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

  • Education

    Integrating Microsoft Office 365 Education with Desire2Learn Learning Environment

    • 2 Comments

    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

    Office Apps for Education–Academic Wordsmith plagiarism checker for Word

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    image

    In the past I’ve written about the way that developers can now write apps for Office – which means that specialist capabilities can be added to Office to support particular uses. There are now hundreds of apps in the Office Store, which are add-ins for the Office suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc – and this includes a whole range of free and paid education apps for Office you can see here – other education apps in the Office store include a School Planner App for SharePoint, a GeoGebra app to create interactive worksheets in PowerPoint, a SCORM content player for Office 365, and a Lesson Planner for Word.

    We ran an Australian Education DevCamp for apps in May, and the first app to appear from an attendee is Academic Wordsmith, a plagiarism checker for Word - an app for students from the Teacher Collection team which runs within Microsoft Word. The app allows students to check an essay for originality, by comparing sections or whole assignments against Internet results – and displays possible matches between the assignment and online sources such as academic papers. Here’s some more from the website:

     

    imageMake a simple selection or submit your whole document, checking for originality could not be easier from right within Word. After our detailed analysis, your results are then delivered back to the same window for a quick and easy review.


    A detailed breakdown of matches found allow you to see exactly where problems have been detected including links to the matching locations. This allows you to make decisions about your current work and any chances you might need to make.

    Using our “Benefit of the doubt” algorithm, results that could potentially be related can also be returned, allowing you to easily find other material that may help and support your arguments!

     

    There are other services that do this (like WriteCheck, from the creators of TurnItIn), but what’s smart about Academic Wordsmith is that it runs within Office, so that students can check an assignment as they are working on it, rather than having to upload it to another website first.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Academic Wordsmith

  • Education

    Sway–a unique way to present ideas and information

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    imageYesterday, the Office team introduced a brand new app to the Office portfolio – called Sway, and as the team say on the Sway blog:

      Sway is an entirely different way to express yourself and bring your ideas to life. When your ideas are born, you want to explore, visualize and share them—quickly and easily, wherever you happen to be, and on whatever device you have. You want your ideas to be understood. Sway helps you do just that. It’s a new way for you to create a beautiful, interactive, web-based expression of your ideas, from your phone or browser. It is easy to share your creation and it looks great on any screen. Your ideas have no borders, edges, page breaks, cells or slides. Your mind is a continuous canvas, and Sway brings this canvas to life. Sway helps you focus on the human part: your ideas and how they relate to each other. Sway takes care of the design work—a Sway is ready to share with the world as soon as it is born.  

    There’s a really good Sway video from the team that shows the vision of what they are creating:

    You can read all of the details on the Sway blog, take a look at some sample, and use the links to sign up for the preview version of Sway.

    imageBut to whet your appetite, let me give you an idea of what’s possible with Sway for a complete novice! I created a Sway this afternoon, using a whitepaper I’ve been working on as a starting point. I’ve had no training, but just got stuck in and had a go at creating one. And I think the result is pretty impressive – even more so when you look at it on different devices, and see how it dynamically changes the layout to work on a big PC screen and a small phone screen! I couldn’t imagine how much effort I would have needed before today to create the same high-quality experience.

    Learn MoreView my Sway on Student Attrition in Australian Universities here

     

    What could you do with Sway? Publishing lesson notes? Getting students to create Sways instead of PowerPoints of their work? Publishing university research in a consumer-friendly format?

  • Education

    A Windows 8 tablet for under $90?

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    This seems incredible to me! Coles have a 7” Windows 8 touch tablet, with Office 365 Personal, for $89.

    Pendo%20Pad%207

    It’s just one of a few surprises that I have seen this year, as more and more low-cost laptops, tablets and convertibles (tablets with detachable keyboards) have been appearing. But I never expected a tablet under $100 with Office 365 included (which means it also comes with 1TB OneDrive online storage and 60 monthly Skype minutes).

    My daughter’s school is going BYOD for next year, and I’d already decided that I was going to invest in a Surface Pro 3 for her (because of the power of the pen, and because since I got my Surface Pro, it’s made a massive difference to my own notetaking). But my concern was that she may not look after it and it would end up being dragged around without its case.

    But seeing the $89 Pendo Pad in Coles, and then watching Top Gear over the weekend, I’ve hit on the perfect plan! She’s going to be receiving a Surface Pro 3 and a Pendo Pad. The Surface will be her main device, and the Pendo Pad is for some lightweight reading, surfing and Skype. But if the Surface gets damaged, then the Pendo Pad is going to be her main machine whilst the Surface is out of action.

    I got this inspired idea from Top Gear, where the lads are tailed on their journeys in top marque sports cars by a driver in a surprisingly ordinary car. And if they break down, they are forced to switch into the backup car. Imagine the shame of ditching the Ferrari for a 2 door hatchback. Hoping that same challenge will work for my daughter.

    See you at Coles Smile

  • Education

    Free - Teacher Dashboard for Office 365 Education

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    Teacher Dashboard header graphic (shows teacher at whiteboard)

    Teacher Dashboard is an app for Office 365 Education that lets you easily share files and assignments with your students, and then allows you to grade them and provide feedback. It’s a web-based classroom manager tool for Office 365 that customises your school’s system to support the teaching and learning process, and gives your teachers tools for the most common processes they need to do.

    Teacher Dasboard logo

    It’s designed to allow your teaching staff to:

    • Share a homework assignment to an unlimited number of students with one click.
    • Teachers get a high level view, in real-time, of their student’s OneDrives
    • Create teacher-defined groups for each subject, ability and year group with just 1 click
    • Upload files to your OneDrive and share directly to students through the dashboard.
    • Simple multi-class management tools allow teachers to quickly and efficiently assign and track documents between classes
    • Mobile device ready - able to be used on all devices including tablets and smartphones

    Students can easily submit their assignments online, and Teacher Dashboard creates a folder structure that helps them keep their work organised, and automatically gives teachers the correct access to the correct folders.

    You can read more about the teaching and learning value of Teacher Dashboard on the Australian Teachers blog

     

    Teacher Dashboard is now free for your first 100 teachers

    imageThe news that’s just been announced by Axis12, the developers of Teacher Dashboard, is that it is now free for schools to use with up to 100 teachers (after that, there’s a subscription fee for additional licences).

    The team have also added a bulk importer, to allow you to import classes directly from your school’s SMS/SIS system.

    How to download Teacher Dashboard

    Teacher Dashboard is available through Microsoft’s Office Online store – installing it on your Office 365 tenant is something that your school’s site administrator does – and there’s a simple 3-step process to install it. Once that’s done, it’s then available to all the teachers to start using.

     

    Learn MoreFind out more about Teacher Dashboard for Office 365

  • Education

    Developing education solutions in Office 365

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    With so many education customers using Office 365 globally (now in the tens of millions of education uses), there's continuing interest by developers in creating services for customers, running on top of Office. This could mean developing an app for Word, Excel, PowerPoint; or could be developing a system that uses the Office 365 cloud service to deliver an integrated solution.

    Office Dev Centre logoThe team responsible for this at Microsoft are very busy releasing new information and features for developers. You can read about these in the constant updates from the Developer stream on the Office Blogs. And to help a little more, here’s some of the key bits of news that I’ve noticed recently:

    On Demand Training for Office 365 developers 
    I’m a big fan of the Microsoft Virtual Academy, as it contains some excellent technical training that is free and available at any time to technical users and developers. There’s a new course, Introduction to Office 365 Development available, which contains modules on developing Apps for Office and Apps for SharePoint, and a session on the Office 365 APIs that are available for developers to use to more closely integrate to Office across different devices.

    Office 365 APIs Starter Projects for Windows
    There’s a series of samples that the team have created which allows developers to quickly spin up projects that interact with Office 365 using the standard APIs. It lets you do things like create, read, update and delete events in a user’s calendar (so you could add an assignment reminder function to an LMS, to automatically put the assignment into the student’s calendar, and that will then show up on their PC/phone etc). Similar samples allow you to create, read, update and delete files on their SharePoint site

    Office 365 Developer Podcast
    If you want to keep up to date with less reading, then there’s the Office 365 Developer Podcast, where Jeremy Thake talks with people involved with developing Office 365 apps – both within and outside of Microsoft.

    The Office Dev Centre has also been completely updated, with easier access to resources, recordings of events and code samples.

  • 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

    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

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    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

    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

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