Supporting teaching and learning in SharePoint and SharePoint Online With Salamander SharePoint


How does Salamander SharePoint support and improve teaching and learning?

· Increases efficiency for teachers and students

o Creates consistent site structures designed for tagging and finding resources

o Teachers can quickly open student OneNote notebooks for each class

o Pre-creates secure teacher notebooks for each class and subject

o Teachers can quickly assign work for students to complete

· Supports student autonomy and the ability to work almost anywhere

o Students use OneNote to take notes and review them on almost any device

o Students complete work within OneNote

· Encourages project-based learning and peer collaboration

o Students create entire projects within OneNote notebooks and wikis

o Students work together on Office documents, OneNote notebooks wikis, blogs and discussions

· Promotes personalised learning though guided choices and target setting

o Students use their personal OneNote to set targets and track progress

o Students reflect on work as they upload it to their drop box

What does Salamander SharePoint do?

Manage class sites for each class or registration group in the MIS.

· Based on a custom class template which we work with you to design

· Permissions are applied automatically at different levels e.g. student access to a discussion board or a ‘hidden’ document library for staff only

· Secure drop boxes for each student in each class

· Secure OneNote notebooks for each student in each class. Based on custom templates

· Synchronise class timetables into class site calendars

OneNote for note-taking and collaboration

· Students take all their class notes through OneNote

· Notebooks sync up rapidly between multiple devices – take notes in school, tidy them up on the bus home

· Capture videos or sound recordings in real-time – homework doesn’t have to be written

· Students and teachers work together in real-time using shared class notebooks

· Teachers open a student notebook and see changes made a few seconds before.

· Teachers can push new sections into each student notebook

· Cross-curricular e-portfolio for all students – drag and drop your best work once a term

· A great place to record Target Setting

Manage subject and course sites based on the MIS.

· For example, an ‘English’ subject site or course sites called ‘English GCSE’ or ‘English Year 10’.

· Permissions are applied automatically based on who teaches or studies the subject.

· Make content more findable using document tagging e.g. Key Stage, Course, or Topic.

· Create each Office document within SharePoint from a custom template; no need to upload from the desktop or USB sticks.

Manage Blogs for each student

· Create a blog for each student in a central area, for each subject, or for each class.

· Permissions are set separately for posts and comments e.g. only the student can post but anyone in their class or year can read/comment

· Blog post categories can be managed centrally

Custom uses

· Populate a staff/student list with MIS columns such as name and tutor group; for use with forms and workflows

· Populate SharePoint groups with specific groupings from the MIS e.g. House, Tutor Groups, Subject Leaders

· Manage permissions in My Site/OneDrive

· Things no-one has thought of yet

Shadow a Salamander School teacher as she visits one of her class sites

Anita Abell logs into her school portal, where she intends to manage one of her class sites. A class site is a place where a teacher can work with their students, and where students can collaborate with each other. If you would like to see for yourself, contact us at and we’ll provide credentials.

1. Let’s go straight to Anita’s Year 7 Science class site and have a look!


As you can see, the structure looks fairly simple. When we work with you to build the templates for a class site, you can include as many or as few features as you need.


2. Explore the Assignments list using the large link on the purple menu. Several views will be available of the assignments you have set.




If you click on the title of an assignment, you will see more details about it. An assignment cam have multiple attachments and a link to a resource elsewhere e.g. a subject site or an external website.


3. Let’s create a new assignment! Click on Assignments on the Quick Launch on the left, then click on New Announcement.


Fill in the form which appears. Only the Title and the dates are mandatory. The Start Date and Due Date define the start and end points for the Timeline view. To save teachers time we usually default those to today’s date and to two weeks’ time, respectively.


The Assignment Location tells students where they should actually do the work. This will usually be in the Student Dropbox where students can create Microsoft Office documents on most modern devices using Office Online. Another online location for students to store their work is in their student notebook for that class. Please select Student Drop Box for now.

If you have a suitable resource to attach, and/or a hyperlink to include as a resource then please attach those. Finally, save the form. You will see your new assignment appear in the assignments list for this class.



4. Next, let’s have a look at a Student Drop Box. This is one of the places where a student can put the work they are doing in response to an assignment. Click on the Student Drop Box link on the large purple menu.

You will see a folder for each student in Anita’s class. Only the student themselves and any class teachers can see their work.


Alexis Affleck has some work in her folder; click into it to have a look. Notice that Alexis has associated each of her documents with an assignment.


Click on one of Alexis’ documents to open it in Office Online. Feel free to edit/correct Alexis’ document, or to add comments for her to read.



When you want to stop editing the document, just click on the name of the class (Science 7D/Sc) to return to SharePoint. There’s no need to save your document when using Office Online.


5. OneNote is a great place for students to take notes, do classwork or homework, and set targets for themselves. Let’s have a look at how notebooks are used in class sites. Click on Student Notes on the large purple menu.

Each student has a secure OneNote notebook inside each class site. This gives students a consistent place to take notes, which the class teacher can view at any time. Another advantage of OneNote is that content can be synchronised with multiple devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones.


Open up Alexis’ notebook and explore how she has been taking notes. When you have finished, click on the name of the SharePoint site (Science 7D/Sc) to return to it.



6. The Collaborate library is designed for students to work together in small groups on mini-projects. They can either co-author documents in real-time using Office Online or take it in turns to work on a document. Click on Collaboration on the large purple menu to see how students might work together to create a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document.

In this example, a group of three students has been working together to create a PowerPoint presentation about Photosynthesis. Additional columns allow the students/teacher to record who participated in the work and what each of them did. There is also an option for (other) students to rate a given document out of five stars.


Shadow a student as she explores a class site

A student’s experience of a class site is similar to what we have seen for our teacher, Anita Abell. But whereas Anita is able to see Student Drop Boxes and OneNote notebooks for multiple students, a student such as Alexis can only see their own. The other difference is that a student will have rights to read most content in a class site (e.g. announcements, links, and calendars) but they will generally not be able to contribute to them; the Collaborate library and Discussion Boards are exceptions to this.

In this section, you are invited to log on as Alexis Affleck and explore the student experience.

1. Please log in as Alexis Affleck to the same address as before. You may need to sign out completely and close your browser down to ensure that Anita Abell is fully logged out.

If you would like to see for yourself, contact us at and we’ll provide credentials.

Go to the Student Drop Box and click down into Alexis’ folder.

Click on the New button to bring up a menu offering a choice of Office documents to create. Please choose a Word document the first time round, but feel free to create other types of document afterwards.


Your new document will open in Office Online. Add some content to it then return to SharePoint by clicking on the name of the site (Science 7D/Sc).

The document you just created will be called something like ‘Document’, as Office Online needs a working title. The next step is to edit the properties of your new document and give it a proper name. To do this, click on the ellipsis (…) next to the document and a popup preview menu will appear. Then click on another ellipsis to bring up a context menu and select Edit Properties. You only have to do this a few times before it starts to feel familiar!


Rename the document to something appropriate. Also select an assignment to associate with your work. Then save the form.


2. Got to Student Notes and click on the notebook for Alexis Affleck.

Please feel free to try out OneNote if you haven’t used it before, adding pages and sections to convert Alexis’ notebook into a structure one of your students might use (target setting, etc). If you come up with a design for a standard student notebook for your classes, we can use that as a template for all/some of your class sites.

When you are finished in OneNote, click on the name of the SharePoint site (Science 7D/Sc) to return to it. Or, if you have a device with the OneNote client on it, try opening the notebook in the full client from within Office Online.

If you have a second device available, you could also try logging in as Anita Abell at the same time as Alexis and see how quickly the two copies of the notebook sync up.

Shadow a teacher as she explores a Salamander School subject site

If a class site can be seen as a kind of highly interactive student exercise book, then a subject site might be comparable to a curriculum textbook. Though of course the media and features that we can use in SharePoint are much richer than text and pictures; it can include videos, links to external content and collaborative features such as discussion boards, announcements, surveys, and document co-authoring. In Salamander School, a subject site is predominantly a place where resources and links can be created, stored, found and viewed.


Two things stand out about the use of SharePoint to manage resources compared to file shares:

I. Resources can be created inside the Resources library itself, avoiding the possibility of multiple competing documents being emailed around or stored on network drives.

II. When resources are tagged appropriately, they become easier to find. Navigation based on views and search, driven by metadata (tags), can be more efficient than drilling down through multiple levels of folders.


1. Go to the Science subject site below and log in as Anita Abell.

Click on Resources on the large purple menu. Use the New button to bring up a menu of Office documents to create. Please choose the Word Resource template to begin with.


Because this is a subject site, we are using a custom document template with metadata tagging built in. Consequently, SharePoint will open this document in the full Word client rather than in Office Online, in order to benefit from the metadata.

Once Microsoft Word opens, you will see that it has a header area asking you to tag the document. These tags will be passed through to SharePoint for use in views and search. Crucially, any metadata saved with a document in this way will always stay with that document; even if it is moved, downloaded, or emailed. Please fill in the metadata fields with appropriate values for your school. In this example, the metadata fields are mostly free-text entry (apart from Key Stage, which is a choice). But you could potentially set these fields up to use a term store in order to make tagging quicker (i.e. using autocomplete) and more consistent (e.g. it might guide teachers to enter ‘Mathematics’ rather than ‘Maths’).


Finally, you need to save the document with an appropriate name. Using Save As, click on the current folder. Basically, we need to change the filename but not its location.

Give the new document a filename and save it. You can close or minimise Word now. To view your new document in SharePoint refresh the page in your browser.


Try out the different views in the Resources library (e.g. By Topic, By Key Stage, etc). Practice expanding and collapsing branches to see how easy it would be to find tagged content compared to untagged content in folders.

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SharePoint vNext to include Education Component

Note: This is all based on preliminary documentation and could all change and so the following is pretty much just speculative. The information below is all from publically released sources. It may well be dropped before final release.


Earlier this week, preliminary documentation was released for the next version of SharePoint. One of the really exciting features from our point of view is a new educational component. Buried away in the mass of documentation is a document about the Client Side Object Model access to the educational features.

This functionality seems to have some concepts similar to SharePoint Learning Kit (SLK), but then expands it and obviously it’s built into to SharePoint as a first class component. Whether this is a core part of SharePoint at one of it’s license levels, or an additional product with or without additional licensing costs is unknown at the moment.

As the document I’m working from is about the Client Side Object Model access to the educational features so it’s all a bit of my guess how it all works. It may well all change of course, or even be dropped.

Core Concepts

Reading between the lines it looks like everything is stored in standard SharePoint lists and sites, rather than a separate database like SLK. There seem to be 2 core concepts:

  1. Academic Document: "An education entity that represents any document stored in a SharePoint library for a course. An academic document includes, but is not limited to, lessons, assignments, submissions, events, and grades."
  2. Education Community: "Represents an academic collaboration site (2) for a course. An education community includes, but is not limited to, courses and study groups, and also includes a collection of education entities."

An education entity is anything to do with the education functionality.

My reading of this is that the teacher and learner roles are going to be controlled by access to SharePoint sites, whether this is custom permission roles as in SLK, or some other mechanism linked to the site is unclear.

Then all the artefacts associated with learning are going to be items in lists and/or document libraries. This makes a lot of sense as it makes transitioning to the cloud and Office 365 vNext, much easier. One of the things which stops SLK working in Office 365 is the necessity for an additional database, and one of the ways I could see round that was to rework it to run off lists rather that a DB, which is obviously a huge amount of work.


So, just like SLK, it looks like the groupings are based around sites in SharePoint, where these are defined as Education Community and a sub-type of that called Course.

A Course looks like the type of site you would normally use as it has the associated entities you would expect to teach with such as assignments, lessons, grades, events, documents and more.

The base community site really just has memberships so is probably just used as a building block in the object model to build other types of communities off. Although study groups are mentioned above, that’s the only mention of it I could find. Maybe you would use a base site for storing content for self directed learning.

Finally, an education community can have a status of Planning, Active, InActive or Archived. It looks like the students only get permissions when the status changes to Active, and the site turns read only when changed to InActive.

Archived is an interesting concept for classes/courses from previous years, but there’s no more mention of it.

Notes on Academic Documents


This is a similar concept to an assignment in SLK.

  • You can assign to all members of a community or a subset of them.
  • It has a start and a due date. No clue as to whether the assignment is available after the due date or not.
  • It has a format which is one of None, Document, Quiz and NonDigital. Does this mean that there will be a quiz creation tool built in? My guess is that it does and that packaged content such as SCORM packages will be a document type.
  • The assignment result can be numeric or a grade which are separate objects.
  • There is a property to show if they need submitting or not, which would handle assignments such as read chapter 3 of your book.
  • There is a sequence property which specifies the order in which it is used for content delivery. Presumably this allows you to chain assignments together to create a course delivery structure.
  • Status. An assignment has various statuses it goes through: Unassigned, Assigned, Grading Started, Grading Published. This seems very similar to how SLK handles it, just more explicit. Category.
  • An assignment can have a category. These look to be specific to a community (site) and have a weighting, which must be used in giving an overall grade for the course.
  • CourseMaterials. A collection of documents associated with the assignment. Looks like you can have multiple supporting documents.
  • Events. A collection of associated events.
  • Lesson. The associated lesson for the assignment.
  • AssignedAssignments. The assignations to students.


This represents an assignment as assigned to an individual. The concept and most of the properties are similar to SLK. Differences are:

  • Documents. These are of type PersonalMaterials which are presumably documents personal to the student and no one else can access, except potentially the teadher. Must be a similar concept to the SLK drop box.
  • Submissions. What the student has actually submitted. There’s not much information on what this actually is, but when submitted it becomes read only to both students and teachers.
  • Status. One of Unsubmitted, Submitted or Graded.


This looks fairly self explanatory. It basically has a name, description and sequence. It can have assignments, documents, events, child lessons and a parent lesson.

I imagine that it will be based around a core document, although what format that is and how it displays is anybody’s guess.


Assignments can either be marked as a numerical value or be assigned a grade.This have a name and a score – the score presumably for giving a score across the course. A grade is associated with a course (site). I don’t know if they can be shared across courses.


Represents a scheduled event. I’m not entirely clear what role this plays.

That was a short summary of the core types in the education component. There are many more, but hopefully it’s enough to give us an insight a feel for how the component is going to work.

Package Formats

The object model has methods for importing Common Cartridge packages. The precise text is "Application-layer request to initiate import of a common cartridge or content packaging file". So potentially other formats can be used as well.

The import looks like it will import it into a specific Course (site) and create lessons based on the content, which makes sense to me as that’s basically what Common Cartridge is designed to model.

There is no mention of SCORM in the entire document. However, the object model doesn’t seem to cover actually performing the assignment as such, so any package player would seem to be out of scope of the Client Object Model. I would be highly surprised if SCORM packages were not supported given that it’s the most common assignment format (of packaged formats of course) and the entire US military electronic training runs on them.


This looks like a fantastic addition to SharePoint for educators. First class support for a learning environment built in to SharePoint with features above and beyond what SLK delivers.

I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on it when it’s released to Beta.

However, where does this leave SLK?

Well that all depends on the licensing model. If it’s free in all versions, then SLK will be pointless for anyone on SharePoint vNext. If there’s a cost to it, even if it’s just because it’s in a higher edition to that which you have licensed, then SLK may well continue to be a useful tool, especially if you need to play SCORM packages.

Of course, as the concepts seem to be very similar, there’s a great argument for using SLK now to get used to this type of functionality. After all it’s not going to be available until late 2012 at best, probably more like 2013.

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