DigiKnow looked at the Breakout rooms feature in Zoom last week, and how these could be used. This week, we continue with the equivalent of breakout rooms in MS Teams: better known as Channels.

What are channels?

Channels are where staff/students can meet away from the main Team to complete a task. channels can be open to all members or channels can be private with some team members allocated. In a teaching context, the latter (private channels) would be good for tutorial groups, students collaborating on a project and assessment groups.

You, as a Team Owner (teacher and creator), can currently have a maximum of 200 standard (open) channels and 30 private channels (with a maximum of 250 participants allocated per private channel).

How can channels be created?

To create a channel, click the ellipsis (three dot icon) to the right hand side of the Team name and click Add Channel. Team 1 – 6 in the example below are Standard channels. Private channels have a padlock icon beside them.

MS Teams - Add Channel
MS Teams – Add Channel

Fill in the Channel Name and under Privacy, choose Standard or Private. Click Add. In the next dialogue box, members can be added.

MS Teams - Channel Privacy
MS Teams – Channel Privacy
Now what?

On creation, channels take on the default set up of the main Team. To add in additional tabs or Apps to a channel, these need to be available within the main Team space first.

You need to decide channels requirements. In business, open channels are available to all employees and could be labelled Policies, Meetings and/or Training.

These open channels are accessible by anyone within the team with no restriction to entry. Some Channels may need to be private and relevant Team members added.

The Team Owner can create and amend private channels. The private channels cannot be created by guests. However, guests can be added to private channels.

In a business context, Accounts personnel may need a channels to discuss Finances and Industry Regulations, etc. Guests in the team could have access to private channels to discuss industry updates and regulations but not budgets.

Open channels may be used in teaching for Ice-breaker or Discussion activities. Private channels could be used with Tutorial Groups, Group Work and Group Assessments.

When thinking of channels, do consider if all team members need access or just some? Also ask does the channel need to be limited (regards access)? This may help determine open or private channels.

The larger team area contains open and private channels. And currently, they cannot be moved between team spaces. Also, channels cannot switch status from private to open.

Members added to a channel (now or in the future) will be able to see all previous content. Everyone within a private channel should be reassured the channel is a secure space. Individual Sharepoint sites are attached to channels. This helps ensure those files are secure and accessible to those private channel members.

Team Owners and private channels

You (Team Owner) can see all private channels. Team members can only see private channels which they have access to.

Team Owners (teachers) should set up the private channels. You, as teacher, automatically get added to private channels. This grants teacher access to the channels’ content. This is important. As a Teacher, you may want to enter the group temporarily to see how a task is progressing and assist students.

Private channels created by other team members won’t allow the Team Owner to view files or discussions within a private channel. As Team Owner, you can amend settings and permissions, thus maintaining control regards channels and creation.

MS Teams - Members Permissions
MS Teams – Members Permissions
What if a Team member leaves?

Sometimes members leave. Ex-members are removed automatically from private channels. Sometimes members can be re-instated. They need to be manually re-added to private channels.

Sharing content in channels

Each channel has it’s own Files section where anything uploaded appears. Some uploads can be set as channel Tabs for quick and easy access.

MS Teams - channels tabs
MS Teams – channels tabs

If you (teacher) want students to access something particular in a channel, you have to upload, link or share it within the channel. Unfortunately, you cannot share a file from the general team or between channels. Each channel is individual. Channels are separate collaboration areas. What if students want to share their finalised group project with the rest of the team?

In this instance, one student per group can download the item from the private channel and upload it to the general Team. Simply sharing a Sharepoint link won’t work beyond the channel it is in. Each channel has it’s own Sharepoint site and permissions.


An organisations building access is a good analogy for channels in MS Teams. Some people may have access to all rooms (open channels) where they can freely walk into any room within the building and view any information. Other people may have restricted permissions to access some rooms (private channels).

Information cannot pass between rooms. However, people inside the building can have their status amended to allow access to rooms. Channels can help provide secure, interactive and collaborative spaces for students to work together. MS Teams and channels are the new teaching spaces.

Next week

DigiKnow looks at the OneNote Class notebook and how this can be used in teaching and to gather information as a portfolio.

Please do join us next week to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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