Published: Jul 01, 2021
delivering next-gen ICT infrastructure to schools
The successful rollout of SSOE 2 enabled schools to leverage ICT more effectively for teaching and learning.
The Schools Standard ICT Operating Environment (SSOE) was started in 2009 by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) to consolidate the provisioning and management of desktops, network and ICT support for MOE schools in Singapore. SSOE 2, which was awarded to NCS in March 2017, was the second iteration of the project, building on the successful model of the original while updating it with newer technologies and innovations.
Provisioning and managing networks, devices and support across a country’s schools is a complex and ever-changing endeavour. To adapt to the evolving education needs, MOE commissioned NCS to upgrade its SSOE capabilities and services.
Innovations and enhancements
In SSOE 2, new products and features such as 2-in-1 notebooks were introduced, together with better and wider wireless coverage and more robust security. The new notebooks had touchscreen capabilities that enabled them to be used like a tablet with handwriting recognition capabilities. The aim was to untether the notebook from the desk, giving teachers more freedom to focus on pedagogy and not be restricted to the front of the classroom.
NCS redesigned the Procurement Portal which allowed schools to order ICT products and services from multiple vendors by making it as intuitive as an online shopping site. This made the procurement process easier for users.
NCS also introduced a Innovation Programme where we explored innovations to enhance the user experience in the schools’ environment.
Another major innovation that was introduced with SSOE 2 was the automation of delivery of the SSOE 2 systems to schools where the deployment of school infrastructure (servers and virtual machines) reduced the turnaround from 4 days to 1 day. This improved the efficiency of systems delivery enabled more schools to transition to SSOE 2 much more quickly and benefit from its new features and capabilities.
Transitioning to SSOE 2
The transition consisted of a pilot phase, which was followed by mass deployment to all schools.
To support teaching and learning needs, NCS supplied schools with more than 3,000 virtual servers and storage. On top of that, we set up 24/7 Data Centres equipped with more than 1,000 virtual servers, network, storage and security appliances. We also provided ongoing support that covers Service Desk, Portal Operations, Managed Services (for Infra operations), and Enterprise Security Solutions so that SSOE 2 users have access to comprehensive and secure IT support services.
Whilst NCS continued to innovate on the technology front to ensure that things were done fast and done right, there was also a lot of coordination work involved to ensure that the transition to SSOE 2 went smoothly.
For example, the introduction of 2-in-1 notebooks - which were meant to be light notebooks that could be carried around easily for use anywhere - initially met with challenges, with feedback that the screens were too hot, USB ports were insufficient and issues with detachable keyboard. In response to the feedback, NCS made modifications to the notebook settings to mitigate the hot screen issue and worked with MOE to introduce USB hubs with more ports.
In addition, the NCS Change Management team worked with MOE to familiarise teachers with the use of the new devices and leveraged different communication and support strategies such as user journeys, graphical emails and quick guides to educate teachers on the changes and minimise disruption.
The SSOE 2 rollout brought MOE’s ICT infrastructure to the next level to better support teaching and learning needs linking more than 100,000 devices across 344 schools. During the Covid-19 pandemic, NCS also had a close collaboration and partnership with MOE ITD to assist teachers and students with Home-based Learning.
From a cost perspective, the deployment of future-proof technologies such as virtualisation, Gigabit networks and a hyper-converged architecture has helped to reduce the server footprint, improve network performance and hosting overheads for MOE.
Overall, initiatives under SSOE 2 resulted in a more cost-efficient infrastructure and useful services that enable schools to leverage ICT more effectively for teaching and learning.
In 2022, MOE announced that the SSOE 2 programme would be extended by 3 years and with NCS as its partner, schools can continue reaping the benefits of the SSOE 2 programme.