Microsoft Teams at WSU

Recently you received an email from C&IT introducing Microsoft Teams. Microsoft is trying to promote Teams as a way to communicate and work with classes, and has an engineer working with WSU to help us use the program here, and foster its use further with other universities.

First of all, let’s answer, “What exactly is Teams?

Teams is a chat-based workspace built into Office 365 (what your Wayne email is a part of). It is meant to bring people together—both in conversations and content. It integrates and uses all the Office 365 tools so that you can collaborate and achieve even more.

Teams is taking over the functions of Skype for Business too—which will eventually be phased out—integrating Skype functions directly into its interface. Use Teams to work on projects between meetings—or use it for a meeting. The fact that it has the functionality of Skype for Business incorporated into it means that you can simply switch to a video meeting on the fly.

But why would you want to use a chat-based tool?

The barrage of emails we are all receiving is becoming harder and harder to keep up with. I know that I get hundreds of email messages a day and sometimes it’s difficult to make it through them all. In a chat based app, it’s easier to scan through the conversations to find information quickly. As a teacher, you can compare it to a discussion board in a LMS.

Though I have not used Teams in class, I have become a big proponent of using it here at C&IT. Here are a couple examples of my experiences with the app.

Collaboration in special groups

In C&IT, we have been moving to integrate it into our work for a while. The best example of this, that I am involved in, is the Data Governance committee. This committee consists of 54 people from all over the university. The amount of information being shared on this committee is enormous.

Every team that you are a member of has a general channel. That is your main meeting space. You can also add channels, which allows for a second working area for our subcommittee. It’s also helpful that you can control the people who are in each channel.

Team Structure
Figure 1: A Team structure: various channels are listed under the team.

Using files and tabs

I was recently chairing a search committee for a new position in my academic department. Teams was what bound us together through the project—it made the process far more efficient.

To make certain that everyone had access to the CVs, references, introductory letter, and supporting materials, I loaded them all into the files section of teams after I had downloaded them from the WSU jobs site. While doing this directly from teams could take a while, there is a function in teams to Open in Sharepoint. With this, after it opened in my browser, I could easily drag all the applicants’ folders into SharePoint.

Figure 2: File

By far the most handy function is the ability to add other options from the Office 365 suite (or other third-party applications) to a Team as tabs. As we were working on the search, I chose to have our analysis forms be entirely electronic and used Microsoft forms. I was able to add a tab directly into Teams so that my team members could complete the form for each candidate.

Figure 3: A Form Tab

Alternatively, I also made tabs to see the results of the forms.

I used these forms in a couple of ways during the search. Not only did I use them for analysis, I also used them as a form to enter information while speaking with references; as a form to record answers to questions during Skype interviews; and to vote to choose the candidates to bring for on-campus interviews. Since the information can easily be exported as an Excel file, it can later be used in many ways: to create letters from a mail merge of the information; to re-examine answers from interviews; and summing and sorting the the scores each person on the search committee gave the candidates for each of their desired qualities.

Figure 4: Check-box voting

Here I have demonstrated some of the ways in which I have added functionality to Teams via the tabs. Many functions can be added that are helpful in your course simply by clicking on the plus (+) symbol. Figure 5 shows types of the apps that can be added—there are hundreds of them.

Figure 5: List of tools for functionality
Figure 5: Tools for Functionality

Figure 6 demonstrates tools that are geared specifically towards academia; These are available simply by clicking More apps.

Figure 6: List of Educational Tools
Figure 6: Educational Tools

Teams is an amazing tool for connecting people, and I recommend you seriously consider using it as a part of your classroom.