Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the education series of blogs.
Two years ago, IT Project Manager Andy Spedding and the IT team at University of Exeter began the move to Office 365. The starting point, as is so often the case, was to move student email from the existing on-premise ‘Outlook’ system.
‘We wanted to keep up with the flow. Cloud is clearly going to be the way to go and we wanted to dip our toe into that water. So over the Summer 2013 we set up several work streams – migrating the student body to Office 365 and then progressively to the other applications. Once that was done we could turn to the staff.’
The migration took place over about fifteen nights which were spread over two months.
‘We migrated all students except the current final year – about 22000 altogether, with five terabytes of content. It went extremely well and we only had 12 issues reported to our Helpdesk.’
Office 365 has also enabled Andy and the team to set up a new version of their student portal, taking advantage of SharePoint and OneDrive.
Called ‘Exehub’, the new portal will go live in August. It will give students anytime, anywhere access to their key documents, calendars and resources from any device.
‘Exehub’ will be a significant contribution to helping students work more quickly, collaboratively and efficiently –and now, with the arrival of ‘Student Advantage’ licensing, they will have it free on their devices.
‘When Student Advantage was announced, we emailed students to say don’t go and buy Office over Christmas,’ says Andy. ‘You’ll be able to have it free.’
Apparently, many sixth formers acquire laptops around ‘A’ Level time, and in their first term at university realise they ought to have Microsoft Office. University Exeter’s timely warning must have saved some students and families a useful amount of money.
Andy’s had little feedback from users on Office 365 so far – which really means students have simply taken it on and started to use it.
‘They’re used to the on-premise applications and all looks familiar.’
It will clearly be interesting to return to Exeter once the new Exehub is up and running and see Office 365 supporting teaching and learning in a very large and varied higher education environment.