Tag Archives: SharePoint Consultancy

Office 365 User Adoption: Conversations in the Classroom with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a great collaboration tool and can be used to extend the classroom. In our latest podcast, Tony and Darren from Cloud Design Box discuss the real benefits of using Microsoft Teams in the classroom. This time we are focusing on the conversation aspect.

Communication is central to good lessons and learning in the classroom. That could be teacher to student, or it could be students working together in the class. Teams allows this communication to happen anywhere by extending the classroom.



The Invisible Child

In every class there are students who are shy or lack confidence to answer questions in the classroom. Although they may know the answer, they never raise their hand in class – so their classmates may never know the understanding and passion that person has for a topic. Other students simply prefer to draft and research an answer a little bit before they share it.

Microsoft Teams conversations gives these students a voice and helps the classroom become more inclusive. The same students who didn’t have the confidence to speak in front of the class can contribute to discussions via a digital platform.

Threads in Conversations

Controlling Conversations

Having class Teams with open conversations can be a concern for teachers. There are ways to control this which we will look at next but it’s worth remembering that everything is audited in Office 365 including conversations so this is a much safer place for students to engage than outside of the school on social media and other platforms.

If you are not ready to use Teams conversations with your class or want them to use it at limited times (such as in lessons), then you can mute individuals or the whole class using the mute settings.

muting students in Microsoft Teams

In the next user adoption podcast, we will look at the other aspects of Teams including files, Class Notebook, assignments and SharePoint integration.

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.

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

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.

Promoted Links Web Part for Modern Pages

Promoted Links Web Part for Modern SharePoint Pages

This web part replicates the classic Promoted Links Web Part but with added features such as web part properties to change the background colour, size of background image and to select which promoted link list to use. You can download it here.

For more information on the full Cloud Design Box learning platform for modern SharePoint or custom workflows and design, Contact us via the website.

If you are interested in developing web parts using the new SharePoint Framework, this web part is a good example of:

  • loading jQuery from CDN
  • adding third party modules
  • making REST calls
  • configuring web part properties

You can find the complete source code in my GitHub repository at https://github.com/CloudDesignBox/cdb-promoted-links.

As soon as I get chance, I will create some additional blog posts on how this web part was created, breaking down the different task lists.

While I work on that, please feel free to download the code and have a play yourselves!

Branding SharePoint using Application Customizers

Collab365 Global Conference

Have you heard about the virtual Collab365 Global Conference 2017 that’s streaming online November 1st – 2nd?

Join me and 120 other speakers from around the world who will be bringing you the very latest content around SharePoint, Office 365, Flow, PowerApps, Azure, OneDrive for Business and of course the increasingly popular Microsoft Teams. The event is produced by the Collab365 Community and is entirely free to attend.

Places are limited to 5000 so be quick and register now.

During the conference I’d love you to watch my session which is called : ‘Branding SharePoint using Application Customizers’

I’ve been a SharePoint designer now for over 10 years. By designer, I mean changing the look and feel of SharePoint. Not just adding simple themes, but making SharePoint, “not look like SharePoint”. It’s a common request for companies and schools to have an intranet or communication portal which reflects their brand and identity. Although Microsoft have come along in leaps and bounds in this area with out-of-the-box options, it’s still a common requirement for some deeper unique branding. The ways in which we apply design customisations have changed over the years. From MasterPages and themes to custom actions, the landscape has been ever-changing but moving slowly towards JavaScript and client-side customisation. In this session, I will go through the SharePoint design technique changes over the years and finish with an example of the most recent SharePoint UI (modern experience). Using the new SharePoint framework, we will build a simple Application Customizer to apply a custom header and footer. This project will be built using web stack tools and libraries such as Node.js, Yeoman and Gulp.

If you join me, you will learn:

  • How to create a new application customizer
  • Using the application customizer to apply branding to modern sites
  • History of SharePoint design
  • Introduction to SASS and TypeScript

Topic(s):

  • Office365
  • SharePoint

Audience :

  • Developer

Time (in UTC) :

  • Thursday, November 2 2017 12:00 Noon

How to attend :

  1. Register here.
  2. At the time listed above go here to watch my session. (you can also add me to your own personal planner from the agenda.
  3. Be ready to take notes!

SUGUK Leeds – Branding SharePoint using Application Customizers

Note: this is an updated blog post to include reference material and demos from the SUGUK meeting in Leeds on 5th September 2017.

I’ve been a SharePoint designer now for over 10 years. By designer, I mean changing the look and feel of SharePoint. Not just adding simple themes, but making SharePoint, “not look like SharePoint”.

It’s a common request for companies and schools to have an intranet or communication portal which reflects their brand and identity. Although Microsoft have come along in leaps and bounds in this area with out-of-the-box options, it’s still a common requirement for some deeper unique branding.

The ways in which we apply design customisations have changed over the years. From MasterPages and themes to custom actions, the landscape has been ever-changing but moving slowly towards JavaScript and client-side customisation.

The most recent SharePoint UI (modern experience) gives designers the opportunity to deploy custom headers and footers to all new SharePoint pages. To make these customisations, we need to use the new SharePoint framework. Projects are built using web stack tools and libraries such as Node.js, Yeoman and Gulp. I’ve provided an overview of these on previous blog posts last year:

Getting started with the new SharePoint framework

Creating a picture library slideshow using jQuery cycle

Demos from SUGUK Leeds on 5th September 2017.

DEMO 2 – Adding HTML and CSS to the Top placeholder

Demo 2 on Github

DEMO 3 – Add Google Analytics, Get Announcements using REST, Show Date and Time, Import jQuery and jQuery Cycle 2

Demo 3 on Github



Note: This is a new video for the release candidate of SharePoint framework extensions.

In the video above, I show how design has changed over the years and I create a new Application Customizer SharePoint framework extension using TypeScript and SASS for design purposes.

It’s an exciting time to be a SharePoint designer and the quicker these extensions are released as general availability, the better! We can then start updating customisations and switching clients over to the new pages.

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.

Changing the default reply button in Outlook Web Access from “Reply all”

Your users may have noticed that the default reply button in Outlook Web Access is “Reply all”. This can result in emails accidentally being sent to the wrong person (as many users assume this is the reply button without reading it).

Reply all in OWA is default

Luckily you can change this default behaviour.

Change for an individual user

The user can change this setting themselves by going into the Mail settings.

Mail Settings

Under Mail, Automatic processing and Reply settings, the user can change the default response to “Reply”.

Reply settings

Change for all users

There is a PowerShell command which will set this for a mailbox.

Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration cloudacademy -IsReplyAllTheDefaultResponse $false

We can take this further and loop through all the mailboxes to apply this setting.

Get-Mailbox -ResultSize unlimited -Filter {(RecipientTypeDetails -eq 'UserMailbox')} | Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration -IsReplyAllTheDefaultResponse $false

Changed to reply

Hopefully you have happy users again after that change! Video guide below.