Updated Guidance for Microsoft 365 EDU Deployment during COVID-19


The Office 365 Education Team is excited to provide Office 365 and Teams for Remote Learning to Education institutions and the students and educators they serve. The unprecedented series of events driven by COVID-19 have generated an accompanying unprecedented explosion in demand for and usage of Office 365 and Teams. Microsoft is committed to help EDU customers and serve many students and educators, as quickly as possible, all over the world. To meet the needs of our customers globally, and ensure we continue to deliver the Teams Remote Learning experience for the entire community of Teams learners, this deployment “roadmap” serves as the supported process by which schools deploy and adopt Teams for Remote Learning. This approach is grounded in three core operational principles:

  • Teacher Choice: Teachers and Educators must be empowered to drive teaching and learning in accordance with their specific and unique needs.

  • Predictable Scale AND Reliability: Global EDU organizations must be empowered to succeed with explicit guidance and best practices that together ensure successful rollouts of Teams for Remote Learning.

  • Teams is a Shared Resource: We collectively share the responsibility to deploy and use Teams while ensuring and preserving the ability for as many other users of Teams to do the same. As with other shared resources during this unprecedented situation, it is our responsibility to act individually in a way that benefits the entire community.

This document is directed primarily at School IT, System Integrators, and others who have operational control of the deployment of Office 365 and Teams. An important “companion” document directed at educators and administrators seeking to understand best teaching/learning practices is important context for this document. For more information, see: Get started with Microsoft Teams for remote learning.

Teams for Remote Learning Deployment Strategy

Applying the operational principles to Office 365 and Teams deployment results in a four phased approach that's outlined in the sections that follow. We understand the starting point will be different for every customer, and in fact many are “brand new” deployments. These phases are written to serve new deployments – and it's expected that customers who are partially through some or all the phases will adapt to their starting point and proceed through them in order.

Large Organizations with more than 200,000 students and faculty should engage with Microsoft through FastTrack or your local Microsoft Account Manager, to ensure an efficient onboarding process and optimized throughput for your deployment.

A summary of each deployment phase follows, more explicit guiding documentation and references are provided as links where appropriate.

Phase 1: Get Educators enabled for Teams first

This phase will enable Educators to log in to Office 365 and start using Teams. This step allows educators to familiarize themselves with and be trained on the product they'll be using to interact with students. Educator familiarization and training – using the variety of resources linked to below - is an essential step to ensuring a smooth deployment. Typically, a few days for faculty to complete this step is adequate, to receive training and familiarize themselves with Teams. Steps in Phase 1 include:

  1. Create All Faculty Accounts in Microsoft Entra ID and assign licenses using School Data Sync, PowerShell, Microsoft Entra Connect, or Group Based Licensing.


Do not enable or modify licenses or service plans for more than 50,000 users per day:

  • If licensing users in SDS or PowerShell, don’t upload CSV files with more than 50 K new users per day.
  • If licensing users in Group Based Licensing, don’t select groups above 50,000 users.
  1. Enable Teams and Configure Teams Policy, guidance here.

  2. Train Educators to use Teams, guidance here and here.

  3. Train School Leaders to use Teams, guidance here and here.

  4. (Optional) Enable your Learning Management System (LMS) for Teams Meeting Integration, guidance here.

Phase 2: Get Students Enabled for Teams

This phase will enable Students to log in to Office 365 and start using Teams. The steps are 1) IT creates Microsoft Entra accounts and distribute credentials to every student, and 2) Students use a web flow to license Office 365 and then start using Teams. Steps in Phase 2 include:

  1. Create all Student accounts in Microsoft Entra. The objective of this step is to enable students with an identity and credentials they can use to log in to O365 and Teams, once they're licensed. You should only create and license student accounts who you intend to use Office 365. This step can be done using a variety of tools – Microsoft Entra Connect, SDS, PowerShell, etc.

  2. License Enablement - Ask students to claim their free A1 Office 365 licenses or apply licenses to students accounts directly. If there are students who don’t require a license (for example, early primary school), don't provision licenses for them. Decision guidance below:

    a. If your organization is less than 200,000 users, apply licenses to students, following the 50,000/day license rate limit.

    b. If your organization is greater than 200,000 users, work with the EDU Onboarding Team to optimize throughput.

  3. Distribute usernames and password to Students so they can sign-in and start using Office 365 and Teams. If you're using auto-claim licensing, you'll also need to include instructions for claiming a license through https://aka.ms/StudentTeamSetup. Typical means to get students their log-in credentials include:

    a. Email Username and Passwords to Parents and Guardians

    b. Create Usernames and Password with user identifiable values and attributes

    c. Print Username and Password combinations, and mail to students

  4. Once logged into Office 365, Students can download the Teams app for their device: PC, Mac, Android, or iOS. URLs for Teams downloads are here.

  5. Train Students how to use Teams, guidance here and here.

Phase 3: Educators Start Creating and Using Class Teams

This phase will enable Faculty and Students to start using Class Teams for Remote Learning. Starting from the Teams app, Educators are empowered to create Teams for each class and add the students in each class. This is the fastest and most flexible way for Educators to use Teams. Steps in Phase 3 include:

  1. Educators should follow the guidance here.

Phase 4 (Optional): Use SDS to “Pre-Provision” Classes into Microsoft Entra ID so Educators can set up their Teams faster

This phase is optional. SDS “pre-provisions” the classes into Microsoft Entra ID for each educator so that they can create the Team more easily if they so choose. SDS stores the class and roster information in the form of an Office 365 Group - and makes it available to the Teams app for each educator to create their teams from. Creating the classes in Microsoft Entra ID requires a Global IT admin within the tenant, and Microsoft will provide free assistance to IT throughout this phase from the EDU Onboarding Team. Once Classes are deployed by IT, Educators will use the Teams app to create teams by picking their classes that they're associated to. Steps in Phase 4 include:

  1. Prepare and Validate data for SDS Sections and Rosters, guidance here. Requires the section.csv, teacherroster.csv, and studentenrollment.csv to be populated.
  2. Admins create Class Groups in Microsoft Entra ID using SDS, guidance here.
  3. Educators create their Class Teams and during setup - add Students by selecting the Class Group created by SDS, guidance here.
  4. Capture lessons learned and share best practices for Phase 5.

Guidance for Large Organizations

If your Organization is large, containing more than 200,000 students and faculty, you should engage with Microsoft through FastTrack or your local Microsoft Account Manager before deploying to Office 365. This section documents several limits, recommendations, and best practices for deploying Large Organizations:

  1. Object Limits:

    a. Every EDU tenant has a “Microsoft Entra Object Limit”.

    b. Objects counted against this limit are users, groups, contacts, and devices.

    c. Attempting to create objects beyond the set limit will fail.

    d. Default Object Limits for Office 365 EDU tenants are 50 K when first created.

    e. Default Object Limits increase automatically to 300,000 once a custom domain is added and EDU Verified.

    f. If you require an Object Limit increase, open an Office 365 ticket and engage with the EDU Onboarding Team.

  2. Free A1 Licenses:

    a. Every EDU tenant newly created receives Free A1 trial licenses.

    b. Once a tenant is EDU verified, the tenant can add 500,000 A1 Faculty licenses and 1M A1 Student licenses, for free. Don't assign licenses at a rate of more than 50,000 per day.

  3. Tenant and User Design:

    a. Tenants shouldn't include more than 1M users. This isn't a hard limit, but large tenants take more time deploy initially, require thorough planning and approvals, and are more challenging to manage day to day administrative tasks due to scale.

    b. Educators and Students should be co-located within the same tenant, for seamless comm/collab within Teams.

    c. If you split tenants because your organization exceeds 1M:

    i. Split users by Geographical Region to reduce the number of tenants to tenant migrations required overtime.

    ii. Adding guests to a tenant counts against the tenant object limit.

    iii. Adding more tenants results in more time for centralized management – each administrative change x number of tenants.

    iv. Plan for tenant to tenant migrations, as educators and students move around.

    v. Engage with the EDU Onboarding Team after creating your tenants but before bulk licensing of users (or as soon as possible after starting to assign licenses) to optimize performance and scaling within the O365 ecosystem. Before you license users, ask Microsoft to spread your tenants across multiple service instances (partitions) within the same geographical region to help optimize your onboarding process.

  4. Timing Considerations:

    a. Plan for time to license users. If you assign licenses to a large number of users all at once, it may take time to process all the users. We recommend limiting your assignments to 50,000 per day per tenant.

    b. Plan for time to train Educators and Students.

    c. Plan for time to distribute user accounts.

    d. MS Graph limits the creation of users, groups, and membership changes to 72,000 per tenant, per hour.

    e. MS Graph performance may be impacted by user driven actions within the tenant.

    f. MS Graph performance may be impacted by other competing IT admin tasks within the tenant.

    g. PowerShell, SDS, AAD Connect, and custom provisioning solution add objects and memberships via MS Graph at different rates.