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

August, 2013

  • Education

    Webinar: Developing students’ 21st Century skills


    imageExpanding Learning Horizons, one of our national education partners, is running a webinar next Thursday on “How to develop students’ 21st Century skills”. Fortunately, the first thing on the agenda is to define what those skills are in an Australian context (I mention this because it seems every country around the world has a definition of 21st Century skills, but they all seem slightly different!)

    The webinar will be jointly presented by Expanding Learning Horizons & St Mary’s Primary School in Warners Bay in New South Wales, and will discuss strategies for how you can improve educational outcomes and equip students with the tools required for work and life in the 21st Century. As ELH put it:


    We are constantly told to teach these skills but what are they? How do we teach them? Learn how St Mary’s have overcome these questions.
    Learn about:

    • What are the 21st Century Skills?
    • How do you know if you're teaching them?
    • Case Study at St Mary’s Primary School, implementing 21st Century Skills alongside their one-to-one device program – challenges, solution & benefits
    • Some great tools and ideas for web 2.0 tools that will help you teach these skills

    Next steps for St Mary’s Primary School moving forward


    The webinar is next Thursday 5th September from 4pm to 5pm AEST, and hosted by Emily Wooldridge (ICT Education Specialist, Expanding Learning Horizons) and Brad Fuller (IT Coordinator, St Mary’s Primary School )

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the webinar

    If you need more details or have a question, then drop an email to Megan at ELH

  • Education

    Education is the fastest growing user of unified communications



    I’ve been aware of the steady advance of unified communications at the expense of old-fashioned PBX telephone systems for a few years. Personally, my journey of unified communications started 6 years ago, when Microsoft started to replace our telephone handsets with Communicator 2007 software and handsets. Now I’m completely weaned off having a handset, and use a Bluetooth headset as my main ‘telephone’ device, and I love the ability to switch easily between IM chats, voice calls, video sharing, and conference calls – all within the same Lync software.

    According to the latest research from IDG, I’m not alone. Their news release highlights a slew of key numbers around enterprise unified communications adoption, including:

    • 51% of organisations (yep, that’s a majority) are using unified communications already
    • 90% of organisations plan to invest in unified communications in the next year
    • Education is expected to be the fastest growing industry for implementation of unified communications in the next three years - with 72% of organisations expected to invest in it.
    • The primary benefits that organisations are seeing as drivers for adopting unified communications are:
      • 61% say increased productivity
      • 42% say increased flexibility for employees
      • 39% say faster response times

    Is it in your plans yet? Should it be?

    Learn MoreRead the research on the IDG Enterprise website

  • Education

    Are you running Windows XP or Office 2003 anywhere?



    I was in a government medical clinic two weeks ago, where they had rolled out a brand new system for managing their customer workflow and medical records. And every single computer, with this brand new software system, was running on Windows XP. They had built a brand-new mission critical IT system on 12-year-old technology. It left me wondering what my rights would be from next April, after Windows XP support has ended, if somebody tries to load my medical records and history into an unsupported, at-risk computer?

    Generally speaking, education institutions are ahead of other public sector organisations in ensuring that IT is kept up to date, and there are proportionally less Windows XP computers running in education. However, those that are may well be running mission critical systems – things like your catering system tills, student management system, or some of your infrastructure services like printing. It’s often the case that they are last to be migrated because they just sit in the background, silently getting on with their job.

    But official support for Windows XP and Office 2003 ends in April 2014. Which means no more automatic Windows Updates for Windows XP – and a big increase in the risk profile of your computers (see what ComputerWorld think).

    Here’s some info from our End Of Support website for Windows XP and Office 2003 that might help you to alert colleagues, and plan your next move.


    In 2002 Microsoft introduced its Support Lifecycle policy based on customer feedback to have more transparency and predictability of support for Microsoft products. As per this policy, Microsoft Business and Developer products, including Windows and Office products, receive a minimum of 10 years of support (5 years Mainstream Support and 5 years Extended Support), at the supported service pack level.

    Thus, Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will go out of support on April 8, 2014. If your organisation has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are late. Based on historical customer deployment data, the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment. To ensure you remain on supported versions of Windows and Office, you should begin your planning and application testing immediately to ensure you deploy before end of support.

    Learn about how other organisations have benefited from migrating to Windows 7 and Windows 8 Enterprise.


    It means you should take action. After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.

    Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your organisation to potential risks, such as:

    • Security & Compliance Risks: Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognised control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organisation’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information.
    • Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) & Hardware Manufacturers support: A recent industry report from Gartner Research suggests "many independent software vendors (ISVs) are unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP in 2011; in 2012, it will become common." And it may stifle access to hardware innovation: Gartner Research further notes that in 2012, most PC hardware manufacturers stopped supporting Windows XP on the majority of their new PC models.

    Get current with Windows and Office. This option has upside well beyond keeping you supported. It offers more flexibility to empower employees to be more productive, while increasing operational efficiency through improved PC security and management. It also enables your organization to take advantage of latest technology trends such as virtualisation and the cloud.


    Microsoft offers large organisations in-depth technical resources, tools, and expert guidance to ease the deployment and management of Windows, Office and Internet Explorer products and technologies. To learn more about migration and deployment programs, contact your Microsoft Partner (or your Microsoft Account Manager). To learn how to pilot and deploy a modern desktop yourself, you can download the free Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and begin your deployment today.

    Even if you think you’ve got no Windows XP computers left in your school, TAFE or university, keep an eye out next time you are in your admin office, canteen, library or media services room – there’s a chance you’ll spot at least one PC that you’ve got to do something about before next year.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Windows XP and Office 2003 end of support

  • Education

    Watching out for Australian government agency tenders


    Each day I receive an email update on new IT tenders from public sector organisations, and scan it to keep an eye on interesting IT projects. And I just read an update from the Australian Government’s IT blog (run jointly between by AGIMO and the Technology & Procurement Division)  which promises to make the information on public tenders more easily available through AusTender, the government’s centralised, web-based, procurement information system.

    AusTender header

    From 1st July 2013, all government agencies are now only allowed to advertise their tenders etc (also known as ‘open approaches to market’) through the AusTender website. They are now forbidden from placing adverts in the media etc.

      In June this year, the Department of Finance and Deregulation issued a circular (information brief) to Australian Government agencies under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 informing them that from 1 July 2013 onwards, they can only use AusTender to advertise open approaches to market. Basically, agencies can no longer use other supplementary forms of media (such as print) to advertise a tender is being conducted.  

    So if you want to keep an eye out for relevant tenders, then head over to AusTender to register for their mailing list, and to search their current database.

    NB: This applies to Australian Government Agencies only – like DEEWR, ATO, DFID, Outback Stores, SBS  (see all 223 here)– and doesn’t stretch down into individual education organisations, either at state or local level. Which means that you’ll still need to look out elsewhere for tenders from universities, TAFEs and individual state education departments, through places like TenderLink

  • Education

    University of New England heads to Lync for 23,000 students and staff


    Lync logoLast week we were able to announce the news that the University of New England, in Armidale in northern New South Wales, has become the latest big education customer to use Microsoft Lync for real-time communications. It will become the way that their 23,000 students and staff can collaborate and communicate anytime from virtually anywhere, including via instant messaging, video conferencing and voice calls.

    With 80% of UNE’s students studying online, the university is leading the digital learning charge, and the Microsoft Lync deployment (the largest within the Australian Pacific education sector) will enable UNE students, faculty and staff to make calls and benefit from online lecture delivery and collaboration, wherever they live.

    As UNE’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, puts it:

      We have a long history of pioneering distance education that began in the 1950s with Australia’s first distance learning courses. Technology has allowed us to remove the ‘distance’ from education and bring face-to-face online learning to people in the areas in which they live.  

    The rise in people studying later in life, or part time, means that universities need to be sympathetic to the needs of students who are juggling lifestyle commitments such as work and family. UNE’s strategic technology investment is to provide new cost-efficient education to a broader demographic of students in an accessible and collaborative environment. It is also creating a new era of digital learning, where teachers and students can learn and work both in-person or virtually via their PC, tablet or smartphone.

    The UNE IT Director, Rob Irving, described that they aim to enable better communication with current and future students:

      At UNE, our staff and students can now benefit from the most innovative online learning experience through software-based audio, video, conferencing, and collaboration via Microsoft Lync. Microsoft Lync will connect both current and potential future students with our educators and staff to facilitate better overall learning experiences and support, whilst giving our researchers the ability to achieve faster results by making it easier to connect people with people, and people with knowledge.  

    UNE plan to create new channels for student recruitment – for example, to use the global reach of Skype and its connectivity with Microsoft Lync both locally and offshore. Potential international and interstate students interested in the university will soon have the ability to call UNE via Skype, where previously they would have incurred international call charges.

    After we announced the news to the press last week, it didn't take long for it to reach the home pages of The Australian, Delimiter, ITWire, WhaTech

    Learn MoreLearn more about what Lync does

    Recommended further reading:
    Case study: Marquette University upgrades to Lync 2013
    Case study: Using Lync to replace PABX in South Australia
    Using Lync for emergency contact management in universities
    Joining Lync and Skype together

  • Education

    How to choose the right device in education


    Picture of children using touch screen laptopThe search for the right device for both yourself and your school, TAFE or university can be challenging. What type of device will I get? What do all the specs mean? Which device will best cater for my needs? The problem is, with the broad collection of Windows devices now available, and the vast price range, there is no ‘one size fits all’ device as every individual has their own needs.

    I feel that sometimes ‘too much choice’ can be fatally confusing, because it can make a decision complicated. And so the benefit of having lots of different styles of device with Windows can have downsides as well as upsides. Who needs a choice of 30 different devices when you’re only going to buy one? But the reality is that we each have a very specific list of requirements, and so the choice of one of us may be completely different from another.

    My colleagues in the UK have produced a handy guide to help navigate you through the choices of device, and highlight some of their favourites. They start with a comparison of device types – ultrabooks, tablets, hybrids/convertibles and All-In-Ones – and then highlight options for students at different levels, teachers and senior managers/IT professionals.

    As we don’t have anything similar for Australia, I thought I’d share the information on the UK team’s work (beware: not all devices are available here, and the prices are listed in GB Pounds).

    Learn MoreRead the original blog post from the UK Education team on 'Device choices for education'

  • Education

    Identity management in the cloud (or how to avoid the need to login every two minutes)


    Many education institutions in Australia are using Active Directory for their identity management. Typically, when a new student or staff member starts, they have an account created in the Active Directory (in many cases, this is done automatically by their student management system). That then allows them to logon to their computer and the network, and also gives them permission to access specific information (for example, for the staff to be able to access network resources and software that students shouldn’t have access to).

    Over the years, the ways that Active Directory is used has extended to all kinds of different scenarios, and it’s become the single source of truth in education institutions for user access and information rights. And as customers move to cloud services for some of their IT services, the Active Directory has expanded to that (for example, in my day to day life our Active Directory is used to give me access to all kinds of external and web-based services, including Office 365, Yammer, our external travel booking service and our external payslip system). It means I only login once, and don’t need to login again when I jump across to these systems.

    If you’re in an institution where you have to login multiple times on different systems, then it’s time to look at identity management in the cloud. There’s two bits to the story – what the institution sets up, and what the external software developers do. I’ve covered both below, so that you can get an idea of the conversations you might have with your external software suppliers.

    About identity management in the cloud

    Windows Azure logoWindows Azure Active Directory is a service that provides identity and access capabilities for on-premises and cloud applications.

    Microsoft cloud services today, such as Windows Intune and Office 365 for education, rely on the identity management capabilities provided by Windows Azure Active Directory. These capabilities include a cloud based store for directory data and a core set of identity services including user logon processes, authentication and federation services. In addition, organisations that subscribe to these cloud services can use Windows Azure AD to configure single sign-on to allow interoperability with their existing on-premises Active Directory environment.

    Because it is your organisation’s cloud directory, you decide who your users are, what information to keep in the cloud, who can use the information or manage it, and what applications or services are allowed to access that information.

    Because it’s a cloud service, when you use Windows Azure AD, it is Microsoft’s responsibility to keep Active Directory running in the cloud with high scale, high availability, and integrated disaster recovery, while fully respecting your requirements for the privacy and security of your organisation’s information.

    Using Windows Azure Active Directory as a developer

    Developers can use the features of Windows Azure AD to create applications and services that run in the cloud, and use the organisation’s Active Directory information to control access to the system, without users having to create another, new login identity. Developers can:

    • Implement single sign-on and single sign-off for enterprise applications and software as a service (SaaS) providers
      for example, so that users can automatically be logged into a cloud-based Learning Management System
    • Query and manage cloud directory objects, such as users and groups, by using the Graph API
      for example, you could allow a student management system to manage your Active Directory to add them to specific curriculum groups, and to update their photo that shows to staff in email and IM conversations
    • Integrate with on-premises Active Directory to sync directory data to the cloud and enable single sign-on across on-premises and cloud applications

    As a highly-available and highly-scalable service of Windows Azure, Windows Azure AD can be used to manage identities at massive scale, and it enables organisations to use their credentials to authenticate to new or existing applications, factoring out the authentication process and eliminating the need for many different identities.

    Integration with your on-premises Active Directory

    Windows Azure AD can be used as a standalone cloud directory, but you would usually integrate your existing on-premise Active Directory with Windows Azure AD. Some of the features of integration include directory sync and single sign-on, which further extend the reach of your existing on-premises identities into the cloud for an improved admin and end user experience. Learn more about Directory synchronisation, password synchronisation and Single Sign On (SSO)

    Integration with your applications

    Application developers can integrate their applications with Windows Azure AD to provide single sign-on functionality for their users. This enables enterprise applications to be hosted in the cloud and to easily authenticate users with corporate credentials. It also enables software as a service (SaaS) providers to make authentication easier for users in Windows Azure AD organizations when authenticating to their services. Learn more about integrating applications in Windows Azure Active Directory, and the control that IT administrators have to add, update and remove access for apps

    Some links for developers

    If you're looking to build Windows Azure AD into your application(s) for web single sign on, then here’s some links that might interest you:

  • Education

    Update 3: Microsoft Surface RT Education offer in Australia


    One of the most frequent questions that we’ve been asked about the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia (the offer is for education institutions to be able to order the Microsoft Surface RT from AU$219) is “can I get the Surface RT Education offer in stores, rather than ordering online from Microsoft?”

    Well, up until now the answer has been ‘no’, but we’ve realised that we could be a little be more flexible…

    So now the answer is ‘Yes’!

    Here’s how it works:

    • Education institutions are able to go to their local Harvey Norman or JB Hi-Fi and place an order, referencing the Limited Time Education Offer
    • The institution and retailer agree on method of payment and delivery details
    • Retailer forwards the order to Microsoft for validation that they are a valid education institution that meets the criteria
    • Once the order’s been validated, the retailer can supply the devices

    This retail option means that you can get a faster and more efficient purchase route, and supply from a local business.

    Just in case you’ve missed it before, here’s a quick summary of the Surface RT Education offer in Australia: Education institutions qualify for the offer to buy Microsoft Surface RT, starting at AU$219, until the end of September 2013.

    Learn MoreHere’s where you can get all the details on the Surface RT education offer in Australia, and here’s my previous updates – Update 1 and Update 2.

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