CHG-MERIDIAN: LEADING SCHOOLS INTO THE FUTURE

In Bad Rappenau, CHG-MERIDIAN has completely restructured the IT system of the town’s “Verbundschule” (consolidated school) in a complex pilot project. CHG-MERIDIAN was able to offer the school all the necessary expertise from a single source, establishing a tailored usage concept which can respond to changing conditions in Bad Rappenau – a model project which points the way forward.

School, Bad Rappenau, CHG-MERIDIAN

There’s a new wind sweeping through the “Verbundschule” (consolidated school) in the town of Bad Rappenau. In one of the school’s spacious learning studios you’ll find a wall adorned with the word “quiet” in ten different languages, while the facing wall is dominated by a Chinese proverb: “When the winds of change blow, some build walls and others build windmills”. Bad Rappenau – located near Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Württemberg – opted for windmills. And to help build them, it turned to CHG-MERIDIAN: in April 2014 the finance and technology manager won a Europe-wide tender to supply the Verbundschule Bad Rappenau with a state-of-the-art high-tech IT solution – including admin systems.

TAILORED USAGE CONCEPT

school, learn labor, CHG-MERIDIAN

The brief was to develop and implement a tailored usage concept. “What makes this project so exciting for us is that we can bring together so many of the services that CHG-MERIDIAN has to offer: advice on procuring hardware, software loading, rollout and installation of units, data deletion with eraSURE according to standards set down by TÜV [the German body which monitors safety in industry and commerce], support, financing, right through to supervision throughout the entire duration of the project,” says Wolfgang Huber, Key Account Manager at CHG-MERIDIAN.

 “This project is highly extensive and complex,” stresses Michael Grubbe. As both the head of IT for the town of Bad Rappenau and the project leader, he understands the scale of the pilot project and explains some of the challenges that had to be taken into account along the way. “An all-day school like the Verbundschule Bad Rappenau has specific IT requirements. The school is undergoing a permanent change process,” says Grubbe, referring to the unpredictable growth of the student body. Changes in the educational environment, such as the end of obligatory qualification tests for secondary school entry, make it impossible to predict how student numbers will grow. This means the town can’t precisely calculate what its IT requirements will be in the future.

All of this meant that the solution would have to be adaptable to changing conditions in the Bad Rappenau school environment, and allow the town to adjust processing power as needed. “Calculating the right number of devices correctly was a major challenge,” explains Key Account Manager Wolfgang Huber. However as he points out, CHG-MERIDIAN’s flexible contractual terms mean that inventory can be adjusted according to requirements. “The town has the option of giving units back,” says Huber. “Assets can be reduced or increased at any point during the 60-month duration. In the event that student numbers drop and we have to take units back, we can sell them elsewhere.” And that’s a big plus as far as Bad Rappenau is concerned. “The dynamic contractual conditions are extremely important for us,” says the town’s head of IT, who is impressed with the state-of-the-art IT solution for the Verbundschule. “That’s really the icing on the cake.”

COMPLETE SOLUTION FROM A SINGLE SOURCE

In the first instance, the fat clients previously used in the IT rooms were all replaced with thin clients, and monitors swapped for state-of-the-art TFTs. To guarantee a low-noise, high-tech teaching environment, teachers were given projectors and upgraded printers.

The complete restructuring of the school’s IT system encompassed multiple aspects and implementation phases. CHG-MERIDIAN managed and controlled the whole operation and rollout of the project, serving as a single point of contact. As the project manager, CHG-MERIDIAN coordinated a project team consisting of a systems vendor and multiple service providers, including software manufacturers and telephone services.

A further component of the project was a new server room. This required the installation of a production system with management server, storage unit, server farm and uninterruptible power supply (UPS). In addition, the server room hosts the new telephone system as well as the (DSL) phone connection for the Verbundschule. The conversion of the telephone system and consolidation of telephone numbers from each school on the campus into the new system was carried out as a subproject.

Over the course of the project, the distributors, or switches, and mains connections in other buildings were exchanged and upgraded, meaning that every building on campus now has access to the central system at state-of-the-art speeds. A small back-up system with a UPS was set up at a separate campus location.

But just as importantly: the entire infrastructure – servers, telephone systems, back-up system and UPS – can be adjusted upwards or downwards at any time as student numbers change.

It wasn’t just the tailored usage concept that earned top marks from the town, but the implementation process as well: “I thought we would encounter more problems,” says Grubbe. “There was very little bureaucracy, each step of the project passed without a hitch, even though it all had to be implemented during school holidays. The teamwork throughout the Verbundschule project is absolutely professional and client-focussed. This is a highly complex project from a contractual standpoint, but we were entirely satisfied with the implementation and rollout, not least because CHG-MERIDIAN is so straightforward.”

The vice-principal of the Verbundschule, Yvonne Geier, is also impressed with the approach: “Everything runs very smoothly, the technology is highly reliable. Naturally that’s very important for day-to-day school operations. Another great function is that you can grant access to small groups or individual students. That means that students can sit alongside each other in the learning studio, working and studying, no matter what their grade or level of proficiency.”

A MODEL PROJECT FOR THE FUTURE

The comprehensive restructuring of the Verbundschule Bad Rappenau’s IT system represents a model project, one that can be transferred to other schools, as Huber stresses: “Having the right range of service providers meant we were able to implement this model, and we can roll it out in other locations in the future. Naturally individual requirements are always taken into account.”

For many schools, existing IT solutions are problematic: too inflexible, too costly. With the Verbundschule Bad Rappenau project, CHG-MERIDIAN has managed to tailor the best solution – including the best financing – thanks in part to its independence from banks, manufacturers and service providers. Through its know-how and the successful implementation in Bad Rappenau, CHG-MERIDIAN has smoothed the way for modern IT-supported learning environments at other schools in the future, to make media learning as attractive as possible.