Category Archives: Education News

Education Industry News from Tony Phillips

The benefits of Office 365 and SharePoint in education

There’s no denying that Office 365 now provides a fantastic integrated suite of products. Why should schools and colleges look at moving to Office 365? Can it save time, money and improve student engagement? Let’s take a look in more detail.

Why is cloud storage important?

Office Integration
Office 365

One of the big benefits of using Office 365 (in general), is the close integration with Office Online. The days when students had to install Office on a PC or be restricted to an OS or desktop device are long gone. Office 365 brings Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Sway to all devices. Office 365 licencing also means that students can download the full version too.

Access on any device

Can your students access all the lesson resources, shared drives and personal drives on their mobile and tablet devices at home? Only Google and Microsoft provide realistic solutions. Both are free for schools, but both require some setup and modification to make them suitable for each individual school.

Students are far more likely to access resources on mobile or tablet devices. In fact, many will never want to own a laptop or desktop computer. In addition to this, teachers are more reliant on using personal tablets and phones to access resources. The OneDrive for Business app allows students to search and navigate through all the shared resources from their phone and tablet.

Document management
Office 365

Remember accidentally losing a file? It would involve a call to the IT department who would then be searching through backups trying to locate the correct file. OneDrive and SharePoint both have a recycle bin, so you can restore documents for 93 days after the original deletion date. If you delete it from the end-user recycle bin, your IT admins can get it back from the site collection recycle bin (within the 93 days). Even after the 93 days, you can call Microsoft who can sometimes help you get older files back.

What if someone saves over a document or a mistake is made? Every document has version history by default, so you can easily go back to a previous version of the document.

Live collaboration and co-authoring

One of the most impressive features of SharePoint to demonstrate is the ability for multiple users to work on the same document at the same time. It could be a lesson plan in a Word Document, a marksheet in excel or a presentation in PowerPoint. These products provide co-authoring in a slick and easy-to-use way. The paragraph, cell or slide will lock and all users will see the editing live (see below).

Remember when marksheet spreadsheets were locked for editing when trying to open on the school servers? You don’t have that problem in SharePoint, you can work quicker and more efficiently saving precious time that teachers don’t have enough of.
co-authoring
Co-authoring in Office 365

What about homework and electronic assignments?

SharePoint is a great document management system but what about assignments and grading work? For homework and assignments, Office 365 has a range of built-in and third-party products to provide assignment functionality.

Microsoft Teams is also free for education and comes with some built-in assignment tools. These are great basic assignment tools ideal for keeping track of homework. Teams integrates with SharePoint, so you can access all your class and shared resources.

Microsoft Teams
Assignments in Microsoft Teams

Class Notebook is a powerful learning tool with individual student sections, an immersive reader, and tools to distribute and collect work.

OneNote Class Notebook
OneNote Class Notebook

If you want some more in-depth assignment tools, third-party products such as teacher dashboard, firefly, show my homework and many more come with Office 365 single sign-on. Store your resources in SharePoint and use any other application for assignments. Please note that not all these third-party products will allow students an easy way to create and submit office documents.

At Cloud Design Box, we can help you implement Teams with MIS data, create SharePoint resource areas, apply custom branding, training, support, workflows and much more! Contact us via the website for more details.

SharePoint by Cloud Design Box
SharePoint Design by Cloud Design Box

Back to School – Microsoft Teams Update for Education

September is here and new collaboration tools are being tried for the first time in Office 365.

Microsoft Teams now has class sites, watch my full review in my blog post earlier this summer

Latest updates include:

  • Options to disable chat
  • Full screen Class Notebooks
  • Fully working Class Notebooks with settings available
  • OneNote Edit in browser functionality
  • Ability to add links to assignments

Still some functionality we are still waiting for:

  • Teams mobile app to support assignments and notebooks
  • Option to add SharePoint files to assignments
  • Share resources between classes
  • Assign Class Notebook page

Video about the latest updates:



Original review (from July) in full:



What are your thoughts on Microsoft Teams? As good as Microsoft Classroom yet? What features do you want to see?

Microsoft Teams for Education Released

Class teams are now available inside Microsoft Teams. These are created automatically using School Data Sync (SDS) or can be created manually in the Teams interface.

Microsoft Class Teams

Teams is a great collaboration interface that pulls together instant messaging, videos calls, SharePoint, OneNote and assignments into one place. It can also be extended with custom tabs.

I’ve created a quick video review below.



There are some similarities to Microsoft Classroom, however some functionality is different. A few issues with Class Notebooks in Teams:

  • Student sections menu not visible
  • Missing the Class Notebook tab to distribute pages and sections
  • Immersive reader option missing from view tab

You can get around these issues by opening the Team’s SharePoint site and clicking “Notebook” inside SharePoint. Hopefully Microsoft will be quick to resolve these issues.

Microsoft Classroom had a mobile app for Android and iOS which gave students notifications when new assignments were posted or graded. It also allowed students to set reminders for homework. The Teams mobile app does not include the assignment section at all so no notifications for students or teachers. The assignments are not visible on mobile devices. Again, this is early days and I expect Microsoft to release this functionality in the not too far future.

SharePoint Virtual Summit 2017

The 2017 SharePoint virtual summit took place last week. The previous year had seen a brave new bold redesign of SharePoint into a modern experience. This year we had exciting new announcements building on last year’s vision.

New OneDrive and SharePoint Sync Client

The new version of OneDrive sync client will map out the entire contents of SharePoint and OneDrive libraries without syncing them across. Documents will only be synced when requested on-demand or when a document is opened and edited.

OneDrive Files On Demand

This is great news and solves two problems faced by OneDrive users:

  • Large OneDrive/SharePoint libraries consumed large amounts of local storage syncing across
  • Possibility of errors when large numbers of files synced at once

A new unified sharing interface will be rolled out across OneDrive and SharePoint for a simpler experience. This feature will also be available in windows explorer.

SharePoint Virtual Summit

Communication portals

SharePoint released a new experience team site last year. It has now matured with developers creating third party web parts using the SharePoint Framework. Microsoft have now released a new type of site called a communication portal. This site replaces the older publishing sites used for company intranets. Although the new site is responsive out-of-the-box, we can now apply custom branding and functionality extending this into a true intranet experience.

SharePoint Communication Portal

Integration with Flow and PowerApps

These two new Office 365 apps are gaining momentum as modern replacements for SharePoint Designer Workflows and InfoPath Forms Designer.

Microsoft Flow creates workflows that can integrate with almost any product including Google Calendar, Twitter, Slack and a whole host of other services. Flow will have tighter integration with SharePoint and Flows can be created directly from list views.

PowerApps empowers users to create useful mobile friendly apps with no code for SharePoint and OneDrive. This has now been extended to integrate directly into a SharePoint page. PowerApps can now act as the custom form for SharePoint list data. This was a task previously done using InfoPath Designer or custom code.

SharePoint with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow

There was also news of a more powerful personalised search and much more. You can read the Microsoft review from Jeff Teper here.

So, it’s another exciting year ahead for the SharePoint and Office community!

Microsoft Classroom Webinar

I would like to thank everyone who took part in today’s webinar on Microsoft Classroom by Cloud Design Box.

In the session, we covered:

  • How to get Microsoft Classroom
  • How to create a new class
  • Using OneNote Class Notebook to enhance teaching and learning
  • Setting assignments
  • Marking and returning student work
  • Using the mobile apps
  • How to access School Data Sync (SDS)

The session was recorded for all those who missed the session.



I hope everyone found the session useful. We will be putting on additional webinars and live events later this year. Please follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

School Data Sync – UK Schools

School Data Sync has now moved to general availability. Currently this allows users to get data into Microsoft Classroom but does have limitations and can create a considerable overhead when providing the import data.

I’ve produced a quick video below looking at School Data Sync and what is means for UK schools. Hope you find it useful.

UPDATE – 31/03/2017

There has recently been some third party free tools released to automate the creation of these spreadsheets. This is another step in the right direction and hopefully there will be some free tools in the next few months to sync data directly into SDS.

The SDS data can also be used for the new Intune for Education released in April 2017.



New SharePoint apps for education and business

We are releasing several apps for SharePoint (on-premises and Office 365) I’ve included some information below, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call if you want an online demonstration of the Apps. More information on the apps can be found here

Parents evening booking system

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

This app allows parents to view available days/times and book online. This app was designed to reduce the administrative time taken to book slots on behalf of parents based on their preferences.

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

Some of the features include:

  • Parents view available slots
  • Parents book online
  • Parents can make changes to the booking
  • Teachers can see who has booked to see them
  • Admins can upload session data via spreadsheet
  • Supports multiple children at the school
  • Updated several times a year as part of the subscription

Internal helpdesk

The Cloud Design Box internal helpdesk app manages all your support tickets in an easy-to-use list. Users can view and update their own tickets while the helpdesk team have access to manage all the support tickets.

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

Leave requests

Leave and holiday requests tend to create a burden on admin, managers and human resources. Streamlining requests to just a few clicks and automating the processes by sending notification emails saves everyone time.

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

Using the Cloud Design Box dashboard, employees can view all approved holidays for their team, allowing them to make an informed decision on when to request leave. Employees fill in a simple form on the site which is them emailed to their manager for approval. In just a few clicks the manager can approve or reject with some feedback.

Employee onboarding dashboard

Over the years Cloud Design Box developed several workflows and processes for new employees. When making this web part, we took the core requirements made added them to an easy-to-use interface.

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

A clean dashboard shows instantly the onboarding status and progress of each employee. Each task list assigned to individual departments can be viewed in more detail.

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

The HR department have full control over the lists so they can check the current status and chase up any outstanding tasks. Departments are alerted by email when a new employee joins and have access to update their own task list. The app is mobile friendly and can be used on any device.

KPI and appraisal tracker

This dashboard was designed to make it easier and clearer for managers to track the progress of their team. Setting a KPI is easy and the employee can view their own goals and see a graphical representation of the progress made towards meeting their targets.

Parent evening booking SharePoint App

Appraisal documentation can also be attached to the employee making appraisal meetings easy to track.
It’s been really exciting developing these new apps and dashboards. Our enthusiastic customers have helped define the core functions and we look forward to developing these further as time goes on.

Other Apps

Our other apps include:

  • PO Tracker
  • Timesheets

And can be found on the Cloud Design Box website

For more information or to arrange a demonstration please drop me an email or give me a call.

Thanks,
Tony

Managing assignments in Microsoft Classroom

I’ve created a quick video to show the ease of setting and managing assignments in Office 365. My overall impression of assignment setting in Office 365 was good, however as you see in the video there are several random errors and UK MIS integration isn’t available at the moment (so this is only for advanced teachers who setup their own class groups).

Microsoft Classroom allows assignment setting and homework management. It can be used as part of a wider SharePoint portal hosted in Office 365. Please feel free to contact us for a demo of this at Cloud Design Box.