Microsoft’s “DreamSpark” is a branch of Microsoft’s MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network).   This program not only provides a wonderful community to allow students to share and gain software and developing knowledge from one-another, but it also gives students access to a wide variety of Microsoft developer-level software.  This software, which is provided at no cost to verified students, is the same software that is used by developers and other members of the Information Technology field on a daily basis.

This software can be used for not only learning and messing around with, but can also be put to use in your day to day life.  For example, you can maintain a website in Expression Web, or you can use one of your server licenses to set up a home server.  Microsoft also gives students access “express” products, such as Visual Studio Express 2008, and SQL Server Express 2008.  These products, however, are normally available at no cost from Microsoft’s website.

The following software and subscription titles are available from the DreamSpark website;

  • Visual Studio 2010 (currently available as the “Beta 2” release)
  • Visual Studio 2008
  • Visual Studio 2005
  • SQL Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard
  • Expression Studio 3
    • Expression Blend
    • Expression Design
    • Expression Encoder
    • Expression Web
  • XNA Game Studio 3.1
  • Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R2
  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0

Students of participating schools and universities can enroll in the DreamSpark program at the main DreamSpark page.  From there, it is simply a matter of signing up and verifying through your school or university.  If your school or university is not listed, you can sign up at JourneyEd, who has partnered up with Microsoft to provide verification services to validate students for the program.  Doing so will require you to submit a copy of your student ID, a schedule, or a tuition receipt.

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When I signed up recently, the entire verification process (through JourneyEd) took less than a day, and upon verification I had instant access and was able to download the complementary software immediately.

All in all, this is a great deal for students, because they get the ability to learn and use the software that professionals use on a daily basis.  This is also a great deal of an investment for Microsoft as well, because it allows them to reach the next generation’s developers and IT staff before they make their way into the field.  Thus, when the participants of this program do graduate and begin to work in the IT field, they will be more familiar with Microsoft software and developing, and will be more likely to purchase and implement it.


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