Bible College of South Australia has a trick up its sleeve with Microsoft

bible2Despite a varied career taking him from defence industry procurement to the interdenominational and evangelical Bible College of South Australia, it is a gift of an innocuous deck of cards which Glenn Clarke rates as one of the most memorable moments of his working life.

Glenn, now the Bible College’s business manager and church history lecturer, remembers it well. One afternoon the college was farewelling a member of staff who was moving on. The departing staff member was presenting gifts to her colleagues and as she came to Glenn she handed him a deck of playing cards.

“What are these for?” queried Glenn.

“It’s a deck of playing cards to keep yourself busy when the servers go down. I thought you might need them,” she replied.

That was the catalyst for the journey that the Bible College has taken to update its IT infrastructure, a project that has been led by Glenn and has drastically improved the academic lives of Bible College SA’s 100 or so domestic and international students. Staff, too, have been able to dramatically improve their teaching methods thanks to a more modern infrastructure.

The key component of the modernisation project was a migration from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012. This migration has been the enabler for a range of initiatives introduced by Glenn and his team at the college.

Despite being steeped in history and operating from an old bluestone house built around the turn of the century, the Bible College is a modern tertiary institution deserving of the latest IT infrastructure in order to maintain its standing as one of the best interdenominational colleges in Australia.

And although it took a colleague’s light-hearted jibe about downed servers for the school to act, on reflection it became apparent that it wasn’t just outages affecting the college. Operating on Windows Server 2003, Bible College SA’s IT offering was extremely basic and the levels of connectivity seemed to match the turn-of the century building it resided in.

“Windows Server 2012 is enabling a more integrated learning environment in the classroom as well.”

Glenn, who is the first to admit he is not an IT expert, enlisted Microsoft Partner Calvert Technologies to help modernise the College’s IT. Following consultation, Calvert Technologies delivered a migration project that improved every aspect of IT performance while ensuring minimal disruption to the academic process.

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Dean Calvert, managing director at Calvert Technologies, said: “One of the greatest thrills as an IT consultant is taking customers on a journey with technology. You start to see their eyes widen and the excitement in their voice as they realise the power that technology has to enhance their business and achieve things that they couldn’t before. This is exactly what Glenn and the team at Bible College South Australia has done, starting with the server migration but then opening the door to a whole new world of IT”

For example, the college’s library catalogue was a very old piece of software residing on the old Windows Server 2003. Before the migration, staff and students had to be in the library and seated at a particular terminal in order to access the catalogue, which was way out of line with modern teaching methods.

Now, the college has been able to revolutionise the way staff and students access that catalogue, along with other catalogues from other institutions around the world, with accessibility coming from anywhere, at any time – in the library, in the classroom, at home or on the move.

Windows Server 2012 is also enabling a more integrated learning environment in the classroom.

Previously, the school’s lecturers each had their own device with their own teaching notes and presentations saved on them, which they would bring into class. This was fine, until a teacher forgot their device or there was a malfunction.

“It’s starting small but we are truly changing the whole way we think about how we teach and how we learn in the classroom.”

“We are now integrating everything we do, enabling greater access to centrally stored data from anywhere. This is something that we were very limited in with our old server. We have also installed new wireless access points into classrooms,” Glenn said.

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Now that the college has migrated to Windows Server 2012 it opens the door to a new realm of possibilities, starting with the cloud. The first step in that journey will be through the college’s MYOB accounting system, which runs on the cloud with a level of interaction which was not previously available

“It’s starting small but we are truly changing the whole way we think about how we teach and how we learn in the classroom, and from an administration perspective.”

Glenn still pinpoints the moment he was gifted the deck of cards as the turning point for the college.

“That deck of cards still sits on my desk here at the Bible College as a reminder of the old times. It’s a relic of the past that reminds us that whether it be an IT migration or something else, all it takes is the initial first steps and you could be on your journey to revolutionise the way you work.

“We’ve started with the server migration, but really this is just the beginning,” said Glenn.

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