Office 365

Applies to: Everyone
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Have you been looking for a place to share documents, calendars, and messages with a team? Would you like to collaborate in a more efficient way to get your work or project done better and faster? SharePoint and its Team Sites might be for you.

Sound familiar? If you’ve read about, and hopefully use, Office 365 Groups then you might notice that the descriptions are exactly the same. In researching and writing all of these help materials we ran into the same issue: Groups and SharePoint are really similar. So when do we actually recommend using Groups and SharePoint? We’re going to use the general guidelines published by David Lavenda of CMS Wire and classify needs into one of two categories: ad-hoc and structured.

Ad-hoc collaboration is what we want to empower ALL campus users with. You should be able to setup a group, share files, work on them at the same time, use a unified schedule, talk about what you’re doing, and more. You shouldn’t need to involve IT to get your work done. These groups should be flexible and permit the owners to decide who can and cannot join, and even who the owners themselves are. Office 365 Groups are for ad-hoc or unstructured collaboration

Structured collaboration, on the other hand, is more formal, longer-term, and auditable. It might be a more permanent internal organization like YEP or Staff Association that has a leadership who wants people to collaborate but only on certain open documents. It might be a department like HR or the Business Office that has many things they need to share with campus and want to publish. Both of these examples want control over document modifications and what’s available to everyone else while still retaining department editing capabilities. SharePoint Team Sites are for structured collaboration.

One other important advantage to SharePoint over Groups is that it’s designed for business. That means security, compliance, retention, and versioning controls are built-in. We can enforce any policies required and audit or adjust access as required. It’s a level of control similar to our existing network drives, whereas Groups are much more free-form (though we can still manage them if required).

System Requirements

SharePoint Online requires a modern web browser, like most of Office 365. If you plan to frequently upload and download documents you’ll also need a good internet connection.

In the near future you’ll also want to make sure to have the latest OneDrive client, as it will soon support syncing Document Libraries to and from SharePoint. What does that mean? Add or edit a document on your computer and it automatically updates in SharePoint and OneDrive for those with access. This client is available your personal devices and soon on campus computers.

SharePoint Sites

Content within SharePoint is organized into Sites. Sites contain documents, notes, calendars, discussions, and apps. Sites can be shared, with varying amounts of access, with other people. Your level of access determines what you can do and see within a site.

You’ll see a list of sites when you open the SharePoint app. Your most frequent sites will appear first and suggested sites, when available, will appear below them. You can follow a site by clicking its star icon. If you need to find a site, there’s a Search box in the upper-left. Important sites or links are added by us to the Links area.

Using Sites

If you have access to a site, which can happen as a member of a group, department, or just a member of the campus community, you’ll be able to do a few different things.

First, a site must be shared with you before you can see or access it. For now, sites can only be shared with people, but a future release will allow you to share with Office 365 Groups. Sharing levels in SharePoint are typically broken into three main categories.

  • Visitors – The minimum access required to see and use sites is Visitor. They have read-only access to the site’s contents. This is the most frequent level of access since many sites will publish materials that you, or everyone, need but can’t change. If you’re sharing a site with everyone on campus we’ll help you set the right visitor permissions for safe access.
  • Members – People who need to collaborate and work within the site are Members. They have read and write access to the site’s contents. Typically, all members of a department will have this kind of access, since any one of them might need to add, change, or remove shared content.
  • Owners – For full control you must be an Owner. They have complete access to the site and have the ability to change with whom the site is shared. With complete editing and sharing control this group is best assigned to only select members of departments.

After you have access to a site you’ll be able to search for and open it. Some sites may appear that you don’t have access to. If that happens you can request access and a site owner will be notified to review it.

When you open a site you’ll see the resources available to you. The main items are a newsfeed for announcements related to a site and a list of documents available for review and download. SharePoint also has features like a calendar and notebook. The calendar is a great place to post important dates (instead of using a Word document, maybe) but the notebook is probably somewhat limited in its public sharing use. It’s great for collaboration, though, and might be good for things like public meeting minutes.

As you build your site make sure to keep in mind how it behaves if you’re using it both for campus (public) outreach and internal (private) collaboration. There might be things you’re working on that shouldn’t be public. We can help determine the best way to protect that information, or a better place to put things.

Create a Site

Since we’re encouraging the use of Groups for most collaboration and sharing, and since SharePoint can quickly get out of hand for authors, we’ve disabled the ability to create your own site. Instead, please contact us to discuss your use case, our available options, and training. We think some departments might be able to greatly benefit campus with sites but we want to make sure they have a purpose before starting. Once we’ve met with you to review your goals and options we’ll setup the site and assign the right starting permissions.

At this time we’re only offering sites to campus departments (both administrative and academic) and permanent student organizations (like ASCI). If you think you have a great idea for a site and aren’t part of these groups, though, please let us know so that we can review it with you.

Delve into SharePoint

SharePoint integrates with Delve to help you discover popular documents and content. You’ll only see suggestions for things you already have access to. To find out how Delve can help your work smarter check out our Delve page. 

Got a question? Let us know so that we can fill out this section! Visit the Get Help menu and choose Contact Us.

Give credit where credit is due: our ad-hoc versus structured comments started at CMS Wire.

Seriously considering SharePoint for your department? Start by watching this handy webinar.