Microsoft Teams announces a slew of back to school improvements

The back-to-school season is rapidly approaching, and Microsoft is gearing up its education tools for the upcoming school year. The company today announced a ton of improvements that have already arrived or are coming soon to Microsoft Teams for Education.

To start things off, rubric grading has been added to Microsoft Teams, which should help make assignments more transparent for students, as well as making it easier for educators to provide feedback on those assignments. Teachers can set a variety of criteria for grading each assignment and easily grade them accordingly, as the company demonstrates in the following video:

Microsoft has also made it easier to work from mobile devices. Recent updates have made it possible for students to check their upcoming assignments as soon as they launch the app, and they can also start working on them from their smartphones. Teachers can also use Android or iOS devices to create new assignments.

Using Teams can cause some confusion over time as classes from previous years start to pile up, so it's also possible to archive older teams so they're turned into a read-only state and get out of the way. It is also now possible to re-use assignments from current or archived teams, which should save teachers some time on recurring topics.

Microsoft also recently announced many improvements to Flipgrid after buying the video learning platform a couple of months ago. These include an improved recording experience with support for trimming, support for switching between cameras during a recording, and more, as well as the new Grid Launchpad, an international GridPals platform, and improved Grids and Topics.

There are some new settings for Class and Staff Notebooks as well, making it easier to manage them inside Microsoft Teams. The toolbar for Class Notebooks has been improved and there's also a new toolbar specifically for Staff Notebooks.

It's now possible to record online meetings and lectures inside Teams, with support for automatic transcription and time coding. This makes it possible to search through the conversation in recorded videos and watch them in parts or in their entirety.

Microsoft loves integrations, and later this month, it's doing it again by bringing Microsoft Forms into the Assessments app, adding a new way to grade students inside Teams and converging educational tools into one place.

Teams is also getting a couple of usability improvements that are present across many of Microsoft's other services and apps: a dark theme and an immersive reader. Both of these should make it easier to focus on the content of a conversation or discussion and minimize strains from reading. There's also a high-contrast mode for those who prefer it.

Lastly, as a bit of a side note, Microsoft has announced that parents and guardians will soon be able to keep tabs on their children's performance. A new weekly digest e-mail will be sent to them detailing the work done (or missing) from the previous week, as well as assignments for the upcoming week.

Many of the features announced here are already available, while a few are still on the way. Regardless, it's a long list of changes that should make Teams a much more appealing tool for students and educators this school year. Microsoft has been focusing a lot of its efforts in the education market, so more improvements should arrive over time as well.

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