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

  • Education

    The biggest factor affecting student retention happens before the student arrives

    • 2 Comments

    I've been in a lot of discussions about CRM for student recruitment and student retention systems in the last month, and today I'm spending the day in a planning workshop, so I thought I'd share a controversial thought bouncing around my brain about higher education student attrition:

    There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the biggest factor impacting student attrition is their preparation for university before they arrive. And if we were to ‘game’ student retention improvement, the most effective mechanism would be to alter the intake of students. But is that fair to do? Or, are we already doing it?

    One factor that impacts student retention is prior academic achievement. It appears that students with lower academic scores on entry are more likely to drop out, although that be covering up other factors such as parental engagement, preparation for the style of learning in universities.

    According to Steve Draper, from the University of Glasgow:

    “If a student’s parents both went to university, preferably the same university; if their school assumed they would go and pre-trained them e.g. to take notes, use the library, to write essays exhibiting critical thinking, etc., then this may make that student more likely to succeed. Furthermore there are associations, almost certainly causal, between wealth and family support on the one hand, and retention on the other. More accurately, different families demonstrate different amounts of commitment to keeping a student in education. Previous academic achievement is a measure of this because it measures their demonstrated commitment to date, and so selecting for achievement is also likely to select for continued support, and against students who may have to leave to support their families which is a common cause of dropout.”

    We already select students on their academic ability. Is it also okay to select student intake, based on their preparation for university (some already do)? And if so, do you draw the line at selecting according to the parent’s university history? Especially if you know that’s a real factor that drives student retention and attrition.

    Find MoreFind related articles on CRM in education, for student recruitment and retention

  • Education

    Creating surveys with the Excel Web App in Office 365 for education

    • 2 Comments

    The free version of Office 365 for education includes web versions of the main Office software – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – in addition to the email, collaboration and communication capabilities included within the online Exchange, SharePoint and Lync services. Of course, that's great for editing and working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and the beauty of the web service is that we can keep updating them for you as we add new features – you don't have to take on the responsibility for updating software across a pile of machines.

    You can see the new features being added in the future to Office 365 through the preview versions. And we've just released the preview for Office 365 Enterprise (which is the version that Office 365 for education is based on).

    Here's an idea that you can use them for, that might save you bucket-loads of time.

    Using the Excel Web App for surveys and questionnaires

    Thanks to  my colleague James Marshall in the UK, there's a good explanation of how you can easily create online surveys and questionnaires, and get the answers into a neat Excel spreadsheet. It's great for a range of scenarios, like:

    • A lecturer wanting to get opinion and feedback about a lecture immediately after it finishes.
    • A group of students doing a data collection exercise with their classmates.
    • A senior leader wanting to get feedback from parents about a school event (i.e. sports day, school theatre production)
    • A teacher running a competition.

    The beauty of forms in the new Excel Web App is that they can be shared in a few clicks, and accessed on a variety of devices, making it easy for users with laptops, tablet devices, smart phones or pretty much any device with a browser to contribute. And you can make them public, so you can use them for parental surveys etc

    Here's a screenshot from a survey that James published as an example (you can try it out on this link: http://aka.ms/vumdyw)

    Excel Web App Survey

     

    Learn MoreYou can read James' post on how to create a survey in the Excel Web App over on his excellent UK Education Cloud Blog (plus loads of other useful Office 365 for education information)

  • Education

    Who’s office. Ours. In Austria

    • 2 Comments

    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

    image

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

  • Education

    Bring Your Own Device in education – will this workshop help with your planning?

    • 2 Comments

    I know that there’s a lot of interest in Bring Your Own Device in education, especially in BYOD in schools. And whilst there’s plenty of buzz, the case studies I’m seeing at the moment appear to be driven by lots of enthusiasm and innovation – and with plenty of ‘learning experiences’ happening during the process (the equivalent of building airplanes in the sky).

    If you’re thinking of constructing a strategy for Bring Your Own Device in an education institution, then some advanced planning is critical. You might get some valuable insight from some IT Camps we’re hosting over the next few months, which are focused on Consumerisation of IT (typical technology – whatever acronym you choose, the next person will choose a different one to describe the same thing). So whether you’re thinking about BYOD, BYOT or COIT then these free one day workshops could be a day well invested. Although they are not specific to education, the issues faced by an education customer and a bank considering BYOD strategies have lots of parallels:

     

    Consumerisation of IT - or, as it's known, BYOD in educationEnabling Consumerisation of IT
    (One day workshop)

    The culture of work is changing. Tech-savvy and always-connected, people want faster, more intuitive technology, uninterrupted services, and freedom to work anywhere, anytime, on a variety of devices. It’s time to give people the freedom to get things done their way. In return, you’ll unleash passion and productivity like never before. Learn how our products offer experiences that your people will love. Whether they are using PCs, phones, tablets, or all of the above, Microsoft technologies are flexible to match the unique needs and styles of individuals. Best of all, our enterprise-grade solutions are designed to help you maintain security, streamline management, and cut costs.

     

    They’re being run in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth during April, May and June:

    Learn MoreFind out about the BYOD workshops here

    Bonus info: There are also workshops for Private Cloud, Datacentre and Virtualisation planning on the same page

  • Education

    Windows 8 in education–which version of Windows 8 will you use?

    • 2 Comments

    In the last couple of days, the Windows team have published more details about Windows 8, and what’s in which version. I’d encourage you to read the full blog posts for the detail (Announcing the Windows 8 Editions and Introducing Windows 8 Enterprise and Enhanced Software Assurance for Today’s Modern Workforce), but thought I’d provide my take on it in a short summary from a “Windows 8 in education” perspective.

    There are four versions of Windows 8:

    • Windows 8
      The entry-level version that’s likely to be the version you find on a standard Intel-based PC, laptop or Slate bought from a store
    • Windows 8 Professional
      The standard business version of Windows 8, and likely to be the version you buy from B2B suppliers
    • Windows 8 Enterprise
      The version that’s (normally) included as an upgrade within a Microsoft academic subscription (eg an EES/Campus/School agreement)
    • Windows RT
      The version that will be pre-installed by the manufacturers of ARM-based slates

    So the reality is that most education customers in Australia will have the rights to use the Windows 8 Enterprise edition in education, because they’ve licensed their computers through our academic subscription licences (I believe this is the case for most universities, TAFEs, government schools, many Catholic schools and many of the independent schools).

    So what’s in which version of Windows 8?

    There is a extensive table on the Announcing the Windows 8 Editions blog post, but I’ve narrowed that down to the feature differences that I think are important to education customers, plus I’ve added in a column for the Enterprise version:

     

    Features

    Windows 8

    Windows 8 Pro

    Windows 8 Enterprise

    Windows RT

    Start Screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Windows Store

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Microsoft Office pre-installed

     

     

     

    Yes

    Internet Explorer 10

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Microsoft Account
    Optional linked cloud login, provides link to Microsoft cloud services (eg SkyDrive) and cross-device synchronisation

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Install desktop software (x86/64)

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

                      

    Install Metro software

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Windows Defender
    Anti-malware protection

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    File History
    Allows you to automatically keep older copies of files as you update them

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Picture Password
    Login by drawing a pattern on an image, rather than typing a password. I initially thought this was great for younger students, but am actually loving it for myself too!

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Remote Desktop (client)

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Remote Desktop (host)

     

    Yes

    Yes

    VPN Client

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    BitLocker and BitLocker to Go
    Hard disk and removable storage encryption

    Yes

    Yes

    Client Hyper-V
    For virtualisation

    Yes

    Yes

    Domain Join

    Yes

    Yes

    Group Policy management

             

     

    Yes

    Yes

    Windows To Go
    A fully manageable corporate Windows 8 desktop on a bootable external USB stick. This could allow support for “Bring Your Own PC” and give access to the your IT environment for users’ own devices without compromising security

    Yes

    DirectAccess
    Provide secure remote access without needing a separate VPN

    Yes

    AppLocker
    Create lists of approved & banned apps which can be installed and/or run

    Yes

    VDI enhancements
    Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012, provide users with a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios.

       

    Yes

    Windows 8 App Deployment
    Domain joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise will automatically be enabled to side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro style apps.

       

    Yes

    Please bear in mind that this is my personal summary of the published info, as I think it applies to a typical education customer. I don’t have any special inside knowledge, so there’s a danger I’ve misinterpreted something too! If you spot any errors or manglements (no, not a real word), add a comment to this blog post and I’ll respond

    Learn More about Windows 8For the full story, you should read these two blog posts from the Windows team:

  • Education

    This lorry is invisible

    • 2 Comments

    image

    It doesn't look invisible. And the noise it makes as it comes down the school driveway every week isn't invisible. But it might as well be invisible - your mind tunes out things you see every day. Which means that school managers have got used to the paper delivery lorry turning up every week, and the tens of thousands of sheets of paper being delivered weekly for the school copiers and printers.

    imageIn the UK I did some research that showed an average high school was using over one million sheets of paper a year - with some up to two million. And since arriving in Australia, I have been deluged with so many sheets of paper from my children's school, that I reckon the numbers are going to be even higher here.

    For context, one million sheets of paper is almost twice the height of the Sydney Opera House - which you really would notice if it all came down the school driveway on one day!

    Obviously, using that volume of paper is a huge expense - and in many cases, schools are spending as much on paper, copying and printer toner as they are on their main ICT budget. So if there's a way of reducing paper usage, it would deliver a real cash saving as well as an environmental benefit. As an added thought, even just shifting the mix of where things are printed can save money, as printing on classroom inkjets or laser printers can cost up to 6x more than printing on large, shared, multi-function devices around the school. In my research I also came across a school that had as many printers as they had staff - with some staff having more than one each!

    There are plenty of things that can be done to save money on this:

    • Assigning course materials online, for students to access in school or at home
    • Change parental forms to an online-first option, reducing both paper and admin costs
    • Remove internal forms completely, and move them onto your intranet/SharePoint

    There are plenty of things that you can do - but first you have to build the momentum for change. Which means that you've got to make sure the lorry isn't invisible any more. And how do you do that? The easiest way is to find out how much paper you are using at your school (half an hour with the admin team and a quick scan of the last few invoices from your stationery provider), and then you've got a story to share with your principal about the invisible lorry.

  • Education

    Ribbon Hero 2 - bringing gaming and learning closer

    • 2 Comments

    It just might change the way we think about end-user training - ZD NetIt seems that one of the trendy topics discussed at education conferences these days is the combination of gaming and learning. Most of the time, it’s discussed in the context of the classroom or of students, but a few years ago we applied it to product training, in one of our experimental Office Labs releases, called Ribbon Hero. It was designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting. The heart of Ribbon Hero was a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. And to add the competitive element, Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook so you can share your success (or in my case, failures) with your friends. Ribbon Hero offers to post an update to your Facebook profile when impressive point levels have been reached.

    Ribbon Hero 2

    The team behind Ribbon Hero have gone even further, with Ribbon Hero 2 - incorporating a completely new, cartoon style interface, and a new job for Clippy (the really annoying 'helpful' paperclip from Office 97-2003).

    Ribbon Hero

    Ribbon Hero is a free download, and has got to be a big step up from conventional training ideas and manuals. Having heard Sir Mark Grundy of Shireland Collegiate Academy talk about the way they get their students learning by having a leader table for educational games, I can imagine the same kind of thing happening with this.

    Ribbon Hero screenshotI could tell you more about it - but it is much easier for you to download it, and have a five-minute play, than for me to try and describe how good it is to use. And remind yourself as you're using it, that it's the equivalent of a long dull training course. Imagine how you'd have conventionally learnt what it's teaching. Next time somebody talks about gaming and learning, you can wisely point them towards an example they may not have seen!


    Learn MoreFind out more, and get the free download for Ribbon Hero 2

  • Education

    The Top 10 Education blog posts

    • 2 Comments

    I've been writing this Education Blog for the last four months - since February 2011 - and so I thought it would be a good point to look back over what's been said, and find out what's useful/popular.

    In total, there have been over 125,000 readers of the 112 education blog posts that I've written. And it's probably not a surprise to see that some are more popular than others! Just in case you missed some of the popular ones, here's the Top 10 by readership:

    Top 10 Education blog posts

    1. Something for the weekend - free eBooks from Microsoft Press
    2. Windows 7 SP1 Releases
    3. Business Intelligence for Universities
    4. Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience
    5. One in six schools block Wikipedia
    6. How to deploy Windows 7 to 200,000 computers
    7. Ready-made IT user documentation
    8. Calumo user group - an insight into Business Intelligence
    9. The Lower Cost Cloud - Part Three (or should that be Part Free)
    10. Kinect, augmented reality, and education

    Why are these the top education blog posts?

    It's not always possible to know why some blog posts attract more attention than others - and if I did, I could write more of them more regularly! But here's some explanations for the Top 5:

    Number 1, on free Microsoft eBooks, went viral on Facebook, and attracted almost 3 times as many readers as the next in the list.

    Number 2, happened to be the top search result on MSDN when Windows 7 SP1 released.

    Number 3, on Business Intelligence for universities, is only 6 days old today, but hit the big time because it was featured on the LinkedIn IT News page.

    Number 4, Moving to the Cloud, got noticed on Twitter, and was unique in that it had a lot of audio interviews of Microsoft's IT team.

    Number 5, about Australian schools blocking Wikipedia, got noticed on Wikipedia's discussion pages and generated some debate.

    And looking at the most popular types of blog posts, it's the education case studies which come out on top - with about half of total readership (my inference from that - you like to hear stories about what other people are doing in the real world).

    I wanted to share this info with you, in case you too are interested in starting/growing an education ICT blog for Australia.

  • Education

    Is Glow the world's largest education SharePoint?

    • 2 Comments

    imageAlmost at the other end of the world (well, for those of us in Australia), there's a massive SharePoint in education project providing a learning environment for students and teachers in Scotland. 80% of Scotland's 70,000 teachers are using the system, with a total of 425,000 users. The project is called Glow, and is run as a nationwide project funded by the Scottish Government through Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS).

    Less than four years on, Glow has just celebrated the 20 millionth login - a pretty staggering story of long-term growth and development. (Probably also staggering for the unsuspecting primary school pupil who's in line for RM's goodie bag!)

    The project started with the design and build of the Glow system in 2005, when RM won the tender to provide a national learning intranet for all primary and secondary schools in Scotland. Two years later, the system went live, and has since attracted worldwide recognition. The George Lucas Foundation honoured LTS with the Global Six award and presented Glow to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as an example of exemplary use of IT in education.

    At the time these kind of big systems are launched, there's always a lot of fanfare and triumphal celebration. But even more important is the result a few years down the road, when the attention has moved on to newer projects, and the students are the ones who are seeing it every day. 20,000,000 logins show that good things are still happening five years on.

    It's one of the largest SharePoint projects anywhere in the world - and certainly the largest one involving a SharePoint learning management system, so it is a great case study for mass student engagement.

    Learn MoreThere are some great ideas for classroom projects in the Glow Cookbooks

  • Education

    Education Revolution in Action 4 Conference

    • 2 Comments

    I was invited to present one of a pair of keynotes at the Education Revolution in Action 4 conference yesterday, at John Paul College in Queensland. The 300 attendees were from schools - state and private - from across Australia and New Zealand, and were a mix of practising classroom teachers, school leaders and ICT managers.

    It’s always a bit tricky to find a story that works for all of the different groups - too much technology, and you can turn off the teachers, and too much pedagogy and you can bore the ICT managers. But I thought I’d got the balance about right, but that was before the agenda started to overrun, and I had to make the decision that every speaker hates - do I stick to my allocated 50 minutes, and eat into the coffee break by 20 minutes - or do I rush through a 50 min presentation in half an hour? If you’ve already been sitting for an hour and a half, coffee breaks become pretty important, so I went for a third option, of delivering the first half of my presentation, and leaving out the rest (fortunately, my presentation came in two handy halves!)

    And even more fortunately, the blog allows me to share the slides that I couldn’t present (although they may not make as much sense without my commentary Smile).

    Workplace Revolution in Action

    Given the conference theme of Education Revolution in Action, what I chose to talk about was the Workplace Revolution in Action - the way that people will be working in the future, and the implications from a technology and skills perspective. I used our ‘2020 Vision’ video, which looks at the workplace of 2020, and then continued by deconstructing the technology behind the video – to look at what exists now – either in research labs or in real life - and how the components might build to get to the vision described for the future. It always then leads into a conversation about the skills needed for the workforce of the future, where the workplace is a very different one from today.

    Unfortunately, I can’t share the whole presentation (I used a multimedia, interactive piece of software to present it), but I can share the short video that I used as the introduction, which is the starting point for the story I told. It's the Productivity Future Vision on YouTube here

    I finished up the session with just one slide from my original presentation, which I’ve found to be a useful way to talk about the tension that is created for ICT people in education.

    I’m going to write about it, and put it on a separate blog post, a little later today. And I’ll also post up all of the slides that I didn’t get to present, just in case any of the attendees wanted to know what they may have missed.

    Now all posted - and available here

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