Microsoft Expands SharePoint Learning Kit, Partners with Houghton for 'Learning Village'

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At the NECC 2008 conference in Texas this week, Microsoft unveiled an addition to its SharePoint Learning Kit (SLK), a suite of tools deigned for helping developers build education solutions. The company also announced a partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to launch the new Learning Village, a teaching and learning portal.

Learning Village is a portal built on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 and .NET Framework 3.0. Designed for all education stakeholders--teachers, administrators, parents and students--it offers educational content, curricula, and other resources, along with tools for communication and collaboration. It's designed both for student learning and teacher professional development.

"This alliance between Microsoft and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology is built from a common goal to create powerful learning communities within and beyond the classroom," said Anthony Salcito, general manager of Education for Microsoft, in a statement released this week. "Microsoft's technology scale and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's content expertise will together change the K-12 education market and atmosphere."

"Learning Village showcases how teachers, students and parents all benefit when lesson plans, content and curricula are centralized and accessible," added Scott Kirkpatrick, president, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology. "As a leading K-12 global education company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provides rich instructional materials and ease of use for districts large and small. Learning Village combines Microsoft's technology platform with innovative curriculum management to deliver an incredible level of teaching and learning resources to the educational experience--making teachers more productive, students more engaged and parents more informed."

Some of the specific features of the new Learning Village include:

  • Online assessments and assessment tools;
  • A single login for accessing instructional content and learning resources;
  • Discussion forums;
  • Improvements to the interface, including navigation and folder organization;
  • Expanded access to content;
  • Student information;
  • Student progress monitoring;
  • The ability for parents to review students' activities and performance; and
  • Student access to homework assignments and other information.

Memphis City Schools is one district using Learning Village. Linda Eller, professional development coordinator, Learning Technology, said, "We see Learning Village as a centralized solution for our teachers, where they can expand curriculum and real-world solutions, focus on professional development, and collaborate with one another. We can't wait to start using and taking advantage of the new capabilities in the next-generation Learning Village. Now, with the utilization of the single sign-on application built on SharePoint, Learning Village will offer us even more--better navigation and folder organization, an easier way to search content, and the ability to have even more content available."

Further information about Learning Village can be found here. The Learning Village site can be accessed here.

Microsoft has also released an add-on pack for its SharePoint Learning Kit, a suite of tools for education developers. The new SharePoint Learning Kit Add-on Pack brings additional functionality to the suite, including planning and gradebook features, that can be used by institutions or third-party developers to create new tools for SharePoint Server deployments.

Said Cliff Lloyd, a lead program manager in the Education Products Group at Microsoft, "... [W]e created a set of education-centric developer tools based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and known as the SharePoint Learning Kit. With the SLK, developers and solution providers can build solutions that enable educators to work more efficiently and easily create classroom assignments, share those assignments with their colleagues and manage the workflow of those assignments as they're completed by learners. As an extension of the SLK, the SharePoint Learning Kit Add-on Pack introduces a planning component to help educators at the beginning of an academic period develop curriculum and lesson plans that map to course objectives."

In other Microsoft news, the company this week revealed that more than 500 K-12 schools around the world have signed up for the company's free Live@edu service, adding to the "thousands" of colleges and universities that have signed up for the service in 86 countries.

Live@edu is Microsoft's portal, communications, and collaboration suite for education that launched back in March 2005. It incorporates Office Live Workspace, a Web-based feature of Microsoft Office that allows for collaboration and sharing of documents. It also provides hosted personal storage and e-mail services, including Exchange Labs, which was added to the service back in May. With the addition of Exchange Labs, Live@edu now offers two e-mail options: the 5 GB Hotmail-based accounts that were previously available plus the new 10 GB Exchange Labs inbox, which is available for students, alumni, and others.

One district that has adopted Live@edu is Polk County Public Schools in Florida. Said Abdu Taguri, chief information officer for the district, "... [O]ur goal is to enhance communication among the school system, parents and community to increase student achievement. That's why our work with Live@edu will help us to eventually roll out e-mail accounts to every student and parent."

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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