To meet the technical challenges of the ongoing digitalization, Rotenburg (Wümme) opted for the open source solution UCS@school. Its modularity, flexibility and usability make it particularly well suited for use in Rotenburg’s schools.
Initial Situation in the District of Rotenburg (Wümme)
Before the deployment of UCS@school in Rotenburg’s schools began in 2018, the district network had already been set up, and good WLAN equipment and classroom networking were also in place. However, the existing IT solution was outdated. It was no longer able to meet the new challenges of the rapidly advancing digitalization. The outdated Windows server environment no longer covered all the functionalities required by the users, and the self-developed class work mode proved to be unreliable in use.
This was to change with the introduction of the open source solution UCS@school as a central school platform. Teachers wanted reliable pedagogical functions such as a standardized classwork mode, and students wanted to be able to access files not only at school but also from home. By restructuring the IT and rolling out UCS@school at the vocational schools in Rotenburg, all user requirements for the new IT solution would be met in the medium to long term.
Centralized Open Source IT Infrastructure
The media development plan, which was drawn up in 2014, laid the foundation for the reorganization of school IT in Rotenburg’s schools. Only three years later, the first ideas for a new school server solution followed, and in 2018, the decision was made in favor of UCS@school, an open source solution that allows school boards to centrally manage the school IT infrastructure across all schools. It also provides teachers with intuitive pedagogical functions and facilitates homeschooling for pupils. The test phase at the vocational pilot schools ran from January to July 2019, and as early as August of the same year, Rotenburg (Wümme) developed a plan for the introduction of UCS@school at other schools and began the operational implementation in the fall of 2019. Even though the implementation of the new IT solution was very successful overall, the Rotenburg school IT team had to overcome some hurdles during the course of the project.
The concept of UCS@school with its apps and interfaces was decisive in our decision for the open source solution, emphasizes Emese Stauke, Head of Office for Digitalization and IT.
Challenges for Rotenburg’s School IT during the Project
The process from operational implementation to the actual use of the new IT solution in Rotenburg’s schools proved to be a challenge. To overcome this hurdle and to relieve the school’s IT team, the Univention partner LINET Services was commissioned to support the project. Another challenge was the lack of or insufficient training for multipliers. Teachers wanted more on-site support, especially in dealing with the new IT solution in everyday school life. However, not all schools were able to provide this support due to limited staff resources. It was not only the challenges of operational implementation and training of multipliers that slowed down digital development, but the Corona pandemic also contributed to the slow progress in expanding the IT infrastructure in schools.
Despite these difficult conditions, a lot has been achieved in Rotenburg (Wümme) in a relatively short time. UCS@school provides a central school platform with a directory service for the Identity Management System (IDM), AD functionalities, a school portal and numerous educational functions. The platform is currently used by 5,750 students and about 370 teachers at vocational schools in the district. Teachers are now able to collect and distribute files, and students’ requests for location-independent access to files, e.g. from home, have been met.
UCS@school reduces and centralizes our IT support efforts, and thanks to the reliable and consistent pedagogical functions, our teachers can focus more on their core tasks. – Emese Stauke, Head of Office for Digitalization and IT
Why Communication Should Play an Even Bigger Role in the Rotenburg (Wümme) District
Some problems can’t be solved technically. The school IT team also sees a need to improve communication between schools and between schools and IT support. Although the groundwork has been laid, many teachers face communication challenges in their day-to-day work at school, due in part to the ever-changing technical developments in the educational landscape and the complexity of the new IT system.
In Rotenburg (Wümme), there is still not enough staff in the media centers to provide teachers with closer technical support. This makes the teachers’ intrinsic motivation and communication skills, as well as their ability to learn new applications on a self-taught basis, all the more important. Intuitive IT solutions support teachers in this process.
In the future, Rotenburg (Wümme) will add single sign-on for external services such as the Moodle and Ilias learning management systems. There are also plans to connect services such as jupiternotebooks, schul.cloud, taskcards, doodle and substitution plans via Webuntis. In addition, the school IT team in the special schools wants to integrate iserv with user administration via UCS@school. Furthermore, the introduction of an e-mail groupware solution with calendar functionality and joint editing of documents as well as a messenger service for optimized communication is planned.