The Garage Series: Office 365 in education–putting IT, teacher and student advantages to the test

Not everyone knows that Office 365 Education A2 is free for students, faculty and staff. This week’s show puts the free tools and experiences to the test in the classroom to enable seamless communications and collaboration between students and across iOS, Android, Mac and Windows devices. It also shows how teachers can use Office 365 to enhance classroom experiences plus explores automated IT processes for enrollment, course site creation and calendaring. Hosts Jeremy Chapman and Jim Lucey bring in recent university grads, Marissa Salazar and Yahya Hague, to discuss their experiences and demonstrate how free Office 365 services could be used in the classroom. Jeremy also returns to Madrid to catch up with industry expert, Jethro Seghers, to get the European perspective. Enjoy the show.

Just before the holiday break, we had a two-part special for setting up Office 365 in a small business environment and getting application experiences across a huge range of devices. We came up with the idea for shows to answer some of the most common questions that we get among small business users from initial set-up to provisioning users and devices for your organization as well as which small business package to choose. Similarly this week we thought we would start the new year by reviewing Office 365 in the classroom in a show dedicated to education. We take a look to the classroom and how the free Office 365 Education services can provide new experiences available to for students, faculty and IT staff.

One pattern I started to see as we were planning out this show was that many of the demands users have in a managed IT environment (think corporate IT) are similar in a university or education setting. People want to be able to use their device of choice and IT departments want sufficient controls and automation capabilities to make their lives easier. The one thing you can’t rely on in an education setting are equivalent device management capabilities. Even though many businesses are going to a bring your own device or BYOD strategy, education is largely born BYOD. So things like Active Directory domain join or mobile device management policies don’t usually apply to the largest portion of a university IT department’s customers – the students. While some universities are opting for expensive virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, most don’t see the value or want to provide native or browser-based experiences in favor of better student experience.

The nice thing about the Office 365 stack is that it can work well in BYOD environments spanning multiple platforms. Even the recently announced Student Advantage offer for Office 365 Education –  where you get Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost when an institutions purchases Office for faculty and staff – students can be empowered to install their own apps across all of their devices using a common Office 365 account and without the need to use systems management tools or distribute media. In this show, we focused on all of the free experiences in Office 365 Education A2 – ranging from email and document collaboration in SharePoint, to Office Web Apps, OWA for iPad, calendaring, online meetings and more across the platforms students demand.

Real-time co-authoring between Marissa’s PC and Yahya’s iPad

I also take a minute to highlight some of the possible integration scenarios – like using enrollment system data to automatically provision user accounts, course-related SharePoint sites, class schedules in device calendars and email confirmations of course enrollment using tools like PowerShell scripting and the extensibility Office 365 has to integrate with in-house systems.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Garage Series show without lots of demos, architectural sketches and third party expert insights. You’ll have to watch the show to see all of that. Next time, we kick-off another multi-part series and we’ll bring back Office Ninja, Tal Kryzpow, to show off some advanced client features while I try to answer our users’ frequently-asked questions. Keep checking back Wednesdays to see the latest Office 365 Garage Series shows.

Thanks for watching and best wishes for 2014!

–Jeremy Chapman

More resources

Office 365 Education site

Announcing Student Advantage (blog)

Office 365 Education Plans

Garage Series Video Channel

Garage Series Season 1 Blog Archive

Follow @OfficeGarage on Twitter

About the Garage Series hosts

By day, Jeremy Chapman works at Microsoft, responsible for optimizing the future of Office client and service delivery as the senior deployment lead. Jeremy’s background in application compatibility, building deployment automation tools and infrastructure reference architectures has been fundamental to the prioritization of new Office enterprise features such as the latest Click-to-Run install. By night, he is a car modding fanatic and serial linguist. Jim Lucey is a Senior Operations PM on the Office 365 team with a long history in Office 365 looking after migrations and the education experience. When he isn’t running after his two boys at home or during Garage Series filming, he runs competitively in marathons across the United States.