It’s the Friday before the first week of term! Student inductions will be underway from Monday and teaching starts as well.

It may be students are taught face-to-face in some scenarios and online in other scenarios. This blog post covers how students access MS Teams and what they need to know about this digital space.

The questions are:

  • What do students need to know about MS Teams?
  • What if students cannot hear the lecturer and/or see slides?

To address these questions, firstly let’s look at MS Teams as part of student induction and what students need to know. Then, we will cover some trouble-shooting options for when things don’t go as planned.

For more on general Student Induction, please see our 2020: Student Induction post. To assist students at Queen’s University, please find a downloadable guide for this digital space.

What is MS Teams?

Teams can be considered a video-conferencing application whereby meetings are scheduled and attendees join virtual meetings live. Essentially, it’s a two-way online video call between a host (lecturer) and attendees (students).

In student induction, students will have received an email link to an MS Teams Student Induction session. This was probably the students’ first encounter with MS Teams.

If you’ve been in Teams before, you may be familiar with the interface. However, Teams is being improved regularly so the interface may look a little different. Don’t panic.

After induction, how do students access MS Teams?

As a student, use the internet (Chrome browser is best) and go to the web address www.qub.ac.uk/qol. This is Queen’s Online (QOL). Log in with your student number and password.

To access the Microsoft Apps, click on Office 365 as shown below.

Queen's Online (QOL) - accessing Office 365
Queen’s Online (QOL) – accessing Office 365

Firstly, note the Microsoft Apps you have available.

Microsoft Apps
Microsoft Apps

All of these Apps can be downloaded to your computer OR used online. As a student, you have O365 for the duration of your studies at Queen’s University. There are new Apps added regularly.

To access MS Teams, click on the MS Teams icon as highlighted below.

In Office 365 - click MS Teams
In Office 365 – click MS Teams

This will open MS Teams as a WEB App. The Chrome Browser is recommended!

There are benefits to using the MS Teams Desktop App, i.e., live-captions, background blur, etc.

MS Teams Environment
MS Teams Environment

To download the DESKTOP App, click on the profile circle (top right). Choose Download the Desktop App. NB: there is a Mobile App available as well and you can sign into Teams on up to four devices with the same account.

MS Teams - Download DESKTOP App
MS Teams – Download DESKTOP App

NB: The layout of the MS Teams Spaces.

This space may have channels added (for tutorials/ group work/ etc.), OneNote (i.e., for evidence gathering and note-taking) and other Apps. The space will be arranged to suit your learning needs.

Students attending live-teaching
Gear Required

As students, you will need:

  • Computer or laptop with an internet connection.
  • Headphones for lectures. You may be invited to speak online and headphones reduce audio feedback.
  • Webcam and microphone (webcams should have mics built in but you may want a better quality microphone). Ensure webcam/microphone is plugged in before you start. Test that these work.

NB:     If using a laptop, it has a built in camera/mic already.

At Queen’s University, you (as students) will join ‘meetings’ for live-teaching. These sessions will be scheduled as per your timetable. You should be able to access your timetable by Queen’s Online (QOL) and via Canvas (Queen’s virtual learning environment).

Students can access live-teaching sessions via an email link OR their Outlook Calendar OR the MS Teams Calendar. Remember, it’s all Microsoft AND integrated! Some Module Coordinators may have live-teaching links on the timetable in Canvas for quick access!

Staff and students can join the session via MS Teams Calendar. Click the Calendar icon. Click the item.

MS Teams, click Calendar (left) and click Session
MS Teams, click Calendar (left) and click Session

When the item is clicked, this will expand on screen and show the meeting details. Click Join.

MS Teams - Click Join
MS Teams – Click Join

Once you Join (as per above), you are presented with a pre-join window (below).

This gives you an opportunity to test the speakers and microphone (via the PC Mic & Speakers).

At this stage, join initially with camera/mic off and your lecturer will guide you how to use MS Teams. When ready, click Join Now.

NB:  Should you have issues with visuals / audio in MS Teams, leave and rejoin the session after checking the Device Settings:

MS Teams - Device Settings
MS Teams – Device Settings

NB:     Some students may have reduced connectivity, if you have a really bad connection, view the Other Join Options at the bottom of the page. If joining via mobile, choose Phone Audio.

NB:     Teaching materials should be available on Canvas, if students experience poor connection problems, download the teaching materials and use the Phone Audio to listen to the lecture.

A note on Canvas. Canvas is where all students’ teaching materials will be held, i.e., lecture slides, reading lists and additional materials. Canvas will hold ALL teaching content and the recordings of live-teaching (after live-teaching is complete).

MS Teams will be used for live-teaching, i.e., your scheduled classes. A copy of the slides will be viewable in Teams. Your lecturer will be teaching ‘live’ and this is an opportunity for you to engage with the teaching content, ask questions and interact both with the content and other students during live-teaching.

Remember, this is class. Students should prepare themselves and their environment as they would for being taught in class. The best learning experience will be on a computer or laptop (Chrome browser is recommended).

Students should have a notepad and pen at the ready for note-taking, OR use PDF annotation software (whichever they prefer). Students should use the Chat facilities or Raise Hand icons for asking questions.

Headphones are recommended for listening to live-teaching sessions. You may be asked to voice your question or opinion and headphones stops the audio from your speakers feeding back into your microphone. This makes the audio quality for other students much better.

Also, if you are in a live-teaching session at home, headphones helps you hear the content and not the extraneous noise/distractions from around your home or student accommodation.

The MS Teams Environment

Whilst in a live-teaching session, students can expect to see a presentation with your lecturer on video.

Other students may be on camera.

MS Teams after joining a meeting
MS Teams after joining a meeting

Let’s have a look at the icon bar. This may appear toward the bottom middle of the screen, or along the top. The icons will be the same.

MS Teams Icon Bar
MS Teams Icon Bar

The icon bar may appear part way down the screen or along the top bar.

Going left to right, the icons are:

  • A counter
  • Webcam on/off
  • Microphone on/off
  • Share screen
  • Allows access to device settings, meeting notes, full screen, blur background, live-captions on/off, keypad, start recording and turn off incoming video
  • Chat window
  • Participants can be invited          
  • Meeting ended
Trouble-shooting MS Teams

What can go wrong in Teams? Sometimes audio can’t be heard or visuals cannot be seen. Advise students/guests to leave and rejoin the session and pay attention to the speaker and mic options on entry to the session.

If visuals cannot be seen, there may be a glitch or low bandwidth. Again, ask the student to leave and rejoin the session. Also advise student(s) that PDF copies of slides are available on Canvas should they need to download a copy. In the worst case scenario, students can dial in to MS Teams sessions and listen to Phone Audio. And, having the PDF slides copy, they can still see the visuals during the lesson.

Always remind students that live-teaching sessions will be recorded and whilst not ideal as students have less opportunity to ask questions in real-time, students can view playback.

Recordings can be viewed as much as required. These recordings are beneficial to assist students. Students can rewatch and increase their understanding of the subject.

Recordings are also great revision tools.

Summary

This blog post has looked at MS Teams from a student viewpoint. We have considered the MS Teams environment and what students need to know now to get started in this digital space.

This has covered accessing Office 365 and opening Teams the Web App, downloading the Desktop App and a walk-through of the digital space. This is an introduction and the real experience and knowledge will come from using MS Teams in different teaching scenarios.

As lecturers, please do NOT assume students know or are comfortable in this space. Spend a few minutes at the start of MS Teams sessions and set expectations to students. For example, do you want cameras and mic on or off.

As a lecturer, explain the format of your live-teaching and is there opportunity to ask questions and if so, how?

We hope this helps staff and students in their introduction to the MS Teams space.

Next time

On Monday September 21st, we look at MS Teams for Teaching. We’re interested in using the MS Teams space to engage students, i.e., highlighting some interactive features.

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


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