Office 365 Brings the Cloud to Education

LONDON – Jan. 11, 2010 – When Microsoft announced Office 365 late last year, the company showed how workers will use the cloud to collaborate more easily from virtually anywhere on any device.

Now it’s about to do the same for students.

Microsoft announced today that Office 365 for education, the company’s next-generation cloud productivity service for K-12 schools and universities (and the successor to Live@edu), will launch later this year. The company made the announcement in London at BETT, the world’s largest educational technology showcase.

Also in London today, Microsoft announced that 15 million students now use Live@edu, up from 11 million students just three months ago. Office 365 for education will be the successor to Live@edu, which is Microsoft’s current communication and collaboration offering for K-12 schools and universities.

Just as technology is changing the world of work, it’s having a profound impact on education, said Jon Perera, Microsoft’s general manager of Education Strategy. The same enterprise-class productivity software that is untethering workers from their desks is now entering the classroom. That shift holds the promise of leveling the playing field for students worldwide.

January 10, 2011
Jon Perera, general manager of Education Strategy at Microsoft.

“Our mission is to help people and organizations around the world realize their full potential, and we at Microsoft believe there’s no better place to make that come to life than education,” Perera said. “We’re committed to developing technology that can unleash student creativity and help students and educators connect and collaborate.”

Office 365 for education will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, and Office Professional Plus desktop software. The suite also will include templates and pricing designed to meet the unique needs of educators and students, Perera said.

Anna Kinney, director of Live@edu, said Office 365 for education will extend learning possibilities to students while helping them master technology they will use in their future careers.

“Office 365 for education changes the game for schools and universities by offering enterprise-class tools for better communication and collaboration,” she said. “The ability to work anytime, anywhere across platforms and devices is really powerful, whether that’s a PC, MAC, tablet, Windows Phone, iPhone, Nokia phone or other device. Our customers are expanding the boundaries of the classroom and challenging thinking of where and how people can learn.”

When Office 365 launches, existing Live@edu customers will have a smooth path to the new platform, Kinney said. “They will have the ability to transition at their own pace as they introduce new capabilities that have never been available on this scale before,” she said.

Cloud Already Transforming Education

Western Kentucky University is one institution that has seen how technology can help students collaborate, according to Dr. Robert Owen, the university’s vice president of Information Technology. Western Kentucky University just deployed Live@edu for 42,000 students and alumni.

January 10, 2011
Anna Kinney, director of Live@edu.

Last semester, the university ran a pilot project for Microsoft Lync, which integrates e-mail, instant messaging, audio, video and Web conferencing. The students who participated in the pilot were doctoral candidates in education, the vast majority of whom worked fulltime while they went to school, Owen said. That meant they had to study late at night or early in the morning, when it would be tough to find someone for help.

“Obviously you’re going to hesitate before you call someone at 1 a.m. and ask for help,” he said. “With Lync, they could immediately see who else in the class was online and communicate with them however they want, whether IM or phone or video chat. We found that aspect worked very well.”

Owen said the efficiencies gained from moving to Live@edu will save Western Kentucky at least $50,000 a year in hardware and software costs alone. Letting someone else take over systems management frees IT staff up to help deliver innovation to the classroom, he added.

“We’re in the business of educating students, not administering e-mail systems,” he said. “Everything we can do to get away from having to mess with that allows us to focus on enhancing students’ educational experience.”

Chip Matson, director of Information Technology Services and the chief information officer at Augusta State University, said that an increasingly tech-savvy student body expects to be able to access school resources on whatever device they have in their hands.

“This is a new generation of students,” he said. “They have grown up with all these devices that let them always be on, always be connected. They have a new set of expectations.”

Every fall, more and more students arrive with smartphones and tablets, and it became critical for the school to be able to deliver resources to them off-campus. That was a major reason why Augusta State University also recently decided to go with Live@edu, Matson said.

Western Kentucky and Augusta State are among thousands of schools and universities from around the world that have signed up for Live@edu.

Kinney said IT pros and students won’t be the only winners as education joins much of the business world in shifting to the cloud.

“With Office 365, educators will be able to provide a secure online learning environment that uses social networking to enhance collaboration, all within the familiarity of a classroom environment without the boundaries,” she said. They also can save time by conducting and recording online tutoring sessions in Lync, then posting them on their SharePoint class sites so students can watch them anywhere and at any time.

Also, with Office 365 students get enterprise-leading technologies – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Office Web Apps – for free, Kinney said. Faculty and staff get Exchange Online for e-mail and calendaring for free as well. Additional capabilities are available under Microsoft’s academic licensing program. The broad availability of these enterprise-leading technologies at no charge for students enables schools and universities to create a more level playing field and a well-prepared workforce.

Put in a bigger perspective, the shift to anytime, anywhere learning has just begun, Perera said, and technology’s ongoing impact on education will resonate beyond the classroom.

“If you think about the 20th century and how countries competed, economic output and military might were the primary yardsticks for how countries were measured,” Perera said. “Today, when assessments in how all countries around the globe are doing in math and science comes out – that’s the new yardstick for how countries compete. It’s no longer about the arms race – it’s how many computer scientists, engineers and stem cell specialists that your country is outputting. Microsoft is hopefully at the center of helping countries create and unleash those types of workforces and those types of students.”

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