Create a Class Workspace, reach your students outside of class

Microsoft for some time has had Office Live Workspaces, a free online service being used by over 4 million people around the world.  Today we are making available new resources for teachers that introduce ways teachers can communicate with students outside of class, responding to concerns around the H1N1 virus that is effecting communities.  


Watch the video from Kelli Etheredge, a teacher at St. Paul’s Episcopal School describe the creative ways she has used Office Live Workspace to reach her students outside of the classroom when a number of students could not attend class due to the H1N1 virus. 


We have all had to think about how best to prepare our schools and classrooms in the event the H1N1 virus keeps students from attending class.  The biggest challenges of dealing with any class absences is developing a sustainable system for communicating class work, missed notes and homework.  Further, if H1N1 keeps students away for an extended period of time, this will exacerbate the problem for teachers trying to keep these students from falling too far behind.


This is where having a Class Workspace will be a helpful tool in your teacher toolkit.   Think of your class workspace as an easy place to make any documents and presentations you want to share with students available over the Internet.  All your students need to access your workspace is a web browser. 


One thing I like about Office Live Workspace is that it works within Word, PowerPoint and Excel, whether you're  using Office XP, 2003 or 2007.  You can save assignments, handouts or anything you create directly to your workspace from within these applications  (see picture).


If you have a web site today, you can easily add a link to your workspace, and if you don’t have a web site, this will serve the purpose as a quick and easy way to share information with your students.


Once you've gotten the hang of uploading and sharing basic documents with your students, here are three ideas on how to take full advantage of this workspace:


1. Organize your class and create study groups - once you've set-up a workspace you will have a group of templates available to quickly create workspaces based on what you’d like to do, for example, the basic class workspace template is good for publishing general class information, a syllabus, assignment sheets, and a homework calendar.  There is also a workspace template for setting up Study Groups, so this can be organized initially by the teacher and then used by students.


2. Manage and track cooperative group projects - if you want to ensure each student is fulfilling their role in a cooperative group assignment, you can track individual contributions to a document or presentation within Office Live Workspace by monitoring the "Activity" on the site. Students can also add comments and these could be tracked for participation.


3. Improve the writing process - have students use the Essay Workspace to improve their time management by tracking key milestones for important papers, develop and publish their outlines for a quick review checkpoint and use the essay template to get them started.  Students can also publish their papers online and have peer reviewers comment and edit each other's papers.  Teachers can track activity and individual student input.


Using an online Web 2.0 tool like Office Live Workspace not only builds collaborative skills as students engage with each other online, but demonstrates the benefits of working effectively in groups using online tools to their fullest.  These are skills we all do today in business and at school and are incredibly valuable to practice and master as young learners. Check it out.


Hope you find this useful in your classroom.




Rob Bayuk

K-20 Educator Marketing Manager, Microsoft

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