Microsoft Teams

The role of Microsoft Teams in college inductions

The importance of delivering a great induction experience for learners 

Inductions are an important part of the learner journey since they set the tone for the remainder of the year. In order to leave a good first impression on learners, it is especially important that we provide them with a great experience. After all, this will be their first contact with the college since enrolling.  Therefore, it is important to get it right.  An important part of delivering a great induction experience is connecting learners with relevant information, their fellow classmates and with the course teachers. In this initial phase of the course, students are apprehensive, and providing them with a platform where they can communicate anytime and anywhere can alleviate some of this apprehension.  Microsoft Teams has indeed proven invaluable during this induction period. It has become the primary medium through which learners communicate with teachers and the college. Teams is now where they go to enquire or ask about anything. It provides that bridge for learners when they are unsure who to contact if they have a question.  It is the hub to signpost links, material and connect with their teachers, fellow learners, and the college. 

Signing up students on Teams 

As soon as my students were in the class, the priority was logging them into the systems. Once they were online, I proceeded to create a Team to facilitate communication and collaboration, and this is what Teams excels at. The students all joined the Team using the Team code generated through the settings option in Teams.   

Increasingly our learners are experienced in using Teams 

On a side note, it was interesting to see that most students have used Microsoft Teams before joining the college. This was never the case in previous years, and I can only assume the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the use of Teams across secondary schools. The tiny minority of students that previously used another platform picked it up in a matter of minutes. 

Induction Activities  

Even the ice-breaker activity was conducted in Teams this year. Students were asked to choose one word or an image that represents their lives and explain why they chose it. Students would reply to my task/post, and all students could view and comment on the posts (like, etc). It was an easy and interactive way for students to start using Teams and get to know their fellow learners.  

Also, in Teams, all induction materials were stored in the files section. No more paper handouts, and everything is stored digitally for students to access at any time.    

Flipgrid 

In previous years, as part of the induction process students are given a tour of the building in and the teacher would point out all the key areas within the college such as the library, student services, canteen, etc. This year, the students were given this responsibility. Rather than the traditional tour, students were asked to create a Flipgrid video and identify the different key areas within the college.  They used their phones and the Flipgrid app to create the video.  It was interesting to see some of the students’ creativity behind some of the videos created. Some of the students produced TikTok style with humour added to the narrations and we (students and teachers) found watching them quite entertaining. It was just another way in how Teams was used as the hub of our induction activities. 

There was also another task that I set-up for learners on Flipgrid. This time, as a homework task, I asked them to create a Flipgrid video asking them to tell me a little about themselves. They were required to say their names (a wonderful way to learn how to pronounce some of the student names), why they chose the course, what their future aspirations are and one fun fact about themselves. This activity is especially useful for both teachers and learners to get to know more about each other. You get to learn about things about your learners you probably would have never known. Things like “did you know I can change my voice”, or “I can stretch my skin like this” or even things like “my name was mentioned in the credits of a movie”. 

Microsoft Forms 

Another important part of the induction day is to solicit feedback from the learners about their experience. This was carried out through Microsoft Forms and just in case you have never heard of Microsoft Forms, it is an amazingly simple but powerful survey, poll, and quiz tool. I think it should be one tool that all teachers should use to digitally transform some of their pedagogy. It was an extremely easy procedure to create a Form and set it up as an assignment within Teams. Because it was a survey and not a quiz, I linked it in the assignments option. This was so I could see completion rates and chase up any learners that did not complete the task. 

What next? 

I can see the use of Microsoft Teams as becoming the key central tool in our induction process (it already is for me!). I expect the college’s use of Teams will only mature and develop further. For example, next year we will be planning to host videos on Microsoft Stream from all the different key people at the college from the principal to the library manager. This will give our learners extra information about who all the key people are and their roles in the college. Our learners love the use of video and I think to communicate with them using this medium will only improve the learner experience.   

Next year we may even use the icebreaker app accessible through GitHub https://github.com/OfficeDev/microsoft-teams-icebreaker-app instead of the choose a word or image activity that I used, as previously mentioned. You can access other templates covering a range of different scenarios here: Microsoft Teams app templates – Teams | Microsoft Docs  

We also plan to utilise Flipgrid and QR codes to transform our college building into a more informative and interactive experience. Flipgrid has this amazing ability to generate QR codes and students could point their phones using their Flipgrid app to experience an augmented reality of the different services within college. I can just see QR codes printed outside every area within the college such as the library and student services with the key people explaining using video how they can help support the learner. 

Conclusion 

It is hard to believe that Microsoft Teams has changed so much since it was first introduced in 2017.  Many educators in the world before COVID-19 were unfamiliar with Teams and the role of Teams within Education. Now some of the comments from teachers I hear are “what did we use to do before Teams?”, “I couldn’t have done this without Teams”. 

Microsoft Team’s ability to bring in all the Office 365 apps within one single environment providing a seamless experience for our learners and staff is unparalleled. Students have been demanding a modern GUI that meets their 21st century learning modalities that is easy to use and mobile first. Teams fits all these needs.   I am still wondering about what in fact did we do before Teams? 

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