Tag Archives: Office 365

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….

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

Rubric Grading Criteria in Microsoft Teams Assignments

Microsoft Teams Assignment Rubric

Rubrics are a powerful tool used to assess students’ work. The criterion helps students to have a concrete understanding and visualisation of what they need to do to achieve a particular score. Each criterion also includes a gradation scale of quality.



Microsoft Teams for education now includes rubric based grading. They can be created and reused across Teams making it a powerful time saving tool for teachers while at the same time helping students understand how to succeed in the assignment.

If you are unfamiliar with Microsoft Team Assignments, please check out our earlier post here.

When setting assignments, you will notice a new “Add Rubric” option.

Microsoft Teams Assignments

On this page, you can search for a rubric that has already been created at your school or create a brand new one. In this post, I’m going to go through how to create a new one. Click “new rubric”.

Create new Rubric

Give the rubric a name and turn on “points” so that we can assign scores to each piece of criteria.

Rubric Criteria

Enter your criteria, you can add more by pressing the plus button. You can also adjust the grading balance for each element. Teams will turn the points into an overall percentage when marking based on the balance given to each criterion.

Microsoft Teams Rubric

When you have finished creating your rubric, set the assignment for the students.

When the students have completed the assignment, go to review the work and open the student’s homework. In addition to the comment and grade, you can now select the rubric.

Review student work

This will show the criteria and you can select which has been met. The student work will be automatically marked based on the grade balance set in the rubric.

Review student work with rubric

This is what the student will see when you have graded their work with the rubric.

Student view of assignment rubric

It’s another fantastic update to Microsoft Teams for education. There is still more to come this summer including Microsoft Forms integration with self-marking quizzes. We will bring you news and guides on how to use that as soon as it is released!

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

Microsoft Teams Assignments

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

Bett 2018

I’m going to be at Bett 2018 next week with the Cloud Design Box team, really excited to have some stand space this year with our MIS integration partners SalamanderSoft. Cloud Design Box will be showcasing the best of SharePoint, Class Notebook and Teams integration.

Our stand number is C210, opposite Google on the main corridor leading to the Bett Arena. We even have a seating area and coffee machine if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bett for a while.

Please feel free to pop by and hello to myself, Darren and Lloyd. If you can’t make it, you can sign-up to a webinar so that you don’t miss out on all the exciting Office 365 news and the latest developments.

We will be launching our new SharePoint intranet packages containing features such as:

  • Class Dashboard (find all your class data across SharePoint, OneNote and Teams in one easy to access place)
  • Modern SharePoint UI Branding (Our slick new branding and navigation interface for the new look SharePoint)
  • Team Provisioning and Extensions (We create Teams from MIS data and extend the functionality even further with student folders and class pages)
  • SharePoint site automation and templates
  • Workflows, training, support and much more!

You can find out more about Cloud Design Box’s products here.

Our partners SalamanderSoft will be showcasing:

  • A new free utility ‘Salamander for Apple School Manager’ for uploading data to Apple School Manager directly from your MIS
  • Monitor tool for Salamander Active Directory
  • Microsoft Teams and School Data Sync including our free utility for uploading data
  • Office 365 user and group creation and maintenance, licenses, photos, timetables and more.
  • OneNote Class Notebook provisioning and use.
  • G-Suite user and group creation and maintenance, licenses, photos, timetables, sites, drive, cloud print and more.
  • Google Classroom including guardian and calendar support
  • Active Directory user and group creation, maintenance and more.
  • Write back of usernames, email addresses and user defined fields into your MIS (where supported by the MIS). Also creation of SIMs system users.
  • Support for the above for all UK MISs including Capita SIMS, RM Integris, Progresso, Facility CMIS, iSAMS, WCBS Pass & 3 Sys, Bromcom, Arbor and many overseas ones

You can find out more about Salamander’s products here.

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

How to create a custom theme in PowerApps (workaround)

PowerApps is a great tool at building complex business applications using logic and no code. Microsoft provide several themes out-of-the-box to give your app a consistent look and feel. There is no option to create a custom theme (please release this functionality Microsoft)!

PowerApps Themes

As a workaround, we can use some logic to have a single place to update the colours, fonts, etc. However, please note that there are some steps to set this up and its time consuming but once you have done this, it’s much easier to play around with the theme rather than editing every element individually.

To make our theme easy to update, we are going to create a new screen which will be used for defining our design. Create a new screen called “Theme”.

PowerApps Themes

PowerApps Themes

On this new screen, we are going to add the elements that we want to style. We only need one instance of font-size, primary colour and secondary colour.

To start with, I’m going to add a button on the theme screen. I’m going to give the button my own custom colour as a background colour.

PowerApps Themes

In my theme, I’m going to rename my button to “ThemedButton” to make it easier to reference.

PowerApps Themes

In every other screen in our app (and every new screen we make), we are going to set the properties of the objects to reference our theme screen element colours, sizes, etc.

In my Edit Screen, I’m going to select the “RectQuickActionBar” and select the “Fill” option. Rather than add a colour here in the formula bar, I’m going to reference our primary colour (used in the button on the theme screen). To do this, we enter:

Fill=ThemedButton.Fill

PowerApps Themes

You can use this method to reference font size (ThemedButton.Size), font colour (ThemedButton.Color), etc.

Once you have setup all the properties, you can now change your styles in a single place by editing your theme screen.

It’s a very long-winded way to create a custom theme but might save you a lot of time changing colours when your manager asks for a different shade of blue across the whole app! I’m pretty sure custom themes will be on the Microsoft PowerApps roadmap soon, so you won’t have this problem!

If you need help with PowerApps, SharePoint or anything else Office 365 related, you can contact us at Cloud Design Box.

Learning Tools in OneNote Class Notebook

OneNote Class Notebook is free for education users as part of Office 365, it has some additional functionality which isn’t available in standard OneNote files. In this blog post, I want to focus on the additional learning tools available in this version. There is also a video guide for this post below.



How do I get Class Notebooks?

Class Notebooks can be created in a many ways (depending on how your school decides to use Office 365). Class Notebooks can be created from the Class Notebook App, Microsoft Teams or inside SharePoint or OneDrive.

Creating a “Class” in Microsoft Teams will automatically create a Class Notebook for the group.

How are Class Notebooks different to OneNote Notebooks?

Class Notebooks have a section for each student. Each student can see their own section, the teacher resources and the collaboration area. They can’t see other student sections. Logged in as a teacher, you have access to all the student sections.

OneNote Class Notebook

How do I send distribute an assignment to the students?

Assignments, worksheets or any other hand-outs can be copied into each student’s own section. To distribute a page, the teacher must:

  • 1. Create a new page
  • 2. Populate the page with what you would like to be sent out to the student (e.g. write an essay on…..)
  • 3. In the “Class Notebook” option in the ribbon, select “Distribute Section”
  • 4. Select where you would like the page to be sent

OneNote Class Notebook Distribute Section

How do I review student work?

Class Notebook has a great tool to make it simple to find student work. In the ribbon select “Review Student Work” from the Class Notebook.

OneNote Class Notebook Review Student Work Button

From here, you can select a page and switch between students for quick access to their work.

OneNote Class Notebook Review Student Work

Immersive reader

This option is available under the “View” tab.

Immersive Reader Button

The immersive reader provides the student with a tool to clearly show text on the page without other distractions (images, formatting, etc). In addition to sharpening the student focus on the text, the tool provides some options to:

  • Emphasise syllables, nouns, verbs and adjectives.
  • High contrast themes
  • Focus on lines or sections of the text
  • Read out the text

Immersive Reader

This is a learning tool that has some good research behind it which suggests that it can be used to improve reading and writing comprehension.

Read the study here

What about formal assignments and homework?

OneNote Class Notebook is a great tool for non-formal work hand-outs. With Microsoft Teams, it can be enhanced to provide formal assignments which can be handed out to students, collected in and graded. We will look at that in the next blog/video post.

Need help setting up Microsoft Teams?

I work for Cloud Design Box and we provide teacher training workshops, support, MIS integration, apps and many other services for Office 365. You can contact us via the website or by email. I hope you have found this blog and video post useful!

The benefits of Office 365 and SharePoint in education

There’s no denying that Office 365 now provides a fantastic integrated suite of products. Why should schools and colleges look at moving to Office 365? Can it save time, money and improve student engagement? Let’s take a look in more detail.

Why is cloud storage important?

Office Integration
Office 365

One of the big benefits of using Office 365 (in general), is the close integration with Office Online. The days when students had to install Office on a PC or be restricted to an OS or desktop device are long gone. Office 365 brings Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Sway to all devices. Office 365 licencing also means that students can download the full version too.

Access on any device

Can your students access all the lesson resources, shared drives and personal drives on their mobile and tablet devices at home? Only Google and Microsoft provide realistic solutions. Both are free for schools, but both require some setup and modification to make them suitable for each individual school.

Students are far more likely to access resources on mobile or tablet devices. In fact, many will never want to own a laptop or desktop computer. In addition to this, teachers are more reliant on using personal tablets and phones to access resources. The OneDrive for Business app allows students to search and navigate through all the shared resources from their phone and tablet.

Document management
Office 365

Remember accidentally losing a file? It would involve a call to the IT department who would then be searching through backups trying to locate the correct file. OneDrive and SharePoint both have a recycle bin, so you can restore documents for 93 days after the original deletion date. If you delete it from the end-user recycle bin, your IT admins can get it back from the site collection recycle bin (within the 93 days). Even after the 93 days, you can call Microsoft who can sometimes help you get older files back.

What if someone saves over a document or a mistake is made? Every document has version history by default, so you can easily go back to a previous version of the document.

Live collaboration and co-authoring

One of the most impressive features of SharePoint to demonstrate is the ability for multiple users to work on the same document at the same time. It could be a lesson plan in a Word Document, a marksheet in excel or a presentation in PowerPoint. These products provide co-authoring in a slick and easy-to-use way. The paragraph, cell or slide will lock and all users will see the editing live (see below).

Remember when marksheet spreadsheets were locked for editing when trying to open on the school servers? You don’t have that problem in SharePoint, you can work quicker and more efficiently saving precious time that teachers don’t have enough of.
co-authoring
Co-authoring in Office 365

What about homework and electronic assignments?

SharePoint is a great document management system but what about assignments and grading work? For homework and assignments, Office 365 has a range of built-in and third-party products to provide assignment functionality.

Microsoft Teams is also free for education and comes with some built-in assignment tools. These are great basic assignment tools ideal for keeping track of homework. Teams integrates with SharePoint, so you can access all your class and shared resources.

Microsoft Teams
Assignments in Microsoft Teams

Class Notebook is a powerful learning tool with individual student sections, an immersive reader, and tools to distribute and collect work.

OneNote Class Notebook
OneNote Class Notebook

If you want some more in-depth assignment tools, third-party products such as teacher dashboard, firefly, show my homework and many more come with Office 365 single sign-on. Store your resources in SharePoint and use any other application for assignments. Please note that not all these third-party products will allow students an easy way to create and submit office documents.

At Cloud Design Box, we can help you implement Teams with MIS data, create SharePoint resource areas, apply custom branding, training, support, workflows and much more! Contact us via the website for more details.

SharePoint by Cloud Design Box
SharePoint Design by Cloud Design Box