Cultivating a stable learning environment on a resilient cloud

 |   Microsoft NZ News Centre

Freyberg Students Working on their devices, operating on Cloud

Giving students a firm foundation across key disciplines ranging from the arts to science and technology has always been one of the key goals of Freyberg Community School. And these goals rest on designing a conducive and well-structured environment which leverages technology as an enabler.

Intermittent disruption to lessons

The promise of anywhere, anytime learning hinges on reliable technology and internet connectivity. With coursework and teaching material increasingly stored online, the school needed to ensure 24/7 connectivity, especially during lessons. However, the school’s existing servers were old and susceptible to downtime, and threatened to disrupt lessons when they least expected. “Our servers kept crashing at different times, and losing any sort of connectivity at school was problematic,” shared Emma-Lea Graaf, Deputy Principal and IT-in-charge, “Even 15 minutes of lost connectivity had an impact,” she added. The school therefore needed an effective resolution to their connectivity woes.

In May 2018, the school took the decisive step to go serverless—they saw cloud adoption as a crucial next step in ensuring the school delivers a stable learning environment for students. This is in line with the Ministry of Education’s strategy to encourage more schools to effectively leverage cloud technologies for better teaching and learning outcomes. As part of this move towards cloud adoption, Freyberg knew that moving to a cloud identity service and modern device management was a good start to set themselves up for future success.

A flexible and future-proof cloud identity platform

Freyberg had previously used an on-premises Active Directory to manage their identity. Telco Technology Services (TTS), a Microsoft Gold Partner facilitated the transition, offering the school’s IT administrators good visibility of the transition, and kept them on track for a seamless switch to the cloud.

In evaluating the school’s IT demands, the TTS team took into consideration the support the school would need in terms of its existing applications and future cloud-centric applications, “We saw the Azure platform as the ideal option based on its maturity, and Azure Active Directory P1 had the ability to be integrated with the school’s existing services, as well as future applications,” said Peter Russell, Head of Technical Design at Telco Technology Services (TTS).

Cloud Icon

More security—without the hassle

In a dynamic environment where students and teachers are constantly accessing various applications and data at varied times, keeping tabs on security for each and every user can be a burden. Multi-Factor Authentication with Azure Active Directory P1 presented a unified alternative—enabling the school’s IT administrators to achieve rigorous security across, device, data and applications—without posing any hassle to the teachers and students.

“Previously, we had to deal with one set of credentials for each local device, but now, all different credentials are unified for more visibility and control, with a single sign-on experience across multiple cloud platforms,” shared Peter. “One of the biggest advantages is that when teachers set up recovery information for the first time, they can use their cellphones to authorise password recovery without running it through the school’s IT department to reset—teachers are now more self-sufficient in that regard,” he added.

This simplified security administration process has enabled IT to avoid duplicating security administration for each user.

Device management made easy

Freyberg Community School has also recently moved to Microsoft Intune for centralising device management of their fleet of 75 Windows 10 devices and drive more efficiency. Previously device management was handled via Windows Active Directory Group Policy which only provided management to devices while they were onsite at the school; moving to AzureAD means that software updates and configuration policies can happen wherever the device is on the internet.

Being able to remotely troubleshoot, configure or provision computing resources has also improved the responsiveness of the school’s IT support—educators now get the IT resources they need, when they need it, without unnecessary lag time.

Beyond a reliable infrastructure: A launchpad for innovative pedagogy

Now on a resilient cloud identity platform and modern device management, Freyberg has the right foundations for the adoption of cloud-based applications and technologies. Going forward, the school’s leadership is exploring potentially innovative pedagogies such as the possibility of incorporating game-based learning through Minecraft:Education Edition into its curricula, to fuel interactive learning among students.

“The school’s existing servers were old and susceptible to downtime, and the unstable internet connectivity threatened to disrupt lessons at any time. Our server kept crashing at different times, and losing any sort of connectivity at school was problematic. So, we decided to go completely serverless.”
——Deputy Principal at Freyberg School

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