Category Archives: Uncategorized

What users want from SharePoint news articles

Releasing organisational and team communication via SharePoint news articles is a powerful way to connect with colleagues. News articles in SharePoint appear aggregated on the SharePoint home page and get pushed out to the mobile app via notification. They render great in both experiences.

I’ve had several users ask for enhancements for SharePoint news, we always try to direct people to the SharePoint user voice page so they can share their thoughts with the community and Microsoft. The most popular requests I have had are:

  • Target news stories at groups of people
  • Add news from external sources
  • Option to unpublish and delete news stories

Some good news below, some of these are resolved now or in the new year. Unpublish and delete news stories is still not available (from an intuitive interface – you can go to site pages via site contents). You can vote for it here

Many users have reported that they are happy with the editing interface. Using the same intuitive page editing experience as standard SharePoint pages, news articles are easy to adopt in any organisation.

SharePoint News Story

In addition to creating news pages, users can now share links to external news stories. SharePoint intelligently extracts images and text from the external source, all the end user needs to do is provide a link to the external article.

SharePoint news options

Sharing external news will make users aware of an external article without the creator having to manually recreate or copy and paste the story.

News Link

Did you know that you can now save news articles to read later? I’ve not had this request from any end-users but seems useful if you find an article that is interesting, but you are in a rush. This can be done via the mobile app by clicking the bookmark icon or from the SharePoint home page.

Save SharePoint News Articles

There are some exciting updates coming to SharePoint news in 2019. When I speak to people, I often get asked about targeting news stories to groups of people. My response is that the news article should be added to a SharePoint site which only the correct users have access to. This is a bit of a workaround but not for long! Audience targeting based on groups or individuals is coming early next year to make news even more powerful. It will help owners target news while having a central repository for news.

News comments have not been particularly useful as users often don’t return to see new comments. This is set to improve too over the coming months. Users will be able to use @ to mention other people in the organisation. With intelligent auto-complete, it will really be easy to mention other people and get them involved in the conversation. Mentions will automatically trigger notifications or reminder emails, meaning that comments are not missed again.

We will provide some video tutorials as soon as the new functionality is available!

If you have your own ideas to improve SharePoint news, we would like to hear from you. Comment below and add your ideas to the SharePoint user voice page. With your feedback, Microsoft can see what end-users really want.

ESPC: SharePoint Team Sites and Microsoft Teams Working Together

The future role of SharePoint with the advent of Teams has been on my mind for over a year now. Teams is built on top of SharePoint but is an application rather than a website. Teams has chat and collaboration, but SharePoint has news and is interconnected with related sites through Hub sites in sometimes a more intuitive interface. Teams is gaining more user adoption with its modern way of creating an efficient workplace. The governance and admin controls are on their way for Teams too. Which should you use? Do you have to make a choice?

As a SharePoint and Teams provider, it has been hard to determine if Teams was there to replace SharePoint or that it would work side-by-side with SharePoint. My initial thoughts were that SharePoint would be the organisation intranet (communication sites), a place to go for company-wide communication and resources. Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Team sites were great for small-medium team collaboration.

At the European SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure conference 2018 in Copenhagen, Jeff Teper (Corporate Vice President – Office 365) explained the vision for SharePoint and Teams.

Jeff Teper Corporate Vice President - Office 365

The vision Microsoft have is that SharePoint Team sites and MS Teams live side-by-side. In fact, they should be the same collaboration areas but accessed through different mediums. Eventually everything in SharePoint should be surfaced in Teams. Recently Microsoft have released an option to create a Microsoft Team from a SharePoint Team site, this even adds a cool link to open the Team.

The release of SharePoint Framework (SPFx) web parts for Teams supports moving towards this goal, surfacing the same functionality for both platforms (just in a different shell). It also works the other way around, Microsoft Team SharePoint Team sites (the site behind the Team!), can be added to SharePoint Hub sites just like any other SharePoint site so news and events can be aggregated. When planning site architecture, we can now imagine that whatever site or team is planned in either SharePoint or Teams, both could be accessed with either application.

There are still going to be instances where one is preferred over the other. In some scenarios, Office 365 groups with owners and members might not be the preferred access model for SharePoint intranet sites but there is a valid option for these sites – modern communication sites. Microsoft mentioned that they will be closing the gap on differences between communication and team sites and that one day you should be able to convert one to another. This again would help organisations on a long journey moving to a modern team-based flat structure.

More exciting updates to come….

Creating a quiz using Microsoft Forms in OneNote

Microsoft Forms are a great way to quickly gather survey results or produce quizzes. It could be testing employees on health and safety in OneNote or it could be setting students a topic quiz in Class Notebook.

In this post, I’m going to go through the steps on how to add a quiz to OneNote.

First, create a new page and call it “Quiz”.

Class Notebook

Go to the insert tab in the ribbon and select “Forms”.

Microsoft Forms

Here you will see a list of any forms and quizzes that you previously created in addition to the new options.

List of forms

Click “New Quiz”.

Microsoft Forms will open in a new tab, give the quiz a title and description.

Click “Add question” and select “Choice”.

Enter a question and all the options, you can press “Add option” to add more answer options.

Next to each answer option, you can provide some feedback for users who select this option using the speech bubble icon (see highlighted below).

Mark the correct answer by selecting the tick icon (see highlighted below).

At the bottom of the question, you can assign points for the correct answer, allow multiple answers and make it a required question.

By pressing the menu (…), you can bring up more options such as shuffling the answers or writing math equations.

You can add more questions by clicking “Add question”. The form will save automatically as you edit it (no save button).

When you have finished creating your quiz, switch the browser tab back to the OneNote file, you will see that the quiz has now appeared in the “My forms” list.

Press the “Insert” button.

Our quiz is now embedded on the page!

When users complete the quiz, they will see their points after pressing submit (with feedback on each question).

The author of the quiz can go back into “Microsoft Forms” via the app launcher (see highlighted below).

They can then see a detailed breakdown of the results with the option to export to Excel.

Microsoft Forms can also be added to SharePoint pages, so you can enhance your intranet with surveys and quizzes!

Microsoft Forms is a great tool in the Office 365 package. By using this tool in your organisation, you could really improve engagement with users.

At Cloud Design Box, our solutions help schools and companies get the best out of SharePoint, Teams and OneNote.

More information on our education and business solutions can be found on our website.

Cloud Design Box Class Dashboard

Setting Assignments in Microsoft Teams for Education

Homework has many benefits for students including learning how to work independently, staying organised and taking responsibility for their part in the educational process. It also gives them a chance to review the lesson and go over the material again.

Assignments give teachers the ability to track student progress and to see if the student understands the lesson content.

Microsoft’s Office 365 now provides another educational tool in their arsenal of productivity apps. Teams is a collaboration tool for your classes with the ability to have discussion threads, document sharing, class notebooks (see my previous post) and assignments.

In this post I’m going to focus on the assignment aspect of teams. You can follow the video guide or the blog post below, I hope this helps you get the most out of Microsoft Teams!



How to view assignments for your class

Inside your class, click on the “Assignments” tab to view a timeline of all the set assignments for this group.

Assignments

You can select either a horizontal or vertical timeline view of the assignments using the view selector (highlighted yellow below).

Microsoft Teams

How to create a new assignment

To start setting work for students, click the “New assignment” button.

New Microsoft Teams Assignment

You are then prompted to enter the details of the new assignment

Fill in assignment details Microsoft Teams

  • Assign to: Select which classes to assign to (you can set it to more than one of your classes here!)
  • Title: This is the title of the assignment.
  • Instructions: Include a description here to help the student complete the assignment.
  • Due date and time: When the assignment becomes late (you have the option to allow late hand-in below)
  • Late turn-in allowed: If this is enabled, students can still hand-in work after the due date. This is required if you are using class notebook pages.
  • Points: Turn this on to allow a mark allocation. Currently these are only available as a number score.

Documents can be added from OneDrive, your computer or from the OneNote Class Notebook. We are hopeful that SharePoint and other class teams will be added to this soon! There are two options for attaching these resources.

Attach reference materials

These documents are for the student to view as part of the assignment. You might include a PowerPoint, links to useful websites, etc.

Specify what students will turn in

Documents uploaded in this section can be edited by the student and submitted back as part of the assignment. This is particularly useful for things like worksheets.

When you have finished the assignment, you can either save it as a draft or assign it to the class. As soon as this is assigned to the class, it will appear in their assignment timeline and they will get a notification on their team mobile and desktop apps.

Assign to students button

How to review completed assignments

Use the review button to bring up the assignment timeline and assignment submissions.

review assignments

Select the relevant assignment from the timeline to show the student work.

Mark assignments

Each student has:

  • Student work: Links to files that the student has returned.
  • Date turned in: The date and time that the student submitted their assignment.
  • Feedback: Some written feedback for the student.
  • Points: If you have chosen to enable this in your assignment, you can give the student a grade.

Students will not be able to see your feedback or grade until the “Post” button is clicked.

Post Grades and Marks

Click the “Export to Excel” button to download a spreadsheet of the assignments.

Export to Excel from MS Teams
Grade export from Microsoft Teams

The grades spreadsheet shows all the assignments set to this class over the school year. It optionally shows grades, if enabled per assignment. No more manual marksheets! You could use this data to import or fill in MIS marksheets quicker.

Mobile Apps

One of the best ways to engage with students both inside and outside of school using Teams is to encourage them to use the mobile app. Students get instant notifications of any mentions, homework or graded assignments.

Microsoft Teams iOS and Android App

Teams automation and customisation

Teams is free for schools, check you have the license enabled to start using it. At Cloud Design Box, we can provision teams from MIS data and create an engaging and simple dashboard to access team data in SharePoint. We can also create student folders inside team sites and extend the experience even further, making it easier and increasing student and teacher engagement. You can find out more information on our website https://www.clouddesignbox.co.uk/.

Cloud Design Box Class Cards

The future of SharePoint

The future of SharePoint event took place last night live from San Francisco. It was a live online event open to all which was watched by thousands of SharePoint fans across the globe. Microsoft renewed its commitment to SharePoint and the SharePoint brand by announcing the renaming of the sites tile in Office 365 to SharePoint and the release of a new SharePoint mobile app.

SP2016mobileteamsite

It was a very exciting glimpse into the future of SharePoint (both on-premises and online). A completely new revamped UI for team and publishing sites and a slick editing experience. One of the flaws with the current SharePoint experience is the inheritance of older SharePoint site templates and libraries which has only incrementally improved over time. Frustratingly this has left users with a poor mobile experience and a clunky, more complex editing process. Even the current SharePoint 2013 mobile site looks more like an ancient WAP site designed for a Nokia 7110. Below is a sneak peak as to what the new team site may look like. Above is a preview of the new SharePoint app.

SP2016teamsite

New document library experience

This has already rolled out to some tenancies. It gives a fresh look to document libraries which puts them in-line with the OneDrive experience and the SharePoint mobile view. The classic view will still be supported if you are using JS client side rendering, workflows or specific custom views. One downside to the new experience is the loss of any branding, however you could add document libraries to pages if you wanted to keep this. Users can pin files to the top of the page and get really nice previews of documents. Administrators can override end users to choose either the classic or new view of document libraries (see details here).

Design and development

The new improvements in the interface mean not only a fully responsive design but also a mobile app experience on iOS, Android and Windows. SharePoint is also moving away from the iframe app part model allowing more fluid and responsive web parts. For designers and developers there is now a new SharePoint framework (to be released later this year) which doesn’t depend on Visual Studio or any server-side development. Using JavaScript open source libraries we will soon be able to create design experiences which apply to both the browser and mobile apps.

There was several indications that design was moving this way over the last few years. Check out my earlier posts on moving from custom master pages to JS actions and client side rendering. Using these client side technologies was the first step in preparing ourselves for the new client side rendering experience for the next generation of SharePoint portals. I’m very excited to get stuck into the new SharePoint framework technologies (please release it soon Microsoft!). If you can’t wait to get started, you can start by learning the new technologies which will be used to develop against the SharePoint framework such as nodejs, Yeoman, Gruntjs and all the open source JavaScript frameworks which interest you. There is a good post on how to get hold of all these applications and packages on this blog post by Stefan Bauer. You can also view the full development lifecycle processes that Microsoft recommend in their latest video previewing the new framework below.



Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is a new tool in the SharePoint toolbox. It’s a new way to get data into SharePoint and perform workflows using custom logic. It doesn’t replace InfoPath or SharePoint Designer but I can see many uses for it in a business process environment and sales. It extends workflow functionality out of SharePoint using templates or custom written apps. For examples you can have a flow which picks up tweets from Twitter and puts them into a SharePoint list. Very interesting to see how this product develops with SharePoint. You can find out more on the flow website.

Microsoft PowerApps

Create your own mobile apps in a few simple steps from lists and libraries in SharePoint without having to write any code. This could be a mobile app or just a web app. In fact you can do this from the browser from any list in a few simple steps. This could be a SharePoint list view or a web part. The PowerApps will be available from within the SharePoint app. I’m assuming you will be able to pin these apps to your start screen like you can with OneNote notebooks and pages. You can find out more about Power Apps on the website.

More updates to come…

Statistics in Office 365 Video

Another new feature in Office 365 video is the usage statistics. There are two graphs currently available for the last 14 days or 36 months showing the views, visitors and viewer engagement. Check out my video review of the new features below.



Visual Upgrade Grayed out at top level site

All the sites managed the visual upgrade except the top level site. You can run this Powershell script to upgrade all sites in a site collection:

$site = Get-SPSite(“https://webappurl“)

foreach ($web in $site.AllWebs) { $web.UIVersion = 4; $web.Update() }

 

After running this, the top level site was in preview mode with a link in a yellow bar giving the option to upgrade the site. Click on the yellow bar and it will take you to the following page:

https://webappurl/_layouts/prjsetng.aspx

In the Visual Upgrade options, select “

note: 

I think you could probably do this at a top level site by going to https://webappurl/_layouts/prjsetng.aspx and selecting upgrade interface and then the buttons would be ungrayed. Best practice to do a visual upgrade in powershell and loop through all the sites in a site collection.