Microsoft Teams for Education is preparing for autumn with a 7×7 speaker grid and deeper analysis

COVID-19 sparked a wave of unexpected distance learning into schools. Given the ongoing pandemic, schools are spending their summers planning for fall. Microsoft released its own lesson plans for teams on Monday, with an expanded gallery view and further analysis arriving in time for the next academic year.

Several new features will be important to educators, parents and students:

  • A 7×7 gallery view will replace the current 3×3 approach.
  • New breakout rooms allow discussions in smaller groups
  • Attendance reports and other classroom insights provide data on who is having problems and who is not.
  • A meeting lobby will be set up so that only those who have signed up for the meeting can attend.

None of the new features explicitly use other functions in Microsoft Office, which traditionally was Microsoft’s wedge for building teams. However, the company found that municipalities and even entire organizations are rapidly moving to remote team learning. The United Arab Emirates, for example, moved all of its 650,000 students into teams after the outbreak of the pandemic.

Keep track of students with the new teams functions

Microsoft said these new features will come to Teams as part of Microsoft Education – specifically, as part of Teams for Education. However, all but Class Insights will be available to teams as a whole.

Zoom, Microsoft’s most popular competitor for online video calls, already offers a 7×7 gallery view showing the faces of 49 participants. Microsoft is now expanding from a 3×3 view to the new format. The company said the 49-person view will be previewed in June and generally available in the fall.

Microsoft will steal a page from Zoom and add breakout rooms, which will also debut this fall. Microsoft did not provide any further details. However, according to Zoom, Zoom meeting attendees can be automatically or manually assigned by the host to their own breakout rooms, giving them their own private audio, video, and screen sharing capabilities. Up to 50 breakout rooms can be created with Zoom.

Microsoft is adding a new trending view for its class insights, which is becoming increasingly important as students join and leave online classes. (A kid from one of my neighbors unexpectedly missed several high school classes for several weeks while his parents recovered from the coronavirus.) While the 7×7 gallery view may be the most noticeable new feature of Teams, you may want to keep track of things Keeping about the students and their participation will be the most important complement for educators.

“For educators, traditional lesson plans are not always translated digitally – and in many cases teachers find that they cannot recreate the school day just with live sessions,” Microsoft said in a blog entry. “According to our teaching community, more than half said that“ student digital engagement ”and“ student participation ”are the biggest challenges they face in distance learning.

Microsoft

The new Class Insights view seems to be rich in information. Microsoft’s competitor here is likely Google Classroom that offers less data, focuses on the number of posts and active time spent in the virtual classroom.

Class Insights provides data on which students participated, interacted, submitted assignments and more, including grading. Teams for Education adds a feature that allows students to signal to their teachers called Raise Their Hands, which was announced in March. The trend view will be in place at the start of fall classes, Microsoft said.

Teams will add a new lobby, a feature already included in Zoom, to limit “zoom bombing” and other unwanted interference in the meeting. The new lobby is complemented by new meeting options that prevent students from starting the meeting without the teacher being present.

Microsoft is also encouraging educators to include apps like FlipGrid, a social video discussion platform that Microsoft purchased in 2018, and Minecraft for Education, which applies the popular game to classrooms. Additional features like Immerisve Reader can help students who have difficulty reading text, while background blur can be helpful in keeping students at work and protecting their privacy. Recently, Microsoft made it easier to allow custom backgrounds by creating a dedicated folder for custom images. A more complicated version of the custom background feature had been in use for several months.

This story was updated with additional details at 3:17 pm.

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