Volume licensing agreements for Microsoft’s education customers will change Aug. 1 to give schools more flexibility for their software and licensing needs, the company announced May 10.

Microsoft’s education customers said they wanted an easier way to renew licenses, greater flexibility in the products they can license, and better buyout options, said Marsha Kusznaul, a group manager for Microsoft’s Education Solutions Group. Microsoft’s new licensing agreements come in response to these requests.

The changes affect school districts that license Microsoft software by subscription, instead of purchasing the software outright.

Customers who subscribe to Microsoft’s products under School Agreement 3.0 subscriptions do not own the software, just the right to use it for a specific time period, which is typically 12 months, Kusznaul said. Starting in August, schools that subscribe to Microsoft products will be able to renew their licenses without formally reapplying.

“Previously, the customer was required to sign a full agreement that detailed their terms and conditions of usage every single year,” said Andrea Tanner, licensing manager for Microsoft’s Education Group. “Now, they won’t need to negotiate the terms and conditions every year.”

Because the agreement is a legal contract, many school districts had to have the contract legally reviewed each time. This not only took up time, it also cost money to have lawyers review the software contracts each year.

“If it means less paperwork, it might be good,” said Kipp Bentley, manager of educational technology at the Denver Public Schools. Bentley said his district had to go through the process of having the district’s lawyers review the terms and conditions of the agreement each year.

“Anything they can do to make it a less cumbersome process will be much appreciated, as long as it’s very clear what we’re getting into and it has a clear opt-in and opt-out feature,” Bentley said. “They seem to be hearing their customer base, and that’s a good thing.”

In addition, Microsoft has decided to give schools greater flexibility in the number of software titles they are required to license. Before, schools had to subscribe to the whole Microsoft suite of products, but now they can choose to license and pay for only the programs they need.

“If schools decide they mostly uses Microsoft Office, and they don’t have a need for the other products, they can choose only Microsoft Office,” Kusznaul said. “It could really bring their costs down.”

Also, for the first time with Microsoft products, K-12 schools can offer their students access to the software to use on their personal computers or family computers at home with a Student Option.

“This is the biggest change for schools. Not only do they have the flexibility to choose titles and renew their subscriptions, but they can extend the license to individual students,” Kusznaul said.

For the School Agreement 3.0 subscriptions, schools pay a fee based on the number of computers in the district. For the Student Option, schools just add the number of students who would use the software outside of school to the number of computers in the district.

“It extends access to the same tools they have at school to their personal machine at home,” Kusznaul said. “The extension to students is something we hear educators talk about a lot.”

Through the Student Option, schools can pay to license their students to use the most current technology on personally owned computers in the students’ homes, or on school computers dedicated to their use. The school is not required to license the entire student body; instead, it can choose to license any number of students, such as a single class or grade level.

Under the new plan, schools will have more options if they decide to buy software outright and stop leasing it. Without penalty, schools can choose to buy only a portion of the products they were subscribing to if they decide they don’t want all the programs.

Starting Oct. 1, Microsoft education customers who purchase software outright (and never subscribe) can buy Software Assurance, which provides the school with the rights to upgrade to the latest versions of products released during the term of the agreement.

Links:

Microsoft Corp.
http://www.microsoft.com/education

Denver Public Schools
http://www.dpsk12.org