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Should You Teach Microsoft Office or Google Apps? 4 Things to Consider

September 16th, 2021 | 8 min. read

Mike Cescon

Mike Cescon

With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the iCEV curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.

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Business and computer teachers have a lot to consider when choosing between teaching Google Apps or Microsoft Office. In many ways you’re setting the stage for the application that those students may use for the rest of their lives. And that’s a lot of pressure to put on anyone. 

As a digital curriculum developer, we often hear regrets and frustrations from teachers because they chose an application suite that didn’t fit their course’s needs. Microsoft Office and Google Apps are both robust systems, but one might be a better choice for your class.

In this article, we’ve compiled the four questions every teacher should consider before choosing to teach either Microsoft Office or Google Apps in their class:

  1. What Are Your Course Standards?
  2. Will Your Students Take a Certification Exam?
  3. What Technology Are Your Students Using?
  4. What Are the Advantages of Teaching Microsoft Office vs. Teaching Google Apps?

After reading this article, you will be able to make a more informed choice about whether Microsoft Office or Google Apps is the right fit to teach in your course, which will save you time and headaches in the long run.

Consideration 1: What Are Your Course Standards?

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Oftentimes, your course standards will dictate what specific digital application you have to teach for your computer course. If you’re unsure about which application to teach, consider consulting your course standards to see if they have any guidelines or requirements written. 

However, this might not always be the case. Some course standards only require that any relevant application be taught, rather than naming a specific application. That means the choice of whether to teach Microsoft Office or Google Apps falls to you. 

If you’re reading this article, chances are it’s because your course standards don’t specifically dictate which application suite you’re required to teach. If that’s the case, then the next question to consider is . . .

Consideration 2: Will Your Students Take a Certification Exam?

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Preparing students to earn certifications is a common goal of many computer application and career readiness classes. 

For some schools and training centers, it’s even necessary to teach certification courses to gain funding for your classes. 

Though Google Apps previously offered a student-focused Google Workspace Certification, it was retired in early 2021, and the new Google Workspace Certification aims itself at professionals already in the workforce. 

On the other hand, Microsoft offers certifications for students, with a prominent example being the Microsoft Office Specialist certification. Because of this, if your goal is to help students earn certifications, then you’ll probably lean toward teaching Microsoft Office in your course.  

Whether certifications are a priority for your course or not, the next point you should consider is . . .

Consideration 3: What Technology Are Your Students Using?

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Along with course standards and certifications, you also need to consider what devices and software your students have access to for your computer applications course.

After all, not every device can run every piece of software, and the technology available to you will go a long way in determining whether Google Apps or Microsoft Office is the better choice for your class. 

In general, your students will either use one-to-one devices or a dedicated computer lab, and depending on which, your choice of application suite might change. 

It would be best to contact your IT department to get a sense of the technology available to you, and to get specifications for what it takes to run Google Apps or Microsoft Office.

If Your Students Use One-to-One Devices . . .

Many schools issue “one-to-one” devices for their students: budget-friendly laptops or tablets assigned on a one-per-student basis for an entire school year. 

These devices do an excellent job of keeping students connected to internet applications for help in doing research and taking notes. However, many of these devices--such as the Chromebook--are incapable of having certain programs downloaded and installed to them. 

This means the downloaded version of Microsoft Office may be unavailable to students who only have access to more economical one-to-one devices. In that case, fully online digital applications like Google Apps would be the superior choice for your classroom.

If Your Students Work in a Dedicated Computer Lab . . .

On the other hand, many schools teach their tech or career readiness classes from a dedicated computer lab, or by issuing full-fledged laptops to students on a rental basis via laptop cart. 

With access to this more robust hardware, your IT Department can download and install programs like Microsoft Office, and your options open up once more. 

Altogether, hardware limitations may affect the digital application you’re capable of teaching. 

If you have access to a dedicated computer lab or library of laptops that provide a hardware advantage, you will be able to choose between Microsoft Office and Google Apps. Without hardware capable of running Microsoft Office, however, Google Apps becomes the clear choice. 

If hardware isn’t an issue and you’re capable of choosing your digital application based purely on other factors, then perhaps the most important question to consider is . . .

Consideration 4: What Are the Advantages of Teaching Microsoft Office vs. Teaching Google Apps?

advantages of microsoft office vs google apps

The crux of this issue is which digital application will be the better fit for your class. To answer that, it’s important to look at both of these options and determine what your course can gain from teaching one over the other. 

Microsoft Office and Google Apps are used in different ways, after all, and depending on the skills you want to foster in your students, it’s these subtle distinctions that you’ll have to factor into your decision.

Advantages of Teaching Microsoft Office

The desktop version of Microsoft Office focuses on providing the greatest number of features and variety in its applications, at the cost of collaborative potential. 

Whether it comes to word processing software, spreadsheet software, or presentation software, the common thread among Office applications is their great depth of detail. 

One instance of this is the various templates Office offers for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Whether you want to teach your students how to create a custom resume, business report, or budget plan in Word or Excel, Office has dozens of templates available for each to get your students started. On the other hand, Google Apps generally hovers around three to five templates per type of document. 

With the tremendous number of features offered by its creative software, Microsoft Office provides a more comprehensive experience suited for professions in which precision, clarity, and detail are essential. 

This is especially the case if the work is done single-handedly, or if collaboration otherwise isn’t essential, like for careers in accounting or finance. 

If you want to prepare students for careers where they’ll need inclusive, detailed software that places a focus on independent work, then Microsoft Office would be a good choice to teach in your class.

Advantages of Teaching Google Apps

Google Apps focuses on providing the largest potential for collaboration and communication in its products, at the cost of certain features and details. 

Google Apps was designed from the beginning with collaboration in mind. Its ease of use when it comes to sync technology and commenting allows coworkers and students to be in constant communication over the details of individual documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. 

It’s easier to share documents with coworkers via Google Apps than with Microsoft Office, and the software allows for more intuitive work on cooperative pieces. Even Gmail is simply less complex and more open to communication than Microsoft Office’s Outlook, allowing for more synergy in the workspace.

For careers that require constant communication between employees or collective work on documents--such as managerial positions--this setup would be very useful. This is also true for student projects in secondary or higher education, where collaboration is essential to completing an assignment on time. 

Besides that, Google Apps, including Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides, is entirely web-based, and needs less robust hardware to run the majority of its applications. If you only have access to budget technology, Microsoft Office might be impossible to run, but Google Apps should work fine. It even has the capacity to work without an internet connection. 

If you want to prepare your students for careers in which shared work and communication are essential, then Google Apps would be the better choice to teach in your computer class.

So Which Is Right for Your Classes?

Well, that depends on all of the factors listed above. 

Your course standards, whether you’re teaching certifications, what technology you have access to, and what you want your students to be prepared for in their futures are all important considerations for you to have. 

Teaching Microsoft Office might be what you’re looking for if you: 

  • Need to teach certifications 
  • Have access to robust technology 
  • Want to teach your students the digital application with the greatest number of features and details

On the other hand, Google Apps might be the better choice if you:

  • Aren’t focused on certifications
  • Have access only to more economical technology
  • Want to teach your students a digital application that focuses more on collaboration and teamwork
Chances are, though, you’re probably somewhere in the middle. And that’s fine. 

Many computer teachers choose to teach a bit of both Microsoft Office and Google Apps to prepare their students for as diverse a future as possible. 

After all, the two digital applications are a lot alike, and teaching a bit of Office here might help your students learn a bit more Google there, and vice versa. 

Based on the points in this article, if you feel like your students have something to gain from learning both Microsoft Office and Google Apps, then consider teaching both in your course.

So What's Your Next Step?

Whichever application you choose--or whether you choose to teach both--it’s important you also have access to the resources you need to help you plan lessons and teach classes. 

When teaching computer applications, many teachers opt to put together their own lesson plans drawn from various resources, while others prefer a singular, comprehensive curriculum option. 

Dive into the articles below to discover which kind of computer applications curriculum option is best for you:

Microsoft Office Lesson Plans vs. Curriculum: Which One Do You Really Need?

Google Apps Lesson Plans vs. Curriculum: Which One Do You Really Need?