What to Use? And When? 

A big challenge in completing university work is to identify what tools to use. There are many options available to us at the University of Iowa. Start with access to Microsoft Office, either installed on your device or by logging into Office 365 to access familiar Office tools, via web versions hosted in the cloud. See below for guidance on specific tools from Microsoft, Zoom, and more. 

Microsoft Office is your first stop for office productivity and includes many standards and maybe some new tools to help you become more productive, collaborate in real-time and organize tasks – with client installations on your device of the full-featured applications. Note: Microsoft Office is available at no additional cost to all eligible faculty, staff, and students – and available for installation on up to 5 devices, including computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. How to get Microsoft Office.

Microsoft OneNote is part of Office 365. The desktop client is bundled with Microsoft Office. OneNote is a digital notebook that automatically saves and syncs your notes as you work. Access your notebooks from any devices. Share online notebooks to collaborate. OneNote has a mobile app, a web version, and a client version. Tip:  To search all your notebooks, move to the Search box and press CTRL +E (PC). Also, to send selected pages in an email message, press CTRL+Shift+E (PC). Learn more about OneNote using Microsoft's OneNote training content.

Microsoft Teams is part of Office 365 and is integrated with Outlook, Calendar, OneNote, and OneDrive. Download the Teams desktop client and/or mobile app for full functionality. Working together is easier because all the tools and files you need are in one place, including chat, audio, and video conferencing. Teams brings files, notes, conversations, and tasks together. Note:  Channels are sections bookmarked within a team to keep conversations organized by specific topics. Learn more about Microsoft Teams using Microsoft's Teams training content.

SharePoint Online is a cloud-based service on Office 365 available to colleges, departments, and organizations. It is used for storing, sharing, and managing files, content, knowledge, and applications with both internal and external collaborators. SharePoint provides file storage, secure collaboration, project management, data gathering and reporting – all with a rich set of tools and easy access to files that were typically stored on shared network drives. Note:  Teams and SharePoint are tightly integrated and can work seamlessly together. Learn more about SharePoint Online using Microsoft's SharePoint help page.

Microsoft To Do is part of Office 365 and works with Outlook. To Do helps individuals with organizing tasks into to-do lists and can send reminders. You can get lists anywhere, on any device, and share them with others. To Do has a mobile app and integrates with Teams. Tip:  Set up reminders and due dates for tasks. Learn more about To Do on Microsoft's To Do help page.

Microsoft Planner is part of Office 365 and is useful for teams, as a visual approach to organize teamwork. You can create plans, assign tasks, chat about tasks, and share files. Planner has a mobile app, a web-based app and integrates with Teams. Learn more about Microsoft Planner on Microsoft's Planner help page.

Microsoft Lists is part of Office 365 and allows users to create, share, and track data. You can create lists from scratch or get inspired by templates. No matter where they are stored, you can easily access your recent and favorite lists. A list can include people, links, pictures, dates, and more. Lists can be automated to streamline work and save time. Microsoft Lists can be found as a web app, a desktop app, or added to a SharePoint or a Teams site. Learn more about creating a list using Microsoft's List documentation.

OneDrive for Business is part of Office 365 and is your new home drive in the cloud. With OneDrive, you can store, share (with anyone who has an email address) and sync all your work files. It is secure and reliable. Access is provided nearly anywhere, with virtually any device that has an internet connection. OneDrive for Business has a mobile app, a web-based app, Mac OS/Windows versions, and you can access your OneDrive files easily while working in Teams. Best practice:  When sharing files, share from OneDrive rather than a local copy to avoid multiple versions saved in various locations. Learn more about OneDrive for Business using Microsoft's official OneDrive training.

Video Conferencing 

Microsoft Teams is an ideal video conferencing tool. Talk with colleagues using the chat feature or audio calls; connect with colleagues by meeting on video calls. Consider:  Enabling your camera is encouraged for ultimate engagement, but typically not necessary (and likely “disabled”) for larger meetings. Learn more about Microsoft Teams with official Microsoft Teams training.

Zoom is another option for video conferencing. Zoom easily helps you schedule, host, and attend video conferencing meetings. Zoom is particularly useful for large group meetings and/or if you are inviting people who may not use Teams. Zoom is often used for screen sharing a PowerPoint presentation. Other tips:  Click on “Live Transcript” for transcription options. Add pronouns before joining a session by editing your profile. Learn more about Zoom using the Zoom Learning Center.

Microsoft Whiteboard is designed for hybrid work, particularly visual collaboration. Use Whiteboard to brainstorm and share content in meetings, lectures, or workshops – just tap the Invite button next to your name and fill in the contact information to send an email to the invited user. Find Whiteboard by logging into Office 365.  


Microsoft Teams is ideal for workgroup communication for individual or group chats, including persistent chat (allows you create topic-based discussion rooms that persist over time). Best practices:  Set your status to manage expectations about your availability. Keep messages brief like a real-time conversation. Pin important or frequently used chats to the top of your chat list (hover over a chat, click the 3 dots, select Pin). Learn more about Microsoft Teams with official Microsoft Teams training.

Skype for Business is another option for instant messaging. Note:  While Skype for Business works great for individual and group chats and phone calls, it is not the best choice for video conferencing. 

Qualtrics is an easy-to-use, full-featured, web-based tool for creating and conducting online surveys, available at no charge to you. For further learning, please review this ITS support article on your available Qualtrics training options.

UI campus technology training

Find resources from the University of Iowa campus technology training team on the Learn about technology training hub. UI trainers will teach you about Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and more. From instructor-led workshops and online videos, to quick guides and documentation, the University of Iowa Information Technology Services gets you up to speed so you can get to work. You can also view the main Training and Events page for more information.