Shared Channels for Microsoft Teams for Education – Initial Thoughts

(Embed should start at the 1:17 mark – if not, click here)

The above video (queued to start at the 1:17 mark where they start talking about Shared Channels) does a great job of calling out the new functionality in Microsoft Teams. Put simply, Shared Channels will provide a solution where an external user that is collaborating with someone will currently have to “change tenants” inside of Teams to communicate natively with each other. As the video suggests, this takes users ‘out of their flow’.

The solution is Shared Channels.

As the video indicates, this will give users the ability to create a dedicated channel inside of a ‘host Team’ where they can invite users external to their organization, with the result that for both the host tenant users and the guest/external invited users, the experience will appear as if they’re both working inside of their home Team tenant. This is a big game changer for education and there are a lot of scenarios where this would add value.

How Would Shared Channels Benefit Education?

This is far from an exhaustive list, but some ideas off the top of my head:

  • Teachers collaborating with each other across different schools
    • This is definitely one of the main scenarios I can see appealing to schools, as I’ve talked to numerous customers where they exist in a cluster or “community of learning” – a close, geographically neighboring group of schools, across the K-12 years, who want to be able to easily share information with each other.
    • Adding Shared Channels for various interest groups (literacy / numeracy / Gifted and Talented / Sports organization etc, would aid the flow of information tremendously.
    • Similarly, Professional Development across schools (and countries) is enabled through Shared Channels.
  • Students working securely / safely with each other across schools
    • Similar to teachers above, often students would like to work across schools in terms of projects and have all of their information secure in the one location. Teams provides an excellent way to achieve this, without needing to use external third party platforms, or remember different usernames/passwords for students and the various websites they may choose to use.
    • Given Teams is a truly unified communication platform, the ability for students to go from a chat, to a call to a video call with screen sharing, ensures that student collaboration is secure and easy.
  • External experts invited into a Team for a specific role/purpose
    • Another common request from teachers is the ability to bring an industry expert into their Team to give their students (or colleagues) access to expert knowledge is something that Shared Channels would enable.
    • This could happen on an ad-hoc or semi-permanent basis.
    • I was on a call with a Minister of Education from a country in APAC recently where he shared one of his key goals was to drive greater industry/schooling crossover to ensure that educators remain relevant in their fields and that educational institutes are bringing in the best talent for their students to learn from. Shared Channels facilitates this free exchange of knowledge easily and securely.
  • Sports Co-Ordination
    • For anyone that has ever worked in a school, they know there is a lot of co-curricular organization that takes place across schools. Enabling schools to have access to each other in a single, secure platform like Microsoft Teams where they can ask questions in real time, get access to schedules, draws, rules and other resources for sports would be awesome.
    • Given Teams allows for video calling, it would also be possible to host briefing / de-briefing ahead of seasons and ensure that all coordinators in schools would be able to be brought up to date with what they need to know. As these can be recorded and shared in the Channel, they become a bank of resources for anyone that missed the initial call
  • Streamlined Communication Across Multi-Tenant Ministries of Education
    • A number of Ministries / Districts of Education have configured individual tenants for each of the schools in their jurisdiction. However, they also want the ability to communicate easily to targeted audiences across all schools (in their own tenants).
    • For example, the Ministry/District wants to communicate to all Principals, or all Executive Officers, or all IT Administrators in schools. Creating a Shared Channel in the central Ministry / District ‘host’ tenant for each of the target audiences, would then allow them to easily communicate directly to all users. Significantly, those intended recipients of the memo would receive it inside of their own school’s tenant with no need to change tenants or platforms.
  • Research:
    • Many Higher Education customers and educators want to be able to do cross-organization research and collaboration and yet have very stringent requirements around where data is stored and how it can be secured. Shared Channels would allow for this easy, real time communication, whilst benefiting from all the industry leading retention policies that Microsoft 365 relies on.
Screenshot showing two users, in separate tenants, collaborating together in a single Shared Channel in Microsoft Teams.
  • External IT Support Partners
    • My colleague Tim Vergel de Dios suggested this one, whereby it would be helpful for a school/university’s external IT partner to have a Shared Channel for two way Teams communication to assist in problem resolution with the school.
  • Exchange Students / Teachers
    • Often, schools are reluctant to set up new account details for exchange students given the temporary nature of their residence at the exchange school. One solution would be to add them to the school in Shared Channels so that they can use their own school’s credentials to be members of the exchange school learning programs.
  • Professional Development Partners Communicating With Client Schools
    • This one came to me via the suggestion from Carmen Kenton, a PLD provider and MIE Fellow. The ability for a PLD provider to host a shared channel and then invite client schools / educators into that Shared Channel based off their own school’s credentials makes the secure sharing of content even easier.

Final Thoughts

I can’t wait to get my heads on Shared Channels in Teams as this looks like a super promising new feature that will solve the cross-organization collaboration requirements for education customers.

Once I get access to this I’ll update the blog with a new post to share my hands on experience.

I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...

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