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.

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:

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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.

OneDrive Files On Demand – Perfect for BYOD

ssd-vs-hdd

Credit: TechoFAQ

Over the last couple of years it has been evident that increasing numbers of BYOD laptops have transitioned to Solid State Disks (SSD) which is terrific since they are significantly faster than traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDD), have lower failure rates and also improve battery life.

However, due to their higher price point, the actual available storage volume of SSD is often markedly lower than equivalently priced HDD.  This means students are faced with the difficult decision around what content do they store locally on the their device versus using selective sync in the OneDrive cloud and/or storing on an external USB drive.

Selective Sync effectively allows you to upload content into OneDrive that you don’t access frequently, and then download it when you do need it. Critically, however, this content will not appear in your local File Explorer browser so you can’t “see” it unless you log into OneDrive via a web browser and choose to sync it locally to your device.

OneDrive Files On Demand Coming In Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

This is why the announcement last Friday at the Build 2017 conference was so exciting. A new feature will allow you to see all of your content in OneDrive in your File Explorer, irrespective of whether it is stored locally on your device, or only in OneDrive in the Microsoft Cloud. Then, if you want to access any content that is only in OneDrive it will automatically be downloaded “on demand” when you click to open the file/folder.

You can optionally choose to then “always keep on this device” if you are going to be requiring regular or off-line access to this file.

Read the full blog post about this here.

Here are some images from the original blog post to show you how this works:

1

Note that the selected folder takes up 1.37TB of storage in the OneDrive cloud, but that locally in File Explorer it shows 0 bytes on the local device.

2

The various status of each file and folder is shown in the “Status” column, indicating whether it is in the OneDrive Cloud only or stored locally on the device. Right mouse clicking allows you to choose to “Always keep on this device”

3

If a file is not stored locally, simply double clicking on it as you normally would to open a file will immediately trigger a download to open the requested file.

My Point of View:

I see this as being a massive aid for schools, helping both teachers and students maximize the performance of their devices. Getting more SSD into teacher and student devices will drive longer battery life, lower failure rates and faster accessing of content. However, by being able to seamlessly see what is in the Cloud and what is stored locally removes any barrier or confusion around the location of content for end users.

With many BYOD devices starting with 64GB of storage, this opens up the vast OneDrive storage capacity to students and teachers in an easier, more seamless way, meaning there is even less reason to use USB hard drives for storing content.

This feature will be available in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update as well as new OneDrive features for iOS/Android devices.

Windows 10 Creators Update Is Here

Many of you will have been waiting for the official release date of the Windows 10 Creators Update last week and now that it is launched the best place to get an overview of the new features is the official Windows Blog.

You can read the post introducing Creators Update here.

For a visual overview, here is a good video clip:

Some of the features that really stand out for me are:

  • 3D Paint – the ease of building out 3D apps in Creators Update is a neat feature with plenty of real world application, especially in education.
  • Mixed Reality – the announcement of lower-cost devices that will support mixed reality is exciting as it means more students can develop in this space without the cost of a HoloLens headset.
  • Beam Game Broadcasting – for the gamers amongst us, you can now easily stream your games in real time to the web for others to follow along with – no need for third party tools.
  • Updates to the Edge Browser, including better tab management and preview options, default support of PDF and eBook reading is now a feature as well.
  • Mini View Feature – an “always on top” frame allowing you to keep an eye on a critical app, skype call, or browser window, whilst working in another window at the same time.
  • A whole range of new security updates to keep your device safe.

Read the blog overview here.

There are a range of different ways to get Windows 10 Creators Update, from the blog link above:

You can get the Creators Update in a few different ways. If you already have a Windows 10 PC and have automatic updates enabled, the update will be delivered to you when it’s ready. If you are an advanced user and would like to get the update manually, visit this blog post to learn how to get the Creators Update.

So go get started creating and leave comments with your experience below.