Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit 2018

Looking back at Microsoft’s Global Education Partner Summit 2018

Between the 6th and 8th February, Microsoft welcomed invited Education Partners to their Redmond campus for their annual Global Education Partner Summit. In conference sessions and networking meetings, Microsoft and their partners from all over the world discussed the innovative ways they are bringing the tools available from Microsoft to schools, colleges and universities.
This post is a short reflection about what we took away from the week.

Growth of Dynamics 365 as the go-to CRM tool in Higher Education
There was a big focus on Dynamics 365 as a platform for student engagement during the conference. We’ve seen a huge change in the attitude towards Dynamics CRM/365 since we began working with universities in 2010, when it was almost unheard of for a university to be using Dynamics CRM as their main student relationship management platform.

In the 2016 CIS survey by USICA, 25% of responding universities referenced Microsoft Dynamics CRM as their CRM platform, giving it the largest market share of all CRM platforms in the sector. The use of Dynamics 365 continues to grow in Higher Education, with some universities using the platform in discrete departments and many choosing Dynamics 365 as their strategic platform for student recruitment, engagement and research and enterprise.
We often see Dynamics 365 projects starting within student admissions and recruitment teams as a way of reaching prospective students, delivering targeting messaging to them and tracking them through to accepting their offers. The conversation at GEPS was about strengthening the use of Dynamics into a student’s time on course, to track success and risk factors and increase the likelihood of them graduating and going into work as ambassadors of the university. With increasing pressure on universities to deliver value for money to students, and the threat of lost funding from students if they drop out of their courses, universities are investing in tools which enable them to spot potential issues students are facing and intervene proactively. It was great to hear from Microsoft how they are committed to delivering this platform into Higher Education that can support the entire student lifecycle to improve wellbeing and success rates of students.

Power BI is a key piece of this puzzle, so it is good to see this tool becoming more embedded in Dynamics 365 to increase the analytic capability of the platform. We’re also excited to hear how Microsoft will enhance the LinkedIn integration with Dynamics 365, as we can foresee this significantly enhancing Dynamics 365’s offering in alumni relations. The flexibility of the platform means that it is already an excellent choice for a fundraising management tool, something Pythagoras has implemented at many universities and not-for-profit organisations, and this will only increase the insight available to teams reaching out to previous students to continue their engagement.

How Office 365 is improving collaboration in Education
In line with their mission statement to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more, Microsoft is investing heavily in developing solutions to widen accessibility in classrooms and universities. At GEPS, Microsoft discussed how tools in their Office Accessibility Centre are improving the learning experience for students of all ages. It was great to see features like the Immersive Reader, Read Aloud and Spacing working in OneNote and Word Online, so students can continue to collaborate with their peers even within this tailored working environment.

On the topic of class collaboration, we’re starting to see universities exploring the use of Microsoft Teams for their student groups. It was noted at the conference that today’s students no longer live in their inboxes, and communicating via email is not seen as a slick method of communication. Teams takes the pain out of group working at university by giving students a dedicated space online that can be spun up with a couple of clicks, that can contain all documents, links and conversations about a particular project or module. With new functionality being regularly introduced to Teams, we’re looking forward to seeing how much this can improve students’ experience of group working.

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone from Microsoft who was involved in GEPS, and to all of the partners we met over the course of the conference. We had some brilliant conversations with new and existing partners, and we are looking forward to exploring how we can work together to enhance our offerings in the Higher Education sector.