Teaching remotely with Microsoft Teams

This week I had the new experience of teaching with Microsoft Teams. While I have given webinars on many occasions to both student and librarian audiences, this was the first time I taught an instruction session to 120 students across three on-campus classrooms simultaneously from my office.

Background

The Business Cluster is the core educational experience that all business students at Ohio University take during the sophomore year. Each semester there are at least 9 sections of 40 students, all taking their full load of management, marketing, information systems, and communication courses together with their section. In the past, I had met with the three morning sections, the early afternoon sections, and the later afternoon sections in a large ballroom type space that was specially reserved for the “project launch days.”

This semester the faculty decided to change the format of launch day (along with other flipped experimenting), and all students remained in their individual classrooms. Since each section is taught by a team of four faculty, this works fine for their part of the launch. But because I can’t be in three or more places at once, we decided to use Microsoft Teams for me to broadcast to all classrooms simultaneously.

a screenshot of Chad within the Microsoft Teams app
I give my first teaching with Teams session a thumbs up!

Setup

I set up meetings and invited all faculty to a morning, mid afternoon, and late afternoon meeting. This allowed the faculty to just click on the Teams link to launch into the correct Teams meeting for their class time.

I used a Logitech webcam for my video, and a Blue Yeti mic for my audio. Once the session began, I muted the three classrooms to avoid feedback and other sound distractions. The faculty had the option of using the text chat to ask questions if necessary during and at the end of the session, but no questions were asked.

a screenshot of a calendar invitation

Concerns & Challenges

I was a bit nervous Monday morning that the audio or video would not work right in each classroom. Faculty also voiced some concerns about the technology not working. I was tempted to go over to the classrooms Monday morning to run some tests, but figured that would be cheating. In a real distributed online meeting or teaching space, you cannot troubleshoot someone’s setup if they aren’t in the next building over, so I also opted to play by those rules. I figured it’s also important for students to see us succeed (or conquer struggles) with using technology. All of the sessions went off without a hitch.

The recording of the first session of the day can be found below. In theory, we could have just given the mid-afternoon and late-afternoon the recording, but we opted for me to deliver the session live, via Teams, for all three sessions throughout the day. This provided a more genuine experience for all students, as well as additional practice for me. I do believe I got a little bit better with my delivery throughout the day.

As is the case with any sort of web-based live teaching application, there were some challenges:

  • As you can tell from the video, it’s hard to look into the camera when it is mounted on top of your monitor while talking or sharing your screen. The camera looking down on you, or from the side, is much better, however, than the up-the-nose shot (ewwww).
  • I could not see the students in the classroom, so I could not see heads nod (whether due to understanding the content or falling asleep).
  • I felt like I went a lot faster than I would have if I had delivered the content in person.
  • Having taught in person in those classrooms, I know the projectors are not the best and I have no idea how my session displayed on the screen. I did enlarge screen text when I thought it was necessary. However, the recording is really good and posted on my guide for the project, so they can review if needed.

Observations & What’s Next

Faculty observed that overall the session worked great from my office, and thought that having students in their individual classrooms and teams was better than the big launch day sessions. While the faculty probably had a tighter connection with the students on the first, day, I felt a little bit distant from the launch day festivities, and was concerned that I would just be the guy on the screen at the end of class. However, I had a student flag me down in the library Tuesday with a question as I was on my way to a meeting, and another student asked me yesterday, “Are you the famous Chad? That video was great!” Evidently students can make the connection between virtual and in-person me. My guide hits are through the roof as well, as students have used the guide I created for their project almost 6,000 times over the past 5 days, while my other business guides have collected another 2200 hits.

During peak project and assignment weeks, there aren’t enough hours in my usual 8-5 workday to accommodate all of the research appointment requests. Given the success of this initial teaching experience, I am thinking about hosting research appointments via Teams on a few select evenings and weekends during the crunch time. This would allow me to set up a few available appointment blocks and meet virtually with those student groups, without having to commit to coming back to the office.

I am scheduled to meet with the same class sections via Teams in October. I have typically done an active learning exercise for their second project, which as resulted in significant demonstrations of learning. I’m racking my brain for ideas on how I might do an active learning exercise without physically being in the classroom. More on this later……

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