Vic. high school takes aim at paper forms

Luther College's CTO is eyeing ways to cut down on the use of paper forms

Luther College, an independent secondary school in Melbourne's east, is hoping to be able to cut paper and streamline processing by eventually eliminating paper forms, according to the school's chief technology officer, Chris Topp.

The school, located in Croyden, has some 1150 students in years 7 to 12, and 180 staff.

"We're moving to a digital format of delivery for pretty much everything to parents and outsiders to the organisation," Topp said. The school has been working with Datacom to set up a forms server, the CTO said.

"We'd like to eliminate [paper forms] entirely, but up until now there's not really been a practical way of doing that."

"There's electronic forms and there's electronic forms," Topp added.

"We wanted something that was HTML5, agile, worked with different display sizes — reformats itself automatically — and was accessible to people."

"We've [already] built some apps and solutions internally to meet the needs of the organisation to deliver content electronically, to do parent-teacher booking engines, to do payment online gateways and all that sort of stuff. That's all built within SharePoint," Topp said.

"[But] if you're going to do electronic forms, you kind of want to be able to do all of your electronic forms in one place, and up until we started working with a provider of that technology we were not able to really do that. For example we would like to have enrolment forms online; we'd like to have leave forms, expense forms, compliance forms, risk forms, first aid forms — all that sort of jazz.

"So it could be a combination of payment gateways; it could be a combination of authenticated and unauthenticated users; it could be sensitive information; it could be a multitude of different things and each product that you look at tends to tick different boxes and won't necessarily tick all of them. We've been working very closely with Datacom and in fact they've got a pretty positive product that they're really looking at bringing online."

The push to cut paper as well as the increasing use of electronic resources within classrooms and the demands of the school's 1:1 laptop program for students has meant that the IT department has put an emphasis on developing a sturdy internal network and scalable Internet link.

Internet connectivity is via a Vertel-provided microwave connection. The link was established in late 2009 with 20Mbps downlink capacity; over the years this been increased to 80Mbps, Topp said.

"We specifically went Vertel because we had line of sight and we could do a point-to-point to the city," the CTO said. "Basically there weren't many other options available to us that were within our cost [range]. One of the key factors was that we wanted to have unlimited downloads and we wanted a scalable connection," he added.

"And all those concerns of old that used to exist around microwave connections I can wholeheartedly wipe of the table. They don't exist anymore as far as we're concerned," Topp said.

"[The link is] tracking nicely in terms of the available bandwidth, so we're we've got scope to go further if we need to. At this stage we do some cloud-based services, but we're not extensively into that at the moment. We're keeping a very close eye on the privacy laws and we'll look at how the education market, specific to Luther College, can benefit from those sorts of technologies."

The school's internal network has a 10 gigabit backbone. "The infrastructure is really critical now to any school's educational outcomes so we've invested in some of the latest technologies to ensure that we've got full availability 24/7, because it is very much a 24/7 business."

"The actual network itself is based on HP ProCurve; that was a strategic direction we took... It's really about making sure the infrastructure is right to provide a high quality level of education."

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