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Professional learning community groups in Office 365 Education

A professional learning community, or PLC, is a group of educators who meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. Teachers around the world have started using Office 365 Groups to make collaboration within a PLC a lot simpler and more streamlined. PLC groups are typically formed around interest areas (e.g., 9th grade math), grade levels (e.g., 10th grade teachers) or across subjects (e.g., science teachers).

Here are some barriers to engagement with PLCs today that Office 365 Groups is addressing:

  • Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
  • Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
  • A challenge for many PLCs is extending the work and relationships in the times and spaces between physically coming together.
  • It can be difficult for new teachers to ramp up.
  • Information is often stored in personal spaces as opposed to one common place that can benefit others.
  • New members need to better understand the journey, story, exploration and history of a PLC, its activities and areas of inquiry.

As part of our April announcement, we mentioned how we are going to further improve our experience for PLCs. Today, we are excited to announce the PLC Groups Preview—tailored to meet the needs of teachers and overcome the above mentioned barriers to engagement today.

The new Office 365 PLC groups include one place to collaborate effectively in a community of practice. Each group comes with a:

  • Inbox for group email communication, including Connector for connecting your group to Twitter and following topics or Twitter handles that interest your PLC group.
  • Calendar for scheduling group events.
  • Document library for storing and working on group files and folders.
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes.
  • Planner for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress.

PLC groups are also available on all your mobile devices—both Outlook Groups and OneNote have mobile apps. This helps you keep track of your PLC conversations and PLC notebooks, making it easy to share relevant resources with your groups on the go.

A look at how one district implemented PLC groups

Administrators at Omaha Public Schools developed some guidance for their staff on how to do PLCs in their district:

Here’s what Omaha Public Schools staff members have to say about their experience with PLC groups:

“Looking at what Omaha Public Schools’ needs are around professional learning, it was important to build around a platform that was consistent with what our teachers and staff use on a daily basis.”
—Rob Dickson, executive director of Information Management Services for Omaha Public Schools

I love the fact that I can create sections, that I can create pages within the sections, and I can upload anything I want, or do a quick snip from a page and throw it in there. Everyone knows the format, so we’re not trying to figure out somebody else’s way of thinking.”
—Laura Wray, 4th grade teacher at Wakonda Elementary School

“Using our PLC groups, everything is templated out, so you just add to them and it pops up in their Office 365 account and they’re rolling the next day…There’s so much asked of teachers. They can go home at night and say, OK, here’s an activity we did today and it really helped with that comprehension strand, and I want to make sure my teammates get that.”
—Rebecca Chambers, instructional technology coach

Office 365 Groups—integrated to support PLCs

Here is an example of how Office 365 Groups for PLCs integrates Outlook, OneNote and a SharePoint library:

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 1

In Outlook on the web, a faculty member chooses the PLC template to create a PLC group.

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 2

The PLC group collaborates, shares lesson plans and stores student data all in a shared group OneNote notebook.

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 3

The PLC group can store PLC reference material in the group’s document library.

Professional Learning Community Groups in Office 365 Education 4

For more information about upcoming improvements to Office 365 Groups for Education, please visit the Office 365 Education Roadmap. To enroll in the PLC Groups Preview, please sign up here and request to be added to the preview.

Additional references

—Rohit Kapoor, program manager for the Office 365 Groups team

Frequently asked questions

Q. How do I enable PLC groups for faculty only?

A. If Office 365 PLC Groups is disabled in your district, IT admins can use any of the samples found here to enable groups for faculty only.

Q. Once enabled in Office 365 Education, who has access to PLC Groups?

A. We are still in preview, but once we begin to roll out broadly, all users who have access to the Mail web app in Office 365 (also called as Outlook Web Access or OWA) can create PLC groups in Office 365 similar to other groups.

Q. Is PLC Groups accessible from mobile and Outlook desktop?

A. Like other Office 365 groups, PLC groups, once created from Outlook Web Access, automatically show up in Outlook Groups mobile app and Outlook 2016.

Q. Do PLC groups come in multiple languages?

A. Language support is no different for PLC groups than for Office 365. You can find a complete list of languages and markets here.