edX and Microsoft Office Mix join to enhance online learning

A new partnership between edX and Office Mix aims to help faculty easily create, edit, and share courses with a host of interactive features for students.

edx-microsoft-onlineAlthough most online higher education courses today are presented as mere PowerPoint lectures, Microsoft has joined forces with edX in the hopes that their Office Mix service can revolutionize online learning on the platform.

“Our belief is that democratization of online and blended learning is a really important goal that will enhance learning and the technology of online courses,” said Anoop Gupta, a Microsoft Distinguished Scientist who worked extensively on the partnership. “We want to empower educators across the world to create excellent courses.”

Above all, the partnership between edX and Office Mix is aimed around making blended and online courses more interactive for students while still being very easy for faculty to create and edit.

As the preeminent online portal for online courses and MOOCs, edX already boasted a host of partnerships with education giants including Harvard and MIT. However, most courses required professional production that was largely difficult to edit and hands-off for many professors.

But, by taking advantage of the Open edX initiative which invites developers to create innovative learning courseware for the platform, Office Mix developed an XBlock that allows educators to personally and affordably embed mix lectures directly into an edX course, says the company.

“The motivation and action for the Office Mix project was that we believe online and blended learning will be big, and we want to create tools that will be used to enable new scenarios for students,” said Gupta.

(Next Page: Learn about the unique functionality of courses created in Office Mix)

Moving beyond lectures that merely include text and audio, Office Mix allows professors to include easily editable audio and video, hyperlinks, white board-style writing on slides, animations, and clip art into their lectures.

Creators can also embed different programs used to simulate or reinforce certain concepts, such as quizzes, polls, and applications that anyone can create and submit which include but are not limited to providers such as CK-12, PHET, Code Hunt, Khan Academy, Python, and Office Mix themselves. These can all be found on the Office Mix store.

In addition to all of these features, creators can view analytics on their Mix lectures from all viewers that grant them key insight into how well their course is doing in terms of keeping the attention of their students and allowing them to make quick changes if necessary. For instance, professors can stop for a quick quiz if they find that students are having difficulty grasping certain concepts or if attention is waning during longer sections of a lecture.

Additionally, a major component of courses created through Office Mix is the fact that they can both be shared on the Office Mix website and published on edX. With this, teachers around the world will be able to share great mixes they have created, which other teachers can quickly find and then replay in their own classes or edit in order to make them work better for their own purposes.

“One of the beauties of Office Mix is the ability to tell stories in your own voice and when you share it, you’ll know who is watching and what portions are being watched,” said Gupta.

Yet even with all of this functionality, Office Mix aims to keep things simple for teachers, whose feedback played an important part in helping to refine the project. As an add-in to PowerPoint 2013, Office Mix features a very familiar interface that is easily navigable for those familiar with PowerPoint. Lessons are created one slide at a time, and for that reason, recordings and text are very flexible if they need to be updated.

The Office Mix add-in can be downloaded from the PowerPoint homepage. For those currently without PowerPoint 2013, Microsoft is offering 180-day free trials to educators building edX courses.

For a quick and thorough sample Mix, take a look at this overview showing how to download the Office Mix XBlock for edX and embed a Mix into a course, narrated by Principal Software Engineer Kurt Berglund:

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For another sample displaying the many features of Office Mix, take a look here.

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