Advice on using Microsoft Teams

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This is the advice that I give to people who are new to using Microsoft Teams, based on experience of using it in teaching for 2 years (with Bo Kelestyn and @design_warwick). It’s not Warwick University’s official training or advice. It is what we @design_Warwick have used in teaching. If you are from a different organisation, the details will be very similar for you.

Contents

The basics

Tips for better use of Teams

Advanced features and uses

Welcome to Warwick’s Microsoft Teams collaboration platform

Teams is not just a video conferencing tool, or a place for team discussions and collaborating on documents. It brings together pretty much all of the types of online and mobile collaboration that you might need, in one easily accessible place – to be accessed at your desk (Windows, Mac or Linux), or on the move (Android and Apple phones and tablets).

One-to-one chat, team discussions, editing Office documents together, planning with task lists, video conferencing, web-based phone calls – it’s all included, plus much more. You can also use it to have online meetings with people from outside of our organisation.

You will find that every member of Warwick has an account in the Teams system, which means that, if they are already using Teams, you can contact them. If they aren’t using Teams, you can easily invite them to join.

Watch Microsoft’s introduction here.

But Teams can also be a little confusing and overwhelming as you start to use it. Some key things to look out for are:

What are the limits on using Teams?

The limits are quite high!

Maximum number of people in a single team: 5000
Max in a “private” chat: 100
Max number of people in a meeting (audio and video conferencing): 250
There are no limits on the number simultaneous of meetings in our license.

Teams also has a live-streaming broadcast system called Teams Live (max 10,000 people). Warwick does not currently have a license for this. Zoom has encountered significant security issues.

What is the difference between Teams and Zoom?

Zoom is tool for running pop-up videoconferences that happen over a limited time span (e.g. a half hour webinar) and include anyone you want to invite. Teams is a comprehensive collaboration platform, which can be used for continuous collaboration over a long period (days, months, years even). Anyone may be invited to a Teams meeting. People from outside of the university can be added as guests to teams within Teams.

Teams also benefits from the security of the Microsoft user account system. All university members have a Microsoft account. Access is secured using advanced two-factor authentication methods.

Getting the software

You don’t have to pay for it. You might already have the app installed. You can install it on more than one device (e.g. laptop and phone). If you are a member of an organisation (like Warwick) that has a Microsoft license, you can use it for free. Get it from Microsoft here. Or you can simply visit http://teams.microsoft.com

Signing-in to Teams

Sign in using your Warwick University Microsoft Office 365 account details – it is part of the Outlook and Office online system.

Your username will be like U1282727@live.warwick.ac.uk (with your IT username at the start). The password is the same as used for other Warwick IT systems. Then choose the option to use a work or school account. You will also need to sign in to the Warwick system (probably using 2 factor sign in). That should all be a familiar process – just remember to set the length of time you want your device to remember your sign in details.


The key elements of the interface

If you have unread messages in Chat or Teams you will see this indicated on these icons.

How to join a team

You can join existing teams (which might be public or private), create a new team, or chat directly with one or more members of the organisation. You might find that you have already been added to existing Teams, for work or learning.

If you are joining an existing team, it might be a “private” team, in which case the owner will have to approve your request. You might also have been given a code that allows you to self-enrol. It is also common practice to create a direct web link to a team or a channel (click on any channel name or team name to get the link).

First select this link in Teams:

Then use these options to join a team:


Creating new teams

If you are creating a new team, try not to create something that is similar to one that already exists. And try to use a name that identifies it clearly. There are a confusing set of options for creating a new team. We suggest that for most cases, even for teaching, just use the “Other” team type, and mark it as either public or private. In both cases you can then add people to the team.

If you use the Staff, Class or Professional Learning Community team types, they have additional content added (including a comprehensive OneNote notebook set up, which can be good for teaching). This can be really useful, but best to keep it simple to begin with. You can always add a shared OneNote if you like later.

Chat and Team channel discussions are different aspects of the system

Chat allows you to immediately start a conversation with any members of the university (who are already on Teams), if they are available. You can use text, audio, and video. You can share your screen, for example to show a presentation. You can also share files to collaborate on.

Watch Microsoft’s introduction to starting chats and video/audio meetings here.

Team channel discussions are for more continuous team-workingYou may find that you have already been added to one or more teams. You can also find teams to join, or set new teams up for you and your colleagues.

Teams can be set up as public or private. The team owner may add people to a team, or allow them to self-enrol. They then add “channels” (there is always a General channel) – separate sections of the team space for different purposes. Only members of the team can join these conversations. These channel-based discussions tend to be more asynchronous than chat, but can also happen live. The difference is simply organisational. You can use text, images, links, audio or video to communicate. But team channels also have a files section for sharing and collaborating on files (especially Office documents). You can add many different types of content and activity to channels, as a series of tabs.

Watch Microsoft’s video about using team channels here.

Most annoying mistake

When writing a reply to a message, it is quite common for people to write in the new message text box, rather than the reply box. That then results in the message going in the wrong place. Everyone does this.

Creating new channels

Don’t go crazy adding channels to your team space. Use good descriptive names. And try to post into the right channel for the topic you are writing about. We tend to use the General channel for managing the team, and create other channels for announcements (can be set to allow only the team owner to post), social, and for working on specific tasks. You can also now create private channels, limited to a specified sub group of the team.

Important: when you create a new channel, tick the box to show it to all team members, so they know it exists (by default it is hidden). This can be changed later in the channel settings.

Individuals can also “pin” channels, so they appear at the top of their list. This can be useful if you want to keep track of an especially important channel.

Video conferencing in Teams

It’s great, and very reliable. You can schedule a meeting (using the Calendar in Teams) to happen in a channel. Or you can just start an ad hoc meeting in chat or a channel. You can get Teams to record a meeting, and it will save a copy into the channel. When you schedule a meeting, you can also invite people from outside of the organisation. Add them into the list of invited people using their email address. They can then access it in Google Chrome (not Safari) or their own Teams app.

When you first use the video conferencing tool, you will be asked to give permission for it to access your camera and mic. If you are using a Windows  computer, we recommend using a teleconferencing headset. Apple devices have excellent noise cancellation built in.

Screen sharing is possible, and very useful. You can even allow someone else to control your screen. However on Mac watch out for your security settings blocking screen sharing. To enable it, click in the Apple icon in the top left of your screen. Then select System Preferences, Security & Privacy, and then the Privacy tab. Unlock the lock to make changes. Find Screen Recording in the list, and then tick Teams.

Text messages and file sharing is automatically included in every teams meeting.

Use a computer and a phone/tablet at the same time to make it easier to manage. Every videoconference also has a simultaneous text chat discussion. Join the videoconference on your tablet/phone, and at the same time use your computer for text chat, file sharing etc.

Find out about conferencing in Teams here.

Run polls and surveys in channels and meetings

Use the Polly tool to run polls and surveys within the text chat channel that accompanies a live meeting. Look for the Parrot icon in the message editing tools.

Click on the parrot:

Then configure your poll using the form:

  

Collaborative editing of Office files in Teams

This is a simple one. If you upload (or create) an Office file (PowerPoint, Word, Excel) in the Files area of a channel, it becomes editable by all of the members of the team. You can all work on it at the same time, and see each other’s updates immediately. You can chat, or videoconference, as you do so. I find that editing in the browser (called Word Online, PowerPoint Online or Excel Online) gives the best synchronous experience. To open the file, fine it in the Files area, click on the … next to it, and select Open from the pop-up menu, and then choose the method you want to use for editing. This may work for a wider range of file types, but I haven’t tried any yet.



Give your channel messages a title

You may find that you are working in several, or even many, channels. The flow of new messages can be quite fast. Or you may miss a day and come back to lots of missed conversations. If people give each new message a good, clear, distinct title, it makes it easier for others to follow the conversation. To do this, when writing a new message, click on the “A with a paintbrush” button just above the text entry box.


Search for messages

And when you do think you have missed a message, or forgotten where it was posted, use the search box at the top of the screen (on desktop), or the magnifying glass icon (on mobile).


Responding to messages with emojis is a really good thing to do

You can respond to a message in chat or a channel with text. But you can also respond with a thumbs-up, heart, smiley etc. On mobile versions of Teams smileys are accessed through three dots in the right-hand corner of a message. On others, you have to hover your mouse over that area. Responding with a thumbs-up or smiley is a really good way to show you have read and acknowledged a message – do this often to keep people feeling connected.

This image illustrates where to find the like option and other emojis. In this case one person has read and like the message.


Manage notifications and availability (avoid info overload, but keep up to date)

Notifications – once you get started with Teams, you will notice that you receive notifications (on whichever devices you are using). When someone wants to chat you will see a message pop-up on your screen. When someone mentions you in a discussion by typing @ and your name, you will see a message pop-up. If someone mentions a team or channel that you are in (@ followed by its name), you will get a notification. This can be good. But it can also be really annoying. So the first thing you should do is learn how to control your availability (which is also linked to your Outlook calendar’s scheduled meetings) and the notifications.

On the Windows, Mac and browser-based versions click on your icon in the top right hand corner of the screen (which will be your photo or your initials in reverse). On mobile versions, use the “hamburger” button for settings. Control your availability, and specify (in settings) how you want to receive notifications. Remember to change your settings if you want to be instantly alerted or show you are available. And please don’t use the notification system too much to alert whole teams about a new message. People will be able to easily see new messages when they browse through the channels.

If you haven’t specifically been mentioned (@) in a message, you will still see which channels have new messages in them, indicated with the channel name in bold.

Find out how to manage notifications here.

Managing all your many teams

You can reorganise the list of teams that you are a member of. Just drag and drop into the order that you want.

Pinning channels to access them faster

If there is a channel that is particularly important for you to find quickly, you can “pin” it to the top of your teams list.


OneNote notebooks and Teams

OneNote is a really effective notebook application, also part of their Office 365 system. The versions for tablets and touch screen devices are especially useful, allowing drawing with a stylus. Teams has a really useful OneNote integration. You can add shared notebooks as tabs to a channel, and take notes together.

If you use the special team types for teaching, teaching staff and “communities of practice”, a notebook system is set up in which there are shared sections, and each individual has their own section. The teaching set up (Class Notebook) allows the teacher to send template pages to student notebooks, and look at notebook pages to add feedback. We use this in Introduction to Design Thinking to replicate the “open notebook” practice used in design studios.

The Class Notebook set up for our Introduction to Design Thinking module is shown below. We have created sections in the share Collaboration Space (editable by students), the Content Space (editable only by staff), and the individual student notebooks. We can use the Class Notebook tools (desktop and tablet app only) to distribute content and assessments to student notebooks. Channels in our teams space have corresponding notebook sections in the Collaboration Space.


Using the Vevox personal response system with Teams

For use by staff in teaching, Warwick has the Vevox PRS system. This can be used to enable responsive teaching and active learning in webinars. You can use the Vevox add-in in Powerpoint (and share the screen that you are showing your slides on), or for more sophisticated use (including surveys and Q&A sessions), use Vevox within your web browser. Here’s a demonstration of how to do it:

Deep linking into Teams

Using the desktop Teams app, or the browser based version, you can easily get a web link (url) to many of the items within Teams. That means you can send someone directly to that item. You can create links directly to a specific team, a channel, a message within a channel, a tab within a channel, a meeting scheduled in the calendar, a recording of a meeting, files, folders (in files) and much more.

Learn more about using Teams

The short training videos from Microsoft are excellent.

Dr Robert O'Toole NTF

Senior Academic Technologist, IT Services, University of Warwick Fellow of the Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellow Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence

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