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The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

  • Education

    Hosting Moodle in Azure - TAFE South Australia moves online


    I’ve written before about the work that our technical teams have done to make it simpler to run Moodle on Azure, and the way that you can integrate Office 365 with Moodle to make life easier for teaching staff and students (as well as easing the manage of a potentially-complex IT system).

    imageThis week, TAFE South Australia have announced they have moved their Moodle LMS to Microsoft Azure in the cloud, in order to improve the level of service delivered to their students. They moved from their existing internal Moodle system to the cloud in order to cope with the increased demand for their services - in the last year the student use of their Learning Management System has increased by over 50% (I think that’s a problem that many others would be jealous to have!).

    iTWire and ARN both covered the story, and here’s some of the quotes from the iTWire story:


    In a bid to ‘boost student learning’, TAFE SA has entered into a ‘groundbreaking partnership’ with Microsoft to ‘shift its entire online learning system into Microsoft’s Azure cloud’

    TAFE SA Chief Executive Robin Murt noted the partnership ‘had led to the first case in Australia of an organisation the size of TAFE SA transferring the internationally used e-learning system Moodle – known within TAFE SA as ‘Learn’ – to Microsoft’s Azure cloud.’

    Murt said: “Usage of TAFE SA’s online learning platform increased to the point that we needed something different to cater for our students’ needs, now and in the future. We have to be able to provide courses and content, reliably and consistently.

    Students can find and store on Moodle learning materials, notes and videos; participate in chat rooms and forums; and complete and submit tests, quizzes and assignments.

    TAFE SA Director, ICT Services, Craig Carter said students around the world are telling education providers they want to study when and how they want – and for most education providers, that means offering courses online.

    He said student usage of Moodle increased by 57% in the 12 months to September 2015, as measured by the number of pages TAFE SA students accessed. About 38,000 students are using the system in 2015.

    Carter said: “The system has to be set up to handle a lot of use at any one time. Our system reached a point where use exceeded the capabilities of the system, which put reliability at risk.

    “We had a choice: replace the system with more powerful IT infrastructure, or move it into the cloud, using Microsoft Azure,” Carter added.


    The article also highlighted that the whole move took place within six weeks from start to finish - and eliminated outages that were occurring every fortnight with their existing system, affecting 38,000 students each time. As Craig Carter said:


    This is a major benefit for us and for our students. As demand continues to increase, having Moodle in the Cloud means it’s much easier to increase capability. It’s more robust, high performing and reliable, leading to fewer performance-related issues.

    It also paves the way for TAFE SA to migrate other systems into the cloud


    If you’re interested in learning more about running Moodle in the Microsoft Azure cloud, you don’t actually need to wait 6 weeks, because this time last year I wrote a blog post about how to setup a Moodle server in Microsoft Azure in 30 minutes. (I’m nowhere near as technical as my colleagues, and so it would probably take them, and you, less than the 30 minutes it took me!)

    Learn MoreFind other articles on Moodle on this blog

  • Education

    The first university-wide roll out of Windows 10 in the world has started, and it’s in Australia!


    Consumers are often the first to start using new releases of Windows, and large organisations tend to follow more cautiously, taking the time to carefully balance the new features some users want alongside the cry from others to not change anything. But in the case of Windows 10 there are features in it that mean that users on earlier versions of Windows can move to the latest version without major retraining, and can also start to use new developments within the operating system. So change has been faster (as of 2 months ago there were already more than 110 million PCs running Windows 10).

    We’ve just announced that the University of Newcastle, in Australia, is the first university globally to roll out Windows 10 across its campuses - with a plan to deploy it to around 10,000 devices by the end of 2016!


    Windows 10 at the University of Newcastle

    Ann Walters, the University’s Associate Director, IT Client Services said the University is committed to positioning itself as a world leader, instead of taking a wait and see approach to digital transformation:



    At UON we have the opportunity to make great strides over the next five years, and we’re looking forward to leveraging Windows 10 to provide the best possible learning environment for our students.


    The upgrade to Windows 10 was made following a pilot of the new operating system on 200 devices across the University. Ms. Walters said that the move to Windows 10 was a natural step in driving greater collaboration across its multi-campuses – and the deployment is just the start of what’s to come.

      With 40,000 students and campuses stretching from Sydney to Tamworth and all the way to Singapore, having the best technology to enable collaboration and innovation is critical in driving productivity for both staff and students  

    The university plans on having 3,000 devices updated with Windows 10 by the start of the 2016 University year dedicated for student use and the remaining 7,000 devices before the end of 2016 for staff. The majority of devices are Dell personal computers, laptops and tablets.

    Office 365 at the University of Newcastle

    The university has also migrated to Microsoft Office 365. UON students have OneDrive with one terabyte of storage per student, as well as free downloads of Office under Microsoft’s Office 365 ProPlus Benefit. Staff are also piloting Skype for Business and SharePoint Online as the staff collaboration tool – with hope that the tool will replace a number of the University’s legacy communication systems in the long term.


    We moved to Office 365 as we saw a tremendous opportunity to enable our staff to collaborate both nationally and internationally. We see this increased collaboration as a way to accelerate their research efforts, something that is very important to us here. Research sits at the heart of any university, therefore it’s critical that we enable our researchers with the right tools to take us one step closer to achieving the ambitious goals we’ve set for UON.

    The University of Newcastle is set to achieve great things through its digital strategy. By optimising 21st century skills with Windows 10 and cloud solutions, UON is in a great place to lead a highly competitive industry



    Learn MoreFrom the Microsoft News Centre

  • Education

    Free edX Power BI course - starts next week


    imageThere’s a brand new free edX course starting next week - “Analysing and Visualising Data with Power BI”, taught by Will Thompson. It is the perfect opportunity to learn how you can start to build an education analytics system for your school\TAFE\university. I am a massive fan of using Power BI in education, because of the potential it offers to unlock institutional data and put the power  of analysis into the hands of users (rather than conventional BI systems that have concentrated on putting ‘reports’ into users hands). I’ve found that an absolute beginner can produce powerful visualisations of their data in a few hours, and that an advanced user needs the same level of skills that an advanced Excel user has. Whilst there are plenty of Microsoft partners who have, or can, build educational analytics solutions customers using Power BI in education, there’s also an opportunity to create your own systems - and that’s a great way to use this course.

    If you want to see what’s possible with Power BI, then watch the video below to see what I created with data from Queensland’s Open Education Data site in a couple of days (more details on how I made it here)

    If you’ve got some spreadsheets of data, or data trapped across a set of different databases, then this course would be a good way to learn how to unlock it to create new ways of telling a data story.

    About this course

    In this course, you will learn how to connect, explore, and visualize data with Power BI.

    Power BI is a cloud-based business analytics service that helps create live operational dashboards from on-premises and cloud data in one central location that you can access across a range of devices.

    Power BI Desktop provides a free-form canvas for drag-and-drop data exploration as well as an extensive library of interactive visualizations, simple report creation, and fast publishing to the Power BI service.

    This course is taught in short, lecture-based videos, complete with demos, quizzes, and hands-on labs. The Power BI product team will guide you through Power BI end-to-end, starting from how to connect to and import your data, author reports using Power BI Desktop, publish those reports to the Power BI service, create dashboards, and share to business users so that they can consume the dashboards through the web and their mobile devices.

    What you'll learn
    • Connecting, importing, shaping and transforming data for business intelligence
    • Visualizing data, authoring reports, and scheduling automated refresh of your reports
    • Creating and sharing dashboards based on reports in Power BI desktop and Excel
    • Using natural language queries
    • Creating real time dashboards

    Course details

    imageThe free edX course starts online on November 24, and runs for 4 weeks. The instructors estimate it will involve 2-4 hours per week, and then at the end you’ll get an Honor Certificate from edX that you can add to your resume, or share on Linked (or you can sign up for a Verified Certificate for $49)

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the free edX course

  • Education

    Dynamics CRM Online certification to Australian government security requirements


    Six months ago we announced the important news confirming the Certification of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) via Australian Government’s Independent Registered Assessors Program (IRAP).

    Australian government certification for Microsoft cloud services

    This certification is for the handling of unclassified but sensitive data, known as Unclassified (DLM) within Australian government. This includes the majority of state and federal government data including private and personally identifiable information.

    ASD established a Certified Cloud Services List and published a revised Information Security Manual (ISM) that provides a streamlined and effective way to verify the security of cloud services.

    Increasingly, Australian Government agencies are turning to cloud services as a platform for innovation and efficiency. The Certified Cloud Services List streamlines the process by which those agencies can assure themselves of security and compliance by providing a Certification that can be trusted.

    Australian government certification for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    Today, we have announced that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has also completed Certification to Australian Government security requirements for unclassified sensitive government data. This provides an assurance that any government agency can confidently adopt our cloud services, knowing that the security protections in place reach the high bar set by the Australian Signals Directorate.

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is the first customer relationship management solution able to provide this level of assurance in Australia, complementing our existing Certification of Office 365 and Microsoft Azure under the same program. Microsoft is the only cloud provider in Australia delivering a complete set of trusted cloud services covering Infrastructure-as-a-Service for computing, storage, database services and identity management; Platform-as-a-Service for modern applications; Software-as-a-Service for productivity and customer relationship management.

    Demystifying data security

    I think this certification is critically important to help you make appropriate decisions about using cloud services. We really aren’t short of extensive information on our cloud services, and the security and privacy of your data that your education institution stores there. We have heaps of information on the Office 365 Trust Center, the Microsoft Azure Trust Center and the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Trust Center. And there is no shortage of detailed information about our information security features (here’s a typical slide I picked up from one of our PowerPoint presentations, about 2048-bit encryption)


    But often the leaders in education organisations don’t want to understand the details - what they want to know is the simple answer to the “Is it okay to use this?” question. And as an IT manager, that’s where the federal certification helps to simplify the conversation, because you can answer “Yes” confidently with the certification information. Whichever of our cloud services that your staff and students will be using - whether it’s the various Microsoft Azure services, Office 365 Education or Dynamics CRM Online, you’ve got the ring of confidence that comes from the certification (from ASD, who have possible the coolest strapline on their website Smile)


    NB: All of these services are now also delivered from data centres within Australia, and we’re in the middle of migrating all of our Australian customers from other datacentres to the Australian ones. New customers are automatically deployed in the Australian data centres.

    Learn MoreRead more about today's CRM Online certification announcement

  • Education

    How to migrate large data sets from on-premises disks to Office 365


    School IT teams sometimes face very different challenges to business IT teams (and have to solve them with smaller budgets and less people). Moving services to the cloud is an example, because once you’ve made the decision to do it, you’ve got to deal with moving hundreds of gigabytes of data for thousands of users from your on-premise servers to the cloud. There are a number of different approaches for how to migrate large data sets from on-premises disks to Office 365, and so a case study of a school approach to this will be useful.

    imageStella Maris College in Manly had exactly that challenge - how to efficiently migrate 250GB of data from on-premise file shares to a hybrid scenario - SharePoint 2013 and cloud-based SharePoint Online in Office 365. This will be a typical scenario for other schools, TAFEs and universities. They chose the AvePoint DocAve Migrator to carry out the various migration stages:

    • pre-migration discovery and mitigation
    • data migration, keeping full document integrity
    • running full and incremental backups, to quickly restore deleted content

    The key for the IT team is that they were able to save their time by using DocAve, as it handled exceptions and challenges with migrating huge document libraries, as well as reducing the workload for them:


    To modernise information management and allow for better collaboration, the organisation opted to move its content to Office 365. “Office 365 was easier to access on and off campus through its web-based interface accessible across many devices,” said Chris Maker, IT Manager at Stella Maris College. “SharePoint Online would help us foster better collaboration through shared calendars for our departments and, ultimately, workflows to help automate processes.”

    “DocAve saved us lots of time with both migrations,” Maker said. “Based on our initial experience, DocAve helped us migrate to the new systems in half the time out-of-the-box tools would have required.”


    Learn MoreRead the full Stella Maris\AvePoint case study on the AvePoint website 


    You can find a list of current Education Education case studies here

  • Education

    IT Heroes: How to stop parents or students block your parking bays?


    imageI’ve been talking about machine learning a lot recently - the idea that we can use a bit of computing brain power to look at data, and make predictions, spot patterns and improve the value we can get from data in education. As an example I often talk about, that estimates how old you look from simply looking at a picture of you - it’s a good example because it was built very quickly because of the work we’ve been doing to simplify the process of using machine learning services.

    So I was excited to see that Manly council had taken a look at, and then decided to use our Internet of Things service in their area - for spotting vehicles parked where or when they shouldn’t in reserved bays. They already had an existing network for 100 CCTV cameras, and so they just added a service to spot when buses stay too long in the tourist bus bays, and when people park in disabled bays without a permit. Here’s some of the story:


    “We’ve got Azure Machine Learning deployed in three locations across Manly at the moment,” Mr Rogers said. “One of them is down at the beach across a large bus parking zone. Lots of buses come to Manly to let tourists out to have a look at the beach, which is great, but we just want to make sure there’s equal access to that space for all tour operators.”

    The IT team wrote a program that downloads footage from the camera, passes it and uploads it to Azure Machine Learning.

    “Azure Machine Learning has been previously trained on 10,000 ‘normal’ or ‘control’ images from the camera, so each time we upload an image it makes a judgement as to whether it’s normal or whether there’s some sort of anomaly. If Azure Machine Learning tells us there’s an anomaly, we have a script on our end that will email the right people so they can immediately go and check out what’s happening.”

    The cutting edge technology is also used in mobility bays located beyond foot patrol distance of the CBD.  In the future it may also be used to provide a community safety tool with the ability to recognize crowds patterns and trigger public place management protocols and safety evacuation plans.

    “Before we could use Azure Machine Learning to watch cameras, the locations were really monitored on an ad hoc basis or during regular patrols,” Mr Rogers said. “Now that we have Azure Machine Learning, we can target patrols when they are needed and those resources can do other duties when they aren’t needed at those locations.”


    You can read more about this story here

    The media have picked up the story, with GovernmentNews quoting the council’s Chief Information Officer Nathan Rogers:


    “Before we could use Azure Machine Learning to watch cameras, the locations were really monitored on an ad hoc basis or during regular patrols,” he said. “Now that we have Azure Machine Learning, we can target patrols when they are needed and those resources can do other duties when they aren’t needed at those locations.

    “We can move to a just in time deployment of resources. We always try to put technology out where the services are actually delivered, rather than focusing on the back office.”

    The technology is surprisingly easy and cheap to employ. Mr Rogers estimates it costs the council about $80 a year to use. He added: “We got the whole thing working in under two hours.”


    Solving parent parking problems

    It got me thinking about scenarios that it could be helpful in schools and universities:

    • Many schools have a traffic patrol just to make sure that chaos doesn’t break out at pickup\dropoff times, and they also have networks of CCTV cameras. You could use exactly the same techniques to monitor parking spaces to ensure that cars didn’t block the school driveway, or stop in the wrong place.
    • And if you have disabled parking bays, you could automatically monitor to ensure that the right permit is displayed in the windscreen.
    • If you don’t let learner drivers on campus, you could setup a system to create an alert when a vehicle is parked in your campus with L-plates on it.

    Keeping the Vice Chancellors parking spot clear every minute of the day

    The highest value example I could think of - or the one that you might get the most kudos from - would be monitoring the reserved parking spot for the Vice Chancellor or Principal, and creating an alert for the facilities team if somebody else parks in their spot! I reckon that would be a Monday-morning project for somebody from the IT team, and if you’ve already got a CCTV camera covering the area, you could earn yourself an opportunity for promotion for less than $100!

    If you are interested in doing one of these things as a summer holiday project (only a few weeks away now, unless you’re in a university, when it’s probably this week) then read on for ideas:

    What next?

    1. Read more about machine learning in education
      > Making machine learning in education easier for every day users
    2. Find a Microsoft partner with the Data Analytics competency, and experience in education, and see what ideas they have to help
      > Go to Pinpoint, the Microsoft website for finding partner solutions
      Sign up for a free Quick Start Internet of Things half-day workshop to explore this and other scenarios
      > Internet of Things Quick Start Consultation
    3. Learn more about Azure Machine Learning yourself, or talk to your analytics team internally to try an idea out
      > Machine Learning documentation and tutorials are here
      > Azure Internet of Things Suite documentation and overview
    4. Read the Microsoft Machine Learning blog
      > You’ll find it on TechNet here
  • Education

    Introducing: Microsoft Office 365 for Moodlerooms


    Moodlerooms, from Blackboard, is now integrated to Office 365, so that students\staff can use Office 365 identity for a smooth single sign on experience, sync info to their Outlook calendars, store files on OneDrive for Business, and submit assignments and feedback through OneNote.

    Last week at EDUCAUSE, Blackboard announced the integration of the Microsoft Office 365 plugins with Moodlerooms.


    General consumers today have high expectations on the web. They want simplicity, elegance, and engagement. And learners are no different – they expect their learning experience to be delightful, with tools that they are used to and that help them achieve their goals.

    And while there has been integration of the Office 365 plugins on other Moodle platforms, Blackboard’s adoption will be the largest to date. The Office 365 plugins for Moodle include authentication with Azure Active Directory, calendaring with Exchange Online, file-storage with One Drive for Business, assignment submission and feedback with OneNote, and interactive course content with Office Video, Mix and Sway. Office 365 Groups, Office Graph, Yammer and Skype for Business integrations are also on the roadmap and will be available in future releases.


    Learn MoreRead more on the Blackboard blog

  • Education

    Australian Education Case Studies Update - November 2015


    Education Case Studies iconOne question that I’m asked frequently about new projects is:

    Who else is doing this?

    In some cases, what people (partners/customers) are looking for is confirmation that they’re going to be at the innovative edge - and that what they are doing hasn’t been done before. But most of the time, they are looking for reassurance that somebody else has taken the journey before them!

    So I collate a list of public education case studies and examples from within Australia, which will help answer the question. What’s interesting to note is that there are some areas where there have been lots of education case studies published, and yet others where there have been few or none (despite the fact I know of examples, they just haven’t been published anywhere that I can find).

    I have just finished updating the list - which is permanently published on the ‘Case Studies’ link at the top of this page - and is directly accessible here. But I thought I’d also publish it as a blog post, to highlight the availability of the list for you!!

    Even though the list below isn’t exhaustive, there’s a fair number of education case studies from Australian education institutions - both Microsoft published case studies, as well as those published in the media and by our partners.

    Jump to case studies on:

    If you pop your mouse over each of the links, you’ll see a few more details on each of the examples.

    Case Study Subject


    TAFE & Vocational

    Higher Education

    Windows Devices

    St Mary's College

    St Andrew’s Anglican College

    Brighton Grammar School

    Coomera Anglican College

    Loreto Nedlands

    Pulteney Grammar School

    Hamilton Senior High School

    University of Adelaide

    Dynamics CRM

    Box Hill TAFE

    Tennis Australia

    Sydney Institute

    Wodonga TAFE 

    TAFE Queensland - South West

    TAFE NSW - Sydney Institute



    Curtin University

    Melbourne Business School

    Education Analytics

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    John Paul College




    Murdoch University


    St Stephens College

    St Pauls Grammar School

    Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

    St Mary's College

    St John's Grammar School

    Abbotsleigh School

    Nossal High School

    William Angliss TAFE

    University of New England

    Microsoft Azure - Cloud case studies

    NSW DEC ESSA tests

    ASIC MoneySmart Teaching

    Principals Australia Institute

    (3P Learning)

    Deakin University MOOC

    Curtin University (2011)

    Curtin University (2011)

    Curtin University (2015)

    Office 365 for education

    Marist College

    Western Australia Education Dept

    Prescott Primary Northern

    Woodleigh School 

    Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

    Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

    Frankston High School

    Antonine College

    Ravenswood School for Girls

    Coomera Anglican College

    Hale School

    Abbotsleigh School

    Principals Australia Institute

    Curtin University

    Deakin University


    Balwyn North Primary School

    St John's Grammar School

    St Helena Secondary College

    Hamilton Senior High School

    Office Mix - flipped classroom

    All Hallows' School

    St John's Grammar School

    Abbotsleigh School



    Marist College

    Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

    Box Hill TAFE

    Australian Institute of Fitness

    Central Institute of Technology WA

    West Coast TAFE

    Murdoch University

    Melbourne Business School

    UNSW - Australian School of Business



    Wodonga Institute of TAFE 


    Identity and System Management

    Brisbane Girls Grammar School

      University of Tasmania

    University of Canberra


     St Columba Anglican School (Minecraft)

    Brunswick Senior College (Minecraft)

      CAUDIT (support for all Australian Universities

    If you know of other case studies, let me know and I can add them to this page for others to see and read. It doesn’t need to be formally published information like an article or case study - it could be a story told in a newsletter or other place - as long as it’s in the public domain on the web.

  • Education

    Edu DevCamp Sydney - Building education apps for Office and SharePoint



    Apply for participation in our free DevCamp for Education Partners in Sydney, and work alongside Microsoft experts to learn how to integrate your solution with Office 365

    Office 365 Education is experiencing great momentum today, with more than 200 million users in education worldwide today, free entry level pricing, and availability in over 120 markets. In Australia, there has been an especially strong take up of Office 365 Education.

    For Education partners this offers a unique opportunity as new integration options are available to help you improve the single-sign on experience for teachers and students, and increase discoverability of your solution all (while saving yourself money).


    • Institutions will be able to discover and deploy your Single Sign On-enabled (SSO) solutions to end-users directly from within Office 365 via the Office Store
    • Partners will be able to offer customers rich integrations with OneDrive for Business, Office Web apps etc. for their end-users while offloading complex and expensive workloads like identity, file-storage, and messaging to the institution’s Office 365 tenant

    If you are interested in integrating with Office 365 and taking advantage of this one-of-a-kind business opportunity, we invite you to apply for a place at the Sydney Education DevCamp provided specifically for our education-focused ISVs and Publishers.

    The training is designed for developers/architects and will offer the opportunity for delegates to meet with subject matter experts from Microsoft.


    Topics for presentations and hands-on labs include:

    • Enabling SSO with your application and Office 365 for Education customers with on-premise and cloud AD architectures
    • Using OneDrive for Business, Unified API, Groups API and more
    • Using the Azure Active Directory App Gallery and Office Store to increase global customer discoverability and deployability of your solution

    There is no charge 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. Please note that attendance is by confirmation only.

    Venue and Dates

    The Sydney DevCamp will be held at the Microsoft offices in North Ryde, on 9 and 10 November.

    Make a dateMake a date for 9/10 November: Register here



    Questions? Just drop us an email

  • Education

    Microsoft Next Level Learning workshops - November 2015


    This week we’re starting to pack our bags, as the team head out to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for the free Microsoft Next Level Learning workshops for teachers and school IT managers. There’s a Teacher Track with themes around engaging students, gamification of learning, collaboration and learning analytics, plus a parallel IT Track that delves into the practical IT management issues associated with BYOD, cloud services and analytics. And with keynotes and workshops from Dan Haesler or Bron Stuckey, there will be plenty of opportunities to challenge your own thinking and hear how others see the future.

    The Microsoft Next Level Learning workshops are in November:

    • Gold Coast on November 5  with Dan Haesler
    • Brisbane on November 6  with Dan Haesler
    • Parramatta on November 12  with Bron Stuckey
    • Sydney on November 13  with Bron Stuckey
    • Melbourne on November 10  with Dan Haesler
    • Clayton on November 17  with Bron Stuckey
    • Adelaide on November 19  with Bron Stuckey



    What you can expect at the roadshows

    Attend a single day – leave with dozens of ideas!

    Teachers: Discover how to engage students in STEM. See how you can stimulate higher order thinking with Minecraft. Learn smart ways to save time and make the most of Office 365 and Windows 10.

    IT Professionals: See what’s new in Windows 10 and how to deploy it. Discover efficient ways to secure and manage BYOD devices. Learn how to harness school data to improve insights and much more.


    Make a date

    Make a date: Find out more, and register


    Need one final nudge? When you register to attend, you can also enter into a free draw to bring gamification to your classroom - with an Xbox One, Kinect Sports Rivals and a pile of sports equipment (soccer ball, tennis rackets and 30 packs of t-shirts, sweat bands and water bottles for your class)


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