Nayland College Case Study: $150,000 Savings Moving To Microsoft Cloud Platforms

This blog is re-posted content from the original Microsoft Case Study that you can read by clicking here.

Nayland College was using Google Apps for Education to reduce the need for on-premises servers and software, but the solution was not meeting its needs. So the school chose to migrate to Microsoft Office 365. The new software was so well received by staff and students that the migration finished well ahead of schedule. The school now has access to a powerful suite of teaching and learning tools, and it saved $150,000 (NZD) on hardware. Microsoft partner pcMedia facilitated the migration with its cloud and education expertise.

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Taking first steps into the cloud

Nayland College in Nelson, New Zealand, offers its 1,000 students a curriculum of inspirational learning programs designed to prepare them for scholastic and professional success in the modern information economy. The school takes pride in its state-of-the-art educational facilities and its talented, dedicated teachers. Nayland has a leading-edge cabled and wireless IT infrastructure designed to provide the school community with easy access to the its technology resources.

Nayland wants to make sure that those resources include the tools that both teachers and students need to succeed. “We want our students to develop the twenty-first-century skills they need to excel,” says Daniel Wilson, Principal at Nayland College. “And we want our teachers to have strong professional development programs so they can provide students with the learning opportunities that will cultivate those skills. We also want to make sure that our infrastructure is able to keep up with technological changes so it continues to meet our requirements.”

In 2015, Nayland decided that its existing IT systems were not meeting those requirements. The school had on-premises software and servers that were costly to maintain and update, and they could not provide features like remote access to files and lessons. To address these concerns, Nayland adopted the cloud-based Google Apps for Education (GAFE) suite, while still maintaining an on-premises student management system (SMS). However, the solution proved to have some drawbacks. “The online tools weren’t meeting the needs of our teachers,” says Wilson. “The functionality of Google Docs at the time was limited, and it couldn’t integrate with our SMS, which was a problem for us.”

Finding a better solution for the school

Because of the drawbacks of GAFE, Nayland put out a request for proposals seeking a better solution. The school chose to work with Microsoft partner and education expert pcMedia on a plan to migrate from GAFE to the Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus hosted suite of productivity applications. The initial goal was to finish the migration in 18 months, but once the school started using the solution, the timeline became shorter.

“Our teachers were extremely enthusiastic about Office 365, and they were eager to learn more about how to use new tools like Microsoft OneNote to enhance teaching and learning,” explains Wilson. “The initial rate of adoption exceeded expectations, so we were able to complete the migration more quickly than we originally anticipated.”

Within 6 months, all staff members were using Office 365 as their primary teaching and learning tool. Nayland helped streamline the adoption process by putting an emphasis on comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff. “pcMedia provided us with a Microsoft Teacher Ambassador who conducted individual and group training,” says Wilson. “We also offered video tutorials and a OneNote staff handbook, and we set up lead teachers within departments as a peer resource.”

pcMedia also made the transition easier by providing a hybrid strategy that enabled staff and students to move from GAFE to Office 365 at their own pace. To do this, pcMedia modified the Office 365 application launcher so that all of the school’s key systems were accessible from a single place, giving users time to become familiar and comfortable with the Office 365 interface. The pcMedia solution also made things easier by using Microsoft Azure Active Directory to provide single sign-on (SSO) capabilities so that users could access multiple online tools and systems without the need to log in separately to each one. This enabled Nayland to eliminate a third-party SSO software package it had been using, saving both money and administration time. The school’s applications and devices now all rely on Azure Active Directory for authentication.

Nayland is using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to store off-site backups of the on-premises SMS. Between Azure and Office 365, the school now has 90 percent of its data and services in the Microsoft cloud with only legacy applications and some large graphics files on a single server at the school. “We have a Windows Server 2012 with ShadowProtect Image Control on it and Azure blob storage
for the back-up. We chose Azure because it provides better cost and uptime than other alternatives,” says Lee Harper, Education Specialist at pcMedia. “Microsoft is also a brand that we trust, and one that the school trusts with its sensitive information.”

Providing benefits for the entire school community

Now that Nayland has completed its Office 365 migration, the school has access to a wide range of tools that enhance communication and collaboration capabilities, including Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online. Staff and students are able to access course content and files at any time from anywhere that they have an Internet connection. Communication between students and teachers have increased, and teachers can more easily enhance and customize class materials.

“Our teachers can create more dynamic lessons through the use of video, which they can easily record directly into OneNote,” says Wilson. “They can also create more personalized and differentiated learning programs and choose from multiple modes of assessment to best meet the needs of each student. Teachers are also finding innovative ways to use tools like OneNote to support dyslexic students and to integrate field and classroom studies.”

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Because Nayland is using Office 365 ProPlus, students have the option to install the software on their own devices, so they have access to the same tools at home that they do at school.  Wilson has also noticed that students are increasingly using educational apps on their own devices. Parents are now able to be more involved in learning because they can see student work at home.

Nayland has also streamlined IT management with Office 365, by reducing the need for on-site administration and maintenance of servers and software—updates to the Office 365 tools happen automatically in the background. By eliminating all but one of its on-premises servers, the school estimates that it is saving $150,000 (NZD) in hardware over two years, and it has been able to redirect that money into classrooms for new computers and wireless projectors. Office 365 also works smoothly with the school’s SMS.

With its Office 365 project, Nayland has taken important steps on the pathway to a digital transformation of the school. Teachers are excited about the technology and exploring its many available options, and there is greater collaboration and sharing of expertise across the entire organization. The project has been a success, and its benefits are spread across the whole school community. “Working alongside pcMedia and Microsoft, we have been able to implement a robust, extremely cost effective, and innovative solution that meets and responds to the learning needs of our students and the professional needs of our staff,” says Wilson.

Guest Posts: Modern Methodologies For Classroom IT Management

I am going to link back to a series of five upcoming blog posts that are aimed at helping school ICT administrators manage and secure their environments more effectively. The five blog topics are as follows:

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Using the cloud is a great way to protect school data

The first blog post has a number of great links within it, including information about cyber security risks faced in schools:

As each of the posts are published I will update the links at the top of this post to provide a central point to access them.

Girls in IT: HoloLens At GirlsInnov8 2017

This week I had the real privilege to talk to 20 enthusiastic Year 9-13 girls who had come from all over the country to attend the GirlsInnov8 2017 ICT Camp hosted at St Cuthbert’s College. I went there with Technology Evangelist Hannes Nel  where we shared with the girls options for careers in ICT along with some great tools to start programming with. After the morning tea break, we brought out the main attraction – two HoloLens and allowed each girl to try it out for themselves across three apps:

The feedback from the girls was incredibly positive and they started to understand how this technology could be used and think up future possibilities.

Prior to experiencing the HoloLens, I talked to the girls about their favourite subjects, with many identifying the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) as their most enjoyable subjects. In 2016 for International Women’s Day Microsoft released their annual video and asked if girls could name female inventors:

I asked the girls the same question and I did manage to get one successful answer from one of the girls, and most were determined to what to go on and invent something themselves. The key is keeping them interested in STEM and going on to complete degrees at University in these areas:

Additionally, I showed those in attendance how they could learn JavaScript using a range of block based coding technologies at http://www.makecode.com

 

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Learn programming and play with Minecraft:EE at MakeCode.com

 

To see some examples of how to use MakeCode with Minecraft:EE then click here.

What was particularly pleasing was seeing two Old Girls from St Cuthbert’s College back helping out with the GirlsInnov8 camp – both were in their fourth year studying Computer Science. This type of role modelling and encouragement is critical to keeping students engaged in these areas.

A huge congratulations to Klaris Philipson the Director of Technologies at St Cuthbert’s who organises this annual event in her school holiday break.

Story Remix In Windows 10

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Story Remix is a free tool in Windows 10 that will allow students to quickly and creatively generate awesome video content as well as introduce 3D visual effects to really make their work stand out.

I have been playing with Microsoft Paint3D lately and I can see how Story Remix will take this to the next level. I can’t wait for this to arrive.

Digital Technologies For Learning – What The Research Says

The New Zealand Council for Education Research (NZCER) has released a report on the role of Digital Technologies in the primary and intermediate years of schooling in New Zealand, drawing on data obtained from a survey of schools conducted in August/September 2016. This provides some really valuable insights into the situation in schools (for a direct link to the Key Findings click here), neatly summarized in the following infographic:

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Licensed under Creative Commons – see here for full report.

Having read the Key Findings from the report and the three blog posts from the report’s author Rachel Bolstad, here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Teachers indicated that student use of technology was still focused around a few key things e.g. practicing skills (think Mathletics and skills repetition/speed work) researching (the ever present “google search”) or creating presentations in documents / slide shows
  • Other uses of technology were less common e.g. game based learning (Minecraft Education Edition is a good example of how to do this successfully), programming and genuine multi-media work.
  • Many teachers did indicate they wanted to harness technology to enable their students to collaborate with students/schools/others outside of their own school but were struggling to make this happen. It was unclear why this did not happen, but one way to forge these relationships is with activities like Mystery Skype, which can then lead to truly Global Citizens connected with fellow learners around the world.
  • Whilst most teachers thought Digital Technologies provided positive gains in the classroom, 10% (still quite high in my view) thought the negatives/frustrations outweighed the positives.
  • Principals identified the obvious challenges to deeper integration of Digital Technologies into the primary curriculum, including issues around equity of access, funding challenges and costs around professional development of teaching staff.
  • I was surprised that so few teachers have built their own online Professional Learning Network (PLN). This was quite prevalent in the previous school I worked in, and there seems to be a wide range of networks utilizing social media to connect teachers with teach other to share ideas, resources, best practice or just some much-needed encouragement!

Whilst the above came from the data surveying primary and intermediate aged schools, in her first blog post Rachel Bolstad did share data from the 2015 NZCER study of secondary schools with some interesting data showing how digital technologies were being used in secondary classrooms:

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Credit: Rachel Bolstad, blog post here

It’s a similar trend perhaps – many teachers saying they don’t use technology for a range of more innovative uses (game based learning, distance learning, coding etc) but would like to. The aspirations are there – identifying the blockers is the next step!

Back the 2016 Primary/Intermediate data on programming:

  • Only 19% of teachers said their students were using digital technologies for coding or programming (15% “sometimes”, 4% “often”).
  • A further 43% said they would like this to be happening in their classrooms.

In her third blog post, Bolstad identified a key point: a lot of the coding and makerspace programmes happening in school are, to all intents and purposes, extra-curricular ones, occurring at lunch times, after school and usually because an enthusiastic teacher (or parent!) is helping to drive it. This is an important point to acknowledge, as it highlights the fact that many schools still struggle to “find time” or integrate this into their core curriculum programmes. This will change, of course, with the NZ Government announcement about new Digital Curriculum Standards and subsequent investment to make this happen.

Another fascinating point to emerge from the research, perhaps lending some weight to the challenges of equity, were found in the answers to the questions around what sort of opportunities students had to access coding, gaming or makerspace activities in schools:

  • 41% of teachers said their students DID have access
  • 41% of teachers said their student did NOT have access
  • 17% were not sure…..
  • BUT in Decile 9-10 schools this was 49% said yes students did have access compared to just 26% in Decile 1-2 schools.

Overall, it seems that activities like coding and gaming still remain less common in schools and a marginal activity that majority of students do not participate in:

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Credit: Rachel Bolstad blog post here

It is fantastic to have this level of research and analysis based off recent survey data and I do encourage you to read the entire findings by clicking the link below:

NZCER Digital Technologies Survey

New To PowerBI: Daily Dashboard Email Updates Via Subscription

I’ve written a lot about PowerBI, both on this blog and in my previous role at St Andrew’s College and one of the things I love most about the product is the current speed of development. Significant new features are added monthly, often in response to user requests (hint, if you want to see a new feature submit it here) and today I saw announced a great new feature.

Daily Dashboard Email Subscriptions is a new feature allowing your PowerBI users to subscribe to a company or individual dashboard and receive daily email snapshots of this critical data.

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An example email of a dashboard overview emailed daily to the recipient

For users that are used to Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) this feature could not come soon enough. It is super easy for your end users to sign up themselves for these daily emails, they simply go to the dashboard of their choice (or make a custom dashboard by pinning the visuals they want to track) and hit subscribe:

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Note: if your data does not change regularly, then will not be bombarded with daily emails that were identical to the previous day. The updates come via email only as regularly as your data refreshes but no more than once a day. Therefore, if you have non-critical data that only refreshes once a week, you will only receive an email once a week.

It looks like the PowerBI team isn’t stopping there when it comes to email subscriptions, with new features coming soon that include:

In an education context I can see this being super helpful for Executive and Enrollment Teams where they need to track time sensitive data e.g. how many beds remain in the boarding house? What is the gender split in Year 10? How many students have passed their internal assessment before the end of the year? Lots of possibilities exist for daily emails of key dashboards.

Autopilot – Even Easier Device Enrollment & Deployment In Windows 10 Out Of The Box


UPDATE 10th July: Information on how to add devices to Autopilot via the Windows Store For Business / Education can be see here


UPDATE 3rd July: More technical information on Autopilot is available here, including example PowerShell scripts on how to collect the hardware identifier for existing devices you may want to enroll into Autopilot.


With Windows 10 Creators Update you can now configure and deploy devices even easier, thanks to the newly announced Autopilot and Intune (part of the EMS suite).

Autopilot is similar to Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP), in that you can pre-register a unique hardware identifier before the device is even turned on. When the device is shipped to the end user (think either a teacher or student purchasing a BYOD laptop), as soon as they connect their new laptop to a wireless network, it will be registered by Autopilot and provide:

  • A custom set up experience as determined by the school’s ICT department (or their partner), this could include skipping steps in the device setup that are unnecessary or confusing for end users
  • Branded setup, showing the school name and logo so the student/teacher can be confident in the security of the device and trust the setup process
  • The option to enter their school email address/password which would automatically enroll the device into Intune (or Intune for Education), resulting in the correct applications and settings being pushed to the device

Microsoft’s blog announcing Autopilot described it as follows:

With Windows AutoPilot, IT professionals can customize the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) for Windows 10 PCs and enable end users to take a brand-new Windows 10 device and—with just a few clicks—have a fully-configured device ready for business use. There are no images to deploy, no drivers to inject, and no infrastructure to manage. Most importantly, users can go through the process independently, without making any decisions and without needing to involve IT.

Some of the benefits of Microsoft Autopilot include:

  • Intune can push policies, settings, and configuration to the device, and install Office 365 and other apps without IT ever having to touch the device or apply a custom image to the device.
  • Intune can configure Windows Update for Business to apply the latest updates.
  • The device can automatically upgrade from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise seamlessly using AAD–no product keys to manage, no reboots, no prompts for the user (Requires a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 subscription)

Here is how you can set up the Autopilot program and see it in action:

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The setup process when using Autopilot – note the branded sign-in page with logo and organisation name

My Point Of View:

I see Autopilot as a tremendously helpful tool for IT Admins in education as it will allow them to be more hands-free on the configuration and deployment of devices. Many schools love the simplicity of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program and now Autopilot enables similar functionality with full Windows 10.

An additional benefit is theft protection – if a device was enrolled into Autopilot and was later stolen, then even if it was wiped, it could not be used by the thief because as soon as it is connected to the internet the hardware identifier will enroll it into Autopilot again and start the school’s setup process – this can not be avoided until the device is un-enrolled by the school itself.

The other area where I see Autopilot adding significant value is BYOD. If a school uses an education partner and parents purchase their child’s BYOD device through the partner’s portal, then the hardware identifier could be registered with the school at the time of sale. As a result, when the student turns it on at home it is automatically connected to the school’s environment and has all of the apps, setting and network credentials pushed to it, ready for the first day of school – no more “onboarding days” at the school to get connected!

Even though this was just announced today, as ZDNet astutely picked up, this functionality was included in the Creators Update released back in April – just one more reason for schools to keep their computers updated on recent Windows 10 builds.