Futures recently spoke to Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Education at Microsoft, on how the Student Advantage programme will transform the way students learn. The report was written by Kelly Ng and gives fantastic insight into the benefits Microsoft technology is bringing to 21st century learning in the classroom. We thought we'd post the full article here, but if you want to hear more from Futures, simply go to http://www.asiafuturesmag.com/.

IT Skills for the workforce

Communication skills, attention to detail and proficiency using Microsoft Office topped the list of 21st century skills that students will need for the top 60 high-growth and high-salary jobs, according to a recent study by IDC and Microsoft.

The study evaluated 14.6 million job descriptions between April 2013 to September 2013 to identify the 20 most common hard and soft skills required for today’s job market. IDC further validated these skills by examining 60 jobs that have high-growth and wage potential between 2013 and 2020.

Knowing Microsoft Office is ranked third of these top 20 skills, with understanding individual programmes Microsoft PowerPoint and Word placing 11 and 13 on the list. Microsoft Office was the only software solution noted within the top 20 skills.

Launch of Student Advantage

Understanding that Microsoft Office proficiency is an important tool for preparing students for the workforce, Microsoft launched Student Advantage, a benefit that extends Office 365 ProPlus to students at no additional cost if their institution is licensing Office for staff and faculty.

Office 365 was introduced more than a year ago, and there are now more than 110 million students, teachers and staff all over the world using it.

More than 35,000 schools worldwide are currently eligible to use the Student Advantage benefit. Since 1 December, when Student Advantage was officially rolled out globally, these schools have had the option to provide students access to Office 365 at no additional cost.

Benefits that Student Advantage brings

“Productivity is a very important workload for schools. Giving students access will not only enrich the value of Office for them, but for teachers and staff as well,” Salcito added.

Office 365 ProPlus provides tools, such as Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Excel that students are already familiar with and are now powered by the cloud. Students can install these tools on up to five devices, so learning is not limited to the classroom.

Another benefit available in the Student Advantage programme is the Lync client, which is offered in Office 365 ProPlus. “Instead of Lync Online which was previously included in Office 365, students now get the full version of Lync that gives added functionalities such as recording, gallery video view, white boarding and screen sharing,” noted Salcito.

Moreover, the solution has the ability to integrate between multiple modalities of deployment. “For example, schools that are deploying Exchange or SharePoint on premise can integrate these tools with the cloud. Or, a user who wants to use Office offline, can choose to sync the application dynamically with Skydrive when online.”

One of the most important features schools will appreciate is the privacy and backend management control that can be expected in an enterprise deployment. “Besides ensuring students’ privacy and an advertising-free environment, school leaders can also take ownership of a student’s account if there is any suspicious activity,” he said.

Looking ahead

“We can expect more applications being built on the Office platform, so teachers can benefit from simple apps built into the productivity tool. For example, an application that many school leaders I’ve met appreciate is the ‘word cloud function’ built into PowerPoint that generates a word cloud easily. All you have to do is highlight the text you are interested in, and the app does the rest for you,” he described.

Salcito expects more innovative education initiatives to come from institutions in Asia. In October, Microsoft recognized 250 ‘Expert Educators’ and 80 ‘Mentor Schools’. Of these, 33 Expert Educators and 19 of the Mentor Schools are from Asia. That is great representation from Asia as they were selected from more than 22,000 educators in 158 countries and 250 school leaders in 75 countries.

“These educators and school leaders are on the leading edge of education innovation in the use of technology to improve learning and student outcomes. They are great examples of leaders who are using technology to do something transformational, around content, connection or enabling learning anywhere, anytime and anywhere,” concluded Salcito.