Delaware schools move to cloud e-services

The Delaware Department of Education today announced it is working with Microsoft Corp. to bring Microsoft Live@edu, a suite of online communication and collaboration tools, to students, faculty and staff in district and charter schools throughout the state. The Department of Technology and Information (DTI) will initially migrate approximately 20,000 faculty and staff to this no-cost platform in June 2011, with the goal being to move everyone to Microsoft Live@edu, as well as offer it to the more-than-129,000-student population, over the next two years.

Microsoft Live@edu is a cloud-based suite of services, based on the familiar Microsoft tools many already use today. It will provide Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Outlook email and several other services, including Microsoft Office Web Apps. Educators and staff will be able to access their information in the cloud through popular Web browsers and from any Internet-connected PC or mobile phone.

Microsoft Live@edu aims to help Delaware schools reduce operating costs by migrating away from their current on-premises email systems.

“With Live@edu, every school district and charter school in the state will have access to the latest programs and innovations, helping to close technology gaps between schools,” said Lillian M. Lowery, secretary of Education. “This gives students the tools to collaborate more with their educators, as well as access to applications necessary for 21st-century skills.”

The DTI will be implementing the cloud-based mail service in June and Microsoft Office Web Apps later this year. In addition, DTI will be managing the implementation and covering the costs for message archiving.

“Beyond just email, the services provided through Microsoft Live@edu will allow the state to reduce overall support costs and eventually provide a seamless interface with the existing Microsoft platform to access tools such as Microsoft Office and Excel,” said Jim Sills, Delaware chief information officer and secretary of DTI.

The state began working on the deal with Microsoft after Lake Forest School District Information Systems manager Ron Usilton investigated a Microsoft Live@edu pilot.

“Resources, such as interactive whiteboards and mobile computer labs, along with online learning programs, provide our students and educators the tools for a 21st-century education, but a method to provide better staff and student collaboration still was needed,” Usilton said. “The robust email and collaborative services, Microsoft Office applications, and online storage made Live@edu the best candidate for what we sought.

“It also offers control over domain accounts and security, requirements the state’s technology department felt were necessary in the educational environment. That Live@edu is provided at no cost to educational institutions was icing on the cake, especially in these budget-conscious times.”

Lake Forest successfully piloted a staff email service through Microsoft Live@edu in August 2010. The district now plans to add accounts for all students at Lake Forest High School.

“This is an example of how a great idea on the district level was shared and expanded to benefit all of our schools across the state,” Lowery said. “We’re thankful for the forward-thinking and collaborative nature of our local personnel.”