New: Use PowerShell To Manage Licenses In Windows Store For Business / Education

powershellMany organisations are increasingly using PowerShell to automate routine tasks and schools are no different in this way.

With the recent surge in interest around Minecraft Education Edition (or M:EE for short), many schools have been asking for an easier way to manage, assign and revoke these licenses for individual students. Up until now, this could only be done via the Store itself (see here for a guide).

Happily, there is now a method to use PowerShell to achieve the rapid license management – it is still in Preview Release at the moment but could be worth checking out if you want to do some testing:

Microsoft Store For Business & Education PowerShell Module (Preview)

You can use the PowerShell module to:+

  • View items you’ve purchased – shown in Apps & software
  • Manage licenses – assigning and removing
  • Perform bulk operations with .csv files – automates license management for customers with larger numbers of licenses

It’s great to see even easier ways to manage Education focused apps from the Store through the use of PowerShell.

Autopilot – Even Easier Device Enrollment & Deployment In Windows 10 Out Of The Box


UPDATE 10th July: Information on how to add devices to Autopilot via the Windows Store For Business / Education can be see here


UPDATE 3rd July: More technical information on Autopilot is available here, including example PowerShell scripts on how to collect the hardware identifier for existing devices you may want to enroll into Autopilot.


With Windows 10 Creators Update you can now configure and deploy devices even easier, thanks to the newly announced Autopilot and Intune (part of the EMS suite).

Autopilot is similar to Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP), in that you can pre-register a unique hardware identifier before the device is even turned on. When the device is shipped to the end user (think either a teacher or student purchasing a BYOD laptop), as soon as they connect their new laptop to a wireless network, it will be registered by Autopilot and provide:

  • A custom set up experience as determined by the school’s ICT department (or their partner), this could include skipping steps in the device setup that are unnecessary or confusing for end users
  • Branded setup, showing the school name and logo so the student/teacher can be confident in the security of the device and trust the setup process
  • The option to enter their school email address/password which would automatically enroll the device into Intune (or Intune for Education), resulting in the correct applications and settings being pushed to the device

Microsoft’s blog announcing Autopilot described it as follows:

With Windows AutoPilot, IT professionals can customize the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) for Windows 10 PCs and enable end users to take a brand-new Windows 10 device and—with just a few clicks—have a fully-configured device ready for business use. There are no images to deploy, no drivers to inject, and no infrastructure to manage. Most importantly, users can go through the process independently, without making any decisions and without needing to involve IT.

Some of the benefits of Microsoft Autopilot include:

  • Intune can push policies, settings, and configuration to the device, and install Office 365 and other apps without IT ever having to touch the device or apply a custom image to the device.
  • Intune can configure Windows Update for Business to apply the latest updates.
  • The device can automatically upgrade from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise seamlessly using AAD–no product keys to manage, no reboots, no prompts for the user (Requires a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 subscription)

Here is how you can set up the Autopilot program and see it in action:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The setup process when using Autopilot – note the branded sign-in page with logo and organisation name

My Point Of View:

I see Autopilot as a tremendously helpful tool for IT Admins in education as it will allow them to be more hands-free on the configuration and deployment of devices. Many schools love the simplicity of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program and now Autopilot enables similar functionality with full Windows 10.

An additional benefit is theft protection – if a device was enrolled into Autopilot and was later stolen, then even if it was wiped, it could not be used by the thief because as soon as it is connected to the internet the hardware identifier will enroll it into Autopilot again and start the school’s setup process – this can not be avoided until the device is un-enrolled by the school itself.

The other area where I see Autopilot adding significant value is BYOD. If a school uses an education partner and parents purchase their child’s BYOD device through the partner’s portal, then the hardware identifier could be registered with the school at the time of sale. As a result, when the student turns it on at home it is automatically connected to the school’s environment and has all of the apps, setting and network credentials pushed to it, ready for the first day of school – no more “onboarding days” at the school to get connected!

Even though this was just announced today, as ZDNet astutely picked up, this functionality was included in the Creators Update released back in April – just one more reason for schools to keep their computers updated on recent Windows 10 builds.

Intune For Education Announced at BETT

This week Microsoft has released some major announcements at the annual BETT Show in London. You can read the full announcements on the official blog here, however the one that caught my attention the most was Intune For Education:

microsoft-tries-expelling-chromebooks-from-schools-with-intune-app-and-low-cost-pcsFor me, this is a key solution for schools to consider to simplify the management of Windows 10 devices, particularly for those schools that may not have dedicated ICT staff. The things that impressed me were:

  • It’s cloud based, there is no need to install locally as it is hosted in Azure and is scalable, making it suitable for schools of any size whilst remaining simple enough for part-time ICT admin staff to use.
  • There are a number of school-specific policies pre-configured to promote security for school devices (there are over 150 settings you can configure if you choose)
  • There is an express setup for schools that allow for quick deployment of new devices for different groups of users.
  • Your list of purchased applications in the Microsoft Windows Store For Business are automatically synchronised to Intune For Education allowing to easily choose which apps you wish to deploy e.g. Minecraft licensing in the Business Store.
  • There is an auto-enrollment feature meaning students or staff automatically receive the apps specified by the school when they first log in.
  • intune-for-education-set-up-pcs-100705444-largeFor super quick deployment there is free access to the “Schools Setup PC App” that creates a USB key to quickly configure common settings on a new device with a single key press – no need to get it on the wireless network first!
  • Intune for Education supports Student Data Sync to automatically create groups of students/teachers for customised group permissions allowing more granular control over policy.
    • Policy will “follow the user” so if you have different policies for different year levels, these will automatically apply as a student moves from year to year.
  • There is a test/assessment mode. Students can log in with a special account to be used when taking assessment which will lock the device down to pre-defined access levels.

These features represent a significant leap forward with technology offerings for managing Windows 10 devices in education. To learn more, check out Microsoft Education.

Update: A couple more videos showing how Intune for Education can be used, along with the benefits of Digital Inking:

Minecraft Education Edition – Buying & Managing Licenses

minecraft-10

Students playing Minecraft Education Edition

UPDATE 2: Nikkie Lang, from Opaheke Primary School, has published a fantastic blog that shows the process from a school’s perspective from start to finish. This is well worth reading by clicking here.

UPDATE: Since making this blog I’ve come across an authoritative step by step guide on TechNet that you can view here. I do encourage you to check that out as well. It shows how to assign licenses purchased from:

  1. Directly in the Microsoft Windows Store For Business, and
  2. Purchased as part of an EES  Agreement through Volume Licensing

Unsurprisingly, more schools are exploring Minecraft Education Edition as an easy way to managing licensing for students, and developers are already creating and sharing new Minecraft worlds for the Education Edition.

The homepage of Minecraft Education Edition is the best place to start for those new to using Minecraft for their students, but if you’re interested in how to buy / manage licenses (including assigning/reclaiming) then I’ve made a step by step guide for you below.

minecraft-1

  • Make sure you sign in with your school O365 account – this will need to be an administrator account:

minecraft-2

  • Once you’re signed in, search for “Minecraft” in the search box at the top right hand corner and then select “Minecraft Education Edition”:

minecraft-3

  • You will then have an option to “Buy” or “Manage” your licenses:

minecraft-4

  • minecraft-3-5UPDATE: Schools in NZ can purchase licences from Datacom via the MoE School agreement (this is recommended). If you’ve not purchased any licenses already (&you want to get them directly from the MBSW) then select “Buy” and you will be presented with pricing and quantities. You will need to pay via credit card to purchase these. Step through the purchase process to complete your licensing procurement. REMEMBER: you can assign/reclaim these licenses between students so you may not need to buy one license for every student in your school (see below for how to manage this process).
  • When you are ready to assign licenses to students click on the “Manage” button to the right of the “Buy” button and you can start to assign licenses. The easiest way to do this is click the “Invite People” to the bottom right of the screen and then this allows you to easily search for the names of students in your class / school and assign them  (You don’t need to type the full email address, only the name of the student). See below:

Continue reading