Group sitting around a laptop.

Using Teams as a Virtual Learning Environment

In addition to hosting online meetings and teaching sessions, Microsoft Teams can be used as a central module space, to host learning materials, online activities, and formative assessments. See the tips below to help use Teams effectively.

Creating a new team in Microsoft Teams.

1. Create a "Class" Team

When creating the Teams space for your module, choose the Class option; a Class Team includes a number of special features focused on teaching and learning (see the Class Teams tab on the Creating a Team page of the Teams online course for more details). Creating a Class Team also allows you to access a far more detailed set of user analytics, so you can track your students' engagement over the course of your module. Teams should be used in addition to your Moodle space.

Use standard channels to structure the module by week or topic and create hidden channels for any specific set group activities throughout the module. Use the ‘Announcement’ feature to post in specific channels regarding important information, with the use of the ‘Pin’ feature to ensure all important content is easily accessible in one place for students and staff.

2. Structure and learning context

Explain the aims and intended learning outcomes of the course, and make participation requirements clear; you could do this via an announcement in the general channel. When setting up the site, consider:

  • For course related paperwork use the Class Materials folder in the Files tab in the General channel, limiting students’ ability to amend that paperwork.
  • Add the Insights tab to the Team to allow greater detail in the analytics data to inform future engagement activities.
  • Consider the possibility of using a OneNote Class Notebook throughout the course, to encourage collaborative working and individual portfolio building.
  • Contemplate the value in having online meeting/webinar elements in addition to face-to-face sessions, with the enhanced meeting features for polling, quizzing and whiteboarding all useful engagement tools.
  • Flexibility in the channel structure can facilitate collaborative/group working with predefined tasks and effectively capturing learning artefacts.
Two people using laptops.
A woman working on her phone and laptop.

3. Use a variety of communication methods

Use the announcements and @mentioning facility to keep students up to date with relevant content and ongoing course deadlines. Students can adjust their notifications to suit their personal preference and limit between defined times on the mobile app. The General channel can be ring-fenced for one way communication of information by restricting students posting or replying. This can encourage more focused discussion and communication on specific topics in the relevant channels.

4. Include assessments

Use a Website tab to add summative assessments hosted in Moodle to your Teams space. Formative assessments can be created in the Assignments section on Teams, creating multimedia Forms and essay-based tasks with deadlines, supporting rubrics and student notification and dashboard access. Ongoing assessments can effectively monitor student progression and give an effective visual representation of the group and individual level development, which can be addressed in relation to the Insights for greater clarity.

Someone filling in a quiz answer sheet.
A Lenovo laptop with Teams running.

5. Include a range of learning resources

Identify appropriate tabs that can enhance the student experience and facilitate effective pedagogic approaches e.g. YouTube/Stream with associated chat to initiate discussion on given video. Use built in self-guided learning and assessment materials in the form of self-grading quizzes etc. to promote an effective blended learning approach. Utilise the collaborative documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) for student engagement activities and individual accountability on a range of reading and production tasks. Instead of adding links to external sites (like in Moodle), add a Website tab and bring the content in to develop into a learning resource and possible activity, also allowing discussion to be centred around the resource. You can also use the website tab to include pages from a SharePoint site (see case study below [link?]).

Tip 5 accordion Accordion

6. Accessibility

Teams has a variety of integrated accessibility features - take a look at the list below. Make sure your students are aware of these features, so that they have the most accessible experience possible. You could use focus mode when screen sharing and zoom as required for clear visuals for participants. Ensure content is accessible to student prior to, during and after taught sessions and make sure all resources adhere to accessibility regulations.

Teams with 145% zoom through accessibility options.

Teams accessibility features Accordion