The Salesian School of Hong Kong has been testing Microsoft Office 365, a comprehensive productivity solution, as a way to bring students and teachers closer together. By using videoconferencing and cloud-based document editing and sharing, teachers can extend learning and meet with students after hours. The school can free up more time for teaching, avoid expensive technology investments, and leave technology management to Microsoft.
The Salesian School of Hong Kong was established in 1951 by the Roman Catholic Salesian Congregation of Saint John Bosco. A key tenet of the Salesian method is cultivation of the whole person—academically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. To achieve this, Salesian schools emphasize relationships between students and teachers outside of the classroom, and class time often extends beyond the regular school day.
When in-person meetings are not possible, the 40 staff members and 320 students in the Salesian School of Hong Kong have depended on email messaging to stay in touch. However, email is a poor substitute for face-to-face interactions. “I thought that something like videoconferencing would fill the gap, but we could not afford the cost,” says Andy Li, Teacher and IT Administrator at the Salesian School of Hong Kong. “Our school is subsidized by the government, and any new capital expenditure requires a lengthy proposal and approval process. I really wanted an inexpensive web-based solution that would be easy for teachers and students to learn.”
||Office 365 is a great platform for e-learning.… Teachers can … point students to assignments on SharePoint Online, then be available for questions using Lync Online.
Teacher, Salesian School of Hong Kong
Beyond videoconferencing, the school wanted to pursue e-learning, or technology-enhanced learning, both within and outside the classroom. In addition to an inexpensive videoconferencing system, the Salesian School wanted an easy way for teachers and students to share documents. The school had a file-share server for storing student records, exams, and curricula materials, but, for security reasons, teachers could not access it from outside the school. Teachers wanted an easy and safe way to share materials with one another and with students without sending constant email messages.Solution
In early 2011, Li learned from his local Microsoft representative about Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses, a set of cloud-based email, calendaring, collaboration, and conferencing services combined with web-based versions of the popular Microsoft Office programs. He and another staff member joined an Early Adopter Program and tested the service for several weeks.
“Because I am a teacher, I do not come from an IT background, but I found Office 365 very, very easy to use,” Li says. “Administrative rights are easy to set up. I can sign in once and turn my PC into an online office. “
Li and his colleague were very excited about Microsoft Lync Online, the instant messaging and videoconferencing element in Office 365. With Lync Online, they were able to have multiparty videoconferences with push-button simplicity. They used Microsoft SharePoint Online, the collaboration element in Office 365, to create a website and post documents to team sites. “Previously, I had used [Adobe] Dreamweaver to create webpages, but SharePoint Online is much easier to use,” Li says. “I simply type my content in the space provided.”
Li sees a great e-learning opportunity in using SharePoint Online as a document exchange for students and teachers. “Teachers can share assignments and resources with students; students can download and complete assignments, and then post them back to a secure SharePoint site,” he says. “Teachers can better monitor student progress.” Of course, email messaging is still needed, and the school will have this through Microsoft Exchange Online, the email component of Office 365.
Students and teachers can use Microsoft Office Web Apps to make changes to documents created in existing Microsoft Office programs. “We did not have the compatibility issues with Office Web Apps that we had with Google Docs,” Li says. “There is no loss of formatting when documents move from the desktop to the cloud. I can easily store my documents in the cloud and reopen and work on them again from anywhere.”Benefits
The Salesian School of Hong Kong is looking forward to delivering new e-learning capabilities for extending learning time and giving teachers more flexible collaboration options without burdening the school with high costs and extra work.
By using Office 365, the Salesian School of Hong Kong can more easily extend learning beyond the school day and help teachers and students stay in touch. “Office 365 is a great platform for e-learning,” Li says. “Our class periods are only 35 minutes. With Office 365, teachers can restructure class time and point students to assignments on SharePoint Online, then be available for questions using Lync Online. Over vacation breaks, teachers could talk to an entire class so that students don’t fall behind. All the while, students are being exposed to the latest technology.”
Better Teacher Communication
Teachers can also use Office 365 to stay in touch with one another. “Our teachers have busy schedules that make it nearly impossible to have deep conversions at school,” Li says. “With Lync Online, our teachers can have discussions and meetings from home, where they are more comfortable and less stressed.” Teachers can also share and discuss lesson plans, student performance, and other issues in the cloud without the security concerns related to accessing school servers.
More Time for Teaching, Cost Avoidance
With Office 365, Salesian School teachers will gain new communications capabilities without having to invest significant learning time or purchase computer equipment. “We’ve been interested in exploring e-learning for some time, but the staff did not want to spend the time learning something new,” Li says. “Office 365 is familiar to both teachers and students and will help us move forward.”
Office 365 will also eliminate time previously spent troubleshooting technology problems. “With Office 365, Microsoft takes care of the whole infrastructure for us and eliminates the extra time drain of teachers dealing with technology problems,” Li says. “Plus, we won’t have to buy a server or storage, add security hardware and software, and organize training courses. It’s all there in the cloud.”
For more information about Microsoft Office, go to: