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Published April 3, 2018 | Multidisciplinary

Deploying Office 365 Across Colleges

This article was translated from French.

The institutional version of Office 365 for Education is probably gaining ground in your college. According to the work plan of college ITREPS, a majority of colleges offer this online collaborative platform.

We solicited the collaboration of 8 ITREPS from English and French colleges to document the deployment of the Microsoft Office 365 environment across the college network:

  • Judith Beaudoin, pedagogical counsellor and ITREP, Champlain College Lennoxville
  • David Laplante, technopedagogical counsellor, Cégep de Sherbrooke
  • Stéphanie Coll, pedagogical counsellor and ITREP, Cégep de Baie-Comeau (now  Assistant Director of Studies)
  • Julie Dessureault, technopedagogical counsellor, Cégep Édouard-Montpetit
  • David Pellerin, technopedagogical counsellor, Cégep de Drummondville
  • Patti Kingsmill, pedagogical counsellor and ITREP, Vanier College
  • Brenda Lamb, pedagogical counsellor and ITREP, John Abbott College
  • Derek Gaucher, coordinator, Information Systems and Technology, Dawson College

The Office 365 for Education offering provides access to a range of services for teachers, students and administrative staff. The tools available vary from one college to another, depending on the subscription chosen. Among these are:

  • Office Online, an online Word, Excel, and PowerPoint document editor
  • Outlook Online, an email service using the college's domain name
  • Skype for Business, an online chat and conferencing service
  • SharePoint Online, team sites to share resources and projects
  • OneDrive, an online storage service synchronized with the user’s different devices
  • Project Online, a project management service
  • Yammer, a private social network
  • Stream, the equivalent of YouTube

In March 2016, Christophe Reverd, of the Vitrine Technologie-Éducation, published an article in collaboration with Microsoft Canada to present the Office 365 Education environment.

Deployment in Colleges

Some institutions are still considering the use of Office 365, others are beginning its deployment, while others still have been using it for a number of years. ITREPS often have the mandate to accompany teams in the field. We collected their impressions.

Judith Beaudoin (Champlain College Lennoxville)

“We were among the first to offer this cloud environment. We are in the 3rd year of implementation. We started with the mail service (Exchange Online), the calendar (Outlook) and the virtual office environment (Office Online). For our 3 campuses, the momentum was good because we were heading toward using a common name for the email service.

On the occasion of a pedagogical day in 2016, I demonstrated all the modules for educational purposes, together with our computer analyst. An Omnivox survey was then conducted to find out how teachers used these Office modules. We then added access to online forms. In the fall of 2017, we consulted again with teachers. Interest in online surveys was noted. We added access to this feature while offering training over lunch to familiarize staff with its functioning.”

David Laplante (Cégep de Sherbrooke)

“At the Cégep de Sherbrooke, deployment started gradually, in 2014. Some change agents lent themselves to the exercise. The Direction of Information Technology Services first gave access to the students and they got on board. The teachers were then informed of the possibilities offered by this new environment. In our case, there was no access to anything related to Exchange (Email, Calendar and Skype).”

Stéphanie Coll (Cégep de Baie-Comeau)

“From winter to fall 2016, we set the stage for environmental testing. We put into place an expanded committee to decide on the major directions. We also had to consider the transition from Office 2010 to Office 2016. We wanted to make sure that both environments were compatible.

  • A smaller committee assured a more practical follow-up:
  • A student (president of the Student Association)
  • A continuing education representative
  • The IT Resources Coordinator
  • 2 teachers in the regular sector
  • Myself, technopedagogical counsellor at the time

In January 2017, we started with the email service. During the term, we started by offering workshops to teachers. Among other things, we offered workshops on Teams [in French]. In the fall of 2017, we made the decision to open everything up to teachers and students. In December 2017, we invited a Microsoft resource person to present the environment, especially to administrative staff.”

Julie Dessureault (Cégep Édouard-Montpetit)

“On our end, things got started in August 2016. I was not the REPTIC at the time. The entire IT Service worked on the deployment. Like some other colleges, we offer teachers and students the Office 365 and Google for Education environments. Most components are available, others have been disabled so we can better prepare teachers. We also used a Microsoft resource person to introduce teachers to the potential of the various tools offered by Office 365. The voluntary participants were excited!”

David Pellerin (Cégep de Drummondville)

“We are still in the first stages of this reflection. In our college, Office 365 has been available to the community (students, teachers, administrative staff) since March 2017. The direction of studies is leading the case and has developed a deployment plan. The first step is to familiarize users with the tools on a personal basis, especially OneDrive and the Online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. During the 2018 winter session, technical operations are planned for the transition from Office 2010 to the 2016 version (April 2018).

The second step is to train staff members on Office 365 (April-May 2018). The objective is to be more efficient by being able to write and collaborate in real time and by sharing documents. This will be done in 3 steps:

  • A Microsoft representative will present a conference on the new communication, collaboration and sharing capabilities associated with Office 365.
  • The same person will provide hands-on training to the administrative staff of the different departments. As a technopedagogical counsellor, I will make available video tutorials and computer lab training for teachers to equip them to use Office 365 with each other and with their students.
  • Support will be offered in the first weeks following the training."

Patti Kingsmill (Vanier College)

“At Vanier College, students were first to have access to the platform. The computer technicians and I then gained access to Office 365. We benefited from a full-day training offered by Microsoft trainers. This allowed us to get a head start and prepare ourselves to support teachers and other staff members.To encourage the adoption of the platform and its effective use, we have included tips and tricks in our local newsletter. At the moment, I am particularly interested in Teams [in French]. I see a lot of potential for team collaboration. Some teachers are experimenting with the collaborative use of Word Online. Others are trying OneNote and the Forms tool. There is a lot of software in the Office 365 suite. I suggest you take advantage of the availability of Microsoft trainers and not be shy about sending them questions.”

Brenda Lamb (John Abbott College)

“At John Abbott College, the IT department has embarked on a pilot project with G Suite for Education after the deployment of Office 365. Some teachers use one of those two platforms for educational experiments. Feedback from CEGEPs that have tried Office 365 and Google Suite indicates that the Google suite looks more robust.The IT service is responsible for implementing Office 365 at John Abbott, but initiatives for teacher professional development are being encouraged. The Professional Development Office has contacted Microsoft's trainers to arrange workshops but it's hard to find moments that work for everyone. The College Teaching and Learning Center’s professional development component has established a community of practice to support both the implementation of the Office 365 environment and the teachers using the G Suite for Education platform.”

Derek Gaucher (Dawson College)

“The IT Solutions sector of the IT Service has been involved with the Office 365 implementation project in our college, which started 3 years ago. The end of a FirstClass license caused some pressure to migrate to another solution.We explored the possibility of integrating G Suite for Education, but the college has been using Microsoft technologies for a long time. As a result, the Office environment was retained. Many teachers use the Google suite, but the college does not offer technical support for this environment. Office 365 is currently available to the entire Dawson college community. All students have a Dawson College email address.I see a lot of progress with the Office 365 suite since its initial deployment. The web interface more closely resembles the interface of the traditional desktop version of the software, and users also have the option to download the software package if desired, depending on the license chosen by the college.”

Considerations and Issues

The implementation of Office 365 brings its share of changes. After speaking with the stakeholders at the various CEGEPs, we have identified some considerations and issues:

  • Transfer of information to students. Many do not use Office 365, others do not download the software to install it on their computer (or they do not know they can download it). Even when they are notified of their access to Office 365 by MIO, many do not use it.
  • Preference for Google tools. Several colleges, notably Cégep de Sherbrooke, note this trend, particularly among students from private high schools and some English school boards.
  • Unfamiliarity with Microsoft Stream. To watch videos, students are used to turning to YouTube.
  • Office 365 does not always offer the same functionality as Google (for example, Google Forms offers more question formats than Forms in Office 365).
  • Limitation for the annotation of homework assignments in the cloud version of Office, unlike its desktop  version.
  • Possible decrease in computer performance.
  • Accompanying teachers. There is an important need, but offering support can be complicated by the budget cuts of recent years.
  • Constant evolution of software. This makes mastering Office 365 tools more difficult. For example, the tabs in the Word software do not always have the same name from one version to another.
  • Protection of sensitive data. The use of cloud platforms means that data, especially data collected during evaluations, are sometimes hosted on servers outside Quebec or Canada. Yet, Canada’s privacy and confidentiality laws do not apply elsewhere.

Looking Ahead

The arrival of Office 365 in CEGEPs opens up new opportunities for collaboration and will have a major impact on our way of doing things in the coming years. For curious people, there are many tools in Office 365 that are little known, such as Sway, Yammer and Stream. The constant evolution of Microsoft tools will require us to remain up to date with regard to our ICT skills.

ITREPS have pointed out that there are many support needs. Judith Beaudoin suggests that it is better to avoid 1 on 1 conferences and favour training in small groups. Several pilot projects are taking shape in colleges. Champlain College Lennoxville is experimenting with virtual coaching. Communities of practice are being formed in several CEGEPs to ensure a successful implementation of Office 365. These communities allow members to develop a shared expertise on a common set of tools. Derek Gaucher stresses the importance of transparency and communication during the process of implementing Office 365. In his college, teachers also have access to Lynda.com for software training, which they can take at their own pace.

To learn more about the tools in the Office 365 suite, you can consult this training video [in French], distributed by the FADIO as part of their 2018 Distance Learning Week. Lise Fortier, teacher at Cégep Sorel-Tracy, also shared a link to the description [in French] of the various tools contained in the Office 365 suite.

In the coming weeks, it will be the teachers' turn to tell us about their experiments using the Microsoft Office 365 suite. Do you want to share your own experience? Do not hesitate to comment!

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