LMS and Teams: better together for distance learning

No two educational institutions are the same, and neither are the solutions they use for teaching and learning. In order to support a connected and engaged school community, Microsoft products, like Teams for Education, are designed to meet you where you are, with features that add to–and don’t replace–your current use of learning management systems and other apps. 

In a distance learning scenario, Teams can fluidly work alongside several LMSes and apps, supporting the crucial need for online lectures, discussion, and productive collaboration. So in partnership with Teams features like meetings, live events, assignments, and more, you can keep using your same LMS. You can turn off the Teams features not relevant to your institution, leverage the ones that are, and create a multi-tool solution that enables students, teachers, and staff to do their best work.

                        Teacher sitting at desk in front of computer screen

Your distance learning toolbox: 

Microsoft Teams for Education: a platform enabling lectures, discussions that scale from one-on-one chat to larger group conversation, and the option of focused content work, like assignments and a Class Notebook. 

An LMS like Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard, or Moodle: supporting curriculum and class rosters. 

A video platform like Zoom: supporting video conferencing and webinars. 

Add Teams to your toolbox at a level that’s right for your institution

Note: Teams is free to all Education users right now. Learn more here.

Professors, students, and IT Admins, refer to the tabbed sections here for more in-depth guidance on optimizing Teams with your LMS and apps in a distance learning setting. 

Start with easy meetings, small group work, and online events (lectures and more) 

Using Microsoft Teams, you can invite your LMS classes to join you in an online virtual call. Students don’t even need an account to join the meeting–you can generate your own unique meeting link, share in your LMS, and students can click to join right away. 

Create and share your unique meeting link:  

  • Navigate to your Calendar in Teams and copy the “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting” link.

  • Share your meeting with a class by posting an announcement with the meeting link in your LMS.

    Microsoft Teams link in Canvas post

  • Students using Edge or Chrome can simply click the link to join the meeting. Not using those browsers? Download the Teams app and join without logging in. Learn more

In your virtual Teams meetings, you can:  

  • Hold meetings of up to 250 people (for larger presentations, see Live Events below).

  • Share your screen to present materials.

  • Manage permissions. As the owner of the meeting, you can control who can record and present their screen. You can also mute attendees if you need to keep the call centered on what you’re sharing. Use the dropdowns in Meeting options to adjust your settings.

    Select who's allowed to present in Teams meeting options

Practices to consider (take or leave depending on your meeting needs): 

  • Determine whether you want students to speak up directly in the meeting or stay muted and type questions or comments in the meeting chat.

  • Designate someone in the meeting (other than the presenter) to respond to questions in the chat or manage other activities related to meeting content.

Create a live event

Broadcast a large event, lecture, book talk, or academic panel with up to 10,000 people using Teams.  

Presenter on video in a Microsoft Teams meeting

Use Teams chat to create study groups 

No need to set up teams for class discussions–you can jump into chats right away. 

  • Students and educators can create group chats to study and communicate, from one-on-one conversations to chats with up to 100 people.

  • Chat in Teams offers real-time or asynchronous messaging, file collaboration, and the ability to meet instantly with the rest of the group. Learn more about chatting in Teams.

See how it works: University of Central Lancashire uses Teams chat to coordinate staff.

Ideas for remote learning with students 

If you need to, use Teams features as a supplement to your assignments and posts in other learning platforms. Teams can help bridge the gap when you can’t meet with each other face-to-face and don’t want to get stuck in endless email chains. Use it to communicate, work on the same document at the same time, and stay on the same page. 

  • Keep in touch: At its most basic level, Teams is a place to find other students or instructors at your school and contact them. Use chat to ask a quick question, send over a file, or start a call.

  • Teams works great on mobile:  Download the app

  • Group projects:

    Add other students to a group chat, meet in a channel within a class, or form your own team.  

    Documents you share will be immediately accessible to everyone in the group. 

    Work in documents at the same time, add comments, or even chat to the side of the document to add thoughts, research, and brainstorms.  

    Word document open in Teams with a chat conversation in a panel next to it

    See how this works

  • Study groups: 

    Stay in touch with each other with quick chats, threaded posts, or video/voice calls. 

    Students in a video chat in Teams

    Share resources. 

    Write on the same documents to save research, links, and assignment information. 

    Tip: You can pin important websites, files, and apps to any channel or chat using the +Add tab feature.

  • Class discussions: 

    Join a Teams meeting with your whole class or participate in posts created by your instructor. 

  • Clubs and societies 

    Create teams to bring extracurricular activities and student groups together. These teams can be as informal or formal as you like. 

    Centralize communication in the team without the need for each member’s personal contact information. 

    Bring calendars, sign-up sheets, and polls online where everyone can access them. 

    Add other students to your team with a simple join code so others can join, whenever.

  • Hackathons  

    Organize hacking communication and documents in one place to keep your team’s project on track.

    Read more about using Teams to help manage clubs, hacks, and on-campus jobs.

Customize Teams to work with your current needs 

If you’re interested in providing Microsoft Teams to your school community, or someone has requested it, you’ve come to right place. Note that Microsoft Teams (and all of Office 365) are free to educators and students with an eligible school email address.

Get set up

  • Set up your Teams environment 

    The free School Data Sync (SDS) tool allows you to synchronize existing school rosters to auto-create and invite educators, staff, and students to teams. If that’s not right for your school, no problem. You can also extend Teams as an option to educators and students who’d prefer to create them manually. Read more about deployment and configuration.

  • Familiarize yourself with meeting policies in Microsoft Teams

    There are many configurations possible for different group sizes and privacy settings. This includes live events, large calls, private calling, inviting guest speakers to present, anonymous joining, and more.  Learn more

Tips to avoid repetition between different learning platforms 

If your institution is currently using an LMS, you may want to keep things simple in terms of which platforms instructors should use to manage grading and other tasks. Teams offers Assignments and grading, but can also be used effectively with those features turned off. If that’s your preference, simply remove the Assignments and Grades features so that they no longer appear in the app bar, or in class teams created at your school. Instructions are shared below.    

Note: There are many scenarios where educators may want to try Teams Assignments. It’s an easy way to share and distribute learning activities through OneDrive and Office 365. Educators can assign a variety of resources, including assessments, as well as monitor progress with Grades and customizable rubrics. Learn more about Assignments

How to disable the Assignments and Grades apps in Teams: 

  1. Visit the Teams Admin Center.

  2. Navigate to Teams apps > Permission Policies.

  3. Create a new policy by selecting Add or modify an existing policy.

  4. In the Microsoft apps section, select Block specific apps and allow all others from the dropdown menu.

  5. Click Add apps and search for the Assignments app. Once found, click Block. Follow the same steps for the Grades app.

  6. When you’re done, your screen will look similar to this:

    Permission policies in the Microsoft Teams admin center

  7. Assign the App permissions policy to the desired users or via your global policy following the process detailed here.

Set up class or staff teams 

Creating a team for your class or a group of staff members can open up more possibilities for group collaboration, discussions, and file sharing. Plus, it allows you to meet the cadence of your classroom with scheduled meetings or even assignments. You can use a class team to work with students and staff alongside other learning platforms. 

  • Invite students to join by link, code , or using School Data Sync with your IT department. 
     

  • Schedule meetings in a channel for lectures and seminars 

    Create a new meeting and choose a channel to meet in. All students in your class team will receive a calendar invite to the meeting. When the meeting begins, they’ll receive a notification in Teams to join. You can also record meetings when students aren’t able to join.

  • Hold virtual office hours 

    Schedule these on your Teams calendar so students will know when you’re available. 

    During office hours, students can reach out via text or video call.

    Tip: Ask students to sign up for their own meeting slots, too, by adding a Form to a channel. Learn more

  • Class collaboration and discussion 

    Moderate class discussions.

    Post announcements and pose questions.

    Create channels to organize collaboration around different units, subjects, or topics. Private channels are great for small group work and project-based learning. 

    See how it works: Educators at Newcastle University share their teaching practices.

  • Integration with Zoom and other apps 

    Zoom's Microsoft Teams integration allows you to start an instant meeting or join a scheduled meeting through Bots commands. Meetings created in Teams will appear in your Zoom account. Learn more

    Zoom link in Microsoft Teams channel

  • File sharing 

    Documents shared in a team are accessible to all students. 

    Add important class documents such as syllabi, handbooks, and school calendars to the view-only Class Materials folder. 

    Classmates can open Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents directly in Teams and work together in real-time, even opening up a chat to the side of a document. 

    Build a class-wide sharing space.

  • Assess student learning 

    Use Assignments to send out quizzes and formative learning assessments. 

    You don’t need to grade assignments or use points if you don’t want to. Simply use this as another way to send out content and check for comprehension. 

    Learn more about Assignments in Teams.

Further training and system-wide adoption of Teams and Office 365  

Access training and professional development from the Microsoft Educator Center to scale distance learning at your institution.

IT Admins and school leaders: Set up Teams for distance learning.

See how Office 365 supports and scales distance learning for students, teachers, and parents.

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