By Jason Cole, CEO
Later today, Remote-Learner will publicly announce the sale of our UK subsidiary to Blackboard UK. While this may be a surprising move to some observers, I see this as only positive for Remote-Learner, our clients and the Moodle community.
The LMS industry is a dynamic, exciting and sometimes frustrating place. New competitors constantly emerge, new technologies promise exciting new capabilities and patterns of adoption and usage continually evolve. The continued market evolution requires laser focus and rapid adjustments of strategy. The sale of our UK subsidiary will allow us to focus on the unique requirements and market conditions in North America and provide you with improved products and services.
Blackboard’s acquisition of our UK operation will also help strengthen the Moodle project. Blackboard supports Moodle both through direct financial contributions and with development of open source plugins and code to further the capabilities of Moodle, just as Remote-Learner does. They are dedicated to expanding Moodle’s presence internationally and can use the UK acquisition as a platform to continue to grow Moodle’s impact on teaching and learning.
Remote-Learner’s commitment to the success of Moodle and to providing you the best possible support and services remains unchanged. Remote-Learner remains the leading independent provider of Moodle-based LMS solutions in North America through our US and Canadian companies. We will be making some additional announcements in the coming weeks outlining some of the changes and improvements that the sale of our UK subsidiary enables for our clients serviced by our North American teams.
By Mike Churchward, CIO/President
Since we released the O365 integration plug-ins back in January, there has been a lot of community pick-up and feedback. We have responded with a number of improvements. This article will focus on the most noticeable surrounding the O365 single-sign-on and account connection.
The original release of the O365 plug-ins required users who wanted to use the O365 OneDrive and Outlook Calendar Moodle integrations to change their Moodle account authentication scheme to the OpenID Connect using Office 365’s AAD system. Any new Moodle account had to be created and managed from the Office 365 AAD system as well. To login, a user had to use the separate “OpenID Connect” login button on the Moodle login page.
This system worked well for new Moodle installations, where the user management system had not been established, and was therefore easy to select the OpenID Connect/AAD authentication system for their user system. But for established Moodle sites, where other user management and authentication systems were well established, this proved to be a barrier to using the O365 integrations.
Further, some Moodle sites that did want to use the OpenID Connect/AAD system for Moodle authentication, didn’t want their users to look for a separate login button on the Moodle login page, but to continue to use the standard Moodle login form.
I’ll deal with the second problem first.
As originally released, to login via O365, you had to use a separate button on the login page, like below:
However, Moodle is built such that authentication plug-ins can use the standard login form, if they choose to do so. For this case, we built in the ability for Moodle to pass the entered username and password to the OpenID Connect provider, and log the user in to both O365/AAD and Moodle at the same time, in the background. In order to facilitate this, we provided an extra configuration option:
As shown, the second radio button turns off the need to use the separate OpenID Connect login button, and allows the standard Moodle login form to function with OpenID Connect. If you select the first radio button, the login will work as it did before, and require the user to login using the external provider.
One other addition we added was the ability to select an icon for use on the login button, or upload a custom icon for the same use. This allows the OpenID Connect login button to have an icon more suited to the organization, if they choose not to show the Microsoft Office icon.
For the account connection problem, we approached it in a unique way. As the account connection mechanism existed, sites that wanted their users to take advantage of the O365 integrations required that the Moodle logins be managed from O365/AAD as well. The plug-ins provided an easy mechanism to connect existing Moodle accounts to existing O365 accounts, and then switch those users to the O365/AAD login, but that was a permanent change. And sites with many users, already have well-established user management and login systems that they use with Moodle.
To solve that problem, we provided a mechanism that allows users to either switch to using the O365 login (as before), or connect their current Moodle account to an O365 account and continue to login to Moodle as they did before. This mechanism is contained in the user profile plug-ins accessed from a user's Moodle profile page, as so:
In this shot, you can see two Office365 links:
Either of these links takes you to the new O365 management page, which provides links to each function as so:
The first function on this page, "Start using Office365 to log into Moodle", works the same as the first release. If you click that link, you will be redirected to your Office365 login page to login to O365/AAD. If you login with a valid AAD account that has not already been connected to a Moodle account, your Moodle account will then be reconfigured to use AAD as the authentication scheme. Once that has been done, you will always need to login to Moodle using the AAD account information.
The second function in this page, "Connect to Office365", is the new function. If you click that link, you will be likewise redirected to your Office365 login page. If you login with a valid AAD account that has not already been connected to a Moodle account, your Moodle account will be configured to be connected to that O365 account. What that means, is that you will continue to login to Moodle in the same way you always have, but when you access any of the O365 Moodle integrations, your O365 account will automatically be used. You won't need to login twice once the connection has been made.
This second feature was one that was most asked for. This feature allows Moodle sites that cannot change their Moodle authentication schemes to still take advantage of the full O365 integrations.
One feature that has also remained is the automatic account creation. If a user that does not exist yet in Moodle, logs into a Moodle site that has the OpenID Connect O365/AAD authentication plug-in enabled, and the account information they use is a valid AAD account, they will be logged in and a new Moodle account created for them.
We have a number of other improvements and new features coming in future releases. Look to future blog posts describing these.
Plugins developed by Microsoft Open Technologies and Remote-Learner provide speed and efficiency for Moodle users.
LONDON — Jan. 19, 2015 — Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. (MS Open Tech), a subsidiary of Microsoft Corp., together with leading Moodle partner Remote-Learner.net Inc., on Monday announced integration between Moodle and Microsoft Office 365, bringing a more productive experience to teachers and students by harmonizing login credentials, calendar management and course content creation, in addition to other workflow improvements for education institutions and other Moodle users.
“Working closely with Remote-Learner, we’re delivering a technical solution for one of the most popular open source learning management systems that aims to provide seamless workflows for both Moodle and Office 365 users,” said Jean Paoli, president of MS Open Tech. “By working closely with the open Moodle community, MS Open Tech will continue taking feedback and maintaining, improving, and adding new features.”
The open source Office 365 and Microsoft Services plugins for Moodle include integration with OneDrive for Business, OneNote and Office 365 Outlook calendar. The integration allows students and instructors, as well as enterprise users, to sign on to Moodle with the same ID, making single sign-on easier and faster for education institutions and other Moodle users with Office 365 accounts. In addition, events created in Moodle will be stored in teachers’ and students’ personal Office 365 calendars, enabling them to easily track course events and due dates. Previously, instructors needed to update their Outlook calendars manually, or send event invitations separately to students.
Integration with OneNote enables instructors to create assignments in OneNote, students to complete the assignment in the digital note-taking application and submit their work via Moodle, and instructors to provide feedback in the same OneNote document.
Additional integration between Moodle and Office 365 allows instructors to easily embed interactive online lessons created in PowerPoint with Office Mix through an open format standard. These lessons may contain audio, video, digital ink, interactive simulations or assessments. Documents stored in OneDrive for Business can be associated automatically with Moodle courses. Updates to those documents will appear automatically in links in Moodle, streamlining version control and simplifying integration of content stored in the cloud.
“We are thrilled to be able to work with Microsoft to integrate Moodle with the Office 365 platform. With the Office 365 plugins for Moodle, Microsoft continues to demonstrate its commitment to open source software and education,” said Jason Cole, CEO, Remote-Learner. “Educators and trainers who have both Moodle and Office 365 create new learning experiences that leverage the power of both platforms. Moodle administrators can deploy these new features knowing they have the support of both Microsoft and the Moodle Partner community.”
On Jan. 21 at the BETT Show 2015, MS Open Tech will officially release version 1.0 of this project, which kicked off last September, on GitHub under GPLv3. The plugins will also be available for download from the Moodle plugins directory, via Azure-certified Virtual Machine image and VM Depot.
During the BETT Show, attendees can learn more about the integration of Moodle on Office 365 from Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, who will present a keynote at 2 p.m. GMT on Jan. 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 at Remote-Learner, and Doug Mahugh, senior technical evangelist at MS Open Tech.
More information and updates about MS Open Tech are available by subscribing to the MS Open Tech blog. More information on Remote-Learner can be found at http://www.remote-learner.net.
Remote-Learner has been providing educational technology services since 1982 to its business, educational and governmental clients. Today, these services include support for best-of-breed open source programs. Remote-Learner is an official Moodle Partner providing support and hosting services, custom programming, workforce development training, instructional design and strategic consulting services for organizations planning online learning programs.
Remote-Learner maintains corporate offices in Waynesboro VA, Overland Park KS, Fort Collins, CO, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and Oxfordshire, UK, and serves clients throughout the US, Canada, Mexico. Caribbean and the UK.
About Microsoft Open Technologies
Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. (MS Open Tech) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp. dedicated to advancing the company’s investment in openness including interoperability, open standards and open source. MS Open Tech is focused on providing our customers with even greater choice and opportunity to bridge Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies together in heterogeneous environments, because we’re convinced that openness is good for our customers, good for the community and good for our business. For additional information on MS Open Tech, visit www.msopentech.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services, devices and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Blog entry created and owned by:
Jean Paoli, President
Josh Gavant, Senior Program Manager
Doug Mahugh, Senior Technical Evangelist
Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc.
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 partner), 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:
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:
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.
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.
By Mike Churchward, CIO/President
This will be a short post, just to let everyone know that our first release of the Office 365 plug-ins are now available to the community.
Earlier today, Jean Paoli, president of MS Open Tech announced the official release of the code
at the BETT
show in London. This announcement coincided with the opening of the Githib repositories to the public and the submissions to the Moodle Plugins database.
I have posted an announcement
in the Moodle "General plugins" forum, and more discussion can happen there. There will also be tracker items set up in the Moodle tracker to get feature and improvement requests, and deal with bugs.
You can get the plugins from the Moodle plugins database as follows:
The current work for each has been gathered in one Github repository called "o365-moodle
", but each plug-in has a current release repository of its own. The "readme" file in the "o365-moodle" repository has references for each release repository.
If you want any more information on how you can benefit from these developments, contact Remote-Learner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mike Churchward, CIO/President
Our initial work with Microsoft Open Technologies has progressed, and we now have an integration with OneDrive for Business. In this post, I will describe and provide brief demos of how Moodle and OneDrive for Business can work together.
At its basic level, the OneDrive for Business integration is a repository plug-in. It is built to work closely with the OpenID Connect authentication plug-in that provides the Office 365 account connection. It provides two levels of repositories to every user. It provides access to each user's private files area, and it provides access to a course shared area for every course a user is enrolled in.
I'll start by looking at the personal space. Below is a screen capture of the Moodle file picker using the Office 365 OneDrive repository.
What I can see here are two folders in OneDrive. The "My Files" folder is my personal space in the OneDrive for Business application. The "Courses" folder contains subfolders for each of the Moodle courses I have access to. "My Files" displays all of the files and directories I have in my OneDrive for Business folder. The image below shows the contents in the Moodle file picker.
Looking at my OneDrive interface, I see a similar structure as below.
Note that the folder structure and contents mirrors what I saw in Moodle. If I add or change the contents of my OneDrive folder, it will likewise be reflected in the Moodle file picker. This is what we expect from a Moodle repository plug-in. :)
If I add files to my OneDrive, I will see them when I look at "My Files" in the Moodle Office 365 OneDrive "My Files" area. Likewise, if I upload a file from Moodle into the "My Files" area, I will see it in my OneDrive folder. In the Moodle file picker image of "My Files" above, note the "Upload New File" control. Using that, I can select a file from my local machine, and upload it directly into my OneDrive folder via Moodle, where it will be available to both OneDrive and my Moodle files.
The "Courses" folder also uses my Office 365 account. It provides course-level shared access to files for all of the Moodle courses on the site that I have access to. A separate folder is created for each course, using the Moodle course names. To do this, Office 365 for Business uses Sharepoint, and specifically, Sharepoint sites. Below are two images showing the same course level directory on Moodle and on Sharepoint (OneDrive).
The integration uses Moodle capabilities to control access to the files in both Moodle and Sharepoint/OneDrive. By default, the teacher roles in a course are given read and write access to the course folder, while students are given read only. Moodle synchronizes these access permissions to Sharepoint to control it in the Office 365 realm as well.
Showing the path through Office 365 to the Moodle course files is difficult with screen snaps, so instead, below I have included a small video showing the path through to the course files.
We're very close to releasing all of this work to the community at large. And we're very excited to find out how its received. In future posts, I will discuss the technical solutions underneath the hood in more detail.
If you want any more information on how you can benefit from these developments, contact Remote-Learner at email@example.com.
By Mike Churchward, CIO/President
Along with the OneNote integration, discussed in my last post, the work with Microsoft Open Technologies has also produced two integrations with Office 365. The first is an integration with Outlook calendars and the second is a OneDrive for Business integration. In this post, I will describe and provide brief demos of the Outlook calendar integration.
The Outlook calendar synchronization allows Moodle calendar events to be synchronized back to your Outlook calendar. If you are someone who uses an Outlook calendar as a key tool, I think you will find this very useful.
This particular functionality has been built to use Office 365 for Business, meaning that it expects everyone on the site to have an Office 365 for Business account. Users without these accounts will not be able to synchronize to their Outlook calendars.
The function will allow Moodle users to connect their personal Moodle calendar, and any course calendars they have access to. To set up the calendars to connect, a local plug-in has been created. As well, a user profile field plug-in has been provided that can be added to each user's profile, providing access to the calendar sync configuration page.
Once I have logged into Moodle with my Office 365 AzureAD account, I will be able to access these functions. Looking at my profile, I will see two Office 365 functions: "AzureAD" and "Office365 Connection". The next image shows this screen:
Clicking through the "Manage" function for the "Office365 Connection", I get to the "Outlook Calendar Sync" page. This is where I can select the specific Moodle event types I want to synchronize back to Outlook:
Once I have selected my calendars, any changes to those Moodle event types will be reflected in my Outlook calendar as well. In this case, I will see any personal Moodle events and any Moodle events from the "Moodle Integration Project" course.
In the above image, there are two events in my course Moodle calendar. On the 14th, there is a personal event, and on the 16th a course event. We can see the details of the course event in the image. When I look over at my Outlook calendar, I see the same two events:
In my next post, I will discuss the OneDrive for Business integration. It takes advantage of Sharepoint to allow shared course directories as well.
If you want any more information on how you can benefit from these developments, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mike Churchward, CIO/President
In my last post, I started talking about the work we are doing with Microsoft Open Technologies to create integrations with Moodle and a number of Microsoft technologies and applications. That work has progressed quickly, and we are now testing our first efforts. In this post, I will describe where we are with the OneNote / Moodle integration.
The work so far is focused on providing access to OneNote's notebook pages as repository selections and as assignment plug-ins. The current work has been done for the free, OneNote for Consumer application. In future phases, the commercial OneNote plug-in will also be added.
For the assignment plug-in, the key goal is to allow Moodle assignments to be created in OneNote, using any and all of OneNote's content features. Then, once the student feels their assignment is done, they simply need to click the Moodle assignment's "submit" button, and the student's Moodle assignment submission will be automatically associated with the OneNote page they worked on in OneNote. No downloading and uploading required. No conversion into Moodle compatible content required.
An additional feature developed allows the instructor to provide feedback to the provided submission using OneNote.
To get these features working correctly, a number of problems had to solved:
Establish a defined, secure connection between the OneNote application and the Moodle site.
Establish a defined, secure connection between each user's Moodle account and their OneNote account.
Connect a specific OneNote page in a user's OneNote account with a specific Moodle assignment submission.
Connect a specific OneNote page in an instructor's OneNote account with a specific Moodle assignment submission's feedback response.
Ensure that a specific submission can be "frozen" at the time of submittal, so that any changes that occur afterward can be prevented or allowed but visible.
I'll describe the approach taken for each problem.
A Moodle local plug-in establishes a secure connection between the specific Moodle site's instance of the Microsoft plug-ins and the Microsoft API's for OneNote. The plug-in works with Microsoft's "Live App management site" (https://account.live.com/developers/applications) to establish unique identifier and secret codes that ensure communication between the Moodle site and the OneNote API's are for the intended purpose. The connections are managed using OAuth 2.
This is set up by a Moodle administrator and configured into the plug-in as above.
A Moodle user can establish a connection to their OneNote account in several ways. In each case, the connection is live for the duration of the Moodle session, but is lost when the Moodle session is complete. Each time a user logs back into the Moodle site, the user will need to login to the OneNote account as well.
The OneNote account connection can be established by accessing the repository plug-in, by using the OneNote block or by using the sign-in button on the assignment plug-in. Using any of these options logs the user in for all OneNote plug-ins for that Moodle session.
The assignment submission plug-in allows the specific assignment to connect to a OneNote page for each user's submission. Once a user has logged into their Microsoft account, the assignment will offer a "Work on this" in OneNote button. Clicking this button will open the OneNote web application in a new browser tab, logged into the user's account.
If the OneNote page has not already been created (if this is the first time the user has opened this assignment), a new page will be created in a section for the Moodle course in a notebook for the Moodle site. Each of these will be created as necessary. Each book/section/page is given a name according to the Moodle site, course name, assignment name, user name and action (submission, feedback). These names are important, but data references are also kept in Moodle to keep the associations.
A user can then work on their OneNote assignment in any of the OneNote applications - web based, desktop application or mobile. When the user is happy with the assignment, in Moodle, they simply need to click the "Save changes" for their OneNote assignment submission. Doing this, records the submission in Moodle, provides a direct link to the OneNote page for the user and the instructors and uploads a zipped submission of the page in HTML format to the Moodle course assignment. This upload provides a snapshot in time of when the assignment was submitted, helping to control what was submitted with any changes made to the page after submittal.
On the instructor side of things, the student's submission is available to be reviewed in OneNote, reviewed as submitted zipped HTML pages and for feedback in OneNote. When the instructor opens the students OneNote submission in OneNote, that page is copied into the instructor's course section in their site notebook with a name identifying the assignment and the student. If the instructor elects to offer feedback using OneNote, a new page will be created in the instructor's notebook containing the content of the submission, allowing the instructor to provide feedback inline in the content. That feedback page will likewise be available to the student, by copying it into the student's notebook when the access it.
We are currently running this work through closed beta-testing, and it will available for more general beta testing in the new year. I think this add-on will be a very useful addition to the Moodle landscape, and look forward to seeing what people can do with it.
For more information on how you can benefit from these developments, contact Remote-Learner at email@example.com.
Remote-Learner is working with Microsoft Open Technologies to build and provide integrations between Moodle and Office 365, OneDrive for Business and Consumer, OneNote and Outlook Calendar. These integrations will provide seamless workflows between Microsoft products already used by organizations, and Moodle, one of the most popular Learning Management Systems (LMS) in use today.
The power of these integrations will provide speed and efficiency to developing, launching and running learning programs by all types of organizations. Whether you are an educational institution, a corporate training supplier, a certifying body or any other organization that has training as part of its operation, you can benefit from the integration of Moodle and Office365.
A beta program is starting with various types of organizations. This program will provide test instances of the beta work in Moodle. Beta participants will have an opportunity to test run each of the integrations, provide feedback on their experiences and contribute ideas to future functionality and releases.
The beta program will run through December 2014. The planned first release for the integrations is late January 2015. Look for Remote-Learner's blog posts on functional items over the next several weeks. For more information on how you can benefit from these developments, contact Remote-Learner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mike Churchward, CIO/President
I recently became involved in a partnership project with Microsoft Open Technologies. This project has the ambitious goal of providing tighter integration of a variety of new Microsoft products with Moodle.
The products we are focusing on initially include OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook Calendar and the various pieces these integrations will support, such as the Office 365 applications and Azure Active Directory.
For me, this meant getting myself reacquainted with Microsoft technology and systems. I chose to buy a new Surface Pro 3 running Windows 8.
The Surface is an interesting device. From my perspective, it’s a tablet that tries to be a laptop when you want it to be. But in my experience so far, I like it better as a tablet. And for me, the killer app is OneNote on the Surface.
If you are not familiar with OneNote, it has been around for a lot longer than you think - since at least 2003. If you're familiar with Evernote, its a very similar application. To put it simply, it is your collection of notebooks, available to you on all your devices. You organize each notebook into sections, and add pages to the sections. Pages can include your created notes, media, clipped information from the web and photos you take on the device. Kind of a notebook / scrapbook hybrid.
OneNote is integrated pretty tightly with the Surface. It comes pre-installed as a Surface app, meaning it works well with the tablet interface of Windows 8 and the Surface stylus. The stylus allows you to call up OneNote with a click of the button on the end (like clicking a ballpoint pen), and then write your note using handwriting, on the open page. For myself, I have really gravitated to using the stylus and OneNote to take quick notes, in the same way I used to use a pen and a pad of paper. And if you upgrade to OneNote 2013, you can use the "Ink-to-text" feature to turn your handwriting into a digital text document.
Marking up existing documents in OneNote is a great feature. For example, you can import a PowerPoint slide into a note, and then mark it up with your comments and drawings (if you use the stylus). Likewise with a clipped web page. Add-ons like Office Lens, let you use your device camera as a scanner, capturing notes on paper or whiteboards directly into your OneNote notebook. And you can then mark them up as needed. In fact (I haven't tried this yet), I believe you could even capture audio markup and place it in the page.
You can share your notebooks with other collaborators, via email addresses. People you share with don't even need the OneNote app; they can use OneNote on the web as a web-based application. The OneNote notebooks and their content are all stored in the OneDrive cloud, making them available to any connected device.
Prior to using OneNote with my Surface, I was unsure what an integration of OneNote with Moodle would be good for, or how it would be useful. Now I really want to make this happen.
From a learning system standpoint, consider the markup and collaboration. As a Moodle assignment, OneNote could be submitted for grading. If the OneNote interface was used by all participants, teachers could mark up the submission directly on the pages. And, as a collaborative assignment, multiple users could work on the submission contributing and marking up existing content before submitting.
This is where we have our focus right now. In the works are integrations to allow OneNote to become an assignment type. To be fair, OneNote can be used to create assignment documents to be submitted and uploaded to Moodle right now. OneNote allows the exporting of its notes as PDF's, Word docs or as single web pages. But we want to make it work without that extra step.
We will be working with the Microsoft Open Technologies group to build out the necessary Moodle pieces. As a start, these will include:
SSO with Azure Active Directory - necessary to make the account access between Moodle and the cloud seamless for the user.
OneNote and OneDrive repository plugins - give easy access to document in OneDrive and specific parts of OneNote.
OneNote assignment plugins.
I will post regular updates to our progress along with my thoughts and experiences with the technologies and how they can be further used with Moodle and the learning environment,
Watch our blog for more information on what's coming and how you can be involved.