City of Oldenburg
Oldenburg schools demonstrate how school IT can be made more contemporary, reliable and user-friendly. Several years ago, the city opted for UCS@school, an open source solution whose modularity, flexibility and user-friendliness make it ideal for modernizing the IT infrastructure in Oldenburg’s schools from scratch.
Initial Situation Before the Start of the Project in Oldenburg
Before a dedicated school IT department with permanent positions was established, Oldenburg’s schools were managed by external service providers via the school board in an often laborious and time-consuming process. Only the vocational schools had an IT administration, which in 2016 for the first time was transferred to a permanent position with four administrators and an IT coordinator. As a result of the often self-organized and extremely heterogeneous IT infrastructures, the schools had no competent internal contacts for IT inquiries or IT project management. Time was of the essence. In order to keep up with the growing trend of digitalization in education, a reliable and up-to-date IT solution was needed.
Reorganization of School IT with the Open Source Solution UCS@school
The starting signal for the reorganization of Oldenburg’s school IT was given in 2018 when a media development concept was initialized and elaborated for the first time via the school board. The main goals of this concept included the development of standards, the establishment of central school IT services, and the overcoming of a heterogeneous IT infrastructure to transfer Oldenburg’s schools to central school IT support. Other goals were to improve the quality of the IT infrastructure in schools through standardization, to establish reliable processes, to expand consulting and support services for schools, and to establish a reliable basic infrastructure for all schools that would serve as a foundation for future technical and pedagogical developments.
From the “nucleus” of the initially manageable team of IT administrators and a IT coordinator at the vocational schools, the organizational area of school IT was created for the first time in 2020, with a gradual increase in staff. While searching for an IT solution that would meet the requirements of centralized identity management, the team quickly became aware of UCS@school. The openness, flexibility and modularity of UCS@school, as well as the possibility of operating UCS@school as a multi-tenant on-premise solution centrally and in compliance with data protection laws in the school’s own IT data center, were particularly relevant to the project team’s decision.
From the very beginning, it was important for us to establish reliable school IT services and processes that would significantly improve the quality of the IT infrastructure at our Oldenburg schools and at the same time provide our schools with advice and support on the path to digital transformation. – Dettmar Kunst, head of school IT in the city of Oldenburg
Challenges for Oldenburg’s School IT in the Course of the Project
Until the first phase of implementation in the pilot, the project did not encounter any major problems: Coordination with the schools went smoothly, and agreement on the concept was reached quickly. However, significant challenges arose during the transformation phase between project planning and the subsequent implementation of the target concept.
It became apparent that the school IT was still very much involved and challenged in the vocational schools, which strongly influenced the onboarding process as well as the planned project implementation. The Corona pandemic and the associated delivery problems, as well as the so-called “Digitalpakt” push and other government funding measures, also caused extreme project delays. Ultimately, due to the necessary shift in priorities, not all five pilot schools were able to transition to full-school IT support by 2021 as planned.
Despite these disruptive factors, Oldenburg has achieved a great deal over the past few years and can look back on the success of the project with pride. Not only the five pilot schools, but all of Oldenburg’s schools had to upgrade their IT infrastructure. Currently, about 6,000 users – both students and teachers at two vocational schools – benefit from UCS@school with its diverse educational functions such as exam mode, self-service with independent password changes by users, its AD functionalities and its directory service for identity management (IDM). In the eyes of the IT managers, the UCS@school ecosystem with its many design options provides a solid and flexible basis for individual adaptations to the maturing requirements of the IT environment of the Oldenburg schools.
UCS@school offers a school-wide standard and thus the possibility to efficiently integrate and provide existing and centrally growing school IT services for our schools. Its openness, efficient and centralized manageability and high adaptability to future challenges are particularly compelling. The simple connection to existing or new services, including a single sign-on mechanism, convinced us. As a result, it offers a high degree of customizability and vendor independence – which ultimately ensures a flexible and modular overall IT solution for our schools, says Dettmar Kunst, summarizing some of the advantages of UCS@school.
Oldenburg is not resting on its laurels. Instead, the target concept was revised and the project organization was fundamentally restructured. To meet today’s dynamic requirements, an agile approach to project work is being used. In a joint coordination process between the school authorities and the school IT department, short- to medium-term project goals are set and the implementation is managed with all parties involved. The focus remains on school involvement.
Following the establishment of a central FWU framework agreement for the schools, which is currently being used by all four vocational schools, work is underway to provide a central video conferencing solution and a school cloud for all schools. In the IT project, the gradual establishment of central services and their connection to UCS@school has now been given priority over the experience-based, complex complete transfer of individual schools to the overall school IT support. It is therefore equally important for Oldenburg to offer as many users as possible an account in UCS@school.
For the rollout of the accounts, the pilot planning of the Oldenburg school IT with Univention and the state initiative n-21 is now beginning. In the future, UCS@school will use the nationwide registration service and ID broker “moin.schule” to transfer the required master and registration data of the users, including a unique ID from “moin.schule”, to the Oldenburg UCS. Perspective interaction and SSO of the login data between municipal and state-related services, including single sign-on for all logins, is considered essential for Oldenburg’s schools and school IT in the medium term.
An IT support concept for all schools is currently being implemented. A central service desk, including a hotline, will further expand the range of support services for Oldenburg’s schools. By the end of 2024, Oldenburg also plans to complete the modernization of the IT infrastructure of all schools. This includes the conversion and expansion of the network infrastructure (W/LAN), including electrical upgrades, the rollout of media technology according to media concepts, the connection of the schools to the data center, and the provision of the schools with an internet connection that meets their needs.