. Technological change makes it possible for students to learn anywhere, anytime, and at any pace.

The Bill proposes to enable new partnerships between schools and online learning providers, and enable children and young people to access their education through online delivery. Online learning providers will come from the schooling, tertiary education, and private sectors, and will be able to seek accreditation as a Community of Online Learning (COOL).

The Bill proposes that COOL will have to meet criteria relating to their capability and capacity to deliver education to students in an online environment. Some COOL will be subject to additional terms and conditions, like which students they can enrol. All COOL will be subject to a robust quality assurance regime, including requirements to meet specified student outcomes. 

Further information

What is a COOL?

Any registered school, tertiary education provider (e.g., a university, wananga, polytechnic or a private training establishment) or a body corporate that has been approved through the accreditation regime, will be able to be a COOL.

As is the case now in the schooling and tertiary sector, COOLs will be both state COOLs and private COOLs. 

When will these changes take effect?

Changes related to online learning will come into force by December 31, 2017 at the latest unless by brought into force by Order in Council earlier.  While the main criteria for accreditation are set out in the Bill, the detailed design regarding how the accreditation criteria will apply to different entities will be set out in regulations.

Who will these changes affect?

These changes will increase the education options for school-aged students in New Zealand. It will mean that students will be able to choose from a greater number of education providers, and have increased access to more subjects, particularly specialised subjects, and teaching expertise.

How will students know whether they can enrol in a COOL?

Any student of compulsory schooling age can enrol in a COOL accredited to enrol students, instead of attending school.

Some COOLs will not be able to enrol students, and instead, will provide supplementary tuition (e.g. a specific subject) to schools or other COOLs.

The Ministry of Education will maintain a publicly accessible register of the names of all COOLs accredited by the Minister of Education. This register will include information about what different COOLs can do, including the types of enrolments they are allowed to accept.

Will students be required to attend if they are learning through a COOL?

COOLs that are able to enrol students will determine whether students are required to physically attend for all or some of the school day, or for specific activities or events.  This requirement may depend on the type of COOL. Regulations will set out the way in which attendance in an online learning environment will be measured.

Who will be responsible for the supervision of a student enrolled in a COOL?

Enrolling COOLs and schools will be responsible for ascertaining and agreeing with parents and caregivers, about the supervision arrangements of students enrolled. In all cases where a student is accessing online learning, the enrolling school or COOL will have a policy that clearly states the supervisory responsibilities of the enroller and students’ parents.

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