With a mission to enable educational institutions to achieve excellence in their field of business, Microsoft has designed varied solutions for education sector, which help the teachers and students to keep pace with the newer technologies. In an exclusive interview with Rajiv Arora, Director-Marketing, Microsoft, and Alok B. Lall, Director-Microsoft Office Division, Microsoft, Bhawna Satsangi of Elets News Network (ENN) finds out the innovative solutions the company has developed to cater to the needs of the education sector.
What are the solutions Microsoft is focusing to provide to education sector?
Our mission is to enable every individual or every business on the planet to achieve more. We are looking to enable the technological environment in the education sector. All our solutions designed for the sector leverage students to get hang of technology concepts better, be able to collaborate with other students and teachers on projects they do, get a better understanding between students on concepts they need to clarify and how can parents play a critical role in assessing the students progress and participate along with teacher to make sure that the student is successful. We do that across K-12 and higher education.
For the institutes, we have launched ‘Microsoft Edu cloud’. It helps a teacher or a faculty how to create a content which teachers can deliver to students. Then we have also defined how to deliver that content. Using a productive tool how a teacher can deliver content to a student and how a student can consume that content. We are going to help them through technology to automate the entire institutes so that the students know what assignments they have, what merits are they getting etc.
Fourth pillar what we have on edu cloud is how do we enable the teachers, faculty both in K-12 and higher education. All this is powered by Microsoft platform. We are providing the content to make them ready for the 21st century. Education is not just the ability for a teacher to deliver a course, we also look at how we provide the tools that help teachers create a learning experience that just goes beyond the textbook. A lot of our tools are free and are available for students to download and use it to understand the concept.
Our licensing programme for academy are very attractive so that every institution can actually look at great to get all the students covered with the best of technology that Microsoft provide so that they can have access to the devices that they use. A lot of our technologies will work on windows, android, ios. We are more pervasive in how we believe the access to services should be. In India, we are also focusing on local language computing and we have our operating system MS office available in 14 languages so that they can actually use local language computing to be able to drive that.
For us, the next big wave is powered by the cloud so the edu cloud is about how we enable the access to technology through the data centers that we have globally and in India.
What are the security solutions you off er with edu cloud?
Security is needed in the device that the student carries so that he gets a safe and secure environment. Second is to maintain privacy. Schools don’t want information related to students to be leaked out. Maintaining a security of the content is also another concern. In higher education there are people working on a very critical projects where they may want to patent something, so the security is much required and lastly we have solution for administration. The solution ensures that the environment stays secure and the administrative staff will have a parent login that will be restricted only to them. So, our solutions pan across all of these verticals whether it is protecting the device, whether it is protecting the content through information rights. We also give the platform very stable access control so you may have the ability to read, but cannot write or you may not have access to certain types of folders like mark sheets, exams, content etc. We define the security at varied roles.
What are the innovative solutions Microsoft has developed for students with special needs?
For us, technology should be accessible to a great level and there is no bar to learning for students with special needs. Windows has been designed to keep in mind the accessibility factor for these students. There is very diverse set of settings that people can use depending upon the impairments that they have. The second is around Microsoft Office, which is used by people widely and people don’t realise that since the last 5 years, we have capabilities within the product to have documents that can be created for people with impairment. We have also partnered with JW Micro to provide a screen download of a very powerful screen reader that people with the visual impairments can take because they are a genuine copy of Microsoft office.
Kinect comes as a part of Xbox. We believe that kinect can really measure what movement you are doing, where your hands are rising or feet are moving. On the basis of that we can guide certain types of behaviour and this is specifically being successful among children with autism. We use games which make an autism child excel and has the desire to perform. We are focused on creating an inclusive environment within education whether it is K-12, higher education or whether it is special scenarios.
Are the training required for the teachers before using your solutions?
For all solutions that we give, we have a programme whereby we train our partners who deliver the solutions to the target institutions. We also have the train the trainer programme for the teachers so they get to understand how they can use the technology. DPS Ghaziabad had been given the devices to use our technology to get students and teachers to work together. We have a great product for students named OneNote, which is used to store all your notes. Each teacher has a section for the student which is protected. So, the student and teacher alignment is about to understand the concept and the technology.
We also have a product called partners in learning, where we ensure that how do we enable the teachers for K-12, which is called a tablet academy. In this programme teachers from various K-12 schools are trained and we make them enable on how to use the technology. We also have Technology Enablement Instruction programme (TEI) for higher education, which work for STEM and non-STEM colleges. Here also we call teachers for two days, give them devices, enable them with technology and how technology can help them in change the way in teaching the children and prepare them for the 21st century. We have trained around 77,000 teachers under partner learning programme across the country. In teacher training programmes, we have identified some expert educators who actually get trained and further train more people.
Are you only targeting private universities and schools with your solutions?
Our solutions are universally applicable. It’s just a function of how the decisionmaking process is. We have a lot of ICT projects running with state governments, and we also work with private institutions on how these stand to excel because they see that as an opportunity from other institutions. We have been involved in many ICT projects in down South.
What are the smart solutions on offer by Microsoft for smarter education in smart cities?
We believe there are 12 scenarios which essentially define what smart city is. Sanitation, citizen safety, education, grievances etc are one of those scenarios. Education plays a pivotal role in smart city. We have many cities across the world where we have cities like Barcelona, a couple of cities in Europe, in India Surat is one such example of a smart city. So, our education solutions are very well fit in as a part of the entire smart city framework.