By Heather Redding
In recent years, cloud computing has become an essential technology, serving people in practically every sector including education. The cloud provides enhanced communications between students, teachers and administrators, in addition to simplifying collaboration among teams.
Right now, two of the most popular cloud service packages available for teachers come from Microsoft and Google. Both brands provide distinctive packages for education that are specifically designed to be used in classrooms and schools at large.
Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 for Education may have similar features, but they also contain nuances that can make each package suitable in different settings.
As teachers, we’re responsible for providing our students with technology that best fits their specific needs—and it’s in our best interest to choose the products that allow us to most effective. However, it may be hard to distinguish between Office 365 and G Suite. We looked at both services to see how they differ so you can choose the best option for your classroom.
Office 365 for Education
Price is often the deciding factor when it comes to bringing technology into school and Microsoft provides the Office 365 for Education package to faculty and students for free. There’s also an enhanced version of O365 for Education available on the market: for $6 per month per student and $8 per month per each faculty member, you can gain access to the E5 edition that comes with additional analytics and management tools designed to monitor and facilitate student progress.
For the Classroom
As of recently, Office 365 Education includes Microsoft Classroom, as well, which provides a unified experience managing student and educator workflows. Classroom acts as a homepage or portal from which you as a teacher can manage multiple classes, create assignments, collaborate with other teachers and leave feedback for students.
Microsoft also supplies Classroom for iOS and Android devices, so everyone involved in the educational experience can benefit from the cloud-based app, even outside of the classroom. Similarly, the package supports Microsoft Forms, a tool that allows you to create and publish online quizzes, surveys and assignments, collect results, and analyze data without using any paper.
For Teachers and Students
Another important part of the O365 package for education is a Teacher Dashboard that makes the creation, distribution and grading of assignments faster and easier than ever before. The extension also includes a student dashboard with automatic filing, a private communications channel and an activity log.
Teacher Dashboard automatically manages students’ OneDrives, allowing teachers to collect assignments and browse the students’ OneDrives from a single interface.
Teachers can also use Microsoft SharePoint to structure the architecture of their class and easily access classroom documents, resources and assignments whenever they have an Internet connection. SharePoint includes social tools that make interactions between students simple and intuitive. Similarly, the application can manage business from hiring teachers to borrowing equipment for your school and classroom.
Office 365 for Education supports Hybrid Active Directory which is particularly useful to school administrators. The directory gives you the ability to continue to use local directory services as you transition to the cloud, ensuring continuous access to all your users and resources.
In general, Office 365 offers a number of productivity and collaboration tools that most students are already familiar with. To get the maximum amount of features on desktops and mobile devices, Office 365 applications should be installed. With the local apps installed, you and your students can stay active, even when offline.
G Suite for Education
Google supplies its Suite for Education bundle to schools for free. More importantly, the company provides a robust 24/7 support to the users of G Suite for Education, offering step-by-step instructions, training resources and help centers to help you get the most out of the tools.
For the Classroom
Rather than having a traditional dashboard, Google uses Google Classroom as a gateway to G Suite for Education applications. Google Classroom integrates all Google services, including Gmail, Google Calendar (Check out these Google Calendar hacks for teachers!) and Google Docs, so that you can eliminate paper from your classroom while having convenient channels for creating and distributing assignments.
Ultimately, Google Classroom also helps you communicate with students and stay organized by providing an affordable and secure tool to manage all your classroom activities.
An integral part of G Suite for Education is called Google Forms. This is a free tool that simplifies the creation of surveys, polls, quizzes and other types of forms. After creating your Google Forms documents, you can share them online and allow your students to complete them online.
Google Forms will tally all your received responses in a summary spreadsheet and provide graphs and summaries that help you interpret the data gathered by your quizzes and other documents.
Another helpful feature is the “Share to” extension, which allows you to share web pages simultaneously to every screen in your classroom. Similarly, students can use the feature to share online content with you. You can also use the Share extension to attach web content to assignments, announcements and questions.
For Data Protection
As a user of G Suite for Education, you can add Google Vault to your package for no additional charge. Vault supplies you with eDiscovery services that help you archive email and chat conversations.
You can use Vault to place holds on data to meet any legal or regulatory requirements for data retention. You can also use Vault to search you students’ Google Drive accounts by the user, classroom, and file type. In addition, Vault allows you to audit user activities as well as export documents and chat sessions.
Not only is G Suite for Education free, but its availability makes it a practical solution for your classroom. Most G Suite apps are available natively with Chromebooks as well as with Andriod tablets and phones. However, not all of G Suite works offline, requiring an Internet connection in order to be used.
Learn More: 10 Ways to use Google Forms in the Classroom.
- Price: Both Free
- Collaboration and assignment creation: Both have extensive options
- Available offline: Microsoft; only some of G Suite is available without Internet
- Interface: Google tends to be more intuitive
Both Google and Microsoft supply schools with their cloud-based productivity tools for free. As a leading business intelligence provider, Microsoft enriched its O365 for Education with many useful solutions, such as Hybrid Active Directory, that Google simply doesn’t provide. On the other hand, many teachers and students will find G Suite apps more intuitive and easier to navigate.
Some people might find the various components of Office 365 for Education difficult to setup and manage, but you should also remember that Microsoft has online and offline support services available to help get you up and running. Google also has round-the-clock support available to you, so you can count on having available dependable tools, regardless of the suite you choose.
The Microsoft product allows users to stay productive even when an Internet connection isn’t available. While not all G Suite tools are available offline, you will appreciate the tight integration and minimal hardware requirements that make the G Suite for Education package work so well while connected.
While deciding on which package to use, ask your students for input. If possible, let them try using the interfaces and tools from each package to discover whether they gravitate toward one in particular.
Both O365 and G Suite have their advantages and disadvantages, so the question here shouldn’t be which tool is better. Rather, you should use the solution that best fits your classroom dynamics. Since both tools differ in nuances, whichever one you choose, know that you won’t be making a mistake.