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ADvTECH and Microsoft have joined forces to host the first ever educational hackathon in the world. Set to take place virtually during September and October, students from across ADvTECH schools in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya, will log on simultaneously and, in a race against the clock, troubleshoot and ‘break’ and improve, among others, MS Teams, the online learning solution used by ADvTECH Schools.

“ADvTECH, as a strategic Education partner of Microsoft, gets the opportunity to pilot education products from Microsoft before they are released to the general market,” says Quinton Mulder, Academic Development Coordinator at ADvTECH, Africa’s largest private education provider.

Called HACK-IT, the competition will give students the chance to utilise their research and digital learning skills to analyse and evaluate Microsoft products, by harnessing their creative thinking skills to collaborate with their teams and develop innovative new ideas to improve software. They will be working directly with Microsoft teams with the aim to improve the MS Teams and OneNote environments.

“The process involves four steps – Hacking, Assessment, Creation and Knowledge transfer,” says Mulder.

  • Hacking requires students to identify bugs, explore and find unexpected results in product utility, discover how to break something and learn what parts of the product don’t work, and record their findings.
  • Assessing requires students to identify feature gaps, in terms of ways to improve the product, exploring what is missing which could improve user experience, and gathering and organising ideas.
  • Creating requires students to innovate – building something new through collaboration with the team to identify actionable ideas and developing a strategy for implementation.
  • Knowledge transfer lets students work with others to refine and improve upon identified ideas and producing solutions and identifying avenues for ongoing collaboration.

Mulder says students will be given the chance to write a wish list, mapped against their hack results and self-assessment, and develop a case study and proposal for future features which will be delivered straight to Microsoft Engagement and Engineering.

“The Hack-It programme is designed to help students become creators, not just consumers. By opening up our products to allow students to ethically hack, we are creating an ecosystem within our product portfolio that allows students to spend time exploring, understanding, reverse engineering and rebuilding our products in a way that makes sense to them, ultimately building critical skills for their future while allowing us to develop our products in direct alignment with their findings and ideas,” said Stephen Reid, Senior Customer Engagement PM (EMEA) at Microsoft.

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