Blog post by Alisha Tuladhar
University of Bath
On 6th April 2020, Monday, I conducted an hour and half long free online training session on Microsoft Teams for educators in Nepal. Although I was aware that lecturers or teachers in Nepal were looking for ways to move online, I did not expect the attendance would be this high. We received a total of 197 registrations in the attendanevent.com portal , out of which, 79 people joined the online training. Due to privacy reasons, I am unable to share the actual recording of the Session, however, instead I have created a PDF Content for Educators who are new to Microsoft Teams. You can access the file in the link below:
Download the Training Material by clicking this link [on Onedrive] .
Rather than going in detail about ‘How to use Teams’, I want to take a step back and address some basic questions for novice educators using digital tools:
- What is Teams? How can educators use it?
Microsoft Teams is a software provided by Microsoft since 2017, and acts as a collaboration and communication platform. It combines workplace chat, video meetings, file storage (including collaboration on files), and application integration. It can either be downloaded your Windows PC or can be accessed on any browser.
How can educators use it?
Teams for Education is especially useful as it enables a secure online classroom, keeps remote students engaged and facilitates distance learning. The unique thing about Teams is that it has special features especially designed for the Education sector and is completely FREE for students/ staff in any academic institutions. If you are part of a school, college or university in Nepal, please email email@example.com for full-access to the software for your institution. I encourage everyone in the academic sector to make full-use of this sophisticated piece of software provided for FREE by Microsoft for academic institutions.
- Why is it important? Why do educators need to use this? Can we not simply use Zoom? Or Facebook Messenger?
This is an interesting question. While Zoom and Facebook Messenger does allow students to attend the video-chat classrooms, it is limited in functionality because it’s purpose is instant messaging or delivering one-time conference calls – it is not built for the Education sector in particular.
Imagine if you have a Group Chat of 35 students in your FB Messenger, how is a Teacher possibly going to track their assignments, mark them and send it back to them? How is the teacher going to remember who asked which questions? Who scored how much? Who attended the classes, who are present in the call, or who left? It’s a lot of manual labour for the teachers (not very good use of their time either).
Instead, using Teams allows teachers to be productive and let the software do all the logistical background work, so they can solely focus on content. The following snippet from Teams website sums up the advantages of using Teams in a classroom:
Image Source: MS Teams Website
These functionalities are not available in Zoom nor Facebook Messenger, hence these apps are not fit for purposes for the Education Sector.
My stance is, if educators have access to high end quality software designed especially for educators and students, which is FREE of cost and is easy to use and access, why are we not making use of it?
Sure, it might sound easier said than done, however, like all things, this is a learning curve for many of us. As times change, our methods need to as well. Especially with the Covid situation, schools are forced to remain closed, however learning should continue. In this day and age, we have technology, let’s make use of it. Let’s make sure students are still learning and the student-teacher interaction continues despite the circumstances.
This quote from a case-study summarizes the move to online learning aptly:
Our students are digital natives and they see their personal lives and social media as a mobile world they inhabit. With our digital transformation, we’re bringing their academic world into their social world and normalizing it as part of their everyday lives.
O’Dea High School [Source]
Finally, I want to urge educators in Nepal to have an open mind and embrace online learning. Yes, you will need to make some effort to learn how to use new software. Once you understand how it works, it is fairly simple, just like with Facebook, when it first started it was probably difficult, but with several trials and errors you now know how to operate it! Also, no one knows everything. Especially in the current scenario, where software updates come in every few months, it is up to the user to educate themselves: watch How-to videos, read blogs and embrace the self-taught culture. It is one of the most essential skills of the digital era in my humble point of view.