This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.
If you've been following the Microsoft Education blogs, you'll probably be aware of Microsoft's Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit for Students and the advantages it has been bringing to higher education students in the UK.
Over the coming months look out for more blogs that will explore scenarios where students can use features of the package to enhance their Higher Education experience.
In case you’re not familiar with the Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit for Students, any institution worldwide that licenses Office for staff and faculty can provide access to Office 365 for students at no additional cost. As a result, more than 35,000 institutions worldwide are automatically eligible to deliver the package to their students.
Office 365 Pro Plus includes all the familiar and full Office applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and offers the ability for these to be locally installed on up to five devices and available offline.
Furthermore, when a school combines the Office Pro Plus Benefit with our other cloud services - Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online - of which all are available free through Office 365 Education, students have access to the same set of productivity tools and services used by Fortune 500 companies all over the world.
Lync and primary research
Primary research is an interesting challenge that many students have to undertake during their university career, normally in their final year for their dissertation or final project. This involves carrying out their own research to gather data to analyse correlations, trends and ultimately, to try and find solutions to a particular topic, for example 'the impact social media has on consumer engagement'. Most students will choose to gather data by sending surveys, carrying out interviews or focus groups, undertaking experiments and observing behaviour of people (or animals if they're reading a science degree).
Limitations on creative thinking
The biggest common denominator that impacts students' creativity regarding any face-to-face research is cost. Unfortunately, students don't tend to be funded for their final year projects which means that if they want to interview a particular candidate from another city, or even another country, they are likely to have to abandon the idea. Similarly, students don't tend to carry out telephone interviews or telephone surveys due to costs.
My student group are all currently trying to choose the most suitable primary research methods for our projects and I can comfortably say that lots of them are quickly choosing online surveys as a method, because of the ease and cost. It's been frustrating to see that students who are really keen to carry out interviews to gather qualitative research are considering altering the geographical focus of their topics to Scotland so that they can interview people at low cost. You can imagine how limiting this can be to students' aims.
The options that Lync technology can provide via the ProPlus Benefit for Students are impressive!
Video capabilities: Interviews or even group interviews could be carried out with anyone in the world using the video conferencing capabilities, in a secure environment: if a candidate from an external organisation (such as a financier, a scientist or a government minister) were being interviewed, the link to the meeting would smartly slot into their work calendars and they could join the video call using the Lync browser app which would provide a formal and professional experience.
Poll feature: Once on the call, students could directly gather illustrated data using the Lync poll feature which could be really useful in providing quantifiable statistics to strengthen the arguments they are deducing from their qualitative interview analyses.
Record feature: The fact that calls and video conferences could be recorded (obviously with the consent of the interviewee) is really significant as students are required to refer back to their interviews to examine patterns in opinions, semantics and behaviour. The simplicity of this feature would be heaven to students and save them from investing in unnecessary recording apparatus - seriously, students have been piping up in class and asking my lecturer where they can buy 'cheap recording equipment you see the LAPD use in the movies'..
There is no question about the value Lync technology could bring to students' studying experience. By having enterprise-grade tools at their fingertips, students can be empowered to stretch themselves to their full capabilities and have a really interesting research experience. Thanks to the Office 365 ProPlus Benefit for Students which I reiterate, is no extra cost for universities who are already licensing Office, universities can provide an exceptional standard of learning to their students.
To find out more about how to get the Office 365 ProPlus Benefit for Students, click here.