Microsoft Office Mix review – a potential new player in digital learning?

Is Microsoft looking to get into the eLearning game? It appears so, according to the description: “Office Mix allows you to turn your PowerPoints into interactive online lessons or presentations.” Hmmm, the curiosity got the better of me, and like a lab rat, I walked (or in technology terms, “clicked”) my way into it.

Office Mix (in its current customer preview version) is a free Microsoft add-on for anyone with a copy of Office 2013 or Office 365 with PowerPoint. Whether it remains free at launch is unknown at this stage.

Office Mix ribbon

So, what can Office Mix do? Let’s take a look at each button contained within the ribbon:

Record
This button activates the video screen capture functionality. You can even use a pen to scribble content onto the white screen, or highlight certain things that are on your PowerPoint slide.

Within the Record screen, you can also narrate and show a video of yourself in the corner of the presentation to add a personal touch. It is very similar to any screen capture software you have used, including the one built into Articulate Storyline.

Quizzes & Video Apps
This button is the superstar of the show. It is what makes Office Mix “eLearning-like”. Upon clicking the button, you are shown the list of the current apps available to download and install. All you need is a Microsoft Account (which is free).

Office Mix AppsAt the moment, there are four quiz types and nine videos and apps.

You can expect very similar functionality within the quizzes as you would find in any authoring tool. For instance, you can create a multiple choice question with a single answer, or with multiple answers. You can also assign customised feedback for each response. A welcome feature is the ability to add a hint to the learner – we can smell adult learning principles here! Scaffolding anyone?Office Mix Question

As the owner of the Mix, you have the opportunity to check the the progress of each learner via your Office Mix website. If reporting is a requirement, then your Mix needs to be uploaded onto Microsoft’s website. Presently, your Mix cannot be viewed on any learning management system, or web page, outside of Office Mix’s website. The file is a PPTX file, and therefore is not SCORM-compatible. More on reporting later.

The Video Apps contain pre-built learning content that you can insert into your Mix. The free collection is somewhat limited at the moment. On formal release, we would imagine more would be made available. From the current offering, we can only see one app that most digital learning practitioners will like – Web Viewer. What this enables you to design research learning activities on a specific website without learners having to open a web browser (and get distracted!). There is a major downside to this particular app though – it only accepts secure websites, therefore limiting its scope. Ie, The URL must start with https://.

Office Mix web appScreen Recording
This button allows you to video record your screen. The only difference to the Record button we looked at earlier is that this button does not come with the ability to scribble on-screen or show your face from your web cam (not a bad thing for anyone who is camera shy).

Screenshot
An alternative built-in functionality to using the Window’s Snipping Tool. Easily capture screens for your presentation.

Preview
Like reviewing an eLearning module, this is a welcome inclusion.

Upload
Just three easy steps to publish your Mix online. You have the choice here to decide whether learners can view your Mix offline and on mobile devices.

Office Mix - upload

Export to Video
You can convert your presentation into a 1080p full HD video. It will alert you to any interactions that cannot be included such as quizzes. So no interactive videos just yet! Bummer!

Before we move onto the online component, we do want to stress that the the other PowerPoint features you have come to know and love (or dislike!) are still available to use within your presentation.

My Mixes
After your Mix is uploaded, it is available on My Mixes. Before it is published, you are presented with this screen where you can set a title, description, categories, tags, permission and sharing levels. The direct link is also provided.

Office Mix - My Mixes

 

The screen below shows how your Mixes are displayed, with the corresponding administrative features available to you as the content owner. Note: Submit to Contest is a competition that Microsoft is running during the preview / beta stage.

My Mixes - content

When you play a Mix, this is how it is presented. You can either ask the learner to click the back and next buttons to navigate, or simply hit play and run the video presentation.

My Mixes - view

Analytics
While the Office Mix website is not a learning management system (LMS), it does come with some similiar features, including the all important reporting. Because learners need to login, the system knows who the learner is, and can provide statistics on the following:My Mixes - Reporting

Office Mix - Reporting 2

Our final thoughts
We always welcome new technology and tools to digitise learning, and to make learning more accessible to people. It seems that Microsoft has finally come to the party in an industry worth billions of dollars. Despite coming into the game late, the initial offering looks good. It offers an affordable (basically, free) online learning solution. Although, as always, content is king so good instructional design capability cannot be replaced by whizzy tech.

It will be interesting to see what the final product looks like on launch, and where Microsoft takes this.

Pros:

  • Free and built-in (a copy of Office 2013 or Office 365 with PowerPoint is required; unconfirmed whether this remains complimentary at launch)
  • Free ‘My Mixes’ web page with analytics / reporting functionality
  • Easy to use interfaces
  • Built-in screen captures, including the ability to scribble on screen

Cons:

  • Lack of available and useful apps
  • Not SCORM compatible
  • Lack of ability to create multiple learning pathways
  • Cannot compete with Articulate Storyline, Lectora or any other authoring tool (yet!)

Samples: https://mix.office.com/Gallery

Getting Started: https://mix.office.com/Home/GettingStarted