Automating the creation of SharePoint Resources


The following is a guest post from Richard Young, Director of Digital Learning at Wood Green School Witney, a comprehensive school 10 miles west of Oxford. Wood Green use Salamander Active Directory and Salamander SharePoint for automatic maintenance of Active Directory accounts and SharePoint sites.

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Wood Green in Witney Oxfordshire is one the hundreds of schools which have enthusiastically adopted Office 365 as the linchpin of their digital infrastructure over the last six months. For us, one of the biggest barriers slowing down the initial adoption of Office 365 lay with the time and effort needed to create site resources, and to manage permissions.

Consider this familiar example: In early September, how much staff time is lost to creating email distribution lists for a dozen or more classes, ready for home work setting? And what if teachers want to implement some of the ideas shared by ITHeadsUP in their How to Create SharePoint videos.

The fact of the matter is that creating bespoke, class sites in SharePoint with announcements, discussions, shared folders and OneNotes, etc is ‘time consuming’. Yes, you can ask IT Support for help. However setting up permissions for each and every app, for each and every student and class, for a whole school is a ‘daunting’ task for even the most dedicated of IT Support teams.

Here is the good news: working with a small dynamic consultancy called SalamanderSoft, Wood Green has found a cost effective solution which automates the entire process of creating SharePoint resources by linking staff and student details held in SIMs to the Microsoft’s Active Directory. Permissions for sites, lists and libraries, and individual documents are based on MIS roles and class membership.

More good news: SalamanderSoft Active Directory and SharePoint services had Wood Green up-and-running with all classes – including our new Year 7s and 12s – from day two of the new school year.

The impact on the staff and students involved has been transformational. For instance:

  • Every class, form, year group, has its own email distribution list created first day back at school. This means targeted information can be ‘pushed’ to the relevant group
  • Every subject has its own dedicated SharePoint site with an automatically created set of applications eg announcements, links and documents based on a template
  • Every class has its own subsite with its own announcements, discussions, announcements, OneNote, documents folder and links
  • Every student has their own folders for uploading work and OneNote for every subject they follow

Working with SalamanderSoft meant Wood Green could draw on their experience of working with other schools to benefit from best practice at the design stage of implementing a new school Intranet around Office 365 services.

  • The school now has an affordable, zero maintenance, and sustainable method for automating the creation of department, class and student resources to a template.
  • An IT system tightly integrated with our SIMs MIS to ensure the ‘right’ students and staff could edit read or delete the ‘right’ resources.
  • A path for future development: adjust the resource-creation-template for the next academic year. Is it then time to bring in class Blogs.

Bottom line: Teaching staff are happy because they can work in SharePoint with classes from the first week of the school year. IT Support can direct their energies elsewhere. More importantly, students have access to a rich and tailored set of IT apps to get them off to the best possible Office 365 start.

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