While some academic institutions struggle to keep up with the technological needs of students and faculty, Georgetown Day School bridges the digital divide. The IT professionals at GDS serve their colleagues and students with a solid, cloud-based infrastructure that supports a culture of collaboration, helped by a key not-so-secret ingredient: BetterCloud Workflows.
Mixing Tradition and Technology at GDS
As Georgetown Day School’s Data and Resources Specialist, Florri DeCell is part of a team that’s responsible for school’s backend technology and information systems. Having worked at GDS for twenty years, she can describe the evolution of technology there with familiarity and experience. GDS led the way in the late 1980s by opening a small computer lab before other schools in the area, and creating a school intranet before the internet was even widely used. The school launched its website in the ’90s, and was the first school in the area to host an online auction for fundraising instead of a physical event.
These types of technological innovations were often driven by students or motivated employees who were given the freedom to make the change–which goes to show that Georgetown Day School exemplifies its mission of inquiry and self-reliance, in students as well as staff.
Describing her school’s philosophy when it comes to IT, Florri says, “IT is a tool, not the end product.” This means that she and her colleagues recognize that simply having technology in place–for example, being able to cite the number of computers in classrooms–is not the most important thing. What matters more is how that technology is used, and how it facilitates and supports education.
Staff and students at GDS use a heterogeneous mix of hardware and software alike; with a mix of Macs, Chromebooks, and Windows-based PCs, plus a variety of cloud-based applications, everyone gets what they need to succeed in their role. Google Apps is the suite of choice for email, storage, and more, having replaced legacy system FirstClass several years ago. Other data and content management systems like Blackbaud and UltiPro round out GDS’s institutional needs. Students take advantage of still more cloud technology, with resources as disparate as WeVideo and Pixlr for multimedia production-in-the-browser to numerous math apps being used in the younger grades, plus science and language-learning programs, as well as the old favorite, Typing Master.
The biggest shift Florri has seen since GDS’s move to the cloud has been around availability. Technology offerings are now available 24/7, from anywhere, not limited to during the day or at the school itself. That can be a blessing and a curse–constant availability is demanded by students and faculty, but that also brings an expectation of availability on the part of staff. In other words, if something is broken, the expectation is that it’s fixed right away. Thankfully, cloud technologies like BetterCloud allow Florri and the tech team to maintain control over their data and processes, any time of the day.
Time Savings and Simplicity With Workflows
Like many other educational technology administrators, many of Florri’s most important duties correspond with events on the academic calendar. Her BetterCloud usage is heaviest in spring and fall, when the school year closes out and begins again. And one of the biggest responsibilities during those times? Offboarding and onboarding students and staff–cumbersome processes that have been transformed with the introduction of BetterCloud’s Workflows engine.
Before BetterCloud, Florri used the Google Apps Admin Console for tasks associated with offboarding. During the busiest season, she’d find herself bogged down with inefficient, time-consuming pieces of the process, like removing a suspended user from all of his or her groups. With the clock ticking as the school year closed, Florri was stuck with going into each group’s page to individually remove the user, and clicking through page after page of group listings due to a lack of a “show all” option.
“If I have to remove somebody within Google’s Admin Console–a single person–from all of his or her groups, it could take an hour or longer per person,” Florri says. “Now that I’m set up with Workflows it’s going to take me about thirty seconds.”
With students and employees usually in at least ten groups, those time savings add up. In order to offboard the faculty members who leave every year, the group removal process alone could take an entire day–not to mention the other steps of the offboarding process. With BetterCloud, that step is incorporated into an automation process that Florri can kick off in thirty seconds.
These types of automations also come in handy for a special group: departing seniors who graduate from Georgetown Day School. Florri explains that for these students, she sends notifications that their account will expire in a set number of days, and instructs them to retrieve or save anything they want to keep. She also hides their names from the directory to prevent anyone from emailing them by mistake.
When August comes around, Florri will activate her workflow to offboard all of her departing seniors’ accounts, transferring ownership of all their documents, but keeping the user accounts in a suspended state. “Inevitably someone will pop up in September in search of a term paper from last spring!” BetterCloud’s Workflows solution ensures that she doesn’t miss any of these crucial steps, allowing her to balance the needs of both the students and the IT infrastructure.
“The time savings are just amazing already, and there’s so much more I haven’t even delved into yet,” Florri says of Workflows.
While Workflows is a can’t-live-without feature for GDS, Florri is also quick to point out the other benefits of being a BetterCloud customer, primarily the support experience. While she was first getting started with Workflows, she knew she could count on the BetterCloud team to be responsive and quick, even emailing her proactively to check in when one of her workflows failed.
While GDS and BetterCloud are two very different types of organizations–one a school, one a SaaS company–it’s clear that the two share a mission of innovation, collaboration, and support.
About Georgetown Day School
Georgetown Day School offers an educational program that fosters a love of learning while providing serious instruction in the academic disciplines, the arts, and physical education and athletics. Over the past 71 years, GDS has grown from a school of seven families to a pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade school with more than 1,000 students and a faculty of 185 on two separate five-acre campuses in Washington, DC. Georgetown Day School honors the integrity and worth of each individual within a diverse school community. GDS is dedicated to providing a supportive educational atmosphere in which teachers challenge the intellectual, creative, and physical abilities of our students and foster strength of character and concern for others. From the earliest grades, we encourage our students to wonder, to inquire, and to be self-reliant, laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.