✨Tutorial: Microsoft 365 Copilot for Answering Students and Creating Slides

Answer emailed questions addressed by your syllabus, catch students up, and create lecture slides.

[image created with Dall-E 3 via ChatGPT Plus]

Welcome to AutomatED: the newsletter on how to teach better with tech.

Each week, I share what I have learned — and am learning — about AI and tech in the university classroom. What works, what doesn't, and why.

In this fortnight’s Premium edition, I explain how to use Microsoft 365 Copilot to save time with common professorial tasks in Outlook and PowerPoint.

🖼️ The Big Picture

We all spend more time than we would like responding to student emails. And we all have all been there, late at night, trying to get our doggone slides to look right…

Today, I explain how to complete three central professorial tasks with Microsoft 365’s Copilot:

  1. draft emails with Outlook that answer student questions that your syllabus addresses (without simply replying with “Read the syllabus!”);

  2. use Outlook to automatically catch up students on classes they have missed; and

  3. quickly create lecture slides with PowerPoint from slide notes or class readings.

(Before I get any farther: if you have no clue what Microsoft 365 Copilot is or how to get it, scroll to the bottom of this piece or click here.)

I picked these three tasks because most of us engage in them every week and they are similar to many others that we complete regularly. However, there are other reasons, including: Copilot’s functionality is not especially useful in Word at the moment (given the power of ChatGPT and Bard/Gemini for drafting), Excel is its own beast that deserves its own treatment, and I am going to write a dedicated Premium piece on Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet.

Also, note that I will be showing how to complete these three tasks with the in-app functionality of Copilot, not via custom Copilots with Copilot Studio (that guide will come later, too).

In writing this piece, I confirmed my prior impressions that Microsoft 365 Copilot is in its early infancy and yet it is already powerful. I suspect that by the end of 2024, it will be capable of completing most standard professorial tasks, without as much need for Microsoft users to reach outside the ecosystem.

Let’s dive in!

🤔 Answer Student Questions
Addressed by the Syllabus

Every professor gets countless emails each semester from students who ask questions that their syllabus already addresses.

On the one hand, our students cannot be blamed too much, given how long modern syllabi tend to be, with the dozen or so pages of college/university policies (not to mention our own policies, like those covering AI use). And many of our students have a lot on their plates, both academically and otherwise.

On the other hand, it is very frustrating for students to expect for us to prioritize their time over ours. It is tempting to simply email back “Read the syllabus!” — a response that one of my old professors used to deliver with pleasure.

Fortunately, Copilot solves this problem, potentially saving each professor several minutes for every such student email. Students get the information they need while professors don’t lose the time they can’t spare.

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