Office 365 Education for Students – a few important points

Schools and educational institutes may need to prepare a few things before Office 365 Education for Students can provision smoothly in their environment. The blog announcement “Students and teachers: You may be eligible to get Office for free!” caused excitement this week. But it also raised a few questions. Thankfully Microsoft put together the “Office 365 Education for Students FAQ” for schools to help them understand how the provisioning works and some of the things they need to prepare.

Thank you Steve Faehl for bringing the FAQ to our attention via the Office 365 Technical Network (Yammer communication at it’s best, again).

The main point is Don’t Do Nothing.
At a minimum, School IT staff should read the FAQ and understand what applies to them.

 

I’d like to highlight a few important points in the FAQ. Make sure you don’t miss them if these situations apply to your school.

Three scenarios – Scenario 3: Our school hasn’t implemented Office 365 yet.

If your school hasn’t implemented Office 365 but is eligible for Office 365 Education for Students, take note.
The first student to sign up using a email address from the eligible school will initiate the creation of an Office 365 portal. Microsoft will provision a portal with the tenant name schooldomain.edu.onmicrosoft.com. i.e. If my schools email address is Webster.ac.nz, then

  • My tenant name Websteracnz.onmicrosoft.com.
  • My SharePoint Online URL will be Websteracnz.sharepoint.com

The advice is, if you want to have control over the name of your Office 365 tenant:

  • Sign up for Office 365 and name your tenant BEFORE your students start to provision themselves.
  • Add and verify all email domains used by the school, to ensure your students are provisioned in your Office 365 tenant.

“If your institution has multiple email domains and you prefer all email address extensions to be in the same tenant, before any students sign up for Office 365 Education for Students, create your primary tenant and add all email address domains to that tenant. There is no supported automated mechanism to move users across tenants after they have been created. For more information on this process, see Add your domain to Office 365.” – What actions does my institution need to take to make this available to students?

Make sure your SharePoint Online site permissions are set appropriately

Students who sign up using Office 365 Education for Students will receive OneDrive for Business (ODFB). I assume that a SharePoint Online license will be assigned to them to provide ODFB.
If your school has only made SharePoint Online available to staff, the advice suggests students may get access to sites that they shouldn’t get access to. I’m still in the process of confirming what happens, but my assumption is, by assigning a SharePoint Online license, students are added to the site members group of the home site for SharePoint Online. i.e. schooledu.sharepoint.com (tenantname.sharepoint.com)
If site permissions are still set to inherit from the home site, students may become site members of sub sites deeper in the site collection.

Review your site permissions.

“If students are new to your Office 365 environment, faculty and staff should make sure that their sites have appropriate permissions so that students can only access what’s appropriate for them. For information about setting permissions, see Share documents or folders in Office 365 and Permissions in Office 365.” – What does this mean for my faculty and staff who are already using Office 365?

Identity Management

  • If your school already has an existing Office 365 environment without student accounts, students will be added.
  • If your school uses Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS or Single Sign On), Microsoft will not add new students to Office 365 using the Office 365 Education for Students sign up process. A message will direct them to your IT department.
  • If your school does not have an Office 365 environment connected to your email domain, there will be no change in how you manage identity. Students will be added to a new, cloud-only user directory, and you will have the option to elect to take over as the tenant admin and manage them.

How will this change the way I manage identities for users in my institution today?

If your school uses multiple domain names and sub domain names

There is a ‘risk’ that students using this sign up process may create multiple, entirely separate Office 365 tenants.
If the school uses multiple domain names for email and those domain names aren’t added to your schools tenant, each domain name will create a separate Office 365 tenant. Example:

  • Faculty and staff use @staff.school.edu. Schools need to add this domain to their Office 365 tenant manually.
    The tenant name could be school.onmicrosoft.com, as long as the tenant name is available.
  • Students using @students.school.edu will create a separate tenant – studentsschooledu.onmicrosoft.com

NOTE: Separate Office 365 tenants CANNOT be combined.

It is best to create an Office 365 tenant, name it yourself and add the email domain names.
Signing up for Office 365 is FREE for schools, so it’s best to get the process underway to make sure students are added to a single, manageable Office 365 tenant, even if you don’t plan to use it at this stage and want your students to benefit from receiving Office for free. – http://aka.ms/deployoffice

Tenant name – school.onmicrosoft.com. Add domain names:

  • school.edu
  • staff.school.edu
  • students.school.edu

With this in place, students signing up using Office 365 Education for Students will be matched up with your schools Office 365 tenant.

“If you want all students to be in the same tenant regardless of their email address extensions:

Create a target tenant ahead of time or use an existing tenant, and add all the existing domains and subdomains that you want consolidated within that tenant. Then all the students with email addresses ending in those domains and subdomains will automatically join the target tenant when they sign up.

Important   There is no supported automated mechanism to move users across tenants once they have been created. For more information on this process, see Add your domain to Office 365.” – If I have multiple domains, can I control the Office 365 tenant that students are added to?

Finding your students provisioned using Office 365 Education for Students sign up

Students are assigned a new license type aptly named “Office 365 Education for Students”. To view them, you’ll need to create a filter in the Office 365 Admin Center. – How do I know when new users have joined my tenant?

How to disable Office 365 Education for Students

If your school needs more time to prepare or remediate some of the items mentioned in the FAQ, you can disable the service using PowerShell commands. Though I expect the PowerShell commands wont work until Office 365 Education for Students is available in your country.

 

Opinion

I think this initiative is a good move by Microsoft, to help get Office onto student devices.

Signing up for Office 365 is FREE for schools, so it’s best to get the process underway to make sure students are added to a single, manageable Office 365 tenant, even if you don’t plan to use it at this stage and want your students to benefit from receiving Office for free.

If schools review the FAQ and identify the items they need to remediate, this service could make it easier for school IT departments to provision Office 365 Pro Plus for their students.