Scheduling A Recurring Teams Meeting For Class Sessions
Extensive documentation for scheduling Teams Meetings can be found on the UWGB KnowledgeBase. Here are the steps we recommend for setting up Teams meetings for recurring synchronous class sessions.
- Open Microsoft Teams and select Calendar from the app bar.
- Click the + New Meeting button.
- Give your meeting a title in the “Add title” field.
- The quickest method to invite all the students who are currently enrolled in your class is to use your course’s email distribution list. You can type in the name of your course distribution list in the “Add required attendees” field, then click the matching result in the search box that appears.
- Enter the start and end date and time for the first meeting occurrence (i.e. your first class session).
- To create a recurring meeting, change the selected meeting recurrence drop-down menu choice from “Does not repeat” to the desired pattern. For a class that meets multiple times in a week, choose the Custom option, set it to repeat every 1 Week, and select the desired days of the week. Set the end date to the date of your last class meeting. Click Save to add the custom recurrence pattern to your meeting.
- (Optional) Enter in any meeting details in the meeting body. You could include welcoming language for your students and/or expectations for student participation in this field.
- In the top-right of the New meeting window, click Send to create your meeting and send invitations to the students.
NOTE: Your meeting invitation will not automatically update to include/remove students who add or drop the course. After the meeting has been created, you can edit the meeting series to invite additional students or remove students from the meeting series. To edit a meeting series in Teams, click any occurrence of the meeting in your calendar once, then click Edit > Edit Series.
Configuring Meeting Options
After scheduling your Teams meeting, you can customize the meeting options. Of particular importance for a class meeting is controlling whether or not students can present (i.e. share their screen). For maximum meeting security, we recommend setting the Who can present? meeting option to “Only me.” This setting will allow students to use their mic, camera, and chat during the meeting but will prevent them from sharing their screen, starting a recording, or creating polls.
Whenever a student needs to present in a meeting, you can quickly promote an individual student to the presenter role in the meeting’s participants panel. For more information on setting user roles in a Teams meeting, please see this Microsoft Support guide.
Posting the Meeting Join Link in Canvas
Students will be able to join a Teams meeting to which they’ve been invited by finding the meeting in the calendar page of the Teams application. Joining a Teams meeting through the calendar of the Teams app is the easiest way to join a meeting, but you may also wish to post the meeting join link in a Canvas course page or event so that students can join the meeting by clicking a link within your Canvas course.
Once a Teams Meeting has been scheduled, a meeting join link is automatically added to the bottom of the body of the appointment that is added to your Teams (and Outlook) calendar. This link can be freely copied from your calendar and pasted anywhere, including a Canvas course. Each scheduled occurrence of a recurring Teams meeting will use the same join link. Consider pasting the join link for your meeting in any or all of these Canvas course locations:
- In a page in the introduction module of your course.
- Add the link as an External URL module item (IMPORTANT: When adding a Teams join link as a module item in Canvas, you must check the Load in a new tab option for the link to work)
- In a Canvas course calendar event. NOTE: Canvas events do not support custom recurrence patterns; events can be only be duplicated with daily, weekly, or monthly patterns. A separate Canvas event that is duplicated weekly would have to be created for each day of the week your class meets (e.g. one for Monday meetings and one for Wednesday meetings), but you can paste the same Teams meeting join link in each Canvas event.
Communicating is paramount in any course—this is especially true at a distance where even incidental contact is absent. Good communication correlates strongly with positive student feedback. The materials and content in your course could be entirely mute if students don’t know fully how you expect they interact with them.
You will want when and how you communicate with students to be authentic to you and your course. Much as you want the materials and activities of a course to align with your course objectives, you want how you communicate to align with you.
Decide what’s right for you…
Take a moment to consider what communication strategy is most authentic to you.
For now, think of this in general terms what is your “style” of communication? Are you a better listener or informer? Do you prefer one-on-one conversation or group-think? Can you be more often found waiting for others to pose questions or proactively providing answers?
Consider what you’ll need to communicate, to whom, how, and when.
As one example: I need to provide the instructions for lab and safety information to each section. The instructions need to be transparent because the sections will be at different places in the text. The safety information has to match the language in the safety manual. Students need to have received and comprehend this information at least a week before lab.
Consider what method you would follow to communicate with your students about these materials. Put another way: What would you like communication to look like in this course?
One method you may use for deciding on communication tools is the “SAMR” (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) model.
Finally (and this is the step that’s easy to forget), look again at your workload and consider your teaching style. As an example, do you have final papers due in four different courses in the same week? You’ll want to make sure you have the capacity to be true to your own teaching. If you’re the sort of person who would like to do one-on-one conferences leading up to the final paper, that’s something to take into account.
- Consider what is authentic
- Consider what is realistic
- You may wish to use the SAMR model as a way of approaching this problem
- But remember to keep your workload in mind
… then, match that to the tools available.
Return to the SAMR model or another means of reflecting on your decision as needed. Consider these options (and a few of their trade-offs) for communicating with students:
- A "distribution list" will allow you to send a message to your entire class at once.
- Familiar to you and to students.
- One-on-one communication can get "noisy" and relies on the class list in SIS or Canvas (not Outlook).
- Media limited.
- Engage the whole class or specific groups of students.
- Keep related things together.
- Familiar in principle to students.
- Less formal.
- Requires regular/frequent interaction for best results.
- Small learning curve in Canvas initially.
- Task needs clarification.
- Less formal.
- Intuitive and in Canvas.
- Alert the whole class or sections of students all at once.
- Allows for rich media (video messages, images, etc.)
- Students get notified.
- Allows for student comments (optional).
- Students can disable email notifications—but still see announcements when in Canvas.
- Can get noisy with frequent use.
(E.g., Zoom or Teams)
- Feels more like being in the classroom.
- Sessions can be recorded for review (or those who miss).
- Varying levels of interactive options (whiteboard, breakout groups, chat, polls, etc.)
- Steeper learning curve the first time.
- Relies on a good connection and technology.
- Logistically, some students cannot make it to synchronous sessions.
- Intuitive and familiar to students.
- Easy to use.
- A "history" of the chat is available to the entire class making it good for Q&A-type sessions.
- Whole-class only. Cannot be limited to specific students.
- Displays course due dates automatically
- Can add other items (like reminders)
- Requires "due dates"
- Only the names of events appear directly on the calendar
- Create blocks of time for students to sign up to meet one-on-one (e.g. office hours)
- Can use a "feed" to add these blocks to Outlook
- Required additional communication so students know how and to use them.
Finally, let students know.
Make the necessary preparations for your selected technologies and techniques. All the while, be sure to keep your course information updated. At the minimum, you will want to let students know which tools you’ll be using, for what, when, and how to get support if they need it.
Example: I will be posting twice-weekly announcements in Canvas to help you stay on task and remind you of upcoming due dates. I ask that you reply to these announcements with questions you may have so we can clarify any sticking points as a class. I will reply to announcement comments the next day at the latest. If you need any help with the announcements tool in Canvas, Canvas support can be reached through any of the contact methods in the syllabus.
It is a good idea to have a dedicated Communication Policies page or outlining this information in your syllabus to let students know how and when you will be communicating with them—and how, when, and what they should communicate with you!
Article by Luke Konkol
In a time when students might require extra flexibility, it’s important to remember that it should not come at the expense of instructor bandwidth. Providing extensions on student work, alternative assignments, or dropping work can have a positive impact on students, but how can we best find the sweet spot between an inflexible structure and ‘anything goes’? Some answers lie in Canvas features. In this post, I’ll share a few ideas of how you might set up Canvas for your own benefit, in addition to students’.
“I Just Need a Little More Time.”
By default when you make a Canvas assignment, it’s assigned to every student and the due dates apply accordingly. However, you can also get specific and assign different dates to individual students. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of emails asking for extensions, and masses of sticky notes and spreadsheets suggest that no method of tracking them has been totally effective. By updating the assignment dates for each student who gets an extension, Canvas will track this for you and the student alike.
Some instructors also don’t realize how late work shows up on the student side. When work is late, Canvas is overly clear, marking it with a big red “LATE”. This can be off-putting to otherwise achieving students—especially when the work is not actually late. Adjusting a student’s individual due date means their work will only be marked as late if it is submitted past their specific due date.
A Usable Gradebook
An indication of ‘late’ work also shows up in your gradebook. Unfortunately, Canvas doesn’t make their cacophony of symbols and highlights transparent anywhere within the gradebook itself, so those individual cells just turn into noise. This is less true if you can use these features of the gradebook to their full potential. One first step is using individual due dates as described above; when you do, the highlight for “late” work starts to mean something.
Excusing and Dropping
Canvas grading is also not as “all or nothing” as it first appears. What seems like a flaw can work to our advantage: anything un-graded does not count against students in the way a zero would. But it’s sometimes difficult for students (and the future you) to interpret this lack of data. Canvas has thought this one through. You can make it explicit which assignments will not be counted towards a student’s final grade by marking such assignment as “excused”.
Excusing work is a good option if the dropped score doesn’t apply to everyone, but what if you want to discount a graded item for the entire class? You can tell Canvas to drop certain assignments, such as the lowest in an assignment group, by setting up assignment group rules. The thing to remember is to enter those zeroes for missing assignments—otherwise Canvas will drop the lowest scored assignment instead.
In fact, there are several tricks you can use so the Canvas gradebook tracks scores but assignments ‘count’ differently. For example, some instructors prefer to manually assign scores elsewhere but still want Canvas to serve as the interface for student work. A rather extreme example (using labor-based grading) can be found here. Whenever you use unconventional grading methods, the key is to be transparent with students about what Canvas (and you) are doing. This guide on group weights is enough to get you started on this advanced topic, but we recommend setting up a CATL consultation if this is something you’d be interested in exploring further.
The Learning is in the Doing “So Far”
These tips demonstrate the way in which, at first blush, Canvas seems to focus its flexibility on the student side of the equation. This is to say, instructor errors (like forgetting to enter a zero) seem to unduly benefit the student. But these effects are just symptoms of a wider philosophy underlying the way Canvas works. Like any learning management system, Canvas is based on the idea that a certain transaction is taking place, but instead of focusing on a raw accumulation of points (like other LMSs) Canvas’s approach to scoring is a reflection of how students are doing “so far”. If a student only does one of ten assignments but does it well, Canvas tracks this as success.
What does this do for us? For me, it clues us into a different way to think about student progress—and one that speaks directly to students achieving objectives. If we want students to be able to X, why have a dozen assignments asking them to do so if they succeed in doing it in two or three? Despite a distaste for ‘busy work’ shared by instructors and students alike, it tends to creep into the online environment. The silver lining is that the boost in remote learning (where the necessity that we clearly articulate the work we expect from students is highlighted) has revealed the craving we all seem to have for objective-centered student work.
A Note on Objectives
So, you want a student’s grade to reflect their meeting objectives instead of a raw accumulation of points. Now what? That’s a good question—and the answer is bigger than we’ve got the space to address here. My temporary answer is a cop-out: keep your objectives in mind as the driving factor for using the techniques I’ve provided above.
But give it some further thought. If this idea of objectives-based grading is intriguing to you, consider that Canvas has a spot for you to create outcomes and that you can then attach these outcomes to assignments.
As if this weren’t enough, Canvas even has an alternative gradebook based on what they call “learning mastery” which tracks this very thing using benchmarks for mastery you set. I didn’t advertise this above because the focus of this post is on practical action you can take now to save yourself some work, but if this is something you’d like to explore further, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation!
What Do You Think?
How do you manage flexibility in your courses? What Canvas (or other) ‘hacks’ do you have to share with your colleagues? Let us know below! I’ve also been thinking a bit lately about how some of these practices (e.g. objective-based grading) might be worth keeping around even once things “go back to normal”. I’m curious to hear from you on this. How have your grading practices changed? Is there anything you’ve started doing that you plan on keeping going forward?
A Case for Group Work
Group work can elicit negative reactions from instructors and students alike. Often enough, students groan about doing it and instructors dread grading it. The process is ripe for communication breakdowns resulting in stress from both perspectives. On top of this, the digital learning environment tends to compound these issues. Why then is group work so prevalent?
The answer is that, when done well, group activities help foster engagement and build relationships. Collaborative work helps students develop important skills like effectively articulating ideas, active listening, and cooperation with peers. Collaborative assignments correlate strongly with student success positioning them as one of eight high-impact practices identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Making group work a worthwhile experience for students requires extra consideration and planning, but the positive gains are worth the effort.
Designing Group Work for Student Success
How can we design collaborative activities that are a quality learning experience for students? Scaffolding makes sure students are confident in their understanding of and ability to execute the activity. UW-Extension has created a helpful guide on facilitating group work that outlines three key suggestions to get you started. First, be sure students understand the purpose of the activity, in terms of what they are supposed to learn from it and why it is a group activity. Second, provide support so students have the necessary tools and training to collaborate. You are clear how and when students are to collaborate or provide suggestions. You ensure students understand how to use the needed technologies. Finally, providing opportunities for peer- and self-evaluation can alleviate frustrations of unequal workload by having students evaluate their own and their peers’ contributions. As challenges arise, guide groups toward solutions that are flexible but fair to all members. When embarking on group projects, be prepared to provide students with guidance about what to do when someone on the team is not meeting the group’s expectations.
One example of this as you design your group projects is to ask yourself whether it’s important students meet synchronously. If so, how might you design the project for students with caregiving responsibilities or with full-time or “off hours” work schedules? These students may not be able to meet as regularly or at the same time as other students. See below for how this might play into assessing the group project. You might also consider whether all students need to hold the same role within the group, or if their collective project be split up based on group roles.
Consider how the group dynamics can impact student experiences. Helping students come up with a plan for group work and methods of holding one another accountable promotes an inclusive and equitable learning environment. Consider any of these tools to help your students coordinate these efforts:
- Adapt Jen Schanen-Materi’s (Social Work) Group Action Planning Activity and follow-up Action Planning Check-in Activity.
- Adapt Kate Farley’s (CATL) Team Charter. Help students commit to roles and set realistic check-ins and deadlines.
- See Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Handbook supporting inclusive teamwork, which includes a self-assessment asset-mapping activity and a team asset-mapping chart.
- See IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning’s resource on guiding group learning for a checklist-like list of considerations.
Assessing Group Work
Equitable, specific, and transparent grading are crucial to group-work success. The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence of Carnegie Mellon University has a great resource on how to assess group work, including samples. This resource breaks grading group work down into three areas. First, assess group work based on both individual and group learning and performance. Include an individual assessment component to motivate all students to contribute and help them to feel their individual efforts are recognized. Also assess the process along with the product. What skills are you hoping students develop by working in groups? Your choice of assessment should point to these skills. One way to meet this need is to have students complete reflective team, peer, or individual evaluations as described above. Finally, outline your assessment criteria and grading scheme upfront. Students should have clear expectations of how you will assess them. Include percentages for team vs. individual components and product vs. process components as they relate to the total project grade.
Tools for Working Collaboratively
Picking the right tool among a plethora of what is available is an important step. First, consider how you would like students to collaborate for the activity. Is it important that students talk or chat synchronously, asynchronously, or both? Will students share files?
The following suggestions include the main collaboration tools supported at UWGB. Click to expand the sections for the various tools below.
If you are interested in learning more about any of these tools, consider scheduling a consultation with a CATL member.
Canvas discussions are one option for student collaboration. Operating much like an online forum, discussions are best suited for asynchronous communication, meaning students can post and reply to messages at any time, in any order. If you have groups set up in Canvas, you can create group discussions in which group members can only see one another’s posts. You can also adjust your course settings so that students can create their own discussion threads as well.
If you’ve never seen VoiceThread, imagine a PowerPoint presentation in which students can leave audio, video, and text comments on every slide. It is a great tool for virtual presentations, as students can pre-record narration for slides and then embed their projects in Canvas pages, discussions, etc. to share with the rest of the class. Keep in mind however that it may take students longer to grow comfortable with VoiceThread than a tool like Canvas discussions or Office 365, which they may already be familiar with using.
Office 365 refers to the online Microsoft Office Suite, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Students can work collaboratively and asynchronously on projects using online document versions of any of these software, which updates changes in nearly real time. Microsoft Office 365 has partial integration with Canvas, allowing students to set up and share Office documents from within Canvas using the Collaborations feature. Students will have to log in to Office 365 through their Canvas course before they can use most features of Canvas and Office 365 integration.
Collaborate Ultra is one of two web conferencing tools supported by the university, the other being Teams. Collaborate Ultra has full integration with Canvas, meaning students can access meetings and recordings from within a Canvas course. As such, it is generally easy to for students to access and use. One downside to Collaborate Ultra is that it is a purely synchronous meeting tool, so students will have to coordinate their schedules or find other ways of including members that may not be able to attend a live meeting.
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration tool that combines web conferencing, synchronous and asynchronous text communications (in the form of chat and posts), and shared, collaborative file space. Students can create a new team in MS Teams for their group project or operate in a channel of an existing class team. Microsoft Teams also has partial integration with Canvas, meaning students and instructors can create and share Teams meeting links within the New Rich Content Editor of Canvas (in pages, announcements, discussions, etc.).
Putting It into Practice
When we ask students to work collaboratively, it’s important we reveal the “hidden curriculum” by building in the steps they should take to be a successful team. As a starting point, asking students to answer these questions helps clarify the work of the group:
- “Who’s on the team?”
- “What are your tasks as a group?”
- “How will you communicate?” (Asynchronously? Synchronously?)
- “How will you ensure everyone can meet the deadlines you set?”
- “If or When someone misses a meeting, how will you ensure that everyone has access to the information they’ll need to help you all complete the project on time?”
- “When will you give each other feedback before you turn in the final assignment?”
For a ‘bare bones’ group assignment, take the above considerations on designing and assessing groupwork into account and create a worksheet for the student groups to fill out together. Create a Canvas group assignment to collect those agreements, assign it some points that will be a part of the whole project grade, and set the deadline for turning it in early so that students establish their plan early enough for it to benefit their group. Scaffolded activities that give students enough structure and agency is a delicate balance, but these kinds of guided worksheets and steps can help students focus their energy on the project, assignment, or task once everyone is on the same page.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
Do you have some tried and tested strategies for helping students coordinate and complete group work online? Send them our way by emailing: CATL@uwgb.edu or comment below!