I keep getting ask whether a school should go down the Office 365 route or Google Apps and which is better?
There isn’t really a right answer for this as both products have their advantages. Its really down to personal preference and what you feel would work best in your school with enhancing the students learning and aid the schools teaching.
Google Apps comes with GMail, Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides. GMail is a great emailing system which is very user friendly and easy to use. Drive does as you want and makes sharing easier although the new interface isn’t as easy to navigate as before, but the ability to add folders that are shared with you to your own drive space makes it more organised than OneDrive. The “office” package of Docs, Sheets and Slides is just as good as the familiar MS Office and does pretty much everything you would need it to do. The Sheets app doesn’t allow you to do such things as conditional formatting or macros but it does a brilliant job of your basic formulas. You do have the ability to convert your documents so they open in Google Apps and most of the time the conversion works perfectly but you are sure to get that odd spreadsheet or document that doesn’t have the same layout as it did before.
The big offering that Google Apps has is Google Classroom. This is a great way to move learning and teaching into the cloud and allows that interaction with your students. It is such an easy setup and works just how you want it. You hand out the work, the student completes the work and hands it back in. When the student hands their work back in you get a notification that its been completed. It also allows students to interact with each other in a blogging sort of way. Another advantage of GApps is Google Forms. As a company we have used this a lot and its a great tool for schools. You can quickly make a form with multiple questions and these questions could be one word answers, drop down answers, multiple choice or pretty much any sort of answer format. The results are all recorded in a spreadsheet which offers the ability to be converted into charts or graphs.
There are lots more apps and features of Google Apps and to get the full use of it I’d highly recommend investing in Chromebooks. They are great affordable devices!
With Office 365 you get OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote, Delve and Yammer. We are all familiar with Microsoft products and MS Office. Office 365 has the exact same feel and look. Word, excel and powerpoint look exactly the same as your normal MS Office suite does and it has all the same functionality too. A good thing Office 365 offers over Google Apps is that Google Docs doesn’t have the templates like you get within Word, so you can quickly make that brochure or flyer within the Word app using the predefined templates.
The outlook app is probably the leading mail app whether its the desktop version or the online version. With its sleek appearance and easy to use layout a lot of people prefer it to GMail. OneDrive has the same simplicity as Google Drive but I feel the shared with me part isn’t as well organised. OneNote is one of the main selling points in O365 and is often over looked. Its a great tool for taking them quick notes or you can use it in the classroom to good effect. Using OneNote Classroom Creator you can transform the way you teach and work with your students. It really is a powerful tool when used right. Each student has their own OneNote along with a collaborative part. The students don’t get to see each others own OneNote but the teachers see them all in one OneNote document making it easy to see what your students are doing and it easily managed.
Yammer is a fantastic way to communicate and is basically a broken down version of Facebook. The look and feel of it is exactly the same but it has safety when of being within your school domain. It takes away that back and forth of emails and allows instant conversations to start. O365 also includes the use of Sharepoint which is quite tricky to get setup but once its up and running it provides a good base and structure for your school. The use of document libraries are a brilliant way to store files and documents for classes and subject groups.
I think once Windows 10 is released and your able to login with your Office 365 account then we will see a bigger uptake on O365. The price of Windows devices has shot down to compete with the likes of Chromebooks and I feel now the Windows tablets with snap on keyboard really do compete very well.
So as you can see both have really useful tools and apps. I’ve only scratched the surface of what both can do but I’m sure over time I will post more about the apps and features of both. Both are FREE for education use so I would encourage anyone to take a look at both and see what they like the look of for their school. Which ever you choose you will be sure that the competition between the two is always happening. The most recent change to Office 365 is that they adapted the collaboration that Google Apps used and in both you can now work on a document with someone else at the same time. The biggest down fall of Google Apps is that it doesn’t include all the features that Word and Excel do but you may prefer its simplicity.