Leaving a familiar education setting and moving to a new grade or campus is a common back-to-school challenge. Now, with many students facing new hybrid learning models, schools and districts are hard at work looking for new ways to make their students’ return to learning feel as comfortable as possible.

Virtual campus tours are just one way that schools are making these transitions easier for students and their families. Microsoft Education Gold Partner ThingLink is helping a number of schools with an easy-to-use, Office 365 Education-compatible solution for creating and sharing 360-degree smart virtual tours in Microsoft Teams.

Ensuring a social presence in Wales

Penybont Primary School is a 360-pupil community primary school in the Welsh town of Bridgend. As a result of the school’s closure due to COVID-19, headteacher Robbie Owen started thinking about the importance of a stable social presence during the time of remote learning. How would they make sure their learners could feel connected to their school—the place they know and love?

“We looked for ways to ensure that pupils still felt a sense of belonging to the school even if they were at home,” explains Owen. “We came up with an idea to create a virtual version of our school that pupils could visit on demand. They could pick up video and audio messages from their teachers and other staff to feel part of the Penybont school family.”

Created with the help of ThingLink, the tour has already received rave reviews from parents and other stakeholders.

“Parents have reported to us that some pupils have got themselves dressed in full uniform and then sat down to assembly,” Owen shares with us. “Pupils have stated that they have enjoyed showing their parents around areas of the school that they have not been to before and enjoyed visiting to pick up special messages from the staff that they are missing.”

Thinking big in Scotland

When schools closed in the UK last March, the Midlothian Council Digital Learning Team wanted to find new ways to connect students to its 39 schools outside Edinburgh. They came up with the idea of an interactive map leading to a virtual tour of each school. After capturing 360-degree footage of all campus buildings, these tours needed to be created and edited collaboratively.

To implement their ambitious plan, they decided to use ThingLink with Microsoft Teams. They created dedicated Teams channels for the schools to work remotely on personalizing their tour for the school community. Then they used ThingLink’s collaborative editing function to add drone footage and embed video and audio with personal touches to make new students feel a sense of familiarity with the buildings to which they will eventually return.

For Digital Learning Team Manager Colin McCabe, the customized project has been rewarding. “Our staff has gone above and beyond to make each school’s tour feel personal,” says McCabe. “They have used Microsoft Teams to communicate and collaborate together, creating something that would have taken months in just a few weeks.”

Visual solutions offer support and connection

To help educators overcome some of the practical challenges related to the transition to hybrid learning, ThingLink has developed Creating Visual Learning Materials with ThingLink, a new course available in the Microsoft Educator Center. In this beginner-level course aimed at teachers and education professionals, educators will learn how they can create visual learning materials to engage their students and publish to share with school communities to keep connected.

Get started today

To get started with visual learning, explore ThingLink in the Microsoft Teams app finder or create a free teacher account.

And to learn even more about the future of education from Microsoft, read the article Reimagining Education for the Future of Learning, and check out our position paper Education Reimagined: The Future of Learning.