As a partner in the Ministry of Education Cloud Transformation Project, Nayland College has saved more than $150,000 in two years and transformed learning with a powerful suite of teaching tools from Microsoft.
Thanks to the SNUP programme and investment by the school, Nayland College has a leading-edge cabled and wireless IT infrastructure designed to provide the school community with easy access to its technology resources.
The challenge was making sure that those resources include the tools that both teachers and students need to succeed.
“We want our students to develop the 21st century skills they need to excel,” said Principal Daniel Wilson. “And we want our teachers to have strong professional development programmes 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 and continues to meet our requirements.”
Finding a better solution
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, the College 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. The functionality of Google Docs at the time was limited, and it couldn’t integrate with our SMS, which was a problem for us.”
Because of these drawbacks, the school put out a request for proposals seeking a better solution. It 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 Nayland started using the solution, the timeline became shorter.
“Our teachers were extremely enthusiastic about Office 365 and eager to learn more about how to use new tools like Microsoft OneNote. The initial rate of adoption exceeded expectations, so we were able to complete the migration more quickly than we originally anticipated.”
Within six 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, which included using a Microsoft Teacher Ambassador to conduct individual and group training.
“We also offered video tutorials and a OneNote staff handbook, and we set up lead teachers within departments as a peer resource,” added Wilson.
Making things easier
To make the transition easier, pcMedia provided a hybrid strategy that enabled staff and students to move from GAFE to Office 365 at their own pace. To do this, the company 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.
Things have also been made easier by using Microsoft Azure Active Directory to provide single sign-on (SSO) capabilities, giving users access to multiple 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 per cent 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,” said Lee Harper, Education Specialist at pcMedia. “Microsoft is also a brand that we trust, and one that the school trusts with its sensitive information.”
Communication and collaboration
Now that the Office 365 migration is complete, the school has access to multiple tools that enhance enhance communication and collaboration capabilities, including Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online. (Office 365 also works smoothly with the school’s Student Management System, KAMAR.)
“Our teachers can create more dynamic lessons through the use of video, which they can easily record directly into OneNote. They can create more personalised and differentiated learning programmes 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.”
Because Nayland College 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,” he said.
The school 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 in hardware and administration support requirements over two years.
Through the Cloud Transformation pilot, Wilson believes that Nayland College has taken important steps on the pathway to a digital transformation of the school.
In fact, in an acknowledgement of the high-quality digital transformation that’s been achieved, it’s recently been unveiled as a Microsoft Showcase School.
“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.
“Teachers are excited about the technology and exploring its many available options, and there is greater collaboration and sharing of expertise across the entire organisation.”
Nayland College is a coeducational state secondary school in Nelson. It has 112 employees, including 70 teachers, and 1,000 students. More at nayland.school.nz
Microsoft software and services at Nayland College
The school has access to a wide range of tools that enhance communication and collaboration capabilities of teachers and students, including:
- Azure Active Directory
- Azure Cloud Services
- Azure Storage
- Office 365 ProPlus
- Microsoft OneNote
- Microsoft SharePoint Online
- Skype for Business
Find out more about Microsoft’s products and services for schools at