Blending Microsoft Teams with Existing Teaching Environments to Increase Access, Inclusivity and Engagement

  • Lewis A Baker University of Surrey
  • Carol Spencely University of Surrey
Keywords: Blended learning, Microsoft Teams, Foundation Year, 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.


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Author Biographies

Lewis A Baker, University of Surrey

Lewis completed his MPhys in 2013 along with an MSc and PhD in Mathematical Biology and Biophysical Chemistry at the University of Warwick in 2017. He then qualified as a secondaryschool teacher before combining these experiences in his current position as Teaching Fellow on the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Surrey in 2019.

Carol Spencely, University of Surrey

Carol is currently a Teaching Fellow in Learning Development on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Foundation Year at the University of Surrey. Carol originally trained as a clinical immunologist and completed a BSc (Hons) in Physiology and Pharmacology, and a Masters in Pathological Sciences. Following a PhD in Immunology at Liverpool and research and teaching positions at Imperial College London, Carol moved to the dark side of professional services and helped to set up the Postdoc Development Centre at Imperial. Carol joined the University of Surrey’s Doctoral College in 2012 before taking up her current position in 2018.