Case study: Derby school upgrades IT to make teaching more engaging

Noel-Baker Community School virtualises datacentre to help students learn in a more engaging way and to provide an automated IT infrastructure

A comprehensive secondary school in Derby, Noel-Baker Community School, has deployed a new IT infrastructure to help students learn in a more engaging way and to provide the IT team with an automated infrastructure so they can respond to IT demands more rapidly.

The school deployed the scalable, automated infrastructure to help teachers deliver new educational materials and methods.

“We wanted to create an IT environment, which was flexible, scalable and could rapidly respond to user demands,” says Lee Jepsen, networking manager at Noel-Baker School.

The IT team decided to upgrade the systems with Dell's servers, networking, storage and user computing devices, as well as Dell Kace systems management appliances. The project was timed to coincide with the rebuilding of the school’s campus.

The fully refreshed back-end datacentre and devices that teachers and pupils use every day have created a cutting-edge environment for enhanced learning, according to Jepsen.

It also saves the school’s tech team time by taking away the effort required for providing just basic user services, allowing them to focus on more strategic and higher-level tasks to further benefit the school.

But one of the most significant benefits of the upgraded IT is that the school can now offer IT services to neighbouring educational institutions and charities, thanks to the highly virtualised systems that allow the school to outsource computing environments on demand.

This has raised the school’s profile within the community and is generating income to fund other IT projects and services, says Jepsen.

It has also displayed the potential benefits of technology in schools, putting the school at the forefront of IT innovation within the education space, he says.

The datacentre upgrade strategy

The IT team wanted to provide a 1:1 ratio of computers to students to provide them with access to the tools they needed for highly effective learning. The team deployed Dell’s Latitude laptops throughout classrooms and installed Dell OptiPlex desktops in “breakout zones” such as the library and teachers’ desks in every classroom.

As a result, students now have access to the resources any time they need to complete coursework and teachers can simply log in to their desktops during lessons to access applications and files.

It has also eliminated the need for teachers to configure their laptops with surrounding equipment, such as projectors and printers, every time they move classrooms, saving them time to focus on the academic materials.

The IT team receives regular requests from teachers to test new software, which was difficult to provision in the old infrastructure. With the virtualised datacentre, however, IT workers can rapidly respond to those demands and provide virtual servers and disk space in minutes rather than days.

“The education sector is becoming increasingly reliant on technology to deliver next-generation learning and teaching methods,” says Ken Harley, education sales director at Dell UK.

Automation reduces downtime

Meanwhile, the Kace management appliances have helped the school’s IT to automate many administrative processes such as software distribution and patching, which previously took days to complete. Updates can now automatically be scheduled during downtime, so learning is uninterrupted. 

“We are now providing the foundation to help teachers and students teach and learn in a far more effective way. We’ve automated and simplified many maintenance and administrative tasks, and created a high-quality infrastructure which partners will also benefit from,” says Jepsen.

Image: Thinkstock

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