Using Microsoft Teams in Merged Sections

Overview

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration application that supports group-based chats, file sharing, online meetings, and more. This tool allows for discussion that is more conversational in nature, facilitating instructor-to-student and student-to-student interactions. With the growing number of multiple-sections courses, you may want to know how to manage Microsoft Teams within merged sections in Blackboard.
Note: These recommendations are specifically for Engineering for Professionals courses with merged Blackboard sections, if your course is in another program please consult your instructional technology support staff for the most relevant information.

Steps to set up Teams for merged sections in Blackboard:

1. Teams Request

Request a Team to be created for each section. These will be considered the "Section Teams" throughout this article. For instructions on how to request a Team for a course, please see Getting Started with Microsoft Teams.

2. Merged Teams Creation

To create one shared, Merged Team, you will need to manually create a new Team to house the Section Teams you have requested for each section. This is considered the "Merged Team." Name the Team something general (such as Course Title and Term/Year), without mention of a section, as this new Team will become the primary Team you will use for the merged course. Manually creating a new Merged Team will allow the instructor to easily manage the student rosters separately by section.

Alternatively, you can merge all Section Teams into one primary Section Team (like an 81 section). However, you will lose the ability to manage the separate student rosters for each section. (See item ** under Things to Note)

3. Enrolling Students

Instead of manually adding students to the Merged Team by individually searching for their names, you can add the Section Team itself to add all the students within the Section Team. Just search for the Section Team name (the full course ID), select the correct Section Team from the drop-down menu that appears as you type, and then select Add. You can add multiple Section Teams at once before you click Add.

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Note: The Merged Team will only need to be set up once. One of the advantages to using a manually-created Team instead of the individual Section Teams is that, when you create a Team manually, you can use an existing Team to create the new Team. This means that when you need to teach a merged course again, you can use the previous Merged Team as a template for the new Team and copy over the same Team settings, channels, tabs, etc.

4. Merged Team Setup

There are many ways you could set up Teams to be used in a course. Please see Setting up Microsoft Teams for additional information.

To allow students in a Merged Team to have Discussions among only their Section classmates, it's recommended that you create private channels for each Discussion in your course, differentiating them for each section. This means if you have a 14-module course with Discussion in each module (14 Discussions) and two sections, you would have a total of 28 private Discussion channels. Students will only see the private channels they are added to (the ones for their section) so they will not be confused. However, instructor will be able to move among all Discussion channels as needed. You can also post in multiple channels at once, which makes it easy to provide the Discussion prompt to each section channel. When adding students to the private section channels, you can use the Section Team to add them as you did when adding them to the Merged Team.

Note: Channels can only be made private when they are created, so be sure to select that option when you create the channels. Otherwise, you will have to recreate them to make them private.

Note: Currently, you can only have a maximum of 30 private channels within a Team, so this may limit some instructors who have many Discussions and many sections in their courses. Keep in mind that channels that have been deleted still count towards this 30 channel limit. 

Additionally, you may want to create some open (not private) channels that students in all the sections can use beyond the General channel. For example, you may want to create an Introduction channel so students can introduce themselves across the sections.

5. Blackboard Setup

Since students will use the Merged Team for communication, provide a link to the Merged Team (not the Section Team) on the course menu following the instructions in Setting up Microsoft Teams.

Things to Note

  • Once you add students to a Team using their Section Teams, they will immediately be able to access the Team! Because of this, it's recommended you do this closer to the term start and not in advance.
  • As long as you do not activate the Section Teams, students will not see them or be able to access them, which will prevent them from getting confused about what Team to use. It's recommended that you also hide the Section Teams from your own Teams list so you don't get confused either and/or accidentally activate the Section Teams. Hiding the Section Teams will not prevent you from being able to add students to the Team or channels using the Section Teams.
  • The Merged Team enrollment will not be automatically updated when students add or drop the course. This only happens in the Section Teams. Because of this, it's recommended that you re-add the Section Teams to the Merged Team on a regular basis during the add/drop period. When you do this, students who have added the course will be added to the Merged Team and existing students will be unaffected (they are already added). Instructors will have to manually remove students who drop the course.
  • **If you merge your Section Teams into a primary Section Team (such as an 81 Section), this will remove your ability to manage the roster of the 81 section like you do for the other Section Teams. For example, when creating private channels for Discussions, you would have to manually add all the 81 students to their private Discussion channel rather than easily adding the Section Team—because the 81 Section Team now includes students from all the Sections, there is no separate 81 Section roster.