It’s now the first week of term. Student inductions are getting underway and teaching starts this week as well.

It may be students are taught face-to-face in some scenarios and today’s blog post looks at engaging students in live-teaching in MS Teams.

On Friday, we looked at MS Teams and what students need to know. Please have a read through and even share that blog post with your students to help orientate them in the MS Teams digital space.

Teams updates

The MS Teams landscape at Queen’s is updating. You should now have Team Module spaces (at QUB) available in your Teams App. Please seek guidance from your Programme Coordinator on how to set up live-teaching. For example, on straight-forward modules (i.e., one class per week), it will be fine to set up live-teaching via the Teams Calendar.

Students are now populated in those Team Module spaces as well. Definitely have a plan how you are inviting students to live-teaching sessions. This is simple for less complex programmes as live-teaching can be done via MS Teams.

Complex programme timetables

On more complex programmes involving much larger student groups with case-based sessions, tutorials, practicals and live-teaching (online). The invites to those sessions are better done via Outlook to the relevant student groupings.

In undergraduate courses with live-teaching, case-based and tutorial sessions, this will require multiple groups and multiple live-sessions to run simultaneously.

There’s also GDPR considerations. Invites should be sent without compromising student data (email addresses).

Using Outlook to send Team Invites for live-teaching
Using Outlook to send Team Invites for live-teaching

For tutorials and smaller groups sessions, multiple team invites can be sent by email for students to join the Main Session and then a Breakout Room for sub-divided tutorial sessions (see below). The student email addresses would be in the BCC field to comply with GDPR.

Be explicit with instructions in the email as to which space students need to join first.

By setting up live-teaching sessions via Outlook, sessions are populated in the calendar. The details (and teams link) can then be copied onto an email and sent to whichever distribution list(s) of students that need it. See example below.

Using Outlook to send Team Invites for live-teaching
Using Outlook to send Team Invites for live-teaching

The advantages of this invite method are:

  • Invites are set up in advance centrally
  • Relevant students and facilitators get the relevant invite
  • All invites are accessible by email
  • Calendars are only populated with relevant Teams sessions which reduces confusion
  • Instructions on the format of teams session are clear in the email

Once the logistics of how invites to live-teaching are set up and distributed, the questions are:

  • How can lecturers engage students when live-teaching via MS Teams?
  • What if students have trouble accessing Teams, how can we help?

To address these questions, firstly let’s look at MS Teams, what it is AND how staff/students can join live-teaching sessions. Then we’ll look at teaching in MS Teams and how lecturers can engage students in real-time online sessions.

Following this, we will cover some trouble-shooting items for when things don’t go to plan. This is not an exhaustive list, we’ve merely collated instances we’ve experienced thus far.

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).

Credit: Perry Grone Team hands
Credit: Perry Grone Team hands
Students attending live-teaching

At Queen’s University, lecturers/students will join live-teaching sessions. These sessions will be scheduled as per their timetable.

Depending on how your programme uses Teams, students might be encouraged to check their Outlook/Teams Calendar for teaching times and/or emails may have been distributed to specific parties.

Either way, lecturers/students can join the teaching session but make sure students know how to join! In more complex programmes, work together to keep it consistent!

A quick note about Canvas and Teams. These platforms are being used for this years remote and connected teaching (online).

Canvas is where all teaching materials will be held, i.e., lecture slides, reading lists and additional materials. And, 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 sessions, i.e., scheduled classes, tutorials, etc., in real-time.

A copy of the teaching slides will be presented in Teams. Lecturers will be teaching ‘live’ and this is an opportunity for students to engage with the teaching content, ask questions and interact both with the content and other students during live-teaching.

Remember, this is class. Encourage students to prepare themselves for learning. For example, encourage students to have a notepad and pen at the ready for note-taking, OR use PDF annotation software (whichever they prefer). Encourage students to use the Chat facilities or Raise Hand icons for asking questions during live-teaching.

Credit: Jan Piatkowski
Credit: Jan Piatkowski

Lecturers should recommend headphones for listening during live-teaching sessions. If you ask a student to speak, headphones prevent the audio from the speakers feeding back into the microphone. This makes the audio quality for everyone better.

Let’s look at a teaching in MS Teams!

Joining Live-teaching

When anyone joins a live-teaching session (from either an email link or Outlook/Teams Calendar item), they are presented with a pre-join window (below).

This gives lecturers/students an opportunity to test camera, speakers and microphone (via the PC Mic & Speakers).

As a teacher, if you are teaching in a class room for both face-to-face and remote teaching, choose the Add a Room option to use the equipment in the room. This benefits both audiences. Encourage face-to-face students to also join MS Teams for the interactive elements of the class.

At this stage, students might join with cameras/mics off. The lecturer can guide students on this before the live-teaching session (put it in the instructions when inviting students). When ready, click Join Now.

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

NB: Lecturers should have their video on to benefit students. This is multi-factorial. Some students may need to lip-read. Other students may need to see facial nuances as part of the communication.

Also, inform students live-captioning is available on the Desktop App via the Ellipsis () icon.

From an e-learning view, having the lecturer on screen is the Personalisation Principle in action. You, the lecturer, are engaging with students remotely and by being on-screen, this encourages student learning, engagement and attention for your subject. It’s more personal.

NB:     Some students may have reduced connectivity, if the connection is really bad, view the Other Join Options at the bottom of the page. In some instances, it’s better to request all participants to turn off cameras to improve connectivity for all. However, sometimes students may have no option but to join via mobile. If joining via mobile, choose Phone Audio.

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

Remember, lectures are recorded and in the worst case scenario, it can be viewed later.

The MS Teams Environment

There is a section in Friday’s post that briefly covers the MS Teams Environment. Please have a look at the Students and the MS Teams Digital Space post for more information.

MS Teams Environment
MS Teams Environment
Teaching in MS Teams

If you are used to class-based teaching and engaging students, pause a moment and think about how you interact with students face-to-face. How do you address them? Are you asking questions and looking responses? What activities do you have students complete and why?

Credit: Miguel Henriques
Credit: Miguel Henriques

How can you take those class-based examples and make them work online?

Not long ago, DigiKnow did a Teacher’s Toolkit for Engagement. This looked at active-learning activities and examples of how these activities could be used online. DigiKnow covered the following topics for the Teaching Toolkit:

However, when we talk about engaging students in MS Teams, we are referring to the tools in the environment to get students to engage with you (the lecturer), your teaching content and fellow students.

What is you lecture style?

How do you lecture? Do you talk for 50 minutes and then take a Q&A or encourage questions throughout? Is it that you engage students through role play or problem-based learning? Have you ever asked students to summarize what was covered in your last teaching session? What is the format of your face-to-face teaching?

How might you do this online? It can be done, it just needs a bit of planning.

Facilitation advice

When teaching in Teams, it is recommended students interact in Teams approximately every five minutes. Why? To keep students engaged and focused on the content and engaged in their learning.

Lectures CANNOT be passive as a one-way broadcast.

In an age where we are suffering from digital/screen fatigue, it is better to engage students in two way dialogue during live-sessions.

This ‘dialogue’ can be confirmation (raise hand) that students understand a concept (and are still present). A simple icon on/off can be powerful feedback to the lecturer as well.

Having students interact with the features keeps student focused for longer.

Build these practices into your online teaching.

Give Instruction

It’s important to give students instructions (pre-teaching via the email Teams invite) and an idea of what to expect. For example, inform students:

  • the live-session will be a 20 minute talk. Questions can go in the chat window during the lecture but the ‘floor’ will be opened for a Q&A after the lecture and then a discussion, or
  • before you attend the live-session, please read this article as it will be discussed in class (online).

Verbal instructions in real-time are also crucial. If you want students to attend a channel, be specific about which channel they should be in and for how long. Also, explain what tasks students will be doing in channels.

Set channels up in advance!

Raise Hand

The raise hand function isn’t only a signal for students wanting to ask questions. If raise hand is used this way, encourage the student to turn their camera on to address their fellow students. This will help strengthen team bonds.

During the lecture, be sure to ask students questions and request students use the raise hand icon to respond, an example of this might be:

  • give a scenario and ask students to raise their hand if they think outcome A is true.

The Raise Hand feature works well for yes/no, true/false and where agreement to a statement is sought.

Responses are reassuring to the lecturer if students turn cameras off. By using the raise hand icon, lecturers know they are not talking to just a screen, there are students beyond the screen and they are listening!

Raise hand has also been used to gauge levels of understanding.

It’s also worth noting, students who raise their hands simultaneously, the quickest raised hand shows at the top of the Participants List in time order.

Another benefit to the raise hand function. For students wanting to ask questions, they are being respectful of the lecturer and this can reduce interruptions.

Consider a chat-bomb

Chat-bombs can be good to gauge opinion on a subject and get students engaged via the Chat window.

A simple use of chat-bomb is to set parameters. For example, state you are going to ask students a question and you want the response in the chat BUT you want students to hold off posting until you say POST! Give 10-15 seconds for responses to be typed up. You want all the responses simultaneously.

A simple question at the start of class might be:

  • How are you feeling today?

This helps lecturers get a sense of how students are feeling. Evidently more serious questions can be asked, i.e., diagnosis or treatment for a particular medical condition.

Consider using chat-bombs for assessment queries. Here, you might get the same content/assignment related queries and addressing these helps everyone in the group.

Use Polls

Multiple choice/response questions can be asked in the Chat using MS Forms. Students can answer in the Chat window in real-time.

This gives lecturers feedback on student understanding and allows for live-teaching to be directed by learners.

Instead of lecturers typing the questions into MS Forms in real-time, why not have the questions in Word format for a quick copy and paste? Alternatively, questions and responses can be displayed in a PowerPoint and the response options A-E in the chat for students to select.

The student responses would be in the Chat window.

Another alternative for multiple questions (or quiz). Use MS Forms to create a survey/quiz and copy/paste the MS Form share link to the Chat window. Give students a time limit to complete the survey/quiz.

Results can be seen in MS Forms behind the scenes.

Breakout Rooms

In Teams, breakout rooms are called Channels. These are spaces for smaller group teaching, group work, tasks or discussion. The list goes on.

Some lecturers may have students discuss topics or complete tasks as small groups. In remote learning, this can be facilitated with channels. Channels allows for smaller groups to collaborate in real-time.

MS Teams will be updating this function in October for a better user experience.

Recording Lectures

Remember to record your live-teaching. Add this to your first slide to remind yourself to record the session.

Another point to note, if breakout rooms (channels) are used, these are not recorded!

Trouble-shooting MS Teams
I can’s see or hear Teams content, what can I do?

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.

If you are very organised, a PDF copy of the slides could be shared via the Chat window to keep the student in this digital space.

In the worst case scenario, students can dial in to MS Teams sessions and listen via Phone Audio. And, if they have the PDF slides copy, students can still see the visuals during the lesson.

Always remind students that live-teaching sessions will be recorded. Whilst not ideal if students are having Teams issues and students have less opportunity to ask questions in real-time. However, students can view playback.

Recordings can be viewed as many times as required. These recordings are beneficial to assist students. Students can re-watch and increase their understanding of the subject.

Recordings are also great revision tools.

Why won’t my two screen set up work?

Some lecturers will have a two screen set up. When sharing desktops, ensure you select the right screen to share. If displaying a PowerPoint, ensure it plays on the screen you intend.

Ensure the desktop is clear from confidential / sensitive data when sharing content with others. Make sure there is no student or personal data on screen.

A note when using the webcam. Also ensure your background doesn’t hold confidential or sensitive data belonging to you or other people. If you have a noticeboard behind you (for example), really do consider turning around or using a Teams background or blur effect.

I’ve shared a video on my desktop and it won’t play the audio, what did I do wrong?

When you click Share Screen, above the Desktop option, there is a tick box on PCs to Play System Audio. If you want your audience to hear the video, please ensure this is ticked.

This tick box does not appear on MAC platforms. In this instance, ensure the mic is on to pick up the audio from your machine. You (lecturer) will also have to be quiet as the mic is picking up computer and environmental sound.

Why can’t I access Teams on a MAC?

Sometimes Teams is temperamental on MACs and the Mojave operating system has had a bad rap. In this instance, try using the Teams Web App. This will have some reduced functionality.

Do some research around the MAC operating systems and update as required for a better Teams experience.

I can’t see all the shared files in my Team space and I’m having sync issues, what can I do?

A banner will appear on screen with a refresh link. Refresh the application to resolve the sync issue.

For more on trouble-shooting with Teams, please refer to the Microsoft Teams Troubleshooting page.


There was much covered in this post and it’s been a whistle-stop tour on different aspects of MS Teams.

We looked at the following:

  • What is MS Teams
  • Students attending live sessions
  • Joining a live session
    • This covered device settings
  • Teaching in MS Teams
  • Teams features
    • raise hand
    • chat
    • polls
    • breakout rooms
  • Trouble-shooting when things go wrong
    • This is not an exhaustive list

Whilst some of us have been using MS Teams for a while, it’s fair to say many are new to the interface and it will be a steep learning curve. Don’t worry if things go wrong. We are sure you won’t be the first lecturer or student to have issues with MS Teams.

Do refer to the Trouble-shooting MS Teams section to assist with problems. If it’s sound/visuals, do check the camera/mic & speakers under Device Settings (found in the Ellipsis (…) icon).

Students are encouraged to download the Desktop App. There may be some MAC glitches where students may have to use the Web App. The Chrome browser is recommended.

Also, the Web App doesn’t offer live-captions or background blur. Something to be mindful of.

If you would like to share your experience of MS Teams with us, please add a comment below. It would be helpful if you could add any problems you have encountered and any solutions.

This will help us create future blogs on how to deal with such problems and help other lecturers/students using the system.

Next time

Over the next while, our intention is to provide hints and tips regards accessibility in different software applications and inform students and staff about updates of these applications, i.e., new features!

As staff and students are using O365, they should really download the latest version. It will be O365 we concentrate on.

Next week, we will look at working online and saving to OneDrive (the cloud). This is to help staff and students in their OneDrive usage, setting up file structures, saving files and sharing content with others.

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


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