Students and teachers qualify for free 'Office365' – families can benefit too
Office 365At around £80 a year, Microsoft’s Office 365 service offers great value for home users for the online storage alone. The better news is that it is now free for millions of students and teachers worldwide as long as their schools are licensed for Office 365.

In the UK that's thought to be around 13 million eligible students and teachers from around 20,000 eligible institutions (more than 90 universities, 300-plus colleges 17,000 schools and academies). They just need a valid school email address to complete the sign-up. 

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They get what Microsoft calls Office 365 ProPlus – massive online OneDrive storage (1 terabyte) to store their documents and anything else digital along with the Office suite of programs on PCs or Macs as well as tablets and mobile devices. This means they can share their entitlement with family members and friends.

Students need internet access and they must be of a legal age to take up an online offer (minimum 13 years). Once successful applicants have signed up they get the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and Publisher installed on up to five PCs or Macs and up to five mobile devices like iPad, Android and Windows tablets. They also get access to Office Online for in-browser editing, collaboration and co-authoring. The online tools are Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the versatile OneNote.(which now has a range of useful templates created specifically for teacher and student use). All the programs are integrated with the free OneDrive storage space which is managed by the school.

Microsoft's inclusive platform strategy means that whose with Office365 accounts can use their OneDrive space and their Office software with virtually any computer, tablet or mobile phone. It's an extremely attractive offering and one that is likely to increase the numbers of Microsoft's school customers as school leaders realise that a school Office licence doesn't just equip their school but their community too.

Microsoft simplifying sign-up process for Office 365

This service was previously available only in the United States, but it has just been extended worldwide to any eligible student or teacher where Office 365 is available. To take up the offer all that is needed is a valid school email address for the signup. This is how to check eligibility:

Steve BeswickMicrosoft's UK education director Steve Beswick commented: "At Microsoft we are working to bring the benefits of technology and technology skills to all. The education sector is often in the spotlight, and with the advancements in technology, we are hoping to equip students and teachers alike by simplifying the registration process for Office 365. Students at qualifying institutions can get up and running on Office 365 quickly and easily without putting any additional burden on their school’s IT staff.

"Microsoft is committed to ensuring students of all ages, regardless of geographical location, are able to work from the same platform. Giving students the ability to work on programs which they may, in some form, work with in future allows for ubiquitous consistency – and releases an element of pressure when it comes to university and then professional work. With technology becoming part of everyday life, we are seeing a continued rise in adults and professionals being able to work from anywhere on one common platform – why shouldn’t the same be able for students at schools? We are striving to a point where ‘anywhere learning’ really can happen.

"Teachers are also set to reap the benefits of Office 365 ProPlus. Educators can now expect more from their students – with free at-home access to the same tools students use at school, classroom assignments will no longer be confined to the classroom.”

The offer is already having an impact. New York City Department of Education last week announced free Office 365 for all of its 1.1 million students and teachers.

There has been increased competition over the years in providing 'free' cloud services for schools. The choice has been between Office 365 or Google Apps for Education. This has ranged from school installations to whole regions, like Scotland's national education network, Glow, and Wales' Hwb, both of which use Office 365.

The emergence of Google Apps spurred Microsoft to rethink and restructure its services as customers were increasingly tempted by Google's free and easy to use offerings. However, those who had been happy to opt for Google's services, and see them improve as they used them, soon discovered that the same was true for Microsoft. It's initial SkyDrive online offering quickly matured and became OneDrive and its browser-based apps have gone from strength to strength.

Those who have opted for free Microsoft accounts via Live.co.uk or Outlook.com enjoyed their 15Gb of free online storage that made Apple's online offerings seem miserly. And Microsoft's inclusive approach to its customers by providing them with free apps for both Apple and Android mobile devices has added to its appeal. Its paid-for Office 365 service has also won new friends by becoming one of the best-value offerings of its kind

More information
Microsoft's UK schools blog


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