American International School of Bucharest chooses Office 365 over Google Apps for students

Imagine a world in which students can quickly join a videoconference to collaborate on a school project, instant message (IM) their teacher to obtain clarification on a homework assignment, or connect with students from their drama club, debate club, or sports team via their school’s social network. That is exactly the world that the American International School of Bucharest (AISB) is working to create. By moving to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based productivity service, AISB is rapidly redefining the school’s learning environment at every level.

“Office 365 provides a solid foundation for change, opening up innovative ways to improve student achievement and performance,” says Johnson Jacob, AISB’s IT director.

Founded in 1962, AISB has gradually grown to include 800 students from 56 nationalities, many of whom go on to attend some of the world’s most prestigious universities. To support its vigorous curriculum, the school decided to update its IT infrastructure, and as a first step, conducted an internal audit. The results of the audit were startling. The school realized it had been relying on 49 disparate systems and subsystems for its educational solutions, email, and collaborative work—all of which created high administrative costs and user support challenges.

To reduce its costs and better support student needs, AISB decided to move to the cloud. The school completed a detailed analysis of both Microsoft Office 365 for Education and Google Apps for Education, comparing the competing cloud-based services in 11 different categories. In the end, AISB chose Office 365 for its ease of use and for the high quality of Microsoft’s local consultancy services.

Working with Microsoft partner ECKO Systems & Consulting to migrate its on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, AISB transitioned its 800 students and 175 teachers and administrators to Office 365 in a single weekend. “It was one of the most systematic and smooth system changeovers I’ve managed during my 30-plus year career,” says Jacob. “Almost nobody felt the passing from the old to the new.”

Since implementing Office 365, AISB has improved the education process in several ways. First, Office 365’s compatibility with a wide range of devices has paved the way for a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture in which students can engage in learning anytime, anywhere from nearly any device. No longer do students experience software compatibility or formatting issues. Instead, they can work productively wherever they are—whether at school, at home, at the library, or on vacation.

Second, Office 365 has created a foundation for a more collaborative learning environment, allowing AISB to place greater emphasis on teamwork and collaborative group projects. One of the first steps in the implementation was to leverage the power of SharePoint Online as the foundation and framework to build a number of team sites. These team sites are helping to centralize communication and enhance document management through smart workflows. Furthermore, AISB is exploring the presence capabilities of Lync Online along with improved functionally through OneNote 2013 as a way to extend the teaching and learning experiences for all students and teachers.

Johnson Jacob, IT director at the American International School of Bucharest

Johnson Jacob, IT director at the American International School of Bucharest

While the benefits have been significant, they are just the beginning. To transform the learning landscape even further, the school has begun to explore other applications of Office 365, such as the social networking capabilities of Yammer, the paperless instruction possibilities of Office 2013 with enhanced cloud-based integration, and the well-designed and elegant organizational capabilities of SharePoint Online.

“Migrating to Office 365 has not only meant a change in technology, but also a large pedagogical shift in how we do business,” says Jacob. “Every day, teachers are leveraging the power of Office 365 to reinvent learning. The opportunity for transforming our core education processes is huge.”

To learn more, please read the AISB case study published in Romanian on the Microsoft Romania website.

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