If the first half of 2020 reminded us of anything, it’s that as humans we’re incredibly adaptable. We’ve, on the whole, managed to deliver comprehensive programs of remote teaching and learning at the drop of a hat. Some of this has been through digital education platforms, and others through any means possible. While returning to the classroom, slowly, is something welcomed by all, it does open the door for expanding how we teach.
Having a digital education platform such as Office 365 or G Suite is quickly becoming an ‘essential item’ for schools. Adoption levels are certainly high on the face of things, particularly for emails and word processing, however there are concerns around integrating these tools more heavily into our day to day.
To help you take steps towards exploring the benefits of the platforms, we’ve put together a list of the most common misconceptions and how these can be easily debunked.
- The platforms take a lot of time to set up.
- We’re already using learning apps and don’t need these platforms.
If you have an internal IT resource who can dedicate some time to this project, setting up either Office 365 or G Suite for Education should take little more than a working week. Microsoft actively promote their 5-day guide to get schools up and running as quickly as possible, and the Google process isn’t dramatically different.
If you don’t have an internal resource there are many companies around who are capable of helping to set these platforms up within schools. If you’ve got some budget to put towards this, you could be providing virtual classes and online resources before you know it.
Everything needs buy-in of course, so if you’re going to go down this route, discuss the benefits openly with your staff and students, they’re the end users who will ultimately determine the success of the project.
All that the majority of people know about Office 365 and G Suite are their basic app functions, such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and emails, but there’s so much more intricacy to each.
They’re called ‘platforms’ for a reason – each of the numerous tools included with each integrate with each other and are accessible with one login – staff and students no longer need to juggle multiple systems.
If you do use a third party app, both Google and Microsoft are fully prepared for this, with many apps being easily integrable.
Take a look at all the tools available in each platform.
If your current IT network is secure and you have robust data protection measure in place there won’t be any issue with adding Google or Microsoft platforms into the mix.
Both of these are:
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant
- Operate and manage their own secure datacentres
- Give you options to manage user access levels
- Are independently audited
The platforms however are only as good as your policies. Ensuring you have secure passwords which are regularly changed, enabling multi-factor authentication and not allowing data to be stored on unauthorised devices will all help towards this.
For added peace of mind, both platforms offer enhanced identity and access management features with a premium license.
This isn’t the case with either provider. Both allow you to continue using your existing email address from other providers. There are steps to follow to migrate to either Google or Microsoft, however these can easily be handled by your technician or an external IT resource.
Both Google and Microsoft come with a full raft of privacy and safeguarding settings, which, once implemented correctly, ensure you’re doing as much as you can to keep your students safe.
You can add policies on top of these settings to take your protection measures up a level:
- Prevent pupils from starting their own groups or video calls.
- Only enable pupils to join a video chat once a teacher is present.
- Require two members of teaching staff be present in every group or on every video lesson.
- Disable access to features pupils don’t need to use.
- Lay down and explain school guidelines on appropriate usage of learning platforms for the pupils.
As well as protecting your students on these platforms, you’ll need to protect your teachers. Our article on Ten Safeguarding Considerations when Livestreaming Lessons is a good place to start, however you should have many more policies in place. Does everyone know what to do if they feel there’s a child protection issue or how to hide but save inappropriate comments, is there guidance on storing and sharing content.
These questions and more should be dealt with before any platform usage is commenced.
The facilities built in to Office 365 and G Suite are far greater than a pen and paper can offer. The available tools include screen readers, keyboard shortcuts, voice typing and immersive reader. Once pupils get to grips with accessing the platforms, their learning should be just as rich.
G Suite for Education and Office 365 for Education are designed to be simple for even the most novice of users. The layout and functions of the tools are similar to those Microsoft products many teachers will have grown up using and are now second nature. It should only take a couple of days of training to get everyone to a basic user level.
Both platform provide getting started guides to help:
If you do need further help, there are training companies who can come on-site to run intensive courses. If this is of interest, we do offer this as a service, so please get in touch for further details.
If you’d like to further discuss the benefits of a digital learning platform from either Google or Microsoft we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have – plus we can put you in touch with reference schools who are happily using these tools.
When you’re ready to pick a route and get your school set up, we’re Google Education Partners and Microsoft Silver Partners and can confidently show you how to get the most out of either systems.