Oshkosh Area School District is a 10,000 K-12 student community spread across 21 physical sites around Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Prior to moving to Google Workspace, the District had been running off of Microsoft Exchange and was experiencing frustrating productivity loss due to frequent outages, limited email and collaboration functionality, and inability to meet compliance regulations because they didn’t have a tool in place to effectively meet its needs. Twice in one year the email system completely failed, erasing all communication history. All the students had access to was stock Windows and Office, and there was no way to leverage existing devices like the smartphones and laptops that students and staff were already taking to school.
The staff couldn’t count on the email system due to unreliability and complained about not being able to access email from home. Although the District had access to shared files, collaboration was complicated because each person had to edit different versions of the same document as opposed to having one master document with any edits automatically synced to the master; the result was that documents had to be stitched together afterward. Additionally, the knowledge that the District would be out of compliance should anyone place an open record request was another catalyst pushing the District towards a much-needed alternative solution.
The team at Oshkosh Area School District took a proactive approach, and the situation was tackled as an opportunity to provide efficient, cost-effective tools to a District thirsty for growth. In the words of the District’s IT team, “We never let a good crisis go to waste.” And they certainly didn’t!
Knowing it was impossible to maintain their current environment, Oshkosh School District IT team decided to move to a cloud-based system that would allow 24/7, real-time collaboration, eliminate their investments in expensive software, and foster a personalized learning environment which was only possible if services were available on any device. All these pieces culminated in the development of a strategic plan involving the implementation of Google Workspace for Education, which was supported by 60% of the public.
Over the next three years, Oshkosh School District underwent a major technology rebirth, whose cornerstone was the implementation of the Google Workspace for Education environment. Since the District had no previous restrictions on email, there was a massive amount of data that needed to be quickly migrated. Deputy Superintendent, David Gundlach, and Technology Infrastructure and Services Manager, Aaron Vanden Heuvel, were able to connect with SADA and strategically integrate a migration plan.
SADA was able to successfully migrate all 1200 staff email accounts to Google Workspace during the school’s weeklong spring break, which they were able to complete even faster than the set deadline. The staff especially expressed appreciation for the fast turnaround time. Deputy Superintendent Gundlach commented, “It went as good or better than any deployment I’ve experienced in my 20 years in IT; it was on schedule and even ahead of schedule.”
The team at Oshkosh School District organized short 30-minute sessions to go over basic email, calendar, and contacts, and provided some valuable training resources. The District also decided to implement Google Sites, both for their externally facing website and an internal staff website. SADA worked closely with the team to implement Google Sites as well.
Results and benefits
Google Workspace usage exploded soon after deployment as both students and staff quickly familiarized themselves with the basics of Gmail and Calendar and realized the potential of several people being able to collaborate in real-time on a single document in Google Drive. Tight quotas on internal storage further encouraged people to use Drive as their primary resource hub. Oshkosh School District currently has over 1 million docs in the Drive environment. Furthermore, Office usage declined significantly as users discovered the increasing functional and collaboration benefits of Google Docs and Drive. Vanden Heuvel commented that the “staff has taken an incredible amount of ownership, picking up excellent self-evaluation skills and deciding for themselves which tools were appropriate for different tasks.”
Regarding cost-savings, Gundlach declared that just the “Google mail alone saved us over $20,000 in a year.” Overall, the district is saving $180,000 annually as a result of their transition. Oshkosh School District was also able to realize many of the side-benefits of going Google, including the integration of Chromebooks, which they described as unparalleled as far as an easy, quick, efficient enterprise management solution. The schools previously used iPads, but expect that will completely flip to Chromebooks majority within the next 24 months due to superior value and integration benefits. As far as their relationship with SADA, Gundlach stated, “We’ve had good success with SADA – I know they are very committed to creating collaboration and partnership. With everything we’ve done with them, they’ve been a valued partner.”
Regarding the implementation of Google sites, the District and SADA were able to develop the thriving and exemplary sites they have today. According to Vanden Heuvel, “When we started doing sites, that tied in so well with Drive and Docs at the time; we started seeing all this synergy between products we were engaging in.” They already have big ideas for version 2.0 of the website and even 3.0 the following year.
The Oshkosh School District IT Team has since presented at several events and conferences regarding their SADA-guided transition to Google Workspace. They have found that the most meaningful and definitive result of Google Workspace implementation is how teachers at Oshkosh School District have shown extraordinary talent and agility in being able to leverage powerful technology solutions as compelling teaching tools.