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

May, 2013

  • Education

    Windows Azure Australian datacentres–the impact of last week’s announcement


    Did you catch the announcement last week that we are planning to significantly expand our cloud services in Australia, by the creation of a new Windows Azure ‘major region’ for Australia? Which means that when complete we’ll be delivering Azure services locally from Windows Azure Australian datacentres:

      The new Windows Azure major region in Australia will consist of two sub-regions located in New South Wales and Victoria. These two locations will be geo-redundant, offering our customers the ability to back up their data across two separate locations, both within Australia.   

    The goal is to deliver the same enterprise-class public cloud services, delivered locally with all the security, reliability and scalability you get from our global datacentres already.

    Learn MoreRead the announcement “Windows Azure expands Downunder”

    So what does that mean for education customers?

    There are already plenty of education customers using the Windows Azure cloud services from our global datacentres, scaling from high-volume transactional systems for state-wide projects (like the ESSA Science test in NSW) to clever software solutions using Windows Azure to deliver high volumes of content across the country (like ClickView). And plenty of projects in between – like Curtin University’s project to sequence DNA using Windows Azure.

    What this announcement about Windows Azure Australian datacentres will mean is that there will be faster services to users (or ‘reduced latency’ as our geeks love to say), and also the ability to choose an Australian datacentre for very sensitive data subject to Federal guidelines about where it can be stored (although the reality is that often it is perceptions, rather than reality – more from Rocky Heckman on this). Although there are already many things being done in the cloud, there’s a couple of scenarios where the data cannot be stored out in an overseas datacentre (eg proper Secrets).


    Learn MoreRead more detailed information about security, data sovereignty and compliance in the Windows Azure cloud

    We haven’t yet announced the ‘go-live’ date for these data centres – either keep an eye here, or on Rocky’s blog for more info on that.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Windows Azure

  • Education

    Why are Lync and Skype joined together?


    imageWe’ve just announced that Lync and Skype can be joined together:

      • Join – often called ‘federation’, it allows the two different systems to talk to each other, so that somebody on Skype can chat with somebody on Lync & vice versa
      • Lync – Microsoft’s service for unified communications for businesses – instant messaging, video calling, voice calls, conference calls, remote screen sharing, presenting etc
      • Skype – Microsoft’s service for unified communications for consumers – instant messaging, video calling, voice calls, conference calls etc

    In the words of the Skype blog, it’s about ‘Connecting the Living Room to the Board Room’, but in education I see it as a way of connecting the student’s home life to their institutional one. This is because most students are using Skype at home for making and receiving voice and video calls, and instant messages. And then within the institution (school, TAFE, university) it’s most likely that you’ll be using an ‘enterprise grade’* system like Lync for the same job.

    Typical education scenarios using Lync and Skype joined together

    The way that we’ve joined Lync and Skype together means that you can now use the two systems together to let people talk more easily. For example:

    • You could allow students stuck on a homework assignment to fire up their Skype to IM chat to a support teacher on Lync – and your Lync system will record the whole conversation for you (whereas if they do it on Skype alone, you’ve got a completely ‘off the record’ system)
    • Parents or students could use it to ‘phone’ school without paying for a call. That would be handy for something like absence reporting (how about parents reporting their child is sick by IM’ing the office?)
    • You could even extend the ability to have an informal teacher:parent meeting through Lync, when parents (and students?) are at home on Skype (and when video calling comes along, that becomes even more useful)
    • How about letting prospective students chat with your university/TAFE Admissions Office on Skype? With international students, you might potentially be saving them significant cost, as well as improving the service you offer them.

    The connectivity we’ve announced so far allows you to have instant messenger and voice chats between the two systems, and the next priority is video calling (think of the positive possibilities with that).

    Learn MoreHere's more details about the Skype to Lync connection

    And here’s more details about the settings you’ll need to set in your Lync system
    If you’re using Office 365 for Education, it’s simply one tickbox in the admin page


    * What do I mean by ‘enterprise grade’: In your institution systems, you want to be able to track all of your conversations, and keep archives of things like instant messenger chats. You’ll also want to be able to link your voice communications through your existing organisational systems (eg your existing switchboard phone numbers). And you’ll need to be able to manage the whole thing centrally – like adding, suspending and deleting users. And finally, you’ll want to integrate to your other systems, like email, CRM and collaboration services.
    That’s what Lync allows you to do – manage the whole experience end-to-end, in the same way that you manage the rest of your IT and telecoms.

  • Education

    Education is still Australia’s biggest services export


    According to the latest data on international trade from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, education services are still Australia’s largest services export, with a $15bn revenue in 2012. Whilst this is $3bn ahead of the next largest export (personal travel services), it’s still a big drop from the $17.6bn high of 2009. In fact, it’s the third year of falling revenue from international students.

    Which means that Australian universities and TAFEs are still losing their highest value customers (an international student pays fees up to 5x the level of local students). Universities account for 75% of the revenue, with TAFEs taking 20% and schools accounting for the remainder. This is all neatly summarised in the one-pager from Australian Education International “Export income to Australia from international education activity in 2012”.

    But it was only when I charted the detailed data from the ABS on Table 11.1 that I saw the deeper picture – that the biggest drop has been in vocational training, where there’s been a drop of nearly 50% over the last three years. Higher Education has seen a decline of nearly $0.5bn since the peak of 2010, but that’s less than 5% of their total. Whereas TAFE has lost over $2bn, 43% of their revenue since the peak of 2009.


    And although they don’t appear to break out the data by country and sector, India is the place where we’ve lost most students, with an almost 60% drop in revenue from Indian students since 2009 (from Table 9.4) – which is presumably mainly TAFE students.

    International Education Revenue by Country
























    Republic of Korea






    I’ve now got a better understanding of some more of the reasons why TAFEs have been talking with us about student recruitment, student retention and business development systems – all areas addressed by CRM in education

  • Education

    What does a CIO in education make of Surface Pro?


    The Surface Pro hits the shops in Australia tomorrow, 30 May, for the first time. The Surface Pro is the version of Surface that gives you a full PC as well as a touch-tablet. Which means that for teachers and students, they can run all of their existing Windows software, and use their curriculum resources that are based around that – as well as the new touch-based apps for Windows 8.

    But the Surface Pro has already been available in North America for a while, so there are plenty of reviews that you can look at for opinions. One that’s particularly interesting for education customers is the ‘CIO Road Test’, written by Kevin Pashuk, the CIO of Appleby College in Canada. As he says in his introduction:

      As someone charged with identifying future technology trends that may impact education in particular and IT in general, I find it valuable to actually get my (or my team's) hands on a particular piece of technology rather than just read about it in an article.  

    One of his early observations is that he often finds that people end up carrying three devices – a laptop for working, a tablet (like an iPad or Android) for browsing and quick reference, and their phone. So he set out to see whether he could use a Surface Pro to reduce the need for so many devices – and that’s exactly what he found.

    As a slate user myself (I’m a fan of my old Samsung Series 7 slate) I’ve found the breakthrough is having a touch device when I’m out and about, and then a mouse-and-keyboard experience when I’m in the office, connected up to external screens etc.

    Learn MoreRead the full review from Kevin Pashuk on CRN

  • Education

    Bill Gates on Q&A tonight - what will he say?


    Bill Gates will be on ABC’s Q&A tonight at 8:30, and although I have no idea on the specifics of what’s going to be discussed, I’m guessing it will focus on education and healthcare – the two focus areas for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    [Edit after the fact! Turns out I was wrong - the focus stayed on health and international aid for most of the programme, and only covered education when answering the question about the toughest problem the foundation is trying to solve. His answer was "the most difficult thing we work on is improving the US education system" - see his full answer here]

    In January, he wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal, titled "Bill Gates: My Plan to Fix The World's Biggest Problems", in which, he focused on the need for measurement of progress as a critical factor of a journey of improvement. And then in his recent TED Talk, he focused on the need for supporting professional development for teachers, and on the importance of feedback. His view is that everyone needs feedback to help them improve, and that (US) teachers are a group that get some of the least (and least effective) feedback of all professions. Here’s the 10-minute video of the TED Talk, which is part of the Ted Talks channel on YouTube.

    Learn MoreDid you know there's also a Ted-Ed channel on YouTube, for teachers?

  • Education

    The LifeHacker Education App Winner - Sort It for Windows 8


    Last month Lifehacker announced the winner of the first round of their Developer Challenge, to develop Windows 8 apps. Round 1 was for education apps, and the winning developer was Lucas Moffitt, from NSW, for his free Windows 8 app, Sort It.

    Sort It app for students and teachers for Windows 8

    imageSort it allows you to map processes, recipes, instructions and cycles into complex list items that require students to correctly arrange and complete. Teachers can create lists, and then share them with students, and collect their answers back via, the Teacher Collection website (that’s a subscription site, which is also linked to all of Lucas’s other Windows 8 apps for teachers). As well as creating activities, you can also export class results to excel, and get notifications when students have completed activities you’ve allocated.

    Here’s a typical Sort It screen – in this case, a list of actions required to make cupcakes, which Natasha has sorted into the correct order (she’s better than me, I always get them ready to go in the oven, and only *then* remember to turn on the oven).


    Learn MoreFind out more about Sort It at the Windows 8 Store online

  • Education

    The newest Windows 8 TV advert from the US


    This Windows 8 advert has just started running in the US. And it’s accompanied by an iPad versus Windows 8 tablets comparison website that allows you to compare the various Windows 8 tablets side-by-side with iPads. It’s not specific to education (and the prices are based on US retail prices), but I think it’s worth sharing, and might bring a smile to your Friday Smile

    Learn MoreFind out more about Windows 8 in education

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in schools–PowerPivot and PowerView in Excel 2010/2013


    Rod Colledge, is a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, and an expert on the technology side of the use of Business Intelligence in education in Australia. For a living, he helps Microsoft customers with their own business intelligence projects, through his business at StrataDB. But in his role as a Microsoft MVP one of the things that he’s been able to do is record a series of short videos of examples of using business intelligence in education, to show some of the simple things that are useful for school leaders and teachers.

    Today’s video is in two parts:

    • The first part shows you how you can take a complex data set, containing both central data and a user's own data - in this case, a spreadsheet of their own data.
    • The second part shows you how users can visualise it together in a number of different ways.

    Part One – Creating and connecting the education data sources in PowerPivot

    Part Two – Reporting education data using PowerView


    If you’d like to know more about Rod and his projects, you can find out more on the StrataDB website or email Rod directly

  • Education

    One week to deadline for Australian Microsoft Education Partner of the Year entries



    You’ve got until the end of the week to enter for the Australia Microsoft Education Partner of the Year award. And I know that every year a bunch of you sit down with your keyboards and screens, and craft a carefully worded entry to give it your best shot – something I see because every year I read every single entry, alongside the education team members who act as judges.

    But I know you are busy people. And there are plenty of other competing priorities. So this year we have aimed to make it as stress free as possible. We’ve taken out all of the tricky questions that some of the other categories have in their entry forms. And we’ve removed as many of the entry criteria as is reasonable (all we ask is that you’re a registered Microsoft partner, and that you have a PinPoint profile – both of which 99.9% of partners have already done).

    So all that is left is the task of telling us your best customer story, using the five headings we’ve given you, to help us recognise the way that your partnership with Microsoft helps our joint customers in the Australian education market.

    And because I like making your life easier, you don’t even need to download the Award Guidelines – because here they are:


    Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year

    The Education Partner of the Year Award recognises a partner organisation that excels at providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to education customers.
    The successful submission 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 by integrating with Microsoft cloud-based technology such as Windows 8 Apps, Office 365 Education and Windows Azure in addition to the Windows Phone platform.

    Partners applying for this award should demonstrate effective engagement with Microsoft by taking advantage of the Microsoft Partner Network to develop, create demand for, and sell their software solutions or services.



    (These are the headings you need to respond under on the website)

    1. Is your solution specific to one particular customer, or does it have broader market potential?
    Upload or provide outside references or data sources that illustrate exceptional customer experience or satisfaction (links to published articles, case studies, videos, customer testimonials, etc.).

    2. Did your company partner with any other Microsoft partners in designing, developing,
    implementing, and/or integrating this solution?

    If yes, please describe your partnering story and how it benefited the customer.

    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.

    4. Describe which Microsoft technologies you have used.

    5. Describe the problem your solution solved for customers.
    If possible, identify the impact of the customer’s pain points, contrast before and after scenarios, and provide metrics on benefits received by the customer.


    And, err, that's it. Hopefully, we’ve done everything we can to make it as easy as possible to enter the Awards, and give you the chance of telling us your story. Now it’s over to you to do the hard bit – finding an hour before the end Tuesday 28 May to enter.

    Make a dateEnter the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards 2013


    PS Want some tips on writing your entry? Then I’d recommend reading "How to win the Microsoft global Partner of the Year Awards"

    PPS If you know an easier way of getting your case study read by the whole leadership team from the Microsoft Education business, then go for it. But if not….

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in schools - mapping data with Report Builder


    Rod Colledge, is a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, and an expert on the technology side of the use of Business Intelligence in education in Australia. For a living, he helps Microsoft customers with their own business intelligence projects, through his business at StrataDB. But in his role as a Microsoft MVP one of the things that he’s been able to do is record a series of short videos of examples of using business intelligence in education, to show some of the simple things that are useful for school leaders and teachers.

    Today’s video is a short demonstration of using geospatial visualisation, using a demonstration education data set. It's a simple example of how you can take a complex data set and visualise it a number of different ways.

    The demo is using a dummy dataset and was built in Report Builder in MS SQL Server 2012

    If you’d like to know more about Rod and his projects, you can find out more on the StrataDB website or email Rod directly

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