The Academic English for NBS team was looking to work together more collaboratively. The busy Team provides English Support to a large number of International and EU students on a diverse range of courses across the Nottingham Business School at NTU. With an increasing number of students to support, new staff and a growing team of HPLs, collaboration was becoming more essential than ever before, and it seemed sensible to investigate tools that might the staff and save them precious time.
We considered tools that might support the move toward more collaborative team working. The LTSU had been using Office 365 tools to work collaboratively across campuses for some time with very positive results. Tried and tested, and supported by the University, we wanted to see whether these tools could be useful to the Academic English Team.
David Mann: Area Coordinator, Nottingham Language Centre, School of Arts and Humanities.
Rachel Bancroft: Learning Technologist, Learning and Teaching Support Unit, School of Arts and Humanities.
With the Academic English for NBS Team.
Rachel and Dave led a session introducing the Team to the new tools at the start of term, concentrating on specific ways that each tool might be useful to their work and giving the Team the opportunity to try out the tools for themselves. We captured their prior use of the Office 365 tools via a Forms survey so it could be compared with another survey at the end of the project to see how widely used and useful the tools have been. We are also hoping to capture some qualitative data through a focus group to understand the experience of using the tools this year with a view to developing and improving the way we use them in future.
We will be on hand throughout the project to help the staff with technical issues, and by suggesting ways they might help to solve issues and make more efficient use of time.
Tools being used from Office 365:
- Teams – for team communication (read more about Teams)
- Forms (see Rachel’s previous blog post on Forms)
- OneDrive – for files accessible anywhere, anytime
- Word Online/PowerPoint Online – for creating on the go
- Outlook/Calendar – familiar tools the Team was already using
Outcomes and Impact
We’re looking forward to seeing how well the tools support the Team’s collaborative working, and if they help to save them time in their busy schedules.
If the project is successful, we hope the impact will be a positive one on the workload and experience of the Academic English for NBS Team this year.
Look out for more blog post updates on this, and the other Digital Partners projects, in future. We will be posting progress updates, and a final discussion of our results at the end of the project in May 2018.
We ran a quick survey using Forms to see how the Academic English for NBS Team was getting on using Office 365 for collaboration. As we expected, there were some wins, and some challenges that we are working to resolve.
- Overall feedback was positive
- Reports that tools are easy to use on and off campus in most cases
- Usefulness of apps was noted for use on different devices
- Feedback suggests that Teams is making collaboration easier in general
- Some of the team were using some of the tools with students as well as for collaboration with colleagues (e.g. Forms)
- Some reported issues with knowing how best to use Teams as a tool
- Some comments on the challenge of moving from a familiar platform to an unfamiliar one
- Some comments about the process of sharing files not being as smooth as hoped
- We are working with IT to try to make file sharing even easier for staff
- We created documentation and gave training to clarify how the tools might fit into the Team’s processes as more guidance
- We’ll survey the Team once more at the end of the project after Easter and report on the findings
Whilst it was tricky to get hold of staff this time of year, we did manage to get some responses to our last requests for feedback. Overall it seemed there was staff agreement that the tools could be useful, and as expected, some people liked some tools more than others.
Forms did very well, with staff choosing to use it with students as well as to collaborate between teams. One staff member is using it weekly to explore students’ knowledge. We learned a lot from the responses to Teams. Whilst the technology was widely agreed as very easy to use, it required a cultural shift away from Outlook and also negotiation of new social and professional mores with regards to how to use the platform to communicate. We expect to use it again next year, but to focus the staff training on how best to use the platform to communicate rather than on the technical instructions of how to access the tool.
The Office online tools (e.g. Word online, PowerPoint Online etc) did seem to make life easier, and comments noted the time-saving of being able to share documents and the ease of use off campus. We have a project planned for next year to use SharePoint in addition to this year’s tools to develop shared document access further.
We learned a great deal from the project, and have lots of development to do for next year to expand and improve use of the tools, with a definite awareness of the potential the tools have to better support staff communication.
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