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.

Device Based Activation for Office365 ProPlus – Great For Education

UPDATE:  a reader of this blog pointed out the following step by step guide to using Device Based Activation  that I would encourage you to read as well in conjunction with the Microsoft guide below. The above link also contains additional details for SCCM and GPO if that is relevant for your environment too.

I wrote a recent blog post with the best practice guide to how to deploy Office365 ProPlus in various scenarios. Some of the feedback on that post was how would this work in a shared device environment such as a school computer lap or shared laptops in a COW (Computers on Wheels).

Activate OfficeThe guide does have a link specifically referencing shared environments, however a number of schools did raise the downside that a student would still need to activate the Office365 ProPlus installation from time to time when they say this prompt on the right.

After asking around internally I have now been shared an alternative method of installation for Office365 ProPlus licensing that was build specifically with schools in mind and you can read the entire guide, along with step by step video tutorials by clicking the following link:

Office365 ProPlus Device Based Activation

What I see from this resource is there are a few main benefits for schools taking this approach:

  • The student never sees the Office activation prompt because the device has activated Office365 ProPlus and not the individual user
  • There is an included tool to automatically un-install the MSI Office2016 version that may have been installed with Volume Licensing
  • This Device Based Activation method can be automated using MS SCCM or Group Policy.
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An Office Mix video showing the requirements and advantages of Device Based Activation

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The different components in the Device Based Activation process

From an education perspective, this will help keep school/staff devices running the same version of Office365 as the students who typically download their own copy from a network share or the Office Portal. Given that updates and new features come to the subscription based ProPlus version much faster it is worth having a consistent user experience across all devices / users in your school.

This is a useful link outlining the differences between Office365 and Office 2016 and I’ve highlighted the key differences here in terms of updates/functionality:

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The other major benefit of Office365 ProPlus is that it can be installed on up to five other devices.

It’s time to recognise that there is a wide range of options when it comes to deploying Office365 in education. To maximize the value of the subscription based approach, along with the regular updates and new features, using something like Device Based Activation, or one of the other methods from the best practice guide, will ensure that you’re always using the latest and greatest of Office.

 

Guide For Deploying Office365 ProPlus

office-365-appsI am writing a quick blog in response to the confusion I’m seeing in schools around the different versions of Microsoft Office 2016 and the varying ways this can be installed for users. The main reason this is causing confusion and problems is the release cycle of new features, in particular ones that tend to be appealing to schools such as embedding features in OneNote and digital inking options.

A colleague of mine is going to write a more technical overview of this and I’ll update this blog post to reflect this, but thought I would at least point users to the following fantastic overview:

Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus

This is broken down into the following sections:

  • Get Started – an overview of what’s new.
  • Deploy Office365 ProPlus – deploying from a local network directory or use SCCM
  • Manage Updates – choose frequency and source of updates for your users
  • Upgrade to Office365 ProPlus – tips for organisations that are not already on ProPlus and how to manage a smooth upgrade
  • Best Practices For Deploying – key considerations to keep in mind when deploying ProPlus

The key consideration for organisations is whether to move away from the traditional Volume Licensing version of Office, usually pushed out with an MSI package, and instead use the “Click 2 Run” version of Office365 ProPlus. Whilst many schools are simply getting students to download and install Office2016 directly from the Office Portal, when it comes to managing this for staff machines having automated options is important.

The Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus should provide all the information school IT administrators need to make these decisions on how best to get ProPlus onto devices.