The Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg (LMZ) looks after school networks and IT services for lessons at Baden-Württemberg schools. Currently, about 550 educational institutes in Baden-Württemberg use the “paedML Linux” solution, which was thoroughly revised in mid-2014 and has been based on the UCS@school Univention product and Open Source Univention Corporate Server (UCS) server operating system since Version 6.0. The new version offers a flexible firewall solution for expanded network infrastructures, multi-server operation, enables multi-school capability, supports current Windows versions and integrates backup software and control options for teachers.
A new solution – without limits
“paedML Linux 6.0 is intended to bring together all the important functionalities of Version 5 in order to guarantee the existing quality,” explains Emmerich Hernadi, divisional director of IT at LMZ Baden-Württemberg. “On the other hand, we also wanted to make fundamental improvements.” After inspecting the existing products on the market, the conclusion was: No finished product could cover these requirements.”
What was needed was a domain concept to support the Windows desktops spread across schools in their entirety and which could also be used with Mac OSX and Linux operating systems. The school software also needed to be open to facilitate future developments for new pedagogic requirements and to offer reliable release cycles for long-term use. This also includes the integration of student smartphones, i.e. aspects such as “mobile learning”, “Bring Your Own Device” and the integration of various operating systems.
At the same time, the future system was not intended to be an in-house development. Instead, it was to be set up on a maintained Enterprise Linux distribution to guarantee continual further development and ensure knowledge transfer independent of people.
Central provision – Local support
Since 1st August, schools have been able to request paedML Linux 6.0 from LMZ. The system is set up in the individual schools by 130 local service providers, who know the local conditions and are able to continiously support IT on-site in the schools. The support hotline at LMZ, the initial point of contact for customers, provides support, together with the school network consultants at the media centres within the districts. The official continued education of teachers qualifies committed teachers to become network consultants through basic courses and work courses. During operation, the schools should be able to carry out the majority of the system support themselves. Because in comparison to the previous Version 5, the LMZ estimates the effort required to be considerably lower and the administration of users, hardware and services to be much simpler. It is also possible for the hotline to log into the IT infrastructure of a school remotely to analyse problems and contribute to solutions. When needed, Univention takes over third level support, relieving the LMZ.
The solution: Complete package with scope for adjustment
On the pedagogic side, paedML Linux 6.0 offers more than the integration of digital media and straightforward internet access for all student work spaces. Teachers can log into the monitors of students or project them for all to see. Digital lesson materials can be distributed and the results can then be collected. Various default settings are pre-configurable so that the working environments for certain classes is immediately available for teachers. Management and control of the lesson using the school console is intuitive and can be carried out by the teachers themselves. Even the secure use of private end devices (Bring Your Own Device) is possible because the networks are securely separated. In case of problems, teachers can reset workstations that are not working (restore) which reduces the level of support needed during lessons.
“With the new paedML Linux, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers for modern school software based on Open Source with guaranteed professional support and defined release cycles,” says IT divisional director, Hernadi. According to Hernadi, paedML Linux 6.0 is a complete package on the technical side: “It provides schools with everything they need: Firewall, backup, software distribution, import mechanisms for data from the school administration, client registration via UCC, with which the school administrator can integrate new computers into the system.”
The package now offered to educational institutions by the LMZ in Baden-Württemberg consists of far more than UCS@school, the school software based on the UCS infrastructure solution by Univention. Samba 4 is an important component of this as its Active Directory functions ensure the integration and comprehensive configuration of Windows clients. This offers the option of setting up group guidelines, with which cleanly defined profiles and rights for individual users (e.g. teachers) and groups (the classes) can be set up.
The “pfSense” firewall shields the internet and the school and guest network as well as the teacher network recommended by the school administration.
The “opsi” solution from Mainz-based Open Source supplier uib GmbH provides the connected clients centrally and automatically with software, updates and hotfixes – an important aspect to minimise the level of support required. At the same time, opsi effectively acts as the registry of all hardware and software in the school networks.
“BackupPC“ is also an Open Source solution, which enables schools to automatically backup their data.
Summary and outlook
With its current structure, the school software paedML Linux 6.0 offers schools the option of controlling digitally-supported learning on an up-to-date technical level. The schools in Baden-Württemberg can put the solution into operation very quickly with support from their local service providers and then deal with it largely independently. At the same time, as Open Source software, it is the ideal basis for further expansions and improvements.
IT divisional director Hernadi is optimistic: “We have a complete solution, which should be continuously further developed to guarantee a stable and future-proof IT infrastructure for schools.”
Those responsible within the LMZ envisage the next project to be using the multi-server capacity and multi-school capacity available in the UCS to offer larger school authorities in computer centres the support of several schools at the same time using a cloud solution. A complete solution for the management, teacher network and pedagogic network would also be possible.