Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI

The HPI School Cloud

From pilot project to secure infrastructure for digital school education (2017-2021)

Under the leadership of Prof. Christoph Meinel, the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) has developed the HPI School Cloud, a secure and, above all, privacy-compliant IT infrastructure for schools, as part of a pilot project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from 2017 to 2021. The digital education platform enables teachers and students to flexibly access modern digital teaching and learning content and all digital tools required for teaching via end devices such as computers, tablets or smartphones, and to work together collaboratively and across schools. The HPI School Cloud was designed from the outset to be technically scalable and interoperable and is an open-source project. At the end of the project in July 2021, the HPI School Cloud offered a protected, secure digital learning space to about 4,000 schools and thus 1.4 million users throughout Germany and the German schools abroad. The School Cloud was handed over to Dataport AöR for use in regular operations. 

HPI School Cloud
The HPI School Cloud (Photo: HPI/K. Herschelmann)

The follow-up project: dBildungscloud

INFORM yourself about the follow-up project dBildungscloud

The development of the HPI School Cloud

The conceptual phase for the development of the HPI School Cloud began in 2016, with the first 27 pilot schools from MINT-EC e.V., a national excellence school network with more than 300 schools, which started  as early as 2017 to be gradually connected to the HPI School Cloud. The pilot project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), was thus able to quickly gather important experience in the schools and tailor its development accordingly. Aspects of data security and data protection were given high priority during development. Appropriate experts, such as the Schools Working Group of the State Data Protection Conference, were involved from the start of the project.

At the beginning of 2018, the project concluded the first state contract with the state of Lower Saxony and entered into the first state-specific collaboration with the Lower Saxony Education Cloud (NBC). Further collaborations with the states of Brandenburg and Thuringia followed in the following year: the Brandenburg School Cloud and the Thuringia School Cloud were founded. In 2020, the Central Office for Schools Abroad also joined the joint effort, so that the HPI School Cloud was used internationally on all continents.

The spread of the 2020 coronavirus presented major new challenges to schools and the HPI School Cloud team. To quickly support schools in the corona crisis, the BMBF provided funds in March so that the HPI School Cloud could be used by all interested schools throughout Germany. Also, cooperation with Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. and edu-sharing.net e.V. was funded. Both associations are members of the Alliance for Free Education and supervise the integration of further free pedagogical-didactical learning content into the learning store of the HPI School Cloud.

Much faster than originally planned, the HPI School Cloud was rolled out in the Corona pandemic, supporting many thousands of schools in digital education. Within six months, the HPI School Cloud gained 3,500 schools nationwide. By December 2020, the number of users skyrocketed to more than one million. At the same time, the system was technologically aligned with the new needs. For example, a video conferencing system for learning from home was integrated. The learning store with digital educational content was expanded so that teachers could seamlessly use both state-specific and nationwide teaching materials in their lessons. In addition, thanks to many new developments, other important applications were integrated into the platform, be it a digital whiteboard or an interactive learning application, such as Bettermarks.

When the research project at HPI came to an end on July 31, 2021, the HPI School Cloud was transferred to regular operation by the German states of Lower Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia, which offer state-specific variants of the HPI School Cloud and will continue to collaborate on their development. At the time of the handover, more than 4,000 schools, and thus 1.4 million teachers and students, were working with the HPI School Cloud nationwide and at German schools abroad. The IT service provider Dataport AöR took over the technical operation and the further technical development of the School Cloud for the three states.