Collaborative tools for schools


we are currently serving a huge number of schools, as we provide them with a school management system.

Currently, we are thinking of how to give back to them.
we are looking at deploying tools to enable online learning, file sharing as well as video conferencing to enable the schools to continue offering learning sessions to their students.

i need your help with regards to the combination of tools and services that we can use to make this possible.

I1) i need a way to have a single deployment to be used for multiple schools. each deployment per school would be intensive both to manage and deploy
2) we also need to find a way we can have a shared timetable tool etc.
3) need for video calls and file sharing for things like assignments and notes.
4) students need a very easy way ot creating accounts and or login

the tools i am thinking.
jitsi meet for video calls. (can be deployed separately on an independent server.)
not sure what to use for files and documents (can we deploy multiple nextcloud instances on the same nethserver deployment? or how can we handle muliple schools. each with multiple classes and multiple students.)

share your thoughts.

what i was wondering, can i use the same Nethserver instance, and use groups and circles to differentiate the different schools.
does anyone know how i can limit users from seeing the rest of the users in other schools or other defined groups?


It would be theoretically possible to run serveral Nextcloud instances of a single LDAP or AD instance…

A group per school would define what is “visible” to members, basically one such group per school.
Each nextcloud instance would use this group as their LDAP-Filter.

You’ld need to use name or IP based virtual hosts for each school, so each nextcloud instance is distinct for each school / schooling district. The Login Page would clearly state the school and display their Logo.

Might be - depending on size, amount of users, etc - sensible to split up the duties for better performance. A NethServer running AD alone. One or several NethServers running Nextcloud instances, all using the “Master” AD for users / groups or more, eg LDAP site info.

Starting off with NethServer as basis, this would take good planning, a lot of customization, add in time - but would be doable…

My 2 cents

so @Andy_Wismer your suggestion would be to better use separate nextcloud instances per school, as opposed to a single nextcloud instance for all the schools.


Even better would be a NethServer/NextCloud Server per school. Law is fairly strict here about issues such as privacy, and that goes for school systems, medical and almost everything here.

But when resources are limited, one has to make do. :slight_smile:

It doesn’t have to be an Ideal setup/topology, but one which works, cover’s the needs and is affordable, weather in view of manpower, financial, network or whatever resources may be involved!

Splitting up also has distinct advantages:

You are more flexible with several (small) backups than with one big fat backup, which also takes a looong time to finish. The small backups can easily go to different targets (NAS) in case space becomes a pinch.

One going down doesn’t mean your whole school network goes down.

There are more…

My 2 cents

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I also wanted to make you aware of the fact that here in europe, there are a few Linux Distros specialized for the school market in the EU.

Most are free to download and use, but no access to the Repos containing upgrades unless you pay for the maintenence. The pricing is moderate - for Europe.
Most also seem based on SLES Linux. Eg. openschoolserver is one.

But it might be worth it to download one or two of those distros and install them in a VM-Network (including one or two VM clients) to play around with and look what’s there and looks usable.

In short: Schooling, no matter what country, continent, race, religion, age of students and so on, there are certain constants in all cases…
It’s like a car: No matter what make, they all have a steering wheel in front of the driver, no joystick like a plane… They have the Gas toward the middle of the car. And they have 4 wheels…

Some of the constants would be Site / School / Building / Classroom / Teacher / Curriculum or course… These would then be eg groups, one for each building, classroom and so on.

Grab ideas, needs whatever you deem important and practical from those distros, and see what is important in your situation / country / school…

My 2 cents

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Side consideration: NethServer is quite flexible, but was created with one goal: a server for one company in one place.
A company is not a school. Goals, roles and necessities are quite different.
So maybe NethServer can provide network services for the teachers and students (file sharing, content filtering, remote connection, Secondary/Tertiary LAN management, even VOIP and eMail, even print management via SavaPage) but the primary design was different.
I hope that NethServer can became a Unified Communication System, but without official modules is quite hard to achieve.


Yes, that’s the point. We don’t have multitenancy by design and therefore having more schools in one Nethserver is not possible.

I think @Andy_Wismer is right with the law and privacy issue but if we can provide modules or maybe later a group of modules (education group) deployment should be easy.

I think it’s not that bad. Nethserver already provides some UC services.

What do you think is missing? Just to get some future goals…

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Chat, IM, audio and video meetings.
In a smother and more comprehensive way than Ejabber, without having to forcibly rely on WebTop, and without having to install 12 different clients on a smartphone.

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I think ejabberd is ok (provides all server functions we need) but it lacks a web client to use it without installing software on the client.
Here are some candidates including a howto.
An XMPP alternative would be openfire, it has an admin interface and plugins (like webclient) but not more functions on server side than ejabberd. Another approach is the federated matrix-synapse.

Webtop already integrates all services (audio/video chat in beta but I never tested) but it’s always good to have alternatives.
SOGo doesn’t support it so we have Nextcloud that provides groupware and UC but I didn’t test the UC functions yet.

That’s right, it’s a mess with mobile client apps. Mail, calendar, IM, voice, video, many apps supporting different protocols.
Maybe we could do some client testing to find good clients (supporting more functions/protocols) to not need a bunch of apps and improve the user experience.

well, so much to be undertaken

As a video conferencing tool, besides jitsi meet you can think of BigBlueButton I know it seemlessly integrates with Moodle (which needs an update badly… currently still on 3.5 while 3.8.2+ has been released recently)

wow, thank you @robb BiglBlueButton seems like the perfect solution for schools video conferencing.
Unfortunately for us, it’s only available for Ubuntu servers, as well as they insist its installed on a dedicated server(not an issue)
Overall what i am trying to understand is.
can a single deployment of bigblue be used for multiple schools?
i noticed there is ability to create multiple rooms, which is nice for an institution when they have multiple classrooms.

what about in my case, do i have to deploy a seprate instance per school. considering requires dedicaed server?

Why Openfire?


relative to chat and video conference why not

a mattermost plugin to create video room

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@stephdl speaking of mattermost.
can we never find a way to make it work with ldap?

if you are ready to pay, yes, it is not officially supported I guess in the community edition.

Did I never talk of sustainable way of code :slight_smile:

am never a fan of paying per user billing for something i am hosting on my own server.
makes no sense. plus, these per user per month, though small costs, but if you add other solutions that you have to pay similarly, the price can get to 1k per user per month easily

I know but nothing is free in this wild world, even the bandwidth of my server :smiley:

back to mattermost, you have plenty of the plugins, really impressive

Because we already have a howto and it’s an alternative.

On Jitsi meet integration I am already working to use it with a matrix bridge, nice that it works with ejabberd too.