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Microsoft Teams will soon support 7x7 grid, breakout rooms and more

Microsoft has published a new blog post that highlights the change in education since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Redmond giant focused on different areas where learning has been impacted and how educators are adopting Microsoft Teams to transition to remote learning.

In the blog post, Microsoft disclosed that more than 150 million students, faculty, institutional leaders, and teachers have been using Microsoft Education products including Microsoft Teams. The company also asked over 500 members of the education community about the future of learning. Of those 500 members, 61% believed that the next semester will be hybrid, i.e., a mixture of remote and in-person classes. To help with remote learning, Microsoft has announced the following features for educators:

  • The company is finally bringing support for 7x7 grid and breakout rooms. The 7x7 grid will allow users to see 49 participants on a single screen making it easier for teachers to manage a class full of students. The company is also working on adding breakout rooms to the service. Breakout rooms will allow educators to break the class into small groups that will make it easier for students to collaborate with each other while maintaining a safe distance. Both the features will be coming to preview this month and will be generally available this fall.
  • Microsoft recently announced support for raise hands feature for Teams. The feature will be making its way to Teams for Education this fall. Along with that, Microsoft will also add support for Attendance Reports and Class Insights. These features will be available to educators this fall and will give them access to metrics such as student engagement, activity metrics and grades.
  • Lastly, the company has also announced a new set of security features for educators. The new security features include new meeting options to prevent students from starting unattended meetings, Meeting Lobby to allow only selected students to join a meeting and the ability to decide who can present in a meeting. These features will be available to educators and will be rolling out this fall.

Kelly Aramaki, Executive Director of schools at Bellevue School District in Washington state said:

"Most of our teachers hadn’t ever created a video or opened Teams before COVID-19, and within a couple weeks’ time, they’ve learned how to use Teams to teach lessons, meet with small groups for support and connection, give and grade assignments, and check in with students one-on-one(...). Math teachers are using OneNote to have students show their work and document their thinking while teachers give live feedback. Teachers are using the Forms quiz feature at the end of their lessons as ‘exit tickets’ to check student understanding."

Microsoft also disclosed that more than 25,000 new educators from more than 180 countries have signed up for Flipgrid, a social learning app that allows teachers to connect to students via video. Microsoft acquired Flipgrid back in 2018 and has been developing the app since then.

Finally, Microsoft talked about the custom backgrounds feature for Teams. The feature recently rolled out to the Teams users and earlier this week, Microsoft also announced the availability of custom Teams background for free users.

Microsoft has added a lot of features to Teams since the start of the pandemic as the company went head-to-head against Zoom and other collaboration and calling apps. Microsoft recently added support for raise hand to iOS and desktop as well as added support for 3x3 grid layout. The company also plans to increase the call limit to 300 participants and it recently allowed free users to take advantage of live captions and schedule meetings. Despite all that, the Redmond giant plans to keep investing in Skype and promote it as a consumer-focused solution.

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