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January, 2013 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

January, 2013

  • Education

    What Bill Gates' Saturday Essay made me wonder about university MOOCs


    Bill GatesBill Gates is no longer involved with the day-to-day business of Microsoft (even though my children still think that's who I work for), and instead spends almost his entire time on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global development and health. And last week he wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal, titled "Bill Gates: My Plan to Fix The World's Biggest Problems". The underlying message – that measurement of progress is the critical factor – is clearly spelt out in a number of areas:


    In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal…

    This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.


    You should read the whole essay, as he talks about examples of how measurement is making a difference in education and health around the world (and doesn't avoid sensitive issues, especially in his education examples).

    But the basic message can be boiled down to two things:

    • Set a clear goal
    • Find a measure that will drive progress towards that goal

    What are the clear goals of MOOCs?

    And it left me wondering what the basic message means in the context of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), a big emerging initiative across higher education at the moment, nationally in Australia, and internationally.

    Without doubt MOOCs are measurable – something that can be seen in most of the reporting on MOOCs, where the stories revolve the numbers of student signing up, participating, and actually completing the courses. But the 'clear goal' bit is more of a challenge. Some universities are using it as a marketing mechanism, for example to raise the profile of their university generally, and either increase the desire of people to attend their university, or worse case not reduce their intake (see MIT Tech Review); others see it as a new business model – for example, to expand their business by increasing revenue from assessment and certification of their non-core audience (see this TechCrunch article). But at the same time, the risk of a MOOC is that it devalues the core teaching and learning 'product' that students are buying from a university.

    So if the ideal mechanism is 'set a clear goal' and 'measure progress towards that goal', what are the goals for the university of the current rush to create, promote and enrol students into a MOOC? There doesn't seem to be much written about that in the current MOOC conversation.

  • Education

    Ask the Experts–February Education Webinar for partners


    Every month we run a Microsoft "Ask the Experts" webinar for Microsoft Education Partners in Australia, and following the first one this morning the attendees have voted for next month's to dive deeply into BYOD in schools (BYOD=Bring Your Own Device).

    I've already lined up expert colleagues to join the webinar, and talk about some of the things that they are seeing and hearing, and to explain how you can help advise schools about effective strategies for making BYOD in schools successful. Of course, you can't just airdrop technology, and it's important to understand what the learning outcomes are for a BYOD programme.

    imageAsk the Experts: Education Partner Monthly Webinar

    BYOD in Schools – February 26 2013

    The webinar is from 11:00-11:45AM on Tuesday 26th February, and I'll be hosting it with Sean Tierney and Travis Smith, both of whom have long experience with BYOD programmes in schools. They'll be able to bring specific advice based on projects they have been involved with in the past.

    Make a dateRegister for Ask the Experts: Education partner webinar - 26 Feb 2013

  • Education

    Building an engaging Windows 8 education app for students


    Earlier I wrote about building a Windows 8 education app for teachers, and here's part  two - building an interactive, engaging Windows 8 education app for students. We pick up where I left off earlier – where teachers have assigned an assignment to a group of students.

    Creating an immersive Windows 8 education app – the student experience

    The first thing to know is that the live tiles and notification system of Windows 8 means that students don't need to be running the app to interact with it – so if a teacher assigns work to a student then they'll receive a notification without having to dip into the app (and that notification can contain more than just a 'You have mail…' type of message)

    Sample Windows 8 education app for studentsIn our scenario, Steve the student is working on his Microsoft PowerPoint presentation when he receives a toast notification about a new assignment.
    This is regardless of whether he's running the app, so students don't need to run your app to 'just check' whether there's work waiting for them. You can use toast notifications for reminders, work assignments etc.


    Student assignment screen in the sample Windows 8 education appAs Steve taps the toast notification, the app launches and goes straight to the assignment page. The assignment page lists chapters from a textbook and a web article, along with the members of his group.
    A typical 'snapped view' scenario in Windows 8 education apps

    Steve views the assignment using snapped view and clicks on the web links provided.
    This mode of working is perfect for students, where they can run two apps side by side eg for notetaking.
    And for those students who (think they) can't work without background music, they can keep their music library on-screen at the same time as doing their homework.


    imageSteve views the web site while taking notes in the app in snap view.
    This is especially critical when curriculum resources include e-textbooks, as they'll often need to see their textbook alongside their other materials or the assignment notes.


    Using the Share Charm in Windows 8 education appsAfter reviewing his notes in full screen view, Steve swipes in the Share charm and sends the notes to his group members.
    The Share mechanism works by identifying which apps can share information through the Windows 8 contracts. What this means is that developers don't need to know about all the different ways to share information – the other apps that can share information provide the mechanism to do it. So if somebody invents the new Facebook tomorrow, your users will be able to use the Share charm without you needing to re-write your app.
    What the design ideas above show is that you can create a much more interactive experience for students on a Windows 8 touch device than you might on other tablets – and the app you create would run on any Windows 8 device – whether that's a non-touch laptop, or a Windows slate like Surface, or a home PC. Steve the student has a very different experience when using a Windows 8 education app because of the added interactivity provided through using things like:

    • Snap mode for running multiple apps
    • Toast notifications to draw the student back to the app (and to help teachers to connect with students)
    • Using the Share charm to make it easy for users to share information, without having to recode your software every time there's a new social network/LMS/cloud service

    Where to find out more about developing Windows 8 education apps

    Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas that you want to follow up on, so here's really useful links for you to continue on your journey.

    The first place to go is the Windows Store app development section on MSDN (and specifically this page for the advice on Windows 8 Education apps), and if you prefer your info offline, then download the Windows 8 Product Guide for Developers.

    There's also a clear set of design guidelines for the user experience in "Make great Windows Store apps"

    Learn MoreFinally, take a look at all of the other articles on this blog about developing Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    Building an engaging Windows 8 education app for teachers


    Developing an education app is about designing an experience, before writing code. One way is to talk to teachers and students. Another way is to look at examples, and that's why we created 'App Idea Books' for Windows 8. They cover different areas – games, entertainment, news, productivity, sports, shopping and travel. And, yes, there's even a app idea book for Windows 8 Education apps.

    The app idea book is an overview of design scenarios for a Windows 8 education app for teachers and students.

    The sample Windows 8 Education app I wrote about earlier this month focuses on the technical 'plumbing' of building an integrated cloud-enabled education app. This work focuses on the design elements and interactions of a Windows 8 education app.How to build a teacher app for Windows 8

    Creating an immersive Windows 8 education app – the teacher experience

    In this first blog post, I'm going to look at the app experience for a teacher – how to help them to design and manage an online learning activity, and I'll post a little later today on the app experience for a student. The work uses Microsoft design features to create an engaging and immersive education experience for both teachers and students, which helps to simplify potentially complex processes, and puts teaching interactions at the forefront of the design.

    Draw users into the content of your app

    Beyond simply delivering the process side, you can use the Microsoft design language to easily access media from the file system, and use live tiles to draw users into your app.

    Sample home screen for a Windows 8 education appThe Teacher view gives an overview of the teacher's day, organised by their personal timetable. Selecting another class instantly reveals the relevant content.


    imageThe teacher views all of her current tasks in the assignment overview and selects the Add button from the AppBar to add a new assignment.


    Selecting students in a Windows 8 education appFrom the pannable assignment view she can add details about the assignment, add students and groups, include grading information, and associate resources for the assignment.


    The file picker in a Windows 8 education appThe teacher uses the file picker to add video files to an assignment.

    The file picker is a standard method of selecting files and resources in Windows 8, and means that users get a standard way of interacting with files, whichever application they are using.  


    Windows 8 education app design ideasAfter she has finished creating the assignment, the teacher publishes the assignment to the students.


    Using live tiles to alert studentsThe live tile for the  app receives a pushed update and it can then alert the student about the new assignment. This happens regardless of whether the student is running the app or not, and is one of the key benefits of live tiles.

    What the design ideas above illustrate is that it is possible to have large volumes of interactive content and media on a single screen, and use panning and touch to make it less confusing to the user (and much more attractive than conventional blocks or lists of text information). And the other key design principle it shows is how you'd start to develop the use of live tiles to engage users, and keep workflow going - the benefit of live tiles over conventional software models is that you don't need the software running to know if there are updates (unlike today's calendar or email software, which has to sit running in the background all day, consuming power and using up memory).

    Visit the App Idea Book for Windows 8 on the MSDN site for further links to techniques and resources


    Learn MoreNext: How to design a Windows 8 education app for students

  • Education

    Do the 2013 top CRM trends apply to education institutions too?


    The use of generic CRM systems within higher education is growing rapidly, at the expense of dedicated proprietary systems that are built for a specific task. The reason for this is that the use cases are changing very fast, as higher education goes through a period of rapid expansion and delivery change. In an environment where the intake profile for your students, or the delivery modality, is changing by up to 20% a year, the need for agility comes right to the front of mind. When universities are using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system as a platform upon which to build a student recruitment or student attrition management system, they look for the ability to get projects going quickly, with flexibility for expansion and change in the future.

    But there's a dearth of good recent information and research on the use of a CRM platform for explicit tasks like reducing student attrition, and often the exemplars come from other industries where similar challenges exist. That's one of the reasons why I keep an eye on CRM research from outside of education.

    William Band, ForresterI noticed that William Band of Forrester (William is a Forrester VP and Principal Analyst with a focus on CRM) has shared his view on the top CRM trends for 2013. It was useful for me to look at this through the eyes of an education institution, to see how the trends would relate to using CRM for student retention and student recruitment.

    This isn't going to replace the need to read William's 'Top CRM trends for 2013' blog post on the Forrester site, but here's my take on his key trends and what they mean for universities in Australia (the trend headlines are William's; my thoughts are in italics below each)

    Forrester - The Top CRM trends for 2013


    • Trend 1: Enterprises must navigate digital disruption
      And the things we're seeing in Australia in retail disruption, created by a digital switch, are precursors to what we're going to see in higher education too – and that's clearly at the front of mind for many Vice Chancellors and university leaders.
    • Trend 2: Companies will transform to become experience-driven organizations
      This is absolutely true for Higher Education, where the current debate over the switch to MOOCs and distance learning has focused a lot of thinking on how to deliver a consistent, and brand-enhancing, experience for students even when they don't come to campus (and may never come to campus).
    • Trend 3: Brands turn attention to [Customer Experience] CX design
      As William says "Brands must understand and manage their customer experience ecosystems, which comprise all interaction points across customers’ journeys". In higher education this is a tricky challenge, as the student interactions with a university will take place across hundreds of touch points, and those interactions will be recorded in hundreds of different places. Sometimes that will be in disconnected systems, often it will be on paper. But to design a good customer experience, it will be vital to link those different interactions together to understand the student journey.


    • Trend 4: Untamed processes will get more attention
      This links directly to trend 3, as universities realise that to improve their customer experience, they will need to understand their "untamed customer management processes" (I couldn't help but think about some academic delivery as an example)
    • Trend 5: Agile implementation approaches will scale to the enterprise level
      I have no doubt that agile implementation is the way to go, and most projects I'm seeing involving CRM in education are entirely based upon it. So perhaps in this, higher education is leading the way!


    • Trend 6: Social customer engagement will move into the mainstream
      There's no shortage of people shouting about social engagement with students and prospective students, and what William adds in his analysis are five key questions to ask yourself about the objectives you're trying to achieve.
    • Trend 7: Mobile applications will empower consumers and employees
      This needs no comment – universities are already at the forefront of this – but the deep implication is to plan for a world where the university no longer controls the device, the location or the time that an interaction takes place with their CRM system.
    • Trend 8: Marketing tech will drive customer engagement innovation
      Higher education institutions are slightly behind the curve on this one, compared to other enterprise users, and often it's regarded as a separate area of responsibility. But linking recruitment and retention in the marketing cycle are going to mean linking the marketing processes more closely too – throughout a student's lifecycle.
    • Trend 9: Navigating the customer analytics ecosystem is crucial
      In classic understatement William says "the customer analytics ecosystem is complex and difficult to master", but there's some Forrester research for that Winking smile
    • Trend 10: Organisations will adopt flexible CRM management practices to capitalise on SaaS
      To make this work effectively, innovative approaches are going to have to be undertaken with the business, not within IT. And I'm seeing this in every CRM discussion with universities today, where the cross-functional nature of the team means that we're always having a business-led conversation, and the implementation discussions include cloud, hybrid or on-premise. 


    • Trend 11: Customer experience disciplines will cut costs and boost profits
      In a university this could mean a very different way of managing the student lifecycle, crossing across traditionally siloed disciplines.
    • Trend 12: VOC programs will drive action and demonstrate results
      Apparently 2/3 of organisations with Voice Of the Customer programmes say they are valuable, but 2/3 also say they don't deliver financial results. I really have no idea if there's comparative data for universities? But the underlying message is to ensure that there's a clear connection between listening programmes and student attrition and recruitment metrics – and holistic CRM platforms give you a way of doing this.

    So, to answer the question I asked at the top ("Do the 2013 top CRM trends apply to education institutions too?") I'm pretty sure they do - although the good news is that most Australian universities are ahead of the trend in at least one of these areas, rather than trailing behind.

    Learn MoreRead William Band's full analysis of Top CRM Trends for 2013

  • Education

    You can't just airdrop technology


    A principal recently confessed that he'd ordered a bunch of tablets for a whole year group of his students…and hadn't yet told the teachers. I was reminded about the comment when watching Anthony Salcito (Microsoft's global Vice President for Education) talking at the TEDx event in Paris in November. He described 'air drop technology' where IT is simply dropped into school:


    Anthony's talk, which is only 12 mins, is on YouTube, and sparked off some interesting thoughts and reflections for me:

    And towards the end he makes a very clear point about three pretty important questions that should be present in every discussion:


    But we've got to be rooted in questions:

    • What are we trying to do for our learners?
    • What are we trying to inspire them to achieve in a society?
    • How do we embrace the world of technology in a way that empowers great teaching?

    Learn MoreWatch the video of Anthony Salcito at TEDx PanthéonSorbonne

  • Education

    29th Jan Webinar - Office 365 for education with Microsoft MVP Loryan Strant


    Office 365 for education webinar with Loryan Strant

    As I've mentioned before, Loryan Strant's running weekly Office 365 for education webinars for schools in Australia (Office 365 for education is our free, cloud-based service, that gives you Exchange email, SharePoint collaboration, Lync communications, and the browser-based Office Web apps - Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint). The first one is Tuesday 29th Jan at 10-11AM AEST (Sydney/Melbourne time).

    Loryan's , who runs Paradyne, writes a lot about Office 365 in his role as a Microsoft MVP, and you can see from his 'Top 3 reasons' list I've included below, he's a big fan of Office 365 for education:


    Top 3 reasons schools choose Office 365 for education over Google Apps

    1. With Office 365, educators can improve outcomes, by providing students with resources and tools that reinforce how they learn best.
    Educators can personalise learning with Microsoft’s tools, addressing a variety of learning styles. In fact, learning is interactive and engaging with Office 365. For example, students can use an online whiteboard, unavailable with Google Apps, to share ideas with others.

    One student takes notes in all of her classes and organises her notes, assignments and schedule in a single, digital notebook. Another organises his work in the way that best suits him. When schools choose Google Apps, students take notes with no ability to tag, catalogue or search within them. The school might turn to investigating unsupported, third party tools.

    Not only that, while Google earns poor grades in accessibility for its tools, students can excel when using Microsoft’s accessible technologies in Office 365 for education.


    2. Teachers and students work and learn without boundaries, online and offline, in and outside of the classroom with Office 365.
    Both educators and students are productive when offline. On a class field trip to a history museum, using a SharePoint Workspace while offline, a teacher easily accesses the lesson plan she created earlier, and reviews the history of the period with her students. Returning to school by bus without Web access, the student begins her assignment using Word. However, teachers and students using Google Apps cannot create Google Docs offline, and are unproductive.

    Today, with Office 365 teachers can record lessons and make them available for students to access outside of the classroom when they need to grasp difficult material, catch up on missed work, or reinforce learning in studying for a test. Google provides no capability for students or teachers to make recordings. Once again, schools must investigate unsupported, third party tools.

    3. Office 365 helps teachers prepare students for the workforce, building skills in using familiar Office tools, in ways people work today.
    With Office 365, both teachers and students use familiar, Office tools and the latest technologies. When it comes time for students to enter the workforce they are better-prepared than students using Google Apps. Displaying writing skills using Word and analytical skills using Excel is essential compared to having skills with tools like Google Apps and Google Docs, where needs are negligible in the workplace.

    Today, people work in social groups. Educators use SharePoint in Office 365 to interact with colleagues, collecting ideas and feedback, and students use Office 365’s presence information to locate fellow students online, initiating chats and video chats when working on group projects. Google Apps has nothing close to the capabilities available through Office 365’s Lync Online and SharePoint Online.



    The first webinar is on Tuesday 29th January, but if you can't make that there are plenty of other dates throughout the next few months -  5 February; and 5, 12, 19, 26 March. So you can either get in quick, and join the first webinar before term starts; or finish off your projects, get the first couple of weeks behind you, and then join Feb or during March.

    Make a dateRegister here: Make a date with Loryan for the Office 365 for education webinar for schools

  • Education

    Ask the Experts–Monthly webinar for Microsoft Education Partners in Australia


    We've just announced a new series of Ask The Experts webinars for Microsoft Education partners, and the first one is coming up in two weeks' time, on Tuesday 29th January at 11:00 AM. It's going to be a short-sharp focused 30 minute session, with 15 minutes put aside afterwards for Q&A.

    The aim is to ensure that Education partners can get up-to-date with things happening within the Microsoft Education business, without having to spend hours hunting for information or finding people.

    The official description for the event says:

      This 45-minute monthly live webcast provides an overview of the various sales, marketing, licensing and training resources available to help you sell into the Education Industry.  This is also a forum for discussion, to ask questions/get answers, and generally to find out more information about Education Industry in Australia, and how to position our solutions with your customers.  

    It's the first one of a series, so we're going to stay at a pretty high level overview – we'll leave the detail until next month and beyond. But as I'm one hosting it, I can tell you a bit more about what we're going to cover on the 29th:

    • The key challenge for education worldwide
    • The changing business model of education
    • Australian Education ICT market size and growth
    • Some typical business challenges for education institutions in Australia
    • Key resources for Microsoft Education partners
    • An introduction to members of the Microsoft Education sales team
    • Overview of education licensing options for customers, and how they help partners and customers

    We're still a couple of weeks away, so I've not yet created all the materials, but I've started with the details on Who's Who in the team – and there's some mugshots that need updating!

    Microsoft Australia Education Team

    There will also be plenty of time for questions, and for your feedback on subjects for future 'Ask The Experts' webinars.

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the monthly Education: Ask The Expert series

  • Education

    Update 9–Windows 8 education apps from Australia


    I've written before about Lucas Moffitt, an independent developer who's writing Windows 8 apps to help teachers.  He's turning them out pretty quickly – Australian Teacher Professional Standards Evaluator, Class Seater and Lesson Coder – and he's just had his most ambitious project published in the Windows Store.


    Essay Marker

    Essay Marker is a new way for teachers to create, collect and mark student essays, with Windows 8. Essay marker is built with the quality teaching framework in mind, by enabling the teacher to provide quality customised feedback for each student.

    The software allows teachers to create and share Assessment tasks, and collect & evaluate/mark student assessments. Once you've finished marking, you can see visual representations of your evaluation averages, and then export assessment results in MS Office formats.

    Essay Marker on Windows 8 - screenshot

    Essay Marker radial menuThe screenshot above gives you a good idea of how it works – basically, with a touch device, or a normal mouse and keyboard, you can highlight a bit of text, and the radial menu (right) pops up offering you the ability to comment on grammar or spelling, or make a comment under four categories – negative, positive, general or 'irrelevant'. You select the type of comment, and can then add it.
    Rather than me trying to describe how it works, the best bet would be to watch the Essay Marker overview video that Lucas has created:

    Unlike many of the Windows 8 apps, which assume that you can use it without support, Lucas has made the wise decision to include a Getting Started page on the home screen, which gives you a guide to get going. And the video above is definitely something to watch to understand what the capabilities are.

    As this software is significantly more capable than the smaller apps that Lucas has released so far for Windows 8, there's a new model for paying for it. The basic version is free – and includes advertising within it – and then if you want the advanced features (such as export) then you'll need to pay a small fee (about $5) to buy the upgrade to the full version. I think this is a good way to do it, because it means teachers can get a very clear idea of the software before having to commit money to it! Although other software uses the 'trial' version option from Windows Store, this way is better, as it means you don't just have a couple of weeks to give it a go.

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    Australian case study - Using Lync to replace a PABX, to cut costs and improve productivity


    Although this Australian case study is of a local government customer, rather than an education one, I think that it's relevant because there are so many aspects of a council that match education institutions:

    • Hundreds of staff distributed across multiple sites (in Adelaide City Council's case, 700 staff across 19 different premises)
    • Expensive legacy PABX systems heading towards end of life (and costing huge amounts in maintenance charges)
    • Increasing need to replace travel with remote collaboration and conferencing
    • Need to replace dedicated video conferencing suites with desktop video conferencing
    • Flexible working style requiring anytime, anywhere access to facilities
    • High capacity data network already installed
    • Staff are used to bringing, and using, their own devices too
    • A need to reduce risk to service delivery in and after any change

    Pretty much all of those issues are identical for education institutions.

    Adelaide City Council Lync case study

    Adelaide City Council logoWhat the council have done is replace an ageing conventional telephone system with a Microsoft Lync unified communication system, linking telephone, video and audio conferencing, and their existing email system in Exchange. But it wasn't something that they could rush into. According to David Carroll, the Infrastructure and Operations Team Leader for Adelaide City Council:

      Before we deployed network-based telephony, we had to prove it would be one hundred percent reliable. Second, we had to create a business case that clearly demonstrated value for money. Third, our design had to be adaptable: we had two sites where staff used specialist cordless analogue phones that they did not want to decommission, so our network design had to accommodate them.  

    Many education customers already have Lync licences included within their EES agreements, or can get some of the capabilities within the free Office 365 for education service (although the telephony bit definitely isn't included free!). So the cost of deploying a system similar to Adelaide's won't be prohibitive – and the savings that can be made by switching from a PABX are a big incentive (Adelaide report that their annual phone costs are now a quarter of what they used to be):

      In addition, we have eliminated phone re-routing costs. Now, connections follow staff wherever they are and as a consequence we are a far more flexible organisation.  

    The list of benefits that the council report in the case study are impressive (you'll need to read the case study for the details behind each of these bullet points):

    • Improved productivity
    • Dramatically lower telephony costs
    • Reduced travel and emissions
    • Simplified technical support

    Learn MoreRead the full  Adelaide City Council Lync case study

    (If you want to find Lync partners in Australia, then Microsoft Pinpoint is the easiest way)

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