Microsoft Education Cloud Solution: End To End Guide For Deployment

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2017 has been the year that has seen the various pieces of Microsoft’s Education offerings come together in a more cohesive, end-to-end offering that can now be deployed very easily by schools or their ICT partners.

Naturally, this is centered around Office365 and the power of the Azure cloud identity with Azure Active Directory, combined with the recent Creators Updates in Windows 10 providing a great overall solution for educators and students alike.

To the make the process of deploying this even easier, Microsoft have released a great step by step guide, with accompanying videos. The overview article, and the best place to start if you’re new to all of this, can be found at the following link:

Deploy & manage a full cloud IT solution with Microsoft Education

What is Microsoft Education?

Microsoft Education consists of these new and existing services and tools from Microsoft:

  • Microsoft Intune for Education for simple set up, control, and management of the resources for your school including apps, devices, and settings
  • Office 365 for Education provides online apps for work from anywhere and desktop apps for advanced functionality, built for working together and available across devices, and it’s free for schools, teachers, and students
    • School Data Sync to help automate the process for importing and integrating School Information System (SIS) data that you can use with Office 365
    • OneNote Class Notebook to organize course content, create and deliver interactive lessons to some or all students, collaborate and provide private feedback to individual students, and connect with major LMS and SIS partners for assignment workflow
  • Microsoft Teams to bring conversations, content, and apps together in one place and create collaborate classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with school staff
  • Learning Tools are moving beyond the OneNote desktop app and is now available in Office Lens, OneNote Online, Word Online, and Word desktop
  • Whiteboard to create interactive lessons on the big screen, share and collaborate real-time by connecting to Class Notebook and Classroom
  • Windows 10, version 1703 (Creators Update) which brings 3D for everyone and other new and updated Windows features
  • Minecraft: Education Edition which provides an open and immersive environment to promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving

I’ve collated the following video guides from the individual instruction pages which are all worth checking out, with the goal of having a “one stop shop” for school IT admins to be able source all the help they need to deploy and maintain Microsoft Education.

In the following walkthrough videos, we’ll show you the basics on how to:

  • Acquire an Office 365 for Education tenant, if you don’t already have one
  • Import school, student, teacher, and class data using School Data Sync (SDS)
  • Deploy Microsoft Teams to enable groups and teams in your school to communicate and collaborate
  • Manage apps and settings deployment with Intune for Education
  • Acquire additional apps in Microsoft Store for Education
  • Use the Set up School PCs app to quickly set up and provision your Windows 10 education devices
  • Log in and use the devices

So, let’s get started with the setup process!

Set Up An Office365 Education Tenant

(full instructions here)

Use School Data Sync To Import Data

(full instructions here)

Enable Microsoft Teams For Your School

(full instructions here)

There is no video for this one, but the step by step instructions on the link above are very easy to follow along with.

Configure Microsoft Store For Education

(full instructions here)

Use Intune For Education To Manage Groups, Apps, and Settings

(full instructions here)

Set Up Windows 10 Education Devices

(full instructions here)

There is no video for this one either, however the above link shows you how to use the free Set Up School PCs App to quickly deploy new devices and join them to Azure Active Directory (AAD) – this process usually takes less than 5mins for a brand new device out of the box.

Finish Windows 10 Device Setup & Other Tasks

(full instructions here)

Conclusion

It’s now easier than ever before to quickly set up a feature rich educational environment using the Microsoft cloud offerings of Office365 combined with Windows 10 devices.

I hope the above guides help but if you have further questions, drop them in the comments section below.

Hack The Classroom Is Back

hacktheclassroom.PNGMicrosoft run an annual “Hack the Classroom” event designed to engage teachers and inspire them with the teaching of computational thinking in their curriculum areas. You can learn more about this online event on June 27th at the following link:

Hack The Classroom 2017

By attending this session you will:

  • Learn from teachers by taking a glimpse into their classrooms to see how new tools are creating new possibilities
  • Engage, interact, and pose questions with speakers, product team members, and other educators
  • Gain access to professional development resources and tools to get started

You can calculate your local time zone for this event by clicking here.

This session will also include further information about the recently released Code Builder functionality for Minecraft Education Edition. Talking with educators, this is one of the most requested features for Minecraft EE and is a perfect way to teach computational thinking within a gamified environment like Minecraft.

If you are a teacher that has been wondering how you can include STEM/STEAM related content into your classes this is a great opportunity for you to be connected and inspired.

Tools To Support Deployment of Windows 10 & Secure Assessment

windows-10-educationFrom my experience working in schools over the last decade, there are two common challenges faced by teachers and support staff:

  • Quickly configuring and deploying school computers
  • Securely managing online assessment with devices

Schools are constantly looking for new ways to streamline the setup and deployment of computers in their environment and there is a huge variety of methodologies to achieve this. Some can be scaled more effectively than others, however these often require considerable ICT skills to achieve. Similarly, to be able to lock down devices to reduce the chance of cheating during assessment is not as easy as it sounds.

With Windows 10, Microsoft have released a number of tools to assist schools with these problems. Firstly, here is an overview of the wider features from Microsoft in Education:

Set Up School PCs App:

This app is designed to make it easy for non-technical teaching staff to easily configure and deploy Windows 10 to new computers, using nothing more than a USB Key. Instructions on how to do this can be seen here:

My Take: Whilst this is not as powerful as other tools available for imaging machines, it’s definitely a good starting point for schools to get standard configurations onto devices quickly. For newer, often cheaper, devices that do not have a network port on it, then this USB deployment method is cheap and efficient.

Take a Test App:

This app tackles the tricky situation faced by many schools: teachers want to use digital platforms for assessment but restrict access to content on the device or internet during the assessment period. With Windows 10, user accounts can now be configured to provide secure, locked down assessment conditions on the device to achieve fairness and parity during the assessment. See the following video for more information:

My Take: As more assessment is happening on devices, it makes sense to standardise on certain assessment conditions. In some situations it’s appropriate for it to be an “open book” test, where local files and resources can be accessed, along with the internet. However, in other situations you’re genuinely looking to assess student knowledge retention and, through Windows 10 and the Take a Test App, schools can ensure that both formative and summative assessment can be securely completed in an equal setting.

Windows 10 vs Competitor Devices:

It is features like the above, new in Windows 10, that offer increased value for schools. Many are now re-evaluating the role of competitor devices and the following link has a handy table comparing Windows 10 devices with other popular devices in schools:

Click here to see the feature comparison table.

The bottom line is Windows 10 equips students to do more with their devices through the use of powerful applications like Office 365, OneNote and Minecraft Education Edition. These rich, desktop applications, along with the browser based versions, provide a great platform to support learning outcomes for students.

Remember to check out the Microsoft Schools Agreement page with the Ministry of Education to see the full range of software available to schools.