UPDATE 17th October: I’ve learnt that Bing Chat Enterprise (BCE) is going to be included for faculty who have M365 A3 or A5 licenses (h/t Amit Pawar, as per this link: Bing Chat Enterprise is in preview for Microsoft 365 A3 and A5 licenses for faculty users – Microsoft Edge Blog (windows.com). There are some caveats around this currently whilst in preview:
For users with Microsoft 365 A3 and A5 licenses for faculty, the Bing Chat Enterprise service plan isn’t yet available. See the following sections for specific instructions related to these licensesManage Bing Chat Enterprise | Microsoft Learn
Interestingly, this is going to be turned ON by default for tenants and you can turn it off by going to https://www.aka.ms/TurnOffBCE. If you’ve already turned it off and wish to turn it back on, then you can do so at https://aka.ms/TurnOnBCE – this change may take up to 48hrs to take effect. Given the enhanced benefits of using Bing Chat Enterprise, you may wish to turn off access to the consumer Bing Chat, with instructions on how to do that listed here. Microsoft shares a few ideas on what employees may wish to do with Bing Chat Enterprise such as:
If you would like to guide your teachers through some training on using Bing Chat Enterprise, there is a course on Microsoft Learn you can access here: Enhance teaching and learning with Bing Chat – Training | Microsoft Learn
UPDATE 3rd October: Within a couple of hours of writing this blog post I’ve see Microsoft has released a series of prompts for education audiences to improve their experience interacting with generative AI such as ChatGPT and Bing Chat I’ve added a section below to include this. Click here to skip straight to it.
Like many of the large technology organisations, Microsoft has made numerous recent announcements of AI powered offerings across their popular Windows and Microsoft 365 products. The umbrella product name Microsoft is using for their generative AI solutions is Copilot. This blog has four sections:
- What Will Windows Copilot Bring?
- Microsoft 365 Copilot
- Prompts for Education: Enhancing Productivity & Learning
As of September 2023, there are two primary ways this could be accessed by customers:
- Windows Copilot: arriving as part of the Windows 11 23H2 update, starting September 26th 2023 via Microsoft’s rolling updates to Windows customers
- Microsoft 365 Copilot: arriving as a paid SKU on 1st November 2023 that customers would need to purchase and assign to designated users.
Given the associated licensing costs for Microsoft 365 Copilot, most education customers are likely to experience the Windows Copilot features first. Outlined in detail in this blog from Microsoft, there are numerous enhancements to familiar applications in Windows that will be AI-powered. Before sharing some more details on this below, it is important for educational institutions to understand that they can delay/block these features if they wish for devices in their organisation if they are managed by Intune or other means that can deploy policy updates to Windows devices.
The Windows CSP for turning off access to Copilot is here – if this is not utilised then devices will receive the Copilot functionality automatically when they update to Windows 11 23H2. If you wish to pause/delay devices updating to Windows 11 23H2 altogether, the Windows CSP for controling feature updates is here.
What will Windows Copilot bring?
The Windows 11 23H2 feature update will bring over 150 updates to the OS, many of which will support Copilot and generative AI. There will be a Copilot icon on the taskbar by default, and it can be automatically activated by the pressing Win+C keyboard shortcut. Three of the feature applications that will integrate Copilot are in the area of creativity (example video here):
- Paint: clever new functionality will allow for AI drawing and digital creation, along with intelligent removal of backgrounds and adding layers (something typically found in more advanced image editing applications)
- Photos: enhanced image editing and powerful new searches if you’re using OneDrive Personal, where you can search for photos with natural language queries based on content inside them (e.g. ‘find photos with bikes in them’)
- It’s worth understanding that for this to happen OneDrive images will be searched and indexed automatically.
- Snipping Tool: Copilot will add the ability to extract text visible in images, as well as redact sensitive information such as names or email addresses. Users will also be able to add audio to images/videos created using the Snipping Tool
- While undeniably convenient, keep in mind this ability is likely based on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) functionality scanning and processing images and extracting text from them automatically (something many smartphones are doing already with photos taken). Take some time to understand any potential privacy concerns this functionality may create.
Windows Copilot will also bring enhancements to Outlook for Windows with support to write emails along with intelligently attaching documents from OneDrive. As part of Microsoft’s continuing commitment to accessibility, Copilot will add further enhancements to voice commands for controlling your PC.
The Windows 11 23H2 feature update will also bring enhancements to the Bing Copilot functionality. An example provided by Microsoft to showcase how this might work included if you’ve been following the progress of a soccer team through Bing and you then plan a trip to a city it will automatically check if that team is playing in the city during the time of your visit. Users can optionally turn off the ability for Bing to leverage chat history (this needs to be done per user, per device – there does not appear to be an organisational configuration for this at this time).
Another creative feature that will be unlocked is the Bing Image Creator, leveraging the OpenAI DALLE 3 generative AI functionality for original image creation. Interestingly, Microsoft is introducing Content Credentials, an invisible watermark showing when the image was first created (example video here).
A final note on security – this feature update will introduce the ability to use Passkeys for Windows users, a more secure and arguably faster way to log into websites and apps that support these. With passkeys, a user can use Windows Hello to sign in with a PIN, facial recognition, or fingerprint instead of entering a username and password each time.
Microsoft 365 Copilot
As mentioned earlier, this will be a paid SKU and launching on November 1st 2023 and before rushing out to purchase a few licenses for earlier adopters.
It’s worth noting that Microsoft 365 Chat combs across your entire universe of data at work, including emails, meetings, chats, documents and more, plus the web. Therefore, it’s worth considering how prepared your organisation is from a data sharing and restriction perspective before simply turning this on and giving it a try.
With Copilot, Microsoft is also introducing new capabilities in Outlook, Word, Excel, Loop, OneNote, OneDrive and Bing Chat Enterprise (example video here).
The requirements for accessing this new functionality include:
- Microsoft 365 E3/E5 licenses
- AzureAD accounts for users
- M365 Apps set to ‘Current Channel’ if users want to experience Copilot in the desktop apps (instead of just the Office Online apps)
- To leverage cross-app intelligence experiences in Teams, you’ll need to enable plugins using the Teams admin center.
A critical consideration for organisations is the current state of their M365 tenant sharing and permissions. If these are too lenient, Copilot will trawl and index content that will be surfaced up to users in ways the institution may not want creating challenges around oversharing and data governance. Therefore, I suggest you watch this video, and read this article to get details on how to adopt content management best practices as the full breadth of data sources Copilot will draw include the organizational content in your Microsoft 365 tenant, including users’ calendars, emails, chats, documents, meetings, contacts, and more.
Ultimately, the richness of the Microsoft 365 Copilot experience depends on the volume of data that is accessible in the tenant, so there is a balancing act between restricting access to content through appropriate sharing permissions and opening up contact to Copilot to add value and save time.
A couple of points of clarification: Copilot does not use the organisational data or user prompts to train the foundational AI model and nor does it use the public OpenAI services that power the free functionality found in Bing Chat. Instead, all processing is achieved using Azure OpenAI services.
Prompts for Education: Enhancing Productivity & Learning
I see that the Microsoft Education team have released as series of prompts to help the education community engage more effectively with generative AI such as ChatGPT and Bing Chat – you can find the link to the prompts here. If you’re wondering what these are, the GitHub repository describes them as follows:
Welcome to the Prompts for Education repository! Our mission is to transform the way students, educators, and staff in K-12 and higher education institutions interact with generative AI technology like ChatGPT and Bing Chat. By using these prompts, staff can save time and work more efficiently, and students can explore new and exciting learning opportunities.
Whether you’re a student, a third-grade teacher, a college professor, or a school administrator, this collection is designed with you in mind. No technical expertise required!GitHub – microsoft/prompts-for-edu
If you’re still wondering precisely what a prompt is, then here’s the definition:
Think of a prompt as a special question or statement that you can give to an artificial intelligence model like GPT. It’s designed to provide you with information, insights, or even creative ideas tailored to your needs. It’s like having a knowledgeable assistant at your fingertips!GitHub – microsoft/prompts-for-edu
These prompts have been refined by role in the school:
From what I see and read, the key to using generative AI effectively is to use intelligent prompts to get the most useful answers back (the old adage of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ still applies!).
In conclusion, Microsoft Copilot appears to replace much of the functionality previously offered by Cortana (a service that is now discontinued) but do it in a more intelligent way by accessing an organisation’s content in the paid Microsoft 365 Copilot, and user input and OpenAI models in the free Windows Copilot version coming in the Windows 11 23H2 feature update. Educational institutes should be actively considering how this technology may impact users and take necessary steps to provide guidance if allowing these features to roll out to users, or consider pausing them until the impact is more fully evaluated.
Furthermore, seeing Microsoft release prompts to help educators and students engage more effectively with generative AI is a helpful thing and I can imagine educators will leap on this and help refine these further and share with the broader education community.