From the start of 2023 to now, there has been a significant change in the way that educators, students, and staff communicate. Covid-19 affected communication for all traditional classroom spaces. Since then, students and teachers have been unable to interact physically and were moved to a virtual classroom space. In this environment, both parties were forced to adapt to new methods of learning.
Teachers faced a whole new set of challenges in the fall of 2020. The lack of online resources placed a burden on instructors, doubling, and even tripling their workloads. A majority of teachers had no experience with new educating tools like Zoom and Teams yet were responsible for showing students how to operate them.
When tech difficulties occurred, instructors were forced to pause their curriculum, leaving classes at a standstill until IT personnel could solve the problem. This made it challenging to maintain student energy levels over the internet.
Students faced obstacles during the pandemic as well. Students from lower income households without access to laptops were left out of the new learning environments. Some students didn’t have access to quiet locations to sit down and listen. Others had family responsibilities and less time to focus outside of the classroom.
Adding a separate communication tool into their life created another hardship to schooling. This additional stressor caused many students to bypass education entirely.
Many instructors were stumped on how they could transition to online classes. One experienced geography teacher who has worked across the United States says, "It's not going back to what it was before."
Student engagement was lacking from virtual space, and it became harder to drive participation levels. In addition, technical difficulties stunted the flow of online learning. One solution that has been useful is mixing in-person and remote learning, called, "hybrid courses."
Microsoft Teams Solution
In the last 3 years, Microsoft has been working to improve the virtual learning experience for students and staff. Microsoft Teams is an extremely powerful communication platform that connects the classroom through a vast array of tools. Microsoft Teams forms a bridge so that instructors can continue their traditional methods of teaching while blending the new landscape of virtual learning.
What is Microsoft Teams for Education?
Microsoft Teams is a virtual communication platform that merges messaging, content sharing, apps and phone systems into one application. Educators can create collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with school staff – all from a single experience in Office 365 Education.
Enhanced Webinar Management Experience with Customized Options
Under webinar management in Teams, a new outline is now enhanced to modify registration info and upgrade settings for each webinar template. Configuration is the most integrated experience it has ever been.
Microsoft Whiteboard is now available. Its function enables easy sharing of data in meetings. Whiteboard is managed by the meeting organizer which allows them to select what information to share and what not to.
Classwork in Microsoft Teams
Microsoft is introducing the Classwork app in Spring 2023. Classwork allows teachers to manage their curriculum in an organized way. Instructors will be able to present resources to students with assorted tabs like:
Class Notebook pages
In Classwork, educators can filter modules by either lessons or individual chapters. With Classwork in place, students can find resources more easily and study more effectively.
When: Preview in Spring 2023
Teams for Education is improving its grading experience by showing average grades to students. Instructors can turn this feature on to allow students to see their grade in the class and track their progress.
An additional update is weighted grading categories. Teachers can assign weights to specific assignments, activated through the grading settings. When using grading categories, average grades are determined by multiplying the average score in each category by that category’s weight.
Available: March 2023
Search Coach in Teams
Search Coach is an updated tab which assists teachers and students in developing research skills by identifying reliable resources.
Search Coach offers real-time training, access to advanced search techniques, and details about each website, which help students to ask the right questions and search with confidence.
Reading Progress - Comprehension Questions
The #1 request from educators and schools in recent years is the add-on of reading comprehension questions for the students after reading.
The requests were heard and new features have been implemented. Instructors can now assess their students’ fluency along with their understanding under the Reading Progress tab. Educators can even ask students questions before reading, a strategy used to train students to read with purpose.
Microsoft’s reading comprehension app, regarding Reading Progress, launched in fall of 2021. Reading Progress supports educators in increasing the frequency and precision of reading fluency evaluations.
Reading Coach in Immersive Reader for Teams Assignments
Reading Coach gives students practice words after identifying the words that a student has mispronounced. Students can use Reading Coach to “demand more passages” from the teacher, and to let them know they have set personal goals of improvement. Students can practice with content that integrates with their focus and interest, without the need for a teacher to make an assignment.
Education Templates for Teams Meetings
When planning a meeting for a science, calculus, or English class, designing the right template allows you the freedom to create the right fit. Meeting settings and options are pre-set, to ensure that meetings are aligned with all policies and procedures of your institution.
Two templates have been added recently. First, Class is built for younger students where student supervision is important; and Lecture is built for older students in which collaboration is vital.
2023 Updated Features Part 2
Distribute, Code and Grade Python and Jupyter Notebooks
Python Notebooks (.ipynb) and Python Script files (.py) are now free and accessible in Teams Assignments. Integration of these files allows teachers and students to distribute, edit, and share Python code directly in Teams Assignments.
Instructors can add comments to Python notebooks for feedback in rough drafts of papers and written assignments. After the assignment is complete, Python notebooks and scripts can be submitted to teachers for grading.
Insights for Rubrics
Rubrics are now included with assignments to help educators clarify the classroom criteria and outline the guidelines they expect students to adhere to.
Lastly, Rubrics collaborates with the Insights tab so you can track rubric results for the entire class, or for a specific student. In this panel, rubric types are organized by tabs, helping educators see how the class is doing in each criterion. Breaking assignments down helps educators adapt their curriculum and future workload to meet students’ specific needs.
When: Available Now
Parent Meeting Schedule
A virtual communication platform enables parent/teacher meetings, as a part of the Parent app. Teachers choose the students' parents that they need to communicate with.
Following this, a virtual conference call can be scheduled at the best time for everyone. Parents and guardians can also join the call as a guest without having a login to Teams.
When: Available Now
Phonics Rules Challenge Assignments in Reading Progress
Reading Progress Insight utilizes software that identifies each word a student may be struggling with, down to the phoneme. This level of detail breaks down the individual areas and gives an accuracy rating per phoneme.
Scores for each phenome are translated into the Insights tab for teachers to assess. The most common phonics mistakes can be organized into a tab for either consonants or vowels, to distinguish the part of the word you wish to focus on.
Educators can turn personalized lists of practice words into Reading Progress assignments in one click with the Challenge Assignment feature.
An example of this is illustrated below.
When: Available Now
Forms / Quiz Support for Images in Multiple Choice Questions
A picture is worth a thousand words. Visualizing is a form of learning that is essential in helping students store and remember content. Especially younger students, with less developed language skills, benefit from visuals by creating connections with pictures. Images are now an option to be incorporated into Teams as an answer in Microsoft Forms and Quiz.
Sign Language View
Sign Language View allows you to view up to two other participants’ videos. This is important so that translators can remain visible in meetings.
Following activation, Sign Language View streams appear on the right side of the screen in high quality picture.
When: Available Now
Multiple Questions / Quizzes Poll
Many educators use polls to check in on their students’ understanding. Now, educators can expand these check-ins by asking multiple questions in a single poll.
Microsoft is inserting more opportunities for pictures to assist with students’ understanding. Teachers can now insert an image in the polls to help students process questions more easily.
When: Available Now
The Covid-19 pandemic shocked many industries worldwide, but one of the most heavily influenced was education. Over the last 3 years, Microsoft Teams has been working on improving accessibility for students and teachers to interact and continue learning from a virtual space.
The updates above indicate the commitment Microsoft has to developing young minds and transforming the learning experience to foster a fun and interactive approach.
The upgrades to Teams are works in progress because the system is so new, but they provide an avenue of learning to adapt to our current circumstances and forge a new path for the future.
Microsoft Teams Proof of Concept
When implementing a Microsoft Teams phone system and calling plan within your organization, Datalink Networks is a great option. From reviewing your needs and environment, to recommendations, to full implementation and testing, Datalink Networks will help ensure that you get the right configuration for your organization.
With our complementary proof of concept, we will assess your current communications environment to design a readiness migration plan, configure Microsoft Teams, and report results.