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

  • Education

    Why 99 milliseconds matters to students


    This is annoying. I’d never cared about milliseconds before. But as soon as I’d seen this video, I suddenly cared. And although a tablet with a pen feels more natural to students than a tablet with just straight finger touch, I think we’re not going to get a completely fluid touch experience until we’ve removed all of those wasted 99 milliseconds from every touch gesture we make.

    Read more about the background over at Steve Clayton’s Next at Microsoft blog

  • Education

    Developing education applications and services in Office 365


    We’ve already said that the full Office 365 for education service will be launched this antipodean winter, and there’s a continuing trend for education customers to move their IT services into the cloud. So if you’re a Microsoft partner working with education customers moving more services to the cloud, how does this impact your business? If you’re currently providing a custom application in SharePoint, how do you integrate that to a cloud service, and just as importantly, how can you use it to develop a new software application?

    Education customers tend to have very specific needs – like distributing homework assignments, communicating with parents, managing internal workflow of documents etc – which can look similar to standard business processes, but have subtle and important twists. For partners, that has historically meant developing a custom software application. But over the last couple of years, there has been more focus on using a standard platform – like SharePoint or Microsoft Dynamics CRM – and customising it, rather than starting from the ground up. Or creating an interface between a custom application – such as a Student Management System or Learning Management System – and linking it closely to a standard platform. For example:

    • Use SharePoint connected to a Learning Management System, to provide workflow, document storage and access across the web.
    • Using SharePoint as the document management system for a Student Management System, so that your documents are accessible to all users, but managed by your institution’s standard security model and workflow, to ensure that the data is secure, version controlled, and backup up systematically.

    If you’re interested in finding out more about developing applications as part of Office 365, which is one of the key future cloud services for education, here’s where to go for more reading:

    The SharePoint Online Developer Resource Centre on MSDN

    It’s there to help you develop for Office 365 (which is delivered through SharePoint Online). There’s a short video introduction – which gives you the full development overview in just 3 minutes, and specific sections on cloud-based collaboration, remote authentication, a SharePoint Online Developer Guide white paper, and a full Office 365 Developer Training Kit (either online or downloadable).

  • Education

    Bring Your Own Device–what it means in education


    There’s a lot of interest in Bring Your Own Device in education, as many believe BYOD is going to be an increasing trend moving down from higher education into schools. But today, there aren’t many exemplars that we can look at to see how it might work.

    I have come across some stuff that might be useful, which is a case study from the Microsoft IT team (MSIT are the people that run our IT infrastructure for employees and the business). The scale probably isn’t typical, but there’s some excellent information that is!

    The Microsoft IT infrastructure and BYOD

    • Most employees at Microsoft are working with at least two portable devices at any given time
    • There are approximately 1.3 million devices on the Microsoft corporate network
    • Most employees expect to use their own devices for work
    • The challenge for IT is balancing employee productivity and satisfaction, whilst safeguarding the integrity and security of corporate data
    • Devices are evaluated for risk into a series of device classes
    • It’s a tricky set of decisions - the balance to be struck is between business value versus risk

    Tony Scott, the Microsoft CIO, puts it clearly:

      We worry about data security, not about a device in particular. When you do that, you find that your employees, or consumers of your information, love it, because now they have something that s useful to them both at home and at work. It’s also a recognition on the enterprise's part that a lot of our information comes from outside, not from internal IT systems.  

    Technologies to support BYOD in education

    The article goes on to discuss what technologies are being used by the Microsoft IT team to support the strategy. Although the situation is quite different, there are many parallels to how you would manage an education BYOD policy:

    • System Centre 2012 Configuration Management allows device management on the corporate network
    • Exchange ActiveSync allows for policy control over mobile devices – eg remote wipe
    • Office 365 provides secure access from anywhere to collaboration technologies
    • Direct Access provides secure remote access, without needing a VPN.
      The MSIT team saves approximately $300,000 per facility with this (as well as making me, as a user, happier than the days of VPN)
    • Lync and Lync Mobile allows real-time collaboration across multiple platforms.
      And the business saves over $200M using this every year for remote meetings, training and communications
    • OfficeTalk, which is an internal social network

    You should read the article for the full story – especially towards the end, when it talks about the best practices for development of future internal applications that are web-based and device agnostic – like using HTML5, supporting employee-driven development, and using the cloud.

    Learn MoreRead the full case study on Microsoft's BYOD story


    NB: I have gone back and tagged articles on this blog relevant to Bring Your Own Device in Education, so that you can easily track down everything on the subject.

  • Education

    New lower prices for Office 365 for education


    Yesterday Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President of the Microsoft Office Division product management group, made an announcement about some changes we’ve made to the pricing for Office 365 for enterprises, and Office 365 for education.


    As we rapidly add customers, the cost to run Office 365 becomes more efficient.  This is the beauty of the cloud where we can deliver economies of scale through our worldwide data centres and economies of skill with our engineers, administrators, and support teams operating the service.  

    With these efficiencies, we're able pass on savings to make it even more affordable for customers of all sizes to move to Office 365.

    In line with our longstanding commitment to education, we will make our "A2" service plan free to not only students, but also to faculty and staff.  A2 includes the core capabilities of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync and the Office Web Applications.  Exchange Online and Lync Online are available today for academic institutions, and we'll launch the full Office 365 for education service starting this summer.   You can get more information on our Office 365 for education offering here.


    When Kirk said “this summer” he was thinking about the Northern Hemisphere.
    So you’ll need to translate that to “this winter” for Australia.

    The information on the new pricing for the various Office 365 for education options is available on the Office 365 for education webpage. Here’s the key table from that page:


    The prices listed are the US prices currently
    I’ll provide an updated link as soon as Australian prices are available.

    Find out more

    You can sign up via email to get updates and to find out more information about Office 365 for education over at the product website.

    Oh, and if you want to know more about what Office 365 could do for you, there's always the free Microsoft Press digital book on Office 365 - grab it here

  • Education

    Global Education Partner Summit at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


    imageIf you are planning to go to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC) in July in Toronto, then you might also want to schedule a couple of extra days on your travel plans to allow you to attend the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit which will be held on either side of the main WPC days.


    • Sunday 8th July 2012 – Global Education Partner Summit @ WPC Day One
    • Monday 9th to Thursday 12th – Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012
    • Friday 13th July 2012 – Global Education Partner Summit @ WPC Day Two

    Last year, we were a little late in confirming the dates with partners, so it caused a hiccup for some travel plans (and more importantly, a few people missed it because they had flights pre-arranged). So this year, I’m going to publish the dates now, even though we can’t yet disclose the agenda for the two Education Summit days.

    A group of Australian partners were able to attend the main four day Global Education Partner Summit in February in Seattle this year, but for many, I know that it can be a choice between attending that or attending WPC. So now you can do both!

    If you are interested in attending, for the minute, pop it in your diary, and keep an eye out here for more details. And also drop me an email, and I’ll make sure I send you details directly for agenda, registration process etc.

    Learn MoreEmail me to receive updated info on GEPS@WPC when I have it

  • Education

    Do you know how to measure your student recruitment efficiency?


    ClickDimensions are a worldwide Microsoft partner, who offer a ‘marketing automation’ system for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system which is used by a growing number of Australian universities.

    Let me slip in a bit of translation. ‘Marketing Automation’ in student recruitment terms basically means helping you run email campaigns, track their success, link that back to activity on your website, work out which prospective students are most likely to be worth chasing, find out more about activity on social networks, and carry out surveys online. So that in an ideal world, you can know which prospective students are showing interest in your university, and help convert more of them to become actual students!

    Like me, ClickDimensions believe that marketing is part art and part science, and efforts in making it more predictable and measurable are never wasted (especially when dealing with super-rational people who like data aka the people who set budgets). Part of the journey in marketing has been the evolution of marketing automation solutions (sometimes called ‘demand generation’) from stand-alone silos towards becoming completely embedded into CRM systems.

    imageClickDimensions produce a nice set of quick guides, which provide common sense advice about how you can improve the mix of art & science in marketing, and their latest Quick Guide “Marketing ROI for Dynamics CRM” is a great guide to help think about the ways of measuring your student recruitment pipeline – from the initial enquiries through to the final offer – so that you can improve your conversion rate. And, like their other quick guides, it’s written in a straightforward way.

    Here’s the intro:

      In the most basic form, marketing ROI is simply a measurement of the effectiveness of each dollar spent on marketing efforts.  It is the sales output for each unit of marketing input.  In other words, how many dollars in the pipeline can be attributed to each campaign undertaken, whether it is your [university’s] website, an email campaign or a [recruitment] show.  Armed with this information, you can begin to make informed decisions about where to focus your marketing budget and resources to maximise sales. In Dynamics CRM, the holy grail of marketing ROI is a dashboard that shows the relative effectiveness of each of your campaigns so you can distinguish at a glance the underperforming campaigns from the top performers, and the revenue output from your marketing input so when your boss asks the dreaded ROI question you can answer quickly and precisely.   

    And they talk through exactly how they track their own campaigns, and the marketing dashboard that they have created. By showing practical walk-throughs of how to do it, they demonstrate how you link your web activity back to your outbound marketing activities, so that you can differentiate somebody who comes to your site from your paid activities, compared to social media referrers etc.

    I worked in marketing for 15 years, and I wished that the kind of clear guidance in here was available to me then – along with the smart systems that allow the tracking and measurement that’s now possible. So I’d heartily recommend sharing this link with colleagues who are responsible for student recruitment and measurement of your recruitment activities.

    Learn MoreDownload the "Marketing ROI for Dynamics CRM" Quick Guide from ClickDimensions

  • Education

    Registering for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


    imageIf you’re planning to attend the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012, in Toronto from 8 to 12 July, here’s a few need-to-know things:

    • Early bird registration offers, which save you $300 on conference tickets, end on 5th April
    • There will be a pre-day and a post-day for Education Partners (8 & 13th July) – more details tomorrow
    • There are specific activities lined up for Australian partners, including networking evenings, and a trip to Niagara Falls
    • There will be quite a few colleagues from the worldwide Microsoft Education team there – if you want to meet up with anybody about a specific education topic, let me know well in advance so I can grab a spot in the diary of the right person
      Topics you might what to meet up with people on are:
        • Cloud strategy in education – what’s been learnt in the rest of the world from education cloud projects
        • The integration of Learning Management Systems with SharePoint, Live@edu and Office 365
        • Case studies of CRM in education around the US
        • How other education systems around the world are using data analytics in education
    • The guest speaker is Deepak Chopra, who wrote The Soul of Leadership, one of the Wall Street Journal’s top 5 business titles in 2012 (and also created Leela, a meditative game using Kinect on Xbox 360)
    • The nominated hotel for Australian delegates is the Renaissance Toronto (need-to-know if you want to either bump into lots of colleagues – or don’t Smile)
    • Monday is ‘Solutions’ day where the agenda will look at specific product streams, and Wednesday is ‘Industry Day’, where you can spend time looking at specific segments, like Education or Government


    Learn MoreFind out more about Microsoft World Partner Conference 2012

  • Education

    How to create virtual experiences for online student recruitment


    I’ve just finished reading a good background article from the Genius Recruiter titled "Universities Going Virtual To Attract Students". It’s all about examples of the move in Higher Education to virtual events and activities for student recruitment. It looks at a few brief case studies:

    • Teesside University's award winning Postgraduate Virtual Open Day, which led to a 41% increase in applications
    • IDP's Online Education Fair for Indian students interested in studying in Australia
    • Unigo's virtual college counsellors
    • University of Rochester's Virtual Residence Tours
    • Virtual Agent Workshops in Norway.

    It's inevitable that these things will continue to grow, as the economics of student recruitment drive them, at the same time as students become increasingly comfortable with making big decisions online, through websites and the advice of their peers.

    And if you think that it's too big a decision to put make online, think about the change in habits we’ve gone through in making the biggest financial decision of our lives – buying a house. In the last few years there’s been a huge growth in the number of people who use the web for their shortlisting process – if your house doesn’t look suitable online, you never even get the chance to show a potential purchaser around it!

    Some of these ideas could be easily created without investing pots of cash, or becoming too complicated, using the Microsoft software that you’ve probably already got:

    Create a 3D Virtual campus tour for your Virtual Open Day

    The University of Sydney QuadrangleYou can create a Photosynth of parts of your campus really easily, embed it onto your website, and have it show up in Bing Maps. All you need is a digital camera, and half an hour to take lots of shots (or, with the iPhone version of Photosynth, you can dispense with the camera, and create a panorama for the web from your phone). There are already quite a few University of Sydney Photosynths, including a 360-degree panorama of the quadrangle, and this walk-through Photosynth of the Sydney Uni Live event.

    Virtual University Counsellors and Virtual Agent Workshops

    Using Lync (from your existing infrastructure, or as a cloud-hosted service in Office 365) you can easily setup a system for prospective students to be able to talk with recruiting staff, academics or student ambassadors. So that somebody browsing your website could start a chat conversation from their screen. Using live chat, instead of a phone conversation, means that you can more easily serve different time zones, and your staff can be away from their office phone – making it easier for you to provide out of hours support. (You can also do this with Skype and Windows Live Messenger, and embed it onto your website too, but the benefit of using Lync is that you can keep track of all the conversations in your own system – making it easy to connect it with your CRM system – and also integrate to your telephony, video conferencing etc)

    Learn MoreRead the article that prompted this, on the Genius Recruiter blog

  • Education

    Q: Do you know what Dell does in Education? A: It’s probably a lot more than you think


    Are you aware of the things that Dell does in education? If you’ve not looked recently, you might think that it’s all about things you can drop on your foot – laptops, servers, monitors etc. But the reality is that Dell has quietly been spending more and more of it’s time creating products and services that address education challenges, rather than just better IT.

    You can read an overview of some of these things in a great article “Dell brings platform first to education, hardware second”on ZDNet by Christopher Dawson.

    Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook for educationSome of those are things that you’d recognise from Dell (but cooler) like the XPS 13 Ultrabook, which won the Gizmodo ‘Best Ultrabook’ Award – made available in Australia yesterday.

    Dell short throw interactive projectorsAnd although you probably knew that Dell made projectors, have you seen their interactive projectors – which do away with the need for an interactive whiteboard. The benefit of this is that you can show a much bigger picture when you need it, rather than being limited by the size of the whiteboard. This means you don’t need to gather the whole of your class at the front of the classroom to demonstrate something, in order that they can see all of the text.

    But where Dell are currently going is to support the whole education journey, and one of the first things we’re seeing is what they are calling their Next Generation Learning Platform – connecting the apps and digital resources that teachers use with the learning data that will help teachers and students succeed. I saw some of the early versions of this, created for students in Europe, where they were working hard on creating a single connected classroom experience – as opposed to the disconnected experience many students and teachers have across multiple systems and services.

    And their creation of an Education Data Management solution takes it further on the journey.

    There’s a 40 second intro, that you might want to skip past, to get to the Cannon Hill story from Queensland

    Derek Knox from Dell, who’s based here in Sydney, agreed to sit in a studio and answer a series of questions about what their ‘Connected Classroom’ is – you can see it on YouTube here.

    There’s a lot more to come on the Dell work, as so much of it hasn’t yet been announced, but in his ZD Net article Christopher Dawson talks about getting a sneak peak at what’s around the corner:

      Aligning content drawn from a variety of resources for teachers, parents, and students with standards, learning styles, and particular needs identified by regular assessment, the learning platform provides what Dell refers to as truly personalized educational tools. I had a chance to take a sneak peak at the platform last week and, aside from its slick web interface that will lend itself to both younger and older students, as well as to both tablets and PCs of varying sizes, I was blown away by the sheer thoughtfulness of the whole thing.  



    Learn MoreRead Christopher Dawson's ZD Net article "Dell brings platform first to education, hardware second"

  • Education

    Microsoft IT Girls heads to Sydney on 2nd April


    Work in a girls or mixed school in or near Sydney? Do you want to help to raise the profile of the IT industry amongst your female students? Read on…

    Microsoft IT-Girls imageMicrosoft is committed to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to reach their potential. Technology not only enables people, but can also be a fantastic career opportunity; especially for young women. However, while female workforce participation rates are equalising across a number of industries, the IT and Computing industry in particular is one that remains quite male-dominated.

    On Monday 2nd April, students will be attending Microsoft IT-Girls, held at the Microsoft office in North Ryde, which is the headquarters of Microsoft Australia. Microsoft IT-Girls is designed to help young women gain a better understanding of a rewarding career in IT and Computing.

    The agenda will be packed with workshops where girls will get hands on with the latest technology, learn about technology courses offered at universities, and listen to first hand experiences from a range of Microsoft women, from interns to senior managers, and Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director, Pip Marlow – one of the most influential women in the Australian IT industry today.

    If you haven’t taken part in these events before, then you’ll be in a for a big surprise, as it shatters the image of IT as being a geeky, male-only preserve. As it’s thee weeks away, we’ve still got some spare spaces (we have set a maximum number of 15 attendees per school due to high demand). Oh, and it’s free BTW – you just need to sort your transport (North Ryde train station is right around the corner)

    Email my colleague Katrina Wong on Katrina Wong  if you’d like to book seats for your school, or you want to find out any more.

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