UPDATE 26th June 2020 a new blog highlights how to set up and configure the blocking of students entering a scheduled Teams Meeting before the teacher (organizer) is present in the meeting – read here. This addresses the #1 security concern of many schools so it’s worth a read tom understand how to implement.
2020 has certainly been a year of significant disruption in the global education sector, largely due to the unprecedented scale of school closures due to COVID19. I’ve talked with many school ICT Leads, eLearning Facilitators and other Senior Leaders who all agree that COVID19 has forced an acceleration of technology integration by upwards of 2-3yrs in their schools.
Many have come to rely on Microsoft Teams as the unified platform of communications and video calling across their organisations. This large scale adoption has also led to many public requests for additional functionality in Teams and it seems that the June 2020 update is addressing some of the most commonly requested features by educators.
What’s New In Teams?
As always, I do encourage you read the original post here.
Without doubt, the number one feature was “MORE SCREENS!” and it looks like this is going to be landing soon. As of June, this is going only into private preview, so don’t expect to see it in your tenant anytime soon, but the screenshot below looks promising:
Additionally, in the northern hemisphere autumn, it looks like a deeper integration of “Breakout Rooms” is coming to Teams, again a very popular request. To be fair, this can be accomplished pretty easily already and I wrote a blog post on this topic here and the accompanying “how to” video is now approaching the 10K views mark since I published it two months ago – probably worth checking out if you’re after Breakout Rooms in Teams:
Another unique value proposition inside of Teams is the “Class Insights” – a way to get deeper understanding of how students are engaging (or not) in your content and who to keep an eye on. This is getting a refresh in the coming months as well and should be another valuable tool for teachers to track progress of their students:
On the privacy side, and building on the existing default background images, users will be able to upload their own customer images to Teams backgrounds to show their personality and flair. Having used this feature extensively internally already, it’s definitely a fun way to spice up video calls:
What’s Already Been Rolled Out & Available Now?
Many of the most sought after features are already rolled now and available in your tenants now, including:
- Raise hand
- This is super valuable when a teacher wants to “mute all” and yet see when students want to be able to contribute. The teacher can then unmute to let the question be asked. In Higher Education lecture theatres that have hundreds of students, this is especially valuable.
- Upload your own custom video background
- Easily Change “Meeting Options” in the Participant Panel
- Attendance reports for meetings
- Definitely a “high demand” feature and something that many schools have been asking me for. It’s great to see that teachers can now easily track when a student joined a meeting, and also when they left the meeting to track attendance.
- If a teacher removes an anonymous user, that user cannot rejoin
- Another feature that helps a teacher secure their virtual classroom and keep people out of it who may be negatively contributing to the virtual environment. A video is available showing how this works here:
To be clear, with the above feature there is no “rejoin” link for the anonymous user, so the user would need to rejoin the meeting, at which point they would be placed in the lobby and the teacher would need to choose to actively re-admit them.
What’s Coming Soon?
Keep in mind that the following time frames are Northern Hemisphere:
- 7×7 video support on desktop (see 49 people at once) –Preview starting in late June, coming this fall
- Only Educators can start the meeting – Students must wait in the lobby – Coming this summer
- Another hotly demanded feature from educators. Currently, you can force the lobby on external users, but the reality is that students are internal users and the need to keep them out of a video call outside of the actual class time is important. This feature will achieve that.
- Breakout Rooms – Coming this fall
- Meetings attendee limit increasing from 250 to 300 – Rolling out in June
- Perfect for Higher Education customers where 1st year courses often extend up to 300 students in a single lecture theatre.
Supporting IT Administrators To Effectively Manage Teams
I talk to a lot of IT Administrators who are wanting smarter ways to roll out and manage Teams, tweak settings and above all, automate the management to save themselves time. If you’re new to Teams and want to know how to get started administrating it successfully, then start here
In terms of new announcements, be aware of:
- New IT Admin policy packages for remote learning and other education personas – Rolled out
- Setting for the default role of meeting attendee – a policy setting to allow the default for meetings to be Educator is “organizer” and students are “attendees” – Rolled out
- This was a big one in terms of setting default status for attendees rather than requiring teachers to set this each time. If you’re an IT Administrator and want to be popular with your teachers, consider deploying this one!
- Do not let students join meetings unattended based on meeting creation policies – Coming this summer
- Building on the “only educators can start the meeting” feature above, this is another one to make default settings for most educational institutes.
Other IT Admin features and documentation to be aware of include:
- IT Admin guidance for setting up meetings
- Explore the new IT Admin policy packages for remote learning and other education personas
- Manage meetings policies in Teams
Features for Educators and Partners
Further features and integrations have been announced in the blog post, that include:
- Class Materials available on Android – Coming in July
- Set Assignment notifications for a specific channel – Rolled out
- Assign a OneNote page into a nested Section Group – Rolled out
- Minecraft Share to Teams for Assignments – Coming in June
- Class Insights – Available now with new experience coming for fall
- Kahoot! is now available as an app in Teams – Rolled out now
- Prezi is now available as an app in Teams – Rolled out now
- Grade Sync comes to Infinite Campus Student Information System (SIS), and in the fall all OneRoster compatible SISs
It’s clear that the MSFT Engineering teams have been very hard at work and the importance of UserVoice for escalating popular asks is apparent here. It’s also clear that many of the next round of features will be landing in time for the popular “Back to School” Northern Hemisphere time frames, with the rest of these features more likely to land at the end of 2020 / start of 2021 which would be important for “Back to School” in the Southern Hemisphere.
If you think there are features still missing, I’d love to hear in the comments below!