Office 365 Can Help Keep Students Engaged During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Carrie Pecoraro

Anywhere you turn now, the topic of coronavirus is front and center. Last night, I went on a routine trip to the grocery store to find a completely empty aisle where toilet paper used to be. I went to three stores to find it, and at the last one, the cashier and the bagger, both in school, were talking about how this global health crisis was impacting schools. While the cashier was in college and found the transition to online courses to be welcome, the bagger was in high school and had art projects that she didn’t want to leave unfinished if the school turned to online classes .

While some art projects and lab work might be challenging, the truth is a lot of schools have already discussed how they are going to handle the coronavirus pandemic with respect to their students. Some colleges have extended spring break or told students to go home while others are keeping campuses open but suspended classes indefinitely. There are still other schools that have taken another approach: online learning .

Working with Technology that Fits
Your Budget

It’s hard to turn on the TV most days without seeing an advertisement for some online university, so we all know the technology is there, but what if your school doesn’t have a huge need for online coursework regularly? How can you keep your students learning and engaged for as long as possible with little to no impact on your budget?

Microsoft Teams, in conjunction with Office 365, is a great resource for schools. All three Office 365 Academic Suites include Teams—including the free Web-based A1 suite available through Connection’s Microsoft CSP program. When used alone, or with other aspects of Office 365, this can be the perfect solution for remote collaboration. Social distancing to limit transmission of the virus has begun to take place as people stock up on things such as toilet paper and hand soap to avoid getting sick.

Collaboration and Continuation

Teams contains videoconferencing features to allow teachers to continue to hold lessons online and even record lectures for future use. They can use their Teams Calendar to schedule meetings, call out students by name in chat to spark a conversation, or hold side conversations with specific students or groups as the situation warrants. Teams has a section where instructors and administrators can post announcements, store files, and invite other educators when additional resources are needed.

Assignments and lessons can be saved to OneDrive so students can access them later, and additional features of Office 365 can be coupled with Teams collaboration to keep students engaged while they are away from the brick and mortar school environment. Teachers can use PowerPoint and Sway to create visually interesting presentations, use Class Whiteboard as they normally might to display math equations, find experts using Skype in the Classroom to add a new perspective to the lesson plans, and ask students to weigh in on Flipgrid and start a class discussion.

Teachers can even finish out their school year by making assessments available in the Teams Assignment tab and provide feedback or use Microsoft Forms to post tests online.

Microsoft Office 365 provides many solutions to keep kids learning so they are engaged and retaining as much of their classroom material as possible while staying safe and healthy at home. If you want to learn more about any of the Office 365 Academic suites, including the free version Office 365 A1 available through CSP, please contact your Connection Account Manager today.

Carrie shares her expertise in Microsoft licensing for state and local government, and education. In her free time, Carrie enjoys concerts, football, and traveling.