Microsoft Extends Office 365 Teams to Education Subscribers

Educators and academic institutions can now access the new Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace solution through their Office 365 subscriptions.

Teams became commercially available to certain business Office 365 subscribers last week. At that time, it wasn't yet available under Education and Government plans. This week, however, a Microsoft Tech Community post indicted that Teams is now available to subscribers with "Education, Education Plus and Education E5, as well as existing Education E3 suites." Teams can also be used as part of the free Office 365 Education plan.

The announcement was spotted by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley.

Unlike the business rollout, Teams will arrive in a turned-off state by default for Office 365 Education tenants. Turning Teams on, though, will activate the service for the entire tenant. It's possible to control access using the Office 365 Admin Center or PowerShell, where individual licenses can be removed for the Teams service, as explained in this Microsoft support document.

Microsoft's announcement suggested that educational institutions could run a pilot at this point to test Teams. It can be turned on for teachers, staff and higher education students, for instance.

In addition to the rollout news for Office Education tenants, Microsoft staff on Wednesday answered questions from the public about Teams in an Ask Microsoft Anything (AMA) session. One of the questions concerned the arrival of Teams for Office 365 Government tenants. It's still yet to come and awaiting Federal Risk and Authorization Management (FedRAMP) program compliance before it'll be rolled out to Office 365 Government tenants, according to a reply by Paul Cannon, a Microsoft senior product marketing manager for Skype for Business. FedRAMP is a U.S. government security compliance program for services.

Coming Items
Microsoft also explained in the AMA session that the WhoBot for Teams isn't available yet, although Microsoft is "hard at work finishing it," according to a reply by Bill Bliss, a product strategy expert at Microsoft. The WhoBot was described back in January as a chatbot designed to surface experts within an organization using Microsoft Graph search technology.

Teams is currently accessible using most browsers (except Safari), as well as via desktop and mobile applications. It can also be accessed through the Microsoft Teams portal. However, it's still yet to appear as a tile in the Office 365 App Launcher, according to an AMA reply by Elaine Ansell, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft.

"At this time, end users do not see the Microsoft Teams app tile in the app launcher after an admin turns on Microsoft Teams for an organization," Ansell wrote. "We expect to add this in the near future."

Other Nuances
The Microsoft AMA session also confirmed that that Yammer, Microsoft's social networking solution, works separately from Teams at this point.

"Right now, Yammer groups cannot be activated into Microsoft Teams," explained Dan Stevenson, principal group program manager for Teams, in an AMA reply. "Only groups from the Outlook or SharePoint Groups experience can be activated."

However, it is possible to add a Yammer connector in Microsoft Teams, according to a reply by Albert Chen, a program manager for Teams. He added that "adding Yammer as a tab is on our radar, but not currently available."

There was a question on how Teams integrates with Skype for Business, and whether or not chats could be exchanged. The Microsoft AMA experts didn't answer the question, but Matt Landis of Landis Technologies pointed to his blog post on the topic. It seems that teams are created separately in the two applications. It's possible, though, to see Skype for Business meetings within the Microsoft Teams Meetings tab, he explained. Skype for Business whiteboard and poll features aren't supported in Teams, though.

Teams depends on using the Azure Active Directory service, but it can also be used in federated setups using either Active Directory Federation Services or "a third-party identity provider." The details are spelled out in Microsoft's "Practical Guidance" document, which can be downloaded at this Get Started page, according to Ansuman Acharya, a program manager at Microsoft.

Microsoft has previously indicated that Teams doesn't work with SharePoint Server on premises. In response to an AMA question on whether there might be future support coming for SharePoint Servers on premises, Angela Sze of Microsoft said that "Microsoft Teams is currently an O365 product," and so it's "a cloud-only service."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.