How did you find out about MS Teams?
I received an email about it from the IT department. After I heard that MS Teams was available to students I looked into how it works, how it feels and what it is about. I found my way about it very quickly and saw what it could do. I started using it two weeks later, around February 2018, in a subject with 50 students.
Which features made you want to use MS Teams?
I needed to supervise some small groups of students very intensively. The small groups of students were expected to produce publishable quality research papers within 10 weeks, which is a really tight schedule. I needed something that would allow me to manage the groups but would also make it easy for them to manage their own teams. Then I came across Teams and I thought “wow, this is just the thing I need”. So, there were two things: very easy to set-up the learning environment that I needed and within the same environment I could create a smaller environment for the groups to work in.
How did you get started?
I set up channels for students assigned into small groups and within this channel environment I was able to monitor their progress. Within the same environment, Teams also helped me to stay connected with my two tutors.
I found it easy to set up the environment, monitor the group work of my students as well as manage within Teams all the resources that the students should have. I set all this up within two days.
How was your experience and your students’ experience with MS Teams?
I found it to be very intuitive. There were no complaints from students, they found the app easy to use. It’s part of the MS Office 365 suite and it’s available to all staff and students so there were no issues with access. Students also used it on their mobiles, while travelling. Generally, they were using the Conversation feature within the channel to communicate quite intensively – sharing or bouncing ideas throughout the day.
What did students use MS Teams for?
They had to submit a research paper. Students worked on their entire paper within their Teams channels, and tutors were able to monitor their progress or help groups who had questions or issues. We used Teams to provide a MS Word template for the paper students were working on. All support material was available within the Teams platform for view or download, and students made extensive use of this convenient access.
Did you have any suggestions for improvement in MS Teams?
It’s very streamlined and easy to use. I have used Teams for both a small class and a large class of 600+ students. It’s worked well for both.
Team templates can be archived and updated for use in future sessions. This is one of the features I found very useful.
Are there challenges in moving from a small scale environment to a larger automated process?
It depends on how you run your class and manage groups. Generally, you can set up as many groups as you want. Tutors can then allocate the students to groups. In the small groups I wanted students to be able to look at each other’s channels and work for collaboration and inspiration. In the larger class, monitoring of channels and activities requires a more segmented and structured approach, and more staff coordination.
Feature image by Marvin Meyer.