Aug 10 2023

Windows 11 Is Optimized for Today's K–12 Education Environment

Microsoft’s workhorse operating system stays in step with education’s needs, addressing equity, accessibility and security gaps.

This summer, many district and school IT teams are facing an eternal question: Is now the right time for a Windows upgrade?

A closer look at Windows 11 for Education may sway those still operating on Windows 10 or a competing platform. With Windows 11 for Education, Microsoft addresses some of the big post-pandemic challenges of its education users: supporting student equity, accessibility and security. In addition, Windows 11 highlights some excellent functional features that improve the overall computing experience.

“A great deal of the feedback we were getting from our education customers was they wanted a user experience that was optimized for education, for the experience of students and teachers,” says Jordan Chrysafidis, general manager of worldwide education devices at Microsoft. “Windows 11 Pro for Education is uniquely designed for the education user.”

EXPLORE: Which Windows 11 for Education solutions fit your school's needs?

Features of Windows 11 Support Tech Equity and Accessibility

Windows 11 showcases Microsoft’s efforts to level the playing field and provide an equitable learning experience for all students. This can be seen in the introduction of Windows 11 SE, a cloud-first version of the operating system that’s being offered on some new devices. Because SE is cloud-first, students can work offline and online, delivering a consistent educational experience, even on low-cost devices.

SE also provides students with access to all the Windows 11 OS features, including its Learning Accelerators. These are no-cost assistive tools that are built into the OS and help develop foundational learning skills, such as reading and building effective search queries.

With a renewed focus on accessibility since the pandemic, K–12 institutions are looking for ways to give all students a path to a fair and equal level of education. Windows 11 tackles accessibility with its Learning Accelerators. These tools are numerous, including:

  • Immersive Reader, which helps students improve reading comprehension
  • Search Coach, which helps students learn how to form effective search queries
  • Live Caption, a FERPA-compliant tool that delivers real-time captions and subtitles displaying the spoken word as text on the device

“Windows 11 SE offers a safe, curated experience,” says Chrysafidis. “The device configuration emphasizes performance, and 84 of the most-used apps in education are tested and certified for use with SE. But, schools should keep in mind that for most untested apps, Managed Installer will be required, so that’s a consideration for an SE purchase.”

READ MORE: Avoid these four pitfalls when implementing online education software.

Windows 11 Breaks Down Language Barriers for Students

Language is a common accessibility hurdle in the classroom, as many students are actively learning a second language. Windows 11 offers a wide range of language support. For example, Immersive Reader can provide text translation in 89 languages. If a student is struggling to read the language they are learning, Immersive Reader can assist them by translating passages and individual words into their native language.

Chrysafidis shares how his sister, a teacher in Canada, uses Reading Coach, another Learning Accelerator available in Windows 11, to assist some of her students as they learn English.

“She has been using the tool, which is powered by artificial intelligence, to determine where exactly each of her students is struggling to read in English,” he says. “After analyzing the student’s reading, Reading Coach produces an individualized learning program for reading improvement that can be delivered in multiple languages. Often, it’s one copy of the program for her in English, and the other copy for the student in the student’s native language.”

In this way, Reading Coach allows her, and teachers like her, to work individually with far more students on their reading then they would otherwise be able to without it.

Windows 11 Delivers Network and Student Data Security

With so much of student learning now happening on devices, security has grown as a classroom concern. One way that schools can improve security is through Smart App Control on Windows 1. This feature prevents malicious apps and code, such as phishing and ransomware, from running on the device. When a new app is launched, Smart App Control scans and compares it against a security database. If it approves the app, it runs; if not, the app doesn’t execute.

“Maintaining student privacy and security is one of the most important features of Windows 11 for Education,” says Chrysafidis. “It’s at the core of everything Microsoft does.”

A less direct security feature in Windows 11 is the Edge Secure Network VPN service built into the Edge browser. This feature masks the device’s IP address, encrypts its data and routes it through a secure network. The students’ data and privacy are maintained, keeping them safe from cybercriminals and unwanted targeted advertising — an often-overlooked threat to student privacy.

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Windows 11 Engineers a Solution to Classroom Battery Life Challenges

Beyond its focuses on student equity, accessibility and security, Windows 11 for Education is designed to function easily and efficiently across platforms. It is relatively quick to start up, with an average boot time of about a minute (but capable of booting up in 12 to 15 seconds, according to Startup Timer). “Windows 11 and Office 365 use about 10 gigabytes of memory, so it’s a slim experience for most hardware setups,” says Chrysafidis.

Classroom setup also becomes less onerous. “When Windows 11 is paired with InTune for Education, IT staff can quickly provision an entire classroom with customized setups for individual students,” says Chrysafidis. “It’s a huge timesaver.”

In addition, InTune for Education lets IT staff manage non-Windows devices, a common issue in mixed-hardware classrooms, where students and teachers are on different platforms.

Finally, Windows 11 also addresses one of the biggest complaints from students: insufficient battery life. Browser querying and research are among the most common activities performed on student devices. This activity requires a lot of computing and power use, which impacts the device’s battery life.

“This was a challenge we really wanted to take on to differentiate Windows 11 for Education,” Chrysafidis says. “Optimizing battery life in the classroom is key. Microsoft Edge runs more efficiently than competing browsers. Some of the Windows 11 devices are able to support 18 hours of battery life, which really benefits students.”

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