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Live@edu Gaining Higher Ed Traction

Microsoft's Live@edu software has gained 4 million new student users over the last three months around the world. The company said 15 million students are using the suite, which includes Web-based e-mail, calendaring, online file storage, and instant messaging. Institutions that have signed on for the service include Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Augusta State University, Beijing Open University in China, the University of Bologna in Italy, Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, and Lodge Park Technical College in the United Kingdom. The service, while free to students, isn't free for faculty or staff.

Western Kentucky U recently deployed the suite for 42,000 students and alumni. According to Robert Owen, vice president of IT, the efficiencies gained from moving to Live@edu will save the university $50,000 a year in hardware and software costs. Letting someone else take over systems management frees IT staff up for other kinds of work, he added.

"We're in the business of educating students, not administering e-mail systems," he said. "Everything we can do to get away from having to mess with that allows us to focus on enhancing students' educational experience."

The university is also testing components of Office 365, the next generation of Live@edu, which Microsoft announced this week. The school recently ran a pilot project for Microsoft Lync, which integrates e-mail, instant messaging, audio, video, and Web conferencing. The students who participated in the pilot were doctoral candidates in education, the vast majority of whom worked fulltime while they went to school, according to Robert Owen, vice president of IT. That meant at times that they were studying at study hours, when it might be tough to hook up with other classmates.

"Obviously you're going to hesitate before you call someone at 1 a.m. and ask for help," said Owen. "With Lync, they could immediately see who else in the class was online and communicate with them however they want, whether IM or phone or video chat. We found that aspect worked very well."

Augusta State adopted Live@edu, rebranded "JagMail," after its school mascot, in November 2010 as part of a major technology overhaul at the Georgia campus. That deployment has 22,000 users, encompassing students, faculty, staff, applicants, alumni, and retirees. According to Chip Matson, CIO and the director of IT Services, an increasingly tech-savvy student body expects to be able to access school resources on whatever device they have in their hands.

"This is a new generation of students," he said. "These people have grown up with all these devices that let them always be on, always be connected. They have a new set of expectations."

He added that although the services making up Live@edu are in the cloud, "it was a major project for us. We are pleased with our deployment."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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