Monthly Archives: December 2020

How To Make Your SharePoint Sites Look Great

Creating a visually appealing SharePoint site is vital if you want people to engage with it regularly. But you don’t need to spend hours designing and curating your sites for them to look good.

We’ve created a video to show you that it’s possible to create a professional and captivating SharePoint site in under 20 minutes. By sticking to our top tips, you can make sure your organisation’s SharePoint sites look clean and well-designed while remaining practical and informative.



Get inspired by the SharePoint look book.

Microsoft has put together a free resource filled with inspiration for SharePoint sites, whether you need pages for news, announcements, resources or training.

The beauty of the look book is that if you see a site you like, you can add it to your SharePoint as a starting point.

SharePoint look book

Use high-quality images.

Inject life into your SharePoint site by using eye-catching imagery.

There are plenty of free and high-quality image resources out there, so you don’t necessarily need to spend money on bringing a photographer in to take team photos.

The SharePoint look book is a great place to download professional photos, and SharePoint itself has an image library filled with all types of pictures to suit your needs.

By filling your site engaging imagery, you’re already halfway there to making it look good.

SharePoint Design

Stick to a colour scheme.

Once you start playing with colour in SharePoint, you can truly make a site your own. Use your brand colours and stick to a simple colour palette of around 2-4 shades to keep everything looking consistent and professional.

You could go one step further and bear this colour scheme in mind when selecting images for the site.

Section variety.

When you have lots of content to showcase, important messages can easily get lost in the noise.

Make sure you break up your content into logical sections and ensure these sections look distinctive from each other.

Again, use colours to differentiate each section. As Tony shows in the video demonstration, you can make some areas pop with a brighter hue, followed by a simple muted tone for the next section.

Be sure to use different layouts for each section and mix it up with your column numbers and sizes.

SharePoint sections

Think about spacing.

Avoid cramming your pages full of content and instead separate out elements with spacers. A bonus tip to ensure your spacing is consistent throughout is to stick to a specific spacer size, for example, 20 pixels.

SharePoint spacing

Toggle Between Published and Edit Mode.

When editing a SharePoint site, it’s easy to get fixated on how it looks in Edit mode rather than what it will look like when finally published.

Switch between Published and Edit mode to give yourself a chance to step back and look at it through the eyes of your users.

Engaging content.

It’s all well and good creating an attractive SharePoint site, but you also need to ensure the content is relevant, engaging and adding value to your end-users if you want them to use the site consistently.

Think creatively and don’t be afraid to add some fun, light-hearted content in there.

As you can see from our demo video, Tony uses a Word of the Day web part and also a short message from the CEO. It’s about finding the balance between this type of content and your more serious stuff, like policies and company updates.

Engaging Content

Additionally, make sure your SharePoint site isn’t static is by adding the News web part that links in and pulls content from your company news pages so your readers will always have the latest articles and updates at their fingertips.

If you have any questions about creating SharePoint sites for your organisation, please get in touch with a member of our team right now.

Microsoft 365 User Adoption Episode 12: Saving Teacher Time With Class Notebook

Our Office 365 User Adoption Podcast highlights real-life stories from schools, academies and Multi Academy Trusts on how they’ve successfully rolled out Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Teams to staff and students.

In this podcast episode, we spoke with Rachael Howarth, Vice Principal at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School and Business Studies teacher on how they’re using Microsoft 365 to support students’ learning and save teachers’ time, whether they’re working remotely or in the classroom.




Listen on Spotify

Bradford Girls’ Grammar School started using SharePoint in March and April 2020 when UK schools were forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

“We started out using SharePoint, but from mid-May, we’ve been using Teams to improve the interaction between teachers and students,” explains Rachael.

“Since September, it has been a government requirement that anyone absent from school has immediate access to remote learning, so we adopted Class Notebook to achieve this in an efficient way.”

Rachael explains that the school decided it would be a lot easier if teachers planned lessons via Class Notebook so that they could use the resources in the classroom, as well as distributing them to students who were not in school, as well as another cover staff who required access to them.

“It’s been working really well. Students have access whenever they need to, and can go back and revise from these resources at a later date.”

An example of this in action is a Year 13 Business lesson Rachael shows us during the podcast.

Class Notebook

“Within this lesson, I have written down some instructions for students. If the lesson was recorded, I could link the video and there wouldn’t be a need for so many words here,” Rachael demonstrates.

“I have also added in links to YouTube videos and an audio recording of myself describing how this lesson fits into the rest of the A Level Business Studies course.”

Rachael explains how using links to videos is a great way to quickly share important learning resources without having to manually upload and embed resources multiple times. You can also do this with other files from your own OneNote, such as PowerPoint.

“We structure our files so that we have a centralised resource bank for each subject, then just reference or link to them in lessons rather than embedding and uploading those files for every single class. It saves a lot of time.”

The Grammar School has been making the most of centralised resources by allowing staff members to share and collaborate when creating learning materials.

“This has significantly reduced teacher workload. Our teachers have really appreciated being able to remotely co-author documents together and save time,” she continues.

“Centralising files in this way also allows department heads to check the quality and consistency of learning resources and – as an added bonus – we can instantly give our support and cover staff access to resources without manually having to send lesson plans and resources.”

Alongside Class Notebook, the school is also using Assignments.

“We keep our Assignments and Class Notebook separate so that students have an area to upload their classwork – any work that they complete during a lesson and therefore doesn’t have to be necessarily marked by a teacher. Meanwhile, they use Assignments for more formal, graded work,” Rachael shows us.

“Forms is also a really useful way to quickly quiz students and check their progress.”

As Darren Hemming, our Teaching and Learning Consultant, points out, having an online area where students can upload classwork enables the teacher to remotely walk around the classroom and look over students’ shoulders to check everyone is on track.

“Assignments has been a great way to instantly give digital feedback to students during Covid-19, without worrying about swapping pieces of paper back and forth between teachers and their classes.”

One challenge the school has faced during the pandemic is live teaching to students who are working from home.

saving teacher time with class notebook

“We’re located in a deprived area of the country and not all of our students have easy access to devices that they can work from. We’re lending students our spare devices and working with the government to provide as many tablets and laptops as possible, but the reality is some families still have to share one device between them,” Rachael tells us.

“Because of this, live teaching would not currently be possible if we had another school closure. Many students would be unable to attend timetabled classes and that’s why we’ve taken the approach of recording lessons and letting students access the videos and written materials at a time that suits them.”

During the beginning of lockdown, when some students only had mobile phones to work from, the school was able to work around this barrier by allowing students to take a photo of written work and upload it to Class Notebook.

“We’re now looking at setting up virtual drop-in sessions so students have access to their teacher on a regular basis to ask questions,” she points out.

“With the help of ongoing support and training, our students and staff have picked all of this up incredibly quickly. I’m looking forward to improving how we work and making it run even more smoothly.”

You can watch the full episode and the full podcast series on the Cloud Design Box YouTube channel. If you have any questions about adopting Microsoft 365, Teams and SharePoint in your school or organisation, get in touch with a member of our team right now.

Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams for Education

With breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams, the teacher can split the class into groups to work on shared tasks, projects, or even competitive challenges. Breakout rooms are private so students can have some one-on-one help from the teacher. As a teacher, you can jump into rooms to see how everyone is doing, give clarification or be help as required.

We have created a quick video guide below explaining how to setup and use the breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams.



Create some breakout rooms.

Create breakout rooms (only currently available in the desktop app) by selecting the new breakout room button.

breakout room button in teams

If students are already in the meeting, you can automatically populate rooms or choose the manual option to do it later.

Create new breakout rooms

Assign students to the breakout room.

Once students have joined the meeting, you can then assign them to breakout rooms by selecting the students and then clicking “Assign” before choosing a room.

Assign student to breakout room

Open a breakout room.

To send the student into a breakout room, you must first open the room. This can be done by selecting the menu on the room and clicking “Open Room”.

Open breakout room

Once the breakout room has been opened, students will automatically be moved into the room after 10 seconds.

Join a breakout room.

As a meeting organiser, you can jump into any of the breakout rooms. You may wish to do this to ensure students are on track and to answer any questions they have. To join a breakout room, select the menu next to the room and click “Join room”.

Join breakout room

To return to the main meeting, click the “Return” button.
Return to main meeting

Close breakout room.

When you are ready for students to finish working in their groups, you can close the breakout room and students will automatically join the main meeting again. You may wish to do this towards the end of the lesson so groups can share their findings with the rest of the class. To close a breakout room, select the menu next to the room and click “Close room”.

close breakout room

How to Get Everyone in Your School Confidently Using Microsoft Teams – A Guide to Long-Term User Adoption for Schools

The main challenge schools, academies and multi academy trusts face when rolling out a new technology or platform is user adoption.

Typically, a core group of tech-savvy teachers and staff embrace the new technology, while others are left behind.

This results in various, separate solutions being used within the school, with learning resources scattered across different places and servers and – ultimately – your school not making the most of the technology it has invested in.

But the key reason for this isn’t usually the platform or technology itself. Instead, it’s a lack of a clear, long-term plan and strategy.

Switching to a brand-new technology isn’t easy; it’s a significant change for all involved. But we must make sure that we bring everyone along together on the journey to ensure higher user adoption and avoid leaving anyone behind.

Of course, a further problem has also been born in 2020. Covid-19.



Many schools were forced to adopt tools like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint for short-term gains due to school closures and remote teaching.

While this placed a plaster over the problem and gave students the short-term support they needed to learn from home temporarily, the rushed approach didn’t take into consideration the potential long-term impact of the technology.

We now need to take a step back and think about a long-term strategy so that the technology you’ve invested in serves your staff and students for years to come.

Moving to the cloud isn’t brand new for 2020. Schools have been adopting Teams and SharePoint to reap the benefits of centralised resources, lower server costs and enhanced learning for years.

Whether you already have Teams and SharePoint, or if you’re new to cloud-based learning, now is the time to implement a long-term strategy for your new technology. And here’s how you can do that.

  • Communicate your vision to the school.
  • Give key people ownership over the project.
  • Set a long-term plan.
  • Set milestones and key dates.
  • Deliver hands-on training.
  • Measure your success and resolve issues.
  • Adjust, adapt and adopt.

The User Adoption Journey

Communicate your vision to the school.

Introduce the new technology to your staff to let them know what your vision is and what the new way of working will look like.

It’s crucial to outline your key reasons for switching to the new technology by explaining clearly the benefits to the school, to staff and to students. Weaving it into your school ethos and culture further strengthens your argument and helps to get more people on board with the idea.

Three things to keep in mind when communicating your vision:

  • What does the new reality look like?
  • What are the benefits to the school?
  • How does this fit in with the school ethos and culture?

Here’s an example of how a school has tied in their new technology with their school ethos:

School Vision

Give key people ownership over the project.

Select a group of champions who work with you on the project to help with the planning stage and drive user adoption within their department.

This stage is important because having representatives from each area of the school not only enables them to have a sense of ownership over the product but also encourages other staff members to use the technology as it rolls out.

A typical project team might look like this:

Project Team:

  • Curriculum representatives for Teaching and Learning.
  • MIS Manager.
  • Head of Digital Strategy.
  • IT Support Team.

What do they do:

  • Plan and own product.
  • Showcase benefits to staff.
  • Provide training support.

Department Champions:

  • Curriculum Lead from each department.

What do they do:

  • Drive usage in their departments.
  • Showcase benefits.
  • Provide cascaded training.

Set a long-term plan.

The planning stages are vital to save time, money and ensure the new technology works well for everyone who will be using it.

Use spreadsheets to map out what you need the software to do for your school.

For SharePoint, a central space is essential to avoid unnecessary duplication of work and files, scattered resources and information siloes.

It’s easy to fall into the habit of everyone creating their own sites, with no central governance, and we’ve found this has been a common problem for schools who were compelled to rush adoption as a response to coronavirus.

If this sounds like you, don’t panic. Now is your chance to get everything in order and avoid more work in the future.

The key concept to keep in mind when planning is to think about the long term and how you can scale up your use of this technology year after year.

Here is an example of how a simple plan for SharePoint for schools might look like:

SharePoint home page.

Whether you’re a member of staff or a student, you can access published news and information about the school here.

Communication sites.

Sites for publishing information to large groups of people. Content is there to be consumed, rather than co-authored – for example, staff briefings, library services and policy documents.

Non-curriculum teams.

Secure areas only accessible to small groups of people who need access. For example, finance and administration .

It’s essential to keep this a flat, simple structure that is easy to scale up.

Subject sites.

All of your long-term resources are stored here. It’s a central place that has resources stored so they can be used year after year.

There’s a tendency to use Class Teams for this, which works for one academic year, but as soon as that ends, teachers need to duplicate all the content to another Class Team.

Storing all resources in SharePoint not only reduces the duplication of work, but also unlocks further opportunities. Departments can share resources, co-author documents and Heads of Departments can check the quality of the learning resources.

Teams.

Used for collaborating and communicating with other people. For example, department groups, the finance team and Class Teams.

One crucial thing to remember is you don’t have to get it right first time. It’s a process, and by listening to feedback, you’re able to build a solution that works for everyone in your school.

SharePoint education megamenu

Set milestones and key dates.

User adoption doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no quick fix, and it’s an ongoing process.

Break up your long-term plan into milestones, helping users have something to aim for, as well as to celebrate progress.

For example, it could be that you set your file servers to read-only by a specific date, allowing staff to have a deadline for when they need to move their resources to the cloud.

Three things to remember when setting milestones:

  • Be realistic – it’s not going to happen overnight.
  • Be flexible – milestones can be pushed back or brought forward, depending on your school and staff.
  • Get feedback – listen to your users and adapt your approach.

Deliver hands-on training.

Support staff by delivering quality, hands-on training.

Avoid one huge webinar presentation and get people involved using the software.

Deliver training to small groups, not everyone at once. Think about how you’d teach a lesson to students.

Split up teaching and non-teaching staff to tailor the sessions as much as possible to the audience. Teaching staff need to know about some features that non-teaching staff won’t use – for example, Assignments in Teams.

Grouping by ability helps to make sure no one gets left behind, and you’re not training staff on tools and features they’re already confident using.

Three things to keep in mind when delivering training:

  • Don’t train once and stop there, refreshers might be needed.
  • Be open to feedback and adapt your process.
  • Do your students need training too?

If you’re stuck on where to get started with training, we have some free training videos that are specifically geared towards schools.

Measure your success and resolve issues.

Evaluate your progress and measure user adoption as you move through your plan.

You can do this by getting feedback from staff and regularly talking to your champions to spot any barriers and challenges users are facing.

Microsoft Forms is a great way to do this. You can create a quick survey to see what areas you need to improve on. And, with Microsoft Teams , you can see who is using the software and – more crucially – who isn’t.

Three areas to monitor when you measure user adoption:

  • The key challenges people are facing.
  • The features that aren’t being used by staff.
  • The staff/departments who aren’t using the software.

At Cloud Design Box, we have our own analytic dashboard to help keep track of teacher user adoption with Teams assignments.

Cloud Design Box Teams Insights

Adjust, adapt and adopt.

Once you have collected feedback and data showing your user adoption progress, it’s essential to adjust and adapt your process to suit your school’s needs.

This is different for every school, but for example, it might be that you need to adjust training to suit the ability of your staff, or, alternatively, focus on a specific area where a large percentage of staff are struggling.

Three keys things to keep in mind when adjusting your process:

  • Be realistic.
  • Don’t be afraid to go back.
  • Keep checking user adoption and adapt accordingly.

User Adoption Cycle

By staying realistic, setting clear goals and adjusting your process, you’ll be able to get everyone on board with your new technology.

Do you need help with user adoption or a Teams solution that helps save teacher time? Contact us for a chat:

Email: info@clouddesignbox.co.uk
Website: https://www.clouddesignbox.co.uk/contact
Telephone: 01482 688890