In these challenging economic times when bursaries and allowances are being stretched to the max, Microsoft South Africa is looking to provide some relief through its new Student Advantage offering. This initiative sees the full Office 365 cloud-based productivity suite being made available for free to all students of qualifying institutions, so that they will have access to the technology tools they require to excel in their studies.

Microsoft already provide online components of Office 365 to schools and universities at no charge, and many South African organisations already access email, cloud storage, online editing and collaboration features at no charge.

With Student Advantage, students will be able to also install the Microsoft Office desktop applications on their device and continue their work while offline. These desktop editions of Microsoft Office 2013 integrate seamlessly with
the online components when connected.

In order to qualify for this deal, an education institution needs to license either Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for its staff and faculty. This will entitle the organisation to provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for all
students at no additional cost. Many South African organisations already qualify from their previous investments in this platform.

Office 365 helps students communicate and collaborate more efficiently, allows them to access assignments in shared workspaces, provides them with the ability to have their notes synchronised in OneNote, and allows them to use
familiar applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel from anywhere, anytime and across virtually any device.

This means that there is no need to learn new software, as Office 365 works with the trusted Microsoft Office tools that both teachers and students already use and count on daily.

As a new academic year started, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University turned to Office 365 – the first university in southern Africa to do so, to provide over 27 000 students and faculty members with the latest Office tools.

Creswell Du Preez, deputy director of ICT Operations at the NMMU says, “By using the software, our lecturers are so much more effective. They can easily develop lesson plans and share these with other lecturers. Filtering these
benefits down to empower students is the least we can do as they are able to use Lync to collaborate online with their study group members.

“Storing of assignments, study notes or research documents on SharePoint is also made simple as it can be accessed from any device such as their smartphone or tablet, perfect for the student on the move. With Student Advantage, students can continue their work even when they are not on campus or connected to the Internet.”

“Education and skills development are critical to the social and economic development of every nation and to the ability of individuals everywhere to reach their full potential as part of the 21st century workforce,” says Niral Patel, Microsoft South Africa’s Public Sector lead.

“Skills are the foundation to their success, helping learners land the jobs they want, be innovative in the roles they play and helping them to grow their local economies.”

Beyond boosting students’ effectiveness in the academic arena, helping them become acquainted with Office 365 in turn fosters technology skills which they will need to succeed in the workplace.

A recent Microsoft-commissioned IDC workforce readiness study of the most important skills in preparing students for tomorrow’s best jobs, found that Microsoft Office is ranked third on a list of the top 20 in-demand skills for high-
growth, high-pay careers.

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, so we must ensure that they are all prepared with the technology and cognitive skills they need to succeed as part of the workforce. Microsoft Office is a world class productivity tool used
across industries and this is why Microsoft is committed to providing Office 365 Education to millions of students and faculty around the world through the Student Advantage offering,” says Patel.