Technology transforms teaching methods at Luther College

Portal access extended to teachers, students and parents

Using technology as a drawcard to attract enrolments, Melbourne-based Luther College has implemented a state of the art wireless network managing more than 1000 PCs with only two support staff.

Since joining the school two years ago, IT director, Chris Topp, has completely overhauled Luther's IT infrastructure and is now using the school as a test bed for new technologies.

Topp manages a fleet of 750 notebook computers and 350 desktop PCs on a campus-wide wireless network with IT systems delivering 99.9 percent service levels.

He has managed this with some pretty bold decision-making and the use of Microsoft servers and imaging technology from Altiris.

For example, each student is set up as an "administrator" on their own machine.

"This means that if they do anything that causes problems on their notebook like dowloading dodgy software, they can press a couple of buttons and put it back the way it was without involving IT support," Topp said.

Luther College has just introduced Tablet PCs from Toshiba, with an initial 45 machines for teachers.

"Combined with wireless projectors, we have completely removed the need for electronic whiteboards. Instead, teachers can write on the screen and use the projectors to show what is on the screen, mark documents in freehand and share files with students while walking around the classroom," Topp said.

But this is just one of a range of recent IT projects the school of 1000 students has undertaken.

Luther College has also removed paper records and staff no longer key in student attendance records to an administration database.

To implement a paperless environment Topp deployed the Scholaris Learning Gateway, a solution based on the .Net framework using Microsoft Office, SharePoint Server and Windows Server.

Microsoft Australia's server and tools group director, Martin Gregory, said a lot of businesses could learn from the configuration used at the college.

Gregory said the school uses Windows Server 2003/2000, Exchange Server for e-mail, SharePoint, SQL Server and the ISA Firewall to secure the network.

By using the Scholaris Learning Gateway, the college was able to integrate all of its applications, systems, infromation and resources.

Topp said the Gateway solution gathers up all the software programs, databases and systems already in use and presents them to staff as a single sign-on ID to an individualized portal Web site.

"Student information is integrated into the solution so from this one portal site staff can view complete student profiles, including timetables, contact information and semester and interim student reporting information," he said.

"Its easy to check the status of each student; it can be accessed securely by staff from their wireless laptops making it easy for them to mark attendance, as well as add updates or comments.

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