Introducing a new home page experience for Office 365 users

We’re constantly looking for opportunities to improve the way our users get things done. The new Office 365 home page enables more consistent and unified experiences for work, education and home users across every device. This new platform also helps us respond to user feedback and deliver innovative new features at a faster pace than ever before.

Simple, responsive design

Introducing a new home page experience for Office 365 users 1

We’ve simplified how people access their Office 365 applications and documents. Now, when you log in to Office 365, you have immediate access to all your online applications and recent documents to help you get to what you need faster.

As part of this update, we’ve also taken the opportunity to add improved page responsiveness for a better, more consistent experience across all your devices. Office 365 lets you get your best work done, no matter what device you’re using, and the new home page will look beautiful on your phone, tablet, PC and Mac.

Tool tips

We want to make sure that our Office 365 users get the most out of their Office 365 experience. New tool tips help highlight new and unused features, including recently added applications and actions users need to take.

Seamless Office install

We’ve made it easier than ever for Office 365 users to get the latest version of their mobile applications and desktop software. Now, you can download and install Office on your device with one click from the home screen. We’ve also made it easier to install Office 365 mobile applications from your desktop. Simply choose the application you want to install, then send an email or an SMS to the device you want to install it on.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates

OneDrive for Business has made significant progress in the last six months, and was recently named a Leader by Forrester Research in “The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise File Sync and Share Platforms, Cloud Solutions, Q1 2016.” You can read the report here.

It’s an honor to get industry recognition like this, but we know there’s always more for us to do to improve the service. Today, we’re announcing important improvements and new capabilities in our sync, browser and mobile experiences, as well as new IT controls for administrators.

New features added to the Next Generation Sync Client

In December 2015, we released the first version of the Next Generation Sync Client, which we now refer to as the new OneDrive sync client. The new OneDrive sync client has dramatically improved sync reliability and performance and contributed to tremendous growth in OneDrive for Business total storage and active usage.

Starting today, we’re rolling out an update to the client which addresses the most common feedback we received on the first release. This update brings the following enhancements and new features:

  • Windows 8.1 support—This completes our commitment around Windows OS support (7, 8, 8.1 and 10).
  • Office 2016 integration—In conjunction with an Office 2016 update currently rolling out, key features such as real-time co-authoring, open documents from the Most Recent list and share documents from within the Office app will be available.
  • Improved setup—Now it’s easy for anyone to get and install the new OneDrive sync client. No more registry keys needed on Windows or Terminal window on Mac!
  • Seamless client migration—If you are running the previous sync client (groove.exe), this update seamlessly transitions without requiring a resync. For full details go here.
  • Pause sync—A handy feature when you want to suspend syncing for a period of time, like when you are tethered to your phone or using Wi-Fi on an airplane.
  • View files online—You can now right click any document in Windows Explorer and select “view online” to navigate to the OneDrive for Business file or folder in the browser.
  • Sync any file type you want—We’ve added support for .json, .aspx, .swf files and more; you can now add any file type to your OneDrive for Business.
  • Block file types—IT admins can now block certain file types from syncing, such as PST or MKV files protecting limited bandwidth.
  • Performance and reliability improvements—Give small files in particular a big boost in upload and download speed.

Most of these new capabilities will be available to all customers within 1–2 weeks, the Office 2016 integration (including the associated Office 2016 update) and Pause sync features will continue rolling out during the course of the summer. There are additional sync updates to be rolled out later this year:

  • Manage bandwidth—By the end of June, we’ll deliver IT controls to throttle bandwidth consumption of the client.
  • Extended Windows Explorer integration—A simple right-click action to get a link or share files directly in Windows Explorer.
  • SharePoint Document Library Sync—We’re adding SharePoint Online document library sync, starting with a preview in the third quarter of 2016, with general release by the end of 2016.

Browser experience enhancements

We’re introducing a simple way to remove files and folders from the “Shared with me” view in the browser experience. Removing an item from the “Shared with me” view doesn’t delete the file; it can still be found via a search, so it’s not lost if you need to get back to it.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 1

Easily remove items from your “Shared with me” view.

Sharing with people outside your organization is now a whole lot easier!

We’ve streamlined the process for an external recipient who doesn’t have an Office 365 or Microsoft account to open files you share with them from OneDrive for Business. Now, anyone without an Office 365 or Microsoft account who receives a file invitation just needs to enter an email address or phone number and a password, then confirm their account (one time only), and they’ll have access to the file.

Simplified creation of a Microsoft account.

Driving mobile productivity further

This update is a big one for our iOS and Android apps! We’re integrating Outlook mobile with OneDrive for Business, so you can share files through email on both iOS and Android—this update will roll out in the coming weeks.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 3

Composing an email on an iPhone and attaching a link to a OneDrive for Business file is quick and easy.

We’ve introduced a richer sharing experience in the OneDrive app for Android, including a fantastic new PDF viewing and annotation experience and an embedded Office Lens experience. You can now take a photo of the whiteboard after an important meeting and have it automatically converted to a PDF file and uploaded to the OneDrive for Business folder of your choice, in one simple process. We’ve included support for Office 365 Data Loss Prevention (DLP). This builds on the DLP integration already in the browser experience. This update will start rolling out today and be available to all users within a week.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 4

In the OneDrive app for iOS, we have a new, richer sharing experience including SMS, Mail, Outlook Mobile, Copy Link (both Edit and Read-only links), Invite People and others. You can also save files to OneDrive for Business from any iOS app. As with the Android update, this iOS update also supports Office 365 Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies defined by your organization. Again, this update will roll out to all users in the next week.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 5

This iOS update has much richer sharing options for OneDrive for Business files.

New insights, governance and controls for IT

One of the great things about Office 365 is the ability for IT to get an unprecedented view of what’s going on with your critical business data across email and files. We recently started to roll out a new reporting portal in the Office 365 admin center, where you can see key usage metrics for all of your Office 365 services including OneDrive for Business.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 6

Comprehensive usage reporting across Office 365 services is now available.

In addition, along with making external sharing easier for end users, we’re also giving IT administrators more controls over who their users can share with. For example, perhaps your organization is OK with files being shared with external parties, but doesn’t want employees to share files with certain organizations, such as direct competitors. Now, IT administrators can set up a list of domains that people can share with or a list of blocked domains (but not both). This new capability is currently rolling out and will be available to all OneDrive for Business customers by the end of April.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 7

Setting a list of domains that users can share with.

In September 2015, we rolled out the ability for end users to define an expiration date for an anonymous or guest sharing link. Now we’ve added the ability for IT to set a tenant policy (RequireAnonymousLinksExpireInDays) that makes expiration dates mandatory for anonymous or guest links and assigns default expiration period (e.g., 7 days). Users can still set an expiration date that is shorter, but not longer, than the default period.

OneDrive for Business recognized as an EFSS leader and continues momentum with spring updates 8

The user experience if they try to set an expiry date beyond the organization’s policy.

New developer options for OneDrive for Business

We know that one of the keys to having a productive and useful collaboration space is a powerful and flexible platform to build on. There are a number of new options for developers who are building apps that connect to OneDrive for Business, including Webhooks preview, where developers can easily get push notifications to changes occurring in OneDrive for Business, an updated file picker for JS, Enhanced flexible sharing via the OneDrive API and App folders on OneDrive for Business. The developer options for OneDrive for Business are constantly getting richer and more flexible. We are excited about the solutions our partners are building and the breadth of solutions available. You can check out examples of these partner solutions on the OneDrive for Business ecosystem page.

Take Microsoft for a test drive and boost your productivity with Windows 10 and Office 2016

This isn’t your typical online event: you won’t see any slides, demos or sales pitches. You’ll start the session in an online roundtable to discuss your biggest business challenges and then sign in to a live environment in the cloud. Our trained facilitator will guide you through a hands-on experience to see how Microsoft Windows 10 and Office 2016 can meet your needs in this collaborative, fun environment.

We’ll send you a link to connect your own device to a remote desktop loaded with our latest and greatest technology, so you can experience first-hand how Microsoft tools can solve your biggest challenges. During this interactive online session, you will explore how to:

  • Keep information secure while being productive—Make it easier to work securely and maintain compliance without inhibiting your workflow.
  • Capture, review and share notes from anywhere—Boost your team’s productivity by sharing documents and collaborating in real time.
  • Use social tools to find experts and answers—Break down barriers between departments to share knowledge quickly.
  • Quickly visualize and analyze complex data—Zero in on the data and insights you need without having to involve a BI expert.
  • Co-author and share content quickly—Access and edit documents even while others are editing and reviewing them—all at the same time.

Email Safety Tips in Office 365

Today’s spam and malware attacks are sometimes so well-crafted they may look legitimate to your users, and putting messages into the Junk Email folder isn’t enough. Over the coming weeks, we are rolling out Safety Tips in Exchange Online Protection, an additional layer of protection for all users that provides a warning to the user in an email that is marked suspicious, or a reassurance when a message is safe.

When a message includes a safety tip, the tip will be displayed in a messaging bar at the top of the email in one of four color-coded categories indicating that the message is either Suspicious, Unknown, Trusted or Safe.

  • Messages marked Suspicious have a red safety tip and are either a known phishing message, have failed sender authentication, are a suspected spoofing message or have met some other criteria that Exchange Online Protection has used to determine the message is fraudulent. You should not interact with suspicious messages and instead should delete them.

  • A yellow bar at the top of the message indicates an Unknown safety level. Being marked as Unknown indicates that Exchange Online Protection has marked the message as spam. You can click the It’s not spam link in the yellow bar of a junk mail item to move the message to your inbox.

  • Messages from a Trusted sender display a green bar at the top of the message. These are from domains identified by Microsoft as being safe.

  • Messages marked with a gray safety tip indicates that the email was not filtered for spam because it is either considered Safe by the user’s organization, is on the user’s safe senders list or Exchange Online Protection marked the message as junk but the user moved it out of the junk folder to the inbox. The gray safety bar also appears when images within the message have been disabled.

All four types of Safety Tips are included in the Outlook on the web experience, whereas Outlook clients, whether desktop or mobile, will display only the Suspicious safety tip. Most messages in your inbox will not have a safety tip; we only add them when we have information users need.

How do we determine which Safety Tip to apply?

As an industry-leading solution for securing your email, Exchange Online Protection analyzes data patterns across millions of emails to identify spam, malware and phishing threats. Based on this ongoing analysis, Exchange Online Protection is able to identify suspicious messages and apply the appropriate Safety Tip.

Welcome to the NSW DEC Office 365 User Guides

Welcome to the Microsoft Australia NSW DEC Office365 User Guide. Here you will find all the information, resources, links, tips and tricks related to using Office 365 in your schools and classrooms across New South Wales.

The set of tools in Office 365 are used around the world to support teaching and learning, and offer a wide range of educational benefits. These online services will assist schools in using a Bring Your Own Device strategy, allowing students and staff to collaborate from any device, anywhere they have access to the internet.In the video below, see how Campbelltown Performing Arts High School have used Office 365 in their school.

Microsoft Office 365 (Link to DEC Intranet) is a set of web-based applications that enable collaboration and creation in the classroom. This service includes online versions of Office products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.  In addition, Microsoft Office 365 offers collaboration and sharing opportunities via OneDrive and OneNote Class & Staff Notebook.

OneNote Support Guide

A comprehensive guide to using Office 365 in your classrooms and schools has been developed as a OneNote notebook.

Other Support Resources

  • For questions, queries and to learn from other users of Office 365 in NSW DEC, please visit the O365 Yammer community here.
  • Technical support information about using these services in the DEC environment is available via the Learning Tools Technical Support site (DEC Intranet)
  • To view the Microsoft NSW DEC Student privacy charter please click here.

 

How to Videos

In these videos, you will learn some ways you can use Office 365 in your classroom.

 

Using Excel for student performance tracking

Using OneNote to share assignments, collect homework and more in your classroom.

Simply collaborate with your class using Word Online

Professional Learning Communities Groups in Office365

Back in mid-2016 Microsoft released PLC Groups for Office Setup 365 and I have to admit, I completely missed this feature release.

You can read the full announcement on the official Office 365 blog post here.

I guess I’m pretty excited about this for a few reasons, primarily because it links into the professional development model that is increasingly being adopted in New Zealand schools – that of Professional Learning Groups (PLG) using inquiry based models. Certainly, at St Andrew’s College where I was the Director of ICT for the last five years, this was adopted back in 2012 and resources for these groups would typically use a OneNote or a Moodle course to collate resources over the period of the inquiry. Whilst this was fine, it was always a pain to keep track of group members and making sure that everyone was being included in group messages. The official blog post above highlighted some of the challenges as well:

  • Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
  • Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
  • A challenge for many PLCs is extending the work and relationships in the times and spaces between physically coming together.
  • It can be difficult for new teachers to ramp up.
  • Information is often stored in personal spaces as opposed to one common place that can benefit others.
  • New members need to better understand the journey, story, exploration and history of a PLC, its activities and areas of inquiry.

To address these short comings, the following features are available in these O365 groups designed especially for educators:

  • Inbox for group email communication, including Connector for connecting your group to Twitter and following topics or Twitter handles that interest your PLC group.
  • Calendar for scheduling group events.
  • Document library for storing and working on group files and folders.
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes.
  • Planner for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress.

What is not listed above, but has huge value for me, is the ability to add guest members to your PLC group. What this means is that teachers/experts (or even parents) who are outside of your O365 tenant can be invited on their personal email address and they only need to activate this address as a Microsoft Account, to be able to sign into the O365 group and contribute.

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Screenshot from the Professional Learning Communities shared OneNote with guidance on how to run the inquiry.

This opens up a huge range of possibilities for schools where there is likely to be inter-school professional inquiries taking place. In New Zealand, this could be the Communities of Learning which connect different schools together in the same geographical region. To be able to use a shared inbox group and calendar to co-ordinate meetings (either in person or via Skype) as well as a central location for all documents shared (either uploaded or simply attached via emails through the group) and a OneNote means the key tools to promote a successful inquiry are all in one place and accessible to every member, whether they are at the same school or not.

The experience of the Omaha Public Schools District using PLC is shown below:

Last week, Darrell Webster hosted a virtual meeting with a number of people to discuss how PLC work and the effectiveness of them in schools. There are a few technical glitches at the start of the meeting but it’s worth watching past these to see the quality discussion. Attending the meeting are:

  • Darrell Webster  (host) and Microsoft MVP award winner since 2013 and self described “Office365 Enthusiast”
  • Krish Gali, Product Manager for Office 365 Groups
  • Robert Dickson, Executive Director at Omaha Public School
  • Rachel Chisnall MIE Expert and teacher at Taeri College, Dunedin
  • Morgan McKeen MIE Expert and teacher at Parnell District School, Auckland

My Thoughts On This:

There’s a lot to like about PLC Groups in Office365, not least that it reflects that Microsoft is continuing to actively invest into technologies that improve the way in which teachers manage their growing administrative workload. A few other highlights for me (in no particular order):

  • The PLC group OneNote comes pre-populated with templates to assist teachers with their inquiry and smooth running of the Professional Learning Groups.
  • Guest Access – it’s hard to overestimate how valuable this is. Too often schools are dealing with disparate groups of people and being able to link them all into the one-stop-shop of resources is incredible.
  • Central Access – the PLC group is not owned by any one individual teacher, but instead is part of the school’s O365 Tenant meaning that if one teacher leaves the school or is no longer involved in that particular PLC, the resources are not locked down preventing others from getting access to them.
    • Similarly, this means that if a PLC inquiry is likely to be a multi-year group, staff can come and go but all the previous resources, conversations and research is maintained and accessible.
    • Additionally, the staff member in charge of professional development can be added as a member to all PLC groups and can see progress and add comments etc at anytime ensuring full transparency.
    • Again, having a single email address to email all members of the PLC means there are no excuses for accidentally excluding a staff member from a vital communication!
  • Connectors – in particular, the ability to add Twitter and follow users or hashtags means the PLC can extend their reach and pull in valuable resources directly into the PLC group – priceless. I became a Twitter convert back in 2014 and wrote a lengthy blog explaining why teachers should use Twitter to grow their Professional Learning Network
  • Planner – this is a simplified GANT chart type organisational tool, very similar to the popular Trello. It’s a great addition to the Office365 tool box and you can read more about it here. I’d certainly encourage teachers that are already using Trello to consider migrating to Planner given the deep integration into O365 that it offers.

So there you go – don’t make the same mistake I did and overlook the value of the Office 365 Professional Learning Communities groups; they will definitely find an indispensable place in your school.

Office at Build 2017—announcing new opportunities for developers

Today at Microsoft Build 2017, we announced new opportunities for developers in three areas—updates to the Microsoft Teams developer platform, new capabilities in the Microsoft Graph and better ways to connect Office users with partner integrations. With over 100 million monthly commercial active users, Office Setup 365 is the largest productivity service available. Office 365 offers an incredible opportunity for developers, with its business-critical data and millions of users, combined with a platform designed to keep people in the flow of their work.

Deliver Microsoft Teams apps through the Office Store

Beginning today, Microsoft Teams is open to all developers to publish apps through the Office Store onboarding and distribution process—enabling them to engage users where they work. Published apps will surface in a new discover apps experience—making it easier for users to add and use apps within Teams. This and other new features are now available in the Developer Preview and coming to users soon.

When we launched the preview of Teams in November, we introduced a deep developer platform with tabs, bots and connectors. Today, we are announcing two new capabilities, available in the Developer Preview, enabling developers to build even more engaging experiences for users.

Compose extensions, in preview, allow users to issue commands to bring information from an app or service directly into their team chat and avoid distracting context switches.

Example compose extension in Microsoft Teams (in Developer Preview).

Third-party notifications in the activity feed allow developers to alert users of key information and updates from their service. New Teams APIs are also coming to the Microsoft Graph, in preview, allowing developers to access team and channel information. Developers can now package these capabilities—tabs, bots and connectors, compose extensions, and activity feed notifications—into a single Teams app to make it simpler to publish and manage. At Build 2017, partners such as Wrike, Sapho and Adobe will demonstrate their new Teams integrations.

Discover more about everything new with Microsoft Teams.

In addition to Teams-specific updates, there are many new opportunities to customize Office applications. Earlier this year, Office add-ins became available on Mac and iOS clients, making any add-in seamlessly exposed across many platforms. Today, we’re announcing expanded JavaScript APIs in Word and Excel, in preview, which let developers access and extend structured data within documents. We’re also previewing an easier, integrated sign-on system that streamlines the use of services such as Microsoft Graph for both developers and users.

OneDrive is adding new File Handler capabilities that allow partners to extend the experience of working with files with new web-based views and connected actions. The SharePoint Framework, available since February, let developers use modern JavaScript tools and frameworks to build web parts within SharePoint. The preview of SharePoint Framework Extensions, coming soon, will let developers use these tools to deeply customize SharePoint team sites, document libraries and lists. Find out more about SharePoint Framework Extensions.

New capabilities in the Microsoft Graph to build intelligent business processes and apps

Artificial intelligence and data can help your applications become more engaging and focused. On stage this morning, we demonstrated the upcoming Presentation Translator add-in, which leverages Microsoft’s translation APIs in PowerPoint, giving presenters the ability to add subtitles to their presentations in the same language or in different languages. Read more about the Presentation Translator and sign up for an early access.

Similarly, developers can integrate intelligence and data from around their organization to enhance the user experience and build focused business processes using the Microsoft Graph.

With brand new capabilities in addition to an expanding API set, Microsoft Graph is truly the ubiquitous API for accessing core data in an organization, and is critical to any business process or app. Today, the SharePoint site, OneNote and Planner data APIs are generally available and are ready for developers to use in production.

We are announcing new Insights APIs, coming soon in preview, which will let developers build smarter processes by leveraging relationships between users and documents. We are also expanding the library of webhooks, in preview, which includes user and group changes.

Today, we made two new core capabilities of Microsoft Graph generally available. Delta queries provide access to lists of changes for types of data, helping developers build powerful, high-performance application integrations. Custom data empowers developers to extend base types of Microsoft Graph (e.g., users, contacts) to store critical data in context.

These actions and activities can be orchestrated with Microsoft Flow. With Flow, every user can add actions and conditions in response to operations across Office 365. Developers can extend Flows easily with code hosted in Azure. Today, we are excited to announce an offer for Microsoft Azure ISV customers that enables them to directly provide new PowerApps and Flow Connectors to the broad audience of Office 365 customers. With expanding Microsoft Graph data from across the organization, a great development platform with Azure and native integration of Flow with applications such as SharePoint—it is now much easier to create focused, tailored business processes.

Last fall, we previewed Actionable Messages in Outlook on the web, which enabled users to take quick actions such as approving an expense report or assigning a project task to a team member from within Outlook. We are rolling out Actionable Messages to more Office  Setup 365 users in Microsoft Teams as well as in Outlook 2016 for Windows (in Insider Fast), with new integrations from Salesforce, Freshdesk, Wrike and more. We are also announcing new Actionable Message tools for developers. Learn more about building Actionable Messages for Outlook and Teams.

Actionable Messages let you take quick actions right from a conversation in Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

New ways to connect Office users with the partner integrations that matter to them

Finally, we are adding several new paths to get apps and add-ins in the hands of users.

The Office Store is now connected to Microsoft AppSource, making it easier for organizations to find the most relevant apps and add-ins to their work. With Setup Microsoft Office 365 apps and solutions available in Microsoft AppSource, business users can stay connected to relevant business apps and partners in one place.

Centralized deployment of Office add-ins is currently available in preview, allowing administrators to automatically deploy add-ins to their organization, making selected Office add-ins directly accessible from the ribbon and other key user experiences within Office, with general availability coming soon. Today, we’re announcing that centralized deployment is supported on Office for Mac and Office Online, allowing you to deploy add-ins from the Office Store as well as via a set of deployment scripts.

Office at Build—new capabilities to make every user more productive

For developers, Office continues to grow across all dimensions, with new development scenarios in Microsoft Teams and across Office applications, increased depth and data access with Microsoft Graph, and new ways to reach users with applications and integrations. The best time to transform work in organizations is now. At Build and through our online videos, developers can explore all that is new with the Office platform. Sign up for the Office Developer Program to stay connected to updates across these APIs.

3 ways Power BI can help your sales team succeed

Instead of solely focusing on dissecting the customer data in front of them, sales reps should be looking to data visualization to pull out insights not apparent at first glance. Microsoft Power BI in Office Setup 365 can help by enabling your sales reps to collect, unify and visualize all their data in one place. It’s cloud-based and compatible with 59 different applications, which simplifies the process.

Here are three ways data visualization can transform your sales process:

  1. Instant reports—Companies are always trying to find new ways to increase productivity. For a sales team, that can mean eliminating difficult and time-consuming manual reports and replacing them with a technology partner that can sort through data from myriad sources and produce actionable insights. Pipeline reports and sales trends can be generated in hours, minutes and sometimes seconds—instead of days—leaving you plenty of extra time to review and develop thoughtful strategies.
  2. Data share across departments—For your sales team to succeed, your company’s other departments also need analytical success. Because Power BI supports nearly 60 applications, different departments can import the data they’ve collected to share with each other and provide deeper insight. When a sales team can see where marketing efforts have succeeded, for example, they can more effectively realign their strategies.
  3. Quota management—In an ever-changing market, setting realistic quotas proves challenging, especially when your sales success depends on variables like region, month and customer segment. Power BI eliminates the difficulty by gathering past and present data—in one place—so you can set attainable goals for the future.

Your sales team already knows how to close a deal. Help them get there faster with the insights gained through data visualization.

Professional learning community groups in Office 365 Education

A professional learning community, or PLC, is a group of educators who meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. Teachers around the world have started using Office Setup 365 Groups to make collaboration within a PLC a lot simpler and more streamlined. PLC groups are typically formed around interest areas (e.g., 9th grade math), grade levels (e.g., 10th grade teachers) or across subjects (e.g., science teachers).

Here are some barriers to engagement with PLCs today that Office 365 Groups is addressing:

  • Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
  • Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
  • A challenge for many PLCs is extending the work and relationships in the times and spaces between physically coming together.
  • It can be difficult for new teachers to ramp up.
  • Information is often stored in personal spaces as opposed to one common place that can benefit others.
  • New members need to better understand the journey, story, exploration and history of a PLC, its activities and areas of inquiry.

As part of our April announcement, we mentioned how we are going to further improve our experience for PLCs. Today, we are excited to announce the PLC Groups Preview—tailored to meet the needs of teachers and overcome the above mentioned barriers to engagement today.

The new Office 365 PLC groups include one place to collaborate effectively in a community of practice. Each group comes with a:

  • Inbox for group email communication, including Connector for connecting your group to Twitter and following topics or Twitter handles that interest your PLC group.
  • Calendar for scheduling group events.
  • Document library for storing and working on group files and folders.
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes.
  • Planner for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress.

PLC groups are also available on all your mobile devices—both Outlook Groups and OneNote have mobile apps. This helps you keep track of your PLC conversations and PLC notebooks, making it easy to share relevant resources with your groups on the go.

A look at how one district implemented PLC groups

For an in-depth look at how Omaha Public Schools is using Office 365 Groups for their PLCs to streamline collaboration, read their full case study on the Customer Stories page and then watch this video:

Administrators at Omaha Public Schools developed some guidance for their staff on how to do PLCs in their district:

Here’s what Omaha Public Schools staff members have to say about their experience with PLC groups:

“Looking at what Omaha Public Schools’ needs are around professional learning, it was important to build around a platform that was consistent with what our teachers and staff use on a daily basis.”
—Rob Dickson, executive director of Information Management Services for Omaha Public Schools

I love the fact that I can create sections, that I can create pages within the sections, and I can upload anything I want, or do a quick snip from a page and throw it in there. Everyone knows the format, so we’re not trying to figure out somebody else’s way of thinking.”
—Laura Wray, 4th grade teacher at Wakonda Elementary School

“Using our PLC groups, everything is templated out, so you just add to them and it pops up in their Office 365 account and they’re rolling the next day…There’s so much asked of teachers. They can go home at night and say, OK, here’s an activity we did today and it really helped with that comprehension strand, and I want to make sure my teammates get that.”
—Rebecca Chambers, instructional technology coach

Office 365 Groups—integrated to support PLCs

Here is an example of how Office 365 Groups for PLCs integrates Outlook, OneNote and a SharePoint library:

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 1

In Outlook on the web, a faculty member chooses the PLC template to create a PLC group.

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 2

The PLC group collaborates, shares lesson plans and stores student data all in a shared group OneNote notebook.

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 3

The PLC group can store PLC reference material in the group’s document library.

Educators, increase collaboration and professional development with new Office 365 Education updates

Educator collaboration with PLC groups

Aside from getting started with the technology, we know there can be some barriers to collaborating and sharing knowledge between teachers:

  • Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
  • Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
  • Information is often stored in the personal files of educators, making it difficult for new teachers to ramp up.

To foster collaboration, educators look to professional learning communities (PLCs), where groups of educators can meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. In April, we announced how we were going to further improve our experience for PLCs by customizing Office 365 Groups to fit this PLC model even more easily.

Today, we are excited to announce the PLC Groups Preview—tailored to meet educator needs and overcome barriers to engagement. Office Setup 365 Education users who are faculty can now create PLC groups, similar to any other Office 365 group, and access shared conversation spaces, file space, OneNote notebooks and calendars. PLC groups also integrate directly with Microsoft Planner, released in general availability with Office 365 earlier this month. Here is an example of how one of our early adopters, Omaha Public Schools, is using PLC groups with Office 365 Education:

Interested in trying the PLC Groups Preview this summer? Office Setup 365 Education customers can sign up here and request to be added to the preview. Read more about PLC groups in this blog post.

Docs.com fosters knowledge and content sharing

We understand another barrier for teachers is knowledge and content sharing within a PLC or across the globe. Teachers are constantly searching for new lessons and their students want to share their work with parents and the world.

Docs.com is the easiest way to create a visually appealing online portfolio that can include OneNote notebooks, Word documents, Excel workbooks, PowerPoint slide decks, interactive Sways, PDFs and a host of web content. Docs.com retains all the rich formatting, animations and formulas of your Office documents and can be easily shared with your school and the world. We have been gathering feedback from thousands of amazing educators and students around the globe to ensure that the experience can meet their needs.

We heard from teachers about how some of their content is not quite ready to be shared outside of their school or district, many of which have Office 365 Education as a collaborative platform. Keeping things a little more private sometimes makes students and teachers feel safer about distributing their work. Because of this, today we are announcing the Organization Visibility feature—giving you more granular control over who can see your class content. With Organization Visibility, only people who sign in with an Office 365 work or school account from the same organization (i.e., school or district) can view your content.

Read more about Docs.com in this blog post.

Formative assessment gets easier with Microsoft Forms

Along with collaborating with other educators, we know that most educators’ time is spent in the classroom with the students. Microsoft Forms is the result of direct feedback from educators that they want to have a quizzing function with Office 365 Education. Educators told us they need an easy way to assess student progress on an on-going basis, an assessment solution that will save them time, help differentiate instruction for all students and provide quiz takers with real-time personalized feedback.

Since we announced Microsoft Forms in April, we have added two new features! The first is auto-grading, meaning teachers don’t need to download an add-in or do any complicated workarounds to do grading. The second is real-time, personalized feedback, which allows teachers to provide feedback to students for each answer and question.

Read more about Microsoft Forms for education in this blog post.

Office 365 now works with more of the technology you already use

Since we launched the original Class Notebook add-in assignment and grade integration with Learning Management Systems (LMS), Student Information Systems (SIS) and gradebooks, we’ve had many excited educators and schools try it out. We’ve also heard more and more teachers ask for Class Notebook integration with other systems they use. We’ve been busy working with partner companies from around the world over the last couple of months, and today we are announcing more than 35 partners who have committed to working with OneNote and Office 365 Education, with currently over 20 implemented and many more coming soon.

Chula Vista Elementary School District is a customer story that demonstrates how we are working with solutions that educators already use, featuring Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft partner Edmodo.

If you don’t see your LMS, SIS or gradebook on this list below, be sure to let us know at classnotebook@onenote.uservoice.com. Download the latest version of the Class Notebook add-in to see the most up-to-date set of partners.

Class Notebook add-in assignment and grading partners.

Read more about new Office 365 Education and Class Notebook integrations in this blog post.