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Ideas, News & Advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

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Written by Corey Tutewiler
on August 17, 2017

Microsoft continues to expand its offerings for education, specifically with developments for Office 365 and the rollout of Microsoft Teams.

For schools and districts interested in implementing Office 365, we’ve already released a guide on implementation from a change management and educator perspective. But what about implementation from technical and safety points of view? Here are four important considerations when you start implementing Office 365 at your school or district.

Domains

Do you have a single email domain for your users, or do you have users on separate domains or subdomains? Office 365 is great about accommodating either option, as long as you manage your DNS settings with your registrar.

For the sake of simplicity (and for the sake of your sanity), it’s highly recommended to use a single Office 365 environment, regardless of how many domains you have. In other words, you are cautioned not to create separate accounts/environments for multiple domains, if possible. End users will experience limitations in how they can interact with users in other Office 365 instances.

Account Provisioning & Groups

There are several ways for you to provision accounts. Visit Microsoft’s setup guide to read about the benefits, costs and additional notes on each of the following provisioning methods.

  • Manual provisioning
  • CSV upload
  • Powershell
  • Active Directory
  • Migration from Exchange

Moreover, it is always prudent to avoid complicating your group structure more than necessary. Overzealous administrators will sometimes create numerous groups, despite the lack of necessity in doing so. If you manage your groups accurately, less work now can also mean less work later. Only create rules when users will need different filtering or rules applied to their accounts (e.g. educators versus students, high school versus elementary school).

Retention

Be sure that you research local and state regulations for email and file retention, and seek legal counsel if necessary. If you have a documented retention policy, make sure that you have the provisions in place to meet those requirements.

Safety

Finally, If accounts are allocated for students, you’ll need to be sure that you have provisions in place for students safety. Just like your playground, this learning environment can be troubled by bullying, nudity and sexual content, mentions of drug and alcohol use and even mentions of abuse and suicide. Office 365 doesn’t provide sufficient or feasible measures of ensuring student safety, so you will need something in place in order to protect students, as well as your school or district.

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