The Teams Experience

WordPress seems to have a new layout, so I thought I’d start this post with a nice drop capital (and some white boxes, although those might only be temporary). As it happens, now seems an appropriate time to try something new. In what has seemed like the blink of an eye, the third and final year of my degree has already arrived, and in light of the unprecedented times we’re living in, it’s already proving to be very different to either of the previous two. As I write this, we have completed one full week of lectures, and have experienced the first taste of what we can expect from teaching, at least until Christmas.

It now relies heavily on rotation, and our timetables have been designed to allow us all to be both present in class and remotely via Microsoft Teams. When we’re there in person, we enter, sit at socially-distanced desks around the room and the session proceeds more or less as normal, with us making sure to wipe down our desks before and after using them.

Ours is a course that benefits greatly from face to face interaction (particularly when critiquing work), so it’s a shame that that has been (understandably) reduced, but within every Teams meeting are smaller ‘breakout groups’, which we can enter with two or three other people to share files. I haven’t had much experience of them yet, but I have found them to be a source of the teething troubles tutors and students have been having with the software. In a session last Wednesday I went into one with three people, only two of whom could show what they’d written – the other file was nowhere to be found, even after it had supposedly been uploaded more than once. In addition to that, we only tentatively added comments to one another’s work because we weren’t sure that our edits would be saved, although we eventually discovered that the documents save themselves automatically whenever changes are made, so we left that group with our confidence boosted for the rest of the semester.

Certain people I’ve spoken to have been sceptical of the tutors’ ability to get on top of Teams, but I think they’ll find it easier to get to grips with as the weeks go on. They can only prepare for so much beforehand, after all. On Tuesday last week, in my very first class of the year, three of them had difficulty seeing and hearing each other as they introduced one of my modules, and struggled to adjust to a few of its features, which they’d anticipated in their training over the summer – but everything came together in the end, just as I knew it would. These minor hurdles will be overcome, and the new methods will be second nature to us all. I for one already feel very comfortable, and ready to tackle whatever the next three months bring, just as I always have been.

Mason

The Pull, Part 11

As part of my ongoing Winchester preparations, I am now coming to you live from a brand-new laptop! It is, in a way, another statement of intent bought with practicality and working in mind. I chose – after a long period of deliberation with the salesman in the shop – an HP Envy, coincidentally the newer version of the laptop Louis had a few years ago. Like many laptops you can buy today, it lacks a disc drive, although I intend to buy a portable one soon. This saves a considerable amount of weight from something that is already very light, and that was key for me when I first considered what to buy, as I need to be able to transfer the laptop from table to bag as easily as possible – preferably with one hand. It has the USB ports and headphone jack I wanted, as well as a more powerful processor that can deal more efficiently with multitasking (perhaps at the expense of some storage space, although Louis says I can save documents to the cloud if I need to).

One of its other, more unexpected features was re-discovered only this morning, just as I had begun this post. Louis had been silently studying the laptop for a little while – particularly its hinges – and he suddenly pointed out that I might have bought a laptop which folds all the way over and doubles as a tablet. We nervously tested his theory and he was right – when it is folded over, the laptop asks you if you want to enter tablet mode, and even in its regular form it features a touch-sensitive screen. I remembered that I had already been shown this in the shop, but had completely forgotten it since. I will probably put it to good use at some point in the future, but seeing as the laptop is brand new, I don’t really want to put fingerprints all over the screen just yet!

This post is the first productive thing I have done with it. The aforementioned portable disc drive will be particularly important when it arrives as it will finally allow the audio notetaking software I have to be downloaded. As I may have said before, I already have the app on my phone and the microphone to plug in – thanks to a test I carried out with Louis, I am pleased to report that it works perfectly. All that’s left is to install the disc, and Microsoft Office at a later date, and this laptop will have everything it needs to serve me well at university. I couldn’t be happier with my choice so far, and I definitely couldn’t be more relieved about how much easier it is to carry!

Mason