2020 Technology Information

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COVID-19 is still here. The College declared online courses on August 4, 2020, and committed to continue online for Spring on November 20, 2020. We'll update this page as we're able whenever significant new information is available.

This page is different than others in that it's pretty long. Check out the topic headers below to see if a section might be something you need to know. If not, skip it and move on to the next one.

What's New in Microsoft Teams for Spring 2021

A lot changed in the last four months, and we don't mean with the world. Learn what's new in Teams as of December 2020, including Breakout Rooms! We've provided a feature and functionality update, Breakout Rooms training, and a three-month lookahead so you know what's expected to arrive this spring. We recommend watching the entire video, about 90 minutes long, so you have the latest information for teaching, learning, and meetings. Click either of the preceding links to jump right to that point in the video in a new tab. If you have any trouble with the video below please try to watch it on Microsoft Stream instead. You can download an outline of the video from for your reference.

What's New in Microsoft 365 for Spring 2021

We've also been tracking some new and notable features in Microsoft 365 (there's one!). Here's the latest.

Microsoft 365 — New name, same apps

Microsoft has been re-branding their cloud offerings and it's time for us to do the same. We'll start referring to Microsoft's cloud services as Microsoft 365 in communications and training. Office 365 hasn't gone anywhere, though. It's still a product you use every day and is part of Microsoft 365. The programs installed on your computer, like Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, are known as the Office apps. They're part of Office 365. Not clear on the differences? That's fine, we'll know how to help either way.

Office Apps — macOS 10.14 Mojave or newer required for support

If you're a Mac user you need to ensure you're using a current version of macOS in order to continue receiving security and feature updates for the Office apps. Microsoft only supports macOS 10.14 Mojave and newer as of November 2020. If we help you with your Mac and find out it's not up-to-date that will be the first thing you need to fix before we can troubleshoot further. Not all Macs can run macOS 10.14, so if you have an old Mac make sure it's compatible or start planning to buy a new computer. Check out our recommended tech specs, below, if you need help choosing a new one.

Microsoft Forms

Enhanced integration with Teams meetings

We covered this in our Teams update video at the top of the page, but since we're on the subject of Forms this is a second breakfast mention. By adding the new Forms app to a Teams meeting you can pre-build any polls you need to use during your meeting and then "launch" them to attendees at the right time. You also get new options to close polls, make results anonymous, or hide results until the end. Watch the video for a demo or just give it a try in your next meeting. Note that only meeting presenters can add and use the Forms app. By default, this means everyone can see and modify questions unless you change the meeting's presenter and attendee settings. That's also covered, you guessed it, in our update video.

Restrict responses to specific users

It's now possible to restrict your forms only to specific users. This is extremely helpful if you have something like a vote or approval that you need to ensure is only open to eligible respondents. Visit your Form's settings to adjust its sharing options.

Add formatting to your Forms

In January you'll get the ability to add text formatting like bold, underline, and italics to your Forms. When used correctly (unlike that example) these formats will help your Form shine and direct people's attention to important information.


Add shortcuts to shared folders

Do you have trouble keeping track of important shared folders in OneDrive? We sure do. You can now add shortcuts to shared folders (if you already have access to those folders) directly to the root/top-level of your OneDrive. You do have to find that pesky folder again, but once you do you'll be able to make it stick around. Check out this support article to add shortcuts to shared folders in OneDrive.

Block shared video downloads

Coming soon, you'll be able to block video downloads when you share a OneDrive-stored video file. You can ensure that your video can be viewed, but not distributed or taken, by enabling this option on specific videos files. OneDrive already supports this for things like documents, images, and PDFs. Keep an eye out for this feature to arrive.

Students - Getting Started in Teams

Are you new to Teams? Do you need to remember how to find or do something? Then you're at the right place. We put together a training video that takes you from downloading and installing Teams, to joining a class, to creating your own meetings. You may need to sign in to Microsoft Stream with your YoteNet ID to watch. If you have any trouble with the video below please try to watch it on Microsoft Stream instead. This video is about 40 minutes long.

Jump to a Topic

Need something specific? These links will take you right to that part of the video in Stream. All of these links open in a new tab.

Students - Getting Started in Canvas

Class sessions will be held in Teams, but what about your course materials? Syllabi, assignments, submissions, files, and more can be found in Canvas. We put together this training video to get you signed in and up to speed. You may need to sign in to Microsoft Stream with your YoteNet ID to watch. If you have any trouble with the video below please try to watch it on Microsoft Stream instead. This video is about 20 minutes long.

Students - IT Orientation

Did you know there's even more to know about technology at The College of Idaho? If you're a new student then please watch our IT Orientation video. Since we couldn't meet with new students in person this year we recorded our usual move-in weekend presentation instead. If you have any trouble with the video below please try to watch it on Microsoft Stream instead. This video is about 30 minutes long.

Computers Expected for Students

The IT Department is unable to provide laptops for student use this year, and we are out of used computers to sell.

Residential students are expected to bring a computer with them to school. Upon our future return to in-person classes all students will still be expected to bring a computer since it's an integral part of learning. Computer labs will be open when permitted by our current reopening phase, but they do not have cameras nor microphones and have reduced capacities for physical distancing and sanitization. Having your own computer means you can work how you need to, when you need to, where you need to.

For the best outcomes we prepared this list of specifications to help you choose the right computer. We don't provide direct links to products for purchase since they change very frequently, but this list can either be taken to your favorite local store or used to check the tech specs on any computer you're considering online or in-person.


You don't have to follow these specs for your computer, but if you choose not to you may run into trouble accessing course materials, using required apps and software, getting help, or connecting smoothly. In particular, we know that Apple products and macOS are popular, but we have applications that only run on Windows. If any of your courses use this software you may be stuck using our labs (assuming the lab is open) or purchasing additional, complex software for your Mac in order to run Windows apps. And, we hate to tell you, but Macs do break and they do get malware.

We do not recommend Android-, chromeOS-, or iOS-based tablets like Chromebooks or iPads for your primary computing device. While it's possible to do a lot of work from devices like these, and we've had students do just that, there are performance and compatibility limits that are very likely to make the lower cost not worth the trouble. If you'd like to bring one of these devices in addition to a computer that's fine.

With care and no major accidents both our minimum and recommended laptops are expected to meet all of your needs for all four years. The recommended configuration is more expensive, but we also expect it to last a few years after college and still have decent performance.

Swipe to horizontally scroll the table if it spills off your screen.

Component Minimum Recommended Notes
Form Factor Laptop or Tablet PC A desktop will work, but you can't take it to class
Operating System Windows 10 macOS can work, but see the note above before deciding
Processor/CPU Intel Core i3 Intel Core i5 8th Gen or newer; more cores help with multitasking and multiple open apps
Memory/RAM 8 GB More memory won't hurt, but don't stress about it
Storage/Disk 120 GB SSD 250 GB SSD We do not recommend traditional spinning-disk hard drives
Connectivity/WiFi Dual-band Intel or Broadcom Newer options like WiFi 6 are fine, but our network is only WiFi 5 (802.11ac)
Display 1920x1080 Full-HD LED Size doesn't matter as long as you're comfortable; touchscreen optional
Webcam 720p HD 1080p Full-HD All laptops meeting our spec likely already have a compatible webcam
Budget $700-$900 USD $900-$1100+ USD A computer can count as a Qualified Education Expense on your taxes

Purchasing Tips

If you need to buy a computer before arriving or need to upgrade yours after you're here, review these tips to get a good computer at a fair price.

  • Save a lot and don't buy Microsoft Office. We provide it to you for free.
  • If possible, try before you buy. Shopping online is easy, but actually seeing the laptop in a store can help you find the right combination of price, size, and fit.
  • Have a Costco membership? Costco always has great deals on laptops that meet our spec, and they include an extra year's warranty.
  • We typically recommend HP, Microsoft Surface, or Dell computers. We exclusively buy HP for our employees.
  • We typically do not recommend Sony, Acer, ASUS, or Toshiba. We've had issues with these brands.

Hardware for Online Learning and Work

A simple way to dramatically increase the quality of your online courses and meetings is simply to use dedicated call hardware. That might sound pretty fancy but it's actually very simple.

Upgrade Your Audio

If you need to choose one thing to help with your online experience then you need to choose audio. The most important thing you can do is physically separate your speakers from your microphone. Yes, the distance between the two help (which is why laptops frequently have issues on calls), but it's even better to totally isolate the input (microphone) from the output (speakers).


The easiest way to do this is with a simple pair of headphones. It doesn't matter if they have a built-in microphone or not; just getting the sound into your ears and nowhere else drastically improves audio quality. Like wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, getting headphones isn't primarily about you and it takes everyone participating for the best outcome. When you remove the echo and feedback created by your speakers and microphone all of the other participants benefit from far less audio distortion on their ends. It also helps you cut out background noise and focus on the conversation.


For even more improvement of your audio you can buy a headset. This could be earbuds with a built-in mic (like old-style Samsung and Apple models with a a 1/8" (3.5mm) plug). It could be a USB or Bluetooth headset with a boom mic. Or it could be full noise-canceling headphones. No matter what style you choose, headsets are designed to put the sound in your ears and the microphone closer to your mouth. A headset provides the best audio for a single user, especailly if you are in a space with a lot of background noise.

Conference Speakers

If you don't want to wear anything at all you can still improve your audio with a conference speaker. While this isn't ideal and is not recommended it will help more than just using your laptop. Conference speakers are specifically engineered to listen to one or more people with a speaker/microphone combination unit. Since they do their own audio processing, engineered exactly to the device and its intended use, they augment any processing done by your computer and produce better audio.

Product Recommendations

We can't recommend an exact audio product of every type because there are so many styles, features, and price points to consider. However, we do suggest two simple models that balance price and performance, and several brands that build quality devices if you'd like something else and have a higher budget. Please note that "standard" (that means recommended) headsets may be out of stock at most retailers due to continuing worldwide demand. "Higher-end" options are more likely to be available but at a higher price.

If your laptop has Bluetooth connectivity (all C of I employee laptops do) then choosing a Bluetooth headset means you don't need to deal with a cable or dedicated USB receiver. Bluetooth options are widely available, both personal and commercial, but will cost more than our recommended options. If you already have Bluetooth earbuds or headphones then good news! Pair them to your laptop for instantly better meetings. Not all Bluteooth audio devices support pairing to more than one host device, so you may lose connection on your phone or other device after pairing to your laptop. Additionally, audio devices that do support more than one paired host device may not properly select the host device you want to use. You will either need to toggle pairings (consult your user manual) or turn off Bluetooth on the host deivce you don't want to use at the moment.

Important: we do not recommend using Apple EarPods with Microsoft Teams. While it's possible to configure them on both Mac and Windows we've run into multiple people with issues keeping their EarPods connected during calls. This is well-documented online and while it's fixable it may not be reliable. We recommend buying something else for meetings.

Upgrade Your Video

If you have an older computer, a desktop computer, or a faulty built-in camera then you need a new USB camera. You might also consider one if you've noticed that your camera quality (lighting, color, focus, etc.) is consistently poor. All employee laptops include an acceptable built-in camera so buying an external camera is not an approvable expense. You'll need to buy one personally if you want an upgrade.

Product Recommendations

We only recommend a single model. Other cameras are out there but we prefer and exclusively purchase Logitech. If you want to buy something else be aware that you will likely get what you pay for: cheap cameras are cheap for a reason.

Upgrade Your Workspace

If you'll be exclusively learning, teaching, or working from home then you should consider whether you would benefit from, and would like to spend money on, additional hardware for your workspace. An extra, larger monitor gives your more room to work or makes it easier to see what you're doing. A keyboard and mouse might help relieve joint stress or get a more comfortable working position. Workspace accessories are not approvable expenses and you'll need to buy them personally. However, employees are permitted to (carefully) take their office accessories home if they are working remotely for the year.

Product Recommendations

We're providing this information so that you have it available if you've been contemplating a change. Your mileage may vary.

Upgrade Your Internet

We can't give you an exact recommendation since availability varies by street address. But in general, if you aren't able to consistently get speeds that are at least 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload you probably need to upgrade either your plan (which will cost more) or, perhaps, your internet connection equipment (if it's several years old). If you pay for service of a certain speed and consistently have slower speeds you should contact your provider for assistance. If you have multiple people using the connection for school and work you may need to upgrade to a faster connection to ensure everyone can reliably connect.

Test your network speed at, and get help with home WiFi issues using Metageek Rampart for Education. We are unable to provide support for either product nor for their results and recommendations.

Teaching Platforms

We will continue using Instructure Canvas and Microsoft Teams for online course materials, tools, and delivery. Other LMS or meeting applications are not supported by IT and may not be used for teaching. Canvas is available via web browser or mobile app. Teams is an installable application, and while available on the web we do not recommend the web-based version (and you will have trouble with certain things).

Sign in to all of our sites and apps with your YoteNet ID.

Automatic, Managed Team Creation with Microsoft SDS

Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) automatically creates and will manages Teams teams and Office 365 Groups for each course section offered in a given term, just like Canvas. All you need to do is activate a team to use it with your students. Groups take no special activations and are already available. Don't want to use the team or Group we manage? No problem. Just don't activate the team and your students will never see it, and tell them to ignore the Group. Remember that you'll be responsible for adding and removing students if you choose to create and manage your own teams.

SDS does not automatically create class meetings for you. You need to schedule the meetings yourself. Scroll down to find our training video "Scheduling Class Meetings."

Activation allows you to create Channels, upload content, make posts, work with your Class Notebook, and more before students see anything. It's just like Canvas's Publish function where you can prepare ahead of time and then open it to students when you're ready.

To activate your course team(s):

  1. Launch Teams on your computer
  2. Go to teams on the left
  3. Click on the team you want to activate (they start with 21_SP and 21_WI) to open it
  4. Click the Activate button

Having trouble? Please contact the helpdesk for assistance. Since SDS is a new product on our campus there may be some undiscovered issues.

Teams Meeting Recordings and Microsoft Stream

Many faculty like to record their class sessions, and we encourage this for students who can't attend class (especially in a pandemic) or who benefit from being able to see and hear the session again. Some students also benefit from captions on the video, which isn't just the law but also a great way to make your class inclusive.

Using Stream is covered in our Managing Teams Recordings in Microsoft Stream video. Please note the following section as it modifies significant parts of this video.

Temporary recordings can be found near the bottom of the meeting chat. There's a quirk in Teams that may hide the video from you. To fix it, go to the meeting chat, scroll up a few full screens until you see Teams trying to load additional messages, then scroll back to the bottom. The video should have appeared.

Major Changes to Teams and Stream Recordings

Starting August 20, 2020, Teams recordings were no longer saved to Stream. Effective January 7, 2021, all Teams meeting recordings are saved to the meeting organizer's OneDrive. All invitees can view and download the video. If you don't want your meeting recording to be downloadable you will need to manually edit its permissions and unshare it, or upload it to Microsoft Stream before deleting it. Videos stored in OneDrive are not deleted after 21 days.

Long-Term, Enhanced Storage with Stream

Stream is still completely available and recommended. Upload your recording, set your settings and permissions, and then share the link or embed it in Canvas. While this is a small extra step it gives you more control over your meeting video (for example, it can't be downloaded) and should help reduce confusion about meeting titles, missing permissions, sharing options, and managing your video library. Very importantly, using Stream means your video gets closed captions and multiple quality options. If you leave the video on OneDrive it's just a file. There are no captions for accessibility assistance and it's one single, large file for people to watch regardless of internet connection quality.

Learn how to upload videos to Stream.

Hint: you can add a Group (team) to the permissions list so that you don't need to type every person's name by hand. Type part of the name of the Group to search for it. If you want to embed your video in Canvas then students must have permission to view the video. Simply embedding it in Canvas does not give them permission in Stream.

Teams Training

Scheduling Class Meetings - Faculty

When your courses are added to Teams and Office 365 they do not include any meeting times. It's not possible for us to create meetings for you, nor is it feasible to have us determine when your class should meet. Watch this training video to learn how to schedule a meeting with a team Channel so that it's on your students' calendars. Want to schedule your meetings via Outlook? That's fine, but we recommend (and are only documenting) how to schedule in Teams with a Channel. If you have any trouble with the video below please try to watch it on Microsoft Stream instead. This video is about 20 minutes long.

Introductory Training for Faculty

If you're a new faculty member you'll find answers to common Teams questions, and of course the basics of Teams, in our recorded training session. Staff, volunteers, and others are welcome to watch as well, but this training was heavily faculty-focused in its presentation and discussion. A YoteNet ID is required to watch this video.

Advanced Training for Employees

Advanced Teams Training was held at the end of July 2020. If you missed the sessions or would like to re-watch any of them, the videos are available in Microsoft Stream. A YoteNet ID is required to watch them. If you're not sure which one to pick just go for Tuesday's session. Be warned: they are all over two hours long. Take a break in the middle.