Monthly Archives: November 2022

Embedding VR and AR into Microsoft Teams and SharePoint with Avantis Education

Ian Stuart from Avantis Education talks about the power of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality in teaching and learning.

Avantis has supported teachers with classroom technology for almost two decades and now boasts a diverse range of education products, including LearnPad, ClassCharge, ClassConnect and ClassVR.

In this podcast episode, Cloud Design Box’s Darren Hemming talks about ClassVR, Avantis World and creating immersive, 360° experiences for students.


Embedding Virtual Reality learning experiences inside Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.

Avantis World is a virtual reality theme park designed for education. Students and teachers enter the world using VR headsets or any modern browser.

“It’s designed to allow teachers to take their classes to places that would usually be impossible to go to or imagine. Some places in the theme park are galleries you can walk around, and others are fully immersive experiences,” Ian explains.

“For example, we have a digestive system experience where you can turn into a piece of pizza and travel right through the human body. Other examples include renewable energy and photosynthesis.”

VR and AR in Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Avantis adds four to five new experiences every two weeks, and there are currently over 280 in the theme park for educators to choose from.

“Using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, we can ensure the content is getting in front of the right students at the right time,” Ian continues.

As you can see in the video, students and staff can easily access Avantis World from within Teams when it’s added as a channel tab or even from within SharePoint as a learning resource.

Adding VR to Microsoft Teams

Avantis World can be enjoyed by individual students or as a shared, collaborative experience:

“The shared VR experience is powerful and uses gaming technology to allow students and teachers to walk around and talk to each other using their microphones.”

Mimicking real life, the closer you get to each other in the VR, the louder voices become, allowing students to walk around and talk to each other about their learning or approach the area where the teacher is standing to listen and ask questions.

Ian highlights in the podcast that the VR headsets can only be used in a classroom environment as they must use the same network for security purposes, ensuring only the teacher and student access the VR.

“This way, students can work safely on a secure network where no one else can join.”

Avantis World Photosynthesis experience

The possibilities of VR in the classroom are endless, from getting students to imagine the impossible to enabling the class to produce creative, engaging pieces of work for their assignments and revision.

Darren points out:

“Students can take a photo of themselves in the virtual space and add it to their Class Notebook or homework assignments. And teachers could even record themselves in the space, talking about the topic. They could then upload it to their learning resources in SharePoint.”

Teachers can build a VR playlist in ClassVR.

Avantis ClassVR is designed to bring affordable, innovative VR lessons and experiences to schools.

Classes get a set of VR headsets and access to the ClassVR Portal, which is jam-packed with over 12L resources directly aligned to the curriculum.

“Teachers can build up their own playlists, choosing from our library of resources, or even upload their own content,” Ian shows us as he demonstrates how to search the library and add to a playlist, using “Berlin” as a topic example.

The ClassVR Portal

He adds a 360° image of Berlin that the students can walk around alongside some 3D models they can virtually pick up and interact with.

“As the students walk around, teachers see their VR headsets moving on the screen, so you can always check up on students if they look a bit lost or disengaged,” he continues.

ClassVR 360 image

How schools are using VR to enhance teaching and learning.

Your imagination really is the limit with Avantis’ VR tools. During the podcast, Ian talks about a few examples of schools that have created immersive experiences for students.

“One teacher took a 360° image of Glenfinnan Viaduct ahead of a school trip to ease the nerves of some of their students,” he reveals.

“Another great example is when an Australian school used VR to show their students snow for the first time. They used 360° images of snowy places, turned down the air conditioning, and even used crushed ice to create a fully immersive lesson. Afterwards, many students wrote about their experience and connected it with films like Frozen and The Snowman.”

AR 3D models in the classroom

It’s clear that VR allows students to expand their worlds and experience things they may never experience.

“There’s a quote by the philosopher Wittgenstein: ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.’ So if we change that slightly to ‘The limit of my experience is the limit of my world’, it fits with VR in education nicely.”

More information about Avantis World and ClassVR can be found on the Avantis Education website.

If you want to know more about Cloud Design Box and how we can help your school or MAT harness the full power of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, book a free demo today.  

Catch up on all the episodes of our podcast on YouTube, Spotify or on our website.

Setting up a countdown timer on Microsoft Forms

Setting a time limit or countdown for quizzes in Microsoft Forms is a great way to prepare students for exam conditions or set a quick, timed comprehension task during a lesson.

In this guide, we show you how to set up a countdown timer for your next quiz.

Set a countdown timer on your Microsoft Forms quizzes.

Quizzes in Forms are a great way to switch up a lesson or help your students revise a topic.

There are so many different features in Forms to help you build an engaging and interactive quiz, from using different answer types to setting a points system. We’ve previously published a guide on tips for creating great Microsoft Forms quizzes.

But, one of our favourite additions to quizzes is the countdown timer.

How to set up a countdown timer in Microsoft Forms.

Once you have set up your quiz, you can set your countdown timer.

  1. Select the three dots (…) in the top corner of the quiz, next to Collect Responses.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Check Set Time Duration.
  4. In the box, type how many minutes you would like the quiz to be open for. For example, 30 minutes.
  5. Select the three dots (…) to save your settings and head back to the quiz.

Set a countdown timer on your Microsoft Forms quizzes.

Set a deadline for your quiz.

You may also wish to set a deadline for your quiz, which you can do in a similar way to setting a timer.

  1. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above.
  2. Check Start Date and End Date.
  3. Select the start and end date for your quiz.
  4. Select the three dots (…) to save your settings and head back to the quiz.

Set a start and end date on a Microsoft Forms Quiz

Other options for Microsoft Forms quizzes.

There are a few other settings in quizzes that may be useful for teachers.

The Shuffle Questions feature makes the order of the quiz slightly different for each student. Meanwhile, the Show Progress Bar option lets students see how much of the quiz they’ve completed.

Progress Bar on Microsoft Forms Quizzes

As shown in the video, Keith ticks the One Response Per Student box. This is important to note if you don’t want students submitting more than one response!

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How Microsoft Teams and SharePoint facilitate STEM learning at University Technical Colleges

Cloud Design Box recently visited the Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire to get a deeper understanding of how Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are used by students, teachers and senior leadership teams in schools.  

The Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire is one of around 50 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) across the country, purposely built to prepare young people for the world of work. The school focuses on delivering an innovative concept of education to 13-19-year-olds, which combines technical, practical and academic learning.

Microsoft 365 being used in Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire

“Our school offers a mature and professional learning environment designed specifically to prepare students for a broad range of STEM career opportunities,” explains Jen Vincent, Director of Business Development at Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire. 

“Working alongside some of the region’s leading employers and a university partner, our hands-on curriculum incorporates an exciting array of industry-led projects, masterclasses, mentoring sessions and on-site opportunities, allowing students to experience first-hand the pathways available. Nowhere else provides our young people with these opportunities.” 

Our team was thrilled to get the chance to visit the college and see first-hand how our product is used by students and teachers in the classroom, as well as Heads of Departments and Senior Leadership teams.  

Cloud Design Box visits Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire

To start the day, we joined a two-hour session with Year 9 IT students as they worked on a project analysing assignment data and presenting it in a PowerPoint.  

This was followed by a session with Year 10 students, who completed a short project creating a PowerPoint in Teams and SharePoint on how they would improve the software. 

“Working with the Year 9 and 10 students was brilliant, and I loved seeing the amazing presentations students created in Microsoft,” says James Emmett, Onboarding Lead at Cloud Design Box.  

“One of the most notable things highlighted throughout the day was just how important IT is in schools. It has to work properly so that teachers can get on teaching.” 

James Emmett from Cloud Design Box visits Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire Microsoft Teams and SharePoint University Technical College

Cloud Design Box is continuing its close relationship with the UTC and sponsoring them in next year’s Greenpower IET Formula 24 Challenge, which gives 11-16 year olds the opportunity to build and race a Greenpower Kit Car or, using using supplied motor and batteries only, a car of their own design. 

We currently work with the Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire to help the college harness the full power of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. If you would like to know more about how we could support your school and trust, book a demo with us today 

We’re attending The ANME North West Meeting

Cloud Design Box is attending The ANME (Association of Network Managers in Education) North West Meeting on Thursday 24 November.

We’re excited to head over to Bolton later this month to meet network managers who work in schools in the northwest region.

Formed in 2014 by two school network managers, The ANME runs termly meetings and conferences across the UK, especially for network managers in education.

The meetings help make time for networking, general IT discussions, looking at new products and meeting new suppliers.

The North West meeting is sponsored by Cloud Design Box, North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Swivel Secure, Switchshop, Bromcom, Locker, School ICT, NetSupport, Vivi, Academic Software, Atom IT and Lightspeed Systems.

ANME North West Meeting

The ANME is free to join, and the meetings free to attend. You can get a list of all the upcoming ANME events here.

ANME members also access a private member portal, which encourages networking online, as well as during in-person meetings.

Membership is open to all Network Managers, IT Directors, or IT Technicians employed in education, whether primary, secondary, colleges, or universities, and in any sector – state, academy, and independent.

Are you a network manager in the northwest? Come down and say hello at #NW20.

Introducing the new Microsoft Viva Connections Dashboard

The new Microsoft Viva Connections Dashboard allows you to create adaptive cards that give users easy access to key information and quick actions in Teams and SharePoint.  

We’ve already spoken about the power of Microsoft Viva Connections in a previous blog. But, in short, the simple way of describing Viva Connections is “A SharePoint Intranet inside a Microsoft Teams App”; users can access company news, policies, and other published information without having to leave Teams. 

The Microsoft Viva Connections Dashboard makes it even easier to improve employee experience with quick links to the latest news and information that is relevant to them.

Here’s how it looks in SharePoint and how it will look in the future Viva Connections tab in the Teams app (yet to be released):

The New Microsoft Viva Connections Dashboard

How to set up your Microsoft Viva Connections Dashboard. 

In this video, Tony walks you through how to set up the Viva Connections Dashboard.


You can create the Viva Connections Dashboard inside SharePoint. 

  1. Go to SharePoint.
  2. Click Settings and Manage Viva Connections.
  3. Select Create Dashboard. A blank page will appear.  
  4. Select Edit in the top right-hand corner (similar to editing a SharePoint site). 
  5. Add cards to your dashboard (see more about cards below). 
  6. Hit Republish to save your Dashboard. It is now ready to add to your SharePoint page.  
Tip: Switch between the Mobile and Desktop view to ensure it looks great and is compatible on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Add a card to your Microsoft Viva Connections Dashboard. 

Cards in Viva Connections are similar to the cards and web parts in SharePoint. They can be set up to pull key information from Microsoft 365 and Active Directory in a user-friendly way. 

  1. Select Add a card to open up the different card options. 
  2. Select the card you wish to add (descriptions of each card can be found below). 
  3. Add a heading and description. 
  4. Select the size you would like the card to be. 
  5. Choose a target audience (optional).  
Tip: Rearrange your cards by selecting them and dragging and dropping them. You may want to place more recent cards towards the top of your dashboard to ensure they’re seen. 

You have a good range of built-in card options, including:  

  • Assigned Tasks – Manage your team’s work, assign tasks and track tasks. 
  • Approvals – Vacation requests, sign-off documents, approve expense reports 
  • Card designer – Create your own cards. 
  • Shifts – Display info about the next or current shift from the Shifts app in Teams 
  • Teams app – Open a Teams personal app 
  • Top News – Shows news from SharePoint 
  • Web link – Access a site without leaving the Viva Connections app.  

We have also created our own Viva Adaptive Cards, exclusive to our customers: 

Highlight Employee Viva Adaptive Card. 

Showcase an employee on your dashboard with the Highlight Employee card, allowing users to click on the card to email and chat with the highlighted user. 

There are quite a few reasons you may want to highlight a specific employee. For example, to celebrate an employee’s achievements, or share their details with your team if they need to contact the person to RSVP to an event.  

To set up Highlight Employee: 

  1. Add the Highlight Employee card to your dashboard. 
  2. Type an employee’s name and select from the drop-down list.
  3. Choose whether to show their job title. 
  4. Select the card size and audience to target. 
  5. Hit Republish to publish this card.  
  6. Users will now have the option to email and chat with the highlighted employee. 

Line manager Viva Adaptive Card. 

Display a profile of the user’s manager with the Line Manager card, allowing users to click on the card to email and chat with the highlighted manager. 

To set up Line manager. 

  1. Add the Line Manager card to your dashboard. This will look up in Active Directory who the user’s line manager is and automatically pull in their details. 
  2. You can edit the title, card size and audience for this card.
  3. Hit Republish to publish this card. 
  4. Users will now have the option to email and chat with their line manager.  

Word of the day card. 

The Word of the Day card automatically update your dashboard with a new word every day. It is similar to our Word of the Day web part that we created for SharePoint. 

  1. Add the Word of the Day card to your dashboard.  
  2. You can edit the card title, size and target audience. 
  3. You can also choose from different Word Banks (that we will expand over time). 
  4. Hit Republish to publish this card. 
  5. This will automatically update your dashboard with a new word every day. 

Add your Viva Connections Dashboard to your SharePoint page. 

  1. Go to your SharePoint home page. 
  2. Create a new section by selecting the plus icon in the left side panel.  
  3. From here, you can add the Dashboard for Viva Connections like you would add a SharePoint web part.  
  4. This automatically pulls in your cards from your dashboard.  

When the Viva Connections App is released, you’ll be able to access your cards via your mobile app and do quick actions at the touch of a button.  

Microsoft is going to be developing Viva Connections heavily over the next year, so we’re really excited to see it evolve into something really handy for employees.  

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