Top tips for online class success

How to make the most of your online classes and meetings using Microsoft Teams

Learning online is different to physically attending a class. Read our Top tips on using MS Teams to give yourself a head start and get the most out of your online classes.

Top Tip 1 – use the desktop app if you can
Teams is available on just about every device including your phone, a tablet, a web browser. Whilst is fantastic to be able to access and use Teams on the go, it’s best to use the full desktop app for your classes. The desktop app has the fullest functionality and will give you the best Teams experience. You can download the desktop app for Windows, Mac here

Top Tip 2 – take time to learn your way around Teams
Teams is a fairly straight forward app. Key elements on the left navigation:

>> Activity feed (top left) – see activity in Teams you’re a member of.
>> Chat: every online class will have its own chat area so you can ask questions, see other folks posts. Outwith meetings you can chat with individuals or set up your own chat groups.
>> Teams button – see all of the different Teams that you are a member of
>> Calendar – your own personal calendar/diary. Your online classes from Canvas will appear in here with a link to the meeting. This will be more common from Spring 2022 as some new functionality is being released in Canvas in November 2021 to help your lecturers create Teams meetings for your classes.
>> Files – see files in your OneDrive and also any files shared in Teams you’re a member of
>> Under the 3 dots – you can add different apps that you like to use e.g. OneNote for note taking.

Top tip 3 – learn your Teams etiquette
Attending online classes is different to face to face classes as a lot of the normal social cues are missing. Teams has its own useful tools to help you interact (or not) and be successful in your classes. The features below are all accessible from the navigation bar at the top of a teams meeting window.

teams meeting toolbar

Working from the left in the image above – please note that some of these features may be disabled by the meeting organiser.

  • See participants list – this will show you a list of all the folk in your meeting.
  • Chat bubble – click here to see the meeting chat. Depending on your lecturer and the nature of your class, this can be used to contribute to a conversation, ask a question etc.
  • High five guy- click here to choose from ‘raise hand’ – to indicate you want to speak, ‘thumbs up’ to acknowledge something, ‘love heart’ to show the love, ‘clapping hands’ to give applause and finally ‘laughing face’ to…..laugh.
  • Wee square icon – may not show for you – this is for arranging breakout rooms (lecturer can sort the class into small groups to go away and discuss something)
  • 3 dots menu – loads of functionality in here including:
    • Device settings – fix any audio or video issues in here
    • Gallery/large gallery/together mode – change your view of your meeting. Experiment!
    • Apply background effects – don’t want to show your messy bedroom to the rest of your class? You can blur your background in Teams, use one of the inbuilt Teams background or even upload your own image. Read more here
    • Turn on live captions – this should usually be done by your lecturer so if you want live captions, please ask them to switch it on. Live captions are like subtitles on a tv programme. Very useful for some.
    • Start recording – DO NOT USE THIS. If you want a meeting recorded, please ask the meeting leader. All sorts of problems arise with recordings if a student kicks them off

General tips

If you’re in an interactive class like a seminar or tutorial – turn your camera on. Seminars and tutorials often take a conversational form which is very difficult when the normal visual cues are not there for others to read. Imagine you are in a small classroom sitting round a table.

Mute your mic by default. Lots of open mics can cause interference and feedback, so join your meetings with your mic muted and unmute when you want to speak.

Raise your hand to speak. If you want to ask a question of your lecturer, or to contribute to a conversation, you can use the ‘raise hand’ functionality in Teams. Depending on the nature of your meeting this may not be necessary – take the lead from your lecturer.

Training materials

We have lots of Teams training materials in our Office 365 Learning Pathways site on SharePoint.
There are also recordings of our digital skills training sessions on our Stirling Essentials Study Skills Workshops site: