Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

Summary: Microsoft is building a "digital learning archive," which may be akin to its HealthVault electronic-medical records system.


My eyes often glaze over when it comes to press releases touting corporate donations and White House visits. (Hey, what can I say? I am a product-focused kind of reporter.)

But I couldn't help but notice a reference to a longer-range Microsoft initiative in a White House release from July 18. Others who covered the $15 million investment by Microsoft Education in research and development for "immersive learning technologies" focused on how Microsoft is looking to apply social/video gaming technology in classrooms. I was more intrigued by a mention of Microsoft's plans to create "a lifelong learning digital archive."

Microsoft officials expounded a bit on the archive plans in a post on the Microsoft "Education Insights" blog. From that post:

"Microsoft also recognizes that with the growth of both informal and formal learning opportunities, we must do a better job capturing and sharing our learning artifacts and achievements. To support this need, Microsoft will invest in the development of a digital learning archive. This will allow kids the ability to capture their learning artifacts, achievements, and various other types of data in a secure repository, allowing them to gather in one place their lifelong learning record, and share this information with those they choose."

I had never heard of "learning artifacts" (until yesterday). But after a quick search, I discovered this term can mean anything from posters and video clips, to compositions and poems. Armed with this new knowledge, I put two and two together and deduced that Microsoft execs are talking about building something like a HealthVault for educational materials.

HealthVault is Microsoft's electronic medical records service. Patients, caregivers, family members, physicians and others (with the patient's consent) can enter health information into a repository that is hosted on Windows Azure. Those with permission can access/edit stored information.

I asked Microsoft officials whether my HealthVault/"learning vault" comparison was off-base. A spokesperson said:

"What that (learning digital archive) will exactly look like and how it will work is something Microsoft will be developing the coming months, but we’ve certainly seen the power of the digital archive in the healthcare industry through the use of HealthVault, and will take that learning into account. We are currently working with industry and government partners to identify the best solution to bring the ideation to market. Our learning’s from HealthVault have demonstrated this is a complex undertaking and we are looking forward to the opportunity."

(Another new-to-me word: Ideation. And it looks like other blogging colleagues are simultaneously ideating, as well.)

The learning vault concept is an interesting one. And one that could make use of lots of Microsoft and third-party hardware, software and cloud technologies.

Topics: Browser, CXO, Health, Legal, Microsoft, IT Employment


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

    The word "Ideation" has been around for a while. In fact the last 2 companies I've worked for have had "ideation processes". There must be a management book, or Guru somewhere pushing it.

    An "Education Vault" is a great idea and something needed for a long time. It seems like an offshoot of Jim Gemmell's "Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything".
    • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault


      I can imagine in 50 years time recruiters demanding to see the finger paintings you did as a four year old so they can conduct some kind of personality test on them.
  • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

    ideation; the stage before reification (a word I much prefer to 'thingify')
    • Heh.

      I have to say I had never heard ideation or ideating before today. They seem kind of clumsy to me. But good for us writers to expand the vocabulary! MJ (the other Mary)
      Mary Jo Foley
  • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

    This is the cloud based portion of the student portfolio that not only captures key student work, but will allow longitudinal assessment of progress over the student's academic life. This is a key missing ingredient when all we track on students now are typically end of term grades.
  • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

    How will this relate to privacy? Once the data is in the hands of a third party, there is no way to assure privacy. I for one feel it is a bad idea to have personal data turned over to any company.
    • Privacy

      Hi. If it's anything like HealthVault, there are a number of privacy policies, encryption policies and other related safeguards in place to try to convince more users to try it.


      That said, I have to say I am leery of putting my health info on there. Report cards and papers -- less of an issue for me. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • Crowdsource Infrastructure

    The above ideas sound pretty interesting. One other interesting pursuit I believe there is, is setting up a crowdsourcing infrastructure for medicine and other fields - maybe on Sharepoint. I can't believe in this day and age, doctors do not crowdsource solutions to difficult problems. I shudder to think the amount of time it would take me to develop software applications, if I operated similar to doctors.

    I also wonder at the back of my mind when I watch House M.D., why House bounces ideas off of a handful of doctors, when he could get richer and more diverse information, by bouncing ideas off of thousands. I also think there are other industries, where info repositories and crowdwourcing infrastructures, would make them more efficient and effective.
    P. Douglas
  • Sounds a lot like BrainCredits

    Sounds like a great idea - which we've already launched a first version of at (Irony alert: we built on the MSFT platform, and are hosted on Azure!)
  • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

    You should check out <a href="," target="_blank" rel="nofollow">,</a> Bill Gates is a big fan.
  • Anyone remember the 2019 Vision videos?

    In Microsoft's 2019 Vision video, remember the first minute of the video where they had the school kids and the mother looking at her's daughter's work progress in school? This is probably that bit of the video coming to life.

    Just like other aspects of their 'vision' videos, Microsoft is actually trying to work on making it reality. Recently, they've been working on a simultaneous translator chat too.
  • Awesome - more power to the user

    Very much in tune with the great ideas of Maria Anderson: and An 'Education Vault' that the students have control over gives them lifelong use of those learning resources, getting it out of the proprietary, closed worlds of each college's favorite platform.
    Thomson / Blackboard and the other publisher / platforms, and the non-open universities might get a bit nervous...?
  • RE: Microsoft to build an education 'vault' inspired by HealthVault

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