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

  • Education

    Dynamics CRM in Education–10 slides in 10 minutes


    I’ve just provided a brief 10 minute overview to our CRM partners about the use of CRM systems in Education within Australia. It isn’t a detailed presentation that’s intended to provide all the answers to everything – it’s more of a quick introduction into the use of CRM within Education institutions in Australia – including universities, TAFEs and schools.

    The reason for providing the briefing is that I’ve noticed that many of our CRM partners are starting to see increasing enquiries from education customers about the use of CRM systems, and a quick overview helps them to understand the context (for example, by understanding the way that student recruitment works at a high level, they can see how it is similar/different to commercial organisations – eg membership recruitment for private companies).

    Here’s a quick overview of the slides:

    (If you can’t see them above, or want to copy emailed, then use the Contact Me link at the top of the page)

  • Education

    Hear University of Canberra speaking about 'Automating the Annual Report' at the CALUMO user group


    Club CALUMO headerNext week there’s an open invitation from CALUMO to attend one of their Club CALUMO meetings, in either Sydney or Melbourne. The events are run like a user group, and for the last year they’ve thrown open the doors to non-users, giving people a chance to learn about how their Business Intelligence system is being used (and let’s face it, if you’re thinking about implementing a business intelligence project, there’s a huge value in being able to learn from other people’s experiences).

    CALUMO have built up quite a bit of experience of BI systems and projects within education, and have helped universities and TAFEs with things like student load planning, smoothing the budget planning process, and the production of annual reports and financial updates. At this month’s meeting they have a case study from Graham Hoy, from the University of Canberra, talking about the automation of their annual report processes (read more here), and also a demonstration of what the CALUMO team describe as the ‘hidden features’ in our Analysis Services system, and the latest version of the CALUMO software that sits on top of the Microsoft BI platform.

    Club CALUMO: Dates and venues

    Venue Date Time
    North Ryde
    19th June 2012 5:30 – 7:30pm
    South Bank
    21st June 2012 5:30 – 7:30pm

    When I went to my first Club CALUMO last year, I came away with some really interesting insights into the way that some of their customers were solving business problems using the CALUMO BI system, and especially about how they were simplifying the whole process for their end users – and some great stories to share with colleagues. CALUMO describe the event as being suitable for “CFOs, FCs, CIOs, BI Managers, IT Managers, Database Administrators, SSAS/SSRS/SSIS Power Users, Report developers, Project Managers and other managers interested in the latest approaches and developments across various applications and industries” – so you can be sure that whatever your level of knowledge, there’ll be content suitable. And it could contribute to any CPD/CPE hours for the year…

    As usual, the event is free, and the bonus is that they’ll be including the usual selection of beer and pizza Smile

    Learn MoreFind out more details, and register here

  • Education

    Registration for Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012 now open


    APC Header

    Registrations have just opened for the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012 (APC 2012). And the good news is that the tickets are discounted if you register before 13th July – saving you nearly $200 off the normal fee.

    Even better news, Australian Gold Competency Partners get two free tickets – so quick, grab them before somebody less worthy in your team does Smile

    These are the three key reasons the APC organising team give for attending:

    • See new products in action and learn more about our strategic investment areas for the year ahead
    • Take advantage of networking opportunities on a massive scale with Microsoft leadership, sales and product teams
    • Experience first-hand a showcase of Microsoft products in real-world business scenarios aligned to customer needs

    And, as usual, we’ll be doing a whole load of things to make it even more valuable for education partners, including giving you the chance to book 1:1 sessions with our Account Managers across our team, and get deep insight into the trends and stories across the education market. I’ll publish more details on who’s attending, and how to grab a slot in their diary next month, but for now I’d recommend that you get your APC 2012 place booked and confirmed. Especially if you’re hoping to be jumping up on stage to collect your Education Partner of the Year Award…

    What: Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012

    Where: Brisbane

    When: 4-6 September 2012

    Learn MoreYou can find out more, and register, here

  • Education

    Top 5 education apps that will be developed in the Cloud with Windows Azure


    Walking down the corridor after I wrote about the Windows Azure DevCamps this morning, a colleague who’d read the post asked me what kind of apps would be developed next in the Windows Azure Cloud for education. So I reeled off the list of apps that I think we’ll see. And he told me that the blog post would have been improved if I’d suggested those ideas. (Boom, direct feedback, right there…)

    So as well as remembering that feedback for next time, I thought I’d share the list. These are the next wave of things I think we're going to see as apps developed for teachers to use, linked to the Azure cloud. And I think these are the kind of things that teachers/school will just buy as a small app, and use it themselves – as well as potentially apps that a whole school or system will use.

    And the reason I think they’ll be developed using the Cloud is that teachers need to have access at home as well as at school – because when you’re writing up your school reports, you want this stuff to hand – it’s no good if it’s locked inside a corporate system and you can’t get it when you need it. And you’re more likely to be sitting writing your reports in front of the telly, with sideways glances at the finals of The Voice, than sitting behind a desk at school. So you need to have the info right there – and the Cloud gives you a way to have it wherever you are.

    So here’s the top 5 education apps I think we’re going to see next:

    • A simple Attendance app for teachers (and which sends the info across to multiple student admin systems)
    • Behaviour recording app for teachers (a dead simple smile/frown style app, with an ability to record specifics)
    • Grading/markbook app for teacher (because every teachers has their own physical book or Excel spreadsheet, that could be better)
    • Teacher Organiser (linking timetable, curriculum materials, links to web resources, and the curriculum structure)
    • Note taking (well, I reckon we’ve already got that with OneNote, which syncs through the Cloud, but there’s still room for more)

    I don’t believe any of these are big and complex, massively long projects. And with the Cloud providing the infrastructure for it, they’re even easier. Oh, and when the online Windows Store comes along later this year, there will also be a way to reach an audience of half a billion PCs to sell this kind of software easily Smile



  • Education

    Windows Azure DevCamp–learn to build for the Cloud


    imageIf you’re in Sydney, and you are (or would like think of yourself as) a developer, then you might want to devote a day to discovering how the Cloud could make a difference to your projects. I’m losing count of the number of projects I’m hearing about where developers are using the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud services in education projects to allow them to build an application, and deploy to an unlimited amount of users. The reason is obvious – it allows developers to get on with development of applications, without having the hassle of worrying about building a big backend datacentre to run it on. It’s especially important in education, where the job of getting an application setup on somebody’s education network can be painful, whereas deploying an application in the cloud can be straightforward – and something that users (teachers, students) can do themselves.

    That might explain one of the reasons why education applications that use the Windows Azure cloud – like ClickView or the Janison Assessment portals – are growing rapidly. (Windows Azure is basically our public cloud, running in global data centres, where you can deploy applications, databases, websites or even complete virtual servers)

    To help more people discover the tricks, we’re running a free Windows Azure DevCamp in Sydney on Tuesday 19th June at the University of NSW for developers that want to get under the covers of Azure. And the hosts are three people that really know their stuff:

    • Ori Amiga is the Principal Group Program Manager on the Windows Azure team responsible for the Developer Platform efforts, and he’s flying over from Seattle for this session
    • Nick Harris is a Technical Evangelist for Windows Azure working on the Windows Azure Toolkit, and he too is hopping on a pan-Pacific flight to be here
    • Andrew Coates is a Developer Evangelist with a diverse background in Civil Engineering, Geographic Information Systems, Databases and Software development. Luckily for him, he’s only got to hop in a car, as he’s Sydney based

    The agenda for the day is going to help you learn how to:

    • Build and quickly deploy web sites to Windows Azure
    • Migrate, integrate, and extend existing code and apps with Windows Azure
    • Build flexible, multi-tier applications
    • Consume Windows Azure services within your apps, such as Windows Azure Storage, SQL Azure, and the Service Bus
    • Architect highly scalable and fast applications using cloud services
    • Build Web APIs that power mobile devices
    • Use the latest Visual Studio tools and SDKs for the cloud

    The day runs from 9-5 at the Randwick Campus of UNSW on 19th June, and it’s free. And it’s open to all developers, whether you currently work for a Microsoft partner, or you work in a university, TAFE, school or government department.

    Learn MoreLearn more, and register, for the Sydney Windows Azure DevCamp

  • Education

    What does the Cloud do in education, as well as create jobs?


    According to an IDC study “Cloud Computing & Worldwide Job Creation”, it’s forecast that nearly 14 million new jobs will have been created worldwide by cloud services around the world. In Australia, it’s forecast that cloud-related jobs are going to grow 129% between 2012 and 2015. And education is one of the fastest growing markets for jobs created by Cloud services (see Table 1 in the report) – with a compound annual growth rate of 29% to 2015.Windows Azure in Education

    Maybe that’s why, in a new Windows Azure infographic above, it’s an example from the use of Cloud in education that’s put front and centre. The three examples it gives of game-changing use of the Cloud infrastructure are:

    • Harvey Norman, using Windows Azure to scale to almost instantly cope with a 1,850% spike in web traffic
    • Curtin University, using Windows Azure to perform complex genome sequencing in hours, not weeks
    • Pixel Pandemic, using Windows Azure to support 10 million monthly page views, and 300,000 global gamers

    I had two thoughts from reading this:

    1. Education continues to lead the world in innovative use of new technologies
    2. It’s a good example of today’s technology students needing new skills for tomorrow’s world
  • Education

    Deadline for Microsoft Australian Partner Awards extended by a day


    Already entered? Then, this is for you:

    Look, I know it’s a holiday weekend for most of you. And you’ve got better things to be doing (like getting home to see your family). But if there’s one thing to do before you log off tonight, you should hit ‘Submit’ on your APC Award entry. I’ve just looked at the report, and one third of the entries for Education Partner of the Year are sitting at ‘Draft’ rather than ‘Submitted Status’. Don’t forget to hit submit. Thanks. Have a great weekend.

    Not yet entered? Then this is for you:

    C’mon, you’ve now got an extra day to enter to win Australian Education Partner of the Year. The deadline’s extended to end of the day on Tuesday 12th (so, if you’re in NSW/QLD/VIC/TAS/NT etc, no, you don’t have to spend the Queen’s Birthday typing your entry. And if you're in WA, you've got an extra working day to polish your entry). And just imagine how good you’ll feel if you’re hopping up on the stage with hundreds of other Microsoft partners applauding you on. Find out how to enter here, and don’t forget to read my hints and tips to creating a winning APC Awards entry.

    Have a good weekend…and look forward to seeing you at the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 4 September.

  • Education

    Grab a ticket to the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Sydney


    Imagine Cup Header 

    Attending the Australian finals of the Imagine Cup has been one of the highlights of my year so far, as it gave me an insight into some amazing projects created by university students around the country (the winning Australian team from The University of Melbourne  designed an early pneumonia diagnosis kit) . And next month, Australia plays hosts to the worldwide Imagine Cup finals, with student teams from 107 countries around the world competing to be crowned as global champions. There is no doubt in my mind that some of the ideas we’ll see there will become worldwide phenomena, and the contestants will be fought over by employers in the next two years.

    How would you like to be able to say “I was there, and saw that idea before most other people”?

    Whether you are in the IT industry, or you’re a teacher and you want to come along with a couple of your high-flying students, or you’re just interested in what’s happening, then the invite is open to all.

    Here’s the official blurb:

      Join us for a celebration of incredible ideas and innovation at the Microsoft Imagine Cup Worldwide 2012 Finals. The finals bring together over 400 of the most talented students from 107 countries to showcase their world-changing solutions and to compete for the worldwide title.

    To be part of a celebration like no other, Microsoft would be delighted if you would be our guest at The World Festival - where we’ll find out who has triumphed to win, plus a whole lot more. You’re also welcome to arrive early and meet all of our students and mentors at The Imagine Cup Showcase and hear the motivations behind their amazing ideas.

    The Imagine Cup World Festival & Showcase

    TUESDAY 10th July 2012
    Where: Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour
    The Showcase: 2pm – 4pm
    (you can book for a specific 30 minute session between 2 and 4)

    The World Festival: 4pm – 6.30pm |

    Spaces are limited. Reserve your complimentary ticket here.


  • Education

    Another free technical ebook for Kindle and PDF – Windows Server 2012


    Introducing Windows Server 2012 Front CoverThe Microsoft Press team have just released another free ebook, with downloadable versions of Introducing Windows Server 2012 ebook. This is a technical ebook – it’s not for the average user, but if you want to understand what’s new in Windows Server 2012, it’s a good way of getting up to speed.

    It’s available in a variety of formats:

    This is a full Microsoft Press book, not just a summary (at 235 pages, it’s a serious read), and includes an overview of the changing business needs that Windows Server 2012 is responding to (such as the widespread use of private and public cloud services), and sections on building a foundation for private cloud, high-availability services, deploying web applications and enabling a modern workstyle.

    I think one of the key sections that will really interest educational readers is Chapter 5, which dives into the ‘modern workstyle’, which directly addresses some of the key trends in education - such as access to corporate systems from virtually anywhere as well as the trend to allowing BYOD in education (whether that’s students or staff bringing their own devices).

    On page 188 onwards, there’s a lot of detail on Direct Access, which has many applications within education, such as the ability to allow access to your network whilst users are away from campus, without adding expensive or intrusive VPN systems. And some education users have used it to reroute students’ Internet traffic through their school’s filtered internet connection even when they are off campus (again, without adding expensive third party systems). Here’s some info on what it can do, taken straight from the book:


    Simplified DirectAccess
    If remote client devices can be always connected, users can work more productively. Devices that are always connected are also more easily managed, which helps improve compliance  and reduce support costs. DirectAccess, first introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 and supported by client devices running Windows 7, helps address these needs by giving users  the experience of being seamlessly connected to their corporate network whenever they have  Internet access. DirectAccess does this by allowing users to access corpnet resources such as  shared folders, websites, and applications remotely, in a secure manner, without the need  of first establishing a VPN connection. DirectAccess does this by automatically establishing bidirectional connectivity between the user’s device and the corporate network every time  the user’s device connects to the Internet.

    DirectAccess alleviates the frustration that remote users often experience when using traditional VPNs. For example, connecting to a VPN usually takes several steps, during which the user needs to wait for authentication to occur. And if the corporate network has Network Access Protection (NAP) implemented for checking the health of computers before allowing them to connect to the corporate network, establishing a VPN connection could sometimes take several minutes or longer depending on the remediation require, or the length of time of the user’s last established the VPN connection. VPN connections can also be problematic for environments that filter out VPN traffic, and Internet performance can be slow for the user if both intranet and Internet traffic route through the VPN connection. Finally, any time users lose their Internet connection, they have to re-establish the connection from scratch.

    DirectAccess solves all these problems. For example, unlike a traditional VPN connection, DirectAccess connectivity is established even before users log on so that they never have to think about connecting resources on the corporate network or waiting for a health check to complete. DirectAccess can also separate intranet traffic from Internet traffic to reduce unnecessary traffic on the corporate network. Because communications to the Internet do not have to travel to the corporate network and back to the Internet, as they typically do when using a traditional VPN connection, DirectAccess does not slow down Internet access for users.

    Finally, DirectAccess allows administrators to manage remote computers outside the office even when the computers are not connected via a VPN. This also means that remote computers are always fully managed by Group Policy, which helps ensure that they are secure at all times.


    The chapter goes on to describe the enhancements to DirectAccess in Windows Server 2012, such as the ability to have DirectAccess servers and clients on different domains, which will be useful for many education users (especially universities with peripatetic staff) and the enhanced support for two-factor authentication when you’re using third-party security vendors.

    Learn MoreFind out about other free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press

  • Education

    Who’s office. Ours. In Austria


    Darn, I moved to the wrong country. How nice would it be to work in the Microsoft Austria office?

    Our office in Sydney is a very, very nice place to work – the open plan, activity based working layout setup is brilliant (It’s about what you do, not where you do it). But I will admit to a hint of envy when I saw the slideshow on the Innocad website, when I saw what they’d done at our Vienna offices. An open plan meeting area with a slide. Meeting rooms with personality.

    Microsoft Austria's slide in the office

    Click on the image below for a look around


    Probably a good time to mention that we’ve just been named Australia’s Best Employer 2012?

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