DreamSpark-2_bLDreamSpark is a program that provides students and educators with access to free software and store accounts so they can learn and explore the world of programming.

In this blog I’ll talk about the DreamSpark program and how it helps us enable the next generation of developers. I will cover

  • Why does it matter?
  • How does DreamSpark help?
  • Who can get DreamSpark?
  • If I know a student, teacher, instructor, or professor interested in DreamSpark what should I do?
  • What is DreamSpark Premium?
  • Is Azure included in DreamSpark?

Why does it matter?

The job market is tough for today’s youth. Having the right skills to find a good job is more important than ever. Technical fields such as Computer Science and Engineering continue to be some of the best opportunities for students to find well paid employment when they graduate. That doesn’t necessarily mean every student who graduates from Computer Science is guaranteed a high paying job! Students still have to find ways to stand out from the pack, to strengthen their skills for the real world.

How does DreamSpark help?


DreamSpark gives students access to tools like Visual Studio and SQL Server at no charge. With DreamSpark, students can learn to work with and build solutions with professional tools, the same tools they may well encounter in the workforce.  DreamSpark also gives students free accounts to the Windows marketplace so they can publish Windows Store or Windows Phone apps at no charge. Putting a URL to a published app on your resume is a great way to stand out in a market where many companies are still struggling to determine their own mobile strategies.

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Who can get DreamSpark?

Any student in Canada can get access to DreamSpark. Usually a school will subscribe to DreamSpark to provide their students with access. Although this program is more popular in universities and colleges, it is not limited to higher education. A high school, middle school, or even an elementary school (though it is a little unusual for a 10 year old to be coding C#, it’s not unheard of) can get access to DreamSpark as well. There are actually agreements in place with a number of school boards in Canada and most universities and colleges have subscriptions as well.

If I know a student, teacher, instructor, or professor who would be interested in DreamSpark what should I do?

The first thing to do would be to have them check out the website www.dreamspark.com where you can

What is DreamSpark Premium?

I’m glad you asked, if you visit the website you may hear about DreamSpark Premium. This is (as the name suggests) a premium version of DreamSpark. Basically it’s a version that gives you access to even more software (such as Windows 8, Microsoft Project, Visio, SharePoint Server).

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BUT! Not everyone can get DreamSpark Premium. DreamSpark premium is reserved for what we call STEMD programs. The idea behind this is pretty straightforward, if a university or college program is teaching programming courses we give them access to more software so that what they teach isn’t limited by the software license costs. Typically Computer Science, Software Engineering, Game Design, Web design programs are the programs that are entitled to DreamSpark Premium. Generally speaking high schools are not eligible for DreamSpark Premium, unless they are specifically a technical high school that offers a specific technical diploma. The fact the high school teaches two or three programming courses will not be sufficient to qualify for DreamSpark Premium, but they can still get tools like Visual Studio through DreamSpark Standard.

Is Azure included in DreamSpark?

Again, I am glad you asked. The answer is no. BUT remember one of the reasons we have this offering is so that courses can be taught using our technologies. Although DreamSpark does not include Azure benefits, professors and instructors who want students to try out any Azure features in their classes can request 6 month credit-card free Azure passes through the Azure Education Grants. We have a number of colleges and universities in Canada using this benefit already!

DreamSpark is a great benefit, but it seems like every year I meet a student or teacher who doesn’t know about the program, so please help us spread the word and let’s enable the next generation of developers to do great things with technology!