I am writing a blog series about my personal perspectives as a Master’s student on the role that technology plays in Education. Click here for Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII.

Last week was Microsoft’s Teams’ first year anniversary. This is the second blog (the first is here) to celebrate Microsoft Teams, the hub for teamwork in Office 365, and it will focus on Problem Setting.

Although there are many things to learn from working in groups, as this student room feed suggests, students don’t particularly love group work at University. Fortunately for me, a large part of my MPA is delivering a Client Project to a real-world organisation, taking research from a Science, Technology or Engineering field and transforming it into recommendations for action. Postgraduates tend to be better than undergrad students when it comes to some of the usual complaints, but using Teams has definitely helped me overcome some of the issues and pains that group projects can bring.

More than just chatting

When it comes to the professional world, learning how to use tools to lead group activities with EdTech is a valuable asset that every student should be able to take away from their degree.

As I wrote on my previous blog, using Microsoft Teams effectively has really allowed my group work to increase collaboration and coordination through a chat-like environment that helps move the key points of the work forward.

Your project’s purpose

The power of Teams comes from the various apps that you can add to your Groups and Channels. One that I particularly like is MindMeister, an online mind-mapping application that allows its users to visualize, share and present their thoughts.

Groups are usually created to solve a task or a challenge. Many tend to jump into the work without understanding what the purpose of their activity is.

The MindMeister app on Teams allows a group to work together to identify the main elements of a problem and the relationships between different concepts, ideas or objectives, and information. These are visualised as boxes or circles, which it connects with labelled arrows. The relationship between concepts can be articulated in linking phrases such as causes, requires, or contributes to. The app allows you to vote on ideas, customise them with colours, emoticons and images. You can import .rtf files into your mind map, share it with your lecturers, export it and much more.

MindMeister really helps groups reflect on the purpose of their idea and brainstorm the best way to tackle it.

To add it to your Microsoft teams channel and start brainstorming with your team, click the big + on the top right and search for MindMeister.

Plan, execute, and manage your project with Planner

Once you have figure out why and what you are going to do, it’s time to put those ideas into a concise plan with clear actions for everyone in the team!

Planner is an incredible plugin to manage the trickiest of projects. It is perhaps more suitable for larger projects rather than university group projects, but it really shines with coordination and planning tasks.

To add it to your channel, just like any other plugin, click + on the top right and type its name.

Planner is divide in “buckets”. Each bucket is a big activity within your project. You can name your task by clicking on the name itself and add new buckets to your project. Each activity is composed of different tasks.

By clicking in each task, you can expand on the specific steps. The project manager can set start and end dates for tasks, including the step by step items that have to be taken to complete it.

These can appear as a checklist, that are marked with strikethrough when the person has completed them. As a project manager you can ask the team to update the progress, so that you don’t have to open each single task and can have an overview of how each bucket is performing. The comments sections allow you to leave comments as you would on a Facebook post, allowing the team to use a familiar style of conversation on that specific task. Lastly, you can all add collateral though the attachments box.

One of the most difficult parts of projects is managing the people side of it. At Hable of course, we are experts in this: we learn about people first and talk about technology second. But especially during Uni projects, you need to send lots of reminders and arm yourself with lots of patience and hope that people will get their job done on time. Using Teams, you can add an element of accountability to your team members by allocating the task to specific people.

This action will send a reminder to their Outlook calendar, hopefully guaranteeing that they won’t miss the deadline!

Next steps

With these last two blogs (the first is here), I have covered just the tip of the iceberg of what Microsoft Teams can do to empower individuals, groups and organisations to dream big.

Leaders of organisations need to feel confident about these apps to implement them in their processes. We’d love you to get in touch with Hable for a one-day workshop to strategically discuss with your senior team how to unlock the whole potential of Microsoft Teams and design enhanced learning experiences.

If you have any specific topics that you would like me to cover in the future, drop me a line at oiurcovich@hable.co.uk or continue the conversation on Twitter 


Oli Iurcovich