College student Benjamin Park shares his experience with Office Online – originally posted on the Office Blog

I’m entering my senior year at the University of Michigan, majoring in Sociology with a minor in Complex Systems. This year, my course required a lot of team projects, but it was my decision to get involved with the Up to Us campaign that really drove home the need to find the tools I could use to communicate and collaborate efficiently with my teammates. Up to Us is a competition among 25 universities to raise awareness on campuses about the long-term impact of America’s rising debt on economic opportunity.

Benjamin ParkFor my first two years at college, I had used Google Apps because of the partnership between the University of Michigan and Google. But when I used Google Drive and Google Docs, I couldn’t help comparing them with the Microsoft Office programs I work with on my Surface. I was frustrated by formatting changes when I exported Google Doc files into an Office format, such as an Excel file. I’m required to hand in assignments as Word documents or Excel spreadsheets and in order to do so, I wasted time reformatting assignments to make them look polished. I was getting busier with planning for the Up to Us campaign, so this extra work was definitely unwelcome. I realized that Google Apps wouldn’t give me the functionality, the collaborative efficiency, and the professional presentation I needed.

So, when I discovered Office Online would give me online storage and simultaneous collaboration capabilities using the same Office programs that I use on my computer, and that it would automatically save my documents as I worked on them, I knew it would be great for collaboration. To get my teammates’ creative juices flowing for one of our first meetings, I connected my Surface to a classroom projector, opened OneNote, and uploaded a fresh workbook to OneDrive. Everything was stored online for everyone to access and anyone who couldn’t make it to the classroom to meet with us in person followed along online. Using a stylus on my Surface, I drew up plans and we brainstormed ideas together.

For the rest of the campaign, we used the Office Online suite to collaborate virtually and write up our reports, budgets, and slide decks. We found it much easier to build our budget in Excel compared to Google Docs and we were able to prepare PowerPoint presentations that really drove home our message with a visual impact that we couldn’t achieve with Google Slides. We collaborated on a poster design to illustrate facts about the federal debt, and hung them around campus on Federal Debt Awareness Day. Teamwork was easy because we could share and edit our campaign projects simultaneously, no matter where we were. Office Online allows anyone, regardless of whether or not they have a Microsoft account, to edit my documents when I invite them.

While offline, I use Office on my Surface tablet. I can work on my tablet knowing that all my edits will be saved to the cloud when I upload the files to share with my teammates. So with the same version of my work synced between the tablet and my online storage, I could always locate the most recent version of any document.

The whole experience working on the campaign was liberating: everyone appreciated how versatile, powerful, and portable Office Online is. As a team, we quickly completed and effectively coordinated the assignments that I handed out to raise awareness of the campaign across campus. My teammates were amazed by what Office Online was able to offer. Undoubtedly, Office Online was key in organizing a lot of the events, reports and presentations we completed.

As a side benefit, since Office is the standard for business productivity, the experience I’ve gained working with Office Online means that I’ve developed a skill set I can use after graduation. In the meantime, it’s making my life as a student more productive.