Every school has individual hardware and software needs. Elementary schools, for example, usually only need a small number of devices that are provided with a few programs. They are attended by fewer students and use digital media less frequently. With this type of school, the aim is to familiarize students with new media and to gain initial experience in dealing with them. While only a few devices and programs need to be managed at primary schools, secondary schools have completely different requirements for their IT equipment.
In higher classes, homework, presentations, group and project work are done almost exclusively with the help of media. Digital media are used for research purposes or required to create performance records. New subjects such as media studies should also help schoolchildren to develop media skills. Most secondary schools already have a variety of hardware that has grown over decades (decades): PCs, notebooks, printers, document cameras, whiteboards and tablets. This hardware is best managed when all devices are connected to a school server. Ideally, he also ensures that these devices are equipped with software.
Vocational schools have special requirements for the distribution of software. An important requirement for their school IT is to provide different programs so that students learn how to use them in vocational school classes. Because every training includes the application of specific programs that prepare students for their professional life. The commercial and technical schools in the city of Offenbach provide five educational opportunities. One of these educational opportunities is a vocational school. This vocational school alone provides training in 16 different technical professions.
In addition to the existing hardware and software, Offenbach’s schools use services such as WebUntis for timetables and substitution plans, the learning platform Moodle or Microsoft 365 for distance learning. The solution sought should offer the option of linking these services in order to simplify user administration in particular.
Use in schools demands a lot from a server: it should ensure that the network and devices are continuously protected even with robust handling, data remain safe in the school and software can be distributed quickly and easily. Likewise, users and groups should be easily managed and didactic functions should be provided. Last but not least, the school server should be able to connect external services.
Servers based on Linux are therefore particularly suitable for schools. The operating system is widely used in the professional environment, makes optimal use of the existing hardware and, thanks to the openness of the system, offers a great deal of freedom. In addition, Linux is significantly more powerful than Windows and is considered one of the most secure operating systems. Although the school server is based on the Linux operating system, the clients for school operations: PCs, notebooks and Windows tablets are usually operated with Windows 10.
The city of Offenbach was looking for a solution that would meet the individual needs of its schools, be easy to use and remain affordable despite its extensive configuration options. Another requirement of the city of Offenbach was to keep an eye on all school servers via monitoring in order to be able to react early in the event of disruptions.
One product that meets all the criteria is the Linux-based, modular school server solution LogoDIDACT, which is why the city school authority decided on it. The project manager at the city school authority Norman Jahn, department head and head of digital pact, responsible for initial equipment, setup, replacement procurement and school budgets, particularly appreciates the simplicity of LogoDIDACT and its application. He also likes the adaptability to the changing everyday school life, for teachers and for the municipal school authorities alike. He explains: “What we particularly appreciate as a school board is that the solution gives both teachers and support staff access as needed with low-threshold yet intuitive controls. A Swiss army knife for controlling school IT, so to speak”. What he appreciates about working with the software manufacturer SBE is the culture of open discussion. There is understanding for the problems on all sides and a solution orientation to tackle them together.
Offenbach was one of the first school authorities to use Microsoft 365 extensively for distance learning and provided SBE with valuable information for the further development of the Office 365 connector. The judgment of the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court of September 7 proves the pioneers right and clears up the concerns about data protection. It thus confirms the use of Microsoft 365 in schools.
A comprehensive concept for the rollout was worked out together with the software manufacturer SBE, which provides for a separate, local school server for each school. A test environment including a test server was set up in advance so that the Offenbach city school authority could provide first-level support for its schools, and the city school authority was trained in how to use the school server solution. The central authority for the management of mobile end devices is also located in the municipal school authority. Thanks to the multi-client capability of Mobile Device Management (MDM), each school has its own configuration interface via the central instance.
After the training of the city school authority and an intensive test phase, the conversion to LogoDIDACT began. Some schools in Offenbach are already using the school server solution. Like the Rudolf Koch School, which has been using the school server to manage its 170 clients since 2012.
The project planning pays special attention to the development of know-how. 30 days of training, one training day per school, were commissioned to introduce the new system. First, all-day courses taught how the school server works, how to distribute software, connect Microsoft 365 and manage tablets. This was followed by training courses on individual topics in open formats of two hours each.
The project in numbers:
In Offenbach, over 8,000 end devices such as PCs, notebooks, tablets and LED panels are managed with the school server solution LogoDIDACT at 28 schools. 17,500 students use Microsoft 365, now also in everyday school life. The city of Offenbach makes extensive use of the training courses offered by SBE so that every school can get to know its server and its numerous functions.