Schools are increasingly using digital teaching resources to enrich their curriculum and automate and streamline administrative processes. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this development; schools are having to facilitate remote communication and collaboration with tools such as Microsoft Teams.
But in order to make the adoption of Teams a success, it is essential that your Teams environment is properly linked to your school’s administrative systems. This is a challenge that the Fons Vitae Lyceum in Amsterdam also faced when setting up Teams.
The solution: a synchronization tool built by Broad Horizon that ensures that all information in Teams is always up to date and corresponds with the data stored in the student administration system. Want to find out more about this inspiring customer case?Then read on!
Modern school with a rich history
The Fons Vitae Lyceum is a secondary school in Amsterdam that welcomes all students with a recommendation to follow general secondary or pre-university education. ‘Fons vitae’ is Latin for ‘source of life’; a name that captures both the liveliness of this urban and lively lyceum and the classical character of the school. Originally a Catholic school, Fons Vitae Lyceum now admits children of all faiths. The Lyceum dates back to 1914, when the Sisters of St. Francis of Heythuysen founded the school as the first Roman Catholic school for girls in the Netherlands. The Fons Vitae Lyceum is built on three core values: commitment, responsibility, and personal development.
Workplace management takes place entirely in the cloud, and students have also been using personal devices for some time. Microsoft 365 and Teams form the central learning environment.
Although the exact figures can vary somewhat from year to year, the distribution of pupils is roughly as follows: 40% of students follow general secondary education, 50% follow general pre-university education, and 10% are grammar school students. The Fons Vitae Lyceum is part of the Stichting VO Amsterdam Zuid (SVOAZ).
Early users of the cloud
Over the past few years, the Fons Vitae Lyceum has made the switch to a complete cloud environment – making it an early adopter in the world of education. The entire ICT infrastructure runs in the cloud, which means that there is no local infrastructure on premise at the school. Workplace management also takes place entirely in the cloud, and students have also been using personal devices for some time. Microsoft 365 and Teams form the central learning environment. For example, each year and class has its own Teams environment, with a teacher as the owner.
“We decided to do everything in the cloud for several reasons. It simplifies management and security, and your ICT landscape is also a lot more scalable. In collaboration with Broad Horizon, we are pursuing a strategy that is known as ‘best of breed’. This means that you select and use the best application for each component (timetables, grades, subjects)”, explains Joppe van Daalen, ICT coordinator at the Fons Vitae Lyceum.
Following the shift to the cloud, the Fons Vitae Lyceum realized that it needed to sync source systems with the Microsoft 365 platform and Teams directly and without the intervention of local infrastructure. That’s quite a challenge, especially when you consider that managing Teams in an educational environment often involves hundreds of students taking a variety of classes and subject combinations and who are in different teams and need different documents.
The cloud simplifies management and security, and it also makes your ICT landscape a lot more scalable.
“As in many other schools, our ICT administrators were spending a lot of time manually adding users and groups and making changes within teams and groups. On top of that, teachers often had to wait until groups had been organized, especially since manually adding students to groups and processing changes took a lot of time. We wanted a better and more efficient way to do this.”
The solution: the EducationHUB Syncservice
Fortunately, the solution was within reach. In 2020, the Fons Vitae Lyceum teamed up with Broad Horizon to introduce the EducationHUB Syncservice, a smart synchronization tool that links Microsoft Teams to the latest information from the student administration system, ensuring that the Teams environment is always up to date.
‘The Syncservice is an SaaS solution that seamlessly connects and integrates with the systems that the Fons Vitae Lyceum already uses,’ explains Remko den Besten, solution architect at Broad Horizon. ‘The sheer variety of and freedom afforded by modern collaboration and communication solutions means that synchronization is an absolute necessity.’
The Fons Vitae Lyceum has already started to reap the benefits of the EducationHUB Syncservice. Below are just a couple of examples.
The synchronization tool scans the student administration system once a day and immediately transfers information to Teams. Teachers can rely on these rapid updates and still have the authority to add students on an ad hoc basis.
The process of creating new teams is much faster than it was before, despite the use of School Data Sync. School Data Sync still requires all kinds of scripting and self-created automation steps, which didn’t help the reliability.
The Syncservice uses built-in checkpoints that allow the ICT department to prevent incorrect groups from ending up in source systems.
The school is always in sync, irrespective of where a student is.
The Syncservice supplies information to the Microsoft 365 platform in a smart way, allowing you to quickly and easily use the MS365 platform as a central identity provider for the secure and flexible implementation of cloud-based Identity & Access Management (IDM/IAM).
According to Joppe, the EducationHUB Syncservice really makes life easier for the school. “It’s a solution that is continually being developed.We don’t have to worry about scripting anymore and we have drastically reduced the number of manual operations.This means that the school staff can focus more on the core business – and the system is less prone to errors.All you have to do is make sure the data is entered correctly.”
But what do the teachers think about this synchronization tool? Since the EducationHUB Syncservice is connected to the student administration system, changes in Teams environments are implemented automatically. “That’s the great thing about this tool. When teachers ask whether the changes have been implemented in Teams and we tell them that it’s been done automatically, they are pleasantly surprised,” says Joppe van Daalen. “So teachers no longer have to worry about changes and they can rest assured that their Teams environment is always up to date.”
Thanks to the close collaboration between Broad Horizon and the Fons Vitae Lyceum, they were able to overcome all the challenges associated with the development, implementation, and adoption process. “Of course, things like this are always a bit tense. We were under pressure to get everything done on time. Will we manage to create all the teams before the end of the summer holidays? And how will we resolve the conflicts between new applications and old habits? After all, the online workplace should reflect the physical workplace. ‘Fortunately, everything went very well,’ says Joppe.
‘The cooperation was constructive right from the start. We made a good match and both believed in our pioneering role. That means not just being satisfied with what you currently have, but also adding new, improved elements to a solution,’ explains Remko.
Since the EducationHUB Syncservice is a digital tool that you can continuously develop, the Fons Vitae Lyceum still has a wish list of additional features and tweaks for the near future. For example, the automatic grouping of distribution lists, the option to compile groups on a meta-level (e.g. by adding job titles and departments in Office), and the ability to easily set up dynamic groups (e.g. groups comprising all the students in Year 5 that are automatically updated a year later). Another item on the wish list is an onboarding system that personally welcomes new members and automatically wraps up those who leave.
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Inspired by the Fons Vitae Lyceum case study? And are you curious to find out how Broad Horizon can help your educational institution? Feel free to call us on 088 008 3500 or fill in the contact form below. We look forward to meeting you!