Monthly Archives: September 2023

How senior leaders in education can make the most of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint have emerged as powerful platforms for schools and multi academy trusts (MATS), facilitating collaboration, improving communication and driving up the quality of teaching and learning. 

In this guide, we showcase some of the ways in which Microsoft 365 is supporting our MAT customers in accelerating digital transformation and streamlining senior leadership. 

Here’s an example of one trust-level intranet site we’ve created:


Build trust-wide communication

One of the biggest challenges for MATs is managing trust-wide communication, whether it’s distributing resources, informing staff of new policies, sharing best practices or publishing news and announcements.  

It’s challenging in two key ways: 

  • Getting information out to the right groups of people. 
  • Delivering the content in an engaging way.  

With SharePoint, you can bring together your entire trust with dynamic central hubs where you can tailor and share content for specific groups of staff, students and even parents.  

A centralised SharePoint intranet allows you to create a place where everyone can get the latest news, updates, announcements and resources.  

Not only does this help senior leaders to communicate the important stuff, but it also cuts down the amount of emails being sent, received and forgotten about in people’s already-overloaded inboxes.  

A main school or trust homepage can be created in SharePoint; this can be a central hub for school news, announcements, events and resources everyone needs on a regular basis.  

Design a SharePoint homepage

Here’s a full guide on how to design a great SharePoint school homepage, but here are some ideas to get you going: 

*Cloud Design Box customer exclusive. 

Meanwhile, areas for specific departments, subjects, year groups, and more can be created, with user permissions set up only to allow access to those who need it. 

Again, you can fill these hubs with all the information staff and/or students need about that specific topic. For example, a list of quick links to resources, a section for upcoming dates, links to resource libraries, an FAQs section and more. 

You can use a combination of SharePoint and Teams to have a designated place for each type of update or announcement.  

Add a news feed to your SharePoint homepage to share announcements and news.

The Call To Action SharePoint Web Part is a Cloud Design Box exclusive feature that allows you to quickly create professional-looking and eye-catching call to actions on your SharePoint sites. 

call to action banners in SharePoint

And, with the CDB Section Breaks Web Part, you can make sure your sites look interesting and professionally designed.

CDB Section Breaks


Here’s a guide on how to easily share news onto a SharePoint site and post documents as news in SharePoint. 

Create Eye-catching announcements in Microsoft Teams

Alternatively, you can share important announcements to specific groups in Teams.

Facilitate collaboration and improve quality of learning resources

Centralising learning resources in SharePoint and Teams allows your trust to build a powerful library of materials that can be shared, reused and improved year after year.

Instead of ten teachers creating ten versions of the same document, you can pool together your resources and free up time to spend on other areas, like grading, working with students or professional development (or even just taking a break!). 

centralising resources

With Microsoft 365, teachers can co-author Word Documents, PowerPoints, Excel Spreadsheets, and more in real-time with colleagues.

Why spend hours creating a resource from scratch that your colleague has already spent time making?   

Instead, easily and securely share, edit and co-create documents with others in your school, academy or trust.   

sharing resources

And, when everything is centralised in the cloud, resources can be used and improved upon year after year.

Here are some more ways that your teachers can save time creating learning resources with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. 

With our Cloud Box solution, we manage your end-of-year process, so you don’t have to.  
Using our subject and department teams, you don’t need to start from scratch every academic year. It helps save teacher time by having a single approved set of resources. SLT can easily keep track of the quality of resources being used in their department.
We use Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) to start a rollover and clean-up process; our centralised resource areas allow you to reuse resources year after year, while the Class Dashboard enables students to easily access archived Teams from previous academic years.

Connect across different schools

Getting everyone from the different schools in your trust in the same room can be difficult for MATs.

Microsoft Teams empowers MATs to function as one unified entity, regardless of physical distances between schools.

For example, you can create dedicated Teams channels for certain staff groups to instant message colleagues to discuss the latest projects.

Meanwhile, video calls in Teams bring everyone together and reduce the need for in-person meetings.

What’s more, you can record and store Teams meetings in OneDrive for rewatch later or if colleagues cannot make the call.

meeting recording

OneNote is another great tool for staff collaboration. You can create a Staff Notebook that sits within Teams that facilitates collaboration, saves time and keeps everything organised and in one place.

Create a Team Staff Notebook

Find more time in your day

As SLT in a MAT, there’s always something to do, whether it’s strategic planning, staff management, curriculum development, policy management, budget management or looking after student and staff welfare.

With a combination of tools in Microsoft 365 and Cloud Design Box’s purpose-built education solutions, senior leaders are able to find more time in their day to focus on the important stuff.

Check in with students and staff

Reflect check-ins in Class Notebook are a brilliant way for teachers to get a good understanding of which students may need additional support or guidance. 

Find out more about Reflect here.

Check Reflect check-in responses

Get insights into teaching and learning

Microsoft Teams Insights can help in providing detailed information on student engagement.

In these video guides, we take you through adding the insights tab to Class Teams and how to use it to track student usage, assessment trends, digital activity and much more.

Manage class cover quickly

Cloud Design Box’s Class Cover Manager allows SLT to quickly and easily organise class cover, making sure the member of staff has temporary access to the right learning resources and Class Team within seconds.

Here’s how to get started with our Class Cover Manager tool.

Organise class cover quickly in Microsoft Teams with CDB Portal

Search for student assignments

Our new Student Assignment Search allows you to effortlessly search for a student and view all of their Microsoft Teams assignments. As a head of year or registration group teacher, you can use this tool to support students with their workload or quickly check the status of assignments.

This feature not only displays current assignments but also allows you to view all past assignments. You will see the name and status of each assignment, as well as the class name and subject.

Assignment Search Feature

Select an assignment to delve deeper, where you can easily access teacher comments and view the assignment grade. The user can easily start a Teams chat with the person who set the assignment or send them an email.

Speak to our team today to find out how your school or MAT can make the most of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.



We’re at The MAT Growth Conference 2023 

Cloud Design Box are attending this autumn’s MAT Growth Conference, hosted by The Multi Academy Trust Association (MATA).  

The one-day conference focuses on “leadership for growth” and features a variety of keynote sessions and workshops focusing on:  

  • Growing into a sustainable trust 
  • Improving the onboarding process for schools 
  • Understanding the latest in Ofsted’s role for MATs 
  • Growing beyond your locality, breaking barriers to further regional growth 
  • Creating a shared vision, ensuring all stakeholders and the organisation are on board 
  • Improving the outcomes for RI/inadequate schools when joining your MAT 
  • Strategies to improving your collaboration across the trust 

MAT Growth Conference

The day concludes with an interactive panel discussion, which explores the strategies and best practices for building strong interpersonal relationships and promoting effective collaboration in a MAT.  

The expert panellists, which include Sam Henson, Director or Policy at the National Governance Association and three representatives from several multi academy trusts, will share their experiences and perspectives on how to foster communication, trust and a shared vision.  

Who are MATA? 

The Multi Academy Trust Association (MATA) is ran by MAT leaders and is on a mission to support the growing community of trust leaders to collaborate and network with one another.  

Cloud Design Box Team Photo

Speak with Cloud Design Box at The MAT Growth Conference  

Our team will be on hand to speak to MAT leaders about streamlining communication across the trust and providing a solution that ensures quality across the MAT with a consistent set up as new schools are onboarded.  

We support trusts across the UK in creating a powerful central hub that fosters a culture of collaboration and communication, streamlines senior leadership and gives teachers and students the tools they need to teach and learn inside and outside the classroom.  

The MAT Growth Conference 2023 takes place on 3 October 2023 at 15Hatfields in London. Tickets are free for education professionals. 

Quick TIP | Add Timer to a Quiz in Microsoft Teams Assignments

MS Forms is an excellent way to make quizzes to test your students. The latest MS Teams update makes setting up timers in forms super-easy. This blog post shows you how to do just that, saving you time in the classroom, leading to a smoother learning experience for your students.

Set timer in Microsoft Forms

Previously, timers had to be added within Microsoft Forms. Now they can be set up in Assignments within Teams.

  • 1. Attach a form/quiz to your assignment.
  • 2. Tap on the attached form/quiz to open it.

Select a quiz or form in Assignments in Microsoft Teams

  • 3. This takes you into Microsoft Forms. Hit the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the window.
  • 4. Select Settings.

Settings for a form or quiz in Microsoft Teams Assignments

  • 5. Scroll down to the Options for Responses section.
  • 6. Tick the box next to Set Time Duration.
  • 7. Choose How Many Minutes you’d like to give your students to fill out the form/complete the quiz.

Set time limit for timer in Assignments for Microsoft Teams

Set timer in assignments

  • 1. Open the assignment.
  • 2. Add a form to the assignment.
  • 3. Hit the Drop-down Menu next to the Timer Icon.
  • 4. Select the desired form/quiz time limit.

Set timer settings from Assignments page in MS Teams

Timer from students’ perspective

Desktop view

A time limit is now displayed at the start of the quiz/form.

Timer now shows in forms or on a quiz in Teams

After the student selects Click to Start, the timer will begin the count down at the top of the forms window.

Student view desktop form quiz Teams timer

Mobile view

Like the desktop view, on a Mobile Device, the timer will still be displayed at the top of the screen, even if the student scrolls down the page.

Mobile view student forms assignment quiz MS Teams timer

The students also have the option to minimise the timer using the small arrow if they find the timeline distracting.

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Microsoft Teams’ latest update simplifies the process of setting up timers for forms/quizzes, saves teachers time and boosts classroom efficiency.

Contact Cloud Design Box to find out how we can help you improve collaboration and communication with an intranet.

Exciting updates to Microsoft Class Team Assignments in 2023

The new updates to Microsoft Class Teams Assignments in 2023 have really impressed us, so today we’re going through some of the top changes we know are enhancing both the teacher and student experience.

Joe runs through each feature in this video guide:

New assignment creation layout

The new layout of Create Assignment places a stronger emphasis on instructions and gives more space for teachers to provide clear assignment guidelines for students.  

Microsoft has made it even easier to attach resources, which are clearly visible under the instructions box.  

Meanwhile, the assignment details are neatly organised into dropdown menus on the right side of the screen, eliminating the need for constant scrolling.  

Improved layout for Microsoft Teams Assignments

Quick assign to classes

Microsoft has also added the ability to assign tasks to multiple classes simultaneously.  

Simply tap the dropdown menu and select the classes you want to assign this assignment to. You can also search specific class names in the search bar.  

Set assignments for multiple classes in Teams Assignments

Attach to Classwork

A new Select a module option has been added to Assignments. This integrates with the brand new Classwork feature in Class Teams.  

We have released a full guide on Classwork if you want to find out more.  

To select a module for your assignment, tap the Select a module dropdown and select the module(s) you wish to associate this assignment with.  

Link assignments to Classwork Modules in Microsoft Teams

Student preview 

At the bottom of Assignments, you can now switch to Student View. This allows teachers to preview how your class will see the assignment when they open it.  

It’s a handy way to check everything is in order and nothing is missing.  

Preview your Teams assignments with Student View

Schedule shortcut  

The Assign button has also had an update and now includes a shortcut.  

Tap the arrow to schedule the Assignment for a later date and time.

Schedule assignments in the future with Teams Assignments

While the ability to schedule an assignment for the future was already available in Class Teams, it was a bit hidden. So, this new update makes it a lot easier and quicker for teachers to set and schedule assignments.  

New tabs layout in Assignments

The layout of Assignments in Teams has been improved with the addition of tabs across the top of the page, which allow you to quickly flick through forthcoming, ready-to-grade, past due, returned and draft assignments. 

The Ready to Grade tab is a favourite of ours because if you find that you’ve got a little bit of marking time, you can jump in and see if there are any assignments ready to grade.

New tabs in Teams Assignments make it even easier to manage and grade assignments

The status bar shows you how many pieces of work are ready to grade within that assignment.  

Return graded assignments to multiple students

A very small-yet-powerful enhancement to the grading area is the Return to multiple feature. 

We can now toggle select students and perform actions for multiple students at once.  

Alternatively, if you like to grade everyone’s work before returning it all at the same time, you can check the box at the top of the student list to select all students and then tap Return. 

Return graded assignments to multiple students at once with Teams Assignments (2)

Mark assignments as inactive  

Another addition to Microsoft Teams Assignments that has been highly requested by teachers is the option to Mark as inactive. 

Tap the three dots (…) in the corner of the selected assignment page and select Mark as inactive. 

This allows you to remove assignments from the Due area and it can help clear up the Assignment space for you and your students.  

Instead, it’s placed in the Returned tab and can no longer be accessed by students, but we can reactivate it at a later date.  

Mark assignments as inactive in Teams Assignments

Quick Actions 

A further great update is Quick Actions, which you can find by tapping the three dots (…) next to any assignment on the main Assignment page.  

From here, you can Edit, Copy Link, Duplicate, Mark as inactive or Delete the assignment.  

New Quick Actions saving teachers time in Teams Assignments

Grade Weighting  

You can now create Weighted grading categories.  

You need to switch Weighted grading categories on in Assignment settings.  

Weighted grading categories provide your students with an overall percentage grade based on the different weightings and different assignments that you can set.   

For example, you can set up homework as making up 20% of a student’s grade, quizzes as 30% and in-class assignments at 50%. 

Weighted Grading Categories in Microsoft Teams

Show average grade 

Also, in Assignment Settings, you can allow students to view their average grades and trend over time.  

Go to the cog icon to open Assignment settings, scroll to Grade settings and toggle on Average Grade. 

Allow students to see their average grade and trend chart in Teams Assignments

Bookmark grade filters  

Filters can be used in Grades to narrow down your search to a select time period. For example, Today, This Week, Previous Week etc.  

You can bookmark those filters so you can quickly get back to that view the next time you’re in Grades.  

Tip: You can also choose to Hide inactive assignments now that you can mark assignments as inactive.  

Bookmark filters in Microsoft Class Teams Grades to save time

One-minute trick for a professional-looking SharePoint site – CDB Section Breaks Web Part

We’re thrilled to announce the release of the new CDB Section Breaks SharePoint Web Part, which adds a new dimension to your SharePoint page design.

The CDB Section Breaks Web Part allows you to create different shaped sections on your SharePoint sites, for example curved or zigzag lines that add more flare and visual interest to otherwise static and square pages.

CDB Section Breaks

In this video, Tony shows you the different design choices and how you can easily create a more dynamic and exciting SharePoint site.


How to add attractive section breaks to your SharePoint sites

Start by editing your SharePoint site.

  1. Scroll down to where you’d like to add the new section break and select the + button to Add a new section.
  2. Add a Full-Width Section.

Add a full-width section in SharePoint

3. Select CDB Section Breaks. This adds a default curved section break, but you can pick from a long list of design options.

4. Tap the pencil tool in the top-left corner of your new CDB Section Breaks Web Part.

5. Select the type of section break you’d like to add. For example, Curves, Circles, Castle, Chequered, Clouds, Triangle, Mountains, Paint, Round, Waves and Zigzag.

zigzag sharepoint

6. Select Republish in the top-right-hand corner. An example question and answer section will appear. 

Change the colour of your CDB section breaks.

Changing the colour of your CDB section breaks is easy. You can change the colour to any colour within your organisation’s pre-set colour palette. We recommend changing it to the same colour as the adjacent section so it flows nicely as you scroll down the page.

  1. Select Edit Section on your Section Break.
  2. In the Configuration menu, you can Select Image Shading to change the colour of the section break or Select Background Shading to change the colour underneath the section break.

Change the colour of your section breaks in SharePoint

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The CDB Sections Breaks web part for SharePoint is only available to Cloud Design Box customers. If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.