Blending Microsoft Teams with Existing Teaching Environments to Increase Access, Inclusivity and Engagement
This paper reports on two questions posed by our Foundation Year teaching team, “Are students interacting with our teaching?” and “Do all students find they can access our teaching and resources?” We introduced Microsoft Teams within two settings: a whole cohort academic module and small group-based assignments during Semester 2 of the academic year. Access to and activity within the newly introduced Microsoft Teams platform was investigated using the 90-day analytics window built into Microsoft Teams. Importantly, data were compared before and after the imposed remote-working situation due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19). Students’ opinions surrounding the use of Microsoft Teams within these settings were elicited through a questionnaire which helped to contextualise the benefits and challenges in introducing and embedding this tool into an existing teaching environment.
Students reported that this platform was easy to use and that they were confident in using it in the future, but exhibited clear inertia to change, preferring existing communication channels. This effect was also situation dependent; in the whole group situation, students liked to read what others had posted but were reticent to post things themselves. In the small group Teams, levels of activity were generally higher, with some groups using the tool for real-time collaboration. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in activity and engagement observed within the analytics window before and after enforced remote working. Overall, this paper shows that the adoption of Microsoft Teams in a hybrid teaching approach has merit in specific settings. However, careful consideration of the size of groups and how it is used within a setting should be given to elicit the desired effects.