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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

    Moving to the Cloud saves four schools $20,000 in the first year


    imageThere's no shortage of interesting case studies of schools, colleges and universities moving to the Cloud, to save money and improve the service to students and staff. The one I've just read, of Mendon-Upton Regional School District in Massachusetts (yep, I had to get the spelling checker going!), is interesting because they did the detailed work to identify the cost savings they made. Unlike the big Education departments in the states in Australia, this School District is pretty small - just 4 schools, including one high school. But even so they've saved $20,000 in the first year of switching, and forecast they will save another $10,000 every future year.

    What they did was move their students and staff onto the Live@edu email service, so that they could provide better support for their users - for example, by giving staff access to email on their smartphones. They also encouraged greater collaboration with the use of Office Web Apps and SkyDrive - allowing teachers to easily transfer lesson plans and presentations between home and school, and also for sharing photo and videos with students and other staff.

    Why did they move to the Cloud now? Well, cost pressures were huge, and as Joe Leacu, the Director of Technology, said:

      With the savings enabled by our move to Live@edu, we are able to preserve other IT initiatives that had been considered for cancellation….  

    Learn MoreRead the full Mendon-Upton Live@edu case study

  • Education

    How many Australian students have Internet at home?


    Most digital learning resources, and learning management systems, are designed for students to be able to use them at home as well as at school. But does that mean that every student can access them? Well, that depends on their access to the Internet.

    So, how many Australian students have access to the Internet at home?

    Each year the Australian Bureau of Statistics undertakes a national survey of school students, called CensusAtSchool. The results, published in aggregate form, provide a useful insight into the lives of students, and of their use of technology.

    19 out of 20 Australian school students have Internet access at home

    In the 2010 survey, completed by 22,000 students, 94% of Australian school students reported that they had access to the Internet at home (up from 86% in 2006).

    They also asked students what they did with their Internet connection:

    What do Australian students use the Internet for?

    % who do this sometimes

    % who do this often

    Social Networking



    Research for school work



    Emailing friends and family



    Searching/Browsing for information



    Uploading/Downloading (eg music, photos)



    Playing games



    Video sharing sites (eg YouTube)



    Buying/Selling things (eg eBay)



    You can see the full survey, along with breakdowns by State and Year Level, and historical data, on the ABS CensusAtSchool website.

  • Education

    Algonquin College moves 34,000 students to the Cloud in one weekend


    imageWhen you've got 34,000 students on your mail servers, then it's inevitable that you're going to have to make tough decisions on the services you provide to them. Alqonquin College, in Canada, had to limit their student mailboxes to 60Mb of storage, and also limited where and when students could get access to their email. And these kinds of limits didn't sit well in an organisation that was striving to expand its horizons by recruiting more 'virtual' students, as well as those traditional students sitting on campus.

    Those are just a couple of factors that played a part in their decision to move their student email to the Cloud with Live@edu. And as well as improving services for students, they also reduced costs. Robert Gillett, the President of Algonquin College, summed it up when he said:

      We’ve basically found a way to offer superior service to our students while reducing our IT administration costs. That’s hard to beat for a university working within a tight budget.  

    The college’s new service, internally called Live@AC, was deployed in August 2010. The transition of 34,000 existing student email accounts to the new system was completed over a single weekend. “It’s one of the smoothest transitions we’ve ever gone through on any internal or external server,” says Gillett. “It works, and it works well.”

    It's worth reading the full story on our worldwide case studies website, as there are many parallels to Australian Universities and TAFE's, with distance learning courses, highly mobile students, and a mix of full-time and part-time students (Algonquin has 40,000 part-time students in addition to their 19,000 full-time ones).

    Learn MoreRead the full Algonquin College Live@edu case study

  • Education

    Securing your sensitive education data automatically


    This isn't an every day kind of blog article - it's something for data architects, or people who need to think about securing sensitive data - like student performance data or financial information - across a large education organisation.

    There are huge amounts of data being collected in education. A lot of it isn't sensitive, but some of it should only be accessible to some people in the organisation. For example, if you are collecting medical information on students, or addresses of students in specific categories. Education has traditionally had a habit of protecting this information by limiting availability (often by only having it on paper!), but the growth of large collections of data, which can become more sensitive as the database size grows, means that you need to carefully think about the protection and access to the data.

    Our own IT team at Microsoft have exactly the same problem, and use standard classifications to group and protect data that contains financial and personally identifiable information (PII). They've implemented a system that automates much of the work of classification and protection (for example, by automating classification they have reduce the error rate of misclassification from 30% to 3%). The benefits they describe are:

    • Mitigating risks
    • Reducing total cost of ownership
    • Streamline, automated process
    • More granular view of data
    • Faster, more accurate tagging
    • Improved security through persistent protection

    I would bet that almost every significant education institution in Australia has got the same need. You can read the full Microsoft IT case study, about how it was implemented within Microsoft's internal systems, to understand what the team did, and the challenges they faced in doing it.

  • Education

    University of Bologna moves to Live@edu


    University of Bologna logo

    The University of Bologna, is the world's oldest university, operating continuously since 1088. One of Europe's largest universities with 85,000 students, it's also become synonymous with leading change in the Higher Education sector since the creation of the Bologna Process, which is overseeing the harmonisation of academic standards across Europe.

    With such a long tradition and significant influence, it's good to be able to report that they have moved their student email system to Microsoft's Cloud-based Live@edu service. It gives their students access to a improved email service, as well as the additional collaboration features, such as the Office Web Apps - allowing students to work on a single document together, and avoiding the need to email versions between themselves.

    As one student puts it, in the video case study:


    I am able to study and work even when I'm outside university, wherever I am, thanks to new technologies which allow me to study and communicate with professors and friends anywhere


    Learn MoreWatch the University of Bologna Live@edu case study video

  • Education

    Business Intelligence for Universities


    imageCalumo, the people behind the Business Intelligence systems used by a range of universities and TAFEs, have just published more case study details for the users of their system, which allows universities to connect their finance data together, simplify presentation and access for their users, and move from lumbering islands of data to a fully connected view of financial planning right across an institution. This is particularly important for strategic decisions such as student load planning - making sure that the right number of students are recruited onto the right courses - and maximising the student profitability across the institution (which is, strangely, an extraordinarily complex challenge in most universities and TAFEs).

    Calumo's case studies include:

    • The University of New South Wales, saving half a million dollars and 85% of their time
    • Macquarie University, saving $350,000 and two months, whilst also reducing their risk profile
    • The University of Canberra, saving $300,000 whilst increasing their revenue by 6% through effective student load planning
    • William Angliss Institute of TAFE, reducing time for reporting by 40% and increasing their revenue by focusing on key KPI's

    The UNSW example has been so effective that the University has now included the BI system into their Business Intelligence and Decision Support course for 2011

    Learn MoreRead more on the Calumo Education Case Studies page

  • Education

    Microsoft IT Plans for hybrid deployment of Office 365 messaging


    Icons_books_blueAnother good case study from our internal IT team has just been published, as they discuss their journey to the Cloud. One of the things they are managing is the hybrid model of some applications/users moving into the Cloud, whilst others stay on premise.

    In this case study, they talk about the planning and preparation that's needed when you have a mix of users' mailboxes - some in the Cloud in Office 365 and some in Exchange 2010 on-premise. Their activities involved planning for the dependencies, and staging other implementation projects - for Lync Server 2010 and expansion of ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) - in order to prepare for implementation.

    This will be very similar to projects undertaken within education, where it's typical that students email is moved out to the cloud whilst staff email is kept on-premise (although I've seen cases where university and school staff have then asked for their mailboxes to be moved to the Cloud too, as they're jealous of their students' new inbox capacity and ease-of-access from mobile devices).

    Project elements include:

    • Upgrading Line of Business applications (eg CRM systems) to Exchange Server 2010
    • Enhancing ADFS capabilities and support
    • Managing dependencies on Lync Server 2010
    • Creating a new cross-premises support model
    • Evaluating network readiness

    You can read the full case study from our internal IT team here

  • Education

    Students and their devices


    QuoteThere's an interesting quote in ComputerWorld magazine this month, from Professor Adam Shoemaker, Monash University's deputy vice-chancellor of education. He was talking about the idea of rolling technology costs into student fees to address learning inequalities:

      We see students come in on their first year…and they are on three different learning speeds. The ones who come in with a device are on one speed, the ones who have to share one at home are on another, and then there's the ones who have nothing.  

    I think I'll keep this handy - it's both an interesting quote for a presentation, but also a challenging one to think about how learning services are delivered to students - and what the definition of 'a device' might be this year and in the future.

  • Education

    Social Media Bootcamp - B2B Sales & Marketing


    imageIf you're a Microsoft Partner, you are eligible to attend a new course run by our Partner Development Centre for Asia Pacific. The one-day training events are being run over the next three weeks in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and will focus on the role of social media in today's sales and marketing environment.

    Here's the details:

    Social Media Bootcamp for Microsoft Partners

    In the Web 2.0 era, 'Customer 2.0' is informed, socially engaged and totally in control of the conversation - Social Media is fundamentally challenging the way that we market and sell.

    In this 1 day  'bootcamp' your team - of up to 3 individuals from your organisation - will focus on creating a framework for a Social Media strategy to suit your unique business needs. In doing so, you will map Social Media workflows to buyer behaviour and preferences.

    To help ensure the successful implementation of the resulting action plan, each team will receive individual follow up from the instructor after the session.

    In this 1 day action orientated 'bootcamp' each team - of up to 3 individuals from one organisation – will:

    • Focus on creating a framework for a Social Media strategy to suit their unique business needs
    • Map Social Media workflows to their buyer behaviour and preferences
    • Receive follow up from the instructor to support strategy implementation

    Cost: $950 per team of up to 3 people

    Brisbane - Tuesday, 17th of May
    Sydney – Tuesday, 24th of May
    Melbourne – Tuesday, 31st of May

    Having attended these kind of events before (but not this specific one) I'd encourage you use it as an opportunity to get a team across your sales and marketing organisation to attend and think about how they work together to help you react to the changes and opportunities that social media gives you as a business.

  • Education

    Curtin University using Microsoft CRM to connect students to industry


    Globe iconYou have to hand it to Curtin University - they must have a pretty savvy PR team, because they always seem to pop up in industry news sites. Today they've done it again - appearing on the global ZDNet site for their use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online for managing their student engagements. Although there are already plenty of case studies of education users of Microsoft Dynamics, many of them focus on student recruitment and alumni management. The new ZD Net story on Curtin University focuses on Curtin's use of Dynamics CRM  Online to build stronger connections between their students and industry. Specifically, they record and reward students who attend industry events that help them build wider knowledge and connections:


    The idea is that students earn points for attending events where they gain knowledge and make contacts. If they build enough of those points, they can become part of a select group that can attend special events. The ultimate aim is to make students more engaged and "graduate ready".

    …the university decided to use Microsoft's Dynamics CRM online as a backbone to build its own performance portal using .NET, with [Heath] Wilkinson [Director of Business Systems at Curtin] saying that it presented a lot more flexibility for customisation.

    "We've basically taken the CRM online core relationship management functionality and built our requirements from there," Wilkinson said.


    What is also discussed in the article is the fact that they are using the Cloud-based version of CRM, as it reduces the system administration for the university, and increases availability.

    The university worked with CSG, one of our education partners, to customise the CRM system to meet their exact needs (something that builds on their education experience built within projects like the child safety project in WA and  the NT Department of Education and Training.

    Learn MoreRead the full Curtin University story on the ZD Net website

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