Taking education to the cloud with Office 365
As youth unemployment continues to rise across Europe, today’s students are more pressured than ever before to make the most of their education and prepare themselves for the jobs of the future.
However, with ICT skills gaps of up to 13% forecast over the period 2010-2015, encouraging use of technology for learning and collaboration is vital to ensuring the longer term success of our economies. Providing access to IT has mutual benefits for students and European governments. IT enables today’s students to tackle the 21st century head on and ensures they are better prepared to compete for the higher-skilled jobs demanded by today’s knowledge economy. From a Government perspective, it will also modernise educational institutions and strengthen their reputations, helping to drive greater national competitiveness.
Cloud computing has obvious benefits in the education system. It lets students collaborate on documents wherever they are while reducing costs but increasing flexibility for academic organisations. For this reason, we’re beginning deployment of our full, no-cost Office 365 service to education customers this month. Microsoft Office 365 for education is a free solution and brings the power of cloud computing to the education system, helping to save time and money while increasing the productivity of students and academic institutions. Schools and universities have previously been able to obtain some aspects, but now the entire offering is available – bringing together email, word processing, spread sheets, presentations, document sharing and more for these users. At the same time, the robust security and privacy provisions for Office 365 ensure that critical educational data is properly safeguarded.
Data security was a key part of our offering for a recent high-profile customer signing to Office 365, the Catholic International Education Office (OIEC). Last month, we announced that the OIEC would be providing Office 365 to 4.5 million of its students as part of a three-year alliance, with the potential to scale to more than 43 million Catholic students globally. One of the major reasons that the OIEC took this path was the great security features built into Office 365 as standard, as well as the ability to build a network which provides innovative software, services, training and technology access to best prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs.
Office 365 is already being used by a number of other academic institutions around the region. This goal was also a priority for the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (EPHEC) in Belgium. EPHEC previously had an ageing email infrastructure, but by expanding its use of communications technology it helped to prepare students for the virtual world of work. Using Office 365 for education has helped to make students more flexible and mobile, as well as interact and communicate in new ways, which are vital skills in today’s jobs.
For schools in Scotland, Office 365 is being introduced to help support some of the government’s priorities for education. The Glow concept was introduced in 2001 with the aim of using online tools to support teachers and pupils in enhancing Scottish education. 11 years later, Glow had to move on. Office 365 for education is being rolled out to help improve the functionality of the Glow application suite – with the cloud well placed to help meet these needs. The University of Dundee chose Office 365 over Google Apps for similar reasons as they developed “a radical new approach to collaboration and communication that goes far beyond email.”
The cost benefits of moving to the cloud are also a major benefit we’re seeing for education users. In Germany, Zeppelin Universität is using Office 365 for education to provide a comprehensive range of programs for 2,000 teachers and students at the lowest possible cost. Working in the cloud saves internal resources, with lower overheads and reduced needs for hardware. In addition, our role in providing support lowers the time university staff needs to spend on IT issues.
Using workplace technology in teaching environments gives students a head start. Combining this with the cloud enhances the educational experience and enables skills development, showing them how to work as a team and use technology to help solve problems. With Office 365 for education now available in full and at no cost, we’re excited to be working with educators globally to help bring the benefits of innovative software to the classroom. Our belief is that this will translate to wider benefits for students as they move into the world of work – and supporting the next generation of business leaders in this way will lead to a stronger and more competitive Europe.