Enhancing Digital Learning Provision with Planet eStream

Independent School Network Enhances Digital Learning Provision with Planet eStream

The Girls’ Day School Trust is the UK’s leading network of independent girls’ schools, with 20,000 pupils aged three to 18 in 24 schools and two academies throughout England and Wales.

Every Trust school and academy is different but, like a family, shares some of its DNA with the others. Running through them all is the belief that every girl is unique, and they all need to be encouraged and channelled in their own way.

The Trust’s goal is to play a principal and continuing role in supporting, nurturing and developing generations of women, now and in the future, who have the ability to lead and make a difference to the world.

Sharing best practice, using technology to enable collaboration between member schools and academies and make the most of being a group is very important to the organisation.

"Our schools are geographically dispersed, and technology provides significant opportunities for us to collaborate and share best practice – something which is very important to us, Planet eStream is enabling us to do this."

Cat Scutt, Head of Learning Technology and Innovation

A number of GDST schools had come across Planet eStream at Bett and highlighted it to the Trust. After exploring a number of dierent video and media management and distribution platforms, and a period of presentations, trials and technical consultation, the Trust commissioned Planet eStream in June 2015. A fast turnaround saw the system installed, existing content migrated and staff training arranged in time for "go live" at the start of the new academic year.

Planet DV is currently delivering a training programme for GDST centrally and school teams to assist with the rollout and to raise awareness of the extended features and benefits Planet eStream offers, such as live streaming, observational applications and digital signage.

Cat says that, just a month into its use, Planet eStream is already helping the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) enhance its digital learning provision.

Extending the reach of events and activities

Planet eStream’s live streaming capabilities were key when selecting a video and media management and distribution platform. The Trust runs a lot of events at its schools which are located throughout the country. Staff and students can’t always get to every event, and the ability to broadcast events to parents and other schools is very important.

A recent example of this is the annual GDST Young Leaders’ Conference, which saw an ‘Apprentice-style’ challenge involving 140 pupils from GDST schools and a series of inspirational speakers, including the Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, with keynote speeches streamed live to GDST schools, and parents of the students attending able to view the teams’ final pitches at the event.

"Planet eStream’s live streaming capabilities meant that we could share the wonderful work the girls were doing far more widely than we otherwise would have been able to,” says Cat. “Making events like this accessible to pupils in other Trust schools magnifies learning opportunities, and also means that parents and the wider school community who are unable to travel to events can be part of them."

A secure solution

It was very important that content could be stored securely and shared with the right audience.

"Planet eStream lets us store, organise and share staff and student content within individual schools, across the network and at our central office. Crucially, it also enables users to control exactly who has access to that content,” Cat says. “Its powerful and flexible administrative tools make sure content can be curated and made available to the appropriate group of users."

Facilitating flipped learning

The Trust invested in a virtual learning environment (VLE) in 2014, which enabled teachers to set online learning and homework. The Firefly VLE supports the Trust’s ‘flipped classroom’ approach to learning: giving students access to online content before lessons, which they then work on, together with teachers, in the classroom.

Planet eStream’s Firefly VLE plugin has enabled staff and students to upload their content seamlessly to Planet eStream via the VLE, as well as embedding their content in Firefly to allow maximum engagement with video content.

Cat says, "Teachers and students are making more and more use of mobile devices to create their own video content, and video has become an integral feature of learning within our schools. Planet eStream enables us to take things further by enhancing video creation, use and sharing within the schools network."

Blending sophistication with ease of use

The representatives from GDST schools involved in the decision-making process, as well as the GDST Education, ICT and Communications teams, were all impressed with the range of functionality the Planet eStream system offers at all levels.

“The absolute beauty of Planet eStream is that it is an incredibly sophisticated product, which is also very easy to use,” says Cat. “At its simplest level, it makes media storage and sharing easy, but you can also dive deeper and use more complex tools to create and share content and bespoke learning resources.”

A brand-specific interface

The GDST had a clear vision of how they wanted their Planet eStream portal to look and feel. Having just released a new customisable and responsive user interface, this installation was one of the first opportunities to showcase Planet eStream’s powerful theming and branding tools to create a look and feel that is unique to the Trust.

Why Planet eStream?

Cat says that Planet DV’s strong reputation in the education sector and a track record of successful work with universities gave the Trust confidence Planet eStream would be an effective product choice, and that Planet DV’s experienced team could deliver a project for an organisation of its size, scale and structure.

"I’m very happy with the way everything has worked out. Thanks to the work from Planet DV and our local and central ICT teams, the transition to Planet eStream has been very smooth. Everything was completed on time with minimum fuss or disruption. Our schools are very excited about it, and immediately started to identify ways of using the full range of features the system offers. I’m hoping that this investment will give our schools more opportunities to get pupils creating and sharing content; help them make more use of flipped learning; remove some of the complexities of content sharing; and allow our schools to make the most of the equipment we’ve invested in.

"The absolute beauty of Planet eStream is that it is an incredibly sophisticated product, which is also very easy to use."

Cat Scutt, Head of Learning Technology and Innovation, GDST