Profile: BC School District #70 Port Alberni
- Number of schools: 13
- Number of Students: 3500
- IT Team size: 4
Situation: School District 70 comprises of schools in the Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino and Bamfield communities in the southwestern part of Vancouver Island. Like 75% of most districts in Canada, School District 70 has a small IT team with a total of 4 people, including an Educational Leader, servicing 15 sites located in dispersed, rural areas.
Faced with declining population in their communities, School District 70 experienced a number of school closures including 2 in the summer of 2015. But despite the shrinking student population and budget size, the Education Leader continued to prioritize the development of a robust infrastructure “backbone”that was sustainable and scalable and to upgrade their IT environment to meet 21st century standards.
At the top of their wish list was the need to find a solution for interactive, dynamic, real-time learning that allowed teachers and students to exchange information safely and conveniently without compromising personal data.
Challenge: Because BC Privacy Laws require that schools store data within Canada, they were left with limited choices of in-mail software or solutions that met all their student-teacher needs and complied with privacy laws.
The District wanted students to have access to the cloud based Office 365 programs, to have a consistent SD70.com addresses for mass communication convenience for teachers, and also a safe and secure data storage location. For teachers, access to Office365 without the email system was their ideal solution. They weighed the options and decided that a customize, hybrid cloud solution was the best direction.
Action: School District 70 had an idea of what was needed to resolve their specific situation but needed the help of external experts, like PCIS, to translate the business goal into actionable technical solutions. Without the technical know-how on-staff, the budget to develop in-house nor the time to find more options, finding a project based contractor was the most cost effective solution.
PCIS had implemented a hybrid Office 365 deployment for SD70 previously with support for managing student email accounts on the Office 365 cloud. PCIS enhanced this solution by developing PowerShell automation script with robust error handing and notification, logging, and flexibility to manage the various scenarios within the district. This script allowed the SD70 IT team to easily give teachers access only to the Office 365 software programs while giving students access to the programs as well as a district email address. Essentially, the platform was a cloud based public solution with on-premise Microsoft Exchange for email for staff. This system streamlined the teacher’s communication with their students. The MyEd BC platform pulled the student information to Active Directory and created an account for each student allowing teachers to easily create mass email distribution lists and communicate safely through cyberspace.
Results: Without the help of external experts, School District 70 would not have been able to complete this project. The resources required to fulfill this short-term gap had to be outsourced. PCIS helped them overcome their most complex challenge and allowed them to realize their vision by translating their business idea into technical solutions.
Now, with over 2,000 students using Office 365 accounts they have a consistent program platform to use, a centralized email system that safely complies with privacy laws and a single destination for communication for teachers creating more workflow efficiencies. The District’s next goal is to deliver an “anywhere, anytime” service for students and teachers allowing to access Office 365 at home or anywhere they are securely connected.