Tag Archives: SDS

A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) worked with Cloud Design Box to build a centralised communication and collaboration portal in Microsoft SharePoint and Teams.  

In this webinar, we speak to Marcella O’Dowd (FET Quality Assurance at DDLETB) about the impact the portal is having on the way people work together in the organisation. 

“DDLETB has responsibility for a variety of education and training services, serving a population of nearly 800,000 people and delivering education and training to approximately 70,000 learners,” Marcella explains.

“We serve a network of around 650 schools, colleges, centres and outreach and community-based settings.” 



Previously, DDLETB had a Google site called Cloud ETB that housed all the Quality Assurance (QA) and curriculum documentation.

“The Google site was a repository to house material. All the FET (Further Education and Training) users had the same access password that offered two access choices: editor or reader,” she continues. 

“This presented a few problems. It wasn’t as secure as we wanted it to be, and we had one instance where someone changed the password so no one could get in to access what they needed.” 

We worked with DDLETB to create a new QA Hub in SharePoint.

Recognising that the team needed a solution that went beyond file storage, we built a portal that encourages communication and collaboration. 

The QA Hub home page. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

“The exciting thing about the new QA hub is that it provides tailored, secure access to everything our further education and training services need, whether that’s downloading a module descriptor, getting programme information, accessing policies and procedures, looking at assessment guidelines or checking when the next committee meetings are happening,” Marcella enthuses. 

“It’s no longer just a repository. It’s a communication and collaboration site. It’s a one-stop-shop for any QA needs.” 

One thing that was particularly important to DDLETB was strict version control of documents:

“To give an example, we currently need to make sure the DDLETB LGBTQA+ Handbook, policies and publications are available. This will be housed on the QA Hub, ready for people to access the most up-to-date version,” she confirms.

The QA Uploader. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

The QA Uploader is another way we’ve helped DDLETB save time and reduce the risk of human error. 

Previously, users would need to download a template from the Google site, fill it out and then send an email to the QA team.

“Our team would have to monitor the email account and check to see if new reports had been submitted. We would then have to re-upload them into the right folders, which was time-consuming and it was easy for emails to go astray when we were monitoring multiple inboxes.” 

“With the QA uploader, the users simply upload their reports directly to the QA Hub and choose the right report type and training centre. This sends us a notification and the file is already stored in the correct, secure folder that can only be accessed by people with the right permissions.” 

The QA Hub Calendar. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

Tedious admin tasks are also being reduced and communication improved by the QA Hub’s new calendar. 

There are a large number of FET and QA dates each year that are usually sent out as a list at the beginning of each academic year, with reminders sent out as dates and deadlines approach. 

“We get a barrage of emails asking when the next course approval or committee meeting is. Previously, we’d have to go to a document with a list of the dates and respond to each email,” Marcella reveals.

“The new calendar feature makes things so much easier. All we need to do is send a link to the calendar. We’ve already seen a huge difference in the number of emails coming in, as people are just going straight to the calendar to check for dates, rather than emailing.”

QA News section. A communications portal for Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB with Microsoft 365

DDLETB is using the SharePoint News feature to communicate key information and announcements:

“Having the ability to pop announcements into the QA News is great because everybody who needs to know gets an email about it. What’s more, they don’t need to flag emails or save them into folders because they know they can come to the QA Hub and find the information.”

QA News is also automatically displayed on the SharePoint home pages of FET and QA staff.

With such a big change in the way DDLETB works, there were some reservations about moving from the Google Cloud ETB site to Microsoft 365. However, the feedback so far has been extremely positive.

“With Cloud Design Box’s support, the new workflows make a lovely user experience that is easy for us to manage and support. We needed this to be user-friendly and intuitive and ‘intuitive’ is a word that has been mentioned by users when we’ve asked for feedback,” enthuses Marcella.

“We wanted our users to be no more than three clicks away from whatever they needed. Our users love the layout and the simplicity of it and love the fact they can do everything on one site.”

Our work with DDLETB is part of a wider initiative called the DEIS Connect Project. We have also worked with St Kevin’s Community College and Firhouse Community College (both part of DDLETB) to provision teaching and learning environments. 

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform, book a free demo today.  

Cloud Design Box gains Microsoft SDS Professional Partner status

Cloud Design Box has become one of the first companies to achieve the Microsoft School Data Sync Professional Partner Certification – the highest certification for Microsoft SDS. 

Microsoft SDS simplifies class management in Microsoft 365, reading class data from your school, academy or trust’s MIS and creating classes and groups for Microsoft Teams.  

Previously, we have been awarded the SDS Advanced Partner accreditation as part of the Partner Success Series for Microsoft SDS.

The Professional Partner certification is one up from this and the highest award a company can currently achieve for Microsoft SDS.

“The SDS Professional Partner accreditation covered several advanced SDS topics, including troubleshooting SDS syncs and using Microsoft Graph API with SDS,” explains Cloud Design Box’s Support Case Manager and Cybersecurity Officer Steve Hill, who took part in the Professional Partner training.

“It’s important that we continue to improve our skills and keep up to date with the latest SDS changes. That’s why we’re a Microsoft Partner and routinely attend the Partner Success Series quarterly meetings with Microsoft, as well as complete all the relevant training courses that Microsoft Partner University provides.”

SDS Professional Partner Badge

“We’re excited to be one of the first to receive this from Microsoft! The award gives our customers even more confidence in our abilities to install and manage SDS, ensuring their Class Teams are created seamlessly and correctly each academic year,” explains Tony Phillips, Founder of Cloud Design Box.  

“SDS is recommended best practice when creating and maintaining Class Teams. Not only does it speed up and automate a previous time-consuming task that often took IT managers and staff the whole of the summer holidays to achieve, but it also allows you to create a rich data set of year groups, subjects, schools and more to create future reports across your entire organisation that support the leadership team all year round.”  

You can read more about Microsoft SDS in this guide

The Cloud Design Box team is continuously improving their skills and knowledge on Microsoft 365 for Education and Business, enrolling in Microsoft’s training programmes and courses. We’re proud to add this latest accreditation to our growing list of certifications that includes Microsoft in Education Global Training Partner, Microsoft Partner and CPD certification.

Want to find out more about how Cloud Design Box can support you with your rollover to a new academic year with Microsoft School Data Sync? Book a demo with a member of our team. 

In the meantime, check out these guides on SDS:

 

Meet Cloud Design Box at EdTech’s biggest reunion

UPDATE: Bett has moved to Wednesday 23 – Friday 25 March 2022
Cloud Design Box is attending Bett 2022 – which returns to the ExCeL London from Wednesday 23 – Friday 25 March 2022. 

The most prominent international EdTech exhibition is back, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it for another year.  

You can find us at Stand SP53 – next to our partners SalamanderSoft – where you’ll be able to meet our team and talk one-to-one about your blended learning needs as a school or trust.  

The long-awaited Bett 2022 – dubbed EdTech’s biggest reunion – provides a unique chance for educators to explore innovative product demonstrations, access CPD seminars and network with thousands of people in the education community.  

After months of virtual meetups, it’s going to be fantastic meeting you all in person and showing you all the new and exciting things teachers and schools can achieve with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.  

We know many people will want to plan their visit ahead of time and avoid queues, so we’ve opened meeting slots for you to book a meeting with us at a time that suits you 

BOOK NOW

A photo of a previous Bett show

On the second day of the show, we’ll also be joining in with the first Bett After Hours – designed for visitors who cannot attend Bett during the school day. Open from 6pm-8pm on Thursday 24 March 2022.  

Bett is the first industry show of the year in the education technology landscape, bringing together 550+ leading exhibitors and sponsors and over 20,000 attendees from the global education community. 

It’s the event to attend for the education community…

And we cannot wait to see you there! 

Bett takes place at the ExCeL London on 23-25 March – Register your place here and reserve a meeting slot with Cloud Design Box here 

 

How To Get Parents Engaged in Homework with Microsoft Teams

We partnered with Haldor to deliver a free session for schools and multi academy trusts focusing on boosting parental engagement in students’ homework using Microsoft Teams.  

While there are some great advantages to parents and guardians being engaged in their child’s learning and homework assignments, it can be a challenge for schools and trusts to find an easy way to connect and communicate with parents. 

During the webinar, we shared our top tips on getting parents more engaged with homework by using the out-of-the-box tools in Microsoft 365 and how to enhance this with Haldor’s dedicated homework app.  



Below is a summary of what we talked about. 

Set up a weekly email digest for parents. 

An automatic weekly assignment digest can be set up within the standard Microsoft 365 package.  

Parents receive a summary of their child’s assignments once a week, and this provides a quick overview of set assignments, completed work, overdue homework and upcoming deadlines.

To use the weekly email digest, your school needs to be using Microsoft School Data Sync. Cloud Design Box are Microsoft SDS Advanced Partners, contact us for an SDS managed service.

An example of a weekly assignment digest email

“There are a few limitations to this,” Darren Hemming Cloud Design Box’s Operations manager, a parent and former teacher explains.  

“It’s only sent once per week, and we know some parents want to see this more often. The email digest is also limited in terms of the information provided – there are no grades or scores.”  

Additionally, it’s a static email and parents do not have the ability to log into Teams whenever they’d like to check up on their child’s homework progress.  

Enhancing parental engagement with Haldor Homework.  

Haldor Homework bridges the gap and allows parents and guardians to log in on-demand and find out what has been set in Teams and the current status of assignments.  

Haldor gives a more in-depth view of assignments, showing homework details, rubrics and grades.  

“It’s really useful for parents and guardians to be able to read the rubrics and grading criteria. It really involves the parents in their child’s learning,” says Darren. 

Haldor Homework App

What’s more, there’s no additional work for schools and admin teams as it links directly with Microsoft School Data Sync – there’s no need to create parents’ accounts or reset passwords.  

Parents simply sign up themselves and gain access to their child’s homework information. If they have multiple children at the school, they can flick between profiles in a few taps. 

Haldor Homework Assessment Criteria

On top of this, Haldor Homework is integrated with Microsoft’s accessibility tools, making the app inclusive and accessible for a broad spectrum of needs.  

Microsoft’s Immersive Reader enables the user to change the style and appearance of the text to help with reading comprehension.  

Parents can also use the Read Aloud tool to get the information read to them via their speakers or headphones.

Meanwhile, the Translate tool and Picture Dictionary are particularly helpful for breaking down language barriers.   

Haldor Homework Immersive Reader

“During the pandemic, we saw many parents teaching their children from home and becoming very engaged in their child’s learning. Now the schools in the UK have gone back to the classroom; it’s exciting to see a tool like Haldor Homework continuing the blended learning spirit,” Tony Phillips, Founder of Cloud Design Box adds. 

Please note: to set up the weekly assignment email for parents and use the Haldor Homework app, your school or trust will need to use Microsoft School Data Sync, the industry-standard way to automate your Class Teams and pull through parent/guardian contact details. If you need support with this, please get in touch with a member of our team.  

Cloud Design Box Awarded Microsoft SDS Advanced Partner

Cloud Design Box has achieved Microsoft SDS Advanced Partner accreditation. Microsoft SDS (School Data Sync) simplifies class management in Microsoft 365, reading class data from your school, academy or trust’s MIS and creating classes and groups for Microsoft Teams.  

The Partner Success Series for Microsoft SDS is a brand new accreditation.  

“We’re thrilled to have been awarded these further accreditations. It means that our clients can have more confidence in our abilities to install and manage SDS, ensuring their Class Teams are created seamlessly and correctly each academic year,” explains Tony Phillips, Founder of Cloud Design Box.  

“SDS is recommended best practice when creating and maintaining Class Teams. Not only does it speed up and automate a previous time-consuming task that often took IT managers and staff the whole of the summer holidays to achieve, but it also allows you to create a rich data set of year groups, subjects, schools and more to create future reports across your entire organisation that support the leadership team all year round.”  

You can read more about Microsoft SDS in this guide

The Cloud Design Box team is continuously improving their skills and knowledge on Microsoft 365 for Education and Business, enrolling in Microsoft’s training programmes and courses. We’re proud to add these latest accreditations to our growing list of certifications that includes Microsoft in Education Global Training Partner, Microsoft Partner and CPD certification.

Want to find out more about how Cloud Design Box can support you with your rollover to a new academic year with Microsoft School Data Sync? Get in touch with a member of our team right now 

In the meantime, check out these guides on SDS:

How To Clean Up Old Class Teams in Microsoft School Data Sync Summer 2021

The Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) rollover process 2021 has changed slightly since last year, so we have created a video guide to walk you through the process. 

If your profile has expired and you’re ready to start the academic year, then this guide is for you. 



One thing you’ll notice is that there is no longer a cleanup option button. Previously, this button would achieve all of your Class Teams; however, in an effort to give you more choice, Microsoft has removed this button and – if we’re honest – it’s made it more of a tricky process. 

Below are some simple steps we can do – and remember, we only have to do this once every academic year. 

Important: Do not start the new term or year until you have completed the cleanup process. Otherwise, all of your users will get stripped out of those old Class Teams and won’t be able to access their archived Class Teams.

  1. Go to the Groups to bring up the Groups page.
  2. Click the Sections tab and select Section Report
  3. Select Generate new section report. This report provides information on class names, metadata associated with the class, state of the class team, created date and SharePoint site status. 
  4. Download the Section report once it has been processed.

Tip: If you format the spreadsheet into a table and create headers, you can then sort the information by Name or Section. 

  1. Find the correct SectionId for the Teams you want to clean up. Naming Teams correctly with the correct prefix and academic year will save you time here. 
  2. Remove the Teams from the spreadsheet you don’t want to clean up, and you should be left with the teams from the correct school and academic year. Save the spreadsheet.
  3. Return to Section Cleanup and upload the edited Section Report.
  4. You can Mark the Classes as Expired or Archive Teams (we’d recommend the latter as all the Teams are available in read-only mode). 
  5. Select Run cleanup.
  6. Check that your classes have been archived off. It should have cleared them from the SDS Profile. 

Now it’s time to start the new term/year.

  1. Select Start new term/year. 
  2. If you’re using CSV files, you need to upload your new CSV files. If you’re using an API or OneRoster, you need to make sure your new data is ready to sync. 
  3. Set a profile expiry date and configure the other options on the page. 
  4. When you’re ready, select Sync, and it’s now ready for the new academic year. 

We have a guide on how teachers can find those archived Teams, how to move over your old Class Notebooks and make sure you don’t lose long-term resources. 

If you’re a Cloud Design Box customer, we do all of this for you. Just make sure you complete the Roll Over form in plenty of time. 

You also benefit from an easy-to-use class dashboard where you can access all of your archive Class Teams. 

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.

Archived Class Teams – Where have they gone?

During the academic year rollover process in Microsoft School Data Sync, schools can choose clean-up actions for their old class teams. The most popular and recommended clean-up action is “Archive”. It’s much easier for teachers and students to see current teams when they login.

The archived teams appear to vanish leaving the user with all the current classes for the new academic year.

However, they have not disappeared, and the teacher/student can still access the team in read-only mode.

In the video below, Darren Hemming from Cloud Design Box shows you how you can access archived classes from previous academic years.



Cloud Design Box customers can benefit from an option in class dashboard to switch back to a previous academic year.

Class Dashboard Archived Teams

Talk to the team at Cloud Design Box if you need help with Teams for education.

Office 365 User Adoption Episode 11: Supporting Students with SEN and EAL with Office 365

In this podcast, we spoke with James Emmet, Network Manager at Engineering UTC North Lincolnshire about how they use features in Office 365 to support students with Special Education Needs (SEN) and English as an Additional Language (EAL).




Listen on Spotify

“We have a high number of students who are EAL, SEN, dyslexic and have low reading ages. I passionately believe that – when used in the right way – ICT is one of the most crucial tools to help these students with their learning,” James tells us.

“Our school’s main intake starts from Year 9, so it’s not long after they start before, we have to start prepping them for their GCSEs. Office 365 and key tools like Immersive Reader are essential for helping these students to learn.”

Immersive Reader is a free tool built into many of the Microsoft Products, including Microsoft Word.

“Using Immersive Reader, students can change the style and appearance of the text to help with reading comprehension,” James explains.

“For example, you can change the font, text size, text spacing and even create a virtual coloured overlay.”

Meanwhile, Picture Dictionary, the Translate tool and Read Aloud are particularly handy for supporting EAL students.

Picture Dictionary allows students to select a word they may not understand and view an explainer image, while Read Aloud turns the text on the page into speech for the student to listen to.

Both of these, combined with the Translate tool, are invaluable when it comes to improving reading comprehension in the classroom.

“We have found that Immersive Reader is being used by all of our students, not only those with EAL and SEN. In fact, one of our GCSE students who is predicted a level 7 in English regularly uses Immersive Reader to break down texts and closely analyse them,” James adds.

Immersive Reader also enables students to highlight word types, such as nouns and verbs, as well as break sentences down into syllables, which both students and their teachers have found useful for English and language-focused subjects.

“Because Immersive Reader is already built into many of the Microsoft products, we have not had to spend any extra time rolling it out into classrooms,” he tells us.

“It’s really taken off in our school. For example, we demonstrated the tool to one student and by the next lesson, the rest of their class were using it.”

The great thing about Office 365 and Immersive Reader is that it works on any connected device. Of course, this capability is more important than ever before as we see many children learning from home.

“We love the fact that Office 365 can be accessed via multiple devices and actively encourage our students to use their own devices or one from our bank of iPads. It gives their learning an extra boost.”

To find out more about Office 365 for Education, get in touch with a member of our team today.