Nambour Christian College Case Study
ShoreTel Unified Communications enabling successful educational outcomes and continued growth for Nambour Christian College
Key role for unified communications in success of outback school in the indigenous community of Normanton
Nambour Christian College (‘NCC’) is an independent school in Queensland, Australia providing education and care to 1,150 students from early childhood through to Year 12. NCC is one of the leading Christian private schools on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with NCC Early Learners – an early education centre – plus a Primary school and Secondary school on its extensive, 22 hectare (54 acre) main campus.
NCC also operates Gulf Christian College, a Prep to Year 9 school in the town of Normanton in remote northwest Queensland. The school caters for 86 students, two-thirds being indigenous, supported by 20 teaching and administrative staff. Year 7, 8 and 9 students from Normanton travel down to NCC three times during the year, staying for two weeks at a time with meals and accommodation provided on campus at Normanton House. Students from NCC in Year 9 also have the opportunity to travel to Normanton to spend a week at their sister school and assist with the annual fundraising by the Gulf CC students at the local rodeo.
Prior to the implementation of a ShoreTel Unified Communications (UC) solution on its main campus in 2011, NCC had been reliant on an analogue PABX for its telecommunications, plus a separate Linux-based voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution that had hardware compatibility issues and proved to be difficult to manage. Also, after the acquisition of Gulf Christian College in 2010, NCC had to deal with the telecommunications challenges of connecting with a school based over 2000km (1240 miles) away in a very remote area of Australia.
“WE WERE IMPRESSED WITH THE STRENGTH OF THE SHORETEL SOLUTION’S INTEGRATION WITH OUR MICROSOFT ENVIRONMENT.”
Manager – Information Technology
Nambour Christian College
Making Remote Communications Possible
NCC chose ShoreTel UC on the recommendation of the college’s systems integrator.
“We were impressed with the strength of the ShoreTel solution’s integration with our Microsoft environment,” said David Penrose, Manager – Information Technology, Nambour Christian College.
NCC deployed ShoreTel as an on-site solution in Nambour across NCC Early Learners, its Primary school and Secondary school organisation, and at Gulf Christian College in Normanton. The UC solution, coupled with the college’s dedicated Check Point unified threat management (UTM) solution, has also extended to Canada. NCC’s payroll administrator, who moved overseas for family reasons, is securely connected as part of the ShoreTel UC network via an encrypted VPN using a standard home broadband connection.
“It was great that this highly-valued member of staff could continue to work remotely for our school, even though she has moved so far away,” said Penrose.
Even more impressive is NCC’s ability to communicate effectively with staff at its sister school in Normanton. In such a remote area, connections are limited and bandwidth very expensive. NCC has been able to manage 12 internal end points on a 4MB internet link, with good quality voice performance and administration of the service supported centrally from Nambour. The Normanton site can continue to operate voice services even if it’s offline, and is kept running during frequent power outages with an attached UPS (uninterruptible power supply).
“When we took over operation of Gulf Christian College, there was a risk that it may have had to shut down. Not only have we been able to keep the school operating, we have added new classes – ShoreTel UC has given us the communications capabilities we need to support our organisation’s growth, moving us from multiple platforms to one simple, integrated solution.”
“Our school at Normanton has a predominantly indigenous student population, and over the past five years we have seen more students completing their studies at the school before moving on to further education, and we’ve brought in more kids from surrounding communities. The teaching and administrative staff are also really engaged and connected with their colleagues in Nambour,” said Penrose.
Key Functionality for a Learning Environment
NCC has access to a 100-number range for extensions on its ShoreTel network. There are dedicated handsets deployed for all administrative staff and in each Primary school classroom, some soft phones (a telephony client running on the user’s PC), and handsets in each staff room. For all dedicated handsets, there is full integration with each staff member’s email client.
“SHORETEL UC HAS GIVEN US THE COMMUNICATIONS CAPABILITIES WE NEED TO SUPPORT OUR ORGANISATION’S GROWTH, MOVING US FROM MULTIPLE PLATFORMS TO ONE SIMPLE, INTEGRATED SOLUTION.”
Manager – Information Technology
Nambour Christian College
Staff in NCC’s early learning centre have cordless DECT phones, giving them greater mobility to ensure teachers can stay close to their students while making or receiving calls.
Additionally, NCC implemented paging capabilities and ShoreTel Emergency Notification in NCC Early Learners, ensuring that all staff can be alerted and communicated with in response to potential incidents.
“We also operate a workgroup for IT, ensuring that all calls for support and assistance are picked up quickly by our first available team member,” said Penrose.
Ease of Management and Support
One of the early benefits of the new ShoreTel system for NCC was the simplicity of the environment to administer and make changes, saving the school significant support costs.
“We don’t need to bring in an outside expert to fix most things,” said Penrose. “The ShoreTel system just became part of our normal IT processes. When we are asked to make changes and improvements to the phone system, most of the time we can do it ourselves.”
“It’s also been really easy and quick for us to deploy and change extensions.”
NCC does call on higher-level technical support when required, and also to assist when upgrading the ShoreTel platform software to the latest release.
“ShoreTel has always been really scalable and responsive when we’ve needed them,” concluded Penrose.
To implement a unified communications solution to service an expanding education provider with an extensive campus plus a remote sister school in outback Queensland with limited connectivity and minimal local services.
Nambour Christian College is using an on-site ShoreTel Unified Communications solution at its main Sunshine Coast campus and also to Gulf Christian College in Normanton. The ShoreTel UC solution supports more than 100 teachers plus administrative staff, providing education and care for over 1200 students across the two schools.
- Improved communications and engagement across a distributed workforce
- Greater reliability and functionality of core telephony
- Simplified administration and maintenance, reducing support costs
- Flexibility and speed to deploy enabling organisational expansion
- Providing quality voice services into remote areas with limited connectivity