Monthly Archives: August 2021

New Microsoft Teams Update Brings More Benefits to Blended Learning Classrooms

A new Microsoft Teams update for summer 2021 brings a whole bunch of benefits for both students and teachers, helping schools deliver blended and hybrid learning efficiently and in an engaging way.  

We’ve rounded up our top features that you need to try out in your lessons.  

Here’s a quick summary of the update: 

  • Set group assignments. 
  • Return assignments to students for revision.  
  • Lock Teams meetings from additional attendees. 
  • Record classes automatically. 
  • Use a virtual laser pointer in PowerPoint. 
  • Lower all raised hands in Teams meetings. 
  • Immersive Reader for mobile.  
  • More features for Android users.  

Group assignments. 

Teams has introduced a new group assignments feature, allowing students to work together and submit one assignment for the whole group. Teachers can then provide feedback and grades to either each individual student within that group or give out an overall grade for the group.  

Interested in this feature? We have created a short guide and step-by-step video for you on Group Assignments here.  




This feature is great for when you need a student to do extra work after you’ve provided feedback, or even if they’ve simply forgotten to attach a document to their assignment. 

From a student point of view, the assignment is visible in their “active work” list, and they can see the feedback you’ve initially provided.  

All you need to do is select More options next to Return when you’re reviewing a student assignment and then select Return for revision.  

Image: Microsoft

Improved features for hybrid teaching. 

Blended learning, hybrid classroom – whatever you’re calling it in your school – teaching students in school and providing support to those learning from home due to self-isolation can be challenging. 

Teams has brought out several features to improve both teacher and student experience.  

First up, there’s an auto-record setting you can now toggle on and off in your Meeting options as a teacher. Selecting Record automatically does exactly what it says on the tin and records your meeting automatically so that you don’t need to worry about forgetting to record when you start your class.  

Image: Microsoft

Note: You will need to change this per meeting, there isn’t yet a button for recording every meeting automatically.  

During Teams lessons, you can now create a virtual laser pointer when presenting with PowerPoint Live. Only the active “in control” presenter can make annotations – so you don’t need to worry about students becoming distracted and trying out the feature for themselves!  

Many have been using the Raised Hands feature in Teams to allow students to virtually notify the teacher when they want to ask a question. However, up until now, there has been no way for teachers to lower raised hands, and if a student forgets to lower their raised hand, it can be confusing.  

Teams has introduced the ability to lower all raised hands via the Participants pane.  

Better security features for student safety.  

Running lessons in Teams has always been secure, but Microsoft has introduced even more layers of security to ensure student and staff safety.  

Teachers can now lock a class or meeting from any additional attendees. This helps the class stay focused and avoid unnecessary disruption.  

You can find the Lock the meeting option in the Participants pane 

If you want to find out more about boosting security in your Teams lessons, check out this guide on dealing with unwanted guests in Class Teams 

Lock class meetings
Image: Microsoft

Enhanced mobile experience. 

Microsoft has been busy making some general improvements to the mobile experience of Teams.  

Great news! We know a lot of students have relied on their mobile devices to stay connected to their classmates and learning resources during the pandemic.  

In fact, according to the Children’s Commissioner, almost 10% of families in the UK do not have a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. So naturally, many students have been using shared mobile devices to access their lessons and homework.  

Some important updates include a mobile version of Immersive Reader, which reads aloud posts and chat messages for users, and an easier-to-navigate Assignments tool.  

Find out how this school is using Immersive Reader to support SEN and EAL students

Assignments on mobile
Image: Microsoft

Teams is now also available on Android tablets and accessing files offline is also available on Android devices.  

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your organisation achieve more with Microsoft, please contact a member of our team today. 

 

 

 

 

How To Create a Group Assignment in Class Teams

Teams has introduced a new group assignments feature, allowing students to work together and submit one assignment for the whole group. Teachers can then provide feedback and grades to either each individual student within that group or give out an overall grade for the group.   

Below is a walk-through of how you can: 

  • Create a group assignment. 
  • Manually and randomly assign groups for assignments.  
  • Complete a group assignment (as a student). 
  • Grade a group assignment.  


Create a group assignment.  

In Assignments, select Create and then Assignment.  

As with any new assignment in Teams, you can enter a title, instructions, attach any documents the students require, add points and rubrics and set due dates.  

To assign the assignment to a group, go to the Assign to section and this will be currently set to the default All students. Select Group of students from the drop-down menu.  

Group Assignments in Teams 1 - Create a group assignment

You have two options – to manually or randomly assign groups for your assignment.  

Group Assignments in Teams 3 - Manually group students or randomly group students

Manually assign groups for assignments.  

Select Manually group students from the pop-up window and then click Create groups. 

This allows you to filter and manually add specific students to a group. 

You can also add a group name for this group of students.  

Once you’re happy with your first group, click Create. 

Group Assignments in Teams 4 - Manually assign students to a group assignment

You can then choose to add another manual group or randomly assign other groups.  

Tip: There is a countdown of how many students are left to be assigned to a group at the top of the group list.  

Randomly assign groups for assignments. 

Select Randomly assign groups from the pop-up window. 

Enter the number of groups you need and select Create groups 

Group Assignments in Teams 5 - Randomly assign students to a group assignment

You can then go in and add/remove students from groups and change the group names if necessary.  

Editing and deleting assignment groups in Teams.  

If you haven’t already set the assignment, you can edit and delete groups by selecting the pencil icon next to the group you wish to edit.  

From here, you can add or remove members and change the group name. You can also delete the group. 

Want to start over? You can recreate groups by selecting Recreate groups at the bottom of your list of groups.  

Group Assignments in Teams 6 - Recreate groups

Assigning a group assignment in Teams.  

Once you’re happy with your groups, click Done to head back to the main Assignments page and select Assign 

Note: Currently, there is no option to edit groups after an assignment is set. You would need to delete the assignment and reassign all the groups.  

Completing and submitting a group assignment as a student.  

The group project is visible in the students’ general channel – they should receive a notification.  

Group Assignments in Teams 7 - Group Assignment student view

Also, if the student clicks on Assignments, they are able to view the group assessment, see who else is in their group, and open/co-author the document with their classmates.  

Once the group work is complete, one of them can turn in the work on behalf of the whole group by selecting Turn in for group. 

Group Assignments in Teams 9 - Turn in a group assignment

Note: If they have forgotten to add something, students can undo the turn in and add further information, attachments and work. 

Reviewing a group assessment.  

Teachers can see which groups have handed in the assignment by viewing the assignment in the Assignments tab in Teams.  

Group Assignments in Teams 10 - Reviewing group assignments

You can choose to give the group an overall grade or grade students individually by selecting the three dots next to the selected group.  

From here, you can add feedback and give points as you would any other assignment. 

Group Assignments in Teams 11 - Grading group assignments

Click Return to return the work back to students for them to view your feedback or make amends. 

Head to the Grades tab to look at a class overview of who has handed in their group assignments.

Group Assignments in Teams 12 - Class overview of group assignments

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your organisation achieve more with Microsoft, please contact a member of our team today.

Cloud Design Box Awarded Microsoft SDS Advanced Partner

Cloud Design Box has achieved Microsoft SDS Advanced Partner accreditation. Microsoft SDS (School Data Sync) simplifies class management in Microsoft 365, reading class data from your school, academy or trust’s MIS and creating classes and groups for Microsoft Teams.  

The Partner Success Series for Microsoft SDS is a brand new accreditation.  

“We’re thrilled to have been awarded these further accreditations. It means that our clients can have more confidence in our abilities to install and manage SDS, ensuring their Class Teams are created seamlessly and correctly each academic year,” explains Tony Phillips, Founder of Cloud Design Box.  

“SDS is recommended best practice when creating and maintaining Class Teams. Not only does it speed up and automate a previous time-consuming task that often took IT managers and staff the whole of the summer holidays to achieve, but it also allows you to create a rich data set of year groups, subjects, schools and more to create future reports across your entire organisation that support the leadership team all year round.”  

You can read more about Microsoft SDS in this guide

The Cloud Design Box team is continuously improving their skills and knowledge on Microsoft 365 for Education and Business, enrolling in Microsoft’s training programmes and courses. We’re proud to add these latest accreditations to our growing list of certifications that includes Microsoft in Education Global Training Partner, Microsoft Partner and CPD certification.

Want to find out more about how Cloud Design Box can support you with your rollover to a new academic year with Microsoft School Data Sync? Get in touch with a member of our team right now 

In the meantime, check out these guides on SDS:

Assessments and Engagement with Microsoft 365 at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School

In this podcast episode, we speak with Rachael Howarth, Vice Principal of Bradford Girls’ Grammar School about how they’re using Microsoft 365 to assess and engage students in a blended in-classroom and remote learning setting.

Rachael walks us through some key ways in which they’re using Microsoft Forms, Class Notebook, Polls and Insights to increase engagement, save teacher time, give feedback and keep an eye on students’ wellbeing.

“We’ve been using Class Notebook to engage with students who have been learning from home due to self-isolating. It’s been a blend of live teaching and uploading class resources for those students who share devices and need access to content on-demand,” Rachael tells us. 

“We’ve also been teaching in school and using tools in Teams to set assignments and rubrics, run polls to get a quick measure of where students are in terms of their learning.”  



In the video, Rachael demonstrates how the teachers use polls to help students further embed their learning and see which students have understood the lesson and who may need a recap.

“We have been using self-marking quizzes quite successfully – they give the students the answers as they move along,” she explains.

“Polls are like the classroom equivalent of holding up mini whiteboards and getting everyone to hold up their answer – you can get a broad sweep of who is understanding and who isn’t.”  

This type of interactivity is carried through to providing feedback to students. Teachers at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School are adding audio files to students work to give feedback on assignments. Not only is this engaging for students to actually hear their teacher explain something to them as if they were in the classroom, but it’s also saving teacher time as they don’t need to type or format any additional words.

“We’ve also been using audio files for learning objectives – just inserting a clip into a Class Notebook that explains exactly what we want the students to do – they can listen instead of writing out learning objectives and it does save time,” she adds. 

By using Microsoft 365 in and outside of the classroom, the school has been able to collect valuable data around students’ learning and engagement.  

“Some of our students do not have access to the live lessons because they share devices. So we need to look at other metrics to see if they’re participating in other ways: Are they having conversations, are they completing assignments, are they accessing Class Notebook?” Rachael explains.  

But, the Insights dashboard goes beyond checking up to see whether students are completing their homework: 

“It’s been really useful for pastoral support. At one point, we had a large number of users who were working in the middle of the night. So we immediately put out welfare messages to staff, parents and pupils. It gives us the opportunity to have that conversation with our community.”  

Bradford Girls’ Grammar School is embracing Microsoft for the future and not simply a remedy to the pandemic:  

“We’re learning rapidly – we’ve been on a steep learning curve but we’re implementing these interactive methods of assessment into our practice as we develop as remote teachers. Week on week, we’re getting a high-level engagement on Teams – anything between 190 and 700 daily active users – it shows how useful our students and staff are finding Teams.”

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.

Improving Communication Across a Multi Academy Trust with Microsoft 365 at PolyMAT

In this podcast episode on Microsoft 365 user adoption, we speak with Mark Guest, Director of Innovation at PolyMAT, a multi academy trust in Thamesmead and the surrounding areas.

Mark discusses how the trust uses SharePoint to improve communication across the schools and created dashboards with Microsoft Power Apps to save teacher time.

PolyMAT is a UK-based MAT made up of Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys, one of the country’s largest boys’ secondary schools and its sister school Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls.

Watch the full podcast episode here:



“My job as Director of Innovation has so many facets to it. I focus on how we can make the most of data, systems and technology in our schools to become more efficient and ensure we’re getting value for money,” Mark tells us.

PolyMAT has been working with Cloud Design Box since 2020, and they have created staff collaboration sites in SharePoint for each of the schools, plus the main one for the trust as a whole.

“Each page follows a consistent layout and includes relevant news, a calendar, announcements, Quick Links to things like policies, a class cover manager and information about room changes that are all pulled from SIMS,” Mark explains.

“We’ve also got an area where staff can ask questions and share feedback directly to the trust leadership team.”

The three calendars – one for the boys’ school, the girls’ school and trust are synced using Power Automate so that they always contain the correct, up-to-date information.

Staff can easily send out a quick announcement by filling out a form and selecting a target audience – this allows them to publish the information onto SharePoint and have the option to send an email to the right people.

“We’ve created a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) app that teachers can download to their phones. They’ll receive push notifications if a student is removed from a lesson or SLT is required.”

PolyMAT is also taking advantage of the endless possibilities of Power BI dashboards.

“Our various dashboards can be embedded into SharePoint and save teachers loads of time when they need to access information about their students quickly,” he shows us.

“An example is our Tutor Reports – they show things like attendance and punctuality, as well as the number of students who are off due to self-isolation and therefore need work to be provided while they’re learning from home.”

A specific example of the technology reducing admin time for teachers is gathering information about a particular student:

“A Head of Year may need to know who teachers an individual student. This job would typically take around 10-15 minutes to complete. Now, they simply bring up a student profile and can get the information in a couple of minutes.”

PolyMAT is committed to training and continuous development, always seeking feedback and helping teachers use the tools to save time and get back to teaching.

“Regular training is available, and we’ve got a long term plan to increase efficiency even further. For example, bring all our Power Apps into one place and relocating our resources in centralised document libraries that will get shared across the schools and trust,” he adds.

“As the trust grows and more schools join, we need to make sure that they have the same setup. During the pandemic, we’ve had a massive increase in using Teams and Microsoft 365, but if we don’t have structures in place and a long-term strategy, we won’t be able to sustain that level of usage. So we’re working with Cloud Design Box on a five-year plan to make sure we make the most out of this technology.”

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.

How To Clean Up Old Class Teams in Microsoft School Data Sync Summer 2021

The Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) rollover process 2021 has changed slightly since last year, so we have created a video guide to walk you through the process. 

If your profile has expired and you’re ready to start the academic year, then this guide is for you. 



One thing you’ll notice is that there is no longer a cleanup option button. Previously, this button would achieve all of your Class Teams; however, in an effort to give you more choice, Microsoft has removed this button and – if we’re honest – it’s made it more of a tricky process. 

Below are some simple steps we can do – and remember, we only have to do this once every academic year. 

Important: Do not start the new term or year until you have completed the cleanup process. Otherwise, all of your users will get stripped out of those old Class Teams and won’t be able to access their archived Class Teams.

  1. Go to the Groups to bring up the Groups page.
  2. Click the Sections tab and select Section Report
  3. Select Generate new section report. This report provides information on class names, metadata associated with the class, state of the class team, created date and SharePoint site status. 
  4. Download the Section report once it has been processed.

Tip: If you format the spreadsheet into a table and create headers, you can then sort the information by Name or Section. 

  1. Find the correct SectionId for the Teams you want to clean up. Naming Teams correctly with the correct prefix and academic year will save you time here. 
  2. Remove the Teams from the spreadsheet you don’t want to clean up, and you should be left with the teams from the correct school and academic year. Save the spreadsheet.
  3. Return to Section Cleanup and upload the edited Section Report.
  4. You can Mark the Classes as Expired or Archive Teams (we’d recommend the latter as all the Teams are available in read-only mode). 
  5. Select Run cleanup.
  6. Check that your classes have been archived off. It should have cleared them from the SDS Profile. 

Now it’s time to start the new term/year.

  1. Select Start new term/year. 
  2. If you’re using CSV files, you need to upload your new CSV files. If you’re using an API or OneRoster, you need to make sure your new data is ready to sync. 
  3. Set a profile expiry date and configure the other options on the page. 
  4. When you’re ready, select Sync, and it’s now ready for the new academic year. 

We have a guide on how teachers can find those archived Teams, how to move over your old Class Notebooks and make sure you don’t lose long-term resources. 

If you’re a Cloud Design Box customer, we do all of this for you. Just make sure you complete the Roll Over form in plenty of time. 

You also benefit from an easy-to-use class dashboard where you can access all of your archive Class Teams. 

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.