The second part of our look at the free online apps for education from these kingpins of the software industry.
One of theÂ first things that struck meÂ about Google's “Education Edition” of Google AppsÂ was thatÂ their informational pages seemed a lot less clutteredÂ than Microsoft's. You get a cleaner, more precise overview, and while there is some depth to the information and links provided, I didn't find myself with the sensation I had on the Microsoft Live@edu pages, where I wasÂ quicklyÂ lost, clicking from link to link across a seemingly endless set of pages, link, goofy videos, etc. The functionality available in Google's Apps for Education wereÂ easy to learn about.
Applications in the Google Apps for Education tool set
- Communication Tools: Email, Messaging, and Shared Calendars
- Collaboration Tools: Google Docs, Google Sites (team website creation), Google Video
- Infrastructure Solutions: Host your own domain, API's for Single Sign-On, Centralized Admin console, and more
Looks like theseÂ offerings areÂ prettyÂ similar to those from MicrosoftÂ in their Live@eduÂ environment,Â andÂ much like Microsoft's tools theseÂ also work with manyÂ common operating systems and browsers. So, how do weÂ dig a bit deeper andÂ learn more?
This list of FAQ'sÂ providesÂ organized insight into the tool set, answering many of theÂ questionsÂ interested parties might ask. Likewise, the Resource Center is a nicely tailored set of resources providing useful information without an overload of materials. TheÂ Resource Center includes a “Just Launched!” section, listingÂ the last few updates to the application set (you can get update notifications via email as well if you wish), a few Webinars (a 30 minute tutorial, and a couple implementation stories from large institutions who have been there and done that).
Another element in the Resource Center isÂ aÂ link to a Lesson Plans tool set, which struck me as aÂ unique and very usefulÂ idea. You can look up Lessons by product, subject, and grade level. For example, here's an example of a Lesson Plan for Google Docs, for Science, for 7 to 9th Grade.
One other easy way to learn more is to check out the Video Overview below.Â While it isÂ not focused specifically on the “Education Edition”,Â it provides a good overview of the advantages ofÂ using Google Apps in any organization. OneÂ key benefit discussed -Â freeing up your IT team to focus on workÂ that isÂ specific to your organization and adds value (as opposed toÂ time spent providing core “commodity level” functionality like email, file storage, etc.). Another benefitÂ -Â leveraging Google's world class, ‘always on', secureÂ infrastructure. Of course, these benefits could easily cited for Microsoft's Live@edu offerings as well.
So how do Google Apps for Education compare to Microsoft's Live@edu?
Both of these major software companies provide a very useful set of functions for education, for free. You can hardlyÂ go wrong by choosing one over the other. Deciding which of theseÂ might make sense for your institution requires a deeper dive into both, and then weighing pros and cons against criteria applicable toÂ your operations. [I would probably be remiss if I didn't at least mentionÂ that there is also the larger question of whether to use these types of offerings at all, as discussedÂ inÂ this article from InsideHigherEd.com.]
Returning our focus to the question of which these tool setsÂ is better than the other, I just don't think eitherÂ is an undeniable winner over the other.Â If this is a decision you are looking to make, hopefully these two posts (this week's and last week's) have pointed you to some of the readily available informational materials that will help you make this decision. I will wrap this effort up on Wednesday with my midweek post, where I will layout some of the features of each app set side by side, and try to provide some additional informationÂ for weighing these free tools against each other.