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Preparing tomorrow’s workforce in the classrooms of today

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Today’s Office 365 post was written by Phil Ventimiglia, chief innovation officer at Georgia State University.

More often than not, “innovation” in a university setting is thought of as breakthroughs in scientific research—but in my case, it applies to how we deliver higher education as a whole. At Georgia State University, we’re taking a fresh look at how to reach today’s students and give them the most valuable education we can. We are proud to serve an extremely diverse student body that comes to us with a wide range of knowledge and experiences.

Take technology, for example. Some incoming students have been using specialized technologies for years, and others’ experience is limited to smartphone apps. We aim to not just bridge that technology gap, but also to prepare our students—all of our students—for the working world that they’ll enter after leaving the university.

I arrived at Georgia State recently, after several once-in-a-lifetime career opportunities in the private sector, with much of my time spent working in Fortune 500 companies. As chief innovation officer, I want to empower the education sector with the same sorts of technological advantages I saw in the business world. My role includes figuring out what 21st-century education looks like and establishing Georgia State at the forefront of that movement. We’ve already taken some exciting steps. One of our biggest initiatives focuses on digital literacy—everything from increasing students’ comfort with using computers to teaching them how to create and maintain a blog. We want our students to be a step ahead when they enter the workforce, and that effort requires an understanding of how people work together today and the tools that support effective collaboration.

That’s one of the reasons I was so pleased to see that the university had already adopted Microsoft Office 365. Getting accustomed to Office 365 will serve our students well, not just when it comes to learning how to leverage technology for their course work, but in their future careers. Being savvy across the spectrum of Microsoft productivity technologies is key preparation for the working world, because they’re the tools of choice for the majority of employers.

We know we have a choice in productivity solutions, and we continue to choose Microsoft. I believe Office 365 is a best-in-class set of cloud-based capabilities that just keeps improving. Clearly Microsoft has already made a significant investment in Office 365, and the platform continues to evolve to give us useful new features. No other productivity software has the same enterprise-grade pedigree, and it’s important to give our students, faculty and staff high-quality technologies.

The university’s fledgling Digital Literacy Innovation Fellowship program challenges our faculty to dream up ways to put new technologies to use in the classroom to optimize learning opportunities. They’ve immediately responded with creative ideas that include using Office 365 components to help us reach students and amplify those “learning moments.” For instance, we’re going to launch Skype for Business as a platform for virtual classroom discussions and virtual office hours, so that students have greater access to professors in the moments that they need help most, without inconveniencing those professors. In addition, some of our research teams now use Microsoft SharePoint Online to collaborate more closely with colleagues at other institutions to further their collective goals, and our math department is looking to use Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 to replace graphing calculators with modern capabilities that get to the heart of analytics.

I believe that collaboration will be the foundation of the future of education, and we are poised to make great strides because of the opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively that we get from Office 365. To be successful today, higher education must bridge many gaps—not just the digital divide, but also the gulf between how students work and what employers expect. We’re confident that we’re giving our students the experience that they need to move forward in their careers of choice. Office 365 is a critical component of that preparation.

For more information, read the full story at Why Microsoft and visit Phil’s blog at the Office of the Chief Innovation Officer.

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