Microsoft announced yesterday the availability of the Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle. This add-in is available for download now and is compatible with Office 2003 and 2007. This, I must say, is a really good idea.
Microsoft's Education Labs group, much like their Office Labs group, creates prototypes of news tools around the Microsoft ecosystem, some of which make their way to the education vertical for wider testing and utilization. The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is one such product and, once a teacher enters their Moodle server URL and login information, adds "Open to Moodle" and "Save to Moodle" as options to the Office menu button. The video demo below shows the add-in in action:
A video showing how to install the OAM is available here.
As noted on the Education Labs site,
We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodles come from teachers. We’ve gotten some requests already about adding support for students and assignments, but we want to hear from you.
This is the sort of convenient feature that will help teachers who might otherwise be reluctant to use Moodle to finally take the plunge. When adding documents to the learning management system becomes as easy as saving, the barriers to adoption certainly drop. I imagine we'll see even tighter integration in Office 2010 where the ability to save to the cloud (in the form of Windows Live) is native to the suite.
That, in fact, is what really impresses me about this add-in. Moodle suddenly becomes a document store just like a flash drive or a hard drive. The easier it is to add and modify documents in the cloud, the more likely teachers will be to share a wider variety of content and ancillary materials. Why only post the PowerPoint show for the day's class? Why not also post the lesson plan, the notes, the quiz, and a few exemplars submitted by students? Taking this a step further, Microsoft released a white paper at the same time demonstrating how to use SharePoint as the core file system for Moodle.
This sort of integration between on-premise software and the cloud has been a key part of Microsoft's message in education for some time and with the OAM, the white paper, Live@Edu, and the upcoming "2010" family of software releases, the message is certainly coming to fruition. The question will be how well that message plays in the land of iPad, where the way we create and interact with content is moving quickly away from the desktop. Rich content creation, however, will still rely on desktop applications for the time being, meaning that this is an important bridge to the cloud for educators and a great boost for Moodle which is increasingly rich in and of itself.