Smells like team spirit

Students returning to school after the summer will come back to a radically different learning format, as face-to-face classes in the upcoming school year remain suspended due to the ongoing pandemic.

With the new school year approaching, schools are looking to expand online teaching content beyond pre-recorded short videos and test papers – what most have done over the past few months as schools were suspended. Instead, they are aiming to completely imitate physical teaching and learning, but remotely.

In addition to academics, it is also imperative that schools maintain regular administrative operations, as well as extracurricular activities.

Different schools have different needs, with some using an all-in-one platform and its supporting services work for all their needs.

CCC Kei Yuen College began its transition toward live-streaming lessons in March. The school held its first-ever virtual graduation ceremony in June through Microsoft Teams.

St Hilary’s Primary School and VNSAA St Hilary’s School began remote teaching – also via Teams – in February as a result of Covid-19.

With multiple premises for their kindergartens, primary and secondary schools across Hong Kong, they sought a collaborative tool that functions both smoothly and securely.

They chose to use Teams, as the platform and the supporting SharePoint platform empowered staff and teachers to plan lessons effectively together and easily handle administrative work.

However, the needs of international schools often differ from those of local schools.

For example, Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong, one of the newest international schools in the SAR, has developed its online learning platform via Teams – specifically using Teams and OneNote – to enable teachers, students and parents to interact in a more creative and engaging manner.

The growing trend of online learning has forced Teams, which was initially designed for online teamwork in a work environment, to make changes so it is also a classroom-friendly platform with its new features and particular emphasis on engagement.

As well as teaching lessons using video-conferencing capabilities, teachers can also give and grade assignments and check students’ understanding with Teams’ quiz feature. The platform also features a “raise hands” mode to allow for student participation.

Teachers can keep track of students’ engagement levels and learning outcomes with the help of the new attendance reports and class insights feature, an intelligent data analytics breakdown showing how students engage with the class, including turning in assignments, activity metrics and grades. A new trend view is expected to arrive in autumn.

Other new features, such as the 77 grid view, allow teachers to see up to 49 participants at once on a single screen, while in the Together Mode, all the participants on a video call will be placed in a shared virtual background, creating a more attentive and connected online class experience.

“For educators, traditional lessons do not always translate digitally. Many teachers find they cannot recreate the school day with just live sessions. The most pressing challenges for them are keeping students engaged digitally and student participation,” said Fred Sheu, national technology officer of Microsoft Hong Kong.

Security is also a concern for the platform.

The new meeting option, Meeting Lobby, allows teachers to ensure only assigned students can join a meeting.

Built on the Office 365 hyperscale, enterprise-grade cloud, which enforces organization-wide two-factor authentication and encryption of data in transit and at rest, Teams provides advanced security for both teachers and students.

The company launched the Learn Anywhere Remote Teaching program last Tuesday, which gives all kindergartens, primary and secondary educators complimentary access to Ofiice 365 Education and free setup for participating schools. It is open for applications until October 31.

“New remote learning formats require new thinking to create compelling, engaging and inclusive content,” said Sheu.

“We believe that the Learn Anywhere Remote Teaching program can help educators to ensure strong student engagement across different activities and maintain secure digital classrooms.”

(This article was published at The Standard on August 25, 2020: Education: Smells like team spirit )

200825 Smells like team spirit

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