Today we are hosting a regular meeting of a small group of schools who are innovative users of SharePoint and the Learning Gateway. As part of the agenda, we’ve been joined by some of our colleagues from the worldwide Education Products Group, and are talking about some of the future developments specifically for education.

One of the things that often happens when this happens is that we discover that people ask for features to be added to the product that are already there. And that’s exactly what happened this morning. We discussed the need for SCORM creation tools (ie something that allows teachers to create a package of materials that can be put onto their school learning platform) and also for additional support for languages in Office.

Both of those areas (and quite a few others) are already available free with Office 2003/2007 through the Learning Essentials pack – which is a free download from our website. But of 11 people in the room, on 2 had even heard of it, and only 1 was using it. And yet only yesterday I was demonstrating parts of it to our education partners, to continue raising awareness.

The conversation turned to blame “marketing” for not doing a good enough job - at which point I slunk out of the room, shoulders hunched, head hung in shame.

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.

You can download it directly from the website – choose the International English version of the download, which comes with a range of foreign language capabilities added.

Note: This works with Office 2007, Office XP and Office 2003!