SharePoint Online Site owner training

Learning-Collect“There’s plenty of SharePoint Online help, blogs and videos around” I boasted some months ago, when I set off to execute the training plan for the SharePoint Online intranet that we have launched recently.
I expected to “curate” most of the learning materials, and to create only a few.

Our criteria

We set off with a number of company and project criteria:

  • The company’s learning strategy is the 70/20/10 model. This means people learn new skills and knowledge in different ways: 10 % in formal training, 20% in peer-to-peer learning and 70% in their daily work.
  • Learning is based on the 5 moments-of-need model, so we have to make sure the right materials are available at the right moment.
  • We have made some customizations, such as a limited permission set for Site owners (less than Full Control), and a custom display on Promoted Links. We knew beforehand we would have to create materials for those topics.
  • I would focus on learning materials for Site owners.
Our learning principles

Formal learning

The 10% formal training now consists of an e-learning program providing a high-level overview of purpose, concepts and functionalities of the new intranet, including the Critical Skills. (The “how-to-click” details are in the “on-the-job learning materials” which are referred to in the e-learning). It takes between 1 and 1 1/2 hour.

elearning-testI created several modules in PowerPoint, and recorded voice-overs. This means we can replace any module (e.g. Permissions, or Custom Site Templates) easily without having to redo it all. Some inconsistencies are still being fine tuned as I write, new functionality developed, and Microsoft may change some things as well 🙂
I then created a number of test questions with multiple-choice answers, and added a Site Owner agreement (rights & responsibilities) which all trainees have to sign off (using a SharePoint survey).

Our e-learning specialist turned this all into an e-learning programme. It looked very easy but he has obviously done this before 🙂 (He also does freelance work if you are looking for someone!)

This e-learning is mandatory for all existing and new Site owners.
And before you ask how we are going to enforce that: content migration from the old into the new platform is still going on, and a Site owner can not start working in their SharePoint Online site until they have completed the training.

Peer-to-peer learning

The 20% was easy to set up: a Yammer group to ask peers or the intranet support team about all kinds of intranet- and SharePoint Online-related questions.
With the platform being launched recently and the migration of content in full swing, it will be no surprise that this channel is currently very active.

elearningyammerIn the e-learning and in all communications we invite people to share their questions in this Yammer group, and we make it a point to have all questions answered quickly.

For issues, such as things not working as they should, or errors, we have a more formal support channel.

On-the-job learning

The 70% would be the “curated content” I envisaged. I set off enthusiastically in the Microsoft support pages, as well as in many other blogs by people who write for Site owners, such as Let’s Collaborate, SharePointMaven, Sharegate and icansharepoint. Oh, and my own blog of course. My posts are often inspired by “my users” and my daily work.

Well, that was a bit of a disappointment.


As it turns out, the majority of the available information is not 100% applicable to us.

  • Our customized Site owner role made it hard to use anything that has to do with permissions. But also materials that tell you how to customize your site are not appropriate because the new role also has limited design options. So I could not use Gregory Zelfond’s Power User Training, for instance – it starts with creating a site and changing the look.
  • Our custom Promoted Links display needs some extra steps for certain page templates.
  • Many of the materials were not 100% current – with document libraries being managed with Tabs instead of the Modern look-and-feel, for instance. I wanted things to be 100% applicable when we launched – the correct look-and-feel and correct functionalities. The difference between the old and the new platform is too large otherwise.
  • Most of the materials have NOT been written in a “life cycle” format
    1. What it is and when to use it
    2. Create and configure “app”
    3. Add to and configure web part on page
    4. Add item to app
    5. Edit or delete item in app
    6. Modify something in app and/or web part (views)
    7. Delete web part
    8. Delete app
    9. Tips & tricks & troubleshooting
    10. Good practice

So, I have done a lot of writing, and my colleague has made tons of videos to accompany that. I have used Microsoft materials and some of the blogs I mentioned – often as “additional information” or “good practice”.

Final setup

This is the final setup

Next steps

I will continue to adjust my own materials and scout for other good stuff. I hope that over time, people will learn to deal with the ever-changing look-and-feel and not be confused by a video of a document library that has “last years style”. Then we will be able to use more materials created by others.

We are also working on a plan to make sure the Yammer channel keeps being active when everyone will be in the “business as usual” mode again.

I will also have to adjust the e-learning on a regular basis.

It has been quite an interesting project to create all this, but it is strange to be doing that while there are so many materials already available on the internet. It feels as if I am reinventing wheels, which I hate!

Have you created learning materials yourself or have you borrowed with pride?

Multiple choice image courtesy of Becris at


Help!!! My web part has disappeared!

At least once a month someone emails or calls me in a panic.
A web part has suddenly disappeared from the page and they have no clue what has happened or how to add it back to the page.
I usually tell them this first:


And then we start investigating by going to “Edit Page”.

The following things could have happened:

1. Closed.
This is the most common scenario. Someone started to edit the web part and hit Close instead of Modify/Edit Web part.
It appears as if Close is no longer an option in Office365, at least not in my site. A mixed blessing, because I am afraid that it will lead to more “Delete”.
The good news is that the Closed web part is still around, with the same configuration it had when you closed it. Just go to the Closed Web Part Gallery and add it back to the page. It has been nicely recorded here:

Tip: Keep the Closed Web Parts Gallery clean. If you have many web parts it can be quite hard to find the correct one, especially if they are all called Content Editor Web Part 🙂

2. Deleted.
Someone must have hit “Delete” and not seen the warning message. The only solution is to re-add and re-configure the web part. Fortunately, this does not happen too often.

3. Hidden.
This will not happen by accident, but if you have multiple site owners, it can occur.
If you edit your page, you will see all hidden web parts with the text (Hidden) in front of the title, regardless whether you used the title bar or not.
Go to “Layouts” in the web part menu and uncheck the checkbox.

If this box is checked, your web part will be hidden.
If this box is checked, your web part will be hidden.

4. Targeted to an audience that does not include you.
Now this is a foul trick to play on a site owner. The site owner should always see everything in their site, and be aware if web parts are targeted. (Remember when we removed the site owner from a library?)
On the Edit page look for a web part that is not visible on your page and does not have “hidden” in front of the title. Open the web part menu and under “Advanced” look if there is a person or a group mentioned under “Target Audiences” at the very bottom. Change the target audience or add yourself to it.

Where to add the target audience in a web part
This is where you can Target a web part to a certain audience. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the web part under “Advanced”

Tip: Add a * behind the title of any web part that you target, to make sure you remember. (It may also help your co-site owners)

5. Content Query or Content Editor Web Part with no content and no Chrome.
This can happen if you have been linking to content that no longer exists, and you removed the Chrome (title bar).
Check your data sources and determine what has to be done.

6. Minimized web part with no Chrome.
This is possible if you are just displaying the web part content and you (or someone else) hit “minimize” by accident.
In Edit Page mode, restore your web part content and think about your Chrome.

Please note that libraries or lists will always return a message if there is no content in the library/list or filter, even if you have no Chrome and no toolbar.

All this in a flowchart!
I have recently discovered the joy of creating flowcharts. 🙂
And as always, if you have discovered another scenario that leads to a “disappearing web part”, please let me know so I can add it to the list and the flowchart!

Flowchart to determine cause and solution of invisible web parts.
Flowchart to determine cause and solution of invisible web parts.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at