Microsoft follows Google to education sector with Office 365 app for teachers

The Microsoft app is built for SharePoint Online and OneNote and is meant to help teachers with common classroom tasks

Microsoft has created a classroom assistance application for OneNote and SharePoint Online in Office 365, soon after Google released a similar one for its Apps email and collaboration suite.

With OneNote Class Notebook Creator, teachers can set up individual notebooks for each student, a common library for class documents and materials, and a group collaboration space for collective activities, hosted in SharePoint Online and using OneNote as the front-end interface.

The OneNote Class Notebook Creator, available at no extra charge to Office 365 subscribers in the Office Store, is meant to boost "classroom efficiency" by, for example, simplifying the collection of homework assignments and consolidating teacher feedback in a single place, according to Microsoft.

The app, which Microsoft describes as "a flexible digital framework for teaching and learning," was developed by the OneNote team in partnership with Microsoft Research and Microsoft China, the company said Tuesday.

In August, Google launched an application called Classroom for its Apps for Education suite, saying it's meant to help teachers "spend more time teaching and less time shuffling papers." Making use of suite components such as Docs, Drive and Gmail, Classroom is designed to let teachers create and organize course work, offer feedback and interact with students. It also features a section where teachers can post information about their class.

Google Apps for Education and the Classroom app are free, while Office 365 for Education has free and paid editions.

Prior to their respective forays into the education app market, Microsoft and Google had been content with offering their suites to schools and universities while relying on specialty vendors to provide education software. Clearly, Microsoft and Google feel they need to offer their education customers native apps to deepen the value of their suites to them.

Of course, this should put vendors of niche education apps on high alert, especially if Microsoft and Google plan to develop other types of software for schools and universities, such as sophisticated learning management systems, or LMSes, which would add two mighty new players to that market.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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