How Microsoft Azure impacts the education industry
These days, cutting-edge technology and education often go hand-in-hand. As a result, many institutions in the field leverage the power of Microsoft Azure to serve students, empower educators and nurture nimble infrastructures capable of withstanding the educational and technological sea of changes sure to come.
For students, technology literacy is more important than ever, as most careers now come with computer-based job duties. Still, many aren’t learning the skills they need to be successful in these positions. In fact, only 40 percent of K-12 students in the U.S. use a computer during school hours every day, according to research from Google. And only one state – Arkansas – currently requires grad schoolers to participate in computer programming courses.
With this reality in mind, Microsoft stepped in to support students who wished to develop key technical skills, TWCN Tech News reported. In March 2015 the company announced that it would provide free Azure subscriptions to junior coders looking to build and deploy new web applications. Now, students in 140 countries can take advantage of the platform’s many features, including the Visual Studio Online which allows users to plan, build and distribute custom software. Student developers can also take advantage of the many free programming courses available through the Microsoft Virtual Academy.
Months after launching the Azure student subscription service, Microsoft donated more than $75 million to fund computer science programs at 700 schools throughout the U.S., The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported.
Azure also helps students develop more basic computer skills by giving them access to the essential productivity tools like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Studies show students with knowledge of these programs often fair better on the job market, post graduation. In fact, Microsoft Office comprehension is the third-most requested skill among employers, according to data from the International Data Corporation.
“Students in 140 countries can take advantage of Microsoft Azure’s many features.”
Of course, Microsoft uses its Azure platform to support teachers as well. For instance, the company operates The Educator Grant program, an initiative that enables college instructors to administer advanced programming courses through Azure. Currently, more than 750 institutions of higher education in 74 countries take advantage of the program.
Additionally, both professors and K-12 teachers have access to the Microsoft Imagine Academy, an online portal that hosts computer science courses and offers skill-based certifications. Approximately 150,000 schools across the globe participate in the program.
The company has also helped bring about more sweeping change within the educational institutions with its Azure platform. In 2013, Microsoft established a partnership with Open University in the UK to develop a robust online course delivery system, Computer Weekly reported. A majority of the school’s more than 160,000 students were enrolled in distance learning classes, meaning many lived off campus and consumed web-based course content like audio clips and videos. Additionally, the institution used a large number of third-party resources to create in-house instructional content. This meant instructors had to comb through thousands of hours of audio and video to make sure it was appropriate and licensed for use under international copyright law.
Ultimately, Microsoft used Azure to engineer a low-cost solution that could effectively store, deliver and automatically catalog third-party assets. Since its launch in May 2014, personnel at OU have used the custom software to process more than 24,000 audio and video files and create almost 50,000 in-house resources. The solution took home the prize for Best Cloud Project of the Year at the 2015 Computer Weekly European User Awards.
Apart from these larger projects, Azure also gives access essential digital tools they can employ at the point of instruction to increase student engagement and hopefully wick away at widespread problems within the education systems, one student at a time. For instance, through Azure, teachers can access Office 365 which includes features like OneDrive, OneNote and Skype for Business. Plus, Azure customers can use classics like Excel and Word. Combine these capabilities with innovative Microsoft devices like the Surface Pro and the instructional possibilities are endless.
Nurturing nimble infrastructures
Academic researchers regularly harness the power of Microsoft Azure to dissect big ideas and solve serious problems. Many use the platform to develop programs capable of crunching massive amounts of survey data. Additionally, Microsoft offers researchers who use Azure in their work the opportunity to apply for grants and receive funding for paradigm-shifting projects that could help people across the world prepare for the future.
“Microsoft offers researchers who use Azure in their work the opportunity to apply for grants and receive funding for paradigm-shifting projects.”
In January, the company doubled down on this commitment by donating $1 billion in cloud computing services to 70,000 academic institutions across the globe.
“We’re committed to helping nonprofit groups and universities use cloud computing to address fundamental human challenge,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained. “One of our ambitions for Microsoft Philanthropies is to partner with these groups and ensure that cloud computing reaches more people and serves the broadest array of societal needs.”
Considering its historical commitment to the education industry, Microsoft and the Azure team will continue addressing human challenges with revolutionary cloud computing technology for years to come.