More and more we see teachers implementing the Power Platform tools to teach students future-ready skills, innovate the classroom, and decrease the gap between the university and the workforce this is being supported with the release of Power Platform University Hub (microsoft.com)
An example of this is the initiative by Durban University of Technology (DUT) in South Africa. Here, Lecturer Feziwe Khomo from the Department of Finance and Management, Accounting and Informatics Faculty has started the quest to upskill and introduce the students to the Microsoft Power Platform. The goal of this project was to teach working with an agile iterative approach and to apply a backward design method. The project initiative was highly influenced by the Microsoft Power Platform. Hence, it was infused into the curriculum to indirectly encourage students to engage with the platform and co-create a solution to an environmental issue, Carbon Emission.
This example demonstrates how working on low-code projects within the curriculum can teach students important skills that can improve employability in a practical manner. And this is just the beginning. How can we identify the value of the Power Platform and skills for students?
Introducing the Power Platform in the classroom is only the first step to upskilling students. When implementing these teachers and educators and the Institution look for the value of the Power Platform and how students can utilize these skills in the workplace.
An example of this is the Power Platform Bootcamp with Durban University of Technology (DUT) in South Africa. Here, Fanie Ndlovu (a Technician from the Accounting and Informatics Faculty) and Ugeshni Moodley (a Faculty Engagement Chairperson from the Accounting and Informatics Faculty) partnered with Greenlight Business Solutions and Someleze Diko (Cloud Advocate at Microsoft). Greenlight Business Solutions is a Microsoft Partner that builds solutions for their clients using the Power Platform. Together, they joined forces in a quest to upskill and introduce selected students to the Microsoft Power Platform.
The bootcamp contained two phases, the first phase was to enable students to attain the PL-900: Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals and PL-100: Microsoft Power Platform App Maker professional certificates. They were able to acquire the fundamentals certifications through the Certifications for Students program. The PL-100 App Maker exam vouchers were provided by Greenlight. In the last phase of the bootcamp, students built business-related solutions with the Power Platform from real-life business requirements as provided by Greenlight. The top performing students could obtain Power Platform Developer internship opportunities with Greenlight.
This example demonstrates how partnering with a Microsoft Partner or Customer can introduce the value of the Power Platform to both students and educational institutions. Also, it shows how companies can engage in such initiatives to train and upskill students with Power Platform skills. As a bonus, the students contain the exact skills required to land a job or an internship at a participating company. But in our endeavor to teach low-code skills, there are some hurdles on the track on the way to the finish. How can we identify and cross those?
By now you are probably wondering how you can teach with the Power Platform if you are not completely sure what it entails yourself. Allow me to first give you a short introduction to the platform, and then refer you to the great resources we have available!
The Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of no/low-code tools that allow users without technical knowledge to build applications, automations, and dashboards quickly to save time and costs. Because the development environment has the same look and feel as other Microsoft Office products, such as PowerPoint and Excel, it immediately enables users of the Office suite to build applications. This in combination with the rapid speed at which students learn, means that students who use the Power Platform within the curriculum can make an impact on societal issues (such as Carbon Emissions in the example above) in no time.
To aid educators in their quest to teach with the Platform they can leverage Microsoft Learn for Educators. This program enables teachers to bring Microsoft Official Curriculum and instructor-led training materials into your classroom to build your students’ technical skills for the future. Here, we distinguish two types of users, namely education institutions and individual educators. In short, if you and a few colleagues are willing to adopt Microsoft technologies in the curriculum, you can leverage more resources such as a training manager or data and insights. Alternatively, if you are a single person on a mission, you can already get started by leveraging the individual educator resources. We also offer discounted Microsoft Certification exam vouchers to prepare you to deliver cutting-edge technical instruction in your classes in both programs. More information on the program can be found here.
Of course, educators are not the only people who are involved in this process. So, for supporting personnel, such as the IT department, we also offer the Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI). Use this initiative to sharpen your technical skills and knowledge of Microsoft solutions by enrolling in interactive courses and training designed for your role and advance your career by getting certified.
Lastly, we also offer the students the chance to get certified and prepare themselves for the future of work with technology. This is important, because more often employers in every industry expect interns and recent graduates to have the digital capabilities they need to thrive in a modern working environment. While digital abilities are a great start, students also need skills in data, AI, and cloud technologies to make the most of every opportunity. By leveraging this program, students can both get the necessary skills to build amazing applications during their study, as well as proof their competences by getting certified. Certifications help students stand out, gain confidence, and even get paid more. Via the Certifications for Students program students can get free Microsoft Exams and free test-exams to boost their chances of passing the certification exams.
Also worth noting: if students want to amplify their impact and become a mentor and leader in their communities while developing the technical skills and emotional intelligence, we offer the Student Ambassador program. This is an amazing program that helps students build relevant skills, whilst gaining a great network to benefit from.
Figure 1: A picture showing the Power Platform Tools.
One of the major benefits of the Power Platform is how easily it integrates with other data stores and applications. However, there is also a risk associated to this that we need to navigate. To combat this challenge, the Center of Excellence (CoE) starter kit was born! The Microsoft Power Platform CoE Starter Kit is a collection of components and tools that are designed to help you get started with developing a strategy for adopting and supporting Microsoft Power Platform, with a focus on Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. The components from the CoE help you to admin, govern and nurture the usage of the Power Platform within your university or school.
One of the components within the CoE is an app that allows you to create environments within the tenant. Separating the tenant into environments can give you a more categorized insight into how the Power Platform is used in the organization. The CoE provides pre-made dashboards in Power BI for this purpose. Also, the Power Platform admin center provides useful out-of-the-box dashboards for the usage of the Power Platform tools.
In addition, you can apply rules to an environment to make sure that the users who have access to the environment cannot use connectors that are not allowed. These rules are called Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies. As the name suggests, they act as guardrails to help prevent users from unintentionally exposing organizational data. DLP policies can be scoped at the environment level or tenant level, offering flexibility to craft sensible policies that strike the right balance between protection and productivity.
There is always a default environment in place. This is the environment that new users land into when they are not assigned to another environment yet. Therefore, we advise that the default environment is set up as a personal productivity environment. We suggest only allowing connections to the personal productivity tools that the M365 suite provides (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: An example of Data Loss Prevention policies for the default environment
Often, governance policy makers decide on different environments for development, testing, acceptance, and production (DTAP). In education, we see that often separate environments are created for students and faculty staff, or for the different faculties. Setting up environments for your organization is very flexible and therefore easy to manage. An example of an environment configuration can be found in Figure 3.
Figure 3: A sample configuration for the environment strategy
Successfully implementing the Center of Excellence and defining a governance strategy can help you adopt the Power Platform in a safe and secure manner. The great advantage is that with this approach you do not need to govern single applications, but all (infinite) applications that are built with the Power Platform. Therefore, we see a great reduction in Shadow IT for organizations that adopt the Power Platform in this way. Defining and implementing your governance strategy can be quite a challenge. However, Microsoft and our certified Microsoft Partners are available to assist you in this process, with best practices from experiences with other customers.
The benefits are clear, technical governance is supported, and we cannot wait to begin. But then you stumble on the third hurdle: how can we make sure that students, teachers, and supportive employees are going to accept and adopt the platform and make the project a success?
Often, universities starting with the Power Platform have a few early adopters who already built their Power Apps and Power Automate flows. Therefore, the first step for successful adoption is to find and support these Power Platform champions in your organization. They can play an essential role in driving awareness, adoption, and education in your organization. A champion is therefore recognized by their peers as the go-to Power Apps, Power Automate, or Power Virtual Agents expert. A champion continually builds and shares their knowledge even if it's not an official part of their job role. Power Platform champions influence and help their colleagues in many ways, including solution development, learning, skills improvement, troubleshooting, and keeping up to date.
Another best practice is to set up an internal community, a place for people to collaborate, share ideas, and discover new ways to apply technology to achieve more. A community is a safe place to ask questions to share tacit knowledge and expand skill sets. Organizations that have succeeded at creating a growing community of makers provide tools such as Yammer or Microsoft Teams groups, regular events and speaking opportunities, and foster an environment of ongoing learning.
The CoE also contains components that help with nurturing the internal Power Platform community, for example by automatically sending a welcome e-mail to a user who just built their first app or flow. This can be a great way to explain the governance rules, training resources, and where they can find support to help them along. As explained in the first section of the blog, we have some great training material already available.
Lastly, make innovating with the Power Platform FUN with hackathons, share success stories, and reward innovative projects internally! Allow students to develop their future-ready skills, enthuse teachers, and remove costly and boring processes for faculty workers.
You have crossed the hurdles described above, congratulations! You are now ready to teach students future-ready skills, innovate the classroom, and decrease the gap between the university and the workforce.
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