Category Archives: Microsoft 365

What is Microsoft Viva Connections? – Integrating a SharePoint intranet with Teams

Microsoft Viva Connections is a great way to communicate and publish information to users in Microsoft Teams. If you are already familiar with SharePoint, then the simple way of describing Viva Connections is “A SharePoint Intranet inside a Microsoft Teams App”. It means that users can access company news, policies, and other published information without having to leave Teams.

During the pandemic, Teams has been an important communication tool for organisations. Users can chat and collaborate as they work in the office or from home. However, to access published organisation information such as news, policies, human resources, etc, users would have to open a browser and go to the organisation intranet. Viva connections brings all of this inside the Teams app to help streamline the organisation’s working practice.

How to setup Viva Connections.

In this video, we show you what Viva Connections looks like and how to set it up. Please note that Viva Connections requires a SharePoint intranet before setting up. If you need help with SharePoint or Teams, get in touch with one of our experts.



Access the Microsoft guide here.

If you would like to find out more about how Cloud Design Box can help you get more out of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, contact one of our experts today.


Cloud Design Box

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.  

How To Share Pages From Non-Class Notebooks to a Student’s Class Notebook in Teams and OneNote 

In this guide, we show you how to distribute a page from a non Class Notebook to a students’ Class Notebook within a Class Team.  

Here we have a Notebook that has been stored within an English resources folder on SharePoint. Within the Notebook, there’s a worksheet that we need to distribute to the Year 7 English students’ Class Notebooks. 

Select Class Notebook.  

Note: If this button is not visible, select Open in Desktop App from the top navigation bar. If the button still isn’t visible, it needs to be activated via the three-dot (…) menu and Settings in the top-right corner of the screen. 

Once you have selected Class Notebook, select Distribute page to bring up a number of options. 

Open Notebook Distribution

Choose Cross Notebook Distribution to bring up all the Notebooks of the classes you teach.  

From here, you can select the Notebooks you wish to share it to. E.g. “English Year 11” 

Select Student Section

You must then select a student section in the selected Notebook to share the Notebook to. E.g. “Homework”. This action distributes the worksheet from your Non-Class Notebook to your selected students’ Notebooks. In this case, “English Year 11”.   

How To Share Pages From Non-Class Notebooks to a Student’s Class Notebook in Teams and OneNote

Head to your selected Class Team to check whether it has been shared to the Class Notebooks. As you can see, the worksheet is now in the students’ Notebooks. 

Watch a step-by-step guide on how to lock your collaboration space in Class Teams: 

If you have any questions on how to share pages from non-Class Notebooks to a student’s Class Notebook, please contact a member of our team today.



How To Turn Off The Chat Feature in Class Teams

The chat feature in Microsoft Teams is a useful tool that allows students to communicate with their teachers and peers during online lessons. However, there may be times where the chat feature isn’t necessary and is causing distractions during lesson time.

Similar to the mute feature on Teams, this can easily be controlled and turned off, enabling you to teach without any interruptions. 

There are two simple ways to turn off the chat function, this can be done before or during your online lesson:

Disable chat function in Class Teams before your lesson.

You can disable the chat function before your lesson starts through Meeting options. This can be accessed on the calendar entry for your meeting.

Meeting options is found under Details on the calendar entry. 

Disable chat function in Class Teams before your lesson.

When the Meeting options menu appears, you can disable the meeting chat, along with other options for your meeting, such as who can present and allowing your students to un-mute themselves. 

To turn off the chat feature, change the Allow meeting chat option from enabled to disabled. Make sure to click Save after – this disables the chat function and activates any other changes you’ve made. 

Turn off chat function in Class Teams before your lesson.

Your students are made aware that the chat function isn’t available in the chat window when the lesson starts. 

Turn off chat function in Class Teams before your lesson.

Disable chat function in Class Teams during your lesson.

Teachers can also disable the chat function during the lesson. This can be useful when you want to disable the chat during certain parts of your lesson. 

At the top of your screen, there are a few options that allow you to control your meeting. To disable the chat function, you need to select the more actions menu (…).

When the drop-down menu appears, select Meeting options

To turn off the chat feature, change the Allow meeting chat option from enabled to disabled. Make sure to click Save after – this disables the chat function and activates any other changes you’ve made. 

Disable chat function in Class Teams during your lesson.

Enable chat function in Class Teams during your lesson.

At some point during your lesson, you may want to turn on the chat function to allow your students to communicate again. This can be done the same way by selecting Meeting options and enabling Allow meeting chat

Enable chat function in Class Teams during your lesson.

Using Meeting options is a great way to control your lessons and prevent any distractions during lesson time. The simplicity of this process also allows you to quickly change these options during your lessons giving you the freedom to activate and deactivate at any time and allowing students to contribute and communicate at the right times to enhance their learning. 

Enable chat function in Class Teams during your lesson.

Watch our step-by-step video on how to turn off the chat feature in Class Teams:



Free Events For Schools Wanting To Achieve More With Microsoft Teams

Cloud Design Box and SalamanderSoft have partnered up to design and deliver three free webinars tailored to schools, academies and Multi Academy Trusts who are looking to make the most out of remote and blended learning with Microsoft Teams.

Throughout January and February, the training sessions are free to anyone who works at a school, college, academy or multi academy trust.

“We understand the pressure teachers have experienced during the last year, and with the new Covid-19 restrictions resulting in many schools juggling remote and in-classroom learning, it’s easy for them to feel overwhelmed and struggle to find the time to adapt lesson plans and materials,” says Tony Phillips, Founder of Cloud Design Box.

“Our sessions aim to show schools how to make the most of the digital tools available, avoid duplication of work, save time on admin and find more time to focus on their students.”

Below is an outline of each webinar:


Getting started with Microsoft Teams


Getting Started With Microsoft Teams – Thursday 28 January @ 10am

In this session, teachers can learn how best to use Teams to support home and blended learning with confidence, providing some actionable tips on how both staff and students can get started with Microsoft 365.


Planning Long Term User Adoption with Microsoft Teams


Planning Long Term User Adoption of Microsoft Teams in Schools and MATs – Thursday 28 January @ 3pm

When adopting any new technology, it’s crucial to bring everyone along on the journey with you – not just the tech-savvy members of staff.

Teams is no different. In this session, SalamanderSoft and the Cloud Design Box training team walk you through how to plan for long-term success with Teams, without leaving anyone behind.


Best Practices with Microsoft Teams


Best Practices with Microsoft Teams – Tuesday 2 February @ 10am

Specially-designed around overworked teachers who are struggling with Teams, this webinar demonstrates how you can eliminate additional work by collaborating on resources in a centralised location.

Department leaders learn how they can free up their staff’s time by using these tried-and-tested best practices.


Wilberforce College


Best Practices using Microsoft Teams with Wilberforce College – Wednesday 24 February @ 11am

Over the last year, Cloud Design Box has been working with schools and colleges across the country to support them with Covid-19 school closures and homeschooling through training and strategy sessions, as well as software set up and implementation.

One of these customers is Hull-based Wilberforce College:

“We realised that our students didn’t necessarily have access to lots of digital devices at home, and this was impacting on their ability to carry out independent work. We thought that by using one single platform where they could access all of their learning content on one app would be the best way forward. And that’s why we chose Teams and Cloud Design Box,” says Jonathan Butler, Assistant Principal (Teaching and Learning) at Wilberforce College.

“We’ve been looking for something like Teams for a long time and it’s changed the game for us during lockdown,” says Ashley Howe, STEM Faculty Head at Wilberforce College.

Wilberforce College using Microsoft Teams

Thanks to Cloud Design Box’s product and training, Wilberforce College has become the only educational institution in Hull and the East Riding to be awarded status as an EdTech DfE Demonstrator College.

“Without the help of Cloud Design Box, we would have never been in the position to achieve this,” says Jonathan Butler.

Cloud Design Box’s training sessions, up until now, have been primarily exclusive to existing customers. However, we are now opening up free places to anyone who works in a school and wants to develop their understanding of Microsoft Teams and how it can be used to deliver learning in and outside of the classroom.

Partner company SalamanderSoft supports Cloud Design Box’s product with its own technology and is looking forward to sharing their knowledge with teachers and school staff:

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Cloud Design Box over the past few years, and we’re very happy to be able to offer these sessions alongside them, to help schools get the most from Microsoft Teams as easily as possible,” says Jon Atkinson, Managing Director of SalamanderSoft.

To find out more about Cloud Design Box’s latest free and virtual events, please head to www.clouddesignbox.co.uk/events.

Add shortcut to OneDrive guide

SharePoint is a great place for a school or business to store shared resources. However, it can be difficult to keep track of all the different document locations. The new “Add shortcut to OneDrive” feature is a great way of keeping track of all the documents you use on a regular basis. Not only does it show the shared locations on the web, but it also maps to the OneDrive app for easy access on your windows 10 device.



Get started by finding your favourite SharePoint library.

SharePoint Library

Click the “Add shortcut to OneDrive” button. Simple!

How does it work?

Open OneDrive in the web. There is now a link to the SharePoint library (remember it is still shared and has not moved, it is just a link).
OneDrive on the web

It will have also synced to the desktop app so you can access all the SharePoint files as if it were a mapped drive on your local machine.

Desktop App

Any windows 10 device using this account will have the link to the SharePoint library, so you are ready to work anywhere on any device.

We found that this button saved so much time compared to syncing individual SharePoint libraries on each device we used.

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.

Setting Team Policies for Safeguarding in Education

Before you start to use Teams in school, it is important to consider setting policies for safeguarding to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.

Each school must consider their own policies because one size does not fit all. For example, some schools might be comfortable with students direct messaging teachers for help while others will want this communication in a more open space. The school’s behaviour policy should also be taken into consideration. It is therefore important for IT to involve the safeguarding officer when planning out which policies to apply to users.

Microsoft have made it easier to assign policies to users (this was previously done through PowerShell and still is for some policies – see our previous PowerShell post).

Teams Admin Center

We recommend you create a custom policy for both staff and students. Staff will need changes to the policies too otherwise they won’t be able to do things like delete student messages in Teams (see our previous PowerShell post).



It is also important to remember that there isn’t a single policy to manage teams, it is broken up into:

  • Meeting Policies
  • Live Event Policies
  • Messaging Policies
  • Permission Policies (PowerShell applied only)
  • Emergency Policies (PowerShell applied only)
  • Voice Routing Policies
  • Call Park Policies
  • Calling Policies
  • Caller ID Policies (PowerShell applied only)

For each of these policy types, you will find a Global (Org-wide default) policy which will apply to everyone. Any changes to that policy will apply to everyone automatically.

Create a new policy

Create a new policy and give it a name using the “Add” button.

Create Policy

New messaging policy

Apply the policy to a group

Click on the “Group policy assignment” tab (if it’s not visible refer to our PowerShell post).

Group policy assignment tab

Click “Add group”.

Add Group Button

Search for a group and then select a policy before clicking “Apply”.

Apply Teams Policy to Group

This is much easier and quicker than running PowerShell scripts, we hope you find that useful!

Update 11/11/2020: We have been informed that if you set a user’s policy through PowerShell, this group method above may not work for you and you may need to use PowerShell to apply the policy.

Class Team Cheat Sheet for Teachers

Are you new to Teams or not quite sure about the right places to do things?

We have created a simple overview below for some of your key educator actions!

Class Teams Cheat Sheet

1. Posts

Have group discussions, video calls and praise students. Great for communicating with your class.

2. Files

Individual student work folders for any work that requires constant feedback between student and teacher throughout the academic year (e.g. class work or coursework).

3. Class Notebook

A student exercise book. Each student has their own section and can create pages with content (just like a real-life exercise book). The teacher can see all students section and can virtually stick their head over the student’s shoulder to see what they have written in their exercise book. There is also a content library for the teacher to add notes.

4. Assignments

Set assessed work, hand out work to students, collect submissions and mark.

5. Grades

This is a grade book linked to the assignments. See all the assignments set throughout an academic year or all the assignments set for an individual student throughout the academic year.

6. Long term resources

Access long term student facing resources in your centralised resource bank. Saves time by not having to upload your resources into each class that you teach and share resources with your department. Department heads can check on the quality of these centralised resources.

7. Insights (optional – add as tab)

Measure student engagement with statistics.

8. Breakout Groups (optional – add as channels)

Create breakout groups so students can work together on projects. These can be private channels on visible by the students added or open to the whole class.

Additional functionality

Please note that the student folders and long term resource tab is a feature provided by Cloud Design Box to help save teachers time and make it easier to work in Class Teams automated from MIS (SIS) data. You can contact us here.

Free Online Event for Educators from Microsoft Global Training Partners Cloud Design Box

Book Your Place on our Free Training Sessions for SharePoint and Microsoft Teams

Cloud Design Box Announced as Microsoft Global Training Partners

We’re thrilled to announce that Cloud Design Box is a Microsoft Global Training Partner and CPD Certified.

Microsoft Global Training PartnerCPD certified

To celebrate, we are offering three, free workshops for schools and multi-academy trusts on using SharePoint and Microsoft Teams to enrich learning.

Being named as a Microsoft Global Training Partner is a huge achievement for us – Microsoft chooses companies who share its mission in enabling educators to embrace the power of technology and empower every student to achieve more.

To attain this certification, the team has worked with Microsoft and undergone the official Microsoft Training Programme, learning how to further support schools and helping them to leverage technology.

Cloud Design Box now appears on the Education Training Providers area of the Microsoft website and can deliver services and training on Microsoft’s behalf.

CPD Certified Courses

Meanwhile, we’re equally pleased to be CPD certified. This certification helps us continue to deliver quality and trusted training resources to educators around the world.

Any teachers attending our training courses at school will get a CPD certificate afterwards.

Free Global Training Event 18th June 2020

On Thursday 18 June, we’re offering three free virtual workshops for schools, focusing on SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.

The first workshop takes place at 10am and centres around setting up assignments using Microsoft Teams. Lloyd and Darren will walk you through how to set assignments to your class members, use rubrics and mark work.

Free workshop setting assignments in Teams

After a short break for lunch, we’ll return at 1pm with a session on using SharePoint to organise long-term resources.

Our team will show you the power of centralising your long-term class resources that can be stored, shared, co-authored and added to every year.

Free workshop using sharepoint for centralising resources

Finally, at 4pm, we’ll round off the day with a workshop on getting started with Microsoft Class Teams.

Many teachers have been using Teams to connect with their classes over the past few months. We’ll be showing you how to extend this further and get the most out of the platform with conversations, assignments and online lessons.

Free workshop getting started with Microsoft Class Teams

All workshops will be hosted via Microsoft Teams because we’re passionate about using the products we work with and sell.
To register your interest for any of the workshops, please fill out this form.