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Obec-Microsoft deal gives 8m students

MICROSOFT (Thailand) yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) to provide free access to Microsoft Office 365 for 8 million students and 400,000 teachers across Thailand.

The MoU covers the next five years, 2014-19, and is an extension of Microsoft's Partners in Learning programme.

Haresh Khoobchandani, managing director of Microsoft (Thailand), said this was the largest cloud education partnership in the world. The second-largest is a similar programme that is a collaboration between Microsoft and the All India Council for Technical Education to allow 7.5 million students to access Office 365 free of charge.

Microsoft Office 365 Education allows students to engage in instant messaging or video chat (Lync Online) to collaborate on class projects in real time anywhere and on any device. They can create documents with Office Web apps that provide the same features as the desktop version. They can also share class notes by synchronising Microsoft OneNote.

Meanwhile, teachers can create curricula, record lectures and publish them on online class sites in the cloud where students are able to view, open, produce, edit, and share their homework.

"Office 365 provides new ways to extend time and distance learning, tutor students online, and whiteboard ideas. Moreover, students can benefit from using the same technology they will be required to use in the business world," Khoobchandani said.

Technology is a must in every sector, especially education, he said. It helps students access information, acquire knowledge, and learn necessary skills.

He said that while Microsoft had been investing in and supporting education around the world for 30 years, this Obec initiative was the company's largest ever cloud education partnership.

Under this collaboration, students and teachers in Thailand will be trained in and be able to access all resources and communities under the Partners in Learning programme, including DreamSpark, BizSpark, and YouthSpark, as well as the firm's academic and technical resources and Smart Classroom scheme.

Anek Ratpiyapaporn, Obec senior adviser on technology for teaching and learning, said that initially the agency would deploy Office 365 in schools in urban areas of every province nationwide, and then expand to the remaining 39,000 schools. The collaboration will save Obec a lot of money on software licences, which amounted to around Bt100 million in each of the last two years before the launch of the One Tablet per Child scheme.

Anek said embedding technology in education was necessary, and this collaboration played an important role in preparing the country for the Asean Economic Community and was part of the government's Smart Thailand vision.

The Ministry of Education has collaborated with Microsoft in the Partners in Learning programme for more than 10 years.

Khoobchandani said transforming education was not a short-term task, but needed long-term commitment. Microsoft has been committed to this transformation in Thailand for 20 years, investing US$5.2 million (Bt169 million) in Thai education.

"Office 365 can be used across devices - desktop PCs, laptops and tablets - anywhere and any time. It turns classroom learning into learning anywhere, with a lot more fun and efficient access to information and participation in the learning communities," he said.


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