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Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Victoria to provide additional 21,000 internet dongles to help students with remote learning

For students who do not have access to digital technologies at their homes.

State governments launch online resources to help teaching at closed schools

The Victorian government and Telstra will provide an additional 21,000 internet dongles to students as part of efforts to provide internet access for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This new agreement will mean a further 21,000 internet access devices will be available to support Victorian students while they learn from home," said Victoria Minister for Education James Merlino on Thursday. 

"We're making sure no child misses out on learning during this period -- providing a device to every child that needs one as well as internet access to thousands of Victorian students." 

This follows the state government announcing at the start of April that it would provide 4,000 SIM cards and 1,000 SIM-enabled dongle devices to students who do not have access to digital technologies.

"Priority for the SIM cards and dongles will be given to senior secondary students, students in bushfire affected areas, and families who cannot afford an internet connection at home," the Victorian government said at the time.

With the additional internet dongles, this would bring the total of internet access devices provided to Victorian students to 26,000.

The internet access devices are in addition to around 48,000 laptops and tablets that have already been loaned to Victorian students since the start of the second schooling term. This includes 29,000 laptops and tablets loaned to primary school students, 12,500 to secondary school students, and 1,800 to special school students.

Schools across Victoria were reopened last week, but the vast majority of students and teachers are learning from home during Term 2 as part of social distancing measures, the Victorian government said.

Last month, The Victorian government launched a website to support teachers as they keep teaching students during the COVID-19 outbreak. The website, called Learning from Home, was designed to provide curriculum-based learning resources for early childhood services and primary and secondary school students. It was built up to complement existing online resources available to schools, the Victorian government said back in March.

While Victoria's government officials have told students to stay home, students in NSW will return to campus for one day a week from May 11.

"Initially it will just be a day a week, then progressively two days, and then we hope by the end of term two we'll be in a position to have students going back to school in a full-time capacity by term three," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said earlier this week.

Later on the same day, Telstra announced that it had also partnered with the South Australian government on a new six-year deal, valued at $50 million, to supply, implement, and support enhanced network and internet management services across the state's state public schools and preschools.  

"Schools connected to date have been overwhelmingly positive about their experience, using their increased speeds and reliability to support the delivery of innovative lessons and learning to students,"  said SA Minister for Education John Gardner.

"Our school students, teachers and preschool educators across the state will now be able to access the applications and information they need, when they need them, with the assurance they are protected by world class security and content filtering systems."

The network will be managed by Telstra using Cisco equipment, with 821 sites connected over a software-defined WAN. The Department will use Cisco's WebEx for remote learning.

Updated at 4:24pm AEST, 23 April 2020: added information on separate deal made by Telstra to provide internet access for South Australian schools.