Crisis? An opportunity for schools.

The coronavirus has been a baptism of fire for schools with many institutions having to rethink how they deliver classes during lockdown. A situation that significantly accelerated the introduction of modern tools and new learning aids. In these difficult times, a large number of private companies and public sector providers have been offering fast support without the red tape.

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On top of these services, the HPI School Cloud aims to make digital learning a reality. The Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering (HPI) commissioned Dataport to operate and support the ongoing development of the HPI School Cloud in collaboration with its partners, Bechtle, Capgemini und Ionos.

 

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AN INTERVIEW:

Johann Bizer, Chairman of the Board, Dataport AöR

 

You are the primary contracting partner for the HPI. Exactly what do you do for the HPI School Cloud?

Johann Bizer: The Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering (HPI) commissioned Dataport to operate and support ongoing development of the HPI School Cloud—a project we are working on with our partners Bechtle, Capgemini, and Ionos. While Bechtle an Ionos have taken on responsibility for running the open source platform, Capgemini is working with us and HPI on development.

 

How successful is the collaboration?

Very. We’ve worked with Capgemini and Bechtle on several framework agreements over the years and Ionos, who are working on behalf of Bechtle, has also proven to be a reliable and experienced partner. We’ve set up communication channels all the way up to the executive level, meaning we are all on the same page regarding progress and can react quickly when decisions need to be made there and then.

 

Is there potential for deeper cooperation?

We want to make digital learning a reality. Our job is to lay the groundwork by providing the required services. We are also committed to the  principle of national digital sovereignty. Data related to education has a particular need for protection and because of that there is, of course, potential for further projects down the road.

 

Johann Bizer, Chairman of the Board, Dataport AöR

His company supports schools on their road to digitalisation.


Engineering this power train was the first successful step
towards beginning a new era in aviation with the smartflyer.

 

Rolf Stuber, CEO, Smartflyer AG

 

Your role is to operate the HPI School Cloud and work on developing the open source platform. Can you give some examples of what that entails?

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting the project with the aim of providing every school without access to an education platform with a fast and hassle-free solution that enables virtual collaboration. Scalable systems are ideal in this situation because they allow a large number of users to access the HPI School Cloud. For this reason, we are migrating the cloud into Ionos’ German data centre as it provides the best framework conditions.

 

How do you guarantee the data is safe?

The partners have paid very close attention to data security, and not just since the emergence of some well-known incidents. A strict data processing and protection concept has been designed which is closely aligned to the provisions laid out in the European General Data protection Regulation (GDPR). HPI are also in close contact with the responsible data protection agencies, undergo security audits and regularly test and evaluate the School Cloud, working together with external service providers to carry out security audits and penetration tests.

 

Educational solutions providers criticised the state-financed HPI School Cloud in an open letter. Do you understand their reasons for that and why, despite that, do you think the offer is a good solution?

The corona pandemic has shown why the solution makes sense and is a good way to go. From one day to the next, schools had to completely rethink their traditional education concepts and analogue teaching models, having an enormous impact on thousands of pupils. The crisis has clearly highlighted the fact that the groundwork for digitalisation in the field of education is severely lacking. Schools across Germany have been faced with the challenge of finding alternative ways to teach since the beginning of March which is why the Federal Ministry of Education made the HPI School Cloud available for every school by the end of the same month. In this way, institutions receiving no comparable support from their state or education authority can quickly and easily access digital education models and offers. Germany needs versatile and efficient infrastructures in order to be able to provide these offers because only then will we be in a position to meet the differing requirements of our federal education system. Platforms like HPI’s School Cloud play an important role not least because they are open source-based and therefore guarantee a large degree of independence.

 

How will teaching look in German schools in ten years?

By then, there will have been a digital revolution in teaching. Pupils and teachers will be meeting both virtually and in person. Knowledge will be shared, developed and evaluated no matter the time or place. Digital tools such as whiteboards, VR headsets and mobile learning apps will be part and parcel of the school day. Programs and virtual trainers will support the learning of, say, a language. Parents will be able to access information about classes, homework and their child’s progress. Trainee teachers will no longer discuss whether digital learning should be an option at all, but rather about finding the right mixture of off and on, digital and analogue, virtual and in-person classes. Tailored teaching materials will be available via app making personalised teaching that’s aligned with an individual student’s level a reality. It’s also possible that, by then, that final exams in maths will be developed by AI.

 

Dataport

As a public sector IT service provider, Dataport drives the digital administration, develops processes and enables modern and efficient public service. The company designs, builds and operates IT infrastructures, networks and data centres as well as secure data services and procedures. With 3,500 employees at seven locations, Dataport focuses on modern IT solutions to boost public value, strengthen the country’s digital sovereignty and protect citizens’ data in the federal states of Bremen,

 Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein, as well as Schleswig-Holstein’s inter-municipal IT consortium (ITVSH). Dataport blends expertise in administration and technology, and stands for successful IT cooperation at all levels of public administration.

 

dataport.de

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AN INTERVIEW:

Professor Christoph Meinel, Director and CEO of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering gGmbH (HPI) and head of the HPI School Cloud project.

 

What is the principle objective of the project?

Professor Christoph Meinel: The HPI School Cloud started as a pilot project in collaboration with MINT-EC—the national excellence school network—supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) The objective is to promote digital transformation in schools across Germany so that they have a modern and efficient infrastructure that provides everything students and teachers need to leverage digital teaching materials and course content. If a federal state is interested, they can use the HPI School Cloud within the context of the DigitalPakt Schule, the federal programme to equip schools with modern technology, The School Cloud is an integrative open source platform that delivers an intuitive teaching and learning environment to end devices—anytime, anywhere. It provides teachers and pupils alike secure access to a protected space to develop, share and work on teaching materials, both to free learning content and to interactive learning systems and learning materials from commercial providers.

 

How can a school take advantage of the HPI School Cloud?
The exact process depends on whether the school would like to use an in-state solution in Lower Saxony, Brandenburg or Thuringia or whether it operates independently of one of the projects in the other states. For the in-state solution, the first step is always to contact the state’s respective School Cloud operator. All three are based on the HPI School Cloud, but also schools in other states can leverage the HPI School Cloud with the support of the BMBF by registering directly on the HPI School Cloud website. All the heads need to do is fill in a form, naming a technical and content administrator and as soon as the contract is signed, the school is added to the system. The school administration, technical administrator and content administrator are given accounts, with which they can invite teaching staff and pupils. And that’s it!

 

How many schools are currently using the cloud? Are the numbers in line with expectations, and what is the target user count?

The BMBF’s goals and support for the HP School Cloud are not tied to specific user numbers. The intention was rather to create a Germany-wide digital working and learning environment that can be used simply, effectively and in compliance with data protection regulations in everyday school life and we’ve achieved that. The HPI School Cloud has more than got its foot in the door. More than 3,000 German and 42 foreign institutions are currently registered in the HPI School Cloud which amounts to a total of some 840,000 users. And this number continues to rise. The idea of providing a cross-state digital infrastructure is based on the knowledge that future-proof and cost-efficient development can only be ensured if there is a large group of users.

 

Professor Christoph Meinel, Director and CEO of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering gGmbH (HPI) and head of the HPI School Cloud project.


More than 3,000 German and 42 foreign institutions are currently registered in the HPI School Cloud
which amounts to a total of some 840,000 users.

 

Professor Christoph Meinel, Director and CEO of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering gGmbH (HPI)
and head of the HPI School Cloud project

 

What does the School Cloud offer?

The HPI School Cloud provides all the essential tools and features that are necessary for digital teaching. That includes office applications, video conferencing and messaging, document management and a design thinking board. There is even a store, which gives teachers and pupils easy access to a variety of digital learning content, which we have just significantly expanded. We are working with the open education platform WirLernenOnline to provide a whole range of additional, free online materials, and with the Lernen.cloud, we are able to offer a varied training programme for teaching staff. The free courses can be used by anyone and are predominantly aimed at cultivating skills in the fields of digital media, didactics, lesson planning and personnel development.

 

What’s been the reaction of pupils, parents and teaching staff?

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the issues at the heart of digital education. In the wake of school closures, both student and parent representatives expressed the desire for uniform digital learning environments such as the HPI School Cloud. With over 3,000 schools registering since March 2020, it’s clear how big the demand is.

 

Educational solutions providers criticised the state-financed HPI School Cloud in an open letter. Do you understand their reasons for that and why, despite that, do you think the offer is a good solution?

Digital transformation in German schools is lagging far behind that in other countries. Against this backdrop, the BMBF has supported HPI in the development of an innovative, digital, open source infrastructure for schools, as we have many years of experience in the field of digital education and, as a non-profit research institute, have no commercial interests. It conforms with the idea of digital sovereignty to rely on an open source infrastructure in a central area of government such as education. This open HPI School Cloud architecture also offers excellent opportunities for market players. For example, digital learning content from a wide variety of providers, including commercial providers, can be integrated into the HPI School Cloud Store in compliance with data protection regulations.

 

What’s your vision for the future of the School Cloud?

In the future, HPI will not operate and develop the School Cloud itself in the long term. For one thing, BMBF funding will come to an end in July 2021 and then it falls on the individual federal states. We are already in talks with other parties about what a viable solution may look like and hope to create the largest possible community so that the resources needed for long-term operation and development can be efficiently provided. In terms of content, we are working at full speed together with strong partners to further increase the performance of HPI School Cloud and to integrate additional features and tools that will help to make the digital classroom experience even more versatile and efficient.

hpi.schul-cloud.org

 

Hasso Plattner Institute

The Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) located in Potsdam is Germany’s university centre of excellence for digital engineering (hpi.de). With the Bachelor in IT Systems Engineering, the digital engineering faculty of the HPI and University of Potsdam offers a practical engineering computer science programme, which is unique in Germany and currently has around 600 students. The four Masters programmes in IT Systems Engineering, Digital Health, Data Engineering and Cybersecurity offer students the opportunity to select their own research focus. HPI is consistently makes top positions in the CHE rankings. The HPI School of Design Thinking is Europe’s first school of innovation for students based on the model of the Stanford d.school, providing 240 students with an additional course of studies. HPI currently employs 21 professors and over 50 visiting professors, lecturers and other teaching staff. It also has excellent university research facilities in its IT departments and also at the HPI Research School for doctoral students with offices in Cape Town, Haifa and Nanjing, where the focus is on the basics and application of large, highly-complex, networked IT systems. They also develop and research user-oriented innovations for all aspects of life.

 

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Sibylle Bilavski, Business Development Schools (K12), Public Sector, Bechtle AG

”In addition to the financial support provided by the DigitalPakt and the offerings of established providers, the HPI School Cloud is another way to quickly and support schools in the digitalisation process minus the red tape. The situation we are experiencing now is an opportunity for Germany’s schools to leverage modern teaching methods in the classroom and therefore boost the learning experience in the long-term. Digitalisation is a very individual process. We will soon be able to demonstrate how technology will change schools and how digital methods can complement analogue ones in our digital classroom in the Competence Centre for Schools located at Bechtle Mainz. Here, teachers, heads and education authorities can experience and test the technologies that will shape the classrooms of the future for themselves.”

Bechtle@School offers individual digitalisation solutions for IT infrastructure, school administration and education, starting with a media development plan defining a strategy, procurement processes, and services. The Bechtle DigitalPakt guideline offers practical advice and support on all things school digitalisation.

This is an excerpt of an article in the print edition of Bechtle update 02/2020.
 

PRINT EDITION

 

Contact person.

Sibylle Bilavski

Business Development Schools (K12)

Public Sector, Bechtle AG

sibylle.bilavksi@bechtle.com

 

Links.
  • Public Sector: Schools and IT – Welcome to the digital classroom.
  • Campaign: Devices and accessories for the schools of tomorrow.
  • Article: Digital Public Services are the future.

 

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Published on Nov 16, 2020.