We announced recently that Yammer for education customers will be free of charge this Spring (that’s, Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, or as we would call it in Australia, ‘Autumn/early Winter’), through your Office 365 for Education subscription (which is also free). Which means that educational institutions are able to have a communication system (through Office 365’s email and Lync service), collaboration and document storage (through Office 365’s SharePoint and OneDrive), and secure social networking and collaboration (through Yammer) – all of which is free.
The beauty of Yammer is that it can be fully integrated into your user database – so you create a private place for just your users to collaborate and mingle, and can enable and disable users easily. And then within Yammer you can create public and private groups – so staff can have private planning and discussion areas that others can’t access. Or groups of students can be placed into individual communities, for classes, subjects, sports and social groups etc. It also has a range of apps for mobile devices, so your users can access it on the go from their iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phones etc
Yammer for Education
There has always been a basic free version of Yammer that users can sign up to individually, and create communities and groups, and some education users in Australia have already been using that for some time (some of them with hundreds or thousands of users). But when you want to have organisational control over your users, then in the past you would have had to paid for the full Yammer Enterprise version. But soon, that’s the version that education customers can get free.
The major difference between Yammer and other social networking systems is that your Yammer network is private, and controlled by you. You don’t have individual teachers uploading lists of students to third-party websites, and managing them outside of your existing systems. Instead, your IT team have full control over your users in the same way that they do for other systems in your school, TAFE or university. Adding and deleting/disabling users is all done centrally. And you have control and visibility of the content and conversations that are happening.
Some of the key features of Yammer that are relevant for education customers are:
- Create and participate in groups – you can define groups and assign members, or your users can set up their own groups and invite members.
- Announcements – for everybody, or just specific groups. This can be used to send out important updates that everybody in a group needs (eg a teacher might use an announcement to send out a curriculum assignment)
- Praise – users can give and receive recognition, and accomplishments and badges appear on profiles
- Interact with other users – just like other social networks, you can @mention people, see who’s online, create private messages and share conversations. Plus users can create quick polls
- File and note sharing – users can upload Office documents, PDFs etc and share them across their groups. You can have user-uploaded content, as well as ‘Official content’, which appears higher in search results and content directories.
- IT managers will love the user management features, including Directory Sync, custom branding, and Keyword Monitoring (this allows you to track the use of sensitive keywords, and get instant alerts if they are used on your Yammer network)
What do I need to do to get Yammer Enterprise once it is available?
Once Yammer Enterprise is available, Office 365 Education tenant administrators will receive an activation link in their Office 365 admin portal. You then visit the Office 365 Admin Portal to begin the self-guided provisioning process. There’s a complete Yammer Activation Guide here. There are also additional resources on activation and provisioning from Yammer.