Keynote: FarNet Ten Years on—The Past, Present, and Future for Distance Learners


  • Carolyn Alexander-Bennett FarNet Community of Online Learning



online learning, Virtual Schooling, VLNC, distance education, e-learning


This think piece by Carolyn Alexander-Bennett is a reflection of her keynote speech at DEANZ2016 conference, which was held from 17–20th April at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. In her speech Carolyn revisits the issues, developments, and technology trends that led to the birth of FarNet (an online cluster of schools catering for the teaching and learning needs of rural secondary schools located in the Far North of New Zealand). FarNet eventually became part of the wider New Zealand Virtual Learning Network Community (NZVLNC). Adopting a strong Māori cultural underpinning in her role as e-principal of FarNet and a founding member of the NZVLNC, Carolyn describes current developments in FarNet and how the work at FarNet is informed by two key perspectives—Davis’s (2013) ‘arena of change’ and Fullan’s (2015) New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL). She then outlines the opportunities and challenges offered through online and digital technologies to support teachers and learners in FarNet and the VLNC, and encourages the wider educational community to partner in their work to ensure the equity and success of future online school students.

Author Biography

Carolyn Alexander-Bennett, FarNet Community of Online Learning

Carolyn has had 30 years’ experience in New Zealand secondary education with over 20 years in senior leadership roles.  She became the e-principal of FarNet in 2006 following her role as Deputy Principal at Northland College, Kaikohe.  She is an experienced online teacher, specialising in NCEA Accounting.  She is also a member of the NZ Virtual Learning Network Community, a member of the Network for Learning (N4L) Advisory Group, a member of the Primary Principals and Teachers Association ICT Committee (PPTA), and is currently a member and President of the Northland Secondary School Principals’ Association (NSSPA).