Live@Edu… an uncertain future?

Up until now I’ve been singing the praises of Live@Edu and have been out there demonstrating our integration to a lot of Moodle users over the past year or so. As such it seems a shame to have to be writing this post but at this point in time the future looks a bit uncertain for us…

  • Moodle integration… for ages Microsoft had said the Live plugin would be updated for Moodle 2.0, however this thread suggests otherwise
  • Office 365 “pricing and availability” came round in an email recently… pricing?! Rumour seems to have it that Live@Edu will start including “premium” paid-for services, which is worrying if the free service basically becomes a crippled version in comparison to the new offering. It seems like I’m not the only one who feels this way judging by the comments on Microsoft’s own Outlook Live answers forum, page 1 page2
  • Lack of product roadmap \ planning information – we need to know what’s going to be available so we can plan a) a Moodle 2.0 migration path b) what platform to continue using for our student productivity tools. At the moment everyone seems to be in the dark about this, I remember back at BETT this year Microsoft saying a Sharepoint-based SkyDrive replacement was coming this year… nothing since (I guess this is part of Office 365)
  • No customer point of contact since this blog closed down
  • The competition is catching up… judging by the amount of people I’ve spoke to recently Google Apps is overtaking Live@Edu, certainly in cases where it’s being integrated with their (Moodle) VLE

Looking at this blog there seems to be a bit of info about Office 365, surprising to see SkyDrive as the official storage for it though…

So what do I think Microsoft need to do to catch up (and overtake) Google?

  • realise that integration with other products is a major issue for education users now… we won’t be changing our Moodle VLEs anytime soon and Live@Edu has to understand its place as an online productivity suite and plug into the VLE environment rather than trying to stand alone.
  • ensure the free offering is upgraded to at least match and preferably exceed Google’s offering, the main sticking point here is SkyDrive… the storage space is nice but file management is a nightmare, no backup or recycle bin options etc mean you can’t rely on it to store student data (plus the lack of data protection on SkyDrive storage)
  • sort out annoying issues like lack of co-branding options on the sign-in screen (I’ve done it but doubt it’s supported), annoying TOU screens if logging into SkyDrive as a first time user etc. Again this stems from some of the consumer products being used as part of Live@Edu

The Moodle plugin is also way more important than Microsoft appears to realise… based on its market share (see links below) people will decide which platform to use based on how well it integrates with their environment…

As it stands the Moodle plugin for Live@Edu is frustrating, it does good things…

  • email viewable inside the VLE
  • create and reply to messages in Moodle shadowbox

But it’s also really bad at times as well…

  • unsupported
  • requires users to have LiveID as auth method in Moodle (no good as most places will want to authenticate via LDAP)
  • slow to login (LiveID takes around 10 seconds to get through the authentication)
  • first time login issues (TOU \ consent screens for new users are confusing)
  • unannounced bugs in login flow a constant worry

By contrast the current Google Apps plugin keeps your existing authentication method and sets off authentication to Google via trust so it’s unintrusive when adding into your existing VLE structure. So what would I (and judging by the feedback I’ve had others people too) like to see?

  • official support for the block as part of the Live@Edu offering
  • authentication method changed as per above
  • Moodle 2.0 support
  • repository support for file storage \ retrieval (this is where the Live@Edu SharePoint offering could really earn its money and really take on Google imo)

I don’t know how much of a big deal this online battle for the education sector is to either company and whether there’s ultimately a profit extraction method behind it but if Microsoft don’t want to lose to Google something needs to change… whatever happens the next 6 months look to be very interesting times ahead!


6 Responses to Live@Edu… an uncertain future?

  1. Pingback: Google sites and apps for education info

  2. Darren Murphy says:

    Time to move to Google Apps Gerald!

  3. As usual Microsoft have been outdone again by Google. Live@Edu would be good if it didn’t have its own authentication method and just worked long side LDAP authentication or another authentication method.

    • gshaw0 says:

      Exactly, it’s not the product that’s the problem, just the way it integrates isn’t quite there. Once I get my Office 365 Beta invite in a few days I’ll see if there’s any scope for improvement on the new platform… more in hope than expectation but worth keeping an eye on. Problem for me with Google is that it’s a completely different interface from Office, which for students just starting out would make life pretty confusing so I’m sticking in the Microsoft camp for now with fingers crossed…

  4. Pingback: Live@Edu… an uncertain future? « gshaw0 | Krystal Creations

  5. John D says:

    I’m the same I’ve got both Google and MS and my LMS is Moodle 2.0 …. Holding tight and hoping Microsoft do something about this GPL issue and LDAP authentication soon so I can get it ready for September 2011.

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