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Microsoft Teams

Deploy the Yammer Communities app to Teams Desktop, Web and Mobile clients

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In this article, we’ll explore how to deploy the Yammer Communities app and to configure App Setup Policies so you can automatically install and customize Teams apps’ positioning on the desktop client’s app bar and mobile client’s app tray. This is useful because Teams can be quite daunting for first-time users, and customizing their experience helps to make it less overwhelming.

In this article, we will use these capabilities to deploy the Communities app in Teams to our users and make it easily accessible.

Over the past few weeks, the Communities app has become available on mobile and desktop and web clients, allowing us to make Yammer available as a core part of Teams.

This is an excellent development for organizations that don’t necessarily see Yammer as yet another application that people need to keep checking, as they will have access to Yammer messages from within Teams. Because Microsoft has called it the Communities app, it’s also much clearer to people its purpose.

Create an app setup policy for your Yammer Communities app

Begin by opening the Teams Admin Center and navigating to Teams Apps>Setup Policies. We can either update an existing policy (including the Global policy) or create a new policy. In this example, we’ll choose to Add to create a new policy to pilot these changes:

Create an app setup policy for your Yammer Communities app

Next, under Installed Apps, we’ll choose Add apps to find the Communities app, and then under Pinned Apps, choose Add apps again to determine where the Communities app will display:

After deciding to install the Communities app and pinning it, we’ll select the Communities app in the Pinned apps list and choose to Move up to ensure that the app is within the first five.

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If it isn’t one of the top five applications pinned, it won’t be shown at the bottom of the app tray on a Teams mobile client, and will only be accessible if the user selects more:

Finally, as this is a new policy, we need to assign it to our pilot group users. You can perform this via PowerShell, within Users, or choose Manage Users in the Setup policies page to assign it directly from the policies list:

What to expect on desktop and mobile devices

It may take up to 24 hours for your new policy to reach clients. When this does occur, they’ll see the Communities app shown in the app bar within the desktop client. This will present the new Yammer experience with a list of communities and conversations displayed in the left rail and main area areas, respectively:

On the first launch, people may also see a notification explaining that an IT admin has pinned the new application, highlighting the newly available app to users.

The newest capabilities of the Communities app is the ability for it to be used within Teams Mobile, potentially avoiding the need to use the dedicated Yammer app.

Read more: Five Reasons to Choose Yammer over Teams for your Next Conversation

On Teams mobile using the configuration defined in our App Setup policy, we’ll see the Communities app shown alongside Activity, Chat, Teams and Calendar in the app tray:

The community app in Teams represents the new web experience. Therefore it doesn’t support offline access. However, it is stateful on mobile, meaning if you switch to a Teams chat while browsing a thread in the Communities app and switch back, it won’t forget where you are.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Details Microsoft Teams Features from August

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We’re saying goodbye to August and Microsoft is wrapping up the month by highlighting features that came to Microsoft Teams. In a blog post, the company details what changes it made to Teams during the last month.

As we have seen this year, development of Microsoft Teams is gathering pace. As the communication app wars continue with the likes of Zoom and Slack, Microsoft has been proactive in ensuring Teams is evolving.

Leading the features debuting in August was Spotlight Mode. Microsoft says this tool will arrive over the coming months and allows a meeting host to lock their video as a main view. In other words, the presenter can make their content the same view across all participants.

Elsewhere, Microsoft made some more subtle changes. For example, meeting recordings can be saved for users who are in countries where recording is disabled. This would be regions where Microsoft has not in-country datacenters. When a user saves a recording, it is stored in the nearest Microsoft Azure region.

More Features

Also in August, Microsoft Teams call merging was introduced. With this feature, users can merge Teams PSTN and VOIP calls together for single or group calls. Furthermore, users can tap into Visio files through dedicated tabs in a chat.

Microsoft also revealed real-time presence, which gives users the ability to make their availability status more individual.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced Teams is getting 20,000 meeting participants and a new cloud calling service.

Elsewhere in the newest Teams upgrade, users can also add company branding. Microsoft says the tool is coming soon and allows companies to brand their meetings with logos. However, Microsoft says this ability will only be available through a new plan called Advanced Communications.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Signed Nonbinding Agreement to Acquire TikTok before Trump Banned the Company

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Earlier this month, Microsoft signaled its interest in purchasing some of ByteDance’s TikTok operations. That interest went as far as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaking to President Donald Trump about the deal. It now seems Redmond was sniffing around TikTok even before involving the president.

New court documents show Microsoft went as close to a deal as signing a “nonbinding letter of intent” with ByteDance. This essentially means Microsoft agreed with the Chinese company to purchase TikTok.

A nonbinding letter of intent is an agreement in place before due. As it suggests, it does not commit a company to a purchase but does mean talks have gone far. In the case of Microsoft and ByteDance, documents show an agreement was in place from July 30.

The letter states Microsoft is “contemplating that, among other things, Microsoft could acquire the US TikTok business and could serve as the trusted technology partner for TikTok’s US business.”

This means Microsoft was already in talks with ByteDance long before Trump became involved by seeking to ban TikTok from the United States.

Trump’s Involvement

The president has been targeting Chinese companies who he believes work with the Chinese government to provide US state secrets.

An executive order stops ByteDance from handling any transactions in the United States. This order will come into effect within the next 45 days and could mean TikTok leaves the market in the country.

Microsoft’s interest is thought to be in TikTok operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The company is reportedly facing competition from Oracle, which has also been talking to ByteDance. Twitter is also looking at the popular video social network.

Knowledge of Microsoft and ByteDance’s advancing negotiations comes from a lawsuit filed by TikTok. The company is challenging Trump’s executive order. According to the company, the nonbinding agreement with Microsoft means an acquisition could happen, thus the company cannot be subject to the executive order.

Neither Microsoft nor ByteDance has responded to the latest information.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft 365 Contributes $20 Billion to Microsoft’s Bumper 2020

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When Microsoft 365 debuted in the summer of 2017, many had doubts over the need for the service. After-all, the features and products bundled into the Microsoft 365 subscription are all available individually. However, the concept was successful, resulting in Microsoft making it an integrated product in 2018.

Both the decision to create Microsoft 365 and make it a standalone product have paid off. The proof continues to be in the pudding. During Microsoft’s fiscal 2020 (which ended last week), it seems Microsoft 365 was a standout performer.

During its Q4 2020 earning call, the company wrapped up its financial 2020. Over the last quarter, Microsoft took $38 billion in revenue. Yes, it was another bumper performance from Microsoft as it continues to thrive and grow.

For the company’s Productivity and Business Process division, Microsoft says there was over $50 billion in annual revenue. Microsoft 365 is part of the division but is included alongside other products. That makes it tougher to understand how individual services performed.

According to a report from ZDNet, Microsoft 365 took $20 billion revenue during 2020. In total, Microsoft had $143 billion annual revenue, so Microsoft 365 has become a major contributor to Redmond’s overall financial performance. The report says the information came directly from Microsoft CFO Amy Hood.

Still Growing

Last year, the bundle took a reported $13.2 billion in revenue. This means a near 50% increase in revenue happened during 2020. It seems the top-tier E5 version is driving this increase, doubling its revenue year-on-year to $7.5 billion. This suggests more major organizations are adopting Microsoft 365.

If you’re unfamiliar with Microsoft 365, it is a Windows + Office + security bundle for business. It boasts products like Windows 10, Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and more. Considering the ongoing success of the product, it seems like Microsoft can expect further gains during its 2021.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Will Soon Support Call Merging

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Microsoft is all-in on development of its Microsoft Teams enterprise communication/collaboration services. Following a stream of important new tools, Microsoft is working on another feature that will expand the functionality of the app.

According to the company, Microsoft Teams will soon receive a Call Merge feature. Microsoft says the tool will arrive in August and will allow users to merge active 1-1 calls into another 1-1 or group call.

Functioning across PSTN and VOIP calls, the feature is an extension of what is already available on Skype. This furthers Microsoft’s efforts to bring Skype and Teams closer together. Earlier this year, the company said it was focused on more interoperability between the two services.

That interoperability went live in June. The feature merger will allow Microsoft Teams users to make calls and send messages directly to Skype users. In other words, recipients won’t need to be using Teams to receive messages and calls.

Growing Teams

This ability is all part of a wider push for Microsoft Teams. While Microsoft was probably planning all recent updates anyway, the COVID-19 crisis put a spotlight on communication apps. As Zoom thrived, Microsoft as sought to position Teams alongside the video communication app.

It’s worth remembering, Teams was initially more oriented towards collaboration as a direct rival to Slack. While that rivalry continues, Teams has morphed into more of a rounded experience that wants to tackle Slack in collaboration and Zoom in communication. Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, Teams has seen its userbase soar by tens of millions.

Last week, Microsoft took a big step towards matching Zoom by launching 49 meeting participants on screen at one time. Microsoft has been teasing 49 meeting participants on screen at once for some time. Redmond confirmed the feature last month before saying it was likely to arrive in the fall. It seems the company has moved forward the release and it is rolling out in the coming weeks.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Gets Third-Party App Support in Meetings

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Since its inception, Microsoft Teams has rivaled competitors by going like-for-like in terms of features, and even going beyond. We have seen how this worked to help Teams pass Slack, while there is evidence Microsoft is aiming for the same against Zoom. However, there are some areas where Slack still has the better of Teams.

Microsoft is now addressing one of those areas in its meetings feature.

For example, Microsoft Teams does not play nice with third-party apps. In fact, it doesn’t play at all as no third-party apps were supported in the Teams meeting experience. Slack as played nicer and in fact has even integrated Teams into its calling platform.

In an interview with The Verge, Microsoft confirmed Teams meetings will now allow third-party app support.

“Applications can span across chat and collaboration and easily have a workflow that expands into meetings now,” explains Michal Lesiczka, a group product manager of Microsoft Teams.

Deeper Integration

This is a developer-oriented change that lets applications tap into Microsoft Teams meetings during a meeting, and even before or after. Through the integration, third-party tools will be able to show their content on the Teams call screen. Furthermore, notifications from these apps will also be supported.

For many developers, the lack of this type of third-party integration has kept them away from Teams. Microsoft’s Archana Saseetharan, a group product manager for Teams, says it was important the platform allowed this type of integration in meetings. It is worth noting third-party apps are already supported in other areas of Teams.

“We are enabling new APIs and SDK capabilities for developers to integrate and target these new areas. It is the same development process, the same publishing process, the same validation process. Everything is the same, but you have these three new capabilities to go target.”

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Microsoft Teams

How to set up Microsoft Teams rapidly for your organization

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Have you been asked to get Teams up and running for your organization, but are not using Microsoft 365 or Office 365 yet?

In this guide, we’ll show you the basics of setting up a new Microsoft 365 subscription, connecting your domain and accounts to it, and configuring the basics to be able to use Microsoft Teams.

What we won’t cover in this guide is how to move your other services, like email and files to Microsoft 365, or configure advanced security controls. You can check out the rest of Practical 365 for detailed guidance on these steps.

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that you use alongside Microsoft 365 to get access to the people you work with and the tools and documents you need, all in one place. You can use it to chat with your colleagues, meet virtually or in-person with your team, company or with customers, teach classes or work together in real time on documents.

That’s the high-level overview, anyway. For Microsoft, it competes with multiple products on the market, primarily Slack for the channel-based chat, Zoom for meetings and screen sharing, and Google Docs for real-time co-authoring of documents.

Often an organization looking for all this functionality will look at Microsoft 365 and realize it does everything they need, and it is easier to secure and update than multiple independent platforms. Teams is built upon various Microsoft 365 services, which means it has the same strong security and compliance functionality as the rest of the suite and uses those backend services to give Teams more functionality.

What do I need to get my organization onto Teams?

To use Teams within your company you need some type of commercial Microsoft 365 business or enterprise plan.

For companies and government customers looking to start with Teams, Microsoft have several trial plans you can use before you must pay. These include:

  • The standard 30-day trial of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 products
  • Office 365 E1 six-month trial for COVID-19
  • Office 365 G1 for US Government customers six-month trial for COVID-19
  • Teams Exploratory License which lasts until January 2021

Once you get started with the trial and let users access it, it is common for you to continue to use this subscription once you buy licensing. You will not throw away your trial subscription and start again if you have spent any work customizing it or picked a domain name for your tenant name you want to keep.

When moving to a paid plan you can switch users from a trial licence to a different licence type. Microsoft’s smaller business plans such as Microsoft 365 Business Basic and higher include Teams, and Microsoft’s Office 365 E1, F1 and higher all include Teams too.

For non-profits and educational establishments, Microsoft provide free basic licensing but charge for advanced features. The free versions correspond to the basic and E1 plans for businesses. If you are a non-profit or in education, make sure you sign up directly for the free (or higher) plans rather than a trial.

Setting up your Microsoft 365 tenant

When you sign-up, either for a trial or a full subscription you will need to pick a tenant name. Whilst you can, and will customize Microsoft 365 with your corporate domain name, the tenant name will show to users in a variety of places, including the URL they use to access services like SharePoint Online and OneDrive, along with back-end mail routing. You cannot change this later.

Therefore, it is important to pick something that your organization will be happy with. When you sign up for a trial or subscription, you will see this choice in step three of sign-up:

After setup of your Microsoft 365 subscription, you will then visit the Microsoft 365 admin center at admin.microsoft.com.

This is the main control panel for users, groups, licenses, and service-wide settings in Microsoft 365. You will see the user, groups, roles and resources under A, the service-wide settings, reporting, and service health are under B. You will find links in C to the admin centers for various services, such as Teams, Exchange, SharePoint and more:

Enabling Extended Trial Licences if you need them

If you decided you’ll begin with an extended trial of Microsoft 365 to get Teams up and running then your next step will be to either get your Microsoft account manager or partner to enable the Office 365 E1 6-month trial, or enable the Teams Exploratory Licence.

You can follow our detailed guide here on how to enable the Exploratory licence.

Adding your own domain to Microsoft 365 and Teams

Sign-in for users is typically using their email address and their normal Active Directory password. So that people can sign-in to Teams using your company domain, you will need to add your domain to Microsoft 365. In the guide below we walk through how to add a custom domain – and in the guide below we will focus on just using that with Teams – not moving across your other services, like email.

Find out more about how to Configure a Custom Domain in Office 365.

Connecting your Active Directory to Microsoft 365

To allow sign-in of users to Teams using their Active Directory credentials, it is worth synchronizing your local Active Directory to Microsoft 365. This will also make sure that if you are running Exchange Server on premises then you won’t accidentally end up with duplicate mailboxes in the cloud and you’ll have a clearly defined way to move mailboxes later on using Exchange Hybrid.

To limit the amount of changes to AD you need to make just to use Teams, you can begin by using the email address as the sign-in name and then make changes later on to AD once you are looking at migrating other services.

Learn more about how to quickly install and configure Azure AD Connect here.

Licensing Users

After you connect your Active Directory to Microsoft 365 and Azure AD, you will need to enable licences for users before they can access services.

You can license individual users or mass-enable them by navigating in the Microsoft 365 admin center to Users>Active Users.

Under the licences tab you will see the licence type – such as Office 365 E3 and then the individual apps enabled for that user. By default, you will have all enabled.

Learn more: How to close the Office 365 License Management Gap.

A user who needs to access Teams will usually need other services enabled, too, such as SharePoint so that they can access the files tab in Teams. It is typical to licence a user for all services by default, unless you need to fully restrict their access to particular services.

Disable OneDrive for Business until you are ready

As SharePoint is a core service for Teams you will not want to disable it on a per-user basis, as people will not be able to work together on files.

Some organizations however will want to prevent users from uploading to their personal OneDrive for Business until they have configured appropriate governance. Instead of disabling SharePoint for a user altogether, you can prevent OneDrive being setup for people.

Restrict creation of OneDrive for Business accounts for Users (Not published yet)

Ensure Security Defaults are in Place

There are many security and compliance settings from retention, encryption, data loss prevention to external sharing that you will need to configure for long-term usage of Teams. Some of these will depend on the licenses you buy.

Before you configure these policies and customise these for your organization’s needs, a good baseline is to ensure you enable Azure AD Security Defaults. This option will gradually enforce Multi-Factor Authentication and block older, legacy authentication protocols that are not needed for Teams usage.

More information on Security Defaults and how to enable them.

Getting Teams out to the organisation

Deploy the Teams Client to people’s PCs

Teams works in modern browsers, including Edge, Chrome, Safari and Firefox. The new Edge, and Chrome are best as they allow approximately the same functionality as the desktop version.

You might want to deploy the Teams client’s to people’s computers though, because this ensures that should a colleague call or instant message, it will be seen.

Most importantly – installing the Teams client also installs the add-in for Outlook to ensure people can schedule meetings with their colleagues.

People can install Teams by visiting teams.microsoft.com/download and downloading the version for PC, Mac, Linux and Mobile.

If you want to deploy it to all your clients, then you can follow the following guide:

Learn more about Deploying the Microsoft Teams Desktop Client.

Configure your Teams admin settings and use the Teams Advisor to generate a plan of action for roll-out of chat or meetings

You will use the Teams Admin Center, available at admin.teams.microsoft.com to administer the Teams-specific parts of Microsoft 365. Within the admin center you can configure:

  • User settings for Teams
  • Meetings settings
  • Messaging and chat policies
  • Teams applications that are shown or deployed
  • Individual Teams including creating and managing channels and membership
  • Voice configuration

And you can view reports and access planning tools. To understand exactly what you need to configure next, and get some experience using Teams for a purpose, use the Teams Advisor in the admin center. You will find this under the Planning menu.

The Teams Advisor will create a Microsoft Team for you and other people you choose in your IT team and add a plan for getting workloads fully deployed. This includes guidance on good governance, adoption planning, networking and more.

Start with a company-wide team to use for comms and to publish links to your guidance

You may be planning to pre-create Teams for your departments or projects in advance. One Team you should not forget to create, especially if you are a smaller or medium size business, is an organization-wide Team. This is a Team that includes all the employees automatically. It is great as a place for informal chat and company-wide announcements. It is worth ensuring you set it up correctly though, and you can follow our guide below:

Deploy up-to-date user guidance to your Microsoft 365 environment

Although there is help built-in within Teams, you will find that video guides on how to perform specific tasks will be helpful, along with short how-to articles. Most organizations will not want to simply redirect people to Microsoft websites or blogs as the guidance may include suggestions that are not appropriate for your organization or suit how much you have deployed so far.

Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways provides you Microsoft’s guides for users but also allows you to install it into your environment, within a SharePoint portal you can direct users to. It allows you as an administrator to tune the content that people will see and customise the portal with your branding.

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Microsoft Teams

Google Meet to Get Custom Backgrounds to Match Microsoft Teams and Zoom

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Google Meet has been one of the communication tools that has enjoyed massive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the likes of Zoom and Skype, the platform has seen it’s userbase increase substantially. We can also throw Microsoft Teams into that mix, although the collaboration tool is slightly different to those named.

Either way, Google has been working to ensure Meet surpasses its competitors in some avenues and catches them up in others. We can file the recent leap forward in noise cancellation as blazing a trail and this latest feature as catching up.

That new feature allows users to add images and include blur effects to backgrounds during video calls. As reported by 9to5Google, the feature allows users to pick their own background image or effect.

Google Meet is a little late to this party as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams already allow this. Of course, it’s better late than never. It’s worth noting that while Microsoft has been toying with custom background for months, it was only this month the feature fully landed on Teams.

Growth

Elsewhere in the latest Google Meet update, the company added low-light mode, real-time captioning, hand-raising, and a tile view for 49 participants. However, this update is not yet available and Google has not said when it will officially arrive. That said, some education and enterprise users say they are already previewing the changes.

In April, Google made a direct push towards its main competitor Zoom by making Meet free to use.

Google Meet is baked into the company’s G Suite service and is focused on education and enterprise users. During the pandemic, Meet’s userbase has increased to over 100 million (a 30x growth).

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Gains Consumer Features in Preview

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Back in March, Microsoft raised a curtain on its new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions. As consumer-fronted versions of Microsoft 365, the package had numerous user-oriented tools. For example, consumer features for Microsoft Teams were promised at the launch.

Well, three months later and Microsoft Teams is finally getting those tools… at least in preview. Available worldwide for Android and iOS users. As we noted in April, there is no specific consumer version of Teams.

Instead, Microsoft has simply added special consumer tools behind a consumer account on Teams. For users currently running the existing app, a toggle is available to switch between personal and enterprise accounts.

Perhaps the standout consumer tool in Microsoft Teams is chat, messaging, and video calling. Users can also share documents, lists, and calendars in groups. Of course, Teams is about collaboration, so the consumer side of the app allows users to share Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents from OneDrive.

Other sharing options include for locations and information (passwords and login details). Sensitive information is handled in the Teams Safe, a sandboxed part of the app.

Ongoing Growth

Microsoft has confirmed the consumer tools are available for free. However, Microsoft says some future tools may be locked behind the subscription paywall of Microsoft 365 Personal and Family. It seems the company hopes these new abilities will continue to push Teams’ growth.

Teams has been on of the big benefactors from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, Microsoft confirmed the platform’s daily active users jumped from around 20 million to over 80 million in two months. However, while the current stay-at-home measures have boosted teams, the service has been growing since launching in 2018.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams to Get 49 Visible Video Participants This Fall

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At the start of the month, we reported on Microsoft’s plans to increase Microsoft Teams video meetings to 49 visible participants. At the time, the development was teased by the company but now Microsoft has confirmed its plans. In a blog post on Monday, the company also revealed it will increase the maximum participants in private meetings to 250.

Both measures are designed to bring Microsoft Teams more inline with Zoom. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom became the go-to video communication tool for enterprise and personal use. Indeed, the company saw its monthly userbase increase from 10 million to over 300 million.

While Microsoft Teams is not a complete competitor to Zoom (Teams also handles other workplace collaboration tools), Microsoft wants it to become one. By increasing visible video participants to 49, the company is moving in line with Zoom.

As for 250 private meeting participants (non-visible), this number is still short of Zoom’s 500 participants.

Helping Education Users

While the change is being made across Teams, Microsoft says the goal is to help Microsoft for Education users. The platform currently has 150 million students, education institutes, and teachers. Microsoft says being able to gather a class in one visible meeting is an important first step. Certainly, it’s a big reason why educators embraced Zoom during the stay-at-home lockdown during COVID-19.

“For educators, seeing all their students’ faces at the same time makes a big difference in student engagement. As well as social and emotional connection. That’s why, coming to preview this month with general availability in the fall, we are expanding the Teams grid view to 7×7, which will accommodate up to 49 participants at once on a single screen. In the fall, educators will be able to create virtual Breakout Rooms so students can meet and collaborate in small groups.”

Recently, Microsoft brought a 3×3 grid to Teams (which incidentally also came to Skype), allowing 9 video call participants. Microsoft says 49 participants will be available in Teams for Education this fall.

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