Office 365 Open Source plugins for Moodle: getting better all the time

Earlier today we shared the news that the upcoming Cypress release of Open edX, the most popular open source MOOC (massive open online course), will include new features for tighter integration with Office 365. Those features are the result of our open source collaboration with members of the Open edX community.

In addition to the new work we’re doing with Open edX, we continue to work with Remote-Learner (a leading Moodle partner) to make improvements and additions to the open source Office 365 plugins for Moodle. Moodle is the most popular open source learning management system (LMS), and the Office 365 plugins were released in January of this year. In this post, we’d like to share a few details about the great work Remote-Learner is doing to evolve the plugins.

Evolving plugins to keep up with Office 365 and Moodle

Many of the changes over the last few months were in response to feedback from Moodle and Office 365 users, but there have also been changes due to the ongoing evolution of Moodle and Office, respectively. For example, the plugins were originally released for Moodle 2.7, and Remote-Learner has performed the necessary testing and changes to assure that the plugins work with Moodle 2.8 and now Moodle 2.9, the most recent version.

Another good example is the new User Groups feature in Office 365, which the plugins have exposed within Moodle for use by students and teachers. As Remote-Learner’s Bryan Poss explained in a recent blog post, “Unified user groups are a new feature in Office 365 that provides a way for groups of users to collaborate throughout Office 365 applications. Groups can now be created and maintained for each course in a Moodle site, giving users an easier way to share with the other people in their courses. Teachers have a simple way to share documents with their students, and those students have a simpler way to contact their peers.”

Adapting to feedback from students, teachers and administrators

Many organizations have been testing and deploying the plugins, and their feedback helps guide and prioritize updates. Mike Churchward’s January post on the Moodle forums, for example, has dozens of comments back and forth between early adopters and the Remote-Learner team. Some of the comments identified bugs that have been fixed (specific examples can be found here), and other feedback has resulted in simplification of the user experience.

In the original release in January, you had to use a Microsoft Account (MSA) for the OneNote integration, even if you were using an Office 365 login for the other features. This spring, however, OneNote has released a new API that enables use of an enterprise login for all of the functionality, including the OneNote integration, so the plugins have been modified to take advantage of this new API. The need for a separate MSA was something some early adopters had found to be clumsy, and now they can have a streamlined experience using only their Office 365 login.

For more details about the improvements to the open source Office 365 plugins for Moodle that have been released over the last few months, see Remote-Learner’s blog post Microsoft Office 365 Plugins Update as well as MS Open Tech’s blog post Office 365 plugins for Moodle: updates and new features.

Growing Momentum

The Moodle plugin repository provides download statistics for each plugin, and it’s exciting to see how many people are using the Office 365 plugins! The latest stats show more than 180 sites are using the plugins now, and there have been more than 4,000 downloads, with download activity growing steadily over time:

Moodle plugin downloads

Of more than 1,000 plugins in the Moodle plugin directory, Office 365 plugins are all in the top 10 of their respective categories. A few highlights:

  • OneDrive for Business was the number 4 Repository download for the last 12 months, and was the number 2 Repository download for the last two months.
  • OneNote was the number 9 Repository download for the last 12 months and the number 3 Repository download for the last two months.
  • OneNote was the number 5 Assignment download for the last 12 months and was the number 4 Assignment download for the last two months.
  • oEmbed was the number 9 Filter download for the last 12 months and was number 6 Filter download for the last two months.
  • OpenID Connect was the number 3 Authentication download for the last 12 months and the number 2 Authentication download for the last two months.

We’re pleased to see the growing momentum around this work, and look forward to continued collaboration with open source educational software communities!

Jean Paoli, President
Rob Dolin, Senior Program Manager
Doug Mahugh, Senior Technical Evangelist
Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc.