University offers students free Office access

Caleb Riley

​Students who logged into their myUSI accounts recently may have noticed the announcement that Microsoft Office is available to all students for free download.

​Microsoft announced in October it would give away copies of certain software to all colleges that use Office 365 Outlook for campus email.

​USI applied for licensing of the software in December and received it Jan. 14. After the university received the licenses, Information Technology had to apply them to each student’s account individually. Information Technology finished applying the licenses Friday.

The software being given to students includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, as well as the instant messaging client, Lync, and the cloud-style storage program, SkyDrive Pro. It is available for both PC and Mac users and has also been made available to both Android and iOS users.

“The idea is to give USI students access to the tools they need 24/7,” said Richard Toeniskoetter, executive director of the Department of Information Technology.

Toeniskoetter said there are several benefits to students having these programs on their own devices.

One benefit is saving money – Microsoft Office can be quite expensive and giving it to students for free gives them one less thing to worry about.

Another advantage is that it makes students more mobile. They do not have to be on campus to utilize the software as long as they have a computer or smartphone available.

The free software also aids student communication, Toeniskoetter said. With Lync and SkyDrive Pro, students can work together even if they aren’t in the same place at the same time.

“The collaboration capabilities are quite good,” said Toeniskoetter.

Information Technology plans to release even more technology for student use in the future. A new online service – OwnCloud – is set to begin prototype testing in the spring and the intention is to offer students a virtual lab desktop at home so they can use programs they may not have access to.

However, even with the benefits of the software, some students are not aware of its availability and have had some trouble downloading it.

“I wish it was better advertised. I’m sure a lot of students would benefit from using it,” said Jessica Lawson, senior anthropology major.

She said she had problems getting the software to download because she had an older version of Office installed on her device.

Once she figured out the setback, she enjoyed the new version and claimed to like it better than the older version she had installed.

Anthony Zipparo, senior computer information systems major and student worker in Information Technology, believes students would profit from taking advantage of the software.

“I get a newer, updated version for free,” Zipparo said. “It’s the best value out there.”