This is the first post in a series focused on building Education Solutions in Office 365 and SharePoint. More specifically, this series will cover information architecture, site branding, app development, and simple governance implemented in O365 to establish a basic interface for teacher-and-student interaction and task management.
What will be covered?
There will be a heavy focus on SharePoint in Office 365 as well as some coverage in broader aspects of the O365, Azure, and Office client platforms. After reading, my hope is that you discover some straightforward steps you can take to help you succeed with implementing and managing an Education program using Microsoft O365 and Azure technologies as well as how to set the stage for growth and extensibility in the future.
With that written, the starting point will be basic, and as complexity is introduced we’ll see new technology, design updates, and additional functionality added to meet demand. The approach will be ad-hoc as so many SharePoint (and Microsoft Office overall) projects tend to be, but I’m hoping to highlight some critical points at which to pull in the reins and take a moment to set yourself up for success. Posts’ content will focus on building and deploying components, but subject matter will also cover planning an effective approach as just mentioned.
Content covered will be tied to the subject matter of education curriculum in Machine Technology (MT). Our personas and perspectives will reflect those of students and teachers in a Machine Technology student/teacher body as well as those of an Office 365 SharePoint architect, administrator, and developer building this system. There are going to be accompanying posts on MasterCam, Shop Math, CNC Programming, and more.
What won’t be covered?
There are many choices to be made around project management, governance, program management, marketing, budgeting, scheduling, SDLC, adoption, and more in the projects we tackle today. These series of posts are intended to showcase O365, SharePoint, Azure, and Machine Technologies and to offer a glimpse into several of those aforementioned topics (some in depth and others on the surface) but not to provide comprehensive coverage off all activities associated with executing an enterprise LMS system or building an entire education ecosystem. Also, this is not an overview of the Office 365 EDU tenant and CALs.
Let’s get started.
Starting Out – The Machine Technology Scenario
A machine technology student spends his/her day in the classroom learning shop math, Mastercam, CNC program development, safety procedures, industry standards, and a variety of other subjects. This is coupled with shop time cutting parts and mastering machining techniques. The teacher is hands-on in all activities, both in the shop and classroom and there may be more than one teacher.
The curriculum is intense for the student: completing CNC programs and learning Discriminator, successfully implementing those programs on Mills and Lathes, taking classes at Immerse2Learn, taking classes at ToolingU, and learning Mastercam. Also, some really great requirements are mandated for keeping reference material organized well and readily available, and we’ll be improving on that in SharePoint. All of this is going on simultaneously (a few hours of shop, followed by a couple hours of Mastercam, followed by Immerse2Learn in the evening), and the student is tasked with managing deliverables for assignments on these subjects, his/her notes, CNC programs, and documentation. And, the teacher(s) are working side-by-side with students on all of this and also need to manage their administrative overhead and course planning.
SharePoint is perfect for managing tasks and associated artifacts (of many content types). There is version history, browser read, browser write with exceptional fidelity to the client apps, co-authoring, security and permissions, metadata, filtering/sorting, custom views, search…the document and task management capabilities of SharePoint are extensive and majorly extensible. Extended to the broader Office 365 environment, Students and Teachers find direct access to additional content management through OneDrive, the familiar and powerful set of Microsoft Office client applications, and extensions to all of this through the Office Store.
So, our first requirement is to provide a “sales-pitch demo” showing how students can manage all of the documents associated with various assignments, learning courses, notes, programs, etc. in Office 365. This will give us something tangible to present and demonstrate with in order to receive buy-off and expand functional design.
For this, there will be a simple hierarchy we follow for students’ documents. And, for the demo, we’ll just take the Documents folder that comes with the Team Site template. We’ll use this very basic structure:
We’ll also put together some quick Site Columns to represent/implement the Information Architecture (IA) above. For now, these provide a great mechanism for filtering, sorting, and basic prioritization in SharePoint Search.
Moving forward, we’ll focus on expanding the IA and business process analysis. These will fallout into site design, workflows, views, content types, etc. But, right from the start, we have a basic hierarchy and structure to demonstrate how students and teachers can quickly filter documents, co-author, implement version history, share content, and more with a simple document library.