MS Teams: new features to engage students
Microsoft has been working to improve its Teams product in response to a global need for remote learning. For educators using MS Teams as a central hub for learning and teaching, the expanded featureset is designed to make remote learning more engaging, inclusive and ultimately, more human.
The ability for teachers and students to see each other and interact is a critical part of remote learning, but the product has moved beyond simply seeing everyone and introduced new views designed to optimise interactions and make conversations more natural.
Together Mode places all participants in a shared background such as a college lecture hall and creates a more attentive and connected online class experience. Its unique look and feel encourages engagement and makes it easier to focus on body language and nonverbal cues. It also reduces distractions in the environment and helps return focus to the individuals who are speaking, which is particularly important in the classroom setting.
Dynamic View uses AI to optimise the virtual classroom space and prioritises shared content and video to make managing the view more fluid, flexible and intelligent. There are also controls to let students personalise the view to suit their own preferences or needs.
Microsoft Whiteboard, which increases opportunities for collaboration during classes, is being updated for Education as well. Features include sticky notes, pen and ink, and drag-and-drop capability.
Another new feature designed to enhance the remote learning experience is Chat Bubbles. Chatting during a class can be a lively way to engage students and encourage idea sharing, but it can also cause distraction. With Chat Bubbles, there’s no need to open a separate chat window; messages will float up from the bottom of the screen for all participants and make the chat more central to the conversation.
Using Live Reactions, anyone in a Teams class can select an emoji and share it with the group, providing instant feedback from students, and helping instructors gauge emotional wellbeing, track comprehension and encourage participation. Reflect Messaging gives educators another way to help connect with their students socially and emotionally, by creating check-in questions and polls. This can be especially valuable in remote or hybrid learning environments, where social cues are harder to detect.
While it’s unclear what the coming months bring, technology that enables remote and hybrid learning approaches is now a permanent part of the education experience. With new features to foster stronger human interaction, collaboration and student engagement constantly in development, products like Teams are helping educators deliver better learning outcomes.
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