For me, one of the most underrated technologies within education is cloud technology. I have witnessed universities transform the way they work once they begin to make use of the cloud and all its capabilities. Microsoft offer one of, if not, the best cloud platforms with Office 365. This is a completely FREE product for institutes within education. Many see Office 365 as just an emailing system and many schools use it just as that, when in fact it offers so much more. With Office 365 you get cloud storage, Office online, calendars and a number of applications. I feel that in the past 12 months the education team at Microsoft have driven the company to the number one spot when it comes to an educational cloud platform, which they are constantly updating and improving.
Office 365 gives you a cloud version of the apps we have all grown to love plus many more new ones. With the likes of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you have the ability to work on a document on the move on any type of device, at any time. It is compatible with any operating system as it’s a web-based product. With real time-saving technology, you never have to worry about whether you have saved a document or where you have saved it. Office 365 also brings in new applications like Sway, Microsoft Classroom, Yammer and Forms: offering different presentation options; a safe, personalised social network and a quiz-based assessment tool.
One of the biggest advantages of using the cloud is the ability to share and work collaboratively.
Office 365 gives you and your students the ability to work together effectively and easily.
From whichever application you are working in you are able to share your work with a click of a button. No longer do you have to email a document back and forth with version one, version two, the definitive final version, etc. Office 365 allows people to work jointly on the same document, at the same time, from anywhere! This amazes me. When students use it for the first time, the look of wonder on their faces is something to capture. They love being able to complete their tasks co-operatively with their partner or in a group, while not having to work on the same device or even in the same room to do so.
Perhaps one of Microsoft’s most hidden gems is OneNote. Only today I was showing a governor how to use Office 365 and OneNote. They were so impressed with its ease of use and effectiveness that within minutes they were ready to use it independently. For those of you who haven’t used OneNote before, I would definitely recommend that you take a look at it. It gives you that one place to work and collate all your information. Also included in Office 365 is OneNote Class Notebook, which allows a teacher to create a notebook specific to their class and automatically set out the permissions needed for that notebook. It gives you a collaboration space to work in, a content library to set work or add resources for the students and then a space for the students to work individually. Each section has its very own special permissions so it leaves the teacher not having to worry about who has access to the student’s documents.
One of the biggest advantages of Office 365 is the cost-saving implications of it. Many schools still use the likes of a virtual learning platform; that comes at a high cost and can be difficult to manage and keep updated. In fact, it could be replaced entirely by Office 365 which is completely free to schools and offers much more by way of functionality. Office 365 also gives you access to a secure One Drive with 1TB of space, doing away with a need for additional memory sticks, hard drives or even, in some cases, servers. A safe, virus-free, accessible space for files, documents, photos and data.
I have witnessed universities transform the way they work once they begin to make use of the cloud and all its capabilities
Office 365 enables teachers to put the learning into the students’ hands. With tools like Office Mix and OneNote Class Notebook one is able to give the students the tools to teach themselves, whilst being monitored by the teacher. Office 365 really does help bring that excitement back into the classroom.
If your institute has a Microsoft volume licensing agreement you can make use of upgrading your Office 365 licenses to the Pro Plus version. This gives every user the availability to download Office Professional Plus on up to five devices and allows you to log into mobile app versions of the Office apps.
This cloud technology really does have the potential to revolutionise the way your university teaches, organises itself and uses technologies.
A very cost-effective way of making your university more efficient, whilst offering useful platforms for staff, students and the wider community. Now who wouldn’t want that?