Mr. Ostendorf, how many schools, students and teachers do you supervise in Wolfsburg?
Being an urban district, our area of responsibility includes 37 schools at 43 different locations. About 1,500 teachers teach a total of 17,000 students at these schools.

Which digital offers are you already using?
We usually have local school server solutions at our schools. We are using iServ at three vocational schools, Logodidact mostly at secondary schools and we still have the MNSPro solution at primary and a few secondary schools. A pilot project was launched four years ago with a council decision. The aim is to test a concept for the implementation of a cross-school solution that is centrally operated and maintained by the school authorities. With the support of the system house Linet Services GmbH that is located in Braunschweig we implemented an identity management system based on UCS@school at six pilot schools with around 5,000 users in 2017. The digital identities of the teachers and students are stored centrally in the identity management system and each user has a uniform user name and password. With these, the users have secure and controlled access via RADIUS to the school WiFi, which is distributed uniformly to all pilot schools. Docked to the IDM of UCS@school we also operate the learning management solution itslearning.

What has changed for you as a result of the school closures?
Our media development plan that was approved by the city council at the end of March draws on the experiences gained from this pilot project. With the granted funds, we can roll out the solution developed with the pilot schools and thus also the central identity management at all schools in Wolfsburg by the end of 2024. As a first step, we are currently in the process of expanding the pilot offer to seven secondary schools. We are also integrating the user data of the students and teachers of 20 primary schools into the IDM of UCS@school.

What digital offers can you provide to students and teachers in Wolfsburg as a result?
Some time ago, we already started considering the Nextcloud file sharing solution for an external access to files. Now we have implemented Nextcloud much faster than planned and made it accessible to our primary schools on 4th May. Teachers can now access files stored on the school servers and give students and their parents access to them. Another solution that is very helpful for digital teaching is the already mentioned learning platform itslearning, which we productively introduced at all secondary schools in April. This enables teachers to set up digital classrooms and provide teaching materials and homework sheets for their students. We have integrated both Nextcloud and itslearning into our online school portal wobila that we have been developing as part of our pilot project since 2017. Based on UCS@school, digital user identities are maintained centrally for all students and teachers. Furthermore, each user is provided with its own uniform user name and password. The user can log in to the portal and thus to the above-mentioned services securely and easily.

And of course the schools called for a video conferencing solution. Since data protection aspects are very important to us, we quickly tested the open source video conferencing solution BigBlueButton (BBB), which is targeted towards the education sector. We were also able to provide it to our schools at the beginning of May. The solution enables online learning by allowing groups to use audio and video services as well as slides, whiteboards and chats. Furthermore, it allows them to share screen content. This enables our teachers and students to keep in touch digitally and thereby teach and learn.

And how do you see the situation in the mid-term?
At the moment, a wide variety of information is circulating and none of us currently knows what will be decided and whether these decisions will last. What is certain is that normal school operations will not be possible for quite a while and we need digital offers. Therefore, we are planning for the long-term. For example, we are already thinking about how we could process the school registration for the next school year digitally.

Do you have any best-practice tips for your colleagues at other school authorities?
We are really glad that we decided on a central concept years ago and that we tested and developed it thoroughly in a pilot project. This now helps us to quickly provide offers for many schools. I can warmly recommend such a central concept to all those who are responsible for the school IT.

Networking has also proved to be very important. For several years now, we are a part of a school IT network with 20 other school authorities from Lower Saxony, including Hanover. We regularly exchange information on topics and practical solutions. In this network, for example, we received a tip from the city of Harburg for the video conferencing solution BigBlueButton, which we did not know before. BigBlueButton is already being used successfully in Harburg. This exchange helps all of us, but it helps especially school authorities, who have very few personnel resources. It can happen that a single person is responsible for the maintenance of the school IT and at the same time has to take care of other IT offers in the municipal or district. So it helps a lot, if you can benefit from the experience of others.

Mr. Ostendorf, thank you very much for the insights and the exciting conversation. I wish you all the best with your planned measures.

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Karsten Ostendorf

IT Services Schools - City of Wolfsburg

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