In the past, Daryl Adair used secret Facebook groups to facilitate students' learning. Now he's using Microsoft Teams to monitor and mentor even after classes have finished.
"Using Facebook groups had clear drawbacks in terms of teaching and learning," he says. "Even though the Facebook secret group is different from their personal stuff, some students didn't like the fact that it seemed to cross over – they just wanted to focus on socialising."
For Adair, one of the main benefits of Microsoft Teams was the ability to separate groups into channels and mini-teams for different purposes.
"I set up a channel within the team called Icebreaker. The idea here was that students would introduce themselves and then develop some rapport. Newsworthy is a channel that I set up to post whatever's happening in the news, but linking it to something we're looking at. You can also have a one-on-one Skype conversation, I can upload a PDF, and students can post things – it's been very useful."
According to Adair, students took to it much more readily than they did with UTSOnline.
I'm very much a facilitator, and students themselves are much more active in the learning process.
Another benefit of Teams, says Adair, is it allows for private chats. For example, creating a group with a handful of students and providing them with feedback on their assessments. But it's not just the features of Teams that have been useful. In terms of engagement, Adair has been seeing incredible results with some of his postgraduate students.
"What I wanted was a fun way in which to engage, and it's giving me assurance that students are participating outside of class. They start to take ownership of the platform. I'm very much a facilitator, and students themselves are much more active in the learning process.
"Exams have finished, and they're still posting!"
It's also been a boon for international students, many of whom are still navigating not only language skills, but what is expected of them in class too. With Teams, Adair says, "students feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas."
In Adair's student trial of Teams, everyone would take turns in a leadership role, summarising their understanding of a reading or a video they'd been set. Each week they came back having done a different task, and brought that to the table.
"It works really well. The interaction from students is great."
The system is also a game-changer for staff – quickly reducing cluttered inboxes.
"It cuts down on your workload in terms of communicating, because you don't have to use email."
In the future, Adair is investigating whether it's possible to assess participation through Teams. But, for now, engaging students even when exams are over? That's got to be a win!