Icons available on the Office 365 package

Exploring Microsoft Office 365 for Teaching and Learning

The ‘Exploring Microsoft Office 365 for Teaching and Learning’ event took place on Monday 10th September in Great George Street, and aimed to answer four questions:

  • How would tools for education improve learning, teaching, and experience of students?
  • What innovative practice could be brought in?
  • How would it work for HE and how would it scale?
  • What are the next steps for implementing these tools, in terms of experimentation and learning?

The Current Picture

The session started with review of the relevant strategic picture (BILT, Digital Learning Environment phase 2 and the Digital Workspace Programme, and examples from Bristol of Office and Google tools used for Education.  Mike Cameron from the Digital Education Office discussed their use of:

  • Google Docs to record collaborative group work/workshops. Roger Gardner from the DEO uses this tool as a collaborative scratch pad in workshops. One of the main benefits is that it saves time with sharing ideas in groups. The software runs relatively smoothly when multiple users are adding simultaneously.
  • Google Sheets and Forms to create a peer-review market, in which each student could post work for review, other students could volunteer to review it and the whole thing would run on a points system where students got marks for any reviewing they did and it cost them points to get their work reviewed. Whilst this only made it to the prototype stage, there could be great potential in developing the approach through Office tools in the future.
  • Yammer (part of the Office 365 package) as a channel for communication in the ‘MsC in Strategy, Change and Leadership’. This tool is more appropriate than Facebook though offers similar functionality to that of Facebook.
  • Excel Online (also part of the Office 365 package) to complete collaborative work in classroom and at a distance, with groups of 4 working collectively on a spreadsheet. The plan is for this to run as part of the Bristol Futures optional unit, ‘Inequality, Crisis and Prosperity: How to Make Sense of the Global Economy’, with collaborative work taking place regardless of being in a physical or digital space.
  • Blended learning in Modern Languages (with David Perkins de Oliveira). Most of the ‘blended learning’ has taken place via setting work before class groups. Students give feedback on problems they’ve identified in the pre-work so that the seminar can be tailored to the group’s needs.

A Case Study – OneNote in the Centre for Medical Education

A case study was then presented by Martin van Eker and Jane Williams, from the Centre for Medical Education eLearning team, on their use of OneNote for case-based learning.

You can view the case study here – for further details please contact Martin or Jane.

Office 365 Highlights and Tips

Ian Woolner, the Microsoft Representative, then showed the group the Office 365 Training Center, a place where staff and students can find training videos, PDFs and tip on how to make the most of the Office 365 tools. He highlighted some of the best tools he believed are available as part of the Office 365 package, including:

  • Quick Starter – builds a PPT template based on a web search. It is estimated that 20% of time working on a PPT is on the presentation; Quick Starter does this for you.
  • Translator – translates transcripts and then emailed back to you. This can subtitle live speech, so can support remote learning. Free add on, available now.
  • The Office 365 package complements VLE, but will not replace VLE. It links with Blackboard, in part using a CSV connector to enable Blackboard and Office to integrate.
  • Microsoft are currently consolidating different versions of programmes e.g. Excel Online and Excel Desktop. The interfaces of the online and desktop versions will soon become more similar. He explained that eventually there will only be one version that all will use though it will take approximately 5 years for full functionality to be available on the online versions.

Ian also highlighted Microsoft Teams as a key tool to support the Education agenda at Bristol. The interface for this tool has been vastly improved, making it easier to add and remove members, and with a great deal of added functionality. Some of the benefits Ian listed were; it supports students resolving issues together rather than going to a tutor, and therefore create opportunities for collaborative problem solving. ‘Teams’ also includes: IM and logs the chats (like an Outlook inbox); a calendar; Skype functionality and; details on team members. Get in touch with the Digital Education Office if you’d like to find out more about using Teams with your students.

Moving Forward

The final part of the session considered what will happen next, and how to move the conversations that had taken place forward. By the start of the 2019 academic year, all staff and all students will have access to Office 365 and be using Outlook as their email server (some students are using the Gmail server). In 2018/19 first year students will be using Outlook as their email server. The 2018/19 academic year will be seen as an experimental period in which selected programmes and units can test different tools in order to facilitate learning about functionality/ limitations/ scalability, etc. Both Bristol Futures and the CREATE programme were suggested as places for experimentation.

The Office 365 package can meet a number of benefits the Education Strategy hopes to bring. The availability of tools online means that more online and blended learning can take place, though discussion about how this can be scaled still need to take place. The package also allows for equal access to all students – this supports students from widening participation and alternative route background. Further to this, using tools such as OneNote and Teams also allows for greater personalisation in teaching and creates links between spaces (digital and physical) and the individual.

The package can also support the Bristol Futures curriculum. The work around assessment, pedagogy and Programme Level Assessment, specifically how we can use technology to support inclusive assessment, can also be supported by the use of Office 365. The increased feasibility of online assessment needs to be met with questions about what value is brought by bringing assessment online, and the type of assessments that are used – are they fit for purpose when assessing students on different tasks?

Wider questions were then considered about the use of space in the University and how the Office 365 package, and general technology use, fits into this. The constraints of room bookings and timetabling were brought as a potential issue, as were issues about training.

It is imperative the tools do not drive the practice, and that pedagogy always comes first. A space where staff can record the activities and tools they experiment with, as well as the context in which they are being used, is essential for sharing practice and ensuring thinking and practice is ‘joined up’, rather than taking place in small pockets.

For more information about using any of the tools available in Office365, please contact the Digital Eduaction Office.

If you’re currently using the tools and would like to share your practice with colleague, please contact BILT.


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