The JOBELMANN-SCHULE – Berufsbildende Schulen I Stade vocational school developed its own social network for teachers and the school administration. Open Source made it possible to set it up in a manner that complies with the latest data privacy regulations, and the use of Univention Corporate Server for the basis also makes it easy to administrate.
The JOBELMANN-SCHULE in Stade has around 2,250 students, almost two thirds of which attend part-time while they complete vocational qualifications. There are 130 members of staff on site offering instruction in more than 20 careers requiring practical training. E-mail communication between the staff and students has long been handled by the groupware “Tine 2.0”, which is based on Univention Corporate Server and which we introduced some time ago with the support of the Hamburg-based company Files Per Hour. However, the majority of faculty members also wanted to offer the students a means of communicating with them outside of class. To this end, they began looking for a platform that spoke to the young people: a social network.
Every knows e-mails, but students are now using this communication channel less frequently and intensively. In addition, many solutions are not secure. In contrast, they do use Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., intensively. Those applications are out of the question for use by a school though, as there is absolutely no guarantee for the protection of personal data. For data privacy reasons, the official use of such networks is also explicitly forbidden for schools in the majority of the German states.
As such, it was clear from the get go that the JOBELMANN-SCHULE would have to develop its own system that satisfied the following criteria: The system must reflect the students’ real-life situation and be appealing. It must be easy to operate via mobile devices and allow push notifications. In order to guarantee data privacy, all data must be stored in a closed network accessible only to the staff and students. Only the school can create users and manage their rights.
The solution should be as inexpensive as possible and be associated with minimal administrative efforts that the teaching staff can perform themselves at least to some extent. The system administrators and school administrators should be able to take care of the technical support of the solution alongside their existing duties without considerable extra effort. In addition, it should be possible to integrate the new solution in the existing infrastructure without any problems.
UCS provides an identity and access management (IAM) that centrally manages and supervises all tools, devices, data, and accesses. In this article we explain the terms LDAP / OpenLDAP, as they are the cornerstones of our central IAM system. Read here the full article.
Finally, the new solution should also be browser-based. After all, the students or their parents could object to a classic software installation (not without good reason). However, browser usage does not entail an installation, which counteracts any reasons for objection. The app can be used, but it is not compulsory.
The solution chosen was “HumHub@school”. This Open Source solution for group and team communication satisfies all the requirements. It can be flexibly set up and is easy to control, functions like Facebook or WhatsApp, but also offers possibilities beyond their scope without appearing more complex itself as a result.
We have been running a test operation of HumHub@school on our server at the JOBELMANN-SCHULE since the 2017/18 school year and mounted it in the UCS identity management. UCS already contains the user information with the assignment to the staff and students groups in the LDAP along with the classes in which a student is enrolled and that a teacher gives. As such, this user database only needs to be maintained once. All logins on the school computers, the TINE 2.0 groupware, the staff wiki, and HumHub@school at the JOBELMANN-SCHULE school are administrated via UCS@school and authenticated against the UCS server. As such, there is no extra effort involved in the setup and additional maintenance of the user data.
The solution works like a social intranet. The entire communication runs with secured identities and via https:// over the school’s server. The same applies for the exchange of files and their shared editing. The calendar for class projects and trips, study plans in the future too, is also provided by the HumHub@school server. All data remain exclusively on the school server.
An individually configurable dashboard shows the users all the processes which concern them in a clear, well set-out manner. There are streams with an automatic assignment to a class; others can be set up to reflect preferences and requirements. In the default setting, an overview of the respective class appears along with tabs for streams, calendar, and files. Personal messages to individuals via e-mail are also possible.
- Adoption of students, classes, groups and teachers from the UCS@school LDAP
- Integration of WebUntis in the personal HumHub@school calendar
- Shared working with onlyoffice
- A wide range of add-on modules such as file manager, meetings, etc.
In addition, the IT service provider Files Per Hour is also planning the integration of nextcloud, Moodle, and H5P for 2018, and would like to integrate the app in the Univention App Center too, which would allow its simple, direct integration in UCS environments.
As such, the students and teachers alike were able to use HumHub@school without any significant instruction. The system is especially popular for asking quick follow-up questions after lessons. The file archive and associated availability from anywhere were also met with a very positive welcome. We definitely plan to continue using the system in the future and make it available to the entire school community. The BBS Buxtehude school, in the same education district, is currently considering the introduction of HumHub@school. We hope that we will be able to convince lots of other schools too!