Wednesday 2 December, 2020

Microsoft brings the classroom online with Teams

In the era when classrooms have traded the physical space for online, Microsoft has repositioned its Teams software to play a leading role in future learning/teaching experience.

Microsoft Teams has grown exponentially in Latin America and the Caribbean since being created three years ago and is used as a major educational source in the region.

According to Joaquin Guerrero, senior programme manager at Microsoft Teams engineering, which is based in Mexico, over 50 regional educational institutions are using the software, which contributes to the more than 8.8 million students, parents, teachers and staff that engage in the learning process.

Worldwide, there are more than 183,000 deployments of Microsoft teams that are used for collaboration, which has helped with online classes, where many educational institutions have been forced to take their learning experience, because of COVID-19.

“We have seen tremendous growth due to this pandemic situation because it embraces all the functionalities that you would need to collaborate between your teams,” said Guerrero in an interview with Loop News.

Microsoft has stepped up the offering in a bid to outperform competitors and has given subscribers and paid account holders to Teams other solutions included in the Office365 and Microsoft365 suites.

Included in Office365 are known softwares such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel with the Microsoft365 solutions including Microsoft Prime, Microsoft Stream, Microsoft OneDrive and Microsoft SharePoint.

Among the features of Microsoft Teams are chat, video calling, file sharing and file collaboration, which can all be used with different audiences.

“So in the end, it becomes this central point of collaboration and communication between any users for education institutions, your classroom or your whole school, or the whole country in some cases. We have seen ministries adopting Teams as their main collaboration tool right now,” Guerrero said.

Currently, Microsoft Teams is free for educational institutions after subscription but can be upgraded to a paid version to host events such as webinars with over 100,000 participants. The upgrade can also be done for additional premium features like security.

According to Guerrero, in the educational version of Microsoft Teams, apart from the regular features, the software gives teachers their own space to deliver the virtual experience, which includes a file centre to deliver assignments to students and the ability to grade work in the assignment module.

The teacher will also be able to monitor students’ activities with digital engagement reports that allow insights into what the students are opening, using, how many times they check assignments and minutes spent on the tools during the day.

There is also the ability to access OneNote Class Notebook that provides a digital notebook solution for both teachers and students inside the same classroom.

Guerrero said another separating factor for Microsoft Teams from other learning software is that there is a specific space for support that allows teachers to collaborate and communicate with students before, during and after classes. In this space, they can also share files and communicate securely.

He said that Microsoft Teams also provides a level of security for the teachers, as they will be able to interact with students without having to share personal information, as they can communicate effectively with all that is needed, embedded in the Microsoft365 account from the institution.

“So they do it all in a safe environment, but it’s controlled and it’s protected by the institution itself. A solution that brings everything that a teacher needs in one place,” Guerrero said.

“So they have video calling solutions for a synchronised class, they have spaces for synchronised learning, they have the assignments, they have the content repository, they have the video repository for on-demand learning etc.

“So everything is enclosed in just one solution so that the teacher doesn’t have to bring multiple solutions or multiple parts to create a meaningful learning experience for their students,” he said.

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