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Microsoft’s Missed Opportunity

UPDATE: I checked in with Microsoft’s Mike Tholfsen. He was kind enough to reply directly: “We are still actively trying to work through the original pilot program data, stay tuned.”

Also, correction: the pilot program included 2500, not 20. I evidently misunderstood the rep. My apologies!

Microsoft is missing an enormous opportunity.

I’m a little bit shocked, actually, that the company’s PR people don’t appear to have noticed.

What opportunity, you ask?

First, a few statistics:


According to the U. S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 1.7 million students (ages 5-17) were estimated to be homeschoolers in 2016. In other words, 3.4% of the student population.


HSLDA’s article quotes NCES: “among children who were homeschooled, 68 percent are white, 15 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent are black, and 4 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander.” A quick look at the U.S. Census Bureau site reveals the diversity in homeschooling closely mirrors diversity numbers of the U.S. population.


Chris Weller’s article in Business Insider says, “homeschooled children tend to do better on standardized tests, stick around longer in college, and do better once they’re enrolled.

A 2009 study showed that the proportion of homeschoolers who graduated from college was about 67%, while among public school students it was 59%.

Students from Catholic and private schools fell even lower in college graduation rates, with 54% and 51% of kids, respectively, completing all four years.”


Per Dr. Susan Berry, from 2003 to 2012, homeschooling experienced a 61.8% jump. (I couldn’t find a more recent study.)

The increase in homeschooled students from 2003 to 2012 alone (677,000) is greater than the population of Washington, D.C.

-CNS News

Why am I presenting you with a bunch of stats?

To make one point:

Homeschoolers are a rather large demographic to ignore.

Earlier this year, I found Microsoft 365 Education; the program is super and has a number of ways to help struggling learners. Of special interest was the Immersive Reader feature with One Note.

I found a page stating that the program is “FREE for all home-based educators and students…” which, of course, thrilled me.

Unable to find the option to sign up (three web pages sent me in circles, linking back to each other), I spent four hours on the phone and additional time on chat trying to track down a link to join the program.

Bottom line: I can’t.

Although the web page says it is “FREE for ALL” home educators and students, it turns out that’s not actually the case.

Microsoft ran a pilot program announced in 2016.

The pilot program is now closed and I can only sign up for the educational awesomeness if I have an email address ending in .edu or am teaching in a traditional school (with an official email address), per the same kindly apologetic Microsoft rep.

So, my daughter, who would benefit greatly from the opportunity to utilize the learning tools, is not able to do so. Basically, if I want her to have that access, she has to go back to public school, where they gave up on her ability to learn math (which she aced this year, by the way).

I’m a little surprised at Microsoft, giving up the opportunity to reach 1.7 MILLION diverse, intelligent kids.

Google has recently made some incredible learning features available to the public. For all. For FREE. For real.

Imagine. 1.7 million kids, getting used to Google tools and Google Docs and Google…well, everything.

Soon, they’ll grow into 1.7 million adults, communicating, writing, doing business and running companies. If they’re making decisions, they’ll choose Google products because, let’s face it, most of us continue using the programs with which we’re most familiar.

I’d love to introduce our girl to Microsoft tools, as my mom taught me (seriously; our house was Microsoft Mecca) but we’re already spending quite a bit on core curriculum pieces. Google is making the tools available and free, so I guess it’s time I learn Google Docs…

I hope Microsoft will follow Google’s lead and provide free access to the fabulous learning tools in Microsoft 365 Education for ALL educators and students.

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