With MS Classroom gone, what's going to replace your simple assignment workflow tool?
The suggested solution from Microsoft is Teams and so I have been looking at whether it provides both:
- a legitimate replacement to Microsoft Classroom; and
- more potential functionality to Teacher Dashboard.
If you missed my last post, you can read what my thoughts are on the end of Classroom here.
A Quick History
Microsoft has gone to great lengths to build solid foundation applications which their Education Partners, like Teacher Dashboard, can use to develop further value. If Teams is to compare to Classroom, it has to excel at providing a minimalist assignment workflow and require little to no training to get started.
In my opinion, these two points dictated the success of Classroom because there was a clear jumping off point for Teachers when they started using Office 365. They could immediately see the power that was available beyond their email. As a closely related product, this is the same ethos that we strive for at Teacher Dashboard.
My first experience with the Teams web interface wasn't the best.
When I logged in I could see that I already belonged to a number of teams (added by my colleagues) which were not classes. This, it turns out, was an important distinction. I thought I would start by sending my colleagues an assignment as a test, but after clicking on these teams, I couldn't see the 'Assignments' tab. No problem, there is an Assignments section on the left menu, but going here just displayed an empty calendar for the week. How do you create an assignment?
After checking my user permissions to make sure that wasn't the problem (a problem that admins out there will know well) I sheepishly went to the Teams page and read their Guide for Educators. Low and behold, it all now made sense:
- Add a new team
- Make that team a class
- Send an assignment
A silly mistake of mine had cost precious time, but then again I'd never had to read instructions for Classroom… was this a bad sign?
The rest of the assignment workflow went as hoped:
- Create a title and instructions,
- Add resources from your OneDrive or computer,
- Single feedback loop with your students,
- Numerical only marking format, etc,
all of the things that were there in Classroom. However, I couldn't help but feel that the interface was very corporate and uninspiring.
I also didn't see a single notification. Regardless of whether the action I performed was a new assignment, new feedback, new comment in a conversation, etc. the test user in my class was not alerted once. Perhaps this was my set up at the time or maybe it's different on the native apps, but again, the aim of the game here is to reduce barriers and the time to getting started, so I would have liked it to all work out of the box.
Teacher Dashboard has always been the upgrade product when schools required more functionality than they got from Microsoft Classroom. The same is true with Assignments in Teams and why Teacher Dashboard will be building a plugin for Microsoft Teams in the near future.
However, is Teams a legitimate replacement for Classroom? Well, my personal opinion is… not yet. The same functionality is there, but the different layout has taken something away from the simplicity and engagement of Classroom. The extra layer of Teams on top of Assignments is a layer of complexity.
As it stands, I can't imagine it being the product that provides a gateway to teachers using Office 365 more in their classes, but rather being something they have to put time aside for training.
Perhaps the story is different if administrators have set up everything beforehand, so that will be a review for another day.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Are you trying out Teams in your school? How are you going to roll it out?