“Our single most successful technology driven strategy in the last 20 years.”
- D.J. Plante, Director of IT, Hopkins School
Hopkins School: Working Smarter with Google Apps for Education
Hopkins School, the third oldest independent school in the United States, has a history of more than 354 years fulfilling their dedication to the “breeding up of hopeful youths for the public service of the country in future times.” With 711 students from grades 7-12, Hopkins School’s distinguished faculty and staff are dedicated to guiding and nurturing students with traditional wisdom and developing skills relevant to the 21st century.
Prior to moving to Google Apps, Hopkins School’s students were using a hosted email service from RackSpace, with faculty and staff on a separate, locally hosted, email service running Microsoft Exchange 2007. D.J. Plante, Director of IT, who has been at Hopkins School for 14 years, stated: “We are an unofficial BYOD school, with all kinds of devices coming on to our campus. We believe heavily that the end user should be able to pick their own device and that they’re more productive that way. However, we needed an email service that made it easy for our end users to get access to their information, regardless of the device chosen.”
Among students, faculty, and staff there were different devices, mail clients, and versions of software. The version of Outlook Web Access the faculty and staff were running provided significantly different experiences for Mac vs. PC users, causing communication inconsistencies. Differing mail clients / versions and the loss of the Global Address List in some clients also made efforts to collaborate time-consuming, overly complicated and prone to errors. Plante said: “There were complaints of too many emails and attachments going back and forth with collaborators losing track of versions. We needed a solution that would allow many people to edit or work from a single document, without the need for additional emails or attachments.”
The IT team at Hopkins School began searching for a cloud-based solution that would provide seamless communication and collaboration from anywhere and on any device, in order to empower their teachers and students to work effectively on the device of their choice. “Our goal for every service we deploy is for it to be Reliable, Accessible, Interoperable, Secure and Efficient (R.A.i.S.E). Google Apps is that one solution that met our requirements,” said Plante. “We knew a number of schools that had migrated to Google Apps for Education and experienced tremendous success.” Hopkins School began reaching out to several different Google Apps deployment partners and ultimately chose SADA Systems. “From the initial introduction, project cost, and their ability to clearly answer complex questions, I felt extremely comfortable in choosing SADA Systems as our partner.”
SADA Systems strategized with Hopkins School’s IT team, providing detailed instructions in order to make the move as efficient as possible, migrating mail, contacts, and calendar items from the previous systems to Google Apps. Within a few days, SADA Systems had migrated more than 900 mailboxes to Google Apps. SADA Systems provided training by SADA’s Google Certified Trainers to familiarize users with the new email and collaboration tools. Nearly 100% of the Hopkins School population had previous experience with Gmail or Google Docs, making the transition even smoother. Hopkins School also created a support system known as “Google Apps Ambassadors”, whereby tech savvy representatives from every department or office on campus took on a leadership role to help train and familiarize fellow department members with Google services, softening the transition for everyone.
Results and Benefits
Hopkins School’s staff, faculty, and students were thrilled about the user-friendly, consistent Google Apps interface as well as the productivity benefits provided by additional collaboration features. 80% of the School’s faculty and staff have chosen to use Google Drive instead of their network folders. Since moving to Google Apps, the number of unnecessary support requests have decreased significantly campus-wide. “We’ve started to see more proactive requests coming in,” said Plante. “People are asking ‘how can I do this?’ rather than sending reactionary requests about errors or communication barriers.”
Google Apps was also able to facilitate and optimize Hopkins School’s re-accreditation process, which is critical to their operation as an independent school. This 18-month process requires extensive sharing, editing, and rewriting of information by every faculty and staff member within an assigned group. “Ours was done through Google Docs,” said Plante, “and it was massively helpful that there was one version people had access to from everywhere. It’s not an easy project to take on and from a tech standpoint, the problem was solved.”
The Google Apps environment has empowered each member of our population to gather and share information in an efficient manner. “Our population now has some great tools at their disposal,” stated Plante, “creativity and first-rate, thorough work are evident in our heavy usage of Google Docs, Slides, Forms, and Sheets.” Hopkins School teachers in particular have realized the value of moving to Google Apps through the convenience of being able to access their personal files at home or from their mobile device while traveling. Also, the use of Chromebooks is widespread at Hopkins School, with teachers and students enjoying how easily the interface supports Google Apps. “I would absolutely recommend SADA Systems,” said Plante.
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