Office 360 offered to students in partnership with Microsoft

By Maureen McMullen

For many MSUM students, the ability to complete assignments often depends upon access to the necessary technology. By partnering with Microsoft, the Minnesota State College and University system hopes to eliminate the barrier between students and important software.

Through this partnership, students and faculty at MSUM will now have free access to software including Microsoft Office’s newest suite Office 365, cloud storage program OneDrive, Lynda.com Online Training Library and Read&Write Gold, a program that aids in text-to-speech functions, fact-finding and strengthening vocabulary.

Students, faculty and staff can access these programs by clicking a link posted at mnstate.edu/IT. The link will direct to a portal, which will then ask users to log in using their DragonNet credentials. Once logged in, users will be able to download the software on up to five devices, including computers, tablets and smart phones.

While the downloads allow offline access to Office materials such as Word,

Excel and Powerpoint, Danu Vino,  Business Research Analyst for MSUM’s IT department and a recent music industry graduate, said that the programs’ cloud features will benefit students.

“When you’re storing a lot of personal stuff along with your school document, it can get cluttered up. So, with Office 365, because they get access to One Drive, students can keep all their school stuff on Office 365 and can easily upload it,” Vino said.

“It also gives you the ability to work on the same document from multiple locations. For instance, I can start up a draft of an assignment on the computer lab here by just logging into my portal, and I can go home and continue working just by logging in on the same document.”

Vino explained that because the software is part of an enterprise solution, it is synced to students’ and faculty’s email, which can simplify group assignments.

“[Students] can create a group document and share it with their group members, and they’ll just get an email saying that they’ve shared this document,” Vino said. “That way, you don’t have to pass around flash drives or send multiple versions of the same document via email.”

Software included in the student package offers not only convenience, but security. Products such as Google Drive and Dropbox, while similar to OneDrive in function, do not offer legal protection against corruption of data stored in their clouds.

“One of the advantages here is that the MnSCU system and Microsoft have partnered from a legal perspective,” said Dan Heckaman, Chief Information Officer for MSUM’s IT department. “If there’s litigation issues that come up around breech, loss of data, or criminal intent, Microsoft would stand by us. Google and DropBox have not said that yet, so legally, we don’t want to be putting sensitive data in any Google systems or the DropBox storage because they’re not covered as an organization.”

This software offering had been discussed in previous years, but required adjustments to MSUM’s system to make it available for student and faculty use. With this semester’s newly-available programs, Heckaman hopes to simplify students’ access to necessary material, on campus and beyond.

“What this does is allow you to use it on your own device so you don’t have to go buy your own Microsoft license,” said Heckaman. “So, we’re really extending our license on Microsoft products out past the walls of the university.”

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