Mashrek International School planned to implement a new collaboration platform to support students in developing 21st-century skills and encourage anytime, anywhere learning. It deployed Microsoft Office 365, which provides a customized environment
including Microsoft Exchange Online, Lync Online, and SharePoint Online. Students, teachers, and the wider community are impressed with the solution, which has helped the school avoid US$30,000 in IT costs.
Mashrek International School (MIS) is a private school in Amman, Jordan, that offers the International Baccalaureate (IB). It’s the first school in the country to earn the IB accreditations for teaching children aged 4 to 18 years. Collaboration between
teachers and students is a key requirement for learning.
The school is at the academic forefront of a country-wide focus on technology, which stems from the rapid growth of the IT sector in Jordan. A key aspect of the school’s curriculum is the use of technology to foster 21st-century learning skills, which MIS
sees as a way of transforming collaboration and interaction between students and teachers. Technology also supports its goal of anytime, anywhere learning.
The school invests heavily in IT, and as part of its continual improvement of student services, it recently decided to implement a new platform to enhance the student collaboration and learning environment. Ahmad Malhas, Director of Administration and Finance,
Mashrek International School (MIS), says: “Many organizations in Jordan are interested in collaboration technology and we were aware that there were powerful new tools available. We wanted to provide students with excellent access to learning materials and
expected to spend around US$30,000 to replace our hosted email with an onsite solution.”
MIS considered several solutions and also attended a Microsoft Office 365 seminar in Jordan. The school was quick to choose the cloud-based solution over other options. Malhas says: “Office 365 gave us everything we wanted from a functional perspective,
and because it’s cloud-based, it provides a strong foundation for our goal of anytime, anywhere learning.” Mashrek International School receives Office 365 free as part of its Microsoft education licensing agreement. “We were considering something like Dropbox
as part of our collaboration suite, but what we have now is highly professional and gives us the flexibility to customize,” says Malhas.
Students and teachers use Office 365 tools Exchange Online and Lync Online for email and instant messaging communications and notifications, and SharePoint Online for document sharing, homework exchanges, and project collaboration.
The school turned to Microsoft Partner Softact for guidance in phase one of its deployment, which included migrating data from the hosted email system to Office 365. Phase two required students and teachers to download Lync software from Microsoft.com, and
phase three was the customization and deployment of SharePoint.
Students log on to Exchange Online to access their email and coursework in SharePoint with a single sign-on. Each department and teacher has a customized SharePoint site, which is branded in the MIS school colors. Teachers can hold online classes, with students
able to ask questions and collaborate on documents from wherever they’re located using Lync and SharePoint.
Malhas says: “Moving to Office 365 was simple. Migration of data from our existing email solution took one week, and we engaged a staff member to manage our new IT environment. She created customized SharePoint pages for each department so it’s a true collaboration
site where students can interact and share work with each other and their teachers.”
Mashrek International School is impressed with its collaboration and learning environment. The modern platform is engaging students and offering new ways of interacting with teachers as well as with each other. “We’re supporting students to develop a lifelong
passion for learning with an accessible, dynamic education environment,” says Malhas.
School saves more than US$30,000. The school avoided an immediate cost of around US$15,000 for developing its own solution, as well as ongoing costs. Malhas says: “Before Office 365, we anticipated having to purchase three servers for our
own email system, which would have also involved ongoing resource costs. We’ve saved around US$30,000 while gaining a better solution.”
Accessible environment boosts learning. Students can access all their coursework and collaboration tools when they need to. Malhas says: “We’ve created an outstanding collaboration environment for students and teachers, which they can access
anytime, anywhere. The way we’ve been able to customize SharePoint to suit students’ specific courses is great—it’s very appealing to them.”
Reputation for innovation is enhanced. Other schools in the country are adopting technology at a fast pace, but Mashrek International School is strengthening its status as a leader in the sector’s use of technology for learning. “One of
our teachers had to take time off for maternity leave, but didn’t want to disrupt her Grade 12 IB students’ course continuity. She gave an online class from her home, with students asking questions and working on the same coursework. The reception from other
teachers, parents, and schools has been fantastic,” says Malhas.
Learning continuity is guaranteed. The school’s neighborhood frequently has power cuts, during which students and teachers experience disruption to their school email. “By using cloud-based email, we avoid disruption to services. It doesn’t
matter if the school’s power is out, students can still access the materials they need to from home,” says Malhas.
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