Tips for teaching with Breakout Rooms

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In case you didn’t see our previous blogpost, breakout rooms are now available in Microsoft Teams. In preparation for semester 2 teaching and for increased online teaching, we’re going to give you some design tips on how best to make use of Breakout Rooms. They can be used to great effect to help support and further student learning, as well as offering the option to break down larger groups of students into more manageable discussion groups.

As with all our advice for online learning, think about what you want your students to do before, during, and after the activity.

Before starting Breakout Rooms:

  1. Familiarise yourself with how breakout rooms work. Breakout rooms can only be set up once the meeting has started. To create breakout rooms, you must be the organiser of the meeting.
  2. Design the task for students and communicate that with them beforehand. Ask yourself what it is that you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity? Do you want them to produce anything whilst in the breakout room? Do you want them to present anything when they come back into the main room?
  3. Make sure that students understand what is being asked of them before they go into breakout groups. Also, give them a strategy for contacting you if they’ve got any questions. This might be using the chat feature in the main room. Or a student re-joining the main meeting again.
  4. Let the students know how long they’ve got in the breakout room before they have to come back into the main room.

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How can I check for understanding whilst teaching online?

Checking for understanding (CFU) plays a crucial role in the learning and teaching process and can verify to the lecturer what is being learnt but also provides students with an opportunity to reflect on their own learning. CFU is one of the biggest challenges in teaching and having to do so within the virtual classroom can make this even more challenging than in a traditional face-to-face setting! However, there are several useful features in MS Teams that can be used to help you CFU. Here are a few tips on how to utilise these features:

The chat function.
You can use the chat function in a variety of ways to CFU. Some ideas include asking students to summarize a concept or idea, or to paraphrase a theory in just a couple of sentences. The chat can also prove as a valuable tool in CFU of quieter students who may not wish to reply verbally to your questions. Here are some tips on how to manage the chat effectively in MS Team.

Emojis.
To inject a bit of fun into the classroom and as a way of avoiding “yes/no” answers, you could ask your students to react to comments on questions that you have posted in the chat to express how they’re feeling about a topic or concept. For example:
Screenshot showing reactions to a post in the chat

Raise your hand feature.
The raise your hand feature in Teams allows users to notify the lecturer that they have a question or a comment to make, but you could also use it to CFU. How about asking students to use the feature in response to a question? For example, “raise your hand if you want me to show you how to do that again”.
You could also use the feature to encourage students to elaborate on their answers in the chat, for example, “raise your hand if you can tell me more about that”. If students are unsure about unmuting themselves, you can encourage them to respond with a written response in the chat.

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Drop in sessions: E-learning tools

We would like to offer staff members at the University the opportunity to join us for our drop-in sessions on using e-learning tools (Blackboard, Panopto, Turnitin and MS Teams) for learning and teaching activities. These will offer an informal opportunity to speak with our Online Learning Specialists and to address any problems or queries you may have.

All drop-in sessions will be held via MS Teams and there is no need to book, just click on the links below. *Please note that sessions with an asterisk (*) will be bilingual sessions, and all sessions without an asterisk will run as English-medium sessions.  

These drop-in sessions will take place on:
19.01.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
21.01.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
26.01.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
28.01.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
02.02.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
04.02.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

We hope that these sessions will provide you with an opportunity to clarify any questions about your teaching needs.

If you have any questions, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.

NEW feature – Breakout Rooms in MS Teams

One of the most anticipated features in MS Teams has finally arrived…. Breakout Rooms! Breakout rooms allow meeting organisers to create and name up to 50 separate rooms within scheduled and ‘meet now’ meetings. Organisers can then assign attendees to those rooms either automatically or manually.

We will be releasing guidance on how to create and manage breakout rooms (for staff) and how to participate in breakout rooms (for students) next week. For the time being, here is a guide from Microsoft on how to create and manage breakout rooms in Teams.

What does the icon for breakout rooms look like?
The icon for breakout rooms is displayed as two boxes (as is highlighted below by the blue box). This should appear on your control bar.
Breakout Room Icon

Why can’t I see this icon?
If you are not able to see this icon, there are two likely reasons:

    1. Only meeting organisers can create and manage breakout rooms. If you are not the meeting organiser, then you will not be able to create and manage breakout rooms in Teams and you won’t see the icon during that meeting.
    2. MS Teams might not have automatically updated. To do this yourself, click on your image from the top-right hand corner of the screen (see yellow box on image below) and then select ‘Check for updates’ (see orange box).

Settings bar in Teams
If you have any questions about using Teams, please contact Information Services (is@aber.ac.uk).

NEW Recurring MS Teams Meeting Feature in Blackboard

Today, a new feature has been made available in Blackboard which allows you to create recurring MS Teams meetings.

This new feature works very similarly to the recurring options available in Outlook. As can be seen in the image below, you can now arrange MS Teams meetings through Blackboard based on how often you want them to recur; on what days you want them to recur; and when you would like this recurrence to end.

Students should be encouraged to add this link to their calendars as this will automatically add the whole series to their calendars.

Screenshot showing the options available in the new recurring meetings feature.

When setting up your recurring meeting, please ensure that you include clear information which demonstrates which sessions should be accessed through the link that you have just created.

Table demonstrating which sessions can be accessed through the Teams link

For further details on how to use this new feature, please visit our FAQ.

Tips for monitoring chat for online and in person sessions

Distance Learner BannerIn this blogpost, we’ll be looking at some tips for monitoring a Teams chat when you’ve also got attendees joining in person and online.

The planning of the synchronous activity and what you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity shapes the purpose of the chat. Ask yourself: what role do you want the chat to have in your teaching session?

For example, do you want the chat to be used for students joining online to communicate their ideas with you? Do you want it to be used for them to chat with each other? Do you want the chat contributions to be communicated with those joining in person?

In addition to that, you want to think about how you are asking your online students to engage in the session. Do you want them, for example, to use the raise the hand function to attract your attention? Or, do you want them to only use the chat.

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Additional MS Teams Drop-in Sessions

Following the success of our drop-in sessions on using MS Teams for Learning and Teaching Activities, we have decided to run these sessions throughout October.

These sessions are an informal opportunity to speak with our Online Learning Specialists and to address any queries that may have arisen during the first weeks of term. You’re welcome to ask us for advice on any aspects relating to using MS Teams – from technical advice to advice on using MS Teams for students who are unable to join face-to-face sessions.

*Please note that sessions with an asterisk (*) will be bilingual sessions, and all sessions without an asterisk will run as English-medium sessions.

These drop-in sessions will take place on:

09.10.2020 (10:00-11:00):Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

13.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

14.10.2020 (14:00-15:00):Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

16.10.2020 (10:00-11:00):Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

20.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

21.10.2020 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

23.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

27.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

28.10.2020 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

30.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting *

MS Teams: Drop-in Sessions

We would like to offer all staff members at the University the opportunity to join us in our drop-in sessions on using MS Teams for Learning and Teaching Activities. These will be an informal opportunity to speak with our Online Learning Specialists and to address any queries that may have arisen during the first weeks of term.

All drop-in sessions will be held via MS Teams and there is no need to book, just click on the links below.

These drop-in sessions will take place on:

06.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

07.10.2020 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

09.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

13.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

14.10.2020 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

16.10.2020 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

We hope that these sessions will provide you with an opportunity to clarify any questions about your teaching needs.

MS Teams: 10 Common Questions

Following training sessions that we have conducted over the past few weeks on using MS Teams for learning and teaching activities, here are answers to 10 common questions. Further information on using MS Teams can be found in our Microsoft Teams FAQs, and please do not hesitate getting in touch with us if you have any further queries (lteu@aber.ac.uk).

Q1: If I am sharing my screen can I still see the chat function?
A1: Unfortunately, unless you have two screens then this will not be possible. You could either ask a student to monitor the chat for you or you could stop sharing your screen from time to time to check what has been posted in the chat. There are some advanced share screen options that may enable you to see the chat in some instances, and we’re happy to discuss these with you further.

Q2: I would like to add an external individual from outside Aberystwyth University to one of my ‘teams’ within MS Teams, is this possible?
A2: It is possible to add external individuals who have an Office 365 account with an ac.uk domain, but any external individual who has an email account that is not an ac.uk address will need to complete a request form to have their domain added to AU Teams access. Alternatively, you could set up meetings with external individuals through MS Teams without having to request access.

Q3: After recording a meeting, how would I access the recording and how long is it available for?
A3: After ending a meeting the recording will appear in the meeting’s chat and this will be available to download for 22 days. Please familiarise yourself with the University’s Lecture Capture Policy for details on what type of sessions are appropriate to record.

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Changes to Teaching Rooms

Practice Modules

This blogpost is intended to take you through various scenarios that you may wish to use in Teaching Rooms. If you have any questions, please email is@aber.ac.uk.

The following changes have been made to teaching rooms:

  • There are now two screens in the teaching room. Screen 1 (the one with the web camera on) is the main screen. Screen 2 is directly linked to the projector. Use Screen 2 to display materials to your class and to share with participants via Teams.
  • Microsoft Teams has been installed and a shortcut is on all desktops.
  • New desktop microphones have been installed and lapel mics removed.

If you are in a teaching room and require technical assistance, pick up the phone and wait. It will automatically dial through to Technical Support.

Before the session we advise you to:

  1. Set up a Teams meeting for participants who are unable to join the session face to face (How do I do that?)
  2. Have the teaching materials easily available to you – we recommend you use OneDrive and copy your materials to the desktop before beginning the session. Avoid bringing USBs etc. into the teaching room. (How do I use OneDrive?)
  3. Communicate with any students joining via Teams how they will be participating in the session and how you will handle questions from them.

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