Jun 23 2022

Boosting Interoperability Between Google and Microsoft in Higher Education

Students, faculty and staff want flexibility. Thankfully, these two platforms can work well together.

Students today grow up on Google. They probably have email accounts through Gmail. They likely have worked in Google Classroom and on Google Chromebooks throughout their K–12 educational careers. And when they get to the colleges or universities of their choosing, those old habits are unlikely to go away.

Higher education institutions, meanwhile, have long partnered with Microsoft and taken advantage of its suite of tools, like 365, Exchange and Teams, and built Microsoft’s platforms and services into their infrastructures. Years ago, Microsoft was often the first provider to reach colleges and universities, and therefore its tools are in place at the ground level on campuses around the country.

So, what happens when those incoming students — or even a grant-winning researcher who happens to love what Google offers — arrive on campus and try to integrate into the existing Microsoft system?

The good news is that both Google’s and Microsoft’s tools can and do work together, something the team of experts at Amplified IT can help IT departments set up and maintain, ensuring that students, faculty and staff are all using the tools they’re most comfortable with so they can be working at their best.

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Why Offering Access to Google and Microsoft Services Matters

Colleges and universities, whether they’re serving tens of thousands of students or just a few hundred, can no longer afford to operate as one-platform institutions. It needs to be a split existence.

Early in my career, I worked at the University of Texas Health Services, where we had a huge contract with Microsoft. However, we discovered we needed a collaborative solution for our team. That’s where Google came in, and its offerings became necessary in order for us to collaborate the way we wanted to — as long as Microsoft and Google played well together, which they did.

In other cases, a split existence can be necessary because of a particular school or department. Take, for example, schools of education. Since their graduates will likely be working with Google tools, especially Google Classroom, when they go on to work in the educational field, it makes sense for their own education to be delivered on those tools. Interoperability is imperative so that those schools do not become isolated from the rest of campus.

Additionally, colleges and universities must be able to provide flexibility. It’s a conversation that often comes up these days in terms of hybrid and in-person learning, but allowing students and even new faculty to work with the tools that they are most comfortable with can be key to their success.

READ MORE: Learn 5 security myths about Google Workspace for Education.

What Google and Microsoft Interoperability Looks Like

At many colleges and universities, faculty and staff operating with Microsoft tools need to be able to meet their students where they are, and that’s frequently on Google. A professor who sends out a .docx file needs to know that a student using Google Docs can open that file without any loss of formatting. That’s now something Google and Microsoft do well.

Similarly, those using Google Calendar need to be able to incorporate meeting invitations from Microsoft Teams into their schedules. That interoperability is now a standard feature of how the two systems work together — even though, in the case of a Teams invite, that means following external links to those meetings.

Some pieces of Google and Microsoft interoperability — like the two examples above — happen without any IT intervention, but other pieces do require some extra work.

LEARN MORE: Windows 11 introduces new higher education and hybrid workforce features.

Both Google’s and Microsoft’s administrative consoles require some massaging to make sure that Gmail and Exchange, in particular, are working seamlessly together and not needlessly flagging emails from one service or the other as spam, phishing attempts or malware.

Google’s platform is highly intuitive — that’s one of the reasons people use it in the first place — but to ensure everything is set up correctly, CDW’s Amplified IT team can come in to work directly within Google’s admin console. CDW experts can keep interoperability between Google and Microsoft running smoothly for whatever platform students, faculty and staff prefer.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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