City of Norderstedt

Norderstedt schools show how digitalization in schools can succeed and what role open source software (OSS) plays in this. With UCS@school, the city of Norderstedt (school authority) has found a functional and flexible solution with high data protection standards which is ideally suited for the new IT environment.

  • 21 schools (12 elementary schools, 4 high schools, 4 community schools, 1 special school)
  • 8,000 pupils
  • 1,000 teachers
  • 10 IT specialists (three of them for identity and access management with UCS@school and for interfaces to the school’s own WLAN and mobile device management (MDM))
  • Redudant and virtualized server infrastructure
  • Network and security concept
  • Redundant firewalls
  • Nextcloud connection with integrated Collabora Online Office
  • Separate secure WLAN with youth protection filter
  • Automated registration of school-bound end device to the school WLAN
  • Altogether: Preferred use of open source software (OSS)
  • Perspective: A secure video conferencing tool integrated into Nextcloud, a digital class register, and additional teaching and learning software
  • UCS@school as central school platform with hardware incl. storage area network (SAN) and hypervisor in the town hall
  • Connection of the schools via fiber optics with 1GBit/sec. by wilhelm.tel GmbH
  • Service Set Identifier (SSID) with parental control filter (school WLAN “MobyEdu”)
  • Nextcloud with integrated Collabora Online Office and perspective BigBlueButton rooms

Open Source-Based Central IT Infrastructure

Up until 2017, Norderstedt still relied on its own IT solutions. But that changed when an evaluation of products for central school administration was carried out, based on a study by the University of L├╝beck. The study concluded that our open source solution UCS@school is particularly flexible and compatible with existing devices and setups, making it ideal for identity and access management as well as the provision and administration of IT services. Based on this evaluation, the IT solutions developed in-house in Norderstedt were replaced by UCS@school as the central school platform.

The aim of the project was to put an end to the previous administration with an increased team of now ten IT specialists and to shape the digital classroom of the future – preferably by using open source software (OSS). The open source solution UCS@school was to be managed in the town hall, rather than in each school individually, in order to create a holistic and central IT infrastructure for all schools in Norderstedt.

Elaboration of the School Board Concept in Norderstedt

Norderstedt’s holistic digital concept is built on three pillars: nationwide, fast WLAN (1), largely standardized presentation and terminal devices with room for individual adjustments at the schools (2), and the central school platform UCS@school (3). This trio is the answer to questions about the requirements for the school of the future and, more specifically, for the digital classroom of the future, in which students and teachers will find optimal learning and teaching conditions. Together, the three pillars carry the roof of the IT infrastructure and in turn stand on the foundation of user administration, operation and support.

Setting up the New IT Environment in the Pilot School

Since Norderstedt was already equipped with fiber-optic networks across the board, the first measure within the framework of the so-called “DigitalPakt Schule 2019-2024” did not involve fiber-optic expansion, but rather the equipment of all schools with fast WLAN (1 Gbit/s) for simple surfing in record time. The next step for Norderstedt was to contact Univention and express the desire for a central IT infrastructure including user administration, operation and support. The new IT environment was first set up in a pilot school and extensively tested until all other students and teachers in Norderstedt were connected as well. Today, the entire hardware with SAN and hypervisor is located in the city’s town hall. From there, there are Layer 2 connections to every school in Norderstedt, thus eliminating time-consuming tasks such as backups or routing in the schools.

The changeover did not result in any redundancies with the Schleswig-Holstein state school portal, which now also relies on UCS@school and the Learning Management System (LMS) itslearning. Hence, the Norderstedt school portal is not in competition with the state school portal, but rather provides a useful addition for students and teachers in Norderstedt through other IT applications such as Nextcloud.

Data and Youth Protection & Educational Equity in School IT

Throughout the entire redesign of the school IT, data and youth protection as well as educational equity were always taken into account in addition to the performance of the solutions for software and hardware. Instead of installing very expensive touch displays in certain class rooms, Norderstedt decided to equip all 455 classrooms with beamers, electric screens, active loudspeakers and whiteboards or blackboards. This identical equipment ensures the same technical conditions for all students and safety in everyday school life for all teachers, whose lesson planning does not suffer from different technical conditions.

For data and youth protection, a separate service set identifier (SSID) with a youth protection filter was created for all schools. This school WLAN provides an user-oriented registration and guarantees a secure Internet access. This is done by only registering school-bound end devices automatically in the school WLAN. Added to this is the data protection conformity of the selected platform.

In Norderstedt, Communication is Key

Communication is and was always a priority for the school IT team in Norderstedt to successfully implement the school authority concept and work together with Univention, Compositiv GmbH, Travekom and the Norderstedt schools as well as the municipality. After all, it was only through in-depth discussions that requirements and expectations could be defined and the best possible IT infrastructure could be created for the Norderstedt schools.

In Norderstedt, to communicate means to jointly think about the school of the future and to develop new ideas, including ideas for augmented and virtual reality as well as hybrid teaching. Changes from which students and teachers are to benefit most of all. As a result of the changes, the latter will be unburdened from administrative activities and thus have more capacity for the actual (digital) lesson planning.

Further Projects in the Pipeline

In the future, the already comprehensive offering in Norderstedt is to include further services apart from Nextcloud, such as a virtual classroom or video conferencing system, a privacy-compliant messenger service and a digital class register. In the long term, Norderstedt is also interested in centrally administering as much teaching / learning software as possible and, if possible, acquiring school operator licenses for it. Furthermore, it is planned to equip all students at Norderstedt’s secondary schools with mobile devices, year by year, until all students are fully equipped on a one-to-one basis.