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May
19

Today MS Open Tech is releasing to the public a set of open source Moodle plugins that enable tight integration between Moodle, the popular open source learning management system (LMS), and Office 365’s popular productivity software and services, to create a more productive experience for teachers and students.  The plugins will be demonstrated this week during the BETT Show, the world’s largest education technology conference.

As we mentioned when we announced our collaboration with Remote-Learner (a leading Moodle provider), this project is a great example of openness in action, taking advantage of Office 365’s open and well-documented REST APIs and Moodle’s open and well-documented plugin architecture.

These plugins make it easy to take advantage of Office’s suite of rich productivity tools while creating assignments and doing homework for courses managed in Moodle.

New Features Benefit Educational Institutions and Businesses

The features being added today are many, and it’s just the start of our collaboration. We will work with the community to add new features and languages over time.

  • Companies with Office 365 accounts can sign on to Moodle with the same ID.

  • Calendar entries created in Moodle are stored in personal Office 365 calendars for teachers and students.

  • Instructors can create assignments in OneNote.

  • Students can complete an assignment in OneNote, then submit their work to the instructor(s) via Moodle. Instructors can provide feedback via OneNote as well.

  • Office Mix content can easily be integrated into assignments, making it easier to embed interactive audio and video content in class assignments.

  • Documents stored in OneDrive for Business can be associated automatically with Moodle courses, and updates to those docs appear automatically in links in Moodle.

As an example of how education workflows are improved by this integration between Moodle and Office, consider a typical scenario where an instructor creates an assignment, then students complete the assignment and hand it in, and then the instructor grades the assignments and provides feedback. This workflow may need to take place across online and offline scenarios, and across many different devices and platforms. The integration between Moodle and OneNote simplifies these scenarios:

 

Teacher --> Student

Moodle creates assignment in Moodle, embed content from Office if desired --> OneNote  (Assignment apprears in OneNote, student can work on it offline, on the web, or on mobile devices.

OneNote: Views student's submission in OneNote, provide feedback. --> OneNote: review feedback in OneNote.

 

Another good example is calendar integration. When an instructor schedules an event in Moodle (for example, a lecture or office hours), this event is automatically copied to students’ personal calendars, where they’ll see it on their mobile devices.

For more on the benefits for instructors and students, see today’s blog post from Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s Vice President of Worldwide Education, on Office 365 and Moodle: An Open Approach to Transforming Classrooms.

Office Mix integration is another exciting capability enabled by this project. As Anoop Gupta, Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft, said “We are delighted to partner with Remote-Learner and integrate with the Moodle learning management system.  As a free add-in to PowerPoint, Office Mix will provide a simple and familiar tool for teachers to create interactive online lessons, enabling all teachers to incorporate flipped-classroom and blended-learning models in their teaching practices to enhance student learning.”

Here’s a Mix in which Anoop Gupta demonstrates how easy it is to embed a Mix in Moodle course content:

Office Mix

All of this functionality and more will be available from the Moodle plugin repository as two sets of integrated Moodle plugins:

  • The Office 365 plugin provides single sign-on, OneDrive integration, Outlook calendar integration, and other features including Mix integration. Source code available on GitHub here.

  • The Microsoft Services plugin provides integration with OneNote Consumer (for use by students), as well as Mix integration, and other functionality is coming soon. Source code available on GitHub here.

We have published all of this work to the Moodle plugin repository, and it will appear there in the next few hours.

Open Source and Open Standards Bring Technologies Together

Moodle has a vibrant open source ecosystem, and we have partnered with Remote-Learner, a recognized leader in the Moodle community, to develop these plugins in “the Moodle way.” This meant early participation and feedback from the community through a beta program run by Remote-Learner, and ongoing transparency during the development process through a series of blog posts by Remote-Learner CIO/President Mike Churchward on the Remote-Learner blog.

Here at MS Open Tech, we have always seen open standards as a key driver of innovation over time, and standard-based interoperability is a notable component of this project as well. Many standards were used to deliver these plugins, including OAuth, OpenID Connect, REST and oEmbed. By enabling interoperability via open standards, we have made it possible for the Moodle community to build other integrations in the future, using open source tools that we have contributed to during the development of Office 365 integration for Moodle:

  • The OIDC plugin, which is included in the Office 365 plugin set, enables OpenID Connect authentication for Moodle. We’ve used it to provide single sign-on with Office 365 accounts, and others are free to use it to add value in other ways in the future.

  • The oEmbed plugin, which is included in both the Office 365 and Microsoft Services plugin sets, enables embedding of content from any source that supports the oEmbed standard. We’ve used it to embed Mix content, for example, and others are free to use it to embed other types of oEmbed-compatible content.

Learning More

Here are some options for trying out the plugins and learning more …

During the BETT Show this week (the world’s largest education technology conference), attendees can learn more about the integration of Moodle with Office 365 from Anthony Salcito, VP of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, who will present a keynote at 2 p.m. GMT on January 21, titled, The Role of Technology in Transforming Education. Following the keynote, BETT Show attendees are also invited to attend the Learn Live session, Moodle and Microsoft: Better Together, presented by Jason Cole, CEO of Remote-Learner, and Doug Mahugh, senior technical evangelist at MS Open Tech.

The Office 365 and Microsoft Services plugins will be available for download/installation from the Moodle plugins directory, and also via an Azure certified virtual machine image (supported by Remote-Learner) as well as a VM Depot (community supported) virtual machine image. Full source code is available on the MS Open Tech GitHub repo.

Today we’re publishing installation instructions and related content on the Moodle Docs wiki, and after this week’s BETT sessions we’ll be publishing more videos and documentation as well.

Here are a few links to related resources for education:

If you’re a student, you may be eligible for Office 365 Education for Students, which is available free to students of qualifying schools. Click here to learn more and find out whether you’re eligible.

Throughout the development of this open project, we’ve learned a lot about how technology is transforming the classroom, so it’s gratifying to see how open technologies are creating new opportunities for partnerships like ours with Remote-Learner today.


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