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Improving the classroom experience with Microsoft and Windows 10

By Chris Sweeney, Consultant – Microsoft Systems Management and End User Computing, Data#3

[Reading time: 3 mins]

Windows 10 and Office 2016 adoption is a hot topic in businesses at the moment, and schools are no exception! If you’re not currently thinking about a pilot, you should be.

As part of our series on The Anywhere Classroom, I’d like to take a moment to focus on a few technologies provided by Microsoft that can enhance the classroom experience – both on and off campus.

OneNote

I like keeping all of my notes. Frequently, customers will ask me a question about something from months, possibly years ago. OneNote is my long-term memory that I can go back to for information about a particular technology, project, or even answers to questions during a workshop. I save all of my notes, and they sync to my devices so I can access and search this information anywhere.

What I’m finding, however, is that a lot of schools don’t know you can install add-ins for OneNote. Microsoft has one that is of particular interest for education that has been out for a while called Class Notebook. Class Notebook is a shared notebook with tons of great features. Essentially, it allows a teacher to create a shared notebook that a group of students (such as a class) can access and collaborate on from anywhere via Office 365 (required) and have it sync near real-time.

Any OneNote item can be shared – audio and video recordings, drawings (such as handwritten notes on an item), web pages; anything classroom or curriculum specific. It’s also a way for staff to collaborate. Available through OneNote online, and also as an installable add-in to Office 2013 and 2016 – it’s a pretty cool way of doing things.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update introduces new, specific technologies for the classroom. You can read all about them here.

One specific feature to highlight is the new Take a Test app. I’ve noticed that some education customers have struggled with this, in particular, around how to lock down a classroom for an exam. Group Policy, Kiosk Mode, specific logins and organisational units – there are a number of methods and they all require work from the School IT department to make it happen smoothly. The Take a Test app simplifies this by providing a Universal App that can be deployed and allow students to take a browser-based exam on their Windows 10 device (BYOD or domain joined) with simplicity. Things like copy/paste, other apps, files and sites are locked down.

To clarify, this app is actually built-in and run by providing students with a specific URL in the form of “ms-edu-secureassessment:<URL>!enforceLockdown” – check out Set up Take a Test on a single PC for more info. You’ll need a machine running Windows 10 1607 for testing. Exams can also be conducted via OneNote shared classroom notebooks for those less critical.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Programs

BYOD is becoming more common in schools, and requires a different IT mindset. From management of devices to supporting systems, there is a different set of requirements and challenges that are introduced. It can get very messy if you don’t get on top of it and have a process for deploying and then managing those systems.

You may not have heard of Windows 10 Provisioning packages and Microsoft Intune. I would strongly suggest reading Provisioning packages for Windows 10 and this overview on Microsoft Intune for full details – including step by step guides and documents to support a business case..

For those schools that operate a BYOD program, there are additional deployment methods available in Windows 10 for provisioning systems. Essentially, the “Set up School PCs” app generates a provisioning pack that staff can provide students for enrolling their devices. There are some limitations and technology pre-requisites for the environment that can be seen here.

The intention is to provide a consistent experience for BYOD environments. It speeds up the deployment of new systems (and the refresh of old ones) while ensuring that regardless of the hardware, the devices are all configured as intended. Once provisioned, systems can be managed via Microsoft Intune. This takes care of the ongoing management of compliance, configuration, apps, updates and more.

Microsoft Application Virtualisation (App-V)

I’d also suggest you take a read of my previous App-V blog post. For education customers, application repackaging and deployment of apps is a consistent workload that needs to be addressed. App-V can lighten this workload – not only for IT staff but also for your environment. Further to this, the Anniversary Update now has App-V built-in!

In the coming weeks, I’ll also be posting about Microsoft MBAM (Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring) which is now free for some Windows 10 Software Assurance customers (along with the other products in the MDOP Suite). For environments where students are allowed to store data locally, the data can be compromised if the system isn’t encrypted. BitLocker is simple to deploy and takes the hassle out of encrypting data! Check with your licensing rep to confirm if it’s included for you.

We are doing some powerful things in schools around Windows 10 so reach out to us if you have any questions, or would just like to see a demo of some of this tech in action.

Find out more about The Anywhere Classroom.

Tags: Education, Microsoft Windows 10, The Anywhere Classroom

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