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

  • Education

    Moodle integration with Office 365–how to get it


    Last month, when I wrote that new Moodle integrations with Microsoft technology were on the way, I didn’t have an exact date, but forecast ‘late January’. And how time flies – because they’ve just arrived!

    Microsoft Open Technologies logoOvernight, the work from our Microsoft Open Technologies team and the Remote Learner team (a Moodle partner), was released as open source Moodle plugins - enabling close integration between Moodle and Office 365. This is key news for education institutions, because there’s a huge overlap between the 50,000+ Moodle installations and the millions of Office 365 Education users.

    Now schools, TAFEs and universities that are using Moodle and Office 365 Education can now simplify the lives of staff and students:

    • Teaching staff and students can now use their Office 365 account to login to Moodle
      No longer will students need two separate identities – one to login to their LMS, and a separate one to login to their email and collaboration space.
      By connecting the two systems, it means that teachers and students can store their files on their OneDrive rather than having to have a separate file storage system in Moodle. It also means that where you use Office 365’s SharePoint for document management, you can use it’s document workflow and history features.
    • Moodle calendar entries can now automatically appear in the Office 365 calendars of students and staff
      As the Office 365 calendar (in Exchange) is the one that is normally synced to the phone or PC, it means that a teacher adding an assignment deadline or lecture into Moodle means it will show up on the students’ calendar on their phone/computer!
    • OneNote integration into Moodle means that students can now complete an assignment in OneNote and submit it into Moodle, whether they are online or offline.
      And staff can provide feedback to the student via OneNote too (eg handwritten notes on an essay, or video/voice recordings of feedback).
    • Integration between Office Mix and Moodle allows teachers to embed a Mix directly into a Moodle course
      Office Mix allows you to create a digital learning resource directly within PowerPoint, and then make the recording available to students on the web. By using a single login between Moodle and Office 365, you can share Mixes which can only be viewed by students within your institution, as well as public Mixes.
    • Moodle course documents can now be stored in OneDrive by staff and students
    • Moodle can now appear in your Office 365 app launcher, visible from all the different Office 365 online services
      This means your students don’t need to remember yet another portal URL – it can all be accessed through the Office 365 portal your students are already using for email, file sharing etc

    One of the significant advantages of this approach is that students and staff get the latest capabilities of Office 365 on all of their devices, rather than you having to adapt your Moodle service to deliver to different devices and capabilities.

    • If you assign a piece of work in Moodle through OneNote, it means the students can access that work on all the different OneNote options – on the web, on their PC or Mac, and on the Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone apps. And OneNote handles the synchronisation between devices and the OneDrive cloud services, so your students can choose to work offline or online at any time.
    • If you share resources as an Office document – eg a PowerPoint file – students can open and edit the files on their PC, phone or web-browser. Online and offline.

    What this means is that you could choose to hide the complexity of your Learning Management System and use the Office 365 ability to sync files offline to deliver work directly onto a students’ device! So the first a student sees would be a note appear in their calendar to tell them about an assignment, and then it shows up in their OneDrive folder on their PC, or in their OneNote file on their phone…

    If you are a Moodle user, then you’ll want to take a look at the announcements over on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog, and pass it along to the team responsible for maintaining your Moodle system in your institution.

    I’d recommend the Remote Learner blog if you want to understand the technical approach and for more detailed descriptions of the two systems integrate.

    Learn More

    Learn more on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog



    Don’t forget I’ve also recently blogged about the new Moodle Mobile app released for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and the option for you to be running Moodle in the cloud on Microsoft Azure (so that you can more quickly and affordably deploy Moodle instances, or convert existing Moodle servers to run in the cloud rather than on your own servers)

    Find all Moodle blog posts on this blog

  • Education

    Safeguarding student privacy


    Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia Managing DirectorOver on the Microsoft Australia blog, Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director, has written about our commitments to privacy of student data online:


    Technology has the unique power to influence and transform how we teach and learn.

    While the use of cloud services opens up countless opportunities for students, it also opens up a range of potential issues, from government access to data, to vendor access and use of data.

    In everything we do in the education sector, we are guided by the principle that student safety and privacy rights must come first. It is for this reason that Microsoft was one of the first companies to commit to the Student Privacy Pledge in the United States.

    This commitment serves to ensure that providers of education services or content do not collect or use student data for targeted advertising or the development of marketing profiles of students. Office 365 was the first major cloud productivity service that made commitments not to use student data for advertising purposes or for any purpose other than providing educational services.

    We have long believed that students, parents, educators and school leaders should have confidence in knowing that companies will use school children’s data exclusively for appropriate learning purposes. This is fundamental to every engagement that Microsoft has with students in Australia and around the world.  Every student deserves a quality education and should have access to all the tools necessary to be prepared for the future.


    This topic has been widely discussed globally and within Australia, and there’s plenty of press coverage about the latest Student Privacy Pledge initiated from the White House.

    Office 365 Education is one of the most important Microsoft services that is widely used by millions of students here in Australia and internationally. Schools, TAFEs and universities use it for email services, document storage, online collaboration etc. We publish a huge amount of information about our commitments to security, privacy, compliance and transparency on the Office 365 Trust Centre, which is a great starting point to understand how we protect customer data and privacy.

    Learn MoreRead Pip's blog "Safeguarding Student Privacy" on the Microsoft Australia blog

  • Education

    Providing advice for parents on BYOD


    With the end of the federal funding for computers, the move to BYOD in Australian schools has been rapid and decisive. With parents’ and students’ expectations raised by the DER programme, the gap in funding is now being filled by schools asking students to bring along the right device for their return to school next week.

    Some of the work that we’ve been doing with our partners has been published very recently and hit the headlines around the country (including in NSW, Queensland, SA, and some of the tech press). We commissioned a survey of 1,000 parents and 1,000 students - the headlines that jumped out at me from the survey included:

    • One in five students have a device that doesn’t do what they need
    • Two out of three parents wanted schools to recommend a range of appropriate devices
    • Only 1 in 6 parents said that their school had specified the devices they should buy for their child
    • One in three parents let their children device which device to buy

    With Intel, we’ve created the Devices for School website to help demystify the choice for parents, and guide their decision making.


    One of the things we have found is that creating ‘personas’ of students helps with the decision process – quickly helping parents narrow down from the huge range of choices. On the website we’ve narrowed it down to four simple personas that then narrow down the choices, to list ‘essential’ and ‘recommended’ aspects of the computer they need.


    The website also contains a list of different styles of devices at different price bands from $199 upwards.


    And if you’re responsible for rolling out a BYOD programme in a school, then you will also like the advice given under the “Ready to Buy” section, where we recommend that parents buy through the school’s IT services partner, as they’ll recommend suitable devices with the right warranties. And for parents heading to a retail store, there’s a downloadable Parent’s Checklist to help them choose.

    Learn MoreFind out more on the Devices for School website

  • Education

    Collaborating on professional development–Office 365 in Omaha


    I’ve been away for four weeks, enjoying a cold Christmas in Europe, and attending a very traditional English wedding set in a beautiful country house. But while I’ve been away I’ve kept up with my reading, and bookmarked an interesting set of articles and resources to share. So now that I’m back in Sydney, and adjusting to the warmth again, it’s time to share some reading!

    EdSurge is a US-based educational technology journal website which focuses on change in the marketplace, and new ways of using technology to support teaching and learning. One of their stories late last year was “When Vendors and Districts Collaborate on Professional Development”, which tells the tale of the Omaha Public Schools district in Nebraska, and their decision to roll out Office 365 Education to their staff and students. Their strategic plan focuses on ensuring that their projects will make a positive difference to students’ learning, but in their roll out of Office 365 they have also focused very clearly on the professional development for their staff to ensure that students receive the most benefit. So their roll out included inclusion in the Office 365 Fasttrack programme to speed up deployment, and then a close linkage with the Microsoft Innovative Educator Programme, to enrol 100 teachers within the Omaha system as members of the MIE programme – giving them access to training that allows them to act as role models for best practices in technology integration.

    I’d recommend reading the full article to understand how they have paired together a technology roll out with a professional development initiative (that is much more than just conventional training), in order to focus on the end goal of enhancing teaching and learning – rather than being focused purely on ticking a box of technology deployment.

    Learn MoreRead the full story on the EdSurge website

  • Education

    Get support from Microsoft for accessibility questions via the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk


    Click the visit the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk

    The Microsoft Support team run the “Microsoft Disability Answer Desk” service, and have just announced that it’s now available for Australian customers, to allow you to get telephone support from Microsoft for accessibility questions. This service allows you to call a toll-free number and speak with an expert who can provide support for accessibility questions and assistive technology.

    This is in addition to the general support available for all customers from the main Answer Desk page.

    The Disability Answer Desk supplements the huge set of resources already published on our Microsoft Accessibility website, which provides detailed sections on accessibility in Windows 8, Windows 7, Office 365, Office 2013 and Office 2010. There’s also a section on Assistive Technology Products. In most education institutions there will be a person or team with specialist advice and support for accessibility, but the resources available through our accessibility website provide really useful background reading, and excellent advice on scenarios. It’s a great place to go if you want to understand how a teacher can publish accessible teaching materials for a wide range of students.

    The Disability Answer Desk is available for Australian customers between 8AM and 9PM AEST on the toll-free number 1800 230 300 (there is also a Disability Answer Desk for New Zealand customers here)

    There’s also a range of accessibility blog posts that I’ve written on this blog, that might be helpful:

    Office templates to help families of children with autism

    Accessibility in Office 365 for education

    Using Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker to create resources that all students can use

    Three steps to create talking books for students with Word

    Accessibility workshop for education

    Publishing accessible learning resources - more support in Office

    Five ways Microsoft OneNote can help students with dyslexia stay organised

  • Education

    Staff training for 2015: Work Wonders with Office 365


    Office 365 webinars - header graphic

    Every Tuesday afternoon our Office team run free 15 minute webinars for users of Office 365 with handy hints and tips on getting the most of the Office suite, including handy user tips for PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Lync and Yammer. They run at 2pm AEST (ie perfect for an early-afternoon tea break Sydney-time Smile, and just before lunch in Perth), and are designed to give you just enough information to increase your proficiency with Office, but without overloading you.

    It’s an ideal way to encourage your colleagues to learn a little more about the software that you’ve provided to them, and to help them get a step ahead.

    Here’s the detail of what’s coming between now and the end of April:

    6 January 2015 - Working with pictures in PowerPoint

    • Learn keyboard shortcuts, how to manipulate pictures and discover great editing tools in PowerPoint.

    13 January 2015 - Discover Pivot Tables in Excel

    • Pivot Tables are an interactive way for users to easily summarise raw data. Learn how to organise your data, insert Pivot Tables and navigate Fields.

    20 January 2015 - Finding what you need in Outlook

    • We'll cover how to narrow your search use search syntax, search for attachments and save searches for later.

    27 January 2015 - Introducing Lync meetings

    • Discover what you can do with Lync - add your contacts, instant message, screen share and video conferencng.

    3 February 2015 - Using PowerPivot in Excel

    • Power Pivot is an Excel 2013 add-in that lets you perform powerful data analysis and create sophisticated data models. Learn how to mash up large volumes of data from various sources, perform information analysis rapidly and share insights easily.

    10 February 2015 - Protect your work: saving to the cloud in OneDrive for Business

    • Pivot Tables are an interactive way for users to easily summarise raw data. Learn how to organise your data, insert Pivot Tables and navigate Fields.

    17 February 2015 - Working smart in PowerPoint

    • How to easily repurpose one PowerPoint deck for multiple presentations, reuse or import slides and create custom slide shows.

    24 February 2015 - Get started with Yammer

    • Create and customise your profile, set up your notification preferences, start and engage in conversations, tag and search content.

    3 March 2015 - Get familiar with SharePoint online

    • Learn the basics including storing and sharing documents, the differences to OneDrive and the basics on internal and external sites.

    17 March 2015 - Bring style to your Word documents

    • Uncover what Styles do, why they are different to changing fonts, how to move text with the Navigation Pane and how to work with Table of Contents.

    24 March 2015 - Yammer deep dive

    • Create areas for projects or teams - using Notes, Info, uploading files, making announcements and more.

    31 March 2015 - Excel Charts that tell a story

    Which Chart should you choose? Learn how to pick the Chart that is right for your raw data and the message you're trying to make.

    7 April 2015 - Outlook calendars

    • View your entire week in one place - import and consolidate your calendars, navigate calendars seamlessly and work in calendars online.

    14 April 2015 - Plan and share in OneNote

    • Consolidate all of your crucial information in one place, then link with OneDrive to share this virtual notebook with yourself, with other people, and with other devices.

    21 April 2015 - Top 10 short cuts to move your content

    • Are you looking for a fast way to paste data into Excel spreadsheets or gett stuff in and out of Outlook or OneNote? Learn new ways of copying and pasting with shortcuts and working with copied content.

    28 April 2015 - Mastering Slide Master in PowerPoint

    • Slide Master is a built-in tool that provides control and consistency in the look of your PowerPoint presentation. This session will teach you how to create and edit Slide Masters so you can stop cutting and pasting in PowerPoint.

    Make a dateYou can easily register for one, or all, of the "Work Wonders with Office 365" webinars here

  • Education

    New Moodle integrations with Microsoft technology are on the way


    Over the last couple of years I’ve written a number of times about integration points between Moodle and Microsoft, to help education customers understand what the opportunities are to be able to integrate two of their key tools for students and staff. This turns out to be important even for universities or TAFEs which have standardised on other learning management systems, because even in these organisations, there seem to always be specific departments, projects or users who are running a Moodle learning management system – even when everybody else is using the institution’s standard Blackboard/Brightspace or other LMS. So Moodle integrations with Microsoft platforms are key, whether it is about running Moodle on Windows server, or running Moodle on Microsoft Azure cloud servers, or integrating Moodle and Office 365 for Education.

    Remote-Learner logo header

    But there’s more to come, and I thought I should share news from Remote-Learner, an official Moodle partner, who are working with the Microsoft Open Technologies team to build new integrations between Moodle and Office 365 services:


    Remote-Learner is working with Microsoft Open Technologies to build and provide integrations between Moodle and Office 365, OneDrive for Business and Consumer, OneNote and Outlook Calendar. These integrations will provide seamless workflows between Microsoft products already used by organizations, and Moodle, one of the most popular Learning Management Systems (LMS) in use today.

    The power of these integrations will provide speed and efficiency to developing, launching and running learning programs by all types of organizations. Whether you are an educational institution, a corporate training supplier, a certifying body or any other organization that has training as part of its operation, you can benefit from the integration of Moodle and Office365.

    A beta program is starting with various types of organizations. This program will provide test instances of the beta work in Moodle. Beta participants will have an opportunity to test run each of the integrations, provide feedback on their experiences and contribute ideas to future functionality and releases.

    The beta program will run through December 2014. The planned first release for the integrations is late January 2015. Look for Remote-Learner's blog posts on functional items over the next several weeks. For more information on how you can benefit from these developments, contact Remote-Learner at


    So the beta programme is well underway (sadly, for Australia the beta programme coincided with the holidays, so most education customers here weren’t able to join), and the full release is planned for late January (just in time for the new school year!)

    The team have also published an update to the first news, with information on the specific integration work that they are doing with OneNote integration for Moodle.

    OneNote integration for Moodle

    The team are creating plug-ins that will allow seamless workflow between OneNote and Moodle – to allow students to complete a Moodle assignment within OneNote – so that they can take advantage of all of OneNote’s content features - like inking, embedding different content types including video – and then submit their assignment directly into Moodle without having to upload/download any work.

    They’ve also worked on the workflow the other way too – so that a teacher can provide feedback to a student’s assignment submitted in Moodle, directly in OneNote (for example, so that they can mark up a student’s work with a pen through OneNote, to increase the quality of feedback to the student).

    If you are a developer, you’ll probably appreciate the fact that the Remote-Learner team are working out loud on this project – sharing how they are building the connection between Moodle and the OneNote APIs, and the ways that they are building secure connections for data flow.

    You can read more about the work on OneNote integration with Moodle on the Remote-Learning blog

    Learn MoreLearn more about the projects that Remote-Learner are working on with Microsoft through their blog

  • Education

    Dynamics CRM and Office 365 in Australian datacentres


    This morning we made an announcement that will be especially interesting to Australian education customers. The news is that we’re going to be running Dynamics CRM and Office 365 in Australia datacentres by March.

    This follows our launch two months ago of the two Microsoft Azure datacentre services, which provide datacentre servers from NSW and Victoria, and the ability for customers to ensure that they can provide full geo-redundancy between two datacentres over 600km apart, but within the same country.

    Office 365 Australian datacentre announcement splash screen

    As the press release says:

      With Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft is delivering the industry’s most complete cloud — for every business, every industry and every geography. Microsoft delivers over 200 services to over 1 billion customers and 20 million businesses are served by our cloud infrastructure in over 90 markets, globally.  

    The impact of this is that very soon you are going to be able to run a massive range of cloud services, from infrastructure to full application services, from the same datacentre, and with the benefits of increased speed and the ability to keep all of your data onshore in Australia. This applies even when the data is moving between your use of the different services – eg as you move a file from your OneDrive into your CRM system, or from your SharePoint to your Moodle LMS.

    This is good news for our education customers in Australia, as it means that Office 365 Education is available from an Australian datacentre on the same timescales. And I’ve also been asked a number of times by universities and TAFEs for Dynamics CRM Online in our Australian datacentres. So it’s good news all round – and gives you the widest range of widely-used cloud services with the ability to keep your data within an Australian datacentre.

    Learn MoreRead the full press release announcement

  • Education

    New Moodle Mobile app released for Windows 8 and Windows Phone


    Moodle logoMoodle for Windows 8 and Windows Phone has been available as an app since August this year – through the “Moodle Mobile” app. Just last week, the latest version was released – Moodle Mobile 1.9 – which has a updated look and feel and is designed to be more user friendly. It allows your students to access your Moodle LMS when they’re mobile and they don’t need to be in front of their PC to access your courses and lesson materials. And the touch-friendly design makes it perfect for tablets and small screen devices.

    Moodle Mobile screen shot for Windows PhoneBoth Moodle Mobile versions are available free in the Windows/Windows Phone store, using the following links:

    Moodle Mobile for Windows 8.1

    Moodle Mobile for Windows Phone

    Your staff and students can now:

    • browse the content of their courses, even when offline
    • receive instant notifications of messages and other events
    • quickly find and contact other people in their courses
    • upload images, audio, videos and other files from their mobile device
    • view their course grades

    NB: You need to ensure your Moodle is configured to allow web services for mobile devices

    To keep up to date with news on the Moodle Mobile app, then follow MoodleMobile on Twitter

    Learn MoreAnd don't forget, you could also host your Moodle service in the Microsoft Azure cloud - more info here

  • Education

    edX and Microsoft partnership for teachers


    imageedX is an online learning environment which is extensively used for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), founded as a non-profit partnership between Harvard and MIT. They’ve just announced a partnership with Microsoft to help online course creators to develop content with Office Mix.

    Many faculty currently use PowerPoint slides as the basis of their lectures on edX. But creating videos, updating and revising them, and adding interactive elements to lectures can be time-consuming. With Office Mix, educators can easily produce videos and online lectures that deliver an engaging experience to students, with support for audio and video recordings, screen captures, hyperlinks, and digital ink.

    The problem that this partnership is designed to solve is that recent research has shown that developing an online MOOC course is costing universities around $125,000, with some costing up to a $1/4m. This is because the content has to be created in partnership between teaching staff, content creation teams, and editorial teams. At that cost, it can quickly become unsustainable for universities to develop more MOOC courses.

    imageOffice Mix is an add-on for PowerPoint, and as well as supporting the easier creation of online course content, the Mix site tracks the learning analytics for the activity – giving teachers deep insight into which students are watching the material, how long they watch each section for, and results for the embedded assessments. You can quickly and easily see what sections are working best, and what gaps there might be in students’ learning.

    Office Mix can be used for creating content for other online learning systems, or even just as a standalone web service (for example, an individual teacher can publish their Mixes directly to the Office Mix website, and publish a public resource, or just for users within their own school/TAFE/university).

    The partnership with edX will create components to directly embed Mixes into an edX course, and the components will be released as open source components, which will be helpful to developers of other online learning systems looking to do something similar, or for others wanting to create components for edX.

    Learn MoreLearn more about the announbcement on the edX blog

Page 2 of 80 (800 items) 12345»