Remote Meetings and Video conferencing
Online meetings and video conferencing has become a hot topic lately, and with the COVID-19 distancing rules the use of different tools has expanded dramatically.
There are a few different platforms available with Free functionality – and all of these have their own feature sets and things they do better than others. Zoom has been extremely popular for “party” style chats as it has almost unlimited number of live video stream capability, however there have been a lot of security concerns with this tool recently as the uptake and popularity of this solution has increased.
For a combined collaboration and video conferencing tool, we have been using Microsoft Teams extensively and it has proven to be reliable and provide a wide array of security options.
With Microsoft Teams Free you get the benefit of the Microsoft Security infrastructure – either backed with Office 365 / Azure Active Directory or Windows Live logins.
With a full Office 365 Teams subscription all meetings can also be recorded and viewed on-demand using Microsoft Stream, not to mention it includes live closed captions, shared whiteboards for drawing and the ability to share your screen and enable access for other participants to control the content.
Note: Not for Profit Organisations are able to get a full Office 365 subscription (with Teams access) for free.
For users without the full Office 365 subscription, Microsoft Teams Free edition still has a lot of functionality for collaboration and enables you to start a video call on-demand and invite people directly. It is limited in terms of the ability to schedule meetings which requires an Office 365 subscription to access the Exchange Calendar and Emailing capabilities. Meetings are also not able to be recorded.
Create and Manage a new Team
So how do we get started? With your MS Teams subscription setup you can create and manage your team(s) with the following guide.
If you do not have an Office 365 subscription stay tuned for another Blog on how to setup MS Teams Free.
Create a new team
Choose to build a team from scratch
At this point you can choose if the team is Public and available for all users in your Azure Active Directory (with the same @organisation / @onmicrosoft.com logins) or whether to only make this team available to people you invite (Private).
Let’s make this one Public
Give the new team a name and description and click “Create”
Now we have a team with a General channel (channels can be used to separate different groups and workloads within a team).
Add More Channels to the team
For this scenario we are looking at a school although this can apply to any organisation with separate classes and groups.
Next to the team click the elipses (three dots) and choose to add a channel:
We want to make this a private channel where we only invite the members of the class.
Enter a name and description and set Privacy level to “Private” then click “Next”
Now you will be prompted to start inviting users to the channel.
You can invite people using their email address here.
Or you can select users already in your Active Directory tenant (same @organisation.onmicrosoft.com logins).
For now we will skip this step and invite people directly to the team before we add them to private channels.
We can repeat this step for multiple channels (one channel per class in this instance).
Adding content to channels
Each channel has a dedicated “Posts” page which is for general discussion and sharing.
You can format any posts and add subjects, you can also mention specific people and groups by using @ and typing their name and they will be alerted.
Post your content by clicking on the “Send” icon.
Within each of these channels there is also a “Files” tab where we can share files which are accessible to all members
You can also add your own tabs which can include existing Teams Apps or embedded websites. Click the Plus button next to the tabs and select website
You can repeat this with any number of web-site resources.
You can also add relevant youtube videos as a tab inside the channel
Each channel allows you to start a chat with all channel participants directly from the posts tab
Click the meet now icon (camera icon) at the bottom of the screen to begin.
You can add a subject
Once the meeting has started it shows up in the channel for anyone within the channel to join
Multiple people can join the meeting
If they have their camera on it will be a video chat session, otherwise it can just be audio with their initials displaying. As they are talking you will see a blue circle glow around their initials.
You have the ability to present your screen or specific applications and documents (such as Powerpoint slides) during the meeting or video call and allow someone to remotely control your session (enabling them to take over and demonstrate on your PC).
Teams also provides a virtual whiteboard where you can collaborate and see the changes in real-time
Meeting notes and shared files are also available during and after the meeting
You can pin individual videos to be full screen in your window if you want to see somebody’s camera in full screen. And you can have a bit of fun with the new custom background images
Closed captions (subtitles) can also be displayed and are displayed in real-time as the words are spoken
Direct Messaging and Calling
You can also reach out to and call members directly
If you hover your cursor over the person’s icon you will see contact buttons available
And you can then message them privately and then continue to chat or start a 1 on 1 call directly with that team member.
You can share files by dragging and dropping them directly to the message box
Your chat window will also provide a tab displaying all files shared between you and that person which you can open directly inside teams or download a copy to your computer.
Hopefully this has provided a good starting point to get your Team and channels setup and usable. Feel free to reach out for advice or assistance.