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

June, 2013

  • Education

    Update 1: The Microsoft Surface offer for schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia


    imageI published the key info yesterday on the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia, which allows schools, TAFEs and universities to buy Surface RT from AU$219.

    Overnight I’ve had a couple of questions from people about the offer, and I’ve also laid my hands on the full Surface RT Offer FAQ document that we published, so here’s a summary:

    Common questions about the Surface RT offer for education

    Is there a minimum order requirement for the Surface RT offer?

    No. Education institutions may buy any quantity of Surface RT for their organisation. Pricing is only available until 31 August 2013. And you can place as many orders as you wish – for example, you could order a dozen now for your staff, and then some for students separately (do bear in mind that the offer is only valid while supplies last).

    How do institutions order their Surface RTs?

    The Surface RT in Education brochure contains an order form (all the forms are linked here). Fill out the order form with a valid purchase order number and send it to You will get an email back confirming the order and details on fulfilment.

    What does shipping cost?

    We’ve already included that in the price of the offer, so there aren’t any additional shipping charges

    How does Surface RT compare to iPad and Android?

    There are many differences between Surface RT and iPad and Android. One of the most important differences to schools is Surface RT comes with a touch-optimised version of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT - Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote (the free Windows 8.1 update will also provide an RT version of Outlook). Microsoft Office is among the most popular productivity software in schools and businesses. Its inclusion in Surface RT means that your students and teachers will be ready to get to work on Surface right away.
    Surface RT also lets users multitask between applications, share the device between many users, provides USB and HD video out ports, optional keyboard covers, integration of Internet Explorer 10 to run Flash based websites, lots of storage and a file system, a high quality display, and excellent battery life.

    I’ve heard there are more apps on iOS and Android? What can I expect from Surface RT?

    With over 20,000 educationally-relevant apps worldwide in the Windows Store from many of the biggest names in education, like Khan Academy and leading publishers - there is an app for almost every subject.

    I’ve listed some of my early favourite Windows 8 education apps here, and our worldwide team have featured a list of Windows 8 apps by categories here.

    There are also some fabulous apps from Australian companies that have been released for Windows 8, and provide new learning possibilities with touch devices, plus all the ones I’ve listed here have free versions too:

    But don’t forget, that because Microsoft has optimized the web browsing experience for HTML 5 and Flash, you don’t need lots of specific apps like you do on tablets which can run Flash. For example, you can run the full Mathletics website on a Surface RT, whereas on an iPad you have to download apps containing some parts of the Mathletics resources, because you can’t access a Flash website fully.

    Is this the only device that there are offers for?

    There are lots of Windows 8 computers and tablets available from our partners, and many of them are also running special offers on Windows 8 devices for education customers. You’ll find the info on offers from Lenovo, Acer, HP, Fujitsu and Toshiba over on our main website.

    What is the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT?

    Windows 8 comes in three versions (Home, Pro and Enterprise) and runs on Intel x86 chipset. Windows RT comes in one version and runs on the ARM chipset. Windows RT devices are lightweight, have thin form factors, and better battery life. Windows 8 x86 devices can run your existing legacy Windows software, and software requiring intense processing power, as well as the new modern Windows 8 apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows RT ARM devices can run applications like Microsoft Office 2013 RT and the new modern Windows 8 apps exclusively from the Windows Store. Windows 8 x86 devices running Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise have enterprise level security and manageability features.
    You can read more about the differences on the main Microsoft website under “Which Surface is right for you?

    On the Order Form, what does “Institution tax ID” mean?

    What we’re asking for is the institution’s ABN number. It allows us to check the official purchase order details.

    We’ve already got a Hardware Vendor Panel  that Surface RT isn’t on – can we still order?

    I understand the issue around hardware vendor panels, and recognise that may be an issue for some institutions. You’ll need to check your institution’s processes and guidelines. I know that some people will have to miss out on this offer because of their rules, whilst others have ways of making exceptional one-off purchases.

    I’ve read that Windows RT devices can’t connect to a domain – is that right?

    OK, fair to say that this question came from somebody quite technical, but I know others will be interested in my answer! Although you’re absolutely right that you can’t ‘Domain Join’ a Windows RT device, with Windows 8.1 (which will be a free upgrade) we’ve included a range of significant enhancements to improve manageability using non-domain joined computers.

    Some of the additional capabilities coming to Windows 8.1 are:

    • Workplace Join – giving a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice, and still have access to corporate resources. IT can grant some access rights, and enforce some governance parameters on the device
    • Work Folders – allows a user to sync data to their device for a network user folder, and IT can enforce policies including automated Rights Management (eg as they leave the school, they lose access to the Work Folders on their device & centrally)
    • Improved Mobile Device Management – of course, even though I’d love everybody to use our System Center for management, we’ve included support for Open MDM so that customers can choose from a range of tools. My advice for looking at device management is to consider the role of Intune, because of the capabilities it enables (like having an institutional app store available to Windows 8 devices, whether they are domain-controlled or simply device managed.

    I’d recommend reading the full article on the new features in Windows 8.1 for enterprises on TechNet

    Here’s a downloadable PDF version of the official Surface RT Offer FAQ, if you’d like something to share with colleagues.


    Learn MoreYou can either read my overview of the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia from yesterday, or go to  the official offer site to download the Brochure, Pricing and Order Forms

  • Education

    Developing apps in Office–ideas to help education users of Office


    I first wrote about developing Office Apps for education last year, with ideas for our partners to think about some of the processes that education customers do all of the time and asking if they could be made easier with Office Apps (things like developing simple forms for staff absence, student assignment workflow or resource booking systems). And since then I’ve provided a few updates here and here on more resources to help get started. There are so many scenarios where I can see that the lives of staff in an education institution could be made so much easier through being able to simply launch a process or app from within Word, Excel or PowerPoint, rather than having to leave on application and go over to a completely different system for a task.

    Whether you are a developer in a Microsoft partner, or perhaps just an education user with some technical skills that fancies having a crack at developing an app, there is a huge amount of additional information available on the Apps for Office and SharePoint blog


    Here’s some of the ideas that I’ve picked up from the blog:

    How to publish apps to the Office store [Link]

    In addition to the blog articles themselves, there’s a new community forum on MSDN, monitored by the Office Store team, that provides support publishing apps for the Office store.

    Getting data from the Windows Azure marketplace into your Office app [Link]

    The Azure marketplace has large sets of data that are really useful in many education apps – and many of them are free. Some of the examples of free data sets include world economic and other data like UN National Accounts Official Country Data, UN Demographic Statistics, Energy Statistics from the UN for 215 countries, Occupational Employment Statistics, Historical Weather Data, and Protein Databank of 3D Biological Macromolecular Structures. 

    An example of how you might use this data would be to integrate the occupational employment statistics into a ePortfolio or career planning app on SharePoint, so that you can start to provide deeper insights into career choices and options.

    Code samples for Apps for Office [Link]

    The team have published over 100 sample code items that can be used directly, or that you can learn from to understand how to develop more complex apps. It includes things like accessing and storing data, authenticating apps, creating workflows, taking surveys in SharePoint,  approval workflows and making calls through VOIP dialling.

    Get attachments in a mail app [Link]

    This seems really handy, as I can imagine scenarios which will make life much easier. For example, you could build a student assignment app where students can send back their work via email, and the app downloads the attachments into the correct SharePoint library for staff to then assess. Or how about an app that automatically takes school parental permission forms sent by email, and adds them into your document store tagged against the student.

    Those are just of the examples, and scenarios I saw, from the info published on blog. I’d recommend if you’ve got the right level of technical knowledge, it’s worthwhile reading and following the blog. And if you’re using Office 365, it might also fire off some ideas of how you could make life easier for staff in your institution – either by developing in-house, or raising the sights of the Microsoft partners that you work with.

    Learn MoreLearn more at the Apps for Office and SharePoint blog

  • Education

    Australia Microsoft Surface RT offer for Education


    imageYou may have heard about the worldwide launch of a great Microsoft Surface offer for schools and tertiary education customers. It is exclusively for education institutions, to buy Microsoft Surface RT tablets at a reduced price for a limited time. The good news is that I can share with you the details for Australian education customers.

    From now until August 31, 2013, schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia can get:

    • Surface RT (32 GB) for AU$219 (Estimated Retail Price is $559)
    • Surface RT (32 GB) Touch Keyboard Cover for AU$279 (Estimated Retail Price is $679)
    • Surface RT (32 GB) Type Keyboard Cover for AU$319 (Estimated Retail Price is $708)
      All the prices above include GST

    Surface RT provides students and teachers with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT pre-installed. The Microsoft Surface offer for schools also opens the door to thousands — more than 20,000, to be precise — of education related apps in the Windows Store, from big names like Khan Academy, Kno, Chegg, and major textbook publishers such as HMH and Pearson. And there are some fabulous apps from Australia publishers that support new modes of learning in the classroom – like nsquared make words, just one of eight free apps of theirs you’ll find in the Windows Store.

    If you were considering buying non-Windows tablets for your students and staff, then in my opinion, there’s nothing comparable to this Microsoft Surface offer for schools  – and in many cases with this offer you’d not only get the Windows and Office experience, you’d be able to put twice as many devices into the hands of students with the same budget. You get a Windows device that supports mouse, keyboard, USB and video displays – so that you can plug in printers, projectors, external screens etc. And you get Microsoft Office pre-installed, which means that your students can continue to work with the existing tools they already know – like PowerPoint, Word, Excel and OneNote. And your teachers don’t have to re-write all of their curriculum resources and lessons plans either. Plus you give them a device with all-day battery life, true Windows multi-tasking so they can have apps running side by side, and you can have individual profiles and logins for each student.

    If you’re asking why now is the right time for us to take such an ambitious step into the education market, the answer is simple: It’s because Microsoft believes every student and teacher deserves a fair opportunity to reach his or her full potential, and this means ensuring our education customers have access to affordable and high quality tablets with laptop functionality ready for education.

    This Surface offer is just one of the options for putting Windows touch tablets and laptops into the hands of your staff and students. As we showed at the recent EduTech conference in Brisbane, Windows devices come in a variety of shapes, sizes, features and price points to serve all our education customer needs. And over the last few months I’ve highlighted stories about new Windows 8 devices from Dell, Asus, HP, Samsung and Lenovo. We are continuing to work with OEMs on delivering their latest tablets and PCs, and I’ll have more to share on devices and offers from them shortly.

    Although this information is specific to Australia, similar Microsoft Surface offers for education are available in other countries – hop over to the global Microsoft in Education blog for details of others.

    How the offer works

    The way this works is really simple – there’s a downloadable brochure and order form for education institutions* which contains the details of the devices, and the usual terms and conditions. You simply complete the Order Form and send it back to the Surface team (who are on who’ll arrange to get your order supplied.

    * Yep, the offer is only available to official education institutions in Australia (see our criteria here), not to individual students or teachers to place an order. For good reasons, if you wanted to buy one for your personal use with your own money, then you’ll need to buy yours through the normal retailers at normal retail price

    For more information and to order, see the Surface RT for Education brochure and return the completed order form to the Surface team.

    Learn MoreGo to  the offer site for the Brochure, Pricing and Order Form

  • Education

    Office templates to help families of children with autism


    Microsoft Office logoMy colleagues in the US have been working with Autism Speaks and the University of Washington Autism Centre to produce a series of free PowerPoint templates that can be customised to explain social situations to children with autism, as well as a series a Word templates of documents and forms for the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit. The Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit was created specifically for newly diagnosed families to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child's diagnosis of autism, Asperger's Syndrome (AS), or high-functioning autism (HFA).

    The PowerPoint templates cover social situations such as going to a restaurant, going to the doctor, personal hygiene, getting ready for school, and getting ready for bed; and the Word templates cover initial planning, progress tracking and transition planning.

    Although these templates haven’t been developed specifically for Australia, they are still a good starting point for parents or educational professionals looking for resources, and they can be further customised for specific children, or generically for Australian scenarios. The templates are all available freely online (and if you wanted to publish localised versions, then I’m sure that Autism Speaks would love to hear from you)

    Learn MoreGet the autism templates on the Office website

    or read more articles on this blog related to accessibility

  • Education

    How students can work together on the same Office documents in real time


    The Microsoft Office suite has always had ways for different authors to work on the same document – but the reality for many people is that they often simply circulate a document via email, then people make changes and email the document back to the sender. And then somebody has to bring all the changes into a final document.

    But you haven’t had to do it this way for years – Office has had collaborative features in it for ages – and it was always a bonus for me when I discovered them (for example, I used to collect changes from people, and then manually merge them into a final document until I found the ‘Combine’ feature in the Review tab in Word – see ‘Merge edits from different copies of a document’)

    Using Office Web Apps, the potential for real-time editing is even more powerful, and we’ve just provided a sneak peak into what’s coming in the future, through the Office blog. The step ahead is moving from ‘same-time’ to ‘real-time’ co-authoring and editing. It’s already live for PowerPoint, where more than one person can edit a document at the same, and you all see each others changes almost immediately. And we’re adding those features to the rest of the Office Web Apps on multiple devices using Windows, iOS and Android.

    The video below shows what’s coming (skip to about 5 1/2 minutes for the demonstration) – not just the collaborative, real-time editing but also some of the other new things coming to Office Web Apps.

    And because the different users can see what others are doing in real time, you could do an exercise where a teacher puts their version up on the whiteboard projector in the classroom, and the whole class can easily see, and share, what’s being done and what needs doing next. It would allow you to mix individual work with whole-class collaborative activities:

    • Take a Word document with a table of words, and ask each student to find synonyms for a Word in the table – and everybody could see progress across the whole table on the projector
    • Give a class the task of measuring a science experiment and putting each of their results into a shared Excel spreadsheet – as they enter them, you can see a chart being updated in real time on the classroom projector, as well as on their own screen.



    Education customers can get access to Office Web Apps in a number of different ways:

    • Office Web Apps are included as part of the SkyDrive service – which means that individuals can load Office documents onto a SkyDrive in the cloud, share them with others, and edit them online. If you’re using Live@edu then you’ve already got Office Web Apps access. If you’re not, you can simply sign up for your own personal SkyDrive account, or enable it with your Microsoft Account online.
    • Office 365 Education includes Office Web Apps with every level – including the free A2 subscription

    The other thing to highlight is that the team are building Office Web Apps to work across a range of different devices, so if you are in a school with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, where you don’t have a standard computer in each student’s hands, then you can still allow them to work together on different devices. Or if you’re setting an activity for homework, they can complete it on their home computer without needing Office installed.

    Learn MoreLearn more about co-authoring features coming soon to Office Web Apps in Office 365

  • Education

    Collaborating on Chemistry on a Windows 8 touch slate


    Yesterday I wrote about collaborative learning apps for Windows 8, and focused on apps for younger students (because, basically, it’s around my intellectual level).

    So I thought I’d share an example of a much more sophisticated collaborative learning app based on touch and multiple students using a single device.

    nsquared chemistry

    In a collaborative lab, players can create any element on the periodic table and use those elements to create a compound in the middle of the screen. Each exercise has players creating a new compound. Collaborative learning with 2-4 players is encouraged, but you can still play alone, and additional players can join at any time. It’s ideal for small group learning, and great for anyone who enjoys chemistry inside or outside the classroom – or to engage students who would be less motivated by similar exercise-book exercises.

    nsquared chemistry for Windows 8 screen shot

    When you use this with a multi-touch Windows 8 device with a horizontal screen, it allows for many people to use the activity at the same time – and to collaborate to solve the chemistry challenges set. This app was originally developed for a large size display, so the bigger your screen, the better it will be – it’ll be a challenge on a screen less than 15” I think – and if you can put it on a 20” screen or larger, you’ll have a much better time (it works well on my Sony Vaio Tap 20 at home, although I can’t seem to get my children excited about the idea of spending time around the coffee table building water molecules with me)

    Creating Oxygen in nsquared chemistry

    Like all of the nsquared apps I’ve seen so far, the app is free, with different activity packs available as an in-app purchase.

    Learn MoreLearn more about nsquared chemistry in the Windows Store

  • Education

    Collaborative learning with Windows 8 multi-touch apps– flip the screen over!


    Dell XPS 18Most of the Windows 8 education apps have been designed for a single user experience – a student sitting at a screen, or using a touch tablet – where the screen is always oriented in one way with a clear ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the screen – with the text and graphics designed to be readable in that way. However, there are some clever apps developers who have taken advantage of the new large screen devices that can be used in horizontal or vertical mode (like the Dell XPS 18 on the right). And the extensive multi-touch capabilities of Windows 8 certified hardware means that a Windows 8 device allows for at least 10 consecutive touches to the screen – allowing you to design learning activities that four students can take part in at once.

    Some of the best apps I’d recommend come from nSquared, a Sydney-based software development company that has been developing software for the original Microsoft Surface (the original large table-sized device). With that background, they’ve been able to bring some of those apps across to Windows 8 touch apps. All of the apps that they’ve developed are designed for multiple students to be able to collaborate or compete on learning activities.

    Here’s some suggestions for collaborative learning apps for younger students

    nsquared snap, is easy to grasp and allows up to four students to work on a single touchscreen at the same time, and is designed to develop pattern matching and object recognition skills. Each player must take their turn individually, with a point being awarded when they successfully match a pair of cards. Only two cards may be turned over at any time in an attempt to find a matching pair.

    nsquared numbers is a free-form application that can be used to teach basic mathematical concepts. It gives you number tiles, so that you can set free tasks like "How many ways can you make the sum of ‘9’, or ‘55’, or any other number you’d like to explore. And because multiple students can use it at the same time, you can also set team or collaborative challenges, eg how many ways can they create those same results?

    nsquared missing card is designed to help develop pattern matching and object recognition skills in young children. It's a multi-player memory game for up to four students to match overturned cards. The players can turn over their three cards to see which one matches the next in sequence. Once each player has decided on the card they think will be next, they keep the other two cards in their hand face down.



    nsquared herding is designed to develop numeracy, pattern matching and object recognition skills. Whilst it is designed for up to four players simultaneously it will depend on the device that you use - on a small touch device you may have enough screen space for two players. Each player has to collect the correct numbers of each target object and place them into their own playing area.

    nsquared letters is a free form application designed for children to use with or without guidance. It allows students to explore words in virtually any language that uses the Latin alphabet. And because it uses the multi-touch features of Windows 8 devices, it allows for many children to use it at the same time. So you could put a tablet flat on a desk, and have a group of four children around it all using it at the same time. The app is free, and there are different activity packs available as an in-app purchase.

    nsquared make words is an app in the form of structured educational game, compared to the less structured apps I wrote about earlier in the week. It's designed to help students learn object recognition and differentiation, and improve their recall and spelling. nsquared makewords has the ability to switch between a range of content packs through the menu and download new content as it's released (the app is free, and then you pay for the optional content packs).



    There are other apps coming from nsquared, so I’d also recommend having a chat with their team to understand what’s on the roadmap, or just going to the Windows Store on your Windows 8 device and searching for ‘nsquared’

    Learn MoreLearn more about other education apps on the website

  • Education

    What technology do you need for the Flipped Classroom?


    imageCaroline Chisholm Catholic College in Melbourne is on the pathway to the Flipped Classroom - a pedagogical model that inverts traditional teaching by delivering instruction online outside of class while moving problem solving (traditionally given as homework) into the classroom.  And one of the starting points for the ICT department was to ensure the technology was there to support the vision, putting the students at the front of the classroom.

    One of the keys to supporting a flipped classroom model really well as that students have access to good collaboration technology inside and outside the classroom and teachers have easy ways to record materials for students to watch. (Karl Fisch, of Shift Happens fame, uses the flipped classroom model – you can read more about it here)

    The college were already using Live@edu for their student email, and an IP-based phone system, but they were starting to look also at Google Apps as another platform for learning. But when they got into deeper discussions with Generation-e (a Microsoft Gold Certified partner), they were very pleased with the solution that they were given, that included moving to the latest Microsoft software to fully support their new teaching and learning model – using Office 365 for education, Lync 2013, Windows 8 and SkyDrive Pro.

    The Generation-e team summarises the impact for the college in their case study:


    Caroline Chisholm Catholic College was very pleased with the end result.  With features such as the video recording capabilities of Lync, teachers will be able to roll out the "Flipped Classroom" initiative. That means conducting and recording lessons using real-time collaboration, pushing video, presentations, white-boarding and chat during sessions.  The initiative offers further enrichment through video collaboration with overseas sister schools for LOTE programs, as well as digital excursions.

    Further benefits of the Microsoft stack include:

    • Increased staff productivity- heads of departments conduct online meetings; ICT staff collaborate between three campuses without having to travel or leave the support desk unattended
    • 100% Lync uptake- staff have happily transitioned from desk phones to their screens
    • Collaboration enabled by federating with other schools and suppliers
    • Better student engagement- the use of My Site provides them with a single location to manage all their documents, content, and tasks enabling them to collaborate on group projects and present them in class
    • With Windows 8, SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint, students' notes are automatically updated and saved
    • Improved student efficiency- O365 enables students to access their laptops with a single login
    • Increased flexibility- O365 puts students in the cloud to provide maximum storage, allowing anywhere access from their laptops
    • Stronger community through social collaboration -  access to discussions, newsfeeds and photo sharing on SharePoint
    • While the students are now able to push their notes to any device through OneNote, this will be particularly useful once they shift from laptops to tablets


    Learn MoreRead the full case study on the Generation-e website

  • Education

    TGIF–I’m a PC


    Remember those “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” adverts? If you do, then you’ll appreciate the humour in the new Microsoft TV ads from the US. (It’s Friday afternoon here in Sydney, and I’m feeling a little TGIF, so I thought I could share this). So here’s another one of those Windows 8 comparison adverts, this time comparing an iPad and a Dell XPS10.

    These are US adverts, with US pricing, and link to the full specification comparison between the iPad and the Dell XPS10. Sadly the Dell XPS10 isn’t available here in Australia, so you can’t suddenly rush over to the Dell site to buy one – but the Dell Latitude 10 is worth a look instead – as it provides a full Windows 8 experience with Intel processors, so that you can run all your existing Windows software as well as the new modern apps.

  • Education

    Reducing friction for international student recruitment with unified communications


    Two weeks ago I explained why Lync and Skype are joined together, and some examples of how it will be useful in education. In a nutshell, it allows you (and your external users) to connect conversations between your own Lync system and consumer Skype users – typically the kind of software students and future students use at home, outside of the institution.

    Here’s one simple example of how you can make your student recruitment process friendlier by enabling the connection, and how you can reduce the online friction for your future international students.

    Online retailers talk about reducing ‘online friction’ all the time – the myriad small steps that stand in the way between the consumer and the moment they commit to buy online – it could be the unfriendly online store, or their poor search experience, or the need for them to actually speak to somebody before they can order. In student recruitment too, this is pretty important in an environment where there’s plenty of competition between universities/TAFEs for international students, and where the smallest barriers could change your international student revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Using Skype/Lync federation to recruit students

    Here’s a typical university recruitment website for international student recruitment. At some point, where the future student has done enough online research, they get to a point where they will want to speak with somebody. And this page is a typical ‘Contact Us’ page today. It basically encourages students to send an email, or phone.

    When they click the ‘Phone’ link, it typically gives them a telephone number for an international phone call - so for every international student, it introduces two barriers. Firstly there’s a cost implication for an international phone call (even if the student is using Skype); and secondly there’s a break in their buying journey – they have to leave their laptop and head to a phone.

    I don’t think it’s fanciful that a student would be put off a university simply because of a $5 phone call – there are plenty of examples of businesses where small cost barriers, like a delivery charge, have caused large numbers of customers to swap to an alternative supplier even once they are a long way down their buying journey.


    As well as being a barrier for the student, the implication for the university could well be that there’s an immediate barrier to connections with students, and a risk to the international student recruitment chain. The student may have to switch devices from computer to phone, creating a break in the recruitment chain. If it is even only 1 in 200 people who give up because of it, that could have an implication of a hundred international students less enrolling further down the line, and loss of millions of dollars of revenue.

    How can you improve the recruitment experience for a student using Skype?

    Example of a 'Contact Us' page with a Skype Chat buttonWith federation between Lync and Skype, it is possible to change the workflow dramatically, and make it much easier. Simply adding a Skype “Call” button means it’s a single click to launch Skype and connect a free call via Skype to the specified user. And a Skype Call button on the website is either one, or 11, lines of code, so it’s not a major issue for IT to implement, but a massive gain for creating a frictionless experience for student (and staff) communications:

    • For student recruitment, it removes the drop out from forcing them to change device
    • It demonstrate your institution’s open-ness and connectivity
    • Allow the calls to come in through Lync federation, so that it can be connected through to your other systems (eg to redirect calls, move to conference calls, check availability etc)
    • You can integrate it to your other systems, for example your student recruitment CRM, so that you can track your contacts.

    Example of a 'Contact Us' page with a Skype Chat buttonGoing one step further, adding a Skype “Chat” button allows you to improve the experience further:

    • Agents can deal with more than one incoming chat at a time
    • The instant messenger chat window can be converted to a call easily
    • All contacts are recorded in your archive, and are searchable
    • The chat can be stored into your CRM record for that student, so that they next time they speak to an advisor, they don’t need to repeat everything from the start
    • Just like the example above, it works the way students already do, rather than forcing them to use your own systems and processes.

    Allowing future students to speak to you in their native language

    Going a step further, you could use the Lync simultaneous translation system to allow conversations with international students (or for staff working on international projects) where each user chats in their own language – and the system handles the translation – like the example below.

    Demonstration of Lync chat translationAnd perhaps in the future, you can have the same translation for voice conversations! The Microsoft Research team have already demonstrated real-time voice translation too, so this could be something implemented further down the line – either voice to text (with translation) or voice to voice. You can see the example of what’s possible demonstrated by Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer in November last year on the Next at Microsoft blog

    Learn MoreLearn more about what's possible with Lync and Skype joined together

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