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April, 2014 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

April, 2014

  • Education

    Building a MOOC in the cloud, using Microsoft Azure


    It would be fair to call MOOCs a phenomenon (Phenomenon: Something notable: something that is out of the ordinary and excites people's interest and curiosity). They have created an enormous amount of interest and curiosity – and jumped up to the top of the agenda for ‘EdTech futurists’ and any reports that look at what’s the next big thing. A lot of the attention has focused on the MOOCs coming out of the US – like edX and Coursera – which some of the big Australian universities have signed up for (The University of Melbourne aligned with Coursera, whilst The University of Sydney aligned with edX). But it’s not a one-way street across the Pacific - there have been plenty of local MOOCs developed within Australia.

    DeakinConnect headerDeakin University’s open learning space, Deakin Connect, is a purpose-built platform developed in conjunction with a Microsoft partner, Janison, which enables  Deakin University to innovate in assessment, as well as online learning. Rather than try to test and measure student success, the course prompts learners to create and share rich evidence of their attainment of learning outcomes. Peers can award credit badges, signifying that they believe the participant’s exhibit shows mastery of learning outcomes. These can be shared on social media platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook.

    I’ve attached a case study (see below) which explores why the Deakin University approach has been different to other universities, and how they have been able to focus on the educational outcomes they have been aiming to achieve, rather than compromising their educational journey to match somebody else’s technology. And their results so far – with registered participants from 80 countries, and having learners pay a fee for their work to be accredited by Deakin University (one of the first in the world to make a successful step towards a new accreditation business model through the MOOC). 

    As Wendy Palmer, Head of Learning Design from DeakinPrime, says in the case study:

      It’s not as if there are a lot of universities out there doing this. It’s not an established business model by any means. This really is cutting-edge stuff.  

    In the case study, Wendy also talks about the learning journey, for both DeakinPrime and the MOOC students:


    Content curation was the other major focus of the project. Rather than write lots of online learning, we’re actually using the system as a means of elegantly ordering information that’s already out there, pulling it together into a structured learning journey. Janison’s Course Builder really helped us to do that very quickly and simply. I’ve worked on many other Learning Management Systems and what I can do in an hour on the Janison CLS, I know would have taken me days in other systems. So, not only do we have an excellent system for elearning we also benefit from rapid deployment…

    A lot of the MOOC learning systems are in the format of just a video with associated multiple-choice questions. One week we decided to try this format for one of the modules. We got a real backlash on the discussion boards with comments like: ‘We’re so disappointed, we didn’t think this was that sort of course’. We had actually planned to use this format more. We ended up changing from multiple choices to an FAQ format, and then directing users to resources so they could research them further if they wanted to find out more. We didn’t receive any negative backlash from that. The system enabled us to adapt really quickly to learners’ expectations and requirements. We have the flexibility to change the courses as we progress and to give our users the learning experience they need.


    The DeakinConnect MOOC is built upon the Janison Cloud Learning System (CLS) which provides a platform being used within Australia for learning management, distance learning and online assessment, in educational, government and commercial organisations.

    Learn MoreRead the full DeakinConnect MOOC case study

  • Education

    Education DevCamp in Sydney – Building apps for Office 365 and SharePoint


    On 14/15 May 2014 we’re running a training event for developers of education applications and services in Sydney. It is a two-day detailed training workshop that will help partners to develop for the Office 365, Office and SharePoint platform. The workshop is for developers and architects, and will mix integration theory with hands-on development practice. Although this workshop is primarily for commercial developers, it may also be of interest to developers within education institutions who develop apps and services for a wide base of users.

    The timing of this training is important, as the existing large number of Office and Office 365 users in Australian education institutions (both students and staff) is expected to increase rapidly as a result of our announcement that the Office Professional Plus suite is available for students free of charge through qualifying institutions (details here) for their school and home computers (as well as their iPad, Android and iPhone devices). In Australia, that could mean a leap in education users of Office, and offer new opportunities to create apps that support students, teachers, schools, TAFEs and universities.

    DevCamps header

    App DevCamp for Education-Focused ISVs and Publishers

    Apply for participation in an App DevCamp for Education Partners and work alongside Microsoft experts to learn how to build apps for Office 365 and SharePoint.

    The new Office has a focus on cloud, making it easier for partners to build applications that integrate with Office and Office 365, and bring these to market and to users through an online store. For education customers and partners, this is good news. Customers will be able to add custom apps within their personalised Office environment and partners will benefit from a new opportunity to build and sell education apps for the many millions of Microsoft education customers around the world.

    For Education publishers and content partners, this offers the potential to build apps which can co-exist with the rich tools of Office applications. Education ISVs have the opportunity to extend their solutions by building apps that support specific processes in education – whether it's to handle approval of staff cover; to manage assignment submission; to extend the functionality of a LMS by building apps for SharePoint; to build and publish lesson plans; to manage the booking of resources; to build a ‘parent permission’ app which allows a parent to say ‘Yes’ with one click when reading a form….a million and one relevant, simple, single-button type controls. Building apps for Office and SharePoint is a good opportunity.

    If you are building education apps, we would like to offer you the opportunity to apply for a place at this DevCamp provided specifically for our education-focused ISVs and Publishers.

    The training is designed for developers/architects building apps for Office & SharePoint (for both on-premise and Office 365 customers) and will offer the opportunity for delegates to meet with subject matter experts from Microsoft.

    Topics for Presentations and Hands-On Labs include

    • Building apps for Office and Office 365
    • Building apps for SharePoint and SharePoint Online
    • Using web technologies to build apps with the cloud app model
    • Deployment options for apps, including getting your apps into the Office Store


    There is no fee for the event itself. Microsoft will provide lunch and refreshments during the 2 day event. You are responsible for any other expenses including accommodation and travel to/from the event.

    Make a date

    To register for the Sydney Edu DevCamp, please click here. Once completed, you will be contacted with confirmation of your place. Space is limited, so register early.


    Date: May 14-15, 2014
    Location: Sydney, Australia
    Level: 300
    Audience: Architects / Web Developers in the Education sector

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