Tasmania's plan to combine its year 11 and 12 colleges with its TAFEs to form a new statewide system with shared ICT services has run into teething issues.
David Bartlett (Credit: Tasmanian Government)
Due to low retention rates, the state government decided in 2007 to do
something about its system for students after year 10. It proposed
a three-tiered system: a Polytechnic, Skills Institute and Academy
catering for students who favoured practical learning, employment skills
development and academic learning respectively. The
program kicked off in January across 14 campuses, with another four
or five to be added later.
ICT services were being standardised with shared ICT support,
including centralised help desk, single or consistent sign on for
all corporate applications, a single backup solution for files, and
access for all student and staff to shared labs across
In budget estimate hearings two weeks ago (23 June), independent
member for Rosevears Kerry Finch pointed out that since the new
system had begun, there had been IT problems.
"I am informed that since secondary colleges will become part of
polytechnic campuses their computer services have entered a
disaster zone — that's how it has been described to me. There
are long waits and lack of access. Is there a response to that?"
"I think 'disaster zone' is a bit harsh, to be honest," Premier
David Bartlett said. "I know from my own background that bringing
together nine campuses in a short period of time to operate on
disparate systems, two different enrolment systems, a whole range
of things, is an extremely complex task and I think the shared
services unit in the Polytechnic and the IT area did a very good
job in doing that."
He admitted that not all the services which teachers had
previously had access to were not online for day one, but he said that
he had been told there had been significant improvements. "Partly
it is about finding something that is wrong and partly it is about
trying to bring old systems together with new systems and the
normal migration issues."
Finch said that the feedback he had heard was that students had
been unable to configure their laptops into the polytechnic area
network service which meant they had to go home to access their
email and other services.
together nine campuses in a short period of time to operate on disparate systems, two different enrolment systems, a whole range of things, is an extremely complex task
General manager of the shared services unit Tony Luttrell
responded to that, saying he understood those issues had now been
resolved. "But in talking about that, it's worthwhile understanding
that we've inherited about 3500 computers ranging in ages from
current 2009 models to ones which are seven years old, so some of
the computers in the labs have limitations... So there is a real
mixture of capabilities across the 19-odd campuses and this will
take some time, as the premier said, to all be on the same age or
fleet of current technology," he said.
Aside from fixing migration issues, Bartlett also believed that
the IT systems in the newly formed institutions needed upgrading,
since despite the new schooling model, students and staff would
still be using their old systems which had the same problems they'd
"I have a clear view that we need to invest much more in both
student systems or support systems like HR and finance, but much
more in teaching and learning systems in IT as well and we will be
doing that ... but that will take months and years to invest in;
things don't change overnight," he said.
Although the students might have access to new systems in
the future, whether they'll be able to use Facebook on the network
is still in question.
"There is an educational debate around social networking and it
is one that is not resolved," Mike Brakey, CEO of the new Tasmanian
Academy said. "With things like Facebook, the question that
educators would raise is where is the inherent educational value in
He said that having students chatting to their friends on social
networks might not be the best use of resources.
"So I think in a sense we've hung back from some of that
technology until we can get out heads around that debate because we
want to be able to use things like Facebook for those educational
purposes; in other words, to facilitate better learning
communication on campuses rather than just social networking."