Tag Archives: Learning

Office 365 User Adoption: Focus on a Long-Term Plan

You know how much Office 365 could transform your school or academy, but how do you convince the rest of the staff and student body?

Getting everyone on board with a new concept or piece of software is a challenge for all organisations, but by sharing experiences, we can learn from others who have been in our shoes.

That’s why we have created this podcast series, highlighting real-life user adoption stores for SharePoint and Office 365 for Education.

In this episode, we speak to Duncan Thurlow, a Science Teacher and Whole School IT Coordinator at Whitley Bay High School in North Tyneside.



Cloud Design Box Founder Tony Phillips and Darren Hemming, our Operations Manager, find out more about some of the methods Whitley Bay has used to encourage staff and students to embrace the cloud-based service.

“When you introduce anything new, there are always hurdles,” Duncan tells us. “It’s a case of upskilling across the whole school; teachers, admin staff and the pupils.”

Duncan describes how on the first day of the new year, staff attended a training session that outlined some of the basics of Office 365 and SharePoint.

“From day one, we set it as the standard home page, so everyone would hit it on a daily basis. It’s about getting people into the habit of storing documents in the cloud and using the quick links that Cloud Design Box set for the landing page.”


Cloud Design Box

This was followed by a series of drop-in sessions and then a recap workshop in January, where staff could ask questions and explore some of the features in more depth.

“We were careful to set out a strict structure for certain things, such as file storage. For example, we disabled saving to USB sticks in some areas in order to promote the cloud. However, we also gave our staff the freedom to choose how they used it within their specific departments,” Duncan points out.

‘All different, but all equal’ is at the heart of the Whitley Bay ethos:
“It runs throughout our school, from staff to students.”

Duncan believes the key is to discover the hook for each department, whether it’s accessing shared resources outside of school hours for teaching staff, collecting responses quickly on Microsoft Forms for admin staff, or sending out bulletin alerts for the pastoral team.

“Forcing people to move their entire workflow to the cloud only causes frustration, annoyance and – ultimately – resentment. We don’t want that. We want people to use these tools to enhance the learning for our pupils,” he adds.

A long-term approach has been crucial for user adoption at Whitley Bay.

“There has to be a strong sense of commitment with anything you introduce into a school. Be consistent and think about the bigger picture.” Duncan continues.

“Concentrate on one or two things you’d like to achieve in the first twelve months. For us, this was access from home and file collaboration. A slow and steady transition to this feature-rich product receives a much more positive response compared to a rushed, forced move to the cloud.”

If you want to find out more about how Cloud Design Box can help you implement a digital strategy to move to the cloud, visit our website: https://www.clouddesignbox.co.uk/education

Office 365 User Adoption Series: Learning From Experience with Gareth Rose (Episode 2).

We understand that seamless user adoption of Office 365 and SharePoint can prove tricky, with many hurdles to jump before your whole organisation is fully on board.

That’s why we’re creating a series of podcasts focusing on real-life user adoption stories, with schools, academies and businesses just like yours.

The second episode features Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder, and Gareth Rose, Assistant Headteacher at Notley High School & Braintree Sixth Form.

Gareth’s experience with user adoption in schools is unique as he has already been through the process of rolling out Office 365, Teams, SharePoint and Class Notebook at his former workplace, Dagenham Park Church of England School.

We spoke with Gareth to find out what tools and techniques he is going to reuse when introducing the Microsoft suite to the staff and pupils at Notley High School.



Create champions.

“My first piece of advice is to get people to become champions of the product. Get the RE teacher to understand the value in putting all their class resources online and show the Music teacher how pupils can annotate in OneNote,” Gareth enthuses.

Starting out with small, basic tasks, Gareth got to know the main pain points of departments and the word spread from there.

“You can see the spark in their eyes when you’ve saved them 20 minutes of time using a basic feature of Office 365.”

Give them no choice.

“A very quick win is changing everyone’s home page to the staff or pupil SharePoint. This gets people familiar with the technology and helps them to become comfortable with using it in the future,” Gareth continues.

“Make it so it’s the only way to access some resources, such as the lunchtime duty rota. When people start to see how beneficial it is to have one calendar that is regularly updated, rather than multiple emails with multiple versions, they begin to gain confidence in the system.”

From here, Gareth explains, the word ‘SharePoint’ was being banded around the staffroom and uttered in staff meetings. By getting people to engage with the platform, you can raise their confidence when it comes to moving more activities across to Office 365.

Have an open-door policy.

“Of course, giving people only one choice when accessing certain documents is risky. But, explain to people, if they have any issues, they can come and see you,” he points out.

“At Dagenham Park, I would sit in with teachers on the first few lessons to get them and their pupils properly set up. In a couple of sessions, teachers and students were writing digital notes and recording their voices in French – incredible to see.”

Working with members of staff and pupils in this way also allows you to understand the many ways in which Office 365 and SharePoint can help enhance the teaching and learning experience.

“After this, it’s kind of like a rolling stone,” Gareth highlights.

“I can see a time in the future where all pupils have iPads. We’ve seen schools hand out devices to their students, but without an ecosystem in which they can actually use them in. What we’re building here is an environment where everyone is on board and using the features of Office 365 to their full potential.”

Final, takeaway points from Gareth:

  • Create and identify champions of Office 365 and SharePoint.
  • Get to know ways in which individuals and departments could benefit from using the suite.
  • Change the homepage and make some resources available only on SharePoint.
  • Be prepared to offer support and answer any questions people have.
  • Design an ecosystem in which people can use Office 365.

If you have any questions about user adoption, or how Office 365 and SharePoint could transform your workspace, school or academy, please get in touch with Cloud Design Box today.

Assign Self-marking Quizzes in Microsoft Teams for Education

Microsoft Forms quizzes can now be assigned to students in Microsoft Teams for education. These are auto-marked and the results are fed automatically into the teachers markbook. Find out how to use this new functionality in the video below.



You can find out more about how we can integrate Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Class Notebook into an easy-to-navigate class dashboard by visiting the Cloud Design Box website.

Cloud Design Box Class Dashboard

Microsoft Teams for Education Released

Class teams are now available inside Microsoft Teams. These are created automatically using School Data Sync (SDS) or can be created manually in the Teams interface.

Microsoft Class Teams

Teams is a great collaboration interface that pulls together instant messaging, videos calls, SharePoint, OneNote and assignments into one place. It can also be extended with custom tabs.

I’ve created a quick video review below.



There are some similarities to Microsoft Classroom, however some functionality is different. A few issues with Class Notebooks in Teams:

  • Student sections menu not visible
  • Missing the Class Notebook tab to distribute pages and sections
  • Immersive reader option missing from view tab

You can get around these issues by opening the Team’s SharePoint site and clicking “Notebook” inside SharePoint. Hopefully Microsoft will be quick to resolve these issues.

Microsoft Classroom had a mobile app for Android and iOS which gave students notifications when new assignments were posted or graded. It also allowed students to set reminders for homework. The Teams mobile app does not include the assignment section at all so no notifications for students or teachers. The assignments are not visible on mobile devices. Again, this is early days and I expect Microsoft to release this functionality in the not too far future.

Microsoft Teams for education replacing Microsoft Classroom Preview

Over the last few months, we have received lots of positive feedback about the new Microsoft Classroom Preview product. Today Microsoft announced in the Office 365 message centre that this would be replaced at the end of July 2017 with Microsoft Teams for Education.

Microsoft Teams for Education

No need to panic, MS Classroom functionality will still exist but in the Microsoft Teams app (from what we can see from the screenshots). You can still set assignments, create class notebooks, discuss, share files and quizzes but it will all be accessed through the Microsoft Teams interface rather than through the MS Classroom App. There is no news on the Microsoft Classroom mobile app for iOS and Android but hopefully this will be replaced so that students can still get notifications for new assignments and grades.

More details can be found on Microsoft’s site here.



You may have seen the following message in the Office 365 message centre, notifying you of the change.

On July 31, 2017, we’ll discontinue support for the Microsoft Classroom Preview, as we work to unify our classroom experiences in Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education. Since the Microsoft Classroom Preview released, we’ve been very thankful for schools’ feedback from around the world; which has helped us improve benefits and features of the service. Ultimately, we learned to keep it simple and put classroom resources all in one place. We listened and we’re bringing the best of the classroom features (e.g., Assignments and OneNote Class Notebook) to Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education.

How does this affect me?

– Microsoft Classroom Preview will continue with current functionality until July 31, 2017. – Teachers will not be able to create new notebooks or assignments after the July 31, 2017. – Current classes and associated content will continue to be available as Office 365 Groups. Teachers can access assignment resources, files, calendars, and conversations, through tools such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint Online. If necessary, they can copy Class Notebook content to their personal workspace (e.g. OneDrive for Business). – When the new class experiences become available in Teams, School Data Sync will start creating the new classes for Microsoft Teams. SDS will continue to sync existing Microsoft Classroom Preview classes through July 31, 2017.

What do I need to do to prepare for this change?

We apologise for any inconvenience resulting from this transition. We encourage you to try out Microsoft Teams, and get yourself familiar with the Teams experience. Please click Additional Information to learn more.

Class site templates in SharePoint

As part of my work for Cloud Design Box, I have been working on class templates for student and teacher collaboration in SharePoint. My templates are using lots of display templates and are provisioned automatically from MIS data using the Salamander provisioning tools. Each template combines, out-of-the-box lists and libraries with custom content types, search web parts and JavaScript display templates. It’s available in both SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint Online. The video below goes through some of the features available for the class sites. Each class template is customised on a per school basis with a responsive design so that it will work on all devices.

For more information or an online demo, contact me by clicking here.