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

  • Education

    Webinar on cloud privacy and data sovereignty

    • 2 Comments

    image

    The benefits of cloud computing for public sector organisations run right across the public sector, including education. 
    But as executives explore the opportunities, they often become concerned about data security and the privacy risks associated with online services – and justifiably so.

    We’re running a webinar tomorrow (12 March) at 2PM AEDT, where we’ll tackle the sensitive issue of data privacy head-on to reveal both the potential pain points and how your organisation can mitigate the risks.

    The ability to offer new services. The potential to improve operating efficiencies. Deepening customer engagement. There’s no disputing the upside of the cloud. But balancing individual privacy, corporate security and state sovereignty in this brave new world can prove challenging. In the webinar, our cloud experts will:

    • Explore the potential risks cloud computing presents
    • Share our experience in how real the risks are
    • Offer insights on how to overcome them
    • Reveal what’s needed to undertake a cloud-risk assessment – and how to share your findings with managers

    Two senior Microsoft Australia employees will share their experiences of compliance and security, explain the impact of cloud computing and shed light on data privacy, security and sovereignty.

    imageJames Kavanagh

    Chief Security Officer, Microsoft Australia
    imageShaun Tipson

    Senior Attorney, Microsoft Australia

    The webinar runs tomorrow, Weds 12 March, at 2PM AEDT.

    Register now for the Cloud webinar on 12 March 2014

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment

    • 2 Comments

    This is part two of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at yesterday’s “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide

    The use of Windows 8 on devices in education brings many new benefits, features and technology capabilities. One prominent feature is the Windows Store and the new Windows 8 apps. Educational institutions can purchase or create apps for Windows 8 that use the new user interface of Windows 8, and use these alongside apps and resources that they used on previous versions of Windows.

    I’ve noticed though that existence of the Windows Store has often raised new questions (especially from schools). The questions include:

    • Why don’t I just block the Windows Store, and not let users install any apps
    • What is the best way to deploy Windows Store apps in an educational environment?
    • Do all the apps for my students and staff need to come from the Windows Store?
    • Can I use existing deployment technologies and processes to deploy apps?

    This guide, written specifically for Windows 8 in education, offers advice on app deployment strategies, and gives you considerations to help you selecting the right one(s). It is written for IT managers in education institutions, and also to give them the information to advise leaders and teachers on the agreed strategy.

    imageSome of the decisions that you’ll need to make, and that this guide will help you with, include:

    • How much freedom is it appropriate to give on selecting and installing new apps (and should this be different for staff and students)?
    • Should my strategy be different for institution-owned and individually-owned devices?
    • If a device is dedicated to a single user, do I need a different strategy than for shared devices?
    • Who owns apps when they are bought?

    The two fundamental models of app distribution that are explained in the guide are:

    • Windows Store: using a Microsoft account, and purchasing apps using a similar model that consumers and others will use
    • Sideloading: deploying apps directly to devices yourself, without using the Windows Store

    Sideloading Windows 8 apps

    The deployment guide for Windows Store apps provides an overview of what ‘sideloading’ is all about:

     

    Sideloading is a process for installing Windows Store apps without using the Windows Store. To sideload an app, you must have access to the app installation files (.appx and related files), which you can obtain from the app developer (either internally or from an independent software vendor). You cannot obtain app installation files to be used for sideloading through the Windows Store.

    For apps you install by sideloading, you are responsible for validating and signing them, as sideloading bypasses the validation  requirements of the Windows Store. Also, you are responsible for deploying any app updates to their users.

    IT pros often perform sideloading by using an enterprise app store. An enterprise app store provides similar features to the Windows Store but is exclusive to an organization. You can create such a store by using an electronic distribution system, such as Microsoft SystemCenter 2012 Configuration Manager with Service Pack (SP) 1 or Windows Intune. An enterprise app store allows you to manage the app through the entire software life cycle, including deployment, updates, supersedence, and uninstallation.

     

    Sideloading allows you to deploy an app to a device, for use by all users on the device with their own individual account, or just to a specific account (for example, you might deploy a timetable app to any user, whereas you’d only make a behaviour monitoring app available to a staff user). And you can get apps for sideloading from different places – we don’t make you buy everything through the Windows Store. It’s pretty much as you do on PCs today – you can buy directly from a software company, or through a catalogue, or in an online store.

    Sideloaded apps can be deployed to devices at multiple stages (eg when you first install the computer operating system, or later in its lifetime), and using different tools (Windows Intune, SystemCenter, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, or you can even use the command line). And apps can also be sideloaded onto student-owned PCs, assuming you have the right licences setup.

    The model of app deployment could be more complex than today’s model, because there are more kinds of apps, and more deployment options. The value in this guide is to explain the different processes, along with their benefits and limits, to help you to find the model that’s going to work for your users, your institution, and your mix of device ownerships.

    Learn MoreRead the full guide: “Windows Store Apps: A Deployment Guide for Education”

  • Education

    Integrating Microsoft Office 365 Education with Desire2Learn Learning Environment

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    One of the futures of Learning Management Systems is as a key bridge, building integration between different systems within an education institution. In the future, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see a single monolithic system that solves every elearning challenge, but instead a set of best-of-class components effectively interconnected.

    imageOne example is the integration between a Learning Management System (LMS) and the communication and productivity services that an institution uses - in this case, between the Brightspace* D2L Learning Environment and Office 365. It means that students and staff can use their core email, collaboration, communication and productivity suite, whilst within their LMS.

    Through their integration solutions, the Desire2Learn Learning Environment and Microsoft Office 365 services (email, calendar, & more) improve how students and teachers interact online. Institutions can choose any of the integration solutions appropriate to their users.

    The starting point is a single sign on, so that your users don’t have to logon to multiple systems, but then you can go further - opening documents through Office Online, enabling email processes from within your LMS etc

    The Desire2Learning team have published a big set of documentation and resources on the Desire2Learn website.

    Find MoreGet more info in the Desire2Learn "Office 365 integration Technical Guide"

     

    * Brightspace is the new brand name for the Desire2Learn learning products

  • Education

    Could Cortana in education help students and teachers?

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    Cortana logo

    Cortana is the intelligent voice-activated assistant on a Windows Phone - described as ‘your personal assistant in your phone’ - and it provides a new way of interacting with other people and your phone. I’ve been using Cortana on my phone for a while now, using the Developer Preview of Windows 8.1 and over time I’ve discovered some great things it can do for me (I most often use it to send an SMS as I’m leaving the office, remind me about something when I arrive somewhere, and to check information in my calendar).

    wp_ss_20140908_0001I’ve got used now to pressing my phone’s search button, and hearing a short tone along with the “Listening…” message pop up - and then talking to my phone as though it was a real person.

    wp_ss_20140908_0002Some of the things I’ve found Cortana does are:

    • Activating your phone - like calling somebody in your contacts
    • Sending text/SMS messages
    • Adding meetings to your calendar, or re-arranging what’s in there
    • Setting reminders that occur at a particular time, or place (like “Remind me to buy milk when I get to the supermarket”)
    • Setting alarms
    • Adding notes to your OneNote file
    • Asking travel questions, like What’s traffic like on the way to school today?

     

    What about using Cortana in education?

    So that got me thinking - how could Cortana in education help improve things for students and teachers? After I discovered that I could ask Cortana “When is my next dentist appointment”, and it would tell me the time and date, it got me thinking about how useful it would be to ask questions like:

    When/what/where is my next lesson?

    When is my next science lesson?

    When is my next essay due?

    And every single one of those questions it worked for! As long as I had things noted in my calendar, which could be either my personal or work calendar, it would find it and let me know, whether it's tomorrow or in six months’ time! What a help for a time-poor or disorganised student. And a teacher could set a reminder like “Remind me to talk about the Ice Age next time I meet Year 7 Geography

    Using Cortana to make it easier to use apps

    wp_ss_20140908_0003But what I’ve discovered more recently is the way that I can use Cortana with apps - like asking Cortana to make a Skype call (“Call Sarah on Skype”), or joining a conference call (“Lync join next meeting”).
    Cortana isn’t just for Microsoft-written applications, as developers can use the Cortana APIs to allow users to interact with their app through Cortana. Some of the examples from third-party developers that I’ve found on my phone are:

    • - Send a tweet through different Twitter clients. I’ve tried it with Twitter’s native app as well as Rowi
    • - Read my LinkedIn groups and inbox
    • - Listen to radio, and even the local Air Traffic Control through LiveATC
    • - Search Wikipedia, and get the first part of a Wikipedia article read to you!

    What about using Cortana with a Learning Management System?
    Or a Student Management System? Or your Lecture Capture System?…

    So if it can do all of those things, I think there are some very cool scenarios that Cortana could enable to make life easier for students and teachers. Here’s some examples that I think would be really cool to build. How about being able to say things like:

    • Download my assignment notes from the LMS
    • Ask for an extension for my essay deadline
    • Send a homework text to the students who aren’t in class today
    • Send a text to the parents of students absent today
    • What lessons do I have today
    • Tell me how long my child used Mathletics this week
    • Show me the students who haven’t used Mathletics this week
    • Record this lecture
    • Send a reminder to all students who haven’t yet handed in their homework assignment

    To do some of the tasks above, there will need to be some work done by software developers, to connect Cortana to their apps. And if that’s done, then there’s some great ways that the apps will be able to simplify life for teachers, students and parents. And it can all be started from pressing the same Search button on their phone.

    What next?

    Developers - there’s some great resources on how to use Cortana with your apps. Start with the Channel 9 video  What developers need to know about the Cortana APIs, and then have a read of the article “Responding to speech interactions” which guides you through the process of setting up your app to accept recognised commands from Cortana.

    Teachers and Students - what are the scenarios that you’d like developers to add to their apps? Let me know via the comments box, and I’ll share them as I meet with developers. There are probably some cool things Cortana can already do, but I bet you can find a dozen other things that you’d like to see done to make your life easier as a student, teacher or parent. What are your thoughts?

  • Education

    Education is still Australia’s biggest services export

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    According to the latest data on international trade from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, education services are still Australia’s largest services export, with a $15bn revenue in 2012. Whilst this is $3bn ahead of the next largest export (personal travel services), it’s still a big drop from the $17.6bn high of 2009. In fact, it’s the third year of falling revenue from international students.

    Which means that Australian universities and TAFEs are still losing their highest value customers (an international student pays fees up to 5x the level of local students). Universities account for 75% of the revenue, with TAFEs taking 20% and schools accounting for the remainder. This is all neatly summarised in the one-pager from Australian Education International “Export income to Australia from international education activity in 2012”.

    But it was only when I charted the detailed data from the ABS on Table 11.1 that I saw the deeper picture – that the biggest drop has been in vocational training, where there’s been a drop of nearly 50% over the last three years. Higher Education has seen a decline of nearly $0.5bn since the peak of 2010, but that’s less than 5% of their total. Whereas TAFE has lost over $2bn, 43% of their revenue since the peak of 2009.

    image

    And although they don’t appear to break out the data by country and sector, India is the place where we’ve lost most students, with an almost 60% drop in revenue from Indian students since 2009 (from Table 9.4) – which is presumably mainly TAFE students.

    International Education Revenue by Country

    2009

    2010

    2011

    2012

    Change
    2009-12

    China

    $3.9bn

    $4.2bn

    $4.1bn

    $4.0bn

    +3%

    India

    $3.0bn

    $2.5bn

    $1.6bn

    $1.3bn

    -57%

    Vietnam

    $0.7bn

    $.8bn

    $0.8bn

    $0.8bn

    +12%

    Republic of Korea

    $1.1bn

    $1.0bn

    $.9bn

    $0.8bn

    -29%

    I’ve now got a better understanding of some more of the reasons why TAFEs have been talking with us about student recruitment, student retention and business development systems – all areas addressed by CRM in education

  • Education

    Building an engaging Windows 8 education app for students

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    Earlier I wrote about building a Windows 8 education app for teachers, and here's part  two - building an interactive, engaging Windows 8 education app for students. We pick up where I left off earlier – where teachers have assigned an assignment to a group of students.

    Creating an immersive Windows 8 education app – the student experience

    The first thing to know is that the live tiles and notification system of Windows 8 means that students don't need to be running the app to interact with it – so if a teacher assigns work to a student then they'll receive a notification without having to dip into the app (and that notification can contain more than just a 'You have mail…' type of message)

    Sample Windows 8 education app for studentsIn our scenario, Steve the student is working on his Microsoft PowerPoint presentation when he receives a toast notification about a new assignment.
    This is regardless of whether he's running the app, so students don't need to run your app to 'just check' whether there's work waiting for them. You can use toast notifications for reminders, work assignments etc.

     

    Student assignment screen in the sample Windows 8 education appAs Steve taps the toast notification, the app launches and goes straight to the assignment page. The assignment page lists chapters from a textbook and a web article, along with the members of his group.
    A typical 'snapped view' scenario in Windows 8 education apps

    Steve views the assignment using snapped view and clicks on the web links provided.
    This mode of working is perfect for students, where they can run two apps side by side eg for notetaking.
    And for those students who (think they) can't work without background music, they can keep their music library on-screen at the same time as doing their homework.

     

    imageSteve views the web site while taking notes in the app in snap view.
    This is especially critical when curriculum resources include e-textbooks, as they'll often need to see their textbook alongside their other materials or the assignment notes.

     

    Using the Share Charm in Windows 8 education appsAfter reviewing his notes in full screen view, Steve swipes in the Share charm and sends the notes to his group members.
    The Share mechanism works by identifying which apps can share information through the Windows 8 contracts. What this means is that developers don't need to know about all the different ways to share information – the other apps that can share information provide the mechanism to do it. So if somebody invents the new Facebook tomorrow, your users will be able to use the Share charm without you needing to re-write your app.
    What the design ideas above show is that you can create a much more interactive experience for students on a Windows 8 touch device than you might on other tablets – and the app you create would run on any Windows 8 device – whether that's a non-touch laptop, or a Windows slate like Surface, or a home PC. Steve the student has a very different experience when using a Windows 8 education app because of the added interactivity provided through using things like:

    • Snap mode for running multiple apps
    • Toast notifications to draw the student back to the app (and to help teachers to connect with students)
    • Using the Share charm to make it easy for users to share information, without having to recode your software every time there's a new social network/LMS/cloud service

    Where to find out more about developing Windows 8 education apps

    Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas that you want to follow up on, so here's really useful links for you to continue on your journey.

    The first place to go is the Windows Store app development section on MSDN (and specifically this page for the advice on Windows 8 Education apps), and if you prefer your info offline, then download the Windows 8 Product Guide for Developers.

    There's also a clear set of design guidelines for the user experience in "Make great Windows Store apps"

    Learn MoreFinally, take a look at all of the other articles on this blog about developing Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in schools - Dashboards in SharePoint 2013

    • 2 Comments

    Rod Colledge, is a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, and an expert on the technology side of the use of Business Intelligence in education in Australia. For a living, he helps Microsoft customers with their own business intelligence projects, through his business at StrataDB. But in his role as a Microsoft MVP one of the things that he’s been able to do is record a series of short videos of examples of using business intelligence in education, to show some of the simple things that are useful for school leaders and teachers.

    Today’s video is a demonstration of using SharePoint 2013 dashboards, for an education BI project - in this case creating a NAPLAN summary dashboard for a school. Once the report is created, it becomes a dynamic, clickable report that users can use to break down their own views of the data.

    The demo is using a dummy dataset in dashboard designer, using SharePoint 2013 and PerformancePoint

    If you’d like to know more about Rod and his projects, you can find out more on the StrataDB website or email Rod directly

  • Education

    29th Jan Webinar - Office 365 for education with Microsoft MVP Loryan Strant

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    Office 365 for education webinar with Loryan Strant

    As I've mentioned before, Loryan Strant's running weekly Office 365 for education webinars for schools in Australia (Office 365 for education is our free, cloud-based service, that gives you Exchange email, SharePoint collaboration, Lync communications, and the browser-based Office Web apps - Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint). The first one is Tuesday 29th Jan at 10-11AM AEST (Sydney/Melbourne time).

    Loryan's , who runs Paradyne, writes a lot about Office 365 in his role as a Microsoft MVP, and you can see from his 'Top 3 reasons' list I've included below, he's a big fan of Office 365 for education:

     

    Top 3 reasons schools choose Office 365 for education over Google Apps

    1. With Office 365, educators can improve outcomes, by providing students with resources and tools that reinforce how they learn best.
    Educators can personalise learning with Microsoft’s tools, addressing a variety of learning styles. In fact, learning is interactive and engaging with Office 365. For example, students can use an online whiteboard, unavailable with Google Apps, to share ideas with others.

    One student takes notes in all of her classes and organises her notes, assignments and schedule in a single, digital notebook. Another organises his work in the way that best suits him. When schools choose Google Apps, students take notes with no ability to tag, catalogue or search within them. The school might turn to investigating unsupported, third party tools.

    Not only that, while Google earns poor grades in accessibility for its tools, students can excel when using Microsoft’s accessible technologies in Office 365 for education.

     

    2. Teachers and students work and learn without boundaries, online and offline, in and outside of the classroom with Office 365.
    Both educators and students are productive when offline. On a class field trip to a history museum, using a SharePoint Workspace while offline, a teacher easily accesses the lesson plan she created earlier, and reviews the history of the period with her students. Returning to school by bus without Web access, the student begins her assignment using Word. However, teachers and students using Google Apps cannot create Google Docs offline, and are unproductive.

    Today, with Office 365 teachers can record lessons and make them available for students to access outside of the classroom when they need to grasp difficult material, catch up on missed work, or reinforce learning in studying for a test. Google provides no capability for students or teachers to make recordings. Once again, schools must investigate unsupported, third party tools.

    3. Office 365 helps teachers prepare students for the workforce, building skills in using familiar Office tools, in ways people work today.
    With Office 365, both teachers and students use familiar, Office tools and the latest technologies. When it comes time for students to enter the workforce they are better-prepared than students using Google Apps. Displaying writing skills using Word and analytical skills using Excel is essential compared to having skills with tools like Google Apps and Google Docs, where needs are negligible in the workplace.

    Today, people work in social groups. Educators use SharePoint in Office 365 to interact with colleagues, collecting ideas and feedback, and students use Office 365’s presence information to locate fellow students online, initiating chats and video chats when working on group projects. Google Apps has nothing close to the capabilities available through Office 365’s Lync Online and SharePoint Online.

     

     

    The first webinar is on Tuesday 29th January, but if you can't make that there are plenty of other dates throughout the next few months -  5 February; and 5, 12, 19, 26 March. So you can either get in quick, and join the first webinar before term starts; or finish off your projects, get the first couple of weeks behind you, and then join Feb or during March.

    Make a dateRegister here: Make a date with Loryan for the Office 365 for education webinar for schools

  • Education

    The Mathletics website now on every Windows 8 device

    • 2 Comments

    You may notice that some websites on Windows 8 ask you to open them in the desktop version of Internet Explorer, rather than the modern UI version, because they are written in Flash - even though Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 has an integrated Flash Player, avoiding the need to download and install an add-in. The reason is that if you're using a touch tablet, then some Flash websites are difficult to navigate because they need you to do things like a mouse double-click (tricky when you've only got a finger, not a mouse!).

    So we maintain a list of websites that work on well with touch tablets, and  these are the only ones that you can open with the Windows 8 modern UI version of IE10, otherwise you have to open them with the desktop version.

    You may remember a few months ago that I wrote about "How to get a Flash website working smoothly on Windows 8 and Windows RT", describing the background to designing a web experience that doesn't require plug-ins for browsers. This is an important step to improve browser performance, accessibility support, increase battery life on mobile devices like laptops and tablets, and to increase security and reliability.

    Mathletics logoWe've been working with various publishers to ensure their websites work well with touch devices. Yesterday, we added Mathletics to the list, so if you go to www.mathletics.com.au on any Windows 8 device, it will now let you use Mathletics in full on any Windows 8 device (Windows RT or Windows 8, with either ARM or Intel processors). This is much better than having Mathletics content available through an app, because the website gives you access to the full Mathletics system and library of resources, whereas the mobile apps contain just a smaller subset.

    This is good news for Australian schools, where Mathletics is widely used, but a quick look at the Mathletics leaderboard shows there's a long list of other countries that will benefit too.

    Learn MoreVisit the Mathletics website

  • Education

    Improving student retention in higher education–the data sources

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    Chris Ballard, of Tribal, is an 'Innovation Consultant' working on student administration and management systems, with a focus area on student retention modelling. Earlier this year, at the annual conference for their SITS:Vision student administration system, Chris co-presented with Paul Travill from the University of Wolverhampton on a research project being undertaken to see how they could be using learning analytics to improve student retention.

    There is similar work going on in the Australian higher education marketplace, and I've had a number of discussions with universities here about student attrition and the ways to reduce it – driven by the fact that on average one in five students are leaving their higher education courses before the end of the first year. The factors which affect student attrition are made up of two key areas:

    Chris & Paul's slides dig into these data, how to interpret them, and how to build a system which allows you to model and predict student attrition using them (which obviously leads to how to react to them). On Slide 8 there's a really simple diagram of the key data sources:

    Chris Ballard's slides on data sources for student attrition analysis

    If you've got an interest in student retention modelling, then I'd recommend taking a look at the full presentation slides from the SITS:Vision conference, on the Tribal Labs blog

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