Keeping students safe while using meetings in Teams for distance learning

Keeping students safe while using meetings in Teams for distance learning

Learning online can be just as personal, engaging, and socially connected as learning in a classroom. Educators and teachers can stay in touch and help each other using Teams chats and can feel like they're meeting in person using live meetings.

However, online learning also requires educators and administrators to set up certain policies and restrictions to guard students' safety. These policies can prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to online meetings, can allow educators to quickly and easily remove inappropriate messages, and manage student participation in meetings. 

This guide is designed to serve as a foundation for your educational institution's safety plan. We will update these recommendations regularly. 

Set up identities for your students and educators

We strongly recommend that you create student identifies in your tenant for distance learning. Requiring students and educators to sign in to Teams before they join meetings is the safest meeting setup for remote learning. 

For more information on how you can setup identities and licenses for your organization, visit our Get started with Microsoft Teams for remote learning guide.

Set policies for students, educators, and organizations

Teams policies allow you to control many of the options available for your organization and for specific users. They include the ability to control who can use private chat and private calling, who can schedule meetings, and what content types can be shared. You can apply policy settings individually or use one of our predefined policy packages in Microsoft Teams. 

Use policy packages in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams policy packages help you deploy a cohesive set of policies for your organization and users. Using a policy package can help simplify the work to apply policies by role, and make updates easier. When you change any of the policy settings in a package, they are automatically applied to users assigned to that package. 

In your educational institution, you may have students at various levels that have unique needs depending on their age and maturity. We ave several pre-defined policy packages you can find in the Microsoft Teams Admin center:

  • Education_Teacher

  • Education_PrimaryStudent

  • Education_SecondaryStudent

  • Education_HigherEducationStudent

For more information, see Policy packages in Microsoft Teams.

Policy settings for your organization

There are many different policy settings you can configure in your organization. One of the most important policies you can set to enhance students' safety is to restrict the ability of anonymous users to join meetings. This requires all meeting attendees to be signed in with an account from your organization.

If you have provided your students and educators with Teams licenses and do not plan to allow participants to join meetings without signing in to Teams, ensure that the following policy is set:

  • Anonymous users can join a meeting: Off

Policy settings for students

We recommend you create student identities in your tenant for distance learning. To create a path with the greatest safety, we strongly recommend requiring students to sign in to Teams in order to join meetings.

Limit students' ability to schedule meetings and private calls

You can use the following Teams policies to limit a student's ability to both schedule meetings and initiate private calls with faculty and other students.

  • Meeting policies

    • Allow Meet now in channels: Off

    • Allow the Outlook add-in: Off

    • Allow channel meeting scheduling: Off

    • Allow scheduling private meetings: Off

    • Allow Meet now in private meetings: Off

  • Live events policies

    • Allow scheduling: Off

  • Calling policies

    • Make private calls: Off

Policy settings for educators

You can use additional policy settings to help educators control access to their meetings, monitor chat sessions, and remove inappropriate messages. 

Allow educators to control access to their meetings

The following settings help your educators have the strictest control over who has access to their online meetings. 

  • Meeting policies

    • Let anonymous people start a meeting: Off

    • Automatically admit people: Everyone in your organization

    • Allow dial-in users to bypass the lobby: Off

Allow educators to monitor chat sessions and remove inappropriate messages in channel meetings

  • Messaging policies

    • Owners can delete sent messages: On

      Note: This allows educators to remove inappropriate messages in class chats when the meeting is created within the channel, or to remove messages within the channel itself. 

Switching to distance learning can present a new set of challenges for your teaching. Microsoft Teams can help you create and run online meetings for your class and provide a safer, controlled learning environment for your students.

Typical tasks include: scheduling meetings, showing video, sharing PowerPoint presentations, and recording a meeting.

You can also invite external speakers for virtual field trips.

We've compiled this resource to help you create and foster a learning environment that promotes the safest experience for your students. 

Scheduling your meetings 

When you schedule a meeting in Teams for online lectures or guest speaker sessions, we recommend you create those meetings in channels. Channels give you more robust controls within meetings such as disabling student-to-student chat, providing an easier meeting setup process, and giving you the ability to track class discussions in context. 

We have two video tutorials that will help you use Microsoft Teams to schedule your online meetings and maximize student safety. Check out Online Lectures 101 - keeping your online lectures as safe as possible and Online classes and lectures with your students - scheduling meetings

Settings to change before a meeting

As the meeting organizer, you should manage several options to increase your students' online safety. To see and change these settings, you can go to Meeting Options using the link included in the meeting invitation information provided when you created the meeting. 

  • Change Who can bypass the lobby to Only me

    • This setting ensures that students and anyone who isn't signed in with an account from your educational institution will need to wait in the meeting lobby until you join the meeting and admit them. Learn more about meeting options

  • Change Always let callers bypass the lobby to No

    • This setting ensures that anyone joining the meeting over the phone rather than using Teams will need to wait in the meeting lobby until you join the meeting and admit them. 

  • Change Who can present to Only me

    • Setting this option ensures that other participants will join the meeting as attendees. The attendee role doesn't allow them to mute other participants, remove participants, or admit anyone from the lobby. Attendees can still share video, participate in the meeting chat, and view shared files in the meeting. You can learn more about meeting roles in Roles in a Teams meeting

If your students join the meeting before you, you'll receive a notification in Teams. You can then ask the students to leave the meeting until the lecture starts. 

As the meeting organizer, you can also select Show participants in the meeting controls and remove students manually, or end the meeting completely using the end meeting feature. 

At the start of a meeting

Here are a few tips to help you curate a controlled and safer environment for your students when using Teams meetings. 

  1. Review and admit students and invited guests who are waiting in the lobby. If you have another teacher or teaching assistant in the class, you can ask them to monitor and admit students who joined late.

  2. Double check the list of participants in your meeting to make sure your students are all present and that there aren't any unexpected attendees. You can do this by selecting Show participants in the meeting controls.

  3. Turn on background blur for your video and ask your students to do so as well.

  4. Ask students to pin your video. They can use the More ... menu next to your name to do this.
    You can have students pin your video to their screen.

  5. Let students know that you're muting their audio, then from the participants list, click Mute all.
    You can mute all participants in a meeting.

  6. If you plan on recording the video for the meeting, make sure the students' videos are turned off or, that you have consent to record the students' videos. In the case of primary and secondary students, you should ensure that you have a parent or guardian's consent before recording. 

  7. If you need to change settings for the meeting participants, you can do that before and during the meeting by going to Meeting options. See Change participant settings for a Teams meeting

During the meeting

Here are a few tips you can use during a meeting to maximize students' safety. 

  1. If others need to present content during the meeting, whether the content is from other students or colleagues, you can promote an attendee to presenter during the meeting. Hover over the person's name, then select More options > Make a presenter. When the person is done presenting, hover over their name again and select More options > Make an attendee. For more information on changing participant settings, see Change participant settings for a Teams meeting

    You can also access these options by clicking the Show Participants button, then select the Meeting Options button. 

    You can change attendee options from the Show Participants pane.

  2. Check that all students are muted unless they're asking a question.

  3. Keep an eye on the meeting chat to check for questions. If you see inappropriate messages, you can either delete them or mute the student for a time. This feature is only available if you create the meeting as a channel meeting. For more information, see Mute student comments in a class team and Edit or delete a sent message in Teams.

  4. Warn misbehaving students or remove them from the meeting by using Show participants in the meeting controls.

After the meeting 

At the end of the meeting, click the three dots in meeting controls and select End Meeting. This will end the meeting for all participants.
You can choose End meeting when your meeting is finished.

Once the meeting ends, any student attempting to join the meeting will send a Teams notification to the meeting organizer. You can then ask the student or students to leave the meeting since it has already ended. 

If they don't leave, you can remove them from the meeting by using Show participants in the meeting controls. 

If you're away from your notifications for a time, you can also monitor the meeting's chat window to see if any students have rejoined the meeting after it ends. 

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