Encouraging Faculty to Use Yammer for Collaboration

Yammer “is a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations, and business apps” (via Yammer.com). Our College recently launched Yammer with our staff, faculty, and students, and we are learning what works and what doesn’t when using this tool for sharing news and announcements, and encouraging collaboration within and across departments and disciplines. Today, I’m sharing lessons learned (so far).

Encouraging Faculty to Use Yammer for Collaboration


Yammer is not Facebook, but occasionally that’s the best explanation for what Yammer is.

When we first launched Yammer, I started off by explaining that Yammer is a private or internal to the organization, social network. Some people got that right away. Others weren’t sure how Yammer could be used and why they would even want to use it. Adding on that it was “Facebook for Business” brought more looks of recognition. However, that phrase should be used sparingly, as people have (I’ve discovered) rather polarizing opinions about Facebook. Some use it all the time and love it. Others find it to be a waste of time and never use it. In either scenario, I want to encourage collegial, professional collaboration and information sharing within Yammer, so I try not to use the “Facebook for Business” phrase very often.

Your entire organization won’t use Yammer overnight.

When we launched Yammer, I expected to see people posting right away – interacting with one another, sharing ideas, etc… I’m not sure why I thought that was going to happen (perhaps it was from my experiences from the University where we heavily used Yammer), but it was an expectation I didn’t realize I had until we launched and not many people joined right away. We have had a mixture of somewhat steady growth over the last two months or so since we launched, with a few spurts here and there.

Encourage Early Adopters and Leaders to use Yammer.

Early on, I reached out to several early adopters at the College and shared about the upcoming launch of Yammer. I encouraged them to post and get their peers and/or departments using Yammer too. I do think a big part of the growth we’ve had is from seeing staff and faculty post and interact with one another. We have at least two departments that are using it as an internal collaboration space too. I’ve shared Yammer with leadership but haven’t encouraged specific or regular posting yet – that’s coming later this summer.

Give your Faculty a Reason to Use Yammer

In addition to encouraging early adopters to post, I’ve started consciously finding reasons to use Yammer. Some of those include:

  • Sharing a document that is only available within Yammer – i.e. you have to login to Yammer to access the document (fairly positive results with a recent test of this)
  • Posting a teaser message in an email and then the rest of the message is in Yammer (mixed results with this).
  • Creating groups for people that collaborate frequently and switching email communications to Yammer to demonstrate the benefit of having one space for focused conversations (working fairly well).

Keep Using Yammer to Encourage Yammer Use

This might seem obvious, but if you want your faculty (and any employee in your organization for that matter) to use Yammer, you need to demonstrate consistent use. If your employees see the value in using the new tool, and that it’s not going away (i.e. it’s not a “here today, gone tomorrow” tool), then slowly but surely more will join. Sometimes it’s not easy – and I’ll admit, it’s disappointing when sometimes it seems like there are only crickets chirping in our Yammer space – but it’s really awesome when it works.

Are you using Yammer in your organization?

How do you encourage its use?

Learn more about Yammer by visiting their website.

5 Ways Educators Can Use Basecamp for Teaching

Basecamp is a popular project management tool that is often used by businesses to organize projects. At the University, we used it in the training department in a variety of ways such as to request help on projects (like asking a team member to proofread a training storyboard) and to share status/progress updates. After leaving that department, I didn’t plan on continuing to use it because there are other tools that are free. While Basecamp certainly isn’t the most expensive project management tool, their pricing models didn’t fit into my educator budget. Then I learned about their Basecamp for Teachers program which makes Basecamp free for educators! That brought me happily back to Basecamp. Today, I’m sharing with you 5 Ways educators can use Basecamp for teaching.

Basecamp for Teachers

But first, a few basics. With Basecamp, you organize different topics, groups, etc.. by Projects. Within each Project, you can upload Files, create To Do Lists, have Discussions, and create Notes. Now that we have that straight, let’s get started!

1. Create a Project to Plan and Organize your Lesson Plans

I’m currently teaching two courses each semester (two sections of Microsoft Word in the fall, two sections of Microsoft Excel in the Spring, and in the summer, a Computer Bootcamp course for incoming freshmen and a section of Microsoft Excel. I create a Project for each different class (i.e. one for Word, one for Excel, etc..) to hold my lesson plans. I typically create a new note for each lesson, though I sometimes upload Word documents instead. Any extra files that I know I want to load into our learning management system I also store in the class lesson plan project as well. This helps me keep everything together. I typically include dates and tags with each file so I can see which year/semester the lesson was used, as well as a tag with the section name/number of the course.

2. Create Basecamp Projects for each of your Classes.

I haven’t tried this yet, but you could also create Basecamp Projects for each of your students and add your students as members of the project. This would be great to use particularly if you do not have a learning management system to use with your students. Since we do, and I actively use it, I haven’t tried this yet. Some ways you could use this, however, are creating To Do Lists with dates for your students, adding Files to share, and posting class announcements in Discussions.

3. Create Basecamp Projects for Student Groups

Do you lead any student groups? I used to be the class student advisor for two different organizations when I taught at the high school level – BPA, a group for students taking Business courses and the School Newspaper. Basecamp would have been great for these groups because all content related to the groups could be housed in the project. It would have eliminated all the different emails coming and going to myself and various group members as everything could be in the group. I would have loved to use the To Dos when we were working on projects with deadlines! Everything would have been so much more organized.

4. Create Basecamp Projects for Committee Work

Committee Work – I feel like I could add another post just for how Basecamp could be used to help manage Committee Work! I’m presently on the Middle States Steering Committee and we are in the midst of putting together or self-study document, essentially a big report that discusses pretty much every aspect of our school – from services provided to students, to how we develop curriculum, to how we manage finances. Basecamp has been awesome for helping us keep track of what parts of the report are complete, and what parts are outstanding (and who is responsible for them).

5. Create Basecamp Projects for Teaching Administrative Tasks

There are many administrative tasks that are related to teaching that used to make their way onto one of the many post-it notes of lists I had strewn about my desk, i.e. about my monthly report which is due at the beginning of each month. One reminded me that I had to write the report, another reminded me that I had to gather data and create charts; other post-its focused on checking in with teachers who teach in courses that I’m the course leader for (and remembering what we last talked about and how I committed to helping with a various project). You get the picture. After I created a Basecamp project for administrative tasks I found myself to be so much more organized.  This project is particularly useful because I’m able to clearly see what I’m committed to and if there are any upcoming due dates I have to keep track of.


Learn more about how you can use Basecamp for free by visiting their website.

Have you used Basecamp before? Would you consider using it to help you with your teaching?


Why I’m Using Office Mix to Create Faculty Training

The tool you select to create your online training can really make or break your participants’ training experience. Think about the last time you viewed an online training; what worked about the training and made you want to keep watching? Or on the flip side, what didn’t work and created a challenging learning experience for you?

I’ve used a variety of tools to create online training. I first used PowerPoint years ago when I created online presentations for my students to view from our high school learning management system (Blackboard) to reinforce course content.  I used Adobe Captivate while working at the University as that was the tool of choice for the department. When I came to the College as their Instructional Technology Coordinator last summer, I was in the position to select the tool I wanted to use. After some research and downloading a few trials, I settled on two tools – Adobe Presenter and Office Mix.

I’m excited to start a new blog series – Designing Online Training – where I’ll share tips and best practices for designing online training. Today, I’m starting with an introduction to Office Mix which is the tool I find myself using the most lately to create faculty training, and how you can benefit from using it too.

Office Mix PowerPoint


What is Office Mix?

Office Mix is a free plugin for Microsoft Office PowerPoint. It contains several tools that enable you to create interactive e-learning, including:

  • Slide recording – with or without audio from a microphone or video from your webcam. You can even advance slide animations while recording the slide – i.e. have content appear exactly when you want
  • Screen recording – record your entire screen, or a specific monitor or program. Optionally include audio and even webcam video
  • Quizzes / Polls – increase user engagement by having participants answer quiz/poll questions. Office Mix records answers given and you can see how people answered later


How I’m Using Office Mix

I’m using Office Mix to create online training for the faculty at my College. Yesterday, I spent the morning creating a training video for new faculty hires – providing an overview of instructional technology resources we have at the College and the various ways faculty can get training on different topics. The below picture shows a Mix in progress. Something I love about Mix is that it’s simply an additional tool within PowerPoint. I don’t have to open a different software application or flip back and forth between multiple applications to create my trainings.

Microsoft Mix Sample Training

I used two Mix tools to create this training, including:

  • Slide recording with animations – I read from the script I previously storyboarded out and had slide elements (like the arrow you see in the above image) appear when I wanted them too.
  • Quizzes – I created three multiple choice quizzes that checked for viewer understanding on previously discussed content.

How I’ll Share this Training

You have a couple of options for sharing trainings that you create using Mix – you can publish to Office 365 Video if you or your organization has access to that. You can download a copy of the training in a variety of formats to share on a website. While my College has Office 365 video, I prefer to publish to the Microsoft Mix website because it enables me to view analytics from the training, including who watched, how long they watched, and how they scored on the quiz questions. Since my organization has Office 365, I choose to require that viewers log in with their organizational credentials (username and password for the College) as this enables me to see who is watching the training.


The One Missing Feature

At the moment, the one missing feature that I wish Office Mix had was the capability to track when participants are watching/completing the training. That’s not possible to do yet, but I’m hopeful that the Mix Team will incorporate that feature soon!


I’m looking forward to sharing new tools and resources for you related to Designing Online Training with this new blog feature series!

What do you think of this new series? Do you have experience using Office Mix? And if so, what are your favorite features?

Office Mix is available for you to download from the Office Mix website. It presently works on Windows computers with Windows 7 or higher and PowerPoint 2013 or Office 365 PowerPoint.