– Hey Steve, thanks very much for your time today.
– You’re welcome.
– So I want to talk to you about some of your recent interactions with our education customers. And if we think about the various phases of the COVID-19 response, and the impact to the education sector, we’ve seen a rapid uptake of remote learning, and using tools such as Microsoft Teams. But as our customers come out of that react phase, and start to adapt to a new way of working and learning, they’re encountering some challenges around security and policy and student safety. Which is understandable, right, because we’ve moved so fast? So, with respect to Microsoft Teams, I’d like to ask you a few, or run through a few of the questions that we’re getting from customers, if that’s okay?
– Yeah, absolutely, fire away.
– So the first question is around Information Barriers. So how can a school prevent different cohorts of students from communicating or chatting to each other? Like primary or secondary, for example.
– So, Information Barriers allows IT to construct segments of users in the organization. So in an education space, this could be the staff and primary students and secondary students, for example. And then they can define policies that control whether or not communication between those segments is allowed or not. So, in that example, you might allow the communication between staff and the students, in both the primary and secondary, but not between the primary and secondary students themselves. So once these policies have been defined, any policy which blocks communication between two segments of users would mean that they couldn’t be a member of the same team, attend the same meetings, or chat or call each other.
– Okay, so I understand there’s some complexities around licensing Information Barriers, but there’s apparently some complexities around deploying it as well?
– Yeah, that’s right. So Information Barriers can be quite complex. Even in a straightforward example, you need to take care in the way that you segment the users, to make sure that you don’t inadvertently block communication between sets of users that you didn’t intend.
– So once it’s done, can it be undone?
– It can, though it does take time, and you might find yourself in a situation where, for a period of time, you’ve actually got these blocks in place that you don’t want. So it’s important to get it right first up, to prevent those kinds of situations, and we can certainly help with that if you need help constructing the policies or making sure the attributes are in a good way before it’s implemented.
– So next question’s around Lobby for All. So we’re seeing a massive uptake in MS Teams. Teachers want to be able to restrict students from entering a class or a meeting until they’re ready. How do we do that in Teams?
– Yeah, so this is a challenge at the moment. Currently, in MS Teams meetings, anyone who’s got the link to a meeting that’s internal to the organization can come straight into that meeting without having to wait in the lobby or be admitted by the teacher in this case. So, in an education setting, you can imagine that with students being able to join straight into a Teams meeting, this can get unruly quite quickly. So Microsoft are working on a feature that will require all users that are internal to the organization to actually be required to be admitted through the lobby.
– So this is almost like a regular classroom, so students aren’t allowed to enter the room until a teacher arrives, for example?
– Yeah, that’s right. So when this policy is in place, it will mean that the students need to actually wait in the lobby for the teacher to admit them, when they join the meeting.
– So another common question: stopping students being presenters. So teachers want to be able to restrict students from kicking other students out of meetings, or even teachers out of meetings. How do we do that in Teams?
– Yeah, so currently this can be done on a meeting-by-meeting basis, but the teacher has to actually remember to set this for each lesson. So Microsoft are working on another feature to allow you to set this at an org-wide level, so that teachers don’t have to remember to actually set this for every single lesson, and you don’t run into that problem of students being able to kick each other or even the teacher from the meeting.
– And I understand too, there’s a bit of work going on in the integration of learning management systems and student information systems to help automate some of this as well?
– Yeah, absolutely. So schools are really keen to be able to integrate their learning management solutions with Teams. We’re actually doing a lot of work at Data#3, helping our customers integrate their LMS solutions into Microsoft Teams.
– [Interviewer] Okay, fantastic. So the final question is around Breakout Rooms. Can a teacher configure Breakout Rooms for a class using Microsoft Teams?
– Yeah, so Microsoft are working on this feature at the moment, and this will allow a lesson to take place on a Teams meeting, and then have students be able to break off into different breakout rooms, to work on problems or assignments in groups. And then the teacher will actually be able to jump into those different groups, and help the students with any questions they might have, and then the students would be able to actually come back to the main lesson after finishing, and close out the lesson.
– Now, Sam McNeill from Microsoft’s written a blog about this, hasn’t he?
– Yeah, so it’s a great blog post, talking to how you can actually set up as a temporary workaround while Microsoft develop the official Breakout Rooms functionality to actually do this today, using Meet Now in a channel in Teams.
– Okay, we’ll be sure to publish those links at the end of the video. So thanks again, Steve, for all of your time. Some great information there. And just a reminder to all of our education customers that consultants like Steve are available to you, complimentary, to help you work through some of the issues we spoke about today. We also have our licensing team that can take you through some of the licensing issues associated with these things as well. So please reach out to your local Data#3 team, or visit us on www.data3.com/education.