We have just launched Office 365 for education in Australia (just a little later than the rest of the world). The Australia Product Manager for Office 365 for education is David Hunt. So I thought I’d get David to explain to me what we’ve launched!
Interview with David Hunt of Microsoft – the Office 365 for education Product Manager
I know we’ve announced Office 365 for Education. But what is it?
It’s a service that delivers a group of Microsoft’s best technologies, including Microsoft Exchange for email, SharePoint for websites, document storage and collaboration, and Lync for communications. It also includes the Office Web Apps – that’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote – as web applications.
Let’s take it one-by-one. What can you do with Exchange in Office 365 for education?
Of course, everybody knows that it provides email. But some of the things that it also gives you are mobile email (so that your students and staff can access their email from their phone). And it also contains calendars – you could set it up so that the school timetable and each student’s timetable could be loaded into the calendar, and be synced to student and staff phones.
One of the ways we use Calendars in Microsoft is for resources – like meeting room bookings – and you could do same for school resources – like computer labs, minibuses, laptop trolleys etc. This would mean that you dump a lot of paper processes and make things easier for all staff – teachers and administrative staff
And what can you do with SharePoint?
SharePoint is all about collaboration. It provides file storage, but it’s so much more than just a network shared drive. We provide templates for classes and groups, which means that in seconds you can build a website for a subject, topic or individual class. That would allow you to store documents, build a wiki and create discussion groups. And you can either make them available to everybody, or just to the users in a specific group. And the other important thing is that it can become the place to store and share OneNote notebooks, so that they are available online and offline for students and teachers.
It can also allow new methods of learning and assessment. For example, if you put up a document for students to collaborate on, and students then edit it using Word with Track Changes set, you can then see all the contributions from each student, and any discussions on content. This gives you a great way of assessing group tasks accurately, and being able to see the contribution of each individual student.
And if teachers put documents onto their SharePoint, instead of locking them on their laptop, then they’re encouraging sharing – eg curriculum plans, lesson plans, activities – and making these available to colleagues, students or others. An example of where this would be really handy is if a teacher is absent – a substitute teacher could pick up the course using the teacher’s own plans and resources.
And it’s not just about storing documents, it’s also about the fact that they are more easily findable by others, because SharePoint allows you to search across all of the shared documents. That’s great for curriculum planning, and making best use of the resources owned or created by an education institution.
You can even use it to create your school, TAFE or university public website.
Note from Ray: For an idea of what’s possible when creating websites in SharePoint take a look at the top 10 SharePoint School websites and top 10 SharePoint University websites, and also my take on the top 10 Australian education websites built on SharePoint
And finally, what can you do with Lync?
Lync is probably my favourite of all of them. Lync is a communications tool – you could think of it like Skype – because it does instant messaging, video conferencing and screen sharing, and it also has a shared whiteboard, remote computer control and recording all built in. One of the key differences is that Skype is entirely public by default, whereas Lync starts out limited to your organisation so that your students and staff can be restricted to just communicating with controlled users.
From a teaching and learning perspective, it gives lots of opportunities. You could use it to deliver a remote tutorial, and record the tutorial to share it on SharePoint with other students. Even complete lessons and courses can be delivered and recorded using Lync, with shared PowerPoint presentations and audio. You could broadcast a PowerPoint presentation, and allow a real-time Q&A with students using the instant messenger windows alongside your presentation. And the messages can be saved as a conversation, or recorded alongside the lesson for other students and revision.
If you’re in the IT team in a school, you could use it to provide remote support for teachers or students – starting with an instant message, share screens, provide remote support by taking control of a user’s computer remotely.
The other thing it gives you is ‘presence’ information, so that I can see if people are online – for example, if I get an email I want to discuss from somebody in the school, it will show me whether they are free to take a call or have a conversation in real-time.
When I asked you what Office 365 for education was, you said “It’s a service that delivers a group of Microsoft’s best technologies”. What does “it’s a service” mean?
In essence you subscribe to it, rather than buying a box of software or a licence for software. And you get it over the Internet, so you don’t need to run a bunch of servers and infrastructure to support it. Because it’s delivered over the Internet, your students and staff can get access wherever they are connected. Students can choose when and where they learn, and how they collaborate. And they can get from access from school computers, home computers and even from their smartphones.
You just said ‘subscribe’, so that set of an alarm bell in my head. What does it cost?
Well, the main service – which includes Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and the Office Web Apps – is free. There are some options that you might want to pay for – for example, if you want to include the full Office Professional licence for students to use at home and school, then you can add that and that will cost a small amount of money.
One other option that customers are likely to want to pay for is to add an archive feature, so that IT administrators can archive all of the staff and/or student email permanently. For schools and university administrators this is a regular question, as may have a legal requirement or a duty of care need to keep a legal archive of communications.
So where can a customer go to find out more info of the announcement?
All of the information on Office 365 for education was published this morning at education.office365.com, and that includes information on the different subscriptions, including the free and paid ones, as well as customer case studies from our early adopters.
If there’s one thing you want readers to do now what would it be?
I’d want them to be able to try Office 365 for education themselves, and they can by signing up for a free trial at education.office365.com, (remember, you might need to select Australia as your country).
What if a somebody already has [email protected] – can they get Office 365 for education?
Absolutely. We’ve already started communicating with [email protected] administrators to let them know that they can upgrade to Office 365 for education and get all the new functionality. Anyone that is a [email protected] administrator that hasn’t seen the emails should go to the Upgrade information page, and follow the “3 steps to get ready”. This will make sure they get all further communications.