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May, 2011 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

May, 2011

  • Education

    What the future holds - The Horizon Report 2011 Schools Edition


    Horizon Report front coverAfter the publication of the Horizon report in March, the new 2011 Schools Edition (or 'K-12 Edition' as it's really called, as it originates in the US) has just been published, and provides a really useful insight into emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research or creative expression. The report is produced by three respected organisations - the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) - and the advisory panel that contributes to the report is global, so the research isn't just covering a north American perspective -

    The Horizon Report

    The Key Trends, Critical Challenges and Technologies to Watch identified in this year's report make interesting reading, and there's plenty of detail in the report for more information:

    Key Trends

    The report identifies a series of key trends, from interviews, articles, papers and new research - and these are then used to analyse the future changes. You can see the commentary behind each of the these key trends in the report, but the headlines alone tell a key story:

    • The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
    • As IT support becomes more and more decentralised, the technologies we use are  increasingly based not on school servers, but in the cloud.
    • Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
    • People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.
    • The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.

    The message from this list is that change is constant - and we cannot expect change to be rolled back - even if we haven't yet adapted to them. We'll need to react to the increasingly anytime-anywhere learning model - because students are moving there (as are employees) whether or not the institution allows for it.

    Critical Challenges

    The report then goes on to identify the challenges that schools face, and are prioritised in their impact on teaching and learning:

    • Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
    • Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of schools
    • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
    • A key challenge is the fundamental structure of the K-12 education establishment — aka “the system.”
    • Many activities related to learning and education take place outside the walls of the classroom and thus are not part of our learning metrics

    What this says to me is that there is a growing tension between 'systems' and 'people' - and that the old rules that kept users locked into a system aren't in play anymore. We're seeing this regularly in higher education, where the learners and the teachers are exploiting technology to get around the 'system rules' - and there are plenty of examples of this in schools too (eg look at the use of Twitter by teachers to create their own Personal Learning Networks, replacing structured professional development courses)

    Technologies to watch

    The crystal-ball gazing ends with a look at the technology changes that the report sees as 'ones to watch' in the near future. It's interesting that education, criticised by some as slow to change, is one of the earliest adopters of Cloud Computing - and that it's sitting in the 'near-term horizon' category, as impacting all schools - and that Learning Analytics and Personal Learning Environments are seen as 'far-term horizon' - although there has been plenty of discussion about both of these for many years.

    On the near-term horizon - within the next 12 months

    • Cloud Computing
    • Mobiles

    On the second adoption horizon - within two to three years

    • Game-based learning
    • Open content

    On the far-term horizon - within four to five years

    • Learning analytics
    • Personal learning environments (PLEs)

    Learn MoreDownload the Horizon Report 2011 for Schools (PDF)

  • Education

    Authorised Education Reseller programme webcast - 9th June


    AER logoHere in Australia, our main education subscription licensing scheme is EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions), and to be able to sell this scheme to their customers, partners must be Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers (AER).

    If you are a Microsoft partner, then there is a webcast on Thursday 9th June at 2-3pm EST (that's Australia EST, not middle-of-the-night-US-EST) to provide more information on how to license your customers using the academic licensing scheme. We'll also be talking about our incentive programme for partners, and what resources are available to help partners reach their education customers.

    The webinar will have three presenters - Mark Caldwell and Wendy Smith from Microsoft Australia, and Kim Rubbo, the Academic Area Lead from our regional headquarters in Singapore. The subjects covered will include:

    • What's the opportunity in Education?
    • How & why to sell Open Value for Education Solutions (a derivative of EES), the new licensing program available for AERs only
    • Earn rewards with the EEScore Incentive campaign

    If you are a Microsoft partner in education, I'd recommend that you attend this webcast to find out all you need to know, and where to find the key resources you need to support your education licensing sales.

    If you're an education customer rather than a Microsoft Partner, then pop over to our main Australian Education website to find out more about EES.

  • Education

    Is Glow the world's largest education SharePoint?


    imageAlmost at the other end of the world (well, for those of us in Australia), there's a massive SharePoint in education project providing a learning environment for students and teachers in Scotland. 80% of Scotland's 70,000 teachers are using the system, with a total of 425,000 users. The project is called Glow, and is run as a nationwide project funded by the Scottish Government through Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS).

    Less than four years on, Glow has just celebrated the 20 millionth login - a pretty staggering story of long-term growth and development. (Probably also staggering for the unsuspecting primary school pupil who's in line for RM's goodie bag!)

    The project started with the design and build of the Glow system in 2005, when RM won the tender to provide a national learning intranet for all primary and secondary schools in Scotland. Two years later, the system went live, and has since attracted worldwide recognition. The George Lucas Foundation honoured LTS with the Global Six award and presented Glow to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as an example of exemplary use of IT in education.

    At the time these kind of big systems are launched, there's always a lot of fanfare and triumphal celebration. But even more important is the result a few years down the road, when the attention has moved on to newer projects, and the students are the ones who are seeing it every day. 20,000,000 logins show that good things are still happening five years on.

    It's one of the largest SharePoint projects anywhere in the world - and certainly the largest one involving a SharePoint learning management system, so it is a great case study for mass student engagement.

    Learn MoreThere are some great ideas for classroom projects in the Glow Cookbooks

  • Education

    Calumo Business Intelligence for Universities


    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote briefly about the universities who were using the Calumo Business Intelligence systems to improve their financial planning and modelling. In it, I quoted the Calumo figures for estimated cost savings for the universities - between $300,000 and $500,000 each.

    Calumo logoCalumo work across lots of different markets, including finance and banking, but have a specialist for education, Mike Henegan. He's written more about the specifics of the cost and time savings that each of the three universities mentioned is making:

    The Business Intelligence implementation at the University of NSW has added a simple budget interface, that links their finance and HR systems into a single set of information for the individual users. A typical example of time and effort savings is in the production of consolidated research reporting. Research heads used to have to download individual research projects into Microsoft Excel, then perform a consolidation to be able to compare against budget. The Calumo system now automates this process so each researcher selects their search and range criteria - and one button press reduces 3-4 hours of work to just 45 seconds. With about 100 research heads saving 3 hours a month each, it's a big benefit

    The Macquarie University Business Intelligence project went out to tender, which Calumo won. They implemented a system to link financial and HR information, and 400 people use it daily. And from that, they extended to use it for their annual budget process, and regular re-forecasting processes. The key was that individual faculty teams could use their own financial models, and feed all of the data into the central finance team (reducing the need for off-system spreadsheets).

    At the University of Canberra, business intelligence was first used for management reporting, budgeting and forecasting - and then extended to build a model for Student Load Planning (of the most critical, and difficult to manage elements of university financial life). That gave them better transparency in the planning process, whilst continuing to give the individual Deans direct input to the model. The result is stronger growth in student numbers, and they are already beating the 2013 targets set out in their 2008 strategic plan.

    Learn MoreRead the related 'Education' articles on the Calumo blog

  • Education

    June - Partner webinar for cloud and hosting partners


    Webinar iconThe specialist team who focus on our cloud and hosting partners hold a monthly webinar partner briefing, designed to keep you up to date with announcements, strategies and business implications of what's happening as your customers' mindset continues to become more cloud focused. And this covers the landscape of private cloud as well as the public cloud.

    Next month's topic focus, for the webinar on the 8th June 2011, is 'Enabling Private Cloud', and will also include two promising elements in addition - a SPLA Licensing Update and “30 days in 30 seconds” (covering recent product releases, launches and events).

    If you are actively working with, or planning to work with, customers on solutions that include hosted services, in either private or public data centres, then you should see if you can join the June webinar, and the future series. The kind of cloud/hosting scenarios in education that partners might come across are things like hosting applications such as learning management systems, or portals, on shared servers.

    The next webinar is at 1pm AEST on 8th June. To join in, download this Calendar file, and drop it into your calendar - no pre-registration is required. Alternatively, just click on this link on the 8th June.

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia's Education Partner of the Year Award for 2011


    Have you been doing good work with education customers, using Microsoft technology, this year? Would you like to win a Microsoft Australia Partner Award? Well, you've got to be in it to win it - and the submission period has just opened, with the closing date of 10th June 2011. There are 21 categories to enter - but, as far as I'm concerned there's only one that matters Winking smile - the Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year Award.


    In the words of the awards scheme:

      The Education Partner of the Year Award recognises partners who have exhibited excellence in providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to Education customers. Successful entrants for this Award will demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, as well as consistent, high-quality, predictable service or solutions to Education customers. Successful entrants will also demonstrate business leadership and success through strong growth in new customer additions and revenue, at the same time as leading customers into the future models of IT use in education…  

    If you win, you'll get the smashing glass trophy (see what I did there?), press releases, logos for your marketing, and be featured across our communications, including our Partner Portal and the Microsoft Education site. The winners will be announced during the Opening Keynote at this year's Australia Partner Conference at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre on the 23rd-25th August, and we'll then be featuring their case study during our Education sessions on the morning of the 25th.

    There's some detailed guidance to help you write an entry that gives you most chance of winning - you'll find that here - and I'llshare with you my top tip for entering:

    The best entries, which work for our partners year after year, are those which tell a strong story of the way that a customer has been able to change their way of doing things, thanks to your help. The technology side of the entry is important, but to be successful you need to ensure that you describe the story of success for a customer. By telling a memorable story, you can also help the education team at Microsoft to tell your story to other customers – amplifying your success.

    The other top tip is to get started on your entry. I'm not going to forget the deadline, as the 10th June is my birthday. But it means you've only got a couple of weeks to enter.

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards - and all of the award categories

  • Education

    Five ways Microsoft OneNote can help students with dyslexia stay organised


    There was a time when students with special needs faced a choice (made for them by their school!) of either using a standard computer, and struggling, or spending large amounts on specific special needs software. These days, accessibility has been built into so many areas of standard software (eg all of the accessibility in Windows 7) that much, much better support is provided for students with special needs.

    imageOne of the unsung heroes of helping students with special needs is OneNote (part of Office 2010) which allows you to use so many different types of media, it readily provides ways for students to take notes, collate information, and store information, in audio, video, image and conventional note format. For example, for students with dyslexia, OneNote has many features that can help students take notes faster and in different ways, stay organised, and meet literacy challenges, such as spelling and grammar.

    Here are five ways that OneNote can help students with dyslexia take better notes:

    1. Take notes faster
    2. Record audio and video notes
    3. Use visual cues to help you organise and remember information
    4. Use outlines and templates
    5. Use the spellchecker, dictionaries, and thesaurus

    Learn MoreYou can see the full detail, and the specific notes on how to use these features, on the main Microsoft education site, along with a short video demonstration of the features.

  • Education

    One third of colleges considering changing their Learning Management System


    imageReading the Distance Education Survey 2010 (from the Instructional Technology Council) is fascinating. Although the report is only based American community colleges, I think there are lots of parallels to TAFEs here in Australia. First, before I dive into the information on colleges changing Learning Management Systems (LMS), some of key contexts:

    • Enrolment in online courses in the US community colleges, is growing faster than enrolment overall (9% v 7/8%)
    • Having run out of on-campus teaching capacity, 40% of colleges use off-campus instructors to teach online courses. Many of them don't live in the area of the college
    • 65% offer some classes as completely online courses
    • The proportion of colleges offering blended-learning courses increased by 50% last year, to 21%
    • 4% offer live interactive video courses

    All of which means that the mode of learning is changing (quite rapidly), and presumably colleges are becoming increasingly reliant on their Learning Management Systems to deliver online and blended courses. So LMS goes up the priority list for mission-critical IT for a college or university.

    One third of US colleges considering changing their LMS

    Which makes it odd that a third of colleges say that they are considering switching their LMS platform in the next few years - and that proportion has been roughly similar for all of the past five years. Because if it's mission critical, surely you wouldn't expect to see such massive change being considered so consistently?

    On Page 10 of the report, there's more detail about the key LMS systems being used by colleges in the US:

    Table 1, Page 10, LMS Usage

    • Blackboard - their combined products make up almost half the market, because Blackboard, WebCT & Angel are now all owned by Blackboard
    • Moodle - with a fairly static 10% of the market
    • Desire2Learn - with a growing 7%

    I think the change we're seeing in the chart is a reflection of the way that teaching style is evolving in tertiary education, and the changes in blended/online courses that are going to impact upon the way that learners learn and teachers teach - and the systems that are needed to support that.

    Why do you think that so many institutions would consistently say that they are considering changing their underlying learning management system?

  • Education

    The Top 10 Education blog posts


    I've been writing this Education Blog for the last four months - since February 2011 - and so I thought it would be a good point to look back over what's been said, and find out what's useful/popular.

    In total, there have been over 125,000 readers of the 112 education blog posts that I've written. And it's probably not a surprise to see that some are more popular than others! Just in case you missed some of the popular ones, here's the Top 10 by readership:

    Top 10 Education blog posts

    1. Something for the weekend - free eBooks from Microsoft Press
    2. Windows 7 SP1 Releases
    3. Business Intelligence for Universities
    4. Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience
    5. One in six schools block Wikipedia
    6. How to deploy Windows 7 to 200,000 computers
    7. Ready-made IT user documentation
    8. Calumo user group - an insight into Business Intelligence
    9. The Lower Cost Cloud - Part Three (or should that be Part Free)
    10. Kinect, augmented reality, and education

    Why are these the top education blog posts?

    It's not always possible to know why some blog posts attract more attention than others - and if I did, I could write more of them more regularly! But here's some explanations for the Top 5:

    Number 1, on free Microsoft eBooks, went viral on Facebook, and attracted almost 3 times as many readers as the next in the list.

    Number 2, happened to be the top search result on MSDN when Windows 7 SP1 released.

    Number 3, on Business Intelligence for universities, is only 6 days old today, but hit the big time because it was featured on the LinkedIn IT News page.

    Number 4, Moving to the Cloud, got noticed on Twitter, and was unique in that it had a lot of audio interviews of Microsoft's IT team.

    Number 5, about Australian schools blocking Wikipedia, got noticed on Wikipedia's discussion pages and generated some debate.

    And looking at the most popular types of blog posts, it's the education case studies which come out on top - with about half of total readership (my inference from that - you like to hear stories about what other people are doing in the real world).

    I wanted to share this info with you, in case you too are interested in starting/growing an education ICT blog for Australia.

  • Education

    Learning Management Systems - Desire2Learn


    There's plenty of change happening with Learning Management Systems at the moment in Australia. Some universities are faced with migrating from WebCT, and others are working out their future strategy to support a much more dynamic learning environment than their current existing learning management system can support. A fortnight ago I wrote a series of blog posts about all of the integration points between Moodle and Microsoft technology, so now I'm going to turn my focus to alternatives to Moodle.

    Desire2Learn logo

    One of the alternatives to Moodle is Desire2Learn, a cloud-based learning suite with over 5 million users, across 500 institutions, including a growing band of Australian universities and schools. In Australia*, Deakin University have chosen Desire2Learn's Learning Suite to replace their existing Blackboard system.

    When they made the choice for Desire2Learn, part of the reason was the Deakin team felt they needed something that went well beyond simply replacing an existing Learning Management System (LMS), but created a genuine virtual learning environment, that would support their future growth. As Deakin's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Philip Clarke said at the time:

      At Deakin we place great emphasis on our flexible learning programs and with over 30% of our students studying from home, work, regional or remote areas, we needed a solution partner who can deliver a smooth and rapid transition, with little or no 'culture shock' for academic staff and students.  

    The Desire2Learn system comprises a series of 6 key platforms:

    • Desire2Learn Learning Environment - which enables you to develop and deliver content, manage collaboration and manage course workflow.This also provides capabilities for data import and export - one of the key benefits from a content point of view is that course materials can be transferred to and from other learning management systems (If you're using a different LMS, that's an important consideration, and one of the first questions you learn to ask any potential supplier - Can I bring my data with me? And if I want move away in the future, can I export my data?).

        • Desire2Learn Learning Repository - allowing you to store, search and share a library of learning resources, including course materials, assessments, quizzes and lesson plans. The search system can also be linked to other learning resources - for example your library system - to bring together all of the resources that you have available for your students and staff.

            • Desire2Learn ePortfolio - allowing students to create their own online portfolio, integrating features of social networking to create a more social learning experience, as well as track progress.

                • Desire2Learn Analytics - from simple every day reports on usage and experiences, and also allowing staff to create their own reports to uncover hidden information such as how students are performing in their courses, and highlighting learning opportunities.

                    • Desire2Learn Mobile - providing access to courses and learning resources through student's own smartphones, as well as managing news and information feeds.

                        • Desire2Learn Capture - a new solution, which allows you to automate the process of capturing lectures and tutorials on video, and make them available to students on their computer, phone or over the web.

                        Underneath the Desire2Learn system, the whole solution runs on the Microsoft SQL Server 2008, as a hosted service. In the middle of last year they announced integration with the Live@edu service, so that students can access their email inbox directly within the Desire2Learn portal. It will also integrate to SharePoint, so that students and staff can use the process and document management capabilities of SharePoint in your own institution, as well as to their Cloud services.

                        Learn MoreLearn more about Desire2Learn

                        * This list of Desire2Learn University customers shows the large number of international users already using the system - some with over 200,000 users

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