Category Archives: SharePoint in Education

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 Teams for education replacing Microsoft Classroom Preview

Over the last few months, we have received lots of positive feedback about the new Microsoft Classroom Preview product. Today Microsoft announced in the Office 365 message centre that this would be replaced at the end of July 2017 with Microsoft Teams for Education.

Microsoft Teams for Education

No need to panic, MS Classroom functionality will still exist but in the Microsoft Teams app (from what we can see from the screenshots). You can still set assignments, create class notebooks, discuss, share files and quizzes but it will all be accessed through the Microsoft Teams interface rather than through the MS Classroom App. There is no news on the Microsoft Classroom mobile app for iOS and Android but hopefully this will be replaced so that students can still get notifications for new assignments and grades.

More details can be found on Microsoft’s site here.



You may have seen the following message in the Office 365 message centre, notifying you of the change.

On July 31, 2017, we’ll discontinue support for the Microsoft Classroom Preview, as we work to unify our classroom experiences in Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education. Since the Microsoft Classroom Preview released, we’ve been very thankful for schools’ feedback from around the world; which has helped us improve benefits and features of the service. Ultimately, we learned to keep it simple and put classroom resources all in one place. We listened and we’re bringing the best of the classroom features (e.g., Assignments and OneNote Class Notebook) to Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education.

How does this affect me?

– Microsoft Classroom Preview will continue with current functionality until July 31, 2017. – Teachers will not be able to create new notebooks or assignments after the July 31, 2017. – Current classes and associated content will continue to be available as Office 365 Groups. Teachers can access assignment resources, files, calendars, and conversations, through tools such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint Online. If necessary, they can copy Class Notebook content to their personal workspace (e.g. OneDrive for Business). – When the new class experiences become available in Teams, School Data Sync will start creating the new classes for Microsoft Teams. SDS will continue to sync existing Microsoft Classroom Preview classes through July 31, 2017.

What do I need to do to prepare for this change?

We apologise for any inconvenience resulting from this transition. We encourage you to try out Microsoft Teams, and get yourself familiar with the Teams experience. Please click Additional Information to learn more.

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.

Changing the default reply button in Outlook Web Access from “Reply all”

Your users may have noticed that the default reply button in Outlook Web Access is “Reply all”. This can result in emails accidentally being sent to the wrong person (as many users assume this is the reply button without reading it).

Reply all in OWA is default

Luckily you can change this default behaviour.

Change for an individual user

The user can change this setting themselves by going into the Mail settings.

Mail Settings

Under Mail, Automatic processing and Reply settings, the user can change the default response to “Reply”.

Reply settings

Change for all users

There is a PowerShell command which will set this for a mailbox.

Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration cloudacademy -IsReplyAllTheDefaultResponse $false

We can take this further and loop through all the mailboxes to apply this setting.

Get-Mailbox -ResultSize unlimited -Filter {(RecipientTypeDetails -eq 'UserMailbox')} | Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration -IsReplyAllTheDefaultResponse $false

Changed to reply

Hopefully you have happy users again after that change! Video guide below.



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.



Set default classic or new experience in SharePoint Online

The new list and library experience is here in SharePoint Online. It is great news for the SharePoint community (better integration with OneDrive, responsive, platform independent). For users with customisations or for companies who are not ready for the change yet, you can delay the new experience from the administration panel. There are certainly things which will improve in the new experience such as consistent navigation (you may notice that you lose the navigation configured in classic mode), custom JS overlays and custom branding. Microsoft should have some updates on those features in the coming year.

To switch back to classic mode for the entire tenancy:

Open the Office 365 admin centre and select “SharePoint” from the admin centre list.

Office 365 admin area

Go to the settings option and set the list and library view to classic mode. This may take a few moments to apply.

Office 365 admin area

You can override these settings in individual library settings if required.