March 24, 2022
Microsoft Teams Provides Ease and Consistency for Hybrid Learning
A full collaboration suite brings virtual classrooms, communication, file sharing and even popular educational apps into a single platform.
By definition, hybrid learning involves students and educators participating from different locations on some days and then coming together in classrooms on others. Having one platform that delivers a consistent, daily experience for both environments goes a long way toward easing many of the frictions associated with hybrid education. Teachers are finding that Microsoft Teams — which streamlines the work of convening groups, sharing files and communicating through chats, calls and video — is just such a platform.
The Teams app works on laptops, tablets and phones. It gives educators and students alike the flexibility to engage with one another — and to keep lessons moving forward — from anywhere.
Virtual Rooms Enable One-Click Participation for Online Classes
One of the Teams features most popular with teachers is the ability to create virtual rooms. During the pandemic, this capability became a way for teachers to maintain connections with colleagues — English teachers, math teachers and so on could all have their own groups. But virtual groups also simplify the process of bringing students together remotely.
Rather than asking everyone to join a Teams session individually, teachers can create a room — say, for Ms. Harris’s first-period English class — and click one button to call everyone within that group. All students have to do is answer the call, and they’re in the shared room with video and audio.
For younger learners, especially, this eliminates a significant amount of frustration, and it reduces troubleshooting for IT. It also helps teachers be more efficient. Rather than waiting 10 minutes for every student to join, class is underway with one click — even if that class is made up of 30 first graders.
Groups are also useful for principals and superintendents, parent–teacher conferences and PTA members. Teams provides a virtual space where members can meet on video and share resources and documents. That keeps everyone on the same page and helps to increase accountability by ensuring that everyone has access to the same materials.
Teams Files and Virtual Whiteboard Bridge Home and School Sessions
The same accountability is also important for hybrid learners. Teachers can place assignments and workbooks on the Teams platform, enabling students to access them from home without having to check the learning management system. The old excuse of “I forgot my paper at school” can be a thing of the past.
Students can also submit work via Teams, which allows for a more seamless transition between home and school: Wherever the class is meeting on a particular day, students’ work is available in a digital format. The Teams Whiteboard also serves as a bridge between remote and in-person sessions. Teachers can write and save content on the virtual board, so it’s ready to queue up for the next lesson.
Software Integrations Make Teams a One-Stop Shop
Many teachers rely heavily on educational apps, such as Quizlet, Flipgrid and Pickit. They can bring these apps directly into the Teams platform by downloading them from the Microsoft Teams app store, similar to the way they’d choose apps for their smartphones. Teams also has a plug-in for Gmail, for users who want to view messages and receive message alerts on the platform.
One of the most useful integrations is Teams’ ability to enable cross-platform collaboration with other videoconferencing solutions, including Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex and Zoom. This capability means users can stick with the platforms they’re most familiar with, while Teams delivers the same feel and function to everyone. It also removes a potential barrier for participants who may be more familiar with other tools — for instance, parents who want to join a teacher conference via Teams but are used to Zoom.
This versatility reflects the overriding idea behind Teams: the delivery of one platform that makes it easy to continue the learning process. With all their collaboration tools in one place, hybrid classes can focus on education rather than worrying about multiple technology tools.
Story by Tony Doneker, who is a senior solution architect for collaboration and workspace with CDW. He has been in the IT industry for 20 years and with CDW for three years. Tony covers the East Coast and handles collaboration-related issues in the education field.