By: Manuel Rivera León
How can we improve virtual learning environments? How can we offer students better ways to carry out their tasks and activities? How can we strengthen our commitment to the open source community?
At the beginning of 2016, Blackboard announced the integration of Microsoft 365 plugins into Moodlerooms in order to expand the possibilities of its educational resources and enhance the teaching and learning experience. This integration, goes hand in hand with Blackboard and Microsoft’s commitment to the open source learning community.
Among the most important advantages gained from Office 365’s integration into Moodlerooms are:
- Single Sign On: Student authentication will become much easier; students will be able to log in and start working on their files in a quick and simple fashion.
- Calendar synchronization: One of the most used tools in Office 365 is the Outlook calendar. This integration synchronizes the Moodle calendar with that of Outlook, giving students and teachers more control over their deliveries, their tasks and their classes.
- OneNote: You can assign and deliver tasks and activities performed in OneNote and also make use of all of its tools, give feedback from the same tasks, open files from the application online, use OneNote as a blog, and forum files created in OneNote always remain available, among other features.
- OfficeMix: Enables embedding for different types of resources, videos, PowerPoint presentations, etc.
- OneDrive: Deliveries can be made directly from OneDrive, which means that all files remain on the cloud as a repository to be used as needed.
- Other Office 365 tools that can be integrated into Moodlerooms include: Office 365 Groups, Office Graph, Yammer and Skype for Business. These tools are still in the pipeline and will be available in upcoming releases.
- This integration is available across all Moodle themes.
The most interesting thing about this integration is that it simplifies processes. In this sense, it will definitely live up to the expectations of virtual learning platform users who seek greater ease of use, elegance and simplicity — things all aimed at improving the online learning experience.
E-Learn Magazine recently had the opportunity to interview Nima Mojgani and Zion Brewer, Microsoft’s EdTech Ecosystem Manager and Cloud Solutions Manager, respectively, and this is what they had to share with us from their perspective:
E-Learn Magazine: What are the main advantages offered by the integration of Office 365 with Moodlerooms? How does the integration improve the teaching and learning experience for teachers and students?
Microsoft Team: Integrations greatly enhance the user experience for both Moodle and Office 365. How? By giving instructors the ability to make better use of Office content (such as PowerPoint, Word, Sway, Office Mix, and more) in Moodlerooms courses. Because the content ‘lives’ in Office 365 instead of Moodle, it can be dynamically updated on mobile devices wherever you are, even without an Internet connection. Instructors and students can also manage tasks such as the sending of work from OneNote, and even use its voice and video tools to share information in a richer, even more useful way.
From an administrative perspective, the integration allows administrators using Moodlerooms to take advantage of Active Directory and Office 365 features, such as Self-Service Password Reset, Multi-Factor Authentication, Data Loss Prevention, etc., to provide a safer computing experience that is more compatible with Moodlerooms.
E.L.M: Why should people consider using this integration to improve their educational processes?
M.T: Institutions can take advantage of Office 365’s educational power for taking notes, creating content and collaborative workflows. Furthermore, it should be noted that plugins eliminate barriers so that if two systems are being used at the same time, the ways in which Office 365 is used on Moodlerooms sites can be extended.
E.L.M: What types of products and services do you think are the most useful for use in Moodlerooms?
M.T: Among the most notable integrations are those of Office Mix, which allow customers to include interactive presentations on their Moodle courses. For customers that are not familiar with Office Mix, it is a free add-on for PowerPoint that allows you to make presentations more interactive by adding voice, video and polls.
It doesn’t only make PowerPoint more exciting to use, but also provides valuable statistics on student commitment – the type of statistics that allow instructors to improve their teaching. For example, with Mix an instructor can analyze how much time a student dedicates to each slide of a presentation, and thereby determine which content was the easiest or most difficult for the student to digest.
E.L.M: Is this integration open source, can one take a look at the code?
M.T: The plugin is completely open source and currently available on Moodle.org. Several improvements have been made to the plugins since they were first released to Moodlerooms customers. The Microsoft team is also looking at improving the integration with additional Office 365 features such as Skype, Microsoft’s School Data Sync, which will help automate the supply of Moodlerooms courses for K-12 schools, and by improving existing features – especially those relating to OneNote Class Notebooks and Office 365 groups.
E.L.M: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
M.T: The Microsoft team is actively seeking community contributions and suggestions for new features. Developers can detect bugs and solicit requests on our Github, while end users can take advantage of our plugin forums on Moodle.org. to request the feature that they would like to see in future versions.
In this way, Moodlerooms will continue to strengthen its commitment to the open source community and to education. The challenges we face in education today demand that educational tools work in combination with each other. It is important to support these integration processes which bring out the best in each tool for the benefit of both teachers and students.
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