3+ benefits of automatic sync between G suite and your active directory

Edulife & G Suite for Education Case study: Chiltern Learning Trust

The need for a G Suite sync

Chiltern Learning Trust is a group of 11 schools across Luton and Central Bedfordshire, ranging from primary up to a secondary school with sixth form. They began their journey with Google for Education back when there were just two schools in the trust. At that time the schools were both already using a learning platform due to the Department for Education requirements for all secondary schools to have one. However, the platform wasn’t having much of an impact on teaching and learning as it relied heavily on teachers adding content to the system.

The staff, rather than using the generic tools that were included in the platform, began using Google tools such as Gmail and Google Drive that were also embedded in the learning platform. After doing a detailed evaluation with staff and students they decided that they didn’t need to be paying for the platform since the generic tools included were not being utilised. Considering the staff were already beginning to use some of the apps from G Suite they decided that switching over to G Suite for Education would make sense. 

One issue with this was that the platform they were using previously came with a syncing service between SIMS and G Suite. So, when they wanted to end the contract, that valuable service would be lost and would need replacing. During the search for a replacement syncing service, Chiltern Learning Trust came across Wizkids. 

Working with Wizkids

Chiltern Learning Trust first began working with Wizkids using Edulife, which allows schools to move their data to the cloud with ease, by synchronising their MIS data with G Suite for Education.

Over the last 7 years, the Trust has grown from 2 schools to 11 ranging from primary, secondary, to sixth form and all of which have different needs. The Trust operates in a way that allows the schools to bespoke their own technology for learning strategies. However, to allow for collaboration across the Trust, all schools have a Gmail email account for both staff and pupils. This encourages the sharing of ideas and best practice across the Trust. 

Google Classroom and Google Drive are the backbones of learning across the schools. They often use Google tools in conjunction with Microsoft tools, encouraging the students to be multi-platform users with a mix of Google, Microsoft and Apple devices.

Chiltern Learning Trust and Wizkids have developed a mutually beneficial working relationship. Chiltern Learning Trust feeds back their ideas about what features would increase efficiency and further optimise their ways of working and Wizkids always takes these comments on board, leading to the development of new functions and features such as the roll-out of Guardian Summaries in Google Classroom and Apple device management for one of the schools which uses iPads. 

The Trust decided to adopt G Suite because they wanted to minimise the changes that schools were going through in terms of using different learning platforms from year to year. Once Google was introduced it was made easier by the fact that updates run automatically.

The Trust has reported that customer service has been fantastic. It’s been so valuable to both Chiltern Learning Trust and Wizkids to be able to share ideas freely and discover what is possible. 

Reducing Teacher Workload

Wizkids implemented their solution Edulife, which allows schools to move their data to the cloud by synchronising their MIS data with G Suite for Education.

The schools within the Trust are quite individualised. Not everything is completely the same in every school but it is clear that they have all seen real benefits The Trust has seen a steady increase in schools asking for training on Google Classroom as they have been using it widely, especially to support remote learning. Having the Google Classrooms already automatically set up by Wizkids really decreases teacher workload and genuinely saves staff a lot of time having to manually set up classrooms. Teachers love the fact they don’t have to set them up themselves.

Having the automatic sync has genuinely made a difference to their workload.

The impact on distance learning

The schools are often encouraged to give feedback about how G Suite and the features of Edulife are working for them, and if there’s anything that would make it even better. Wizkids set up a “Super Classroom Teacher” account in a number of the secondary schools, allowing Leadership Teams to have a strategic overview of work taking place online and allowing teachers to be better supported. The “Invite Guardians” feature makes a huge difference, especially now that all schools are using Google Classrooms as their primary means of delivery of teaching and learning during the second lockdown due to Coronavirus.

The schools within the Trust are at different stages of their “Google Journey” – with all encouraged to make use of the more advanced features such as Rubrics and Comment Banks for marking and feedback. Regardless of their level of expertise, the amount of time saved during lockdown and self-isolation has been invaluable. Teachers only have to prepare one set of resources whether the students are in the classroom or at home. Students working at home don’t miss out, and the teachers don’t have to duplicate work as the delivery is all done via  Google Classroom as a matter of course, regardless of whether they will be teaching the students in person or not.

Year groups have had to be sent home due to Coronavirus restrictions for weeks at a time which would have caused a lot of disruption to learning. It was and still is essential that teachers can move learning online at very short notice if a case of Coronavirus appears in the school. A teacher can begin the week thinking that the whole class will be in and that can change overnight. The students know where and how to access the work and their timetable doesn’t change. “I don’t know what we would do without it.” The schools have been able to reduce the disruption that Coronavirus would have caused with a user-friendly platform. This made school closures far more manageable and less overwhelming for staff and students alike. 

Improving teaching and learning

A natural “next step” for Chiltern Learning Trust schools following the adoption and embedding of Google was to look at solutions to the issue of increased numbers of digital devices across the school estates. Denbigh High School ran a pilot 1:1 Chromebook Scheme which was hugely successful and now parents across three of the secondary schools within the Trust are able to “opt-in” and purchase a Chromebook to support their child’s learning both in school and at home.

Staff best practices for G Suite for Education

There is a heavy focus on training the schools’ support staff as well as teachers to ensure that there is a school-wide knowledge of the systems that are being used. Two of the schools within the trust (Denbigh High School and Challney High School for Girls) are part of the Department for Education’s funded EdTech Demonstrator Programme. These schools are using appointed Digital Practitioners to produce films and webinars to support other schools across the country with their use of technology for learning and the development of digital strategies. 

Summary

In a nutshell, the top 3 benefits of having the data from the schools MIS sync automatically to G Suite for Education with Edulife are:

  1. Genuine reduction of workload for teachers, a dynamic solution that saves a large amount of time.
  2. Customer support and being able to push the boundaries of what is possible.
  3. Ease of access for pupils, especially during lockdowns and self isolations which could have been a major disruption to learning.  

This solution puts everyone on a level playing field and helps teachers and support staff become more confident with technology. Edulife makes it easier for schools to transition because all of the configurations are done automatically for them. Staff can then focus on what really matters: high-quality teaching and learning. 

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