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

March, 2013

  • Education

    Building a personalised student portal on Office 365 Education


    The University of West London won the UCISA-Eduserv Award for Excellence for their student portal, which provides a personalised experience for each student with easy access to the university services like their email, blogs, academic documents, library services etc. And it allows students to connect their portal account to their Facebook and Twitter accounts too. It removed the need for students to access multiple websites to get to the university information they need.

    As Professor Kathryn Mitchell, the Deputy Vice Chancellor responsible for the project, says in the case study:


    We did it in terms of ensuring that students didn't have to go through 25 different avenues in order to learn about their course, to learn about the social events going on in the university. I think the importance of the portal in terms of the University of Western London, was that we wanted to do something different in terms of just providing academic information was students. What we wanted to do was to allow individual students to personalise an academic journey


    There's some great screenshots in the video, which give you a good idea of the student experience:

    Learn MoreRead more about Office 365 Education

  • Education

    A simple Windows 8 education apps demo


    Today we had our Microsoft Education Partner Summit in Sydney, and one of the things that I talked about was the great range of Australian Windows 8 education apps that have been created already, and are still appearing on the Windows 8 app store.

    No, this isn't a real page in the Windows 8 Store, but is a list of real Windows 8 education apps developed recently

    One of the things I demonstrated was a very simple journey through a small number of apps, including a few key Australian ones developed for Windows 8. My promise to the audience was that I'd provide a link to those apps and a short summary of how to show them.

    Here's how I arranged my Windows 8 Start screen. Basically, I created a new group called 'Education' right at the beginning of the screen, and then dropped the apps I wanted to demonstrate into it.


    The apps I used were:

    imageApp: Travel
    You will already have this installed on your start screen.

    What to show: This is a simple way to get a 'wow' moment for people within 20 seconds. Load the Travel app, then scroll over to the panoramas. If you've got a Windows 8 device with the gyro activated, all you need to do now is move your device around, and you'll see the picture move with you – so you're instantly in an immersive panorama. Want to see what's behind you? Turn around, and the picture turns with you!

    App: ClickView Viewerimage

    What to show: The majority of schools in Australia already have a ClickView subscription, so the best way to show this is to let your customer login with their account in the app, and they will see their videos and subscriptions etc.
    This app is from the Australian ClickView team in Sydney

    App: nsquared makewordsimage

    What to show: This is a spelling game, and the goal is for students to compete to spell the name of the object in the middle of the screen. The easiest way to show how this works is to put your touch device down flat on the desk and invite the people you are demonstrating to to have a go at spelling words. Give them 30 seconds and you'll easily have examples of competitive and collaborative learning taking place!
    This app is from the Australian nsquared team, also in Sydney

    App: Attendanceimage

    What to show: I created a simple class (using my webcam for the photo) and added some students (I had some dummy student images already, but you might need to get your pen out and draw some, or ask colleagues to dig out their old school photo Smile)
    Then I simply used the 'Take Attendance' button to show how you could take a register, and 'Random Student' to show how you might use it in snapped mode alongside lesson plan.

    App: Lesson Plan Managerimage

    What to show: Although you really need to set this one up with some lesson plans, it's quite easy to setup a simple one, and then demonstrate the 'Deliver' lesson function – where it shows the teacher the lesson plan they were going to work with, alongside timings. If you want to show this app regularly, I'd recommend asking Lucas if he can give you a demo account with dummy lesson plans in it, so that you can show the full potential! 
    This app is from the Australian developer Lucas Moffitt, based in Newcastle


    Click on any of the above links on a Windows 8 device to install them from the Windows Store.

  • Education

    Baumol's Cost Disease and Education


    I normally avoid controversial subjects here, but today I thought I'd dive in with both feet with a question, and see what happens!

    This morning in Sydney we're hosting the Australia Education Partner Summit, and I'll be talking at 10 o'clock about where things are going in the future. I thought you might be interested in some of the content, so here's one of my first slides:


    The reason this is one of my first slides is that I believe that we’re at a tipping point in education.

    In our lifetime we've seen the price of knowledge decreasing dramatically – in the age of Wikipedia and information being seconds away from discovery on the Internet, the cost of knowledge seems to be heading towards zero rapidly (perhaps I should more accurately say that it's the cost of access to knowledge – as a child it was about the affordability of the encyclopaedia set and the opening hours and location of the city library)

    However, at the same time the price of education – to us as parents, as consumers and as taxpayers – is continuing to increase. If you look across the Pacific at the US, there's a lot of debate going on at the moment about the cost of education and the relative unaffordability of education for some groups.

    Baumol's Cost Disease and Education

    And yet education, in many cases, is still the victim of Baumol's Cost Disease:


    …the same number of musicians is needed to play a Beethoven string quartet today as was needed in the 19th century; that is, the productivity of classical music performance has not increased.

    …in some labour-intensive sectors that rely heavily on human interaction or activities, such as nursing, education, or the performing arts there is little or no growth in productivity over time.


    In the same way that it takes the same number of musicians to play Beethoven today as it did 200 years ago, in most classrooms teachers are still standing in front of approximately the same number of students, and teaching for approximately the same number of hours per week as in the past. The fundamental productivity as measured by classic economists hasn’t changed.

    In actual fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published their "Schools Australia, 2012" statistics last week which showed that the number of students being taught per teacher has been going down for the last decade.


    In summary we've gone from having around 15 students per teacher in 1998 to around 13.5 in 2012.

    Which brings me back to my belief that we're at a tipping point. Baumol's Cost Disease is obviously not directly applicable to what's happening in education today. In fact, change is happening – the number of teachers per 1,000 students has gone up over the last ten years.

    And yet there is so much conversation going on about the role of IT in education, and the ways that it can transform teaching and learning. That's why I think we're at a tipping point – we've gone through similar tipping points with other industries and sectors. It may be difficult to see an exact tipping point (it may have already passed), but I think we're probably in the middle of the moment.

    But what happens next?

  • Education

    How to win the global Microsoft 2013 Education Partner of the Year Awards



    Every year thousands of worldwide partners get together with Microsoft at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. In 2013 it’s being held back in the USA in Houston (hint: great week to spend in the northern hemisphere summer rather than the southern hemisphere winter!). And some businesses walk away with the accolade "Microsoft Partner of the Year" with a global, country or specific category award. Just imagine, having the "Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2013" label for your website?

    Every year, more Australian education partners enter to win our Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year awards than the global awards, even though it takes only five minutes extra to enter both awards rather than just one.

    I’d love as many as possible of our Australian education partners to get the chance to do well in this year’s global competition too.

    I recognise that it means somebody has to put some effort into entering – even if it just means spending the time completing the online forms. And it’s not normally somebody’s day job. So I’m going to give you my advice in the form of a few handy steps focused on time saving when writing your winning entry:

    How to submit a winning entry for Microsoft Education Partner of the Year
    with the least effort and most impact

    1) You’ve got to be in it, to win it

    Entries close on 5th April 2013. So start now – don’t wait for a few weeks, because the deadline isn’t going to be extended just because you forgot. You can read the published info, and start your application, here (I'm spruiking the Education Partner of the Year Award, but there's another 40 categories that you can also enter, and I'd recommend having a crack at a couple of different ones that are relevant to your business)

    The simple eligibility criteria is that you must have a PinPoint listing. If you don’t have one, or it needs updating, find out how to update PinPoint here. The reason is that many customers use PinPoint as the starting point to find Microsoft partners.

    It is also important to note that the competition is open to everybody that qualifies – whether or not you are attending the World Partner Conference. So you don’t have to commit to travel to be able to enter!

    2) Remember at school, when your teacher said “Read the question carefully”. Same applies

    Like an exam, there’s a set of formal questions to answer, and the judges will have a marking scheme that’s linked to that. So don’t skip a question, even if you think it’s irrelevant to you. Give the best answer you can in the context – just like a tender response, a blank answer gets no points, whereas you’ll get at least one point for attempting it! And an answer like “We’re considering it for the future” is better than '”No” Smile

    3) Try and work out what the judges give marks for

    Looking at the questions in the entry form, question 3 for '”Public Sector – Education Partner of the Year” is:



    3. Describe how using Microsoft technologies in your solution helped you win against the competition in a customer situation from a technical and business perspective.


    I've highlighted my decoding of this. The judges want you to tell them how Microsoft helped you win against our shared competitors, and they want you to explain this from a technical and business perspective.

    So “I beat ComputerSellerWarehouse on price” won’t cut it anywhere near as much as:

      We helped Contoso University to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM to replace their existing HokeyKokey CRM system, which helped them to recruit students more effectively, because using the Microsoft cloud services helped them to implement it fast enough for their new recruitment year, and integration to their SharePoint system gave staff more access to vital information. And that’s why the customer chose us instead of OldFashionedCRMSystems Inc.  

    Hopefully that answer is likely to match the judges marking scheme:

    • Microsoft technology – Dynamics CRM, Cloud, SharePoint - tick
    • Against the competition – HokeyKokey CRM; OldFashionedCRMSystems - tick
    • Technical perspective – Cloud, faster implementation - tick
    • Business perspective – Recruit students more effectively, access to vital information for staff - tick

    4) Look out for the gotchas

    When you get to Question Four (Describe which education solution area your solution maps to and which Microsoft technologies you have used), you really need to take a look at the Education Solutions section of our global education website to pick the right solutions.

    The other gotcha to look out for is to ensure you are entering the right categories. Education Partner of the Year is for partners working with education customers. Don’t confuse it with Learning Partner of the Year, which is for partners providing IT courses and associated resources for IT professionals.

    5) (My top tip) Save your entry somewhere handy

    As you write your entry, save a copy of your answers. Because when you come to enter the awards for Australian Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2013 (more details soon), you’ll be able to re-use almost everything for those awards (unfortunately, due to privacy restrictions, we can’t just transfer your data across, but it’s easy as long as you have a copy of your answers for the worldwide awards!)

    What are you waiting for?

    Find all resources to enter the Microsoft WPC Awards here, including full information on categories, Judges tips and the Official rules.

    If you want more advice, then I'd also recommend Gail Mercer-MacKay's guide to creating "Creating an award winning entry", which contains some great advice about creating your attention grabbing story for the entry.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not involved in the WPC Awards, and I have no special inside knowledge of them. All the advice is my responsibility alone!

  • Education

    2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit


    If you work for a Microsoft partner, then today's the last chance to register for Monday's Microsoft Education Partner Summit in Sydney. We kick off at 9AM with Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide, who's an inspiring and engaging speaker on the future of education, and the way that technology and learning are linked. I'll then be doing a session on how to take some of those ideas and use them in your conversations with schools, TAFEs and Universities. And then we continue through the afternoon with a chance to select your own tracks after lunch, to join the deep dive workshop sessions on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in education, Collaboration and the Cloud, and a 'Compete' workshop which will compare education strategies achievable with different device choices.

    If you can only make a part of the day, I'd still recommend registering, as I can guarantee that you'll get value from it*

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register, for the Partner Summit in Sydney on Monday

    *  Guarantee huh? Well, if you come along and feel that you didn't get enough value, I'll be in the Microsoft Café at 3:45 to pay for your coffee from Australia's top barista.

  • Education

    Starting university with a Windows 8 tablet from Dell


    InformationWeek's Education section is reporting on the South Illinois University's plan to hand new students Windows 8 tablets from Dell as they start. According to the university, they'll be at the centre of a project to support new styles of learning as well as save students money through e-textbooks (helping to reduce the average $1,000+ cost for textbooks for an American student*).

    imageThe project, called Mobile Dawg, involves 300 students getting a Dell Latitude 10 tablet, running Windows 8, and access to a range of resources including a series of textbooks (through an Educause/Internet2 project), as well as integration with their existing systems including their Student Self Service system, and their learning management system from Desire2Learn.

    The University will deliver a range of services that can be accessed by students on their tablets:

    • Residential life and dining - dining hours, menus, residence life programming
    • Athletics - event-streaming, calendars
    • Classroom and instructional technology - clicker applications, audio and video recordings, note taking, surveys, quizzes, assessment, homework, collaboration, assessment, placement tests
    • Campus events and activities - streaming, event calendars, notifications
    • Campus safety - emergency notification, access to police and reporting capabilities
    • Virtual desktop initiative - access to all applications, data and documents students need without having to visit a computer lab

    But the university didn't start off with a plan to use Dell Windows 8 tablets. At first they had to make a decision about which tablets for students – and they weren't looking at Windows 8 at all. As David Crain, the university CIO told Information week:

      We started out with the perspective that it would be nice to give every student an iPad, partly because college students still think iPads are really cool. But once we started digging into it, we found a number of reasons to go with Windows.  

    One of the reasons was cost – the university predicts that the Dell tablets will save them $3m through lower cost of ownership (on things like hardware, warranty and support costs over four years). And with the ability to manage the tablets using their existing Microsoft System Center software, it means they can be managed just like other Windows devices on the campus.

    Another key reason was compatibility – in SIU's case, it was about being able to run existing tutorial and assessment courseware that wasn't able to run on the iPads.

    They are one of four American educational institutions/systems Dell highlighted recently who are deploying tablets to support Windows 8 in education scenarios, including Fargo Public Schools, Spartanburg School District and Westwood Independent Schools.

    Learn MoreRead more from the university on their campus-wide Windows 8 tablet initiative

  • Education

    Using Lync for emergency contact management in universities


    Last week I wrote about Marquette University, and their Lync 2013 implementation project. One of the aspects l didn't explicitly mention is their use of Lync for emergency contact management - the university's emergency response team are using Lync 2013 to enable collaboration in real time.

    The university’s emergency response team originally came to the IT department with a request for a system that it could use to communicate in an emergency, and track the actions of various responders. Lync's persistent chat was a natural fit (persistent chat means that conversations can be picked up from where they are left off, and are fully searchable and archived). Persistent chat enables teams to meet and collaborate in virtual rooms in real time, enabling more efficient information sharing.

    The response team can post notices to the entire university, and use chat rooms for internal communications to maintain a record of the event. All students, faculty, and staff can access persistent chat rooms through the unified Lync 2013 client (which is available on a wide range of different devices).

    Dan Smith, the university's Senior Director of IT Services, described some of the use scenarios:

      Persistent chat is great for us. We set it up for the emergency response team, but now we have created rooms for IT support, class discussion rooms, and any other scenario where we want to preserve conversations from multiple people  

    The question I had about this scenario was how they implemented Lync to minimise the risk of downtime, as using IP telephony for emergency contact management has been looked at as higher risk. According to the case study:


    Lync Server 2013 has several capabilities that will help Marquette ensure a high level of availability. Marquette deployed Lync Server 2013 with two front-end server pools that are linked to provide redundancy. If one server pool is taken offline, people are automatically switched to the other pool and experience little to no downtime.

    In addition, Marquette deployed two instances of SQL Server data management software and is using database mirroring to provide a backup. With the addition of a third SQL Server instance to serve as a witness, the failover between the database servers is automatic.


    As Victor Martinez, the lead of the university's Windows Team, responsible for implementing the infrastructure to support Lync for emergency contact management, said:

      With Lync Server 2013, we have a standalone infrastructure that is redundant. We can lose half of our servers and still have IM and voice. Also, data is now stored in two places with automatic failover, so we don’t have downtime while we restore from backups.  


    And the added bonus is that their Lync implementation will be saving them at least $200,000 a year. You can read the full case study on the worldwide Microsoft case studies website:

    Learn MoreRead the full Marquette University case study

  • Education

    Upgrading to Lync 2013 in higher education - case study from Marquette University


    Marquette University's iconic bell towerTwo years ago, I wrote about Lync case study on Marquette University in the US, who switched from a conventional PABX system to Microsoft's Lync system. At the time, the Director of IT Services at Marquette University described succinctly the benefit of choosing Lync, because in addition to a replacement telephone system, they also got full integration with their existing Microsoft systems, such as Outlook and SharePoint. In higher education, the addition of instant messaging within the university's network and instant collaboration capabilities (like video calling, shared screens and digital whiteboards) provide significant benefits to students and faculty as they develop new ways to deliver teaching and support students' learning.

    The team responsible for that system have just published an updated case study on Marquette University, including their plans to upgrade to Lync 2013, the latest version released in the last month. The upgrade will give them high availability, improved video and persistent chat capabilities – meaning that they have improved availability of critical services, reduced cost and admin needs – at the same time as improving communications capabilities on and off the campus.

    Cost saving with Lync

    Dan Smith, the university's Senior Director of IT Services, estimates that the transition from a PBX system to Lync will save them more than $200,000 a year, as soon as they can retire their old PBXs. Already they are using Lync to provide instant messaging (IM), presence, desktop sharing, and conferencing capabilities to 2,200 staff members and 11,500 students and enterprise voice for all 2,500 faculty and staff. IT Services estimates that the university will save US$31 per line each year in maintenance costs; this will result in more than $90,000 per year in savings. As Dan said:

      For just the student administration building, our annual saving is $12,000 because we no longer have to maintain the PBX for those phones.  


    Savings come too from other choices – like reducing the need for outsourced audio and video conferencing services, and using SIP trunking for its enterprise voice calls (which on it's own saves the university about $120,000 per year).

    And cost savings from managing the phone system come with improved customer service, according to Dan:

      People on campus change offices frequently. Our problems with adds, moves, and changes have disappeared. When people move, their laptop goes with them.  


    Streamlined audio and web conferencing services

    imageThe university was able to move to using Lync as the single conferencing service, rather than each department contracting out their audio and web conferencing services. And the integration with SharePoint and Exchange also means that it is easier to co-ordinate schedules for conference calls, and create shared document workspaces associated with meetings and conferences. And with Lync's web meeting services, there's broad support for a range of browsers for the attendees – an important consideration when you have thousands of students accessing the system remotely with their own devices.

    Using Lync to improve the student experience

    To encourage students to adopt Lync Server 2013, Marquette is promoting capabilities to improve their experience, such as federation with Skype and Google Chat. As Dan Smith puts it:

      Our foreign language department uses Skype to practice language skills with students around the world. Now they can have those conversations using the Lync 2013 client, so they are integrated with the rest of their communications.  

    They can also offer students and faculty Lync Mobile (for Windows Phone and all other major phone platforms), meaning that they can stay connected from anywhere. They can even allow the facility for them to make calls through data networks rather than using their mobile plan (so that a student can join a lecture or tutorial remotely - eg using their home wifi connection – without call charges.

    The IM side of Lync is also encouraging users to move away from email as a first contact route. Persistent chat has the potential to improve the delivery of education at Marquette. Setting up chat rooms for class discussion will enable the professors to monitor and add to student discussions. The discussions or explanations of course topics become readily accessible to all class members over the entire semester, providing much more value than simply responding to one student via email or in person during office hours.

    Learn MoreRead the full Marquette University case study on the worldwide Microsoft case studies website

  • Education

    Full agenda for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit


    Last week I announced the date for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit – on Monday 25th March in Sydney, and the fact that we've got Anthony Salcito kicking off the event with his characteristically engaging story telling on the future of education, and our role in supporting the process of teaching and learning.

    Now I can give you more on the whole agenda for the day, to explain some of the value that you're going to be able to get from investing a day with us.







    Renee Gamble
    Microsoft Australia OEM Lead


    Education Keynote

    Anthony Salcito
    Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide


    Executive Q&A

    Anthony Salcito and senior Microsoft Australian Executives


    The Future of Education

    Ray Fleming
    Education Industry Market Development Manager





    Scenario Workshop 1

    See below


    Scenario Workshop 2

    See below


    Scenario Workshop 3

    See below

    Afternoon Scenario Workshops

    The Scenario Workshops will focus on three specific education scenarios common across schools and other education institutions, and give you an opportunity to participate in a deeper session on up to three topics. Each of these will be run in smaller groups on rotation, so you can choose which order, and whether you attend one, two or all three of them.

    The three Scenario Workshops are:

    • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Education: What opportunities does this provide, and what advice is out there for education customers and Microsoft partners?
    • Compete in Education: Comparing education strategies achievable with different devices
    • Collaboration and the Cloud in Education: How partners can achieve growth through cloud services, and the strategies to support education institutions as they move to the cloud

    If you attend the whole Education Partner Summit, including all three Scenario Workshops, the day will close at 3:45PM.

    Who should attend the Education Partner Summit?

    The Education Partner Summit is open to all of the partner organisations who are registered on the Microsoft Partner Network, and who focus on the education market in Australia. Acronym Soup – Our Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partners include AERs, OEMs, ISVs, SIs and LARs.

    The day has been designed to be most valuable to partner executives and employees who have direct customer sales, pre-sales and advisory roles, as well as business strategy roles.


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