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Back to school with Microsoft Classroom and School Data Sync

It’s back-to-school time in the U.S. and many other countries, and we’re excited to invite you to the Microsoft Classroom Preview and the School Data Sync (SDS) Preview. IT admins can visit the preview instructions right now or (for a limited time) sign up to receive free one-on-one help directly from Microsoft.

Back in April, we announced new experiences for education and we’ve been humbled by the enthusiastic response. Teachers have used Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebooks to spark student creativity and enable more productive, collaborative classrooms. Schools and partners around the world have jumped on board to use School Data Sync, the easiest way to provision online classrooms in Office 365 Education.

With these products in Office 365 Education, everyone wins. School IT departments can save time and money, teachers can improve student outcomes and students can have better learning experiences. Our partners can more easily integrate with Office 365 and each other, and they can offer richer, more personalized experiences, while also saving time to market. And all of these benefits come at no additional charge.

Teachers save time with Microsoft Classroom

Teachers are busy. Many are passionate about the potential of technology in the classroom, but they’re even more passionate about their students. Teachers told us that they need technology that saves time, so that they can spend more time with their students.

A single experience—Microsoft Classroom is a single experience for managing all classes and assignment workflows for teachers and students. Teachers can use the Office documents and class materials they already have or create new ones using familiar Office applications like Word and PowerPoint.

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OneNote just got better—Teachers who like OneNote Class Notebooks will love Microsoft Classroom. It lets them create a Class Notebook for all the students in their class—with just one click. Assignments can reference materials from the Class Notebook, Office documents or online content. Teachers can create assignments for multiple classes at the same time, easily grade submissions and give private feedback. They can even grade offline submissions from students who hand in printed materials.

Classroom collaboration—Microsoft Classroom saves teachers even more time by giving them the ability to share work with their peers. They can reuse Office lesson plans and materials created by other teachers, collaborate to create new ones or have someone else co-teach the class. Students can work together in OneNote and the other Office applications or teach each other in the class discussion boards built in to every class. It all adds up to easier ways to achieve more in the classroom.

We have created an interactive guide, “Introducing Microsoft Classroom,” to give you an overview of Microsoft Classroom.

Online classroom automation with School Data Sync

School Data Sync (SDS) helps schools automatically create online classes used by Microsoft Classroom. It also helps Student Information System (SIS) and app partners to integrate with each other so they can build richer learning experiences for the classroom. SDS supports importing CSV files—so it supports virtually every SIS in the market.

Create teachers, students and classrooms in Office 365—School leaders have consistently told us that online classroom solutions can help accelerate learning. They’ve also told us that it can be costly to maintain the online classrooms because rosters naturally change throughout the year. Many schools store the roster data in the SIS, and many schools build custom solutions to mirror their rosters and user profiles within their online classrooms.

With SDS, IT admins can automatically import user profiles and rosters from their SIS into Office 365. When data in the SIS changes, SDS can sync those changes to Office 365—so classroom rosters always stay up to date. SDS doesn’t update the SIS during this process; the SIS remains the system of record for the roster data.

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“It really helped our teachers get off to a running start at the beginning of the school year,” says Rob Dickson, executive director of IMS for Omaha Public Schools. “Typically when you think of the start of the school year, creating all my classes manually is a huge time consumption. School Data Sync automates this task.” To learn more about the Omaha Public Schools journey with SDS, watch this video.

A platform for learning applications—After the user profiles and rosters are imported into Office 365, they become available to third-party applications through the free Azure Active Directory Graph API, so that apps can personalize their learning experiences. For example, reading apps can automatically show appropriate content without asking the student their grade level. With SDS, third-party apps and SIS partners can save costs by integrating with each other through a single platform—Office 365.

Heath Silverman, vice president of Marketing for Edmodo, says, “As the world’s number one K–12 social learning network, Edmodo is dedicated to connecting all learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential. Our customers and other app vendors need an easier, more standard way to integrate with the range of SISs in the market. SDS can simplify setup and management of digital classrooms, which makes lives easier for teachers, students and IT.” To learn more about how Edmodo and Microsoft worked together to solve big challenges like this for a large school district, read this article.

Single sign-on and Windows 10—Office 365 also helps app vendors to use single sign-on (SSO), which helps reduce learning friction so teachers can get more done in the classroom. Teachers have told us that it can be a challenge to get a room of 30 students to sign in to apps, especially if each student has a different password. With SSO, when the student is signed in to Office 365, they’re automatically signed in to all their SSO apps. The story gets even better with Windows 10 because it also supports SSO, so students can be automatically signed in to Office 365—and their apps—just by signing in to the device. With Office 365, supporting apps and Windows 10, teachers can get back valuable minutes for classroom instruction.

Get started today

The Microsoft Classroom Preview and the School Data Sync Preview are available in the U.S. and other regions.

Here’s how to get started:


School IT admins:

Partners (join us!):

App vendors:

SIS vendors and System Integrators:

  • Sign up to stay in touch on opportunities with SDS and Office 365.

We’re excited by the opportunity that these services bring to education. We hope you like them and we’re looking forward to hearing your feedback. Please let us know what you think.

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