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Microsoft Integrates Live@edu With Moodle, Launches Education Labs

Microsoft is connecting its Live@edu online collaboration suite with Moodle, an open source learning management system (LMS). In addition, Microsoft today unveiled a new Education Labs Web site.

Moodle users will be able to take direct advantage of Live@edu features through a new plug-in developed by Microsoft and released today. Features supported in Live@edu using the plug-in include calendaring, search, e-mail, shared workspaces, storage and instant messaging.

"It's a free download that helps address the needs of interoperability and flexible technology choices in education," explained L. Michael Golden, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Education Products Group, in a telephone interview. "Quite easily, with one Live@edu login, [users will] be able to utilize all of the flexibility that Moodle presents as a learning management system, along with the collaboration/communication capabilities of Live@edu."

Live@edu is Microsoft's free portal, communications and collaboration suite for education. The cross-platform service provides a range of hosted solutions for educational institutions, including e-mail (with 10 GB of storage per user), Windows Live SkyDrive storage (25 GB), and Office Live Workspace collaboration and document sharing, among others. According to Microsoft, Live@edu is now in use by more than 9 million students worldwide.

Moodle's Widespread Use
Microsoft elected to bring this interoperability to Moodle because of its widespread adoption, flexibility and openness, according to Golden.

Moodle is generally recognized as the most popular learning management system on the market, open source or otherwise. The software is installed at more than 35,000 registered, validated sites worldwide. It supports both small and large deployments, with several sites well beyond 100,000 users. The product includes course management tools, various Web 2.0 technologies, online assessments and other features common to LMS software.

Currently, Moodle has more than 24 million users and supports more than 2.2 million courses. It's an opportunity for Microsoft to address the "86 countries for Live@edu and the 207 countries that are touched by Moodle," according to Golden.

"I think what we've tried to do is embrace what Moodle represents...," Golden said. "It's an open source course management system, and we love the fact that we're working in a collaborative way with that. And I think we also recognize that we have on our plate a whole pipeline of connectivity and integration that we have to be attentive to going forward."

Collaboration with open source developers is an important part of Microsoft's strategy going forward, along with addressing interoperability and international standards, Golden added.

"We do a lot of work with partners, and we recognize that we need to integrate a lot of different technologies, a lot of systems, a lot of standards," Golden said. "So we've always been very active on interoperability; we've always been active on national/international standards; and now we're excited to be active and working with different types of communities of developers, including the open source community."

Microsoft's EducationLabs.com
Microsoft is also introducing its new Education Labs Web site today, which will focus on software and resources specifically for the educational segment. The site will help bring educational tools to market more quickly, according to Golden. The new Moodle plug-in represents the first of those efforts.

Microsoft plans to be responsive to this market. To this end, Education Labs has its own separate development team drawn from Microsoft's Education Group.

"In much the way we're releasing this plug-in, we want to be able to create features and add-ins and gadgets and other things that will help schools, students and teachers immediately," Golden said. "And we don't want to go through some of the rigorous protocols and long development cycles that bog down the ability to help with specific needs in the marketplace."

He added, "We want to be able to provide solutions in the marketplace with some agility."

The free Moodle Live@edu plug-in is available for download now. Further information can be found on EducationLabs.com.

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.

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