Category Archives: Cloud Design Box News

A strategy to adopt Microsoft Teams successfully in a school or MAT – Free webinar

We are hosting a free webinar for schools, academies and trusts focusing on how you can successfully adopt and roll out Microsoft Teams, without wasting time or money.  

One of the main challenges we see schools and MATs face when rolling out new technology is user adoption.  

There’s a central group of tech-savvy staff who pick up the new software straight away and begin using it in their classrooms, but there’s always a section that gets left behind without proper support or training.  

This results in a disjointed situation where learning resources are scattered across different platforms and servers and there is no cohesion in how students are being taught across their subjects.  

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of schools to move to Microsoft Teams or other digital platforms to provide blended learning to students whether they were working in the classroom or at home. This has only added to the number of schools that now lack a long-term strategy to get real tangible benefits that reach far beyond the pandemic.  

Event link: A strategy to adopt Microsoft Teams successfully in a school or MAT. Sign up for free.

In an upcoming free webinar, we give you a tried-and-tested strategy to adopt Microsoft Teams successfully in your school or MAT. 

During the session, we’ll run through the key steps we take with schools across the UK to help them roll out Teams successfully; everything from communicating your initial vision and setting milestones to delivering training and measuring user adoption.  

I don’t want to exaggerate, but I think this is a revolutionary moment for us. Cloud Design Box is exceptionally good at working with a range of people. They can speak to the technical roles within the school, but what makes them stand out is their ability to explain it to teachers, like myself, who aren’t that technical.” – Chris Panting, Headteacher at The Ashcombe School. 

The webinar takes place on Microsoft Teams from 2pm – 3pm BST on 21 October 2021. 

Everyone is welcome to join in, whether you’re already using Microsoft Teams or considering rolling it out across your school or trust in the future.  

Sign up to A strategy to adopt Microsoft Teams successfully in a school or MAT right now.

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:

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.

Why Should Your School or Trust Use Microsoft School Data Sync? 

When considering Teams for your school, there are several different approaches, you can create your own Class Teams manually, use a PowerShell script or take advantage of Microsoft’s School Data Sync.  

Below, we have rounded up the pros and cons of each method so you can decide which is best for your school, academy or multi-academy trust.  

Create your own classes manually. 

Teachers can create their own Class Teams and manually add or remove students as and when they join or leave the school. 

However, this process is very time consuming and needs to be repeated every new school year, with the teacher also responsible for keeping track of new students and those that may leave the school.  

This is more suited to primary schools or smaller schools where there aren’t that many classes to create and maintain.  

Pros: 

  • Teachers can quickly create and maintain their own Class Teams. 
  • No additional coding or script is needed.  

Cons: 

  • It’s time-consuming. 
  • Whole school reporting is limited. 
  • No standardisation across Teams. 
  • No parental engagement tools. 
  • Manual archiving rollover process each academic year. 

Use a PowerShell script. 

A PowerShell script can be generated to create your Class Team as a one-off or ongoing link via your school’s MIS. This creates the classes and keeps them updated, however, there are limits to using PowerShell, such as some functionality that is provided by Microsoft School Data Sync.  

Pros:  

  • Less time consuming than manually creating your Class Teams.  

Cons: 

  • Limited functionality when it comes to whole school reports.  
  • Some features provided by Microsoft School Data Sync are not available with PowerShell. 
  • Scripts required to archive classes and roll over the academic year. 
  • No parental engagement tools.  

 

Use Microsoft School Data Sync.

Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) is recommended best practice when creating and maintaining Class Teams. 

Not only are there several APIs and third-party products to help you automate a lot of the process, but there are many added benefits to using SDS.   

Firstly, you’re able to include additional information to your data set, including grades (year groups), courses (subjects), schools and more, which enables you to report on insights across the entire school. These reports help your leadership team improve user adoption and provide support where needed.  

At the end of each academic year, there is a clear rollover and clean-up process, automatically linking up with your MIS and allowing all students and staff  (new and continuing) access to everything they need while removing permissions of school leavers and former members of staff.   

Another useful feature is the parental engagement tools – SDS uploads guardian information to automate weekly email digests of work set through Teams for their children.  

Microsoft is continually working on new features to support the ever-changing landscape of education and blended learning. In fact, it’s going to be rolled up into a bigger Microsoft Data Sync model, so you may see a name change shortly, but the data strategy will still be as powerful, if not more.  

Pros: 

  • Automated creation of Class Teams linked to MIS. 
  • Automated roundup sent to parents/guardians of their child’s work. 
  • In-depth school/trust-wide reports that enable you to provide better leadership, training and support to your students and staff.  
  • Easy-to-use rollover process – no manual set up each academic year.  

Cons: 

  • Third-party products may be required to set up a live link with School MIS because doing it manually with CSVs can be time-consuming. 

Microsoft School Data Sync is best suited to schools, academies and multi-academy trusts that wish to save teacher time, achieve more with their data and support students in a blended learning approach.  

Already have Microsoft School Data Sync? Talk to us about how we can extend this to provide central resource areas, SharePoint intranets, Class Cover tools and much more

Not set up with Microsoft School Data Sync? We can help you get started and future-proof your Class Teams setup. Contact us for a friendly chat with one of our Education Experts.  

Webinar: Safeguarding in Microsoft Class Teams with Senso Cloud

Cloud Design Box is partnering with Senso Cloud to deliver a free live workshop on Safeguarding in Microsoft Class Teams. Sign-up for free here.

Senso Cloud

Senso Cloud provides real-time monitoring of Teams chat using AI and we are working with them to help our customers safeguard online learning in Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.

With the rapid increase of remote learning during the last year, teachers and school staff have raised concerns about monitoring activity within Class Teams, for example when students are working in breakout rooms and have the ability to chat via Teams.

“Senso has provided us with an excellent and ever-evolving safeguarding solution for some time now, enabling us to monitor effectively what pupils do on our devices, with the exponential increase in remote learning through Microsoft Teams,” says Alan Hughes of Holgate Primary School.

In this informative, interactive session, teachers and school staff will discover more about how we can help them safeguard their school and students while using Microsoft Teams to communicate, collaborate and learn.

Senso Cloud enables teachers to monitor Teams, including the Private Chat feature, to give schools confidence and improve student wellbeing.

“With Senso monitoring, we’re able to make full use of Teams, knowing that we can monitor Chat for safeguarding concerns. It’s easy to use and we’re aware of any incidents with students within a few seconds,” says James Durrant of Oaklands Catholic School and Sixth Form College.

Teams Safeguarding with Senso Cloud takes place on Tuesday 23 March at 11am. Book your free place now.

How To Manage Class Cover in Microsoft Teams with Cloud Design Box

Schools are currently facing additional challenges when managing class cover as a result of a teacher being absent due to sickness, needing to self-isolate or be re-deployed to teach key worker students.

Cloud Design Box has created a solution that allows schools 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:

Select a member of staff to temporarily assign them to a Class Team. This is usually a member of the leadership team or another user with permissions.

Select teacher and class to cover

The next step is to set a date for when the teacher needs to be removed from this Class Team. For example, if they are covering during a teacher’s 10-day isolation period.

Select a date for the cover to end

Selecting Save immediately gives access to the chosen member of staff to have access to that Class Team. This enables them to teach the class and access the correct learning resources until they are automatically removed from the Class Team on the chosen date.

The current class cover is displayed in the Existing Cover log.

Existing Cover

Previously, this could be achieved through the school MIS, however, with the current circumstances, we knew that schools needed a more flexible and accessible option.

Our Class Cover Manager is rolling out throughout February for our Silver, Gold and Platinum customers. If you’re one of these schools, you don’t need to do anything, the feature will appear in your portal shortly.


If you have any questions on how to manage class cover and achieve more with blended learning in Microsoft Teams, please contact a member of our team today.

Watch the class cover video guide below:



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

A Huge Welcome for Our New Support Technicians

We’ve recently welcomed two new starters to the Cloud Design Box team.

Since March, we have been operating fully remotely, supporting our existing clients, as well as other schools, multi-academy trusts and businesses who need a helping hand transitioning to the cloud.

This increase in demand for remote learning, blended teaching and cloud-based resources has meant a need for us to expand our Support Team.

Abdallah and Steve are our new Support Technicians and will be working to respond and resolve your support tickets.

Abdallah

Abdallah has a passion for learning new technology and, as a good Samaritan, he regularly enjoys supporting deaf individuals at his local youth centre.

“I am excited to work with Cloud Design Box, it’s a great opportunity for me to learn how to build and support this amazing technology,” he says.

“In my previous job, I was a user of SharePoint and it’s simply amazing. Everything you need is in one centralised area and document collaboration makes it a lot easier to create and store files.”

Prior to joining the Cloud Design Box Team, Abdallah worked as an IT Support Analyst for a national care company. He was responsible for supporting thousands of staff across the company.

Abdallah decided to take a break from IT to try and figure out which career path he wanted to take. To his surprise, Cloud Design Box got in touch and we both quickly realised he was perfect for the role.

“The team is fantastic. We’re a small team, but it just goes to show, it’s not about the quantity, but the quality of people,” he adds.

Steve

Steve Hill is also thrilled to jump on board to support schools, academies, multi-academy trusts and businesses.

“I worked in IT support within both education and business for around 20 years,” he says.

“I’m mostly looking forward to learning new things with Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Teams.”

Steve started his career in education in 1999 and moved across to business IT support eight years ago. He’s now supporting both the education and business sector in his role at Cloud Design Box.

Welcoming new members of the team during a pandemic has been challenging, but with the help of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, we are able to stay connected while working remotely.

Cloud Design Box Team

You can find more about our growing team at www.clouddesignbox.co.uk/about.