Monday, October 23, 2017

On the Death of OfficeMix

OfficeMix from Microsoft is a fantastic one-stop-shopping tool for creating flipped classroom activities.  It has terrific built-in features including:

  • Slide narration
  • Slide annotation
  • Video capture with front/rear camera 
  • Screen recording (for capturing online videos or software training)
  • Interspersed questions
  • Unlimited Hosting
  • Learning Analytics

I have pointed many educators towards this tool as most are already familiar with PowerPoint and can adopt this quite easily.  So it was with some sadness and frustration that I read that Microsoft will turn off OfficeMix by mid-2018.  The features of OfficeMix will be incorporated in PowerPoint 365 and the videos will be uploaded to Microsoft Stream which is limited to an internal-only audience.

In a way, this is a blessing in disguise as it prompted me to search for alternative solutions, particularly free ones with cross-platform compatibility.  This is important as OfficeMix was not an option for Mac users unless they used a tool like Virtual Box or Bootcamp to run Windows.

There are several options out there but the one that I found the most customizable was to use a combination of Google Forms (with/without Google Classroom).
Google Forms recently allowed the creation of a quiz with automatic feedback and scoring.  You can also embed a YouTube Video into a Google Form.
PowerPoint already as the ability to record the slide narration and annotation which can be saved as a video.  By uploading this video to YouTube you can embed this into a Google Form.  You can thus use a combination of your own videos and those available publicly on YouTube.
You can hyperlink to any video from within the description area of each section of the form.  Within these hyperlibks, you can specify start and end times on the videos to split videos into appropriate segments.

The steps would thus be:

  • Decide if there are public YouTube videos available that will meet your needs
  • If there are not, create your own video using PowerPoint narration and animation and annotation
    • Upload your video to YouTube
  • Grab the URL for your videos and the public YouTube videos you plan to use
  • Jot down the start and stop times of each video and add at the end of the URL
  • Create a Google Form, and create multiple sections, one of each video and related questions.
  • Insert the URLs in the description of each section create questions 
  • If you want to use the entire video, you can embed it in the form using the "add video button"
  • Add questions following the video, with answer keys and points.
  • Share the form with learners.
See below for an example of one such activity that teaches these steps (the videos may not work in this embedded form). For full functionality of videos view it full screen here. Try this out and let me know what you think.