Today, Microsoft launches Microsoft Lync, the next-generation of Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Lync is the missing component to enabling meaningful, timely communications between teachers, students, and parents with a proven ability to reduce ongoing operating costs. Moreover, Lync is eligible as a Priority II Service for the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as E-rate.
This is an exciting day. It is a time for meaningful innovation in our local schools.
The Schools and Libraries Program (hereafter “E-rate”) is one the most successful funding sources for public education for more than a decade. E-rate has enabled thousands of schools to connect to the Internet, improve their telecommunications capacity, and modernize their internal network infrastructure for 21st Century learning. Over $2.5 billion dollars each year is allocated to schools and school districts based on a needs-based formula calculated from the number of students eligible for reduced-or-free lunch. For the last five years, schools have annually made nearly $4 billion dollars in requests for E-rate funds. USAC has only committed 59% of the monies requested for eligible E-rate projects. Simply, there is more demand than we have a supply of money to provide every school.
Lingering Effects of the National Economy
Depending on your perspective, the recent or current economic downturn has left many state budgets depleted. School districts—large and small, urban and rural, have been dealing with funding cuts long before the global recession hit. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 saved countless jobs in the education sector, those monies are scheduled to end in 2011. While school revenues decline, the costs continue to climb for employees and benefits, infrastructure and facilities, and the business of learning.
In my work, many of the superintendents and school officials that I speak with have no more headcount they can reduce from their budget without adversely impacting the quality of instruction for students. Education has always been a people business. With the dawn of the second decade, our challenge is to look at restructuring the fundamentals of the business of learning. We have to change the way we do business so that we can take costs out of the system, while at the same time improving the productivity of the people that make the system work.
And I thought we had something hard to do!
Lync Economics (or “Lynconomics”)
Lync aligns with our goal of ushering in a new connected experience that transforms every communication (i.e. IM, Voice, Video, or E-mail) into an interaction that is more collaborative, engaging, and accessible from virtually anywhere. For K12 schools using E-rate, Lync eliminates costs, extends the reach of E-rate dollars, and increases the productivity of people in three distinct ways:
- Without E-rate, Lync provides a lower cost solution for Enterprise Voice, Video, and Conferencing for less than legacy PBX systems and today’s IP-PBX systems. With E-rate the cost of acquisition, implementation, and ongoing support is reduced even further with the E-rate discount…which can be up to 90%.
- As more schools chose Lync and save money implementing their Enterprise Voice, Video/Audio Conferencing, and Web Conferencing, the more potential E-rate funds will be available for schools below the 80% discount level.
- Lync schools enjoy a third benefit through Lync Federations. Most phone calls within a school district are internal calls and inter-agency calls between other schools and the state education agency. The Lync Federation enables schools to connect those calls over their Internet connection, thus saving more money on long-distance toll charges. Dollars save on long-distance also free up more dollars from Priority I Services for E-rate over all.
Very rarely can schools make an investment that continues to payback beyond Year One. However, with Lynconomics, those investment paradigms are flipped on their ear.
Lync Teachers, Parents, and Students Together
Microsoft Lync and Exchange combine to create a uniquely modern unified communications (UC) solutions for schools that go beyond the district’s infrastructure. It is the only UC option that enables teachers to connect to their students at home with Kinect for XBOX 360 and Windows Live Messenger. In the event of inclement weather, illness, or man-made incident, Microsoft UC supports the continuity of learning to make every school day more productive.
I am fully confident that as more schools learn about and implement Lync and Microsoft Unified Communications, the fundamentals of the business of learning will dramatically improve. With state-budgets focused on maximum yield for every dollar spent, this is a practical and prudent means of optimizing taxpayer dollars. The added dimension of E-rate multiplies the economic benefit for all schools and ensures that more money is available for classroom instruction while improving school-to-home communications.
If you want to learn more, call your Microsoft Account Executive. If you do not have a Microsoft Account Executive, call 888-237-8376.
At Microsoft, we want to help U.S. schools save hundreds of millions of dollars while modernizing learning for the Class of 2021.