By Brenda Carter, IT Pro Technical Writer, SharePoint Products and Technologies

Last March, Shane Young and I sat down with Dave Coleman at the SharePoint conference in Seattle to review the solution design for Twynham School in the UK. Shane Young is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who has designed solutions for several schools, including the Boulder Valley School District and Central Michigan University. Typically in these sessions Microsoft experts give design guidance to customers. However, during this session Coleman showed us how it’s done.

Coleman described how he stumbled across the initial version of SharePoint Team Services years ago and has since developed a growing Web presence with each subsequent version of SharePoint Products and Technologies. With his small IT team and a strong partnership with the community at the school, Coleman has produced a world-class IT solution. His team also hosts sites for several feeder schools. Finally, Coleman’s team generously shares their expertise (and templates!) with the other 63+ secondary schools in the area, helping them get up and running with SharePoint quickly.

Young applauds Twynham for their savvy solution and especially for openly sharing their work with the education community: "Colemans' team is saving education providers worldwide countless hours by sharing their lessons learned and helping them start on the right foot." Young emphasizes that starting with a viable design that has been proven in the field can greatly reduce the learning curve.

The purpose of this blog article is to introduce you to Shane Young and the Twynham team and to let them field your questions right here on this blog!

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Shane Young has over 12 years experience architecting and administering large-scale server farms using Microsoft enterprise technologies. He has architected SharePoint solutions for clients ranging from 20 to 25,000 users. He is the President and lead consultant of www.SharePoint911.com.

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Twynham School is a secondary school on the south coast of the UK and is rated among the top 10% of schools nationally. From left to right, the Twynham team includes:

  • Sylvia Haghighi (IT Technician)
  • Dan Rolles (Senior IT Technician)
  • Chris McKinley (SQL Admin/Web Developer)
  • Darren White (Web Developer)
  • Dave Coleman (Network Manager)
  • Mike Herrity (Assistant Headteacher)

For information about Twynham’s solution architecture as well as the architecture that Coleman recommend for single schools, see the following technical case study resources:

The Twynham IT team also hosts a site to showcase their solution: http://www.twynhamschool.com/supportinglearning/.

Here are some highlights from the Twynham case study:

  • While Twynham’s farm runs on five servers, Coleman reports that a single server is plenty of hardware for a single school. For the recommended specs, see the article!
  • Coleman’s team spent a summer digitizing media assets and hosts a bank of media files that teachers can easily incorporate into classroom sites. The media files are hosted on a separate server that is directly attached to a Web server. The article describes how Coleman ensures that students have access only to media files that are appropriate for their age and curriculum.
  • Teachers collaborate on the content that is offered on each subject site. For example, the French subject site incorporates RSS news feeds from French newspaper sites as well as links to other French media sites.
  • Twynham makes extensive use of podcasts across many of the subject sites. Students can subscribe to the podcasts and listen to them on their MP3 players, mobile phones, and computers.
  • The IT team and staff collaborated on sites to help students prepare for standardized exams. In the two months prior to the 2007 exams, Twynham Year 11 students viewed over 70,000 pages to prepare for their exams.
  • External access to sites was a priority. Students can access class materials and blog about what they are learning from home and even during their travels to World War I sites in England or overseas trips to geological sites in New Zealand.

If you are a medium-size school district or university and are interested in working with me to produce a similar technical case study, let me know! (bcarter@microsoft.com).

Meanwhile, feel free to post questions for Shane Young and the Twynham IT team. Thanks, Brenda