7 Designing a Collaborative Environment

Online Learning is new for many educators and students. There is a learning curve for all with a new set of distractions and challenges that we may not have faced during traditional face to face learning. Teaching and learning in online spaces (whether used in class or asynchronously) takes practice. Be patient with yourself and your students.

Creating a Social Contract
  • Be explicit about what you are expecting from students
  • Be clear about your expectations during synchronous activities, there is no ‘common sense’ for online activities
  • Be clear about what you expect from their participation in groups
  • Be clear about when and how you want them to contact you (and to not contact you)
Align your assignments with the platform

You will need to take each of your activities and assignments and imagine how they could be accomplished within the Teams environment. (eg. It could be great to use ‘track changes’ as a way of iteratively supporting a writing student through writing an essay, but you’ll have to work out how to grade it without the artifact of a ‘submission’ of a document.) There are many possibilities, but this can cause a potential problem.

Control the time that people will be working

There are certainly students who need ‘encouragement’ to work, but there is a whole other group that will work as hard as you allow them to work. The open ended nature of the Teams platform could lead to students working too much, contacting other teammates at 2am or peppering you with chat messages. Devise clear rules and stick to them.

Work with the system

You are always going to be frustrated if you expect Teams to work like a Learning Management System. Teams is great for running ongoing conversations, collaborative project work and flexibility. It’s not great for rigid assignments and multiple-choice exams.


For more thoughts on teaching online, please see our 12 Key Ideas: An Introduction to Teaching Online



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Teaching with MSTeams Copyright © by Dave Cormier; Anas Al-Chalabi; Bailey Csabai; Chris Nardone; Devin Wacheski; Elijah Annoh-Waithe; Jykee Pavo; Laura Small; Lawrence Villacorte; Lorenzo Pernasilici; Marianne Kantati; Mikayla Bornais; Mitchel Macmillan; Mohamed Eldabagh; Nafeesa Sohail; Norman Ha; Tariq Al-Rfouh; Kristen Swiatoschik; and Ashlyne O'Neil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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