Office 365 Education is a comprehensive platform of tools and apps that provide teachers, staff members, and students with access to communication tools, document editing, file sharing, storage, email, class websites, assignments, classroom materials, and much more. Everything is accessed in the cloud to promote collaboration, learning, and improved productivity in real-time.
According to many education experts, Office 365 Education ticks all the boxes when it comes to powerful tools for effective classroom teaching and learning. In this article, we will cover the basics of Office 365 Education and how it’s features and functions can make classroom management, school communication and learning a whole lot easier.
Why is Office 365 Education so popular with schools?
More schools are finding that Office 365 is a great option because it streamlines everyday tasks, productivity, learning and communications on a more modern level. Office 365 offers an abundance of features including the traditional Office applications combined with new apps and tools that help to tie everyone together.
The education version of Office 365 is specifically designed for schools and universities. Office 365 Education offers comprehensive tools used for effective and accurate scheduling, video and audio conferencing, intranet classroom collaboration, document editing in real-time, project management in a complete learning environment, assignments, announcements, and more. This gives you more flexibility and better management across your educational institution without the exorbitant price tag.
All schools, teachers, and students are eligible to use the platform which offers Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher in addition to the classroom tools provided in the plan. Educational institutions and IT professionals can get started with Office 365 Education simply by signing up your school. All you need to get started is a valid school email address.
What is Microsoft Classroom?
Microsoft Classroom is a homepage that helps students and teachers manage classroom materials and assignments using intuitive classroom management tools. Using Microsoft Classroom, teachers can manage handouts and assignments in addition to multiple sections of a class such as Earth Science A and Earth Science B. As long as your institution has activated SharePoint licenses and access to the same version of Office 365 for Education, you can use Microsoft Classroom.
Microsoft Classroom also offers built-in features such as Microsoft Forms that allow you to easily create quizzes, Sway for classroom presentations, a variety of learning tools, and Class Notebooks. Additionally, there are tools for managing grades, collaborating with students, and accessing materials in the event of student absence from school.
Using the built-in Sway application, teachers can use Microsoft Classroom to create review sessions, interactive web-based lessons, newsletters, and assignments directly from any device with a web browser. A separate professional section also allows you to collaborate with colleagues and participate in Professional Learning Communities.
The types of apps and capabilities you can access depend upon the plan you choose. Office 365 for Education is available in a free version and a paid version known as Office 365 Education E5. E5 is very affordable at just £4.90 per student user per month and £6.53 per teacher per month (at the time of writing!) Both versions have an unlimited user maximum.
A quick overview of the Office 365 for Education Apps.
Office 365 for Education provides powerful apps and tools that help students and teachers set up a central location for all class materials, reach students of all learning styles with individualised learning, provide students with individual help using private notebooks, create interesting and interactive lessons, and collaborate on projects in real-time without losing document formatting.
The apps and capabilities include:
- Complete Office applications that are fully installed (Office 365 Education E5 only). This includes Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, OneNote, and Publisher which can be installed on up to 5 devices per user.
- Fully installed Office applications for mobile devices (Office 365 Education E5 only). This covers installation on up to five phones and five tablets for each user.
- Online versions of Office are available for both plans. This includes word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
- SharePoint Online provides seamless sharing for a smooth transition from home to school and collaboration between teacher and student.
- Unlimited online collaboration. This includes web conferencing, high definition video, Instant Messaging, and audio.
- File sharing and storage with 1TB (terabyte) of storage for each user (at the time of writing).
- A social network to facilitate collaboration among students and across educational departments.
- Work management tools and an Intranet site allow students and teachers to communicate, perform teamwork, access files and tasks, and view conversations. The Intranet offers security settings that can be customised to meet specific privacy requirements.
- A video portal allows you to upload and share videos across the school.
- Enterprise class email applications improve organisation and communication across the board. This app includes a 50GB inbox for each user in addition to access to calendars and contacts. Information is also protected via data loss prevention and rights management tools to preserve email messages.
- Compliance solution help you to meet security standards for preserving archives, mailbox information, and other data.
- Access to Skype for Business allows teachers and students to join meetings and discussion using a smartphone or landline phone. Additionally, you have access to cloud PBX which allows calls to be made and received across a wide variety of devices (Office 365 Education E5 only).
- Access to Office Graph provides a way to customise search and discovery across the entire Office 365 platform.
Microsoft also provides a 99.9% uptime guarantee which is supported by a detailed Service Level Agreement (SLA).
When you sign up your school for a plan, the Office 365 platform is equipped with advanced data security applications, in addition to Active Directory integration which allows IT staff to control access using permissions and user credentials.
12 Great Reasons for schools to switch to Office 365 Education.
1. Office 365 is Cost Effective
Office 365 Education can be accessed from anywhere which enables everyone to easily work and collaborate. Additionally, Office 365 is online which means there are no complicated installations. Plus, you automatically have access to the latest updates without being required to purchase a new license as in the past. Office 365 is also backwards compatible with older versions of Microsoft Office.
By using Office 365 Education, you can free up valuable resources while reducing IT costs associated with server maintenance, application deployment, security, and infrastructure management. Microsoft oversees these responsibilities with a guarantee in the Service Level Agreement.
2. Increased Student Engagement
Because Office 365 has anytime anywhere access students can easily stay connected with the classroom and learning community. The robust set of collaboration, communication, and learning tools help students to stay interested and engaged in classroom learning, regardless of where they are.
3. Better Staff Collaboration
OneNote Staff Notebook allows teachers to configure shared work spaces using notebooks that provide collaboration space, notebook sharing with education leaders, and a content library which allows school leaders to share course materials and other information with teachers and staff members.
4. Improved Productivity Using Outlook Web App
Outlook Web App allows you to view and share calendars online, set up meetings, and configure automatic reminders. As a teacher, you can post the times you are available using the Outlook Web App and encourage students to book specific times for extra help.
The Outlook Web App allows you to set up team class projects and monitor students’ progress on the project during the evening hours. Color coding allows you to see who is online to identify who is working and who is not.
The Outlook Web App in conjunction with Lync Online is a powerful tool for instantly responding to emergencies. When you are logged into Office 365, simply access the People area and send an IM emergency notification to reception who are always logged in.
Lync Online allows you to open up your classroom to students who are absent from school by making a call to the student on your PC or mobile device at the start of a lesson. Then you simply use screen sharing to allow the student to participate in the lesson.
Lync Online also allows teachers to attend a conference for the day without missing important class time. When you arrive at your meeting, you can set up another device and connect to Lync Online. This allows you to intervene and help out using the Lync Online Whiteboard while at your meeting and then have the cover teacher complete the class.
Lync Online does not follow school hours and instead, is available 24/7 to provide students with extra help using the Lync Online virtual whiteboard.
5. Unified Access to Documents and Materials with OneDrive
OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage solution that allows teachers and students to store up to 1TB of data (at the time of writing!) This means no more forgotten homework assignments while improving collaboration and sharing. OneDrive is accessible from any device and provides online and offline access in addition to co-authoring of documents in real-time.
6. Streamlined Communication Using SharePoint Online
SharePoint allows you to use the included templates to create a school intranet for media and file sharing. Additionally, you can use it to create announcements, build classroom communities, and foster parent communication.
Many teachers use SharePoint to create starter activities using the discussion app. This allows students to develop ideas on a specific topic before a classroom discussion takes place.
The Task App ensures students will never forget their homework for class. This app is used to configure homework according to date and set reminders for students of due deadlines. You can also attach the homework file to the app and then promote it on the classroom page so students immediately see it when they first log on.
SharePoint Online can be used to offer individualised guidance using differentiated learning resources to accommodate varied learning styles. This is done using the announcement app and allows students to move on to the next activity without having to wait for the teacher to continue to the next phase of the lesson.
Many teachers use SharePoint Online to create a flipped classroom by using the class site to post material for students to work on in the evening. Along with the materials you post, you can ask students to post questions individually and in collaboration with their peers. Students are able to see the material before the lesson which makes it easier to understand when the teacher delivers the classroom presentation.
7. Real-Time Collaboration with Web Apps
Office 365 Web Apps allow the students to edit documents across multiple devices simply by using a web browser.
Web Apps consist of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and One Note. Using Web Apps, teachers and students can work on the same document simultaneously. This helps to facilitate the continuation of collaborative project both at home and in school.
Web Apps are also very useful for peer assessment and work support. Additionally, many schools also use Web Apps for after school organisations such as the school newspaper, planning school events, and other activities that take place after school hours.
8. OneNote Helps Keep Students Organised
OneNote allows you and your students to keep everything all in one place. You never have to switch applications to find what you need. Using OneNote students can organise class notes, homework deadlines, handouts, classroom materials, and assignments and then link them all together and access them from anywhere.
OneNote will decipher handwriting and convert it to text that is searchable. Students can also use OneNote for math equations by typing in the formula and pressing the space bar after the equal sign.
With OneNote you can also set up shared notebooks, name section groups, add students, and customise student notebooks. OneNote Notebooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
9. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Helps Cut Costs
Office 365 for Education allows student to bring their own devices to school. This option is financially attractive for schools with budget limitations. As long as the device is web enabled, students can access their work from anywhere at any time.
10. Teacher Dashboard Streamlines Classroom Material Distribution
The Teacher Dashboard allows you to use class management tools to immediately distribute documents, handouts, and files to students in real-time. Files can also be shared directly from the dashboard using the `Complete` folder for classroom assignments.
11. Better Administration
Office 365 for Education services can be easily managed using any web browser by using the Power Shell commands that help you to automate many tasks. This allows you to save time and focus on other important initiatives.
12. Improved Disaster Recovery
Microsoft uses secure data centers for storing data. Each data center deploys redundancy to ensure all data is backed up on a regular basis. This provides educational institutions with peace of mind in the event of data loss and helps schools to meet data compliance requirements without the expense of IT infrastructure.
As you can see, Office 365 Education has a LOT to offer your school. And, we have only touched on the basics.
If you make the decision to adopt Office 365 Education, the secret to success lies in the planning of its implementation and the manner in which you choose to deploy it across the school. This requires examining learning needs and requirements to ensure the application is customised to meet your specific school environment.
About Our ICT.
Established for over two decades, Our ICT provides a comprehensive range of ICT support services and technology solutions to the UK education sector. We work closely with teachers, Business Managers and internal ICT departments, providing day-to-day technician support, strategic guidance and expert advice.
As a Microsoft Authorised Education Reseller and a Microsoft Gold Partner, we’ve introduced many schools to Office 365 Education. We can provide expert Office 365 consultancy to your existing ICT function, or we can take full ownership of Office 365 deployment projects on school premise.