The past 20 years of my interaction with educational technology is a story starting with radical experimentation with the Internet (not quite an Outlaw phase because nobody cared), then gradual codification into an institutional tool, another brief period of radical experimentation (Edupunk phase), and finally settling quietly into the bigbox institutionally-owned VLE because a) Facebook was just to difficult to scale and b) it worked, even if imperfectly. Now, for various reasons, that bigbox phase might be coming to an end and I'm starting to think about what I would like to replace it. (Not that what I would like means much.)
Do I want another bigbox (everything in one place, just "works", inevitable compromises and frustrations) or do I want a more agile collection of individual tools (inevitable compromises and frustrations of moving from one space to another)? The answer is I don't know. Just like the referendum, neither option is very palatable so which is the least worst?
There are institutions using Microsoft Office 365 as their VLE. We had an immediate need to get students to write project diaries, so rather than use older solutions we decided to experiment with Microsoft OneNote as a gentle toe in the water. What follows is very much first impressions after one week.
As an old skool Microsoft Office user, I currently find Office 365 confusing and threatening. Because namespaces (Word, Excel, OneNote) overlap in desktop/mobile cloud domains, I don't know where I am all the time, and more to the point, I don't know where my/student data is. Although the user interface is fine (if a little simplistic), other aspects of the system are real ugly. An example of this are system-generated URLs - which frequently contain the word Sharepoint (be afraid, be very afraid), whereas other URLs to the same classes of student-generated resources contain the words SkyDrive. Are these equivalent or not? Sharing is clunky - the price you pay for moving out of the bigbox - and notifications non-existent (so far, unless I've missed something), so resources start to look like silo destinations you have to track down and visit individually. Dashboard? What dashboard?
I hope these are just the ramblings of a tired academic at the end of a long hard year, and by the time Office 365 "clicks" with me I'll be happy to wander off into the sunlit uplands of the future. It's very important that everyone remembers that this contemporary reflection is intended to capture my current feelings so that I can assist others in future, and be able to look back on this and laugh at my naivety. Alternatively, it is possible that the future is a horrible as both sides in the referendum debate say that it will be.