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Office 365 Groups

What is an Office 365 Group

Fundamentally, and Office 365 Group is a collection of people. Anyone with an Office 365 license can create a Group; they become the Owner. As the Owner, they can add or remove Members and promote one or more Members to Owner status (to manage the Group in their place, when/if needed).

When a Group is created, Office 365 provides the members with a set of shared resources and applications. The specific resources and application vary depending on how and where the Group is created. For example, when a Group is created using Outlook (on the web or Outlook 2016 for Windows), it is known as an “Outlook Group.” In this case, Office 365 creates a mailbox (Conversations), calendar, OneNote notebook and SharePoint site, all of which are equally shared by all members of the Group. When created in other locations, Groups may get a different set of tools to work with. See Types of Office 365 Groups below for more details.

In addition to providing the Group with a set of shared tools, the Group itself can be used as a means of giving its members permissions to content in Office 365. For example, files or folders can be shared with that Group; members of the Group can access that content through the Share with us page (under Documents) in their Group SharePoint site. Additionally, the Group itself could be added to a member group in a SharePoint site to give all its members permission to that site. In this case, the Group members would see that site when they go to the SharePoint app in Office 365.

Types of Office 365 Groups

As of now (Spring of 2018), these are the types of Groups that you can create in Office 365 along with where you can create one and the resources are allocated for each (by default).

  Outlook Group Planner Group Microsoft Team
Created in
Outlook on the web or
OL2016 for Windows
Planner app on the
web
Microsoft Teams app on the
web or the desktop client
Shared Inbox
Shared Calendar
Shared Notebook
SharePoint Site
Planner
Microsoft Teams    

As you can see, Outlook and Planner Groups are basically the same, and a Microsoft Team is really an Outlook or Planner Group with the addition of access to the Microsoft Teams application. See our Microsoft Teams page for more information on that application.

Where or when should you use an Office 365 Group?

The most powerful and useful aspect of Office 365 Groups is that they allow you to create and manage a set of shared and integrated resources for a group of people who need them. The Group’s resources and data live within Drexel’s Office 365 environment and are stored in accordance with University policies.

Groups are also useful as a means of sharing information with specific audiences. For example, if you create an Outlook Group for the Faculty in a department or program and then add them to it, you can send an email to the Group’s email address and it’ll go into a mailbox that each member can access via Outlook. They even have the option of subscribing or following the Group in their inbox, which means that they’ll get a copy of each Group email in their personal Outlook mailbox.

Also, as briefly described earlier, Office 365 Groups can be used to grant members permissions to SharePoint sites other than their own, private site. So, if you create a “<Department> Intranet,” and have Groups created for <Department> Faculty, <Department> Admin Staff, <Department> Coops/Work Study Students, etc., you can add those Groups to the Members or Visitors group in your Intranet site. This allows you to “crowdsource” permissions management of your Intranet by designating specific members of each Group as Owners so they can directly add or remove Members.

Want to learn more about Office 365 Groups?

Groups in Office 365 – like most everything in Office 365 – are constantly evolving, so the information on this page is kept somewhat generic and relevant regardless of where Microsoft goes with Groups in the future.

If you want the most up-to-date information on Office 365 Groups, we suggest visiting Microsoft’s Learn about Office 365 Groups page or the Office Blog.

If you have questions about using Office 365 Groups here at Drexel, you can also email ITG@drexel.edu.