25+ Years of EdTech – 2021: MS Teams


Despite the book 25 Years of Ed tech finishing with 2018 (aww, remember 2018?), I’ve kept it going with one entry for each year since. The criteria for selection was the year I think they became significant, in that people talked about them a lot. And inclusion does not denote approval (hence the presence of blockchain in 2017).

2020 was predictably the online pivot. By choosing a more specific technology in MS Teams for 2021 I am continuing this theme, but the focus is now perhaps on longer term trends and what the choice of Teams denotes. Of course, Teams has been pretty significant in education for a while now, but I think 2021 saw its dominance as the workplace technology of choice for many HEIs. According to the ALT Survey it was the most used tech in 2020, and I expect that will be the same for 2021. This is significant in a number of ways I feel.

First, just as the online pivot provided a boost to online teaching, so it has shifted online working up a gear. Even with the return to campus, many meetings are now held online by default. This is a dramatic shift in attitude, and Teams has become the de facto means for this. How many of us now spend nearly all our working day jumping from one Teams meeting to the next? The implications of this for work culture, employment, and just the nature of education will be long reaching.

Second, it’s MS Teams fer chrissakes. I mean it doesn’t fill you with joy as a prospect for the environment where you will now spend the majority of your working life. It’s not terrible as a collaborative tool, but it’s interesting to consider why it has won out. Partly it is an example of the rule where “universal and good enough” will win out over many different specialised tools – we saw this with the web browser and the VLE. Also what it really demonstrates is the power of legacy. Teams plugs into existing IT infrastructure in most HEIs and was already in use when the pandemic hit. It was a no brainer then to ramp up its use when required then, instead of, say switching to Google or something new.

Third, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Having a system (any system) that is widely used by staff and students provides opportunities to share easily. For instance, a colleague at another uni told me how they’re using Teams to catch rolling qualification feedback and issues from students, rather than hosting events or putting it in the modules. Because staff and students are in the platform all the time, this is proving much more effective than methods they’d tried previously.

To reiterate, selection in 25 Years doesn’t imply endorsement. But I think we’ll look back at 2021 in future years and see it as the year that embedded Teams in HEIs and marked the shift to hybrid working. In that sense 2021 might well be viewed as an opportunity missed to take a different path.


  • Mark Brown

    Not every HEI uses MS infrastructure and so I’m pleased to say Teams is not our default live meeting platform. My least preferred option! But it does reinforce the point that “tech” does matter!

  • Alan Levine

    Really? One product among many seems spurious. Is it really Teams itself or the normalization of synchronous video meetings? Why not WebRTC that enables them all? Or our sad reliance/low innovation in the space.

    But he it’s your book. Go team go.

    • mweller

      It’s both – Teams is symbolic of the grand shift to virtual working as I say, but also as the ALT survey demonstrates, Teams specifically has become the dominant player, so that is why it’s there as a specific product. No-one uses WebRTC. To reiterate though, selection does not imply endorsement.

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