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ISTE 2016 – Office 365 vs. Google Apps

June 28, 2016

Print_ISTEISTE 2016 – Office 365 vs. Google Apps
The Tech Director’s Perspective

Another in the series of my blog posts from ISTE 2016 in Denver.

Macomb County Tech Directors – Michigan

Each participant was given 3-4 minutes to answer the following questions

What research did you do?

Google Apps

  • One district was a Mac shop, was not invested into Microsoft software, so Google Apps was an easy choice
  • Another – Google Apps was free, district was having some financial challenges, as was the State.

Office 365

  • Groupwise was becoming antiquated. Attended webinars, did some live sessions, read some articles, watched some videos online
  • Another wanted to leverage the decades of training and support that they had in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages?


  • Advantages: liked user interface, passwords, ability to administer, access from anywhere
  • Disadvantages: Initial domain setup was not sync’ed up with Active Directory, another platform to maintain
  • Advantages: incredibly easy to manage accounts, apps, create groups. Administrators (school) are just another user, and they can see the history on a Doc, etc.
  • Challenge: Students wanted to use their personal accounts, so getting them to use the district account was interesting.

Office 365

  • Advantage was using Office products for over 20 years, people could continue to use the products they were familiar with. Felt there would be a huge pushback from staff if they took it out. Seamless transition when they moved to Office 365. Because of the licensing, students can download a full copy of Office for free on multiple devices. Everyone can save to their Onedrive.
  • Challenge: version control (Word for Mac, Word online, Word for Windows)
  • Challenge: Struggled getting AD to sync with Office 365 at the beginning, now working well.

Features of the Platform


  • Wasn’t in sync with IT infrastructure, but could get students in using a CSV file.
  • Sharing, and seamless access to everything. Allow sharing of files outside of the district. “tend to be pretty liberal
  • Google Hangouts education edition allows up to 25 simultaneous users.
  • Chromecast coming into Google Classroom

Office 365

  • OneNote class notebook. Microsoft Classroom, new features that weren’t available in March, but are coming available now. New Microsoft forms is great. Skype for business. Microsoft has come so far in the last year.
  • Office 365 can go on any platform, and if you want a class sharing feature, there are third party vendors

Timeline for implementation


  • One district started talking about it 2 years ago, and starting moving.
  • One district change came from moving to gmail services, and then people latched on quickly. No push out as a “will do this” but people could use it.

Office 365

  • It was a long time ago, were still using on prem Exchange when they started. Had to get a consultant to put in an AD Federation server. Later on did dir-sync, and moved to cloud based Exchange.

PD provided?


  • Did very little PD, most of it is based on curriculum, processes, etc. Done as lunch and learn, after school, learn on your own, from YouTube. Most had to do it on their own time. Did not get a lot of pushback, but felt that was because it wasn’t being pushed on them. It was just made available
  • Used in-district staff to train, and online training was available.
  • All schools offer 3-4 totally different computing models (Chromebooks, iPads, MacBook, and Windows) Explained how to login and left the rest to the staff

Office 365

  • Officially moved in July 2014, and that is when people started to ask questions.
  • Lots of great resources on the Microsoft site, but very long, so pulled some details off the website and created their own materials.
  • Created some screencasts, some skype meetings. Used videos for 10-12 minutes that allowed the students to get up and running really quickly.
  • Make sure people remember to connect to OneDrive, and connect their Office to their OneDrive

What about privacy?

Google – we trust them to take care of business

Office 365 – we trust them to take care of business

Random Thoughts and Admin Console demonstration


  • Password resets done manually until they connect to AD
  • Brief walk through on admin tools. Everything in one place, uses grade groups for each grade, and teachers are added into that grade too. Easy to access device management. App settings -> choose apps that automatically get installed in teacher’s account when they login.
  • Reports are really nice, quick, and you can add your own.
  • Can suspend and re-activate accounts to gain access to accounts.

Office 365

  • Forms is still in beta, will be watching it closely
  • One district is not connecting Office 365 to AD, rather running PowerShell to import and export passwords.
  • Another district is fully integrated with AD
  • Question about Office 365 as an LMS – not really.
  • Some challenges when students do things in Yammer, and other tools that don’t have much tracking. But that’s why we have teachers!;)
  • Named some of the tools like Yammer, Sway, Planner, OneNote, Forms, and you can add your own products to the tools
  • Digital Ink on a touch device is really neat.

This was a good starting session. Some good conversations and thoughts from both camps. Thanks everyone for being open and willing to talk about the tools that you are using!




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