The chat-based collaboration tool, part of most Office 365 business plans, has gained new capabilities that allow teachers and students to quickly get (and stay) on the same page throughout the school day. In May, during a classroom-themed event in New York City, Microsoft introduced several features in Teams tailored to the needs of the software giant's education customers. For example, teachers can use Teams to organize their conversations into dedicated groups for specific classes and projects.
Now, for Office 365 Education users, Microsoft is offering users more options to distribute, manage and grade assignments using a combination of Teams and OneNote, the company's notetaking application.
"Today, we're starting to roll out the ability for teachers to create assignments and attach a page from OneNote to distribute and ultimately grade," stated Microsoft in a Nov. 13 announcement. "When creating an assignment, simply select a page from Class Notebook in the file picker, then choose a destination for distributing the assignment page in the student notebooks."
The integration opens up new possibilities, like running keyword searches for specific assignments based on their title. It also acts as a springboard for conversations between teachers and students that are focused on a specific assignment.
Teams will also make it tougher to argue that a dog ate a kid's homework. When students receive an assignment, they can now quickly get started on it using Word, Excel or PowerPoint using a built-in tool that opens a blank file, speeding up the submission process.
For a more immersive experience that help keeps distractions at bay, Microsoft is rolling at a new full screen view. While working on assignments in Teams, the both students and teachers can now devote all of their screen real estate to the task at hand.
More features for classrooms are in the works, promised Microsoft.
In the next few months, the company will be issuing a time-saving update that allows teachers to distribute assignments to multiple classes in one batch. Currently in Teams, assignments must be sent to each class individually. Teachers will retain the ability to edit or delete assignments for specific classes, Microsoft affirmed.
A new, easily-scrollable assignment list view is also on the way to help teachers and students keep track of their assignments. It will feature a "Go to Today" link and a toggle that switches between the list and weekly views. Finally, the company is adding assignment management capabilities to the Teams mobile app, allowing students to track and submit assignments as well as get notified when they get new homework.
Separately, Microsoft is working to get kids interested in coding by using Minecraft, the popular video game that Microsoft snapped up for $2.5 billion in 2014.
On Nov. 14, the software maker released a new Minecraft tutorial in anticipation of this year's Hour of Code, which runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 10. The company also announced the start of a "Computer Science for Everyone" workshop series to help educators and parents get involved.