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Microsoft Expands SharePoint Learning Kit, Partners With Houghton

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.

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."

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.

Live@edu 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.

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.

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