Tag Archives: Office 365

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.

Google Search Box Web Part

At Cloud Design Box, we have created a free Google search box SPFx web part. It’s a very simple web part to add a Google search box to a modern SharePoint page which then opens up the results in a new tab. Maybe a nice web part for an intranet homepage?

Google Search SharePoint Web Part

You can download it here or even submit code to the project!

A big thanks to Lloyd for writing most of the code to get this to work and for sharing on GitHub! I’m sure we can develop this over time to make it even more useful.

There are web part properties to change the search results url, you can use your local Google search page. In addition to this you can change the default search text and search button text! Enjoy!

Office 365 User Adoption Series: Thomas Deacon Education Trust

Smooth, frictionless user adoption can be tricky.

You’ve decided that Office 365 and SharePoint is right for you. But, there’s the small matter of convincing the rest of your team and getting everyone in your organisation on board.

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



Our aim is to share and encourage a community resource that will help others who may be struggling with user adoption.

The first episode of this podcast features Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder, Darren Hemming, our Operations Manager, and Martin Byford-Rew who is the Head of ICT Services at Thomas Deacon Education Trust.

Martin outlines the key challenges he faced when starting to move across to Office 365 and SharePoint, as well as giving some excellent actionable tips on how to roll out the suite across a school, academy or business.

“Our overall vision has been the same throughout the whole process – to move over to the cloud and get everyone to see the value in Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin tells us.

“However, achieving this has been challenging and we’re still not 100% of the way there. I hope that my experience will help others avoid some of the pitfalls we have fallen down.”

Based in the East Midlands, Thomas Deacon Education Trust is a small but growing organisation with five schools and around 4,000 students. With experience using an on-premise SharePoint solution for several years in one of these schools, Martin has now begun gradually moving everyone over to the cloud. Here’s how he is achieving this:

1. Start at the top.

“We started user adoption from the very top – the board. This involved a very short, concise training session with board members to show them the basic building blocks of Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin explains.

From there, the ICT team worked their way down the school structure, introducing the technology to each level of the school.

2. Take small, simple steps.

“It’s all about small, quick wins. Teach the ‘ABC’ steps of Office 365 and what you can do with it, instead of overwhelming people with the vast number of features that may not even be useful for them,” he continues.

Martin accomplished this by organising short, 10-minute sessions where he encouraged staff to log in, create and save a file and then share it with a colleague.

“When people see that they can create a document and not physically press save to save a file to OneDrive, they are willing to learn more. Everyone has a memory of the time when they forgot to press save on a document they’ve been working on.”

3. Know your audience.

“There’s no point in presenting a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Get to know how your staff work, get to know what their pain points are and offer a resolution from there,” Martin highlights.

“No matter how much training you give someone, if they don’t need to use a feature, they won’t use it.”

By tailoring your training to individuals or small groups of people with a similar job role, you can really get them to understand how the product can help them save time.

Finally, Martin gives some real-life examples of where he has rolled out Office 365 and SharePoint.

1. Parents evening feedback.

Previously, parents would fill out a paper slip, which would then have to be processed and sorted by admin staff. It was a slow process and many parents would forget to complete the forms.

Now, teachers approach parents with an iPad that has four or five questions on. It’s instant feedback and doesn’t require as much time from the admin team.

2. Friday quizzes.

A similar example of how Office 365 and SharePoint has transformed pupils’ learning experiences is with end-of-the-week quizzes.

Again, this was once a paper-based exercise that was time-consuming and unengaging.

Students now answer questions on an iPad or other device and can see their results straight away, as well as compare their progress to their fellow classmates. It gives them an opportunity to take control of their own learning, as well as providing the teacher with insight into how well their class understood the lesson.

Final, takeaway points from Martin on user adoption:

  • Keep training short and concise.
  • Leadership first and work down.
  • Start simple.
  • Solve problems.
  • Tailor for audience.
  • Transformation takes time.

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.