Office 365 is no Google Apps for Education

This year has brought about many changes in my professional life, but none have been more challenging than the shift from a Google environment to a Microsoft one. Google just gets it. They have a clear lead in the market and they have the features that teachers want.

To be fair, Microsoft has been slowly updating and easing its services. Students can now download the Office suite for free. This alleviates many of the concerns I’ll outline below, but doesn’t completely remove some of the initial frustrations I’ve felt. Here are some of the issues that I’d like to be addressed in Office 365:

  • There is no way to embed video files. Why do I need 1TB if I can’t easily embed content? This should be fixed ASAP. I’d love it if OneDrive would generate embed codes for videos and image galleries.
  • The OneDrive interface is clunky at best. Do you want to move a file into a parent directory? You will need to use Internet Explorer, hit several buttons, wait for an explorer window to open, then wait. Office 365 should a an easy to use navigation pane for dragging and dropping files. It would also be nice if you could simple drag files into their parent directories.
  • Google has classrooms, Microsoft has Sharepoint. I get it. Microsoft is for business and it wants to break into the education market, but it is going to need to drastically overhaul its ecosystem if it ever intends to stand a chance. Teachers want to be able to share, collaborate with, and collect work from their students and peers. They want to be able to sort shared files. They want to have a place where students can submit work. Microsoft has no solution for this. While their product is great for small groups working on joint projects, it can’t manage a whole class of students. Microsoft needs a product that allows for moderated sharing and collection of documents from individual students. I want a class site with a personal folder for each student that only the teacher and individual student can view.
  • Microsoft’s online suite isn’t sweet. Yes, it has the look of Office, but it is so stripped down that it borders on useless in many cases. Do you want to use Excel online? Don’t try to change the units on the axes because you can’t. Do you want to track changes in a Word document? Forget about it. While these concerns are very specific I feel that Microsoft’s biggest asset has been its apps. They need to find a way to translate these to the web. If an make and online version of Photoshop then Microsoft can get Excel and Word to work in the cloud.
  • Third-party apps are scarce. Using Google Apps is easy. If there isn’t a Google solution to your problem there are a host of other apps that will help you. Microsoft’s education offerings are virtually non-existent.
  • Last, but certainly not least, there is no LMS that offers native integration with OneDrive. This is the real killer for me. I know of only one LMS that is working on this, Canvas, but have not been able to find another.

I’m going to keep trying to innovate and using Office 365 because it does have a ton of potential. In the meantime interested in hearing how other people are using it in their classrooms.

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