Distance learning—also commonly referred to as online learning—offers college students the maximum in convenience and flexibility while earning their degrees. When you can attend classes online, it makes it easier to work toward the career of your choice and still tend to your obligations at work and home.

Yet, one area where some students struggle with online learning is the lack of face-to-face interaction. Whether you'd like a one-on-one with an instructor or have been assigned a group project, being able to "get together" can help enhance your educational experience. Microsoft Teams offers this option.

Microsoft Teams Online Learning Features

Microsoft Teams offers all of the conveniences of a traditional classroom without having to make the commute to school, find a place to park, walk across campus, and drive back home afterward. Instead, it brings the classroom right to your home.

A few features of Microsoft Teams that are helpful for online learning are:

  • Sharing of assignments with instructors. If your instructor uses Microsoft Teams, you can receive and submit your assignments on this platform as well. This keeps all of your coursework in one convenient location in case you need to access them later.
  • Sharing of projects with other students. It is relatively common to be assigned some sort of project in your online classes. While one option is to email your portion back and forth with all of the students in your group, this makes it difficult to keep track of the latest version. Yet, when you use Microsoft Teams, you can all see the most updated pieces of your project so you all know where it stands.
  • The ability to chat with instructors and fellow students. If you need clarification on an assignment, have questions about a test, or need to work together on an upcoming project with your group, Microsoft Teams makes all of this possible. You can even share files in the chat so you all have access to the same documents.
  • Online meetings for when you want or need that face-to-face interaction. This feature can be especially helpful if you're trying to share complex ideas or if you have language differences with others in the online learning group. Plus, sometimes it's just nice to "see" who you're talking with. It makes the interaction more human because you can see nonverbal cues as well, such as shaking of the head or even something as simple as a smile.

How to Use Microsoft Teams for Online Learning

Technically, when you use Microsoft Teams for online learning, it is called Office 365 Education, which also provides access to OneDrive and Microsoft Office.

If you're not familiar, OneDrive is an online storage platform where you can store your documents or files, enabling you to retrieve them from any electronic device with Internet access. It's similar to Google Docs, yet it's run by Microsoft instead.

Microsoft Office refers to a group of software that can help you complete your assignments. For instance, Microsoft Word is where you can type up word-based assignments and reports and Microsoft Excel is where you're able to create data-filled spreadsheets. Microsoft Office also includes PowerPoint, a program that is incredibly helpful for creating presentations, and Outlook, enabling you to keep your email, calendar, and contacts in one place.

There is no cost to sign up for Office 365 Education and you begin by simply entering your school email address and the password you use to sign into your school email account. Once you're into the platform, it will direct you as to how to install the necessary software, which you can do on your PC, Mac, or mobile device.

The first time you access Office 365 Education, it will ask you to activate your account. This access remains active as long as you are enrolled in school. If you withdraw or graduate, access is no longer granted.

Making the Most of Microsoft Teams

There are a few things you can do to get the most from your Microsoft Teams platform. According to its creators, these tips and tricks include:

  • Filtering your activity by @mentions so you can stay focused on the conversations you care most about.
  • Bookmarking important messages and attachments so you can easily go back to them later.
  • Marking messages as unread if you aren't able to respond right away or want a reminder of something you need to do.
  • Changing your status to "do not disturb" by typing "/dnd" in the search box when you're in the platform and don't want to be disrupted.
  • Typing "/" in the search box, giving you immediate access to all of the software's shortcuts and commands.