Earlier this year my colleague James Marshall, from the UK, wrote 10 posts on his Education in the Cloud blog, each covering one of his top tips for Office 365 Education. He’s also helpfully summarised all top 10 tips in one handy place – which I’ve reproduced below:
Office 365 Education is constantly evolving with new features being added, and existing features being improved; and of course, it’s free to education customers. So this Top 10 features of Office 365 for education list could soon be out of date as we add new, even better, features to it. But for now, it’s a great start:
Whether you want a class blog, or your own blog to share with your students, the blogging capabilities in SharePoint Online allow teachers and students to quickly and easily write up their thoughts, ideas and showcase their progress in a secure environment. You can even customise the look and feel of the blogs to make them more appealing for younger pupils.
Working on class projects has never been easier thanks to the Office Web Apps and their ability to support multiple authors of spreadsheets and documents at the same time! Being able to collaborate on work in the classroom (and at home!) is really important and the Office Web Apps enable anyone with access to a supported browser and an Internet connection to get involved.
How many times have you needed to survey your students and staff for their feedback? This doesn’t just apply to teaching and learning, but also the IT department, facilities, finance, almost anyone in the institution. It couldn’t be more simple to create a survey in Excel that can capture a variety of answer types (yes/no, multiple choice, text, date, etc.) into a spreadsheet automatically. This can be shared amongst your students and staff, or publicly.
Student feedback is particularly important in universities. Many still spend time printing thousands of sheets of paper each year only to have to input that data back into a computer! Why not cut out the paper middle-man and use an Excel Survey?
In a mature SharePoint Online environment there might be thousands of sites, files and other content that may or may not be useful to every student or member of staff. Sometimes you stumble upon a really useful resource either by searching or by accident and now you can keep track of it by following the content in your newsfeed.
When a school, TAFE or university is using shared devices, such as tablets, it isn’t always possible to personally configure the applications for a particular user; this is where the web apps in Office 365 really come into their own. The Outlook Web App on mobile devices is excellent, and will automatically switch format based on the type of device you’re using whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet or full PC device.
This is one of my favourite tips. In the Outlook Web App you can add multiple calendars to view on one screen. This is extremely useful when it comes to planning tutorials, meetings, and other events as you can overlay many people’s calendars to see when the most suitable time would be to arrange something. No more lengthy email threads trying to work out when everyone can make it!
There are even Microsoft partners out there who have developed solutions to automatically fill your calendar with your school timetable so that it’s available instantly, wherever you go.
Uploading files to anywhere in the past has always been a bit of a chore. Having to click browse, find your individual file, upload and repeat quickly becomes a nightmare. In the new Office 365 you can simply drag and drop multiple files into a documents library and see them get uploaded automatically – simple!
If you don’t have Outlook client available to you then scheduling a Lync meeting might seem like an impossible task; not so with the Lync Online Web Scheduler. Now it’s easy to configure your meeting settings via the browser. With the latest updates to Office 365 you can event schedule a Lync Online meeting straight from the Outlook Web App.
The humble # symbol probably never thought it would get such exposure before Twitter launched, but now the #hashtag is king, with @mentions and “likes” not far behind. In SharePoint Online you can use these familiar social networking features to share content and conversations with others in your class.
I’d like to think we live in a world where connection to the Internet is practically everywhere, but speak to anyone who has been along the coast, away from a city recently and they’ll tell you that being offline is not unusual! Thankfully, just because you’re using services that are in the cloud does not mean that you suffer when you lose your Internet access. With the new Office 365 there is an offline mode for OWA, and of course the old favourite, the Office and SkyDrive Pro clients to keep you going when your connection lets you down.
This is my bonus tip! Since putting the original top 10 tips together we’ve supercharged the storage options in Office 365. Now students and staff get to benefit from 25 GB of free SkyDrive Pro storage, with options to increase that up to 100 GB! Equally, students, staff and alumni also get their inbox quotas doubled from 25 GB to 50 GB, free!
Helpfully, we’ve also increased the individual file upload limits from 250 MB per file to 2 GB per file, and made it even easier to restore documents. Now it’s much easier to store those important multimedia or design technology coursework files online, securely, and accessible from anywhere.
Learn more about Office 365 Education, and sign up for a free trial