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I’ve been managing technology in schools for more than 20 years. And there’s one thing I know: There are very few times when you can simultaneously streamline output and lower costs, while also dramatically increasing capacity and adding new features.
But one of those rare occasions occurred during the weekend of May 21. That’s when the Kentucky Department of Education – where I work – switched its email, communications and collaboration capabilities to Microsoft’s Live@edu service. Now we can offer every one of our students the newest and best technology. We support more than 700,000 students, faculty and staff, and the move to Live@edu helps us avoid some $6.3 million in costs over four years we’d otherwise have to make to upgrade and maintain our previous system.
And when I say we made that move in a “weekend,” I mean just that. Between Friday and Monday, we moved over half a million students, teachers and staff to Live@edu. True, we had planned the move for almost two years. But the speed and ease with which we made the final transition – we called it the “big bang” – speaks well of Live@edu and Microsoft’s ability to handle that enormous influx of users. In fact, it is the largest cloud deployment, to date, in the United States and one of the biggest in the world.
We’re delighted with the new capabilities Live@edu brings to the teaching and learning environment. Our students and teachers were struggling with an older system that lacked capacity and lacked the ability to scale up. Now all of our users have cloud-based email and calendars that they can access from any Web browser and from multiple device factors. They have 10 gigabytes of mail storage and another 25 gigs of file storage so people can collaborate on documents and class projects. And they now have document sharing, instant messaging, video chat, mobile e-mail and much more so people can collaborate more effectively and communicate more easily. Live@edu really gives us the ability to take away the walls of the school and enable our students and teachers to work together in new ways.
What’s equally great is that even the most remote of our 174 districts now has state-of-the-art technology. Equity has been a cornerstone philosophy of the Kentucky Education Technology System (KETS) since 1992, and continuing to meet this goal was really an important consideration for us. We have a lot of rural districts, and we wanted to give every district the same technology whether it was in the country or in the city, whether a rich district or a poor one. With Live@edu we were able to do that.
I want to thank Microsoft for being a great partner in this project. Our Microsoft team worked really hard to make sure the transition to Live@edu went smoothly. And Live@edu itself is a great product.We’re excited about what the future holds for us with Live@edu. We’ll be able to gain access to new technology and innovative features without incurring extra costs, and grow the system as we need to. Most importantly, I think it will give a tremendous boost to the education of our young people. Which, after all, is why we’re here.
Posted by Chuck Austin
PRODUCT MANAGER FOR THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S LIVE@EDU MIGRATION