I’ll keep going and roll out all the clichés ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’, ‘You get what you pay for’, ‘Pay peanuts and you get monkeys’, I could go on… instead however, I just want to remind readers, that on occasion, you can indeed (legally) acquire valuable digital tools free gratis and an excellent illustration of same is Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office suite AKA Office 365. Whilst this offer has been running for a number of years now, many teachers and students are blissfully unaware that they can download and install the full Office Suite (For both tablet and PC) for free once their school/academic institution has a valid volume license for Office 365 or Office Professional. And we’re not talking a lite-version either, the entire suite can be installed locally, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, InfoPath, and Access, and to boot the license covers up to five devices.

Even for those who aren’t part of a qualifying institution they can still avail of all the online office apps and generous cloud-storage free, the only thing amiss are the installable versions. That’s a free email service for staff and students on their own school domain, 1TB of cloud storage per user, shared collaborative spaces (virtual staffroom/classrooms) with a standardised (and familiar) platform cross-school and cross-platform.

Over the next few weeks (And posts) I’m going to walk through the basics of signing-up for Office 365, including domain verification and configuration of cloud services on your own school domain. If your school is yet to take the plunge with Office 365 and were wondering where to start, then read on…

Step 1: Sign-up

Head on over to Microsoft Ireland’s Office 365 Education plans and pricing page and click on the ‘Get started for free‘ button

This opens page one of the registration form, complete and click on Just one more step. Next you’ll be asked to create a user ID, initially this will be in the form username@schoolname.onmicrosoft.com but later (once you’ve setup the school’s own domain name) you’ll have the opportunity to change this. Next type and retype your chosen (strong) password, select/deselect communication preference tick boxes and click ‘Complete my registration‘ when done. To finish, select your preference on the subsequent Prove. You’re. Not. A. Robot page and enter the resulting verification code, then Next to conclude.

Step 2: Sign-in

An automated email will be sent to the designated sign-up email, open this and follow “GET STARTED WITH YOUR TRIAL” to open the Office 365 login screen. Enter your credentials to login to the Admin Center. At the top of this page click on the Go to setup button or alternatively watch the setup video by clicking on the video link below before proceeding…




Step 3: Set-up a domain

As the above video outlined ‘Go to setup’ opens the Add a domain wizard, enter the school’s domain name (or the domain you wish to use for Office 365) in Step 1 and click Next. On the next screen you will need to verify ownership of the domain by creating a text DNS record with your domain registrar.

As the process differs between hosting companies you’ll have to check the exact steps with your provider but when logged into the hosting Control panel look for DNS zone or equivalent. Once this record is created click on Verify (Allow 5 to 10 minutes for the change to propagate).

On the next screen you can add the required users one by one (there is no need to add all users now as there is also a bulk import option which I’ll cover in a later post). Once complete click Next for step 3 of the Add a domain wizard. Here you’ll be asked for alternate email addresses for the new users where they can receive their new Office 365 credentials, add the necessary, click Send email and then Next.

The next screen provides download links for local install of Office 365 apps, click Next when ready to continue.

The final step in domain setup is the Setup DNS, choose the second option ‘I’ll manage my own DNS records’ (Unless you want Office 365 to manage the domain) and click Next.

The Setup DNS screen lists the various records that need to be created so Office 365 is fully operational on your chosen domain. As with the text record at the start of this step the process will differ depending on hosting company so check with your provider before proceeding. Once all records are in place (Again, allow 5 to 10 minutes for the changes to propagate), select Verify to complete domain setup…

Coming in Part 2, how to claim Microsoft Qualified Academic Institution eligibility and getting to know the Office 365 Admin panel (including adding new users in bulk and setting up groups) …

In the meantime, check out the Office 365 YouTube channel @ https://www.youtube.com/user/officevideos for a plethora of of how-to videos.


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