Sit Courtside of the NBA Restart with Microsoft Teams

As of late, Microsoft is no stranger to getting involved in the world of sports. Back in 2017 the NFL and Microsoft agreed to a five year deal that would keep the Surface as the tablet of choice on sidelines around the league. Earlier this year, the two got a little closer and made history by using Microsoft Teams to conduct the first virtual NFL draft after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a worldwide shutdown.

Sports are now trying to make a comeback, though mostly without fans. The NBA decided the best move was to create a “bubble” wherein all involved with the league would be quarantined in Florida on Disney campus. Without fans in the stands, they needed to get creative with keeping them involved. After the success the NFL had with Microsoft, the NBA struck a deal to use the newly released “Together Mode” in Microsoft Teams meetings to bring fans…together.

Together Mode reimagines traditional virtual meetings, and according to research conducted by Microsoft is actually less fatiguing than a traditional meeting. Instead of a strict grid layout, all meeting participants look as if they are sitting theater style just like they would be in a sports arena making it fit perfectly with a virtual fan experience.

How are these “meetings” working?

Based on various pieces of information, it is becoming more clear how they are handling the fan experience. First, these are just Teams meetings with a virtual lobby. Each team has meeting moderators that are letting fans into the meeting as seats are available. The moderators are also responsible for removing any fans who become unruly. The terms and conditions state that you should be on camera for the entirety of the event and if you leave your seat or go off camera, risk being removed from the meeting so someone else can fill the seat. It also seems that you are getting a unique account in the NBA bubble tenant as the directions say that you will receive a username/password for Teams in your acceptance email. Going through some recent Teams meetings that were open to the public, I can sympathize with the NBA in coming up with the procedures for making this work as smoothly as possible.

Enough Of The Details…How Do I Get My Seat??

So how can you get courtside and experience this unprecedented virtual fandom using Microsoft Teams? It seems that each NBA team is taking their own approach to allowing fans access. Some just have open sign ups, others are partnering with Michelob Ultra to do a giveaway of virtual seats, while others are only offering tickets to existing season ticket holders or other VIPs.

Below are a list of opportunities I was able to find at the time of writing this blog if you’d like your shot at sitting courtside, virtually.

Boston Celtics – The Celtics have communicated that only season ticket holders, wait list members, corporate and community partners, etc are currently able to get tickets. Your best shot here is to become a season ticket holder asap.

Indiana Pacers – The Pacers have an open sign up so make the jump to get your chance!

Miami Heat – The Heat held an open sign up, but currently say they are sold out. You can still get on their waiting list though if you’d like a chance to cheer for them.

Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies partnered with Michelob Ultra so you can sign up for the raffle for your chance to be a Grizz fan.

Phoenix Suns – The Suns have open sign ups with spots available.

Sacramento Kings – The Kings also partnered with Michelob Ultra so enter the raffle for a chance.

Washington Wizards – The Wizards want to make sure you REALLY want to cheer for them. To win a courtside seat you need to submit a video. Selected video winners will get their virtual fan opportunity.

The rest of the teams in the bubble either haven’t published how to get an opportunity (or I couldn’t find it) or have hid it really well. Good luck and have fun out there!

Quoted Replies in Microsoft Teams Private Chats

As Microsoft Teams continues to gain traction, and I find myself part of more 1:1 and 1:many chats in Teams I frequently see confusion about who is replying to which message in an active chat. This is much more common when the replies are flying at a frantic pace causing messages to lose context.

The Teams mobile app has a built in swipe function to quote a message and reply making it clear where the the reply is joined. Simply swipe right on a specific message and hit the reply button which will quote the message and start the reply dialogue:

Demo of swiping right on a message in the Microsoft Teams mobile app to quote it in your reply

When using the desktop app, though, quoting a reply is not as intuitive. It can still be done, and I use it often. Simply copy the text you’d like to quote, then start a new message with the ‘>’ character. This will initiate a quote box that you can paste the text into before replying.

Demo of using the quote functionality in the Teams desktop app to quote a block of text and reply.

As @TheVarnish made clear to me when I showed him, this isn’t exactly the same functionality that exists in the mobile app. I’ll give you the same advice I gave him 😊…there are plenty of uservoice requests for the functionality, and I would suggest you vote for the feature if it is something you’d like.

Are Blackboard & Microsoft Teams Really “Better Together”?

On March 20th, 2020 educational institutions rejoiced as the eagerly awaited first integrations between the Blackboard LMS and Microsoft Teams was announced.  While I was aware of a group of Blackboard experts working with Microsoft to develop the integration, there had not been much public chatter about a release timeframe.  This leads me to wonder if they decided that it had reached “good enough” status and was sent out the door to help with the current COVID-19 situation taking the world by storm.  In any event, it was a welcome release!

But wait!  Doesn’t Blackboard already have a similar meetings solution, Collaborate?  It does but, not including the additional collaboration functionality in Teams, a couple of key features make Teams stand out.  Both involve accessibility and inclusion, live captions and automatic transcription of recordings.  Live captions have been in preview for a little while now and in action so far have performed well.  Additionally the automatic transcription of Teams meeting recordings will save instructors significant time over manually creating one, or paying for some 3rd party app to do the same.

As of the date of this post (3/24/2020), the integration is a simple LTI launch to the Teams meetings service.  There is a lot of possibility for the future, though, as (hopefully) Microsoft can take advantage of the REST connection to add deeper links into the content, calendar, and gradebook within Blackboard.  Blackboard has documented how to complete the LTI integration, and provided instructions for how to create and join meetings from within the application for the instructor and how to join from student experience so there is no need to cover those items.

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The Case Of The Missing Live Captions in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft recently announced the live captions were in preview for Microsoft Teams meetings!  This is a welcome addition for both accessibility and inclusion.  Prior to this capability, some companies still had to rely on paying an outside source to attend meetings and provide a captioning service which does not come cheap.  In testing with a group of people though, I found that not everyone saw the ability to turn captions on.

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Microsoft Teams Quick Tips #6 – Share System Audio

Desktop and application sharing has long been a thing in collaboration systems like OCS, Lync, Skype for Business, and Teams. However, one of the shortcomings has been that sharing a video that has audio, or audio on its own was not optimal. The video did not match up with the audio and the experience was very choppy.

In 2019, however, Microsoft released the ability to incorporate the option to share the audio from the host system via a Teams meeting or sharing session (which is now outdated info). This was a welcome change as it was frequently asked for. Share system audio was something that I frequently show people when doing training sessions. Much to my surprise though, in a recent training session I was unable to find this option. After a bit of poking around, I found that the option had been moved to an inconspicuous location without any notification (at least to my knowledge)…so is life in “the cloud”!

How Do I Share System Audio Now??

Never fear, it is still very easy to share system audio if you can’t find it elsewhere though! There are a couple of things you’ll need to do. Keep in mind that this will share ALL system audio…so if you get dings and whistles from new email alerts, etc those will also come through to the attendees so you may want to go into focus mode or do not disturb ahead of time.

  1. Start a meeting or chat with a person or group
  2. Connect to the audio
  3. Once you’re connected to audio in a Teams meeting or chat, share either your desktop or a specific window that will include the object that you’re wanting to share audio from
  4. Hover at the top of the screen until the presentation toolbar appears.
  5. You’ll see an icon between “Give Control” and “Stop Presenting” that allows you to share the system audio:

That’s it, now you can play your video or audio clip and the attendees will hear it in near real time!

Have a Microsoft Teams quick tip that you think should be included in a future post? Comment below or connect with me on social media!