How do you get 500 students to actively engage with their coursework and collaborate effectively with their classmates?
No, it’s not the start of another one of my terrible jokes, nor one of life’s great unsolved mysteries. The answer, for Dr David Kellerman and his engineering faculty cohort at the University of NSW, was Microsoft Teams.
With over 500,000 organisations across the world using Microsoft Teams to connect and collaborate1, the platform has garnered an impressive following in the corporate sector off the back of its 2017 launch. Now, the powerful potential of Microsoft Teams is becoming increasingly clear in the education space with academics like Dr Kellerman leveraging the platform to deliver more personalised and immersive lessons and learning opportunities – ultimately boosting student engagement, retention and the overall student experience in the process.
Microsoft Teams brings together conversations, meetings, files and apps, allowing educators to switch between content creation, class discussion, lesson planning and delivery – all from one central digital hub. It’s intuitive, integrated and customisable, enabling different groups to work together easily and securely:
Learning management systems (LMS) are the foundation of every education environment. When paired with Microsoft Teams via its powerful integration capabilities, teachers have access to their complete learning and collaborative environment. This extensibility is backed by the ability to integrate a range of other learning apps as tabs, drastically reducing the number of disparate tools.
When Dr Kellerman led the delivery of a single integrated Microsoft Teams solution for his engineering students at the University of NSW, in just three short weeks, class posts were up 900% compared to the previous year. These impressive levels of engagement made it difficult to keep up with the students, so they took things a step further. Working with a tech partner, they leveraged AI to create a question bot that logs each student’s question as service tickets before connecting each student to their tutor. The bot can also create databases, forums and student generated FAQs – sorted by student topic. This has meant students always have easy access to relevant content and are able to get answers to their questions quickly.
As a member of the Office 365 Education suite, Microsoft Teams provides native integration for familiar applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and an education-flavoured OneNote known as Class Notebook. The latter has become an invaluable tool for educators thanks to its ability to allow the whole class to store text, images, handwritten notes, attachments, links, voice, video and more. Using OneNote, teachers can arrange interactive lesson plans for each class into one hub before distributing them to students and other teachers.
To setup, OneNote can be integrated with either Azure AD or on-premises AD, the LMS and groups. This automatically provides access to OneNote with varying access levels for teachers and students:
Microsoft Stream – a video service within Office 365 – is another popular Microsoft Teams integration for educators. This video tool allows teachers and students to securely share videos within classes, the wider school campus, and beyond. The result? Crystal clear streaming that breaks down geographical barriers and provides valuable content that can be recorded and offered as on-demand learning resources.
Microsoft Whiteboard gets a lot of buzz and for good reason. The interface features interactive technology that allows students and teachers to brainstorm, collaborate and create in real-time. Everything is securely saved, is easily accessible and it’s packed with handy features like polls and education-themed stickers. Microsoft Whiteboard can be added as a tab in Microsoft Teams and will undoubtedly become a favourite amongst teachers and students alike.
Included alongside the usual suspects – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – in an Office 365 Education license, Microsoft Teams can easily be mistaken as a ‘set and forget’ deployment. However, as with any system implementation, it’s critical to understand how these tools fit into the wider technology environment.
The reality is, there can be serious implications following a poorly planned and executed deployment – particularly in the education sector where there is strict student privacy, data security and compliance rules to adhere to. In addition, multi-function collaboration platforms create a far more distributed environment, so creating a model to align key educational processes, class structures, compliance concerns, roles and responsibilities, permissions, and security will inject governance into all aspects of Teams, and ensure a secure, more seamless adoption across staff and students.
Data#3 is the safe pair of hands when looking to deploy Microsoft Teams across your organisation. We provide comprehensive strategies for Teams as well as the broader Microsoft cloud ecosystem. Beyond IT management, our engagements draw in an organisation’s key stakeholders to ensure all aspects are covered, from adoption and change management to governance and security.
Our Teamwork Assessment facilitates and focuses discussions on investments that can improve the student experience, retention and engagement. This includes identifying use cases, creating strategic alignment, and defining actionable roadmaps that deliver transformational business value.
Contact a Data#3 Education Specialist to learn more, or request an assessment.