Delivering next-gen ICT infrastructure to schools

Posted on Jul 01, 2021

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.

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 also 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 value-added Innovation Programme where we collaborated closely with MOE on ideas to enhance the user experience in the schools’ environment. We built an innovation portal for schools to submit ideas. Teachers could then cast votes to decide which ideas could be developed into proofs of concepts.

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.

Whilst the NCS team 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, besides making modifications to the notebook settings to mitigate the hot screen issue and issuing USB hubs to add more ports, NCS Change Management worked together with MOE to familiarise the teachers with the use of the new devices.

The change management team leveraged different strategies to ensure minimal disruption to schools and teachers. For example, it adopted different communication strategies to educate teachers on the changes. 

  • User journeys were produced to illustrate the typical transition journey that a teacher would undergo and the important instructions and information that they needed to take note of at various points of the journey. These were presented through Powerpoint slides. 
  • Emails communicated instructions and information in an attractive and easy-to-understand manner.
  • Videos leveraged humour to capture teachers’ attention. The focus was not on technology, but on teaching and learning situations that were familiar to teachers, making the videos very relatable.

 

Outcomes

The SSOE 2 rollout brought MOE’s ICT infrastructure to the next level to better support teaching and learning needs across schools.

School-wide wireless was rolled out to all 354 MOE schools within the short span of a year, extending coverage to key teaching and learning areas impacting over 30,000 teachers and 400,000 students. New messaging services were also deployed smoothly to schools, with an on-boarding process designed from the user perspective to facilitate the transition. Operationally, the SSOE 2 Procurement Portal made it easier and more convenient for MOE staff to order ICT devices.

The NCS Change Management team was also lauded for its innovative change management efforts and initiatives. Its video series The Mr Aaron Show managed to get between 3,000 and 6,000 views for each video just weeks after the broadcast.

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.

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