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Office 365 now offers seamless integration with educational open source software

Today’s post was written by Jean Paoli, Rob Dolin and Doug Mahugh from the Microsoft Open Teach EDU team.

Last Friday at MS Open Tech we announced new open source integration with Open edX and Office 365 and also provided an update on the evolution of open source Moodle integration with Office 365. These are exciting developments in the education technology space, and in this post we’ll cover how they fit into the broader trend toward more openness and interoperability, which is being enabled by Office 365’s open REST APIs.

Whether you’re a fourth grader at your local elementary school, a forty-year-old working on an evening MBA, or a fourth year associate enrolled in training at your company, there’s a good chance that you use a popular LMS (Learning Management System) or MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform such as Moodle, Open edX or others for submitting homework and managing your education. There’s also a good chance that you use Microsoft Office 365—the world’s leading productivity suite—for creating content and collaborating with others.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could seamlessly move back and forth between Office 365 and your LMS or MOOC, using tools like OneNote and Word to create content, or OneDrive to store documents and Outlook to manage your calendar? The Office 365 open REST APIs enabled the open source community to work with MS Open Tech on turning this vision into a reality. Office 365 REST APIs can be used from any programming language. For example, Moodle is written in PHP and edX is written in Python, but in both cases we’ve used the same open REST APIs.

At the heart of these integrations is single sign-on (SSO), which allows instructors and students to move between Office 365 and Moodle or Open edX without the need to log in each time. For example, you could be logged in to Office 365 and working on a Word document, and then you’d like to go into Moodle to upload the document as an assignment or submission. In Moodle, you can now simply click Log in with Office 365 and you’re authenticated in Moodle with full access to Office 365 documents and services—ready to get your work done.

To further streamline the workflow, these integrations give students and teachers the option to allow Moodle or Open edX to appear in the My Apps app launcher within Office 365. So your LMS or MOOC can be one click away whenever you’re working in Office 365.

SSO integration with Moodle and Open edX leverages Azure Active Directory, using the OAuth2 standard and OpenID Connect (OIDC). We’ve also taken advantage of the Calendar API and OneNote API to enable a variety of integration scenarios in Moodle and both Moodle and Open edX can pull content from OneDrive into assignments. For example, students using Moodle can now choose to synchronize their Outlook calendars to the Moodle course calendar, so that when a teacher reschedules a class they’ll see the update immediately on their smartphones.

In the spirit of contributing to the open source community, OIDC support has been implemented for Moodle and Open edX in a manner that allows use by any OIDC provider—not just Office 365 and Azure AD. We’ve done the same for OEmbed support, so you can use the new OEmbed plugin for Moodle to embed an Office Mix, or to embed any other OEmbed source such as YouTube, Slideshare and many others.

The Moodle plugins for Office 365 were released in January, and include SSO, OneNote submissions and feedback, OneDrive integration, Outlook calendar sync and Office Mix (OEmbed) integration. Moodle is the world’s most popular LMS, used by both corporate and educational institutions worldwide. For this project we worked closely with Moodle’s partner, Remote-Learner, taking advantage of their deep expertise in Moodle and our team’s expertise in the open Office 365 APIs to create a seamless experience for educators and students. We’re continuing to work with Remote-Learner on evolving the Moodle plugins for Office 365 based on feedback from the community.

The Open edX integrations will be available in the Open edX “Cypress” release coming in early July, and initially include SSO and OneDrive integration. Open edX is the world’s most popular open source MOOC platform, and we’re continuing to work with the Open edX experts at OpenCraft to expand the ways the Office 365 and Open edX can be used together.

For more information about these projects, see the recent blog posts about Open edX integration and Moodle integration over on the MS Open Tech blog.

—Jean Paoli, Rob Dolin and Doug Mahugh

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