Last week, I was talking to a customer at the NAACE conference, and we got onto the subject of "Learning Essentials"...or at least I got on to the subject, because it turned out that he had never heard of it. And so I asked another customer, and got the same shoulder-shrug.

Shock! Horror! We give things away and nobody's heard of them!

So let me try and right that wrong.

Learning Essentials is a free add-on for Office, which contains a set of tools to help teachers and students. Things like curriculum templates, and toolbars for Word, PowerPoint and Excel to help students and teachers get started on projects and stay organised during them.

  • Teachers get things like handout and presentation templates, marking rubrics, bibliography tools, maths symbols, and a simple "Create Test" wizard.
  • Students get tools, templates and tutorials to help them get past "Blank Page Syndrome", language tools and templates, and tips and tutorials for managing projects and producing high-quality work.

It even includes a facility to create SCORM content. At this point I can hear you thinking "Wow" with that slightly sarcastic tone, so let me tell you that is a very good thing, because it's becoming the established standard for content within Learning Platforms, and the Government say we've all got to have one of these, and they want teachers to create learning resources for students available from within and outside of school!

You can find out all about Learning Essentials on the worldwide Microsoft education website, which includes links to download. It works with Office 2007, Office 2003 and Office XP (that pretty much covers everybody!). If you want to see what it can do, then take a look at the Learning Essentials Tour.