After a limited pilot program, Microsoft is opening an express lane for schools interested in the company's ad-free, safe-search program called Bing in the Classroom.
A new streamlined sign-on process with "no waitlist, no installation or new settings" is now available to schools, said Derrick Connell, corporate vice president of Bing Search, in an April 22 blog post. Interested educators need only fill out "just one online form and all Bing.com searches on a school network can be ad-free within a few days of registration."
"As of today, any qualified school district or private school can go to bing.com/classroom and register for the completely free service," he added.
Microsoft's search engine has made significant inroads into the educational market since the program launched last year, according to the company. In an email to eWEEK, a Microsoft spokesperson said that to date, "Bing in the Classroom has served more than 35 million ad-free queries to 4.5 million students in more than 5,000 schools and people have also donated more than 2 million Reward credits to schools."
The software giant's approach to search for schools is unique in the industry, Connell wrote. Bing in the Classroom, he asserted, "removes ads and blocks searches from being used for personalized advertising for all Bing.com searches done through the school's network, making Bing the only major search engine to provide a search offering tailored specifically for the classroom.
Bing for the Classroom is also part of a rebranding effort by the company. It effectively replaces Bing for Schools, considered an educational off-shoot of the company's controversial anti-Google "Scroogled" campaign.
According to reports, Microsoft silently scrapped the campaign. While the Scroogled.com Website is still up and running (as of this writing), its blog has not been refreshed since December and the latest news item is over a month old after a long streak of consistent updates.
Connell stated that his company "retired the Bing for Schools moniker in favor of one that aligns with other Microsoft education programs." In addition, the service sports a new official logo.
Microsoft also revamped its daily digital literacy lesson plans and Bing Rewards, the latter of which allows users to earn Surface tablets for their schools of choice. Now, participants are met with new features that lend more transparency to the program. "At bing.com/findyourschool, you can search for any school by ZIP code and see how many other people are contributing, how many Surface tablets the school has earned so far, and how many credits are needed to earn the next Surface."
Connell described Bing for the Classroom as "somewhat of a passion project" for the team behind the service. "As one of the oldest and largest tech companies, Microsoft employs almost a hundred thousand people," he said, adding that many of those employees are also parents. He credits the team for putting "in incredible hours to build this service, not only for their own children but for children everywhere."