What users want from SharePoint news articles

Releasing organisational and team communication via SharePoint news articles is a powerful way to connect with colleagues. News articles in SharePoint appear aggregated on the SharePoint home page and get pushed out to the mobile app via notification. They render great in both experiences.

I’ve had several users ask for enhancements for SharePoint news, we always try to direct people to the SharePoint user voice page so they can share their thoughts with the community and Microsoft. The most popular requests I have had are:

  • Target news stories at groups of people
  • Add news from external sources
  • Option to unpublish and delete news stories

Some good news below, some of these are resolved now or in the new year. Unpublish and delete news stories is still not available (from an intuitive interface – you can go to site pages via site contents). You can vote for it here

Many users have reported that they are happy with the editing interface. Using the same intuitive page editing experience as standard SharePoint pages, news articles are easy to adopt in any organisation.

SharePoint News Story

In addition to creating news pages, users can now share links to external news stories. SharePoint intelligently extracts images and text from the external source, all the end user needs to do is provide a link to the external article.

SharePoint news options

Sharing external news will make users aware of an external article without the creator having to manually recreate or copy and paste the story.

News Link

Did you know that you can now save news articles to read later? I’ve not had this request from any end-users but seems useful if you find an article that is interesting, but you are in a rush. This can be done via the mobile app by clicking the bookmark icon or from the SharePoint home page.

Save SharePoint News Articles

There are some exciting updates coming to SharePoint news in 2019. When I speak to people, I often get asked about targeting news stories to groups of people. My response is that the news article should be added to a SharePoint site which only the correct users have access to. This is a bit of a workaround but not for long! Audience targeting based on groups or individuals is coming early next year to make news even more powerful. It will help owners target news while having a central repository for news.

News comments have not been particularly useful as users often don’t return to see new comments. This is set to improve too over the coming months. Users will be able to use @ to mention other people in the organisation. With intelligent auto-complete, it will really be easy to mention other people and get them involved in the conversation. Mentions will automatically trigger notifications or reminder emails, meaning that comments are not missed again.

We will provide some video tutorials as soon as the new functionality is available!

If you have your own ideas to improve SharePoint news, we would like to hear from you. Comment below and add your ideas to the SharePoint user voice page. With your feedback, Microsoft can see what end-users really want.

ESPC: SharePoint Team Sites and Microsoft Teams Working Together

The future role of SharePoint with the advent of Teams has been on my mind for over a year now. Teams is built on top of SharePoint but is an application rather than a website. Teams has chat and collaboration, but SharePoint has news and is interconnected with related sites through Hub sites in sometimes a more intuitive interface. Teams is gaining more user adoption with its modern way of creating an efficient workplace. The governance and admin controls are on their way for Teams too. Which should you use? Do you have to make a choice?

As a SharePoint and Teams provider, it has been hard to determine if Teams was there to replace SharePoint or that it would work side-by-side with SharePoint. My initial thoughts were that SharePoint would be the organisation intranet (communication sites), a place to go for company-wide communication and resources. Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Team sites were great for small-medium team collaboration.

At the European SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure conference 2018 in Copenhagen, Jeff Teper (Corporate Vice President – Office 365) explained the vision for SharePoint and Teams.

Jeff Teper Corporate Vice President - Office 365

The vision Microsoft have is that SharePoint Team sites and MS Teams live side-by-side. In fact, they should be the same collaboration areas but accessed through different mediums. Eventually everything in SharePoint should be surfaced in Teams. Recently Microsoft have released an option to create a Microsoft Team from a SharePoint Team site, this even adds a cool link to open the Team.

The release of SharePoint Framework (SPFx) web parts for Teams supports moving towards this goal, surfacing the same functionality for both platforms (just in a different shell). It also works the other way around, Microsoft Team SharePoint Team sites (the site behind the Team!), can be added to SharePoint Hub sites just like any other SharePoint site so news and events can be aggregated. When planning site architecture, we can now imagine that whatever site or team is planned in either SharePoint or Teams, both could be accessed with either application.

There are still going to be instances where one is preferred over the other. In some scenarios, Office 365 groups with owners and members might not be the preferred access model for SharePoint intranet sites but there is a valid option for these sites – modern communication sites. Microsoft mentioned that they will be closing the gap on differences between communication and team sites and that one day you should be able to convert one to another. This again would help organisations on a long journey moving to a modern team-based flat structure.

More exciting updates to come….

Assign Self-marking Quizzes in Microsoft Teams for Education

Microsoft Forms quizzes can now be assigned to students in Microsoft Teams for education. These are auto-marked and the results are fed automatically into the teachers markbook. Find out how to use this new functionality in the video below.



You can find out more about how we can integrate Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Class Notebook into an easy-to-navigate class dashboard by visiting the Cloud Design Box website.

Cloud Design Box Class Dashboard

Rubric Grading Criteria in Microsoft Teams Assignments

Microsoft Teams Assignment Rubric

Rubrics are a powerful tool used to assess students’ work. The criterion helps students to have a concrete understanding and visualisation of what they need to do to achieve a particular score. Each criterion also includes a gradation scale of quality.



Microsoft Teams for education now includes rubric based grading. They can be created and reused across Teams making it a powerful time saving tool for teachers while at the same time helping students understand how to succeed in the assignment.

If you are unfamiliar with Microsoft Team Assignments, please check out our earlier post here.

When setting assignments, you will notice a new “Add Rubric” option.

Microsoft Teams Assignments

On this page, you can search for a rubric that has already been created at your school or create a brand new one. In this post, I’m going to go through how to create a new one. Click “new rubric”.

Create new Rubric

Give the rubric a name and turn on “points” so that we can assign scores to each piece of criteria.

Rubric Criteria

Enter your criteria, you can add more by pressing the plus button. You can also adjust the grading balance for each element. Teams will turn the points into an overall percentage when marking based on the balance given to each criterion.

Microsoft Teams Rubric

When you have finished creating your rubric, set the assignment for the students.

When the students have completed the assignment, go to review the work and open the student’s homework. In addition to the comment and grade, you can now select the rubric.

Review student work

This will show the criteria and you can select which has been met. The student work will be automatically marked based on the grade balance set in the rubric.

Review student work with rubric

This is what the student will see when you have graded their work with the rubric.

Student view of assignment rubric

It’s another fantastic update to Microsoft Teams for education. There is still more to come this summer including Microsoft Forms integration with self-marking quizzes. We will bring you news and guides on how to use that as soon as it is released!

At Cloud Design Box, our solutions help schools and companies get the best out of SharePoint, Teams and OneNote.

Microsoft Teams Assignments

More information on our education and business solutions can be found on our website.

Microsoft Teams for Education Summer 2018 Update

There’s a real buzz around Microsoft Teams. Microsoft have been increasing the momentum by releasing updates to improve the class collaboration tool recently. In this post I’m going to look at some of the updates already released and some coming very soon. You can find out more about the future updates here: Microsoft Education Blog.



Assigning to multiple classes

Sometimes teachers set the same assignment to multiple groups. This is now possible when setting an assignment in Teams. Just click the team name and select additional classes.

Microsoft Teams Class Selector

Tailoring assignments for individual students

Individual learning needs means that teachers sometimes have to set different assignments to students in the same class. Microsoft Teams now allows this using the student drop-down so teachers can assign different assignments to different groups of students within the same class.

Select individual students

Scheduling assignments and planning ahead

Teachers can now plan ahead by scheduling assignments. The assignment is only published to the student on the scheduled date allowing the teacher to set assignments for the whole month, term or even year in advance!

Schedule Assignments

Auto-marking Quizzes

Microsoft Forms will soon be integrated much tighter with Teams. Currently you can use Microsoft Forms to create quizzes and embed them in Class Notebooks or share the link for the assignment resource. This new integration will feed quiz results straight into the Microsoft Teams mark book. It will be really easy to create self-marking quizzes for students.

Microsoft Teams using Microsoft Forms Quiz

Summer Rollover

A question that has come up a lot recently has been “What will happen to my old class teams after year rollover?”. Microsoft have now answered this by archiving old class teams. These teams will be available in read-only mode, so you can still access your resources and work. The membership of these classes will not be updated post-rollover as the classes will no longer exist in the school’s MIS.

Class Dashboard and Class Cards

At Cloud Design Box, we create a seamless user-friendly environment for students and teachers to navigate between SharePoint, Teams and Class Notebook. To find out more, you can sign-up for one of our free webinars by clicking here. You can find out more about our products on the Cloud Design Box website.

Bulk tagging in SharePoint Online

Tagging resources with metadata can provide a range of advantages when it comes to sorting, grouping and searching.

You might decide to create a custom view to group items outside of any folder structure. This would be particularly useful if you had a complex folder structure but wanted to group all the documents of a particular topic together (outside of the folder structure).

Bulk Tagging

Tagging in SharePoint Online is really easy and you can even do this in bulk.

Let’s take this folder as an example. I have a “Topic” managed metadata column which I want to update for all the documents in this folder.

Metadata view

Select the documents which require tagging (click the checkbox to the left of the document). Use the checkbox at the top if you want to select all the documents.

Document selection

Open the information panel by selecting the “i” symbol shown below.

SharePoint information panel

You can now bulk tag documents. You will only change the columns in which you enter a value (you won’t wipe the other choices).

Edit columns

Press Save. They are all instantly tagged!

Tagged documents in SharePoint

Now that the documents are tagged, they will appear in search results for the tag, any views containing this column and any grouped views.

For more SharePoint news:

Sign up for our Education tips, guides and product news or Business tips, guides and product news.

Find out more about SharePoint in education, Teams and Class Notebook by attending a webinar.

How to create a Microsoft Graph SharePoint Web Part to show recent OneDrive files

How exciting, SharePoint web parts can now talk to other parts of Office 365 rather than just SharePoint using the Microsoft Graph and third party APIs!

With the release of the SharePoint Framework version 1.4.1, we now have preview support of the Microsoft Graph API.

In this example, I’m going to create a SharePoint Framework web part to show my latest OneDrive files.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

I’m going to assume that you already know how to create SharePoint framework web parts, if you don’t, take a look at my previous blog posts:

I will begin with a new SharePoint framework project (no JavaScript framework) using the latest version 1.4.1 (see getting started).

In the new project, open the web part typescript file (src\ webparts\ webpartname\ webpartname.ts).

Import the MSGraphClient using the following code:

import { MSGraphClient } from '@microsoft/sp-client-preview';

Inside the render function in our default class, we are going to define a variable for the service scope.

const client: MSGraphClient = this.context.serviceScope.consume(MSGraphClient.serviceKey);

We can make it easier to catch errors when coding against the MS Graph by installing the typings. You can do this from the terminal in VSCode by running:

npm install @microsoft/microsoft-graph-types –save-dev

This then needs to be imported in the web part typescript file.

import * as MicrosoftGraph from '@microsoft/microsoft-graph-types';

Under the line defining the service scope, add the following code to get data from the graph API

    client
      .api('me/drive/recent')
      .get((error, files: MicrosoftGraph.DriveItem, rawResponse: any) => {
        // handle the response
        for (var _i = 0; _i < rawResponse.body.value.length; _i++) {
          htmlcode += `<a href="${rawResponse.body.value[_i].webUrl}">${rawResponse.body.value[_i].name}</a></br>`;

        }
      this.domElement.innerHTML = `
      <div class="${ styles.myOneDriveFiles }">
        ${htmlcode}
      </div>`;
    });

Configuring API permission requests

In the package-solution json file (in the config folder), we need to define which Graph permissions we will be using.
Under “skipFeatureDeployment”, add the following JSON.

"webApiPermissionRequests": [
      {
        "resource": "Microsoft Graph",
        "scope": "Files.Read"
      }
    ]

To determine the permission levels and which API to use, I used the following references:

Graph Explorer
Permission Scopes

So we can test this, we need to allow access for this API in the Office 365 admin centre. To do this we are going to build and package the solution and then add it to the app catalog.

To package the solution, run the following commands from the VSCode terminal:

gulp bundle –ship

gulp package-solution –ship

This will create a SPPKG file in the sharepoint\solution folder. This is the file you will need to drag and drop into the tenant App Catalog. Please note that the next steps can only be performed on a first release tenant (not just a first release user).

You will see the additional highlighted message below.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

Open the SharePoint Admin Centre of your tenant, and select to “Try the new SharePoint admin center”, in the upper right corner of the screen.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

Select “API management”

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

There seemed to be a bit of a bug on this page, I had to refresh a few times before it appeared and it appeared twice (maybe because i tried uploading to the app catalog twice).

Select the request and press Approve

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

Add the web part to a modern page. If you have a pop-up blocker enabled in chrome, you will be asked to disable this.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

After reloading the page, wow we see Microsoft Graph data inside a SharePoint web part!!

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

You can download the source code from my GitHub page

Creating a quiz using Microsoft Forms in OneNote

Microsoft Forms are a great way to quickly gather survey results or produce quizzes. It could be testing employees on health and safety in OneNote or it could be setting students a topic quiz in Class Notebook.

In this post, I’m going to go through the steps on how to add a quiz to OneNote.

First, create a new page and call it “Quiz”.

Class Notebook

Go to the insert tab in the ribbon and select “Forms”.

Microsoft Forms

Here you will see a list of any forms and quizzes that you previously created in addition to the new options.

List of forms

Click “New Quiz”.

Microsoft Forms will open in a new tab, give the quiz a title and description.

Click “Add question” and select “Choice”.

Enter a question and all the options, you can press “Add option” to add more answer options.

Next to each answer option, you can provide some feedback for users who select this option using the speech bubble icon (see highlighted below).

Mark the correct answer by selecting the tick icon (see highlighted below).

At the bottom of the question, you can assign points for the correct answer, allow multiple answers and make it a required question.

By pressing the menu (…), you can bring up more options such as shuffling the answers or writing math equations.

You can add more questions by clicking “Add question”. The form will save automatically as you edit it (no save button).

When you have finished creating your quiz, switch the browser tab back to the OneNote file, you will see that the quiz has now appeared in the “My forms” list.

Press the “Insert” button.

Our quiz is now embedded on the page!

When users complete the quiz, they will see their points after pressing submit (with feedback on each question).

The author of the quiz can go back into “Microsoft Forms” via the app launcher (see highlighted below).

They can then see a detailed breakdown of the results with the option to export to Excel.

Microsoft Forms can also be added to SharePoint pages, so you can enhance your intranet with surveys and quizzes!

Microsoft Forms is a great tool in the Office 365 package. By using this tool in your organisation, you could really improve engagement with users.

At Cloud Design Box, our solutions help schools and companies get the best out of SharePoint, Teams and OneNote.

More information on our education and business solutions can be found on our website.

Cloud Design Box Class Dashboard

Bett 2018

I’m going to be at Bett 2018 next week with the Cloud Design Box team, really excited to have some stand space this year with our MIS integration partners SalamanderSoft. Cloud Design Box will be showcasing the best of SharePoint, Class Notebook and Teams integration.

Our stand number is C210, opposite Google on the main corridor leading to the Bett Arena. We even have a seating area and coffee machine if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bett for a while.

Please feel free to pop by and hello to myself, Darren and Lloyd. If you can’t make it, you can sign-up to a webinar so that you don’t miss out on all the exciting Office 365 news and the latest developments.

We will be launching our new SharePoint intranet packages containing features such as:

  • Class Dashboard (find all your class data across SharePoint, OneNote and Teams in one easy to access place)
  • Modern SharePoint UI Branding (Our slick new branding and navigation interface for the new look SharePoint)
  • Team Provisioning and Extensions (We create Teams from MIS data and extend the functionality even further with student folders and class pages)
  • SharePoint site automation and templates
  • Workflows, training, support and much more!

You can find out more about Cloud Design Box’s products here.

Our partners SalamanderSoft will be showcasing:

  • A new free utility ‘Salamander for Apple School Manager’ for uploading data to Apple School Manager directly from your MIS
  • Monitor tool for Salamander Active Directory
  • Microsoft Teams and School Data Sync including our free utility for uploading data
  • Office 365 user and group creation and maintenance, licenses, photos, timetables and more.
  • OneNote Class Notebook provisioning and use.
  • G-Suite user and group creation and maintenance, licenses, photos, timetables, sites, drive, cloud print and more.
  • Google Classroom including guardian and calendar support
  • Active Directory user and group creation, maintenance and more.
  • Write back of usernames, email addresses and user defined fields into your MIS (where supported by the MIS). Also creation of SIMs system users.
  • Support for the above for all UK MISs including Capita SIMS, RM Integris, Progresso, Facility CMIS, iSAMS, WCBS Pass & 3 Sys, Bromcom, Arbor and many overseas ones

You can find out more about Salamander’s products here.