Universities, colleges, and higher education institutions will have become well acquainted with Microsoft Teams over the past ten months, having had to adapt quickly to remote teaching during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the future looks set to move towards a more hybrid style of education, we take a look at the best Microsoft Teams features for universities…

Using a team code to let users add themselves

Microsoft Teams has recently extended the limit for virtual meetings to allow up to 300 participants. This is fantastic news for universities, who can now fit all students into one, virtual lecture hall. But that’s a lot of students to ask an admin to add to a team. Luckily, Microsoft has come up with a way around this, allowing admins to create a code that lets the students add themselves to the teams they need to be in.

How to do it:

  • Navigate to the Team you have created
  • Click on the ellipsis next to the team name ‘’ and then select Manage team
  • In the panel that opens, click on Settings > Team code
  • Click Generate and your code will appear
  • Underneath the code, click Copy
  • You can then paste the code into an email and send it to all relevant students

 

Reduce interruptions by making students attendees

There will always be times when some students will think it’s funny to cause mischief in lectures, and the same holds true while learning is being done remotely. By default, when you add participants to a Teams ‘meeting’ they are added as presenters. This means users can mute each other, remove each other from the lecture, and even stop the lecture being recorded. A handy way of keeping these sorts of antics in check is to set students as attendees rather than participants.

How to do it:

  • Go to your Calendar in Microsoft Teams and set the date and time of your lecture
  • When the meeting has posted to Calendar, additional options will become available
  • Go back to the meeting in Calendar and click on it
  • Navigate to Meeting options
  • Next to the Who can present? option, use the dropdown to select Only me
  • Hit Save

Top tip: This setting applies only to the meeting you have scheduled. You’ll need to repeat the process on other meetings to apply the same settings.

 

Keep an eye on attendance

With no physical lectures to attend, it will probably be tempting for some students to not attend. Keep an eye on attendance and identify regular individuals by downloading a list of everyone who is showing up to lectures. Microsoft Teams makes this pretty easy to do for any ‘meeting’ that’s in progress. It might be worth bearing in mind any necessarily latecomers and early leavers and do this at the mid-point of your lecture rather than the start or end.

How to do it:

  • During the meeting, select Show participants
  • Choose Download attendee list
  • The report will be downloaded as a .CSV, which can then be opened in Excel. It contains the names, join times and leave times of all attendees

 

Make use of Channels

The number of teams in Microsoft Teams can get messy very quickly when you’re dealing with potentially thousands of students. All those different assignments, tasks, queries…

Channels are a great way of sub-categorising your teams, helping keep the interface tidy and ensuring everyone can always find what they’re looking for. You can make general channels that allow access for everyone in the team, as well as private channels for specific students, which is great for small-group work.

How to create a general channel:

  • Go to Teams and select the team you want to create a channel for
  • Click on the ellipsis ‘’ for more options
  • Select Add channel
  • Give the channel a descriptive name

How to create a private channel:

  • Go to Teams and select the team you want to create a channel for
  • Click on the ellipsis ‘’ for more options > Add channel
  • Give the channel a descriptive name
  • Navigate to Privacy, and click the dropdown arrow > Private – Accessible only to a specific group of people within the team
  • Select Add to create a private channel within the team
  • To add members, navigate to the channel and select More options… > Add members
  • Use the Members and Settings tabs to add/remove members and assign roles
  • When you’re finished, hit Done

 

Anonymous marking

The newly released Anonymous Grading feature was added to Microsoft Teams following thousands of requests from educators. It works by temporarily hiding the name and avatar of students who have handed in assignments, ensuring lecturers are marking based solely on the quality of the work.

How to do it:

  • Navigate to the relevant team > Assignments
  • Click on the assignment you want to mark
  • Go to the ‘’ ellipsis in the top-right corner of the assignments folder, and click it
  • Click Hide student names
  • This will hide the student names and shuffle the order, so you have no idea which assignment is whose

 

Reusing assignments

Another feature added following user feedback is the ability to reuse assignments. If you’ve spent ages creating an assignment, customising grading rubrics attaching worksheets and other resources, you don’t want to have to build it from scratch every time you need to assign that piece of work to a different group of students. If you’ve got multiple teams set up, for groups of students doing the same course, this is a huge time-saver.

How to do it:

  • Go to the General channel of the team you want to set the ‘new’ assignment for
  • Select Assignments
  • Select Create new > From existing
  • From the options, select the team where the assignment you want to use was originally set, and select Next
  • Choose the assignment you want to set and hit Next
  • The assignment and all its settings will be recreated in the new team. Edit any of the information you want to, then choose the classes or individual students you want to assign the work to
  • Click Assign

 

Together Mode

This AI feature is great for removing the distractions of individual user backgrounds, and for making virtual lectures feel more like a group experience. It essentially allows the educator to set the background for everyone, with AI pulling everybody out of their actual settings and putting them in a shared space. It’s perfect for lectures and seminars where group conversation is the order of the day but won’t work well when you need to share other resources and/or your screen.

How to do it:

  • Make sure you have the latest version of Microsoft Teams installed
  • Go to your user Profile and click Settings
  • Find the checkbox that says Turn on new meeting experience and tick it
  • Restart Teams
  • Once you’ve restarted Teams, go to your chosen team and start a meeting
  • Click the ellipsis ‘’ at the top of the screen and select Together Mode

 

For more information on how M247 can support your university, or educational institution with your learning from home strategy, read about our Education solutions.  Alternatively, to hear more about the capabilities of Microsoft Teams Direct Routingcontact us today.

 

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