Last week Microsoft revealed more details about Microsoft Classroom, as part of a broader announcement about their tools for education (including Office365, Windows & Minecraft).

There are lots of different moving parts to get your head around, but for schools and universities using Office365 – Microsoft Classroom is a really exciting prospect and could have big implications for your online learning strategy. To understand Microsoft Classroom, you must first understand Microsoft “School Data Sync” – because Office365 won’t know about your classes until it can talk to your MIS system. The second crucial thing to get your head around is Office365 Groups – which is already available in Office365. Here is a plain English overview of those two bits of the jigsaw:

  1. School Data Sync will allow you to get details of your class groups, like who teaches the class and which students are enrolled – into Office365. There have been a few products around which do this already, made by Microsoft partners like Salamandersoft – but Microsoft have now decided to work with MIS vendors to get that integration done direct – and in turn make it available for free to their education customers.
  2. Office365 Groups allow you to set up a group, by selecting members from your Office365 directory. Once a group is set up there is a quick way send group messages, a shared space for files, a shared calendar and a shared OneNote notebook. Anyone who is a member of the group will be able to access those resources and collaborate easily. There is also a great mobile app for iOS. I see Groups as a quick and easy way to collaborate which is user-driven. ie) not as formal as a SharePoint site, which is usually set up and administered by IT.

So, once Office365 knows about your classes, it can set up Office365 Groups for each of those classes. In essence, that’s what Microsoft Classroom will deliver.

There is no exact date for the release of Microsoft Classroom yet. School Data Sync (SDS) is in closed beta, in the US. In the UK, the MIS vendors will need to “get on board” and do some work before your MIS will talk to Office365 using SDS. There is a deployment guide to both products for IT administrators HERE and a great video demo HERE.

This announcement has some interesting implications on a number of other topics: Google Classroom, your VLE, SharePoint Sites, OneDrive use – and so on. We’ll discuss that more in future blogs, but if you want to ask questions or see how Hable can help you make sense of all this, then please GET IN TOUCH.