Which of These Evolving Productivity Suites is Best for You and Your Students? We can Help you Decide.
Being a teacher is about making decisions. You have the responsibility of shaping young minds into knowledgeable and decent human beings that will positively impact the society we live in. To do so, you need to choose tools and methods that best fit your classroom.
There has been much talk lately about cloud-based solutions for education. In particular, Office 365 Education and GSuite for Education have emerged as the best of their kind. In order to select one of these solutions for your classroom, you need to understand their differences.
Both Google and Microsoft are constantly changing and adding new features to their tools. Let us look at the latest version of their education-oriented products.
Education is an online version of Microsoft's productivity suite that is designed for classroom use. It allows you to share lessons and projects through familiar Office applications, in addition to providing access to OneDrive online storage and the social site Yammer.
GSuite for Education is a set of Google apps – Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Hangouts – for students. Formerly known as Google Apps for Education, it has been re-engineered with more intelligent software.
Both of these tools are available to schools at low or no cost. They both provide classrooms with the technology to interact and share over the cloud. Whether you choose GSuite or Office 365, you will be given an opportunity to save time, increase collaboration and enhance the team spirit among your students.
Office 365 Education is free to schools. Microsoft also offers another version called Office 365 Education E5. This has additional features such as analytics and administration tools; the cost is $6 monthly to each student and $8 per month to faculty members.
Google's GSuite for Education is completely free for school use, including 24/7 tech support.
Microsoft Classroom vs. Google Classroom
Office 365 Education provides a software extension known as Teacher Dashboard, which allows for a collaborative approach in organizing and tracking school assignments. GSuite for Education doesn't provide dashboards but does offer Google Classroom, a feature which allows teachers to share and organize assignments. It can be customized through additional extensions.
Microsoft released its own Classroom concept in 2015 to augment the Education package. This can integrate Office applications and allow teachers to manage multiple classes or class sections. You can also interact more easily with students through integration with the messaging app OneNote.
Microsoft Classroom allows access to the Professional Learning Center, where you can interact with other teachers to consolidate resources and plan lessons. Students can also take advantage of the Sway cloud service to create, collaborate on, and share visually oriented projects.
Google's online Classroom appeared in 2014, providing access to a range of web-based tools. It also integrates with the existing suite of Google productivity tools to make lesson management easier. The tool allows for a simple and straightforward document delivery, data collection and collaboration.
Both Google Classroom and Microsoft Classroom are free, and both come in mobile versions. Microsoft Classroom offers more features, but Google Classroom is designed as a more user-friendly interface. In addition, Google Classroom provides options for parents to monitor student progress, which may fit your classroom better.
Compatibility and Mobile Access
GSuite apps are included with Android phones, tablets, and Chromebooks.
Office 365 tools must be downloaded. This requires a little time and effort but is easy enough. Simply go to the app store for your device and search for Office 365. Choose the app you want (i.e., Excel, Word), download, and install it. You must sign into the app through your Office 365 account before you can begin using it.
When it comes to information architecture, Microsoft has an advantage over Google. SharePoint is an Office component that gives you some flexibility on how you organize and share information. Google is known for its search capabilities and provides access to Google Drive Storage and support, but is not as customizable as SharePoint.
Google Forms vs. Microsoft Forms
Both Google and Microsoft use forms to gather information and share it with users. This is a digital platform for teachers to share quizzes, surveys, and reports with students and their parents.
Microsoft Forms let teachers utilize grading capabilities and student feedback. Teachers can easily add different question types, such as multiple choice with one or several correct answers, questions requiring text or date answers. There are also visual elements for capturing user ratings on scales of 1-to-5 or 1-to-10.
Google Forms also provides the ability to create surveys and quizzes, and save the results to Google Sheets for analysis, or sharing on Google Drive. Google Forms can also use embedded images and YouTube videos, and complex navigation. On the other hand, it doesn't have the grading or feedback capability that Microsoft Forms do.
The Office 365 mobile apps can work seamlessly with desktop-installed Office apps; for instance adding mobile Excel tables to a desktop Word document. Google's GSuite is strictly cloud-based and doesn't allow offline sharing between tools.
The Cloud and Your Classroom
Both GSuite and Office 365 offer a wide variety of productivity and collaboration features that will bring your classroom to a whole new level. You can’t go wrong with wither of these tools. In general, GSuite is more user-friendly and intuitive, whereas Office 365 offers more advanced features.
There are benefits and disadvantages to both tools, depending on what your needs and goals are. In choosing one over the other, you should ask yourself some important questions:
- What purpose will it serve?
- Are compatibility and remote use important to me?
- Will the tool be used offline?
- How much of my information must be moved to the cloud?
- Which of these tools will my students react best to?
When you understand what you need in an education tool, you can better choose the product that provides the most potential value to your students. Both GSuite and Office 365 make excellent and rewarding choices, but which one you choose depends entirely on your methods and goals.