This afternoon at IT Forum, we ran two specific sessions for UK education customers. Brad Tipp, from our worldwide Education team kicked off talking about the Live @ Edu service - something that is currently going through a metamorphosis. What started as an email service for students (similar to Hotmail, but linked to your institution's email domain), is growing into a wider range of student online services, which supplement or replace services that you are delivering to students through your own infrastructure. The benefit is that you can deliver new services at no or low cost to you.

We're moving to a "software plus services" world, where we are developing a mix of software on a device, supplemented by Internet-based services. It changes the way that you can think about providing services, and the scope and reach of them. For example, many of your students have a computer. And despite the fact that a large proportion are laptops, they remain in the students' bedrooms - they don't get brought onto campus. What our research shows is that your students put their critical work files on a memory stick, and carry that around campus with them - plugging it into your terminals. What happens if they lose that memory stick? Or it corrupts? Or if it has a virus on it?

The basic features of Live @ Edu are:

  • Email - hosted through the same way as Hotmail, students receive a mailbox using your college's email domain (name@yourcollege.ac.uk). The mailbox is accessible through webmail, on a mobile phone, and all of the normal ways that they are already accessing Hotmail today. The other differences - there's no advertising; you control the allocation to students; and it is branded with your college identity. Oh, and a 5GB mailbox (which is about 100x larger than many uni mailboxes today)
  • Calendar - the student has their own individual calendar, to allow them to manage their schedule.
  • Messenger - because the email is created through a Windows Live ID, the student automatically gets an additional Messenger account - allowing them to separate their use of IM for their social life and learning. (The latest TechTribe survey shows that over 60% of 16-25 year-olds use Instant Messenger every day).
  • Spaces - Again, because of the Windows Live ID, they also get a Spaces account - for photo sharing, blogging etc

What has now been added are the storage options - SkyDrive and Office Live Workspace - plus a computer sharing option called Shared View.

  • SkyDrive - allows users to store and share files and folders. It's a password protected 1GB virtual hard drive.
  • Office Live Workspace - a document workspace, for sharing any type of Office content - documents, spreadsheets, presentations, meeting invitations and schedules. Imagine a "SharePoint Light". The storage limit on this is a maximum of 1,000 concurrent documents per student. Users can view documents online (without needing Office), or download for editing and use. One neat thing it does is allow easy creation of lists - which can be exported to Excel. This kind of thing is great for groups of students working on projects and tasks. Students can also annotate documents online (without needing Office) - which means one user can create a document, and then share it for peer review, and others can add their comments and notes online, through the workspace.
  • SharedView - allow students to collaborate in real-time - they can simultaneously edit documents and share their desktop in real time. Up to 15 users can all work on the same screen - and can have their own mouse control. (Is it me, or will this be quite confusing the first time? It'll be a bit like a bunch of students in front of a telly, all with their own remote control!)

Brad summarised by telling us that there are over 5 million students using Live @ Edu, across 30 countries. And gave key reasons for exploring the service:

  • Reliable, supported and configurable for the needs of IT Services
    • Reduce the cost of running your IT and storage services
  • Increase on-campus collaboration, communication and storage to enhance learning
  • Improve student service delivery

Find out more at edu.live.com