We’ve already said that the full Office 365 for education service will be launched this antipodean winter, and there’s a continuing trend for education customers to move their IT services into the cloud. So if you’re a Microsoft partner working with education customers moving more services to the cloud, how does this impact your business? If you’re currently providing a custom application in SharePoint, how do you integrate that to a cloud service, and just as importantly, how can you use it to develop a new software application?

Education customers tend to have very specific needs – like distributing homework assignments, communicating with parents, managing internal workflow of documents etc – which can look similar to standard business processes, but have subtle and important twists. For partners, that has historically meant developing a custom software application. But over the last couple of years, there has been more focus on using a standard platform – like SharePoint or Microsoft Dynamics CRM – and customising it, rather than starting from the ground up. Or creating an interface between a custom application – such as a Student Management System or Learning Management System – and linking it closely to a standard platform. For example:

  • Use SharePoint connected to a Learning Management System, to provide workflow, document storage and access across the web.
  • Using SharePoint as the document management system for a Student Management System, so that your documents are accessible to all users, but managed by your institution’s standard security model and workflow, to ensure that the data is secure, version controlled, and backup up systematically.

If you’re interested in finding out more about developing applications as part of Office 365, which is one of the key future cloud services for education, here’s where to go for more reading:

The SharePoint Online Developer Resource Centre on MSDN

It’s there to help you develop for Office 365 (which is delivered through SharePoint Online). There’s a short video introduction – which gives you the full development overview in just 3 minutes, and specific sections on cloud-based collaboration, remote authentication, a SharePoint Online Developer Guide white paper, and a full Office 365 Developer Training Kit (either online or downloadable).