Microsoft and the Ministry of Education have signed a variation to the existing Microsoft Schools Agreement which the vendor says represents a further step in providing New Zealand schools with access to "top-of-the-line technology solutions".
According to Evan Blackman, education manager at Microsoft New Zealand, the Enrolment for Education Solutions (ESS) agreement provides schools with "unlimited servers, as well as the option of moving to a private cloud". "Combined with the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) rollout which will provide schools with high speed connectivity, this change to the Microsoft Schools Agreement means cloud services will be more accessible, giving schools more technology flexibility and ultimately lifting school and student performance," he adds.
The agreement was initially put in place in 2009 and has now been extended to enable greater use of Microsoft technology in schools.
“By significantly reducing the cost of implementing and managing technology solutions, the EES agreement is allowing schools to redistribute resources and funds within existing budgets to other areas where it is desperately needed," says Mike Leach, principal at Botany Downs Secondary College. "As a school, we are seeing an influx of students and teachers bringing their own devices into the classroom. The EES agreement makes Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programmes easier to implement, ensuring a school can provide students with the best learning environment and access to the latest technology.”
Included in the variation of the Microsoft Schools Agreement are the current core products, unlimited Microsoft core servers, along with the addition of Apple Mac computers (including the use of Office for Mac and Windows OS upgrades on school owned or leased Apple Mac computers), the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack, and the ability for students to access school Microsoft servers from their own devices.
The vendor has also announced a new education partnership with Te Whare Wananga O Awanuiarangi which the two parties signed during the opening session of the 8th annual Asia and Pacific Partners in Learning Forum currently being held in Auckland.
“The New Zealand Government has made some positive changes bringing in UFB but we risk missing the bigger picture if we only focus on the network. There is no point laying fibre and connecting people if it’s a latent pipe and its full potential cannot be realised. Our goal is to make it easy for schools to access technology affordably and productively. We need to make sure our teachers are empowered to fully utilise new technologies in the classroom – they are ones who make the real difference to student underachievement," says Blackman regarding this new partnership.
Microsoft says the new partnership has potential cost savings of between $20 to $50 million per year for the whole education sector, through collaboration and service provision which will be centralised through cloud services, saving individual schools having to duplicate the same infrastructure and services.
“The changes we have implemented will allow educational institutes to quickly remove costs from their balance sheets. If all schools in New Zealand were to utilise the new inclusions in the Schools Agreement and take advantage of the Office 365 For Education licensing change, as the 39 schools in the Te Whare Wananga O Awanuiarangi region intend to do, saving tens of millions of dollars each year. This is hugely powerful when you think about what schools are currently paying,” he adds.
The Memorandum of Understanding with Te Whare Wananga O Awanuiarangi will provide tools and resources to the institution's regional network of 39 schools, regional council organisations and other stakeholders.
Microsoft has also revised the licensing pricing for its Office 365 for Education, offering the core capabilities of its cloud solution free of charge to all students, faculty and staff across primary, secondary and tertiary institutes in the country.