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

  • Education

    What is your online learning management system called?


    Do you have a system that your staff and students use to manage learning online? Whilst there are common brand names - Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn etc - there doesn’t seem to be a common term to describe the system. Is it a Learning Management System? Or a Virtual Learning Environment? Or something completely different.

    If you’re from an Australian education institution, what is it you call your system thingy?

    Click below to vote (and to see how others have voted)

  • Education

    Case Study - Redlands School integrates Moodle and Live@edu


    The official worldwide Microsoft education case studies of education customers are really useful ways of keeping in touch with what people are doing around the world. In recent months they have become much clearer in identifying specific details about improvements in learning or costs savings that education users have made through implementation of new technologies. And the nice thing for Australia is that some of the leading edge projects featured are in Australian institutions. Like the Redlands School Moodle/Live@edu case study recently published.


    What Redlands did was to mix together a range of Microsoft and Open Source technologies to build a ‘strategic education platform’, combining cloud-based email and a school-based learning management system. For their email they are using the Live@edu service, and integrating that with their on-site Moodle learning management system. This was made possible through a plug-in that Microsoft developed. According to Christian Sellies the Director of ICT:

      At Redlands, students and staff use Moodle as an increasingly important resource in their online learning. One of the key reasons we chose Microsoft as our hosted mail provider was the availability of the plug-in for Moodle to bring the students’ Live@edu mailbox into their Moodle homepage. Since rolling out Live@Edu, we find that the majority of students access their mailbox through their Moodle lessons.  

    The benefit to the IT team at the school is that now spend less time managing servers and troubleshooting - and the school is now spending 50% less on new software licences, through the new licensing scheme that they are using (the EES scheme).

      Student email was the cornerstone of our planned online platform for learning. We wanted to create a portal that would allow students to access and upload work from home, collaborate with each other, communicate with the school and access everything they needed to learn effectively – anywhere, anytime.  

    The end result is that coordinators are using group email more extensively to keep various groups informed on school activities, events and requirements because of the mailing system’s improved standardisation. Many faculties have set up live forums for debate on different academic topics. Teachers are using email more to contact and update students, and students are using it to communicate with each other and to learn collaboratively – a trend the school wants to promote.

    Learn MoreRead the full Redlands School case study (or watch the video)

  • Education

    Collaboration with Microsoft Office 365 - free ebook from MS Press


    The Microsoft Press team have announced that their new book - Microsoft Office 365: Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime - is now available as a free ebook in PDF format.

    Office 365 ebook coverThe chapters of the book are:

    1. What’s happening in the world of work
    2. Getting started with Office 365
    3. Administering an Office 365 Account
    4. What your team can do with Office 365
    5. Creating your team site with SharePoint online
    6. Posting, sharing and managing files
    7. Adding and managing workflows
    8. Working with Office 2010 Web Apps
    9. Going mobile with Office 365
    10. Email and organise with Office 365
    11. Talking it over with Microsoft Lync
    12. Designing your public website
    13. Integrating all parts of Office 365

    One of the chapters I’m looking forward to reading is 12 - Designing your public website. I’ve been writing about using SharePoint to create education websites recently (see ‘Ten of the Best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint’ ) and the idea of using the hosted Office 365 service to create a public website might well be something that’s really useful for smaller schools and colleges. It will mean that you can create a fully managed website, with ownership across a broad team, but without needing to buy lots of hardware or bandwidth, or maintain a complex webserver.

    Learn MoreDownload the free Office 365 ebook  in PDF (Right-Click and Save As...)

    * For nine other Microsoft Press ebooks free, then take a look at my earlier blog post

  • Education

    Windows Azure Platform Architect Workshop - Sydney 6-8 September


    Classroom iconIf you’re a Microsoft partner and thinking about the move to the Cloud, then you may be interested in attending (or getting the right colleague to attend) the Windows Azure Platform Architect workshop, that is scheduled on the 6-8 September in Sydney. It’s an in-depth workshop that is designed to give you the information and skills needed to be able to support your customer Cloud scenarios.

    Some of the things to be considered when moving IT services to the cloud are:

    • What scenarios are good for the Cloud - and what might you want to leave on-premise?
    • How to assess - security, compliance, complexity, latency?
    • What are the questions which will help technical qualification?
    • How does an existing identity security model translate to the Cloud?

    The workshop is specifically designed for senior architects in Microsoft partners who are designing infrastructure services for enterprise-level customers, although it’s not specifically for education partners.

    Although there is a cost for the event (just over $140), the real investment is in the time and engagement involved in the workshop.

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Windows Azure Platform Architect workshop

  • Education

    A geeky sidenote on search engines


    It’s Saturday, so let’s go with something off-topic for a break…

    cogsI’m always interested to see the readers of this blog that end up here because of a search engine. Hopefully, you’re much more interested in what I write than the back-end geekery, but over the last couple of months I’ve had some interesting conversations with customers and partners about blogging - how to blog, and why to blog - so here’s some info that might interest you if you’ve been involved in those conversations.

    What do people search for, when they end up on this blog?

    Here’s the top search terms that people use, that leads them to this blog:

    1. MIS Magazine
      Odd that it is the most frequent. I suspect it’s because I’ve quoted articles and linked to the magazine (and even more bizarrely, the blog shows up on the first page of a Google search for ‘MIS Magazine’)
    2. Office 365 Education
    3. Best SharePoint sites
    4. Best university sites
    5. Australian Partner Conference
    6. Free ebooks from Microsoft Press
    7. Microsoft Australia Partner Conference
    8. Office 365 for Education
    9. Ray Fleming blog
    10. SharePoint university
    11. Top university websites
    12. Best SharePoint websites 2011
    13. Best university websites 2011

    And here’s some of the more unusual searches, that also led people to the blog (spelling mistakes included):

    • Australia university electricity consumption
    • lerning platform
    • dfrewst
    • 100 graphic design brisbane
    • important of software
    • perfect student laptop
    • how to school sharepoint project
    • i like education comment
    • what to look for in a data centre
    • influences schools status has on education
    • cool sites for teachers
    • hidden data fees for kindle

    Please don’t ask for the explanation of these, as it amazes me! I guess it supports the view that a high percentage of searchers don’t find the info they want on their first click! And that for every ‘search engine optimisation expert’ there’s a non-optimised search engine user…

    How can you use this info? If you’re a blogger, then I’d suggest having a think about the search phrases people might use to find your site, and whether there are ways of making your content show up more often in people’s searches (which means, on the first page of a search engine)

  • Education

    How do I set up Windows on a touch PC?


    The Microsoft IT team are the people responsible for keeping the Microsoft internal IT systems running and providing the users with support - in the same way that IT teams in schools/TAFEs/universities do. (And in the case of some universities, on a similar scale!)

    Work Smart GuidesPart of their role is providing training and user documentation for us - in the form of Work Smart Guides - which we use to get to grips quickly with new technologies available internally. They are simple user guides, on subjects as diverse as our unified communications systems, how to use our internal SharePoint etc. In your first month at Microsoft they are absolutely essential reading, as our working environment is so different from many organisations that new employees come from (for example, the Sydney office has no conventional telephones and nobody has their own fixed desk or office).

    The latest of the Work Smart Guides is “Using Windows 7 Professional on a Slate PC”, and just like many of the others, they have published it for our customers to use as well as part of the Microsoft IT Showcase programme. You can either use it ‘as is’, or for a starting point for your own user documentation. It includes tips on setup, the use and customisation of flicks and gestures in Windows, Internet Explorer and other applications, screen touch optimisation for things like menus and scroll bars, and calibration.

    The “Using Windows 7 Professional on a Touch PC” Work Smart Guide is a free download (PDF)

    Learn MoreYou can download all of the other 23 Work Smart Guides from this link.

    Find other blog posts related to the Microsoft IT Showcase programme

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in education - webinar recording


    I’ve been spending a lot of time recently talking about Business Intelligence in Education - both internally and with external organisations. Some of the work I’ve been sharing has come from colleagues in other countries, and I wanted to share some of the information further. I have two colleagues in the US Education team - Rob Curtin, the Chief Applications Officer, and Keith Ward, a Business Intelligence specialist, who recently ran a webinar on the subject (entitled “K-12 Analytics”) where they covered an introduction, an example of BI use in YES Prep Public Schools, and then gave a demonstration of what is possible using the Microsoft Business Intelligence products.

    Rob’s first slide was a great summary of the issues in Business Intelligence in education, and he explained a common problem he comes across:

      The biggest mistake that I see nationwide is when [business intelligence] is treated as an IT project. And business intelligence is absolutely about the “I” - information - more than it is about the “T” - technology. I would like to stress that, because I see more and more people focusing on the tools and thinking about what it is they are going to buy…they think somehow that the right tool will solve their problems.  

    He outlines three key points to successful BI

    • Fund the project - shift the resources into the project delivery and execution, not the product acquisition, because you probably already have the tools.
    • Focus on content - because you probably already own the tools, you can focus on the outcome, which might be adoption or culture creation, or building student insight, teacher improvement, or improving public accountability
    • Measure success by adoption - if you’re looking for a culture of data-driven decision making, then you need to measure the broad uptake of what you’re creating, because that’s a measure of the culture you are creating.

    If you have an interest in the use of business intelligence in education, whether it’s for improving student performance through effective learning analysis in an individual school, or looking at data analysis across a school system, then I’d recommend finding some time to watch the recording of the webinar.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Learn MoreFind other related blog posts about "BI in Education"

  • Education

    The Microsoft Australian Partner Roadshow is coming to Melbourne and Sydney next month



    We’ve just announced the dates for our ‘Big Picture Experience’ for Microsoft Partners, in Melbourne on 22nd November, and Sydney on the 30th November. These are free events, only available to registered Microsoft Partners, where there will be a chance to catch up on the latest Microsoft news and developments, and see how our products and services can complement each other to help you to deliver solutions for your customers.

    Compared to the Australian Partner Conference, which is a more conventional ‘conference’, we’ll be providing a much more flexible and interactive day, and by getting on the road, hopefully more of your team will get a chance to come along. The other thing to know about the event is that you don’t need to commit the whole day - you can drop in for a few hours at some point in the day, and stay as long as we can keep you entertained and informed!

    As the invite says:

      This event is not a talkfest. You won’t be sitting in a conference hall, trying to stay awake. Instead, you’ll explore real life scenarios that will show you the tangible impact of Microsoft technology advances.  

    The scenarios are:

    • Insights 24/7 - how to make decisions smarter and in real-time
    • The Future of Productivity - using a ‘day in the life’ scenario
    • Ultimate customer experiences - looking at the tools that will help marketers, sales and other customer-facing staff
    • Mission control - integrating private and public cloud, and learning how to adapt, adopt and deploy new cross platform services as never before.
    • The Modern Home - Explore the unlimited worlds of entertainment, gaming, connection, and learning that are possible when technology brings it home.
    • A World of Devices - @home, @work or @play, cool devices make our time so much richer - see, touch and play with the latest phones, PC’s and slates to your heart’s content


    If you’re not an education partner, then wait a day - I’ve got details on the customer roadshow coming tomorrow too….

  • Education

    Do you need a new job title in ‘the Cloud’?


    Amidst all the noise and fervour associated with the Cloud in education one question I have not, till now, seen properly addressed is what does the Cloud mean for the skills and responsibilities of IT professionals?  The team over at Microsoft Learning have just addressed this with a white paper Cloud Computing: What IT Professionals Need to Know. It provides useful insight into the whole issue of cloud-skilling an IT department and guess what – it is more complex and rewarding than simply changing job titles from systems administrator to cloud administrator (but the job title change is a good start).

    Slide: Cloud Role Evolution

    If you’re responsible for an IT team in a school, TAFE or university, one of the issues that you’ll need to consider going forward is how moving to cloud computing will impact on your team’s roles and responsibilities - and what new skills they may need to develop to succeed. IT managers and CIOs who want to deliver more value from their IT investments are going to have to be in the front line of cloud skills education — both for themselves and to build training capacity for their IT staff.

    This paper explores the advantages of moving to the cloud and outlines the skill sets IT professionals are likely to need to acquire. It identifies the roles - eg Cloud Service Manager or Cloud Developer - and also the skills development needs across critical IT job roles, including business liaison, datacentre managers, security specialists and software architects.

    Learn More

    Download your own copy of the white paper - Cloud Computing: What IT Professionals Need to Know


    There’s more information on the Microsoft Learning Cloud Services curriculum and certification here

  • Education

    Why social media matters in student recruitment - CRM in education


    We’ve just updated our Microsoft Dynamics CRM system to include a range of new capabilities focusing on social features - engaging with social communities, which can be both internal and external - as part of sales, marketing and customer service delivery. For CRM in education, this brings a much-needed set of capabilities for universities and TAFEs in Australia, where the role of social media, and engagement with the social communities, is becoming increasingly critical to key business drivers - whether that’s managing your institution’s overall brand, or engaging with prospective local and international students for recruitment purposes.

    Although some (marketing) people initially wrote off social media as a ‘fad’, there is now no doubt that it is driving student behaviours, and having a significant impact upon choices that they make. In the ‘Building Your Business’ video below, there’s one slide that explains why. It’s about trust. 90% of people trust their peers to make recommendations on things they are going to buy (and in today’s tertiary education marketplace, education is something students ‘buy’).

    Text: 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations for purchasing decisions; only 14% trust adverts; 70% trust other consumer opinions

    So here’s a question for the marketing people in tertiary education: If 9 out of 10 trust their peers, and only 1 out of 6 trust your adverts, do you monitor, manage and support the social communities that result in those recommendations? And do you do it with 6x as much focus and time as you do with your adverts?

    Hopefully, the background explains why we’ve put so much new focus into the social aspects of our Dynamics CRM system - because you need a tool for CRM in education that covers your conventional marketing (adverts, events, student enquiries) as well as the amorphous mass of social communities (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). It’s because there’s a bunch of opportunities (or potential lost opportunities) that come from effective student recruitment through social communities (after all, your existing ‘customers’ are the generation that uses social media more than anybody, and will have a massive amplification impact on your prospective students).

    Slide text: Business Opportunities with Social Technologies - Listen, engage, amplify, solve, innovate, analyse

    The trick with what we’ve done with Dynamics CRM is to integrate social tools into the existing tools your staff are using - whether that means surfacing LinkedIn profiles of your contacts into your email inbox, or your social communities through your CRM system. The key has been to integrate into the systems your users may already be using - Office, Outlook, Lync and SharePoint. In the first wave of updates to CRM, just released, our focus is on your internal communities - activity feeds to help people to collaborate internally, internal status and micro-blog updates, connections between people and activities.

    There’s a detailed presentation below, from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM YouTube channel, which explains the background to the changes (and includes the two slides I’ve used above), as well as demonstrating what’s now possible - including a demonstration of the app for the Windows Phone. Although it’s longer than the average YouTube video, it’s has a mass of useful context and detailed demonstrations. 33 minutes into the video, the Dynamics team share their future plans - on wider device support, ability to convert social status updates into user actions in your system and other areas.

    Learn More iconThere’s a broad range of Microsoft Dynamics partners in Australia - and three I’d explicitly mention because of their previous projects with tertiary CRM education customers in Australia:

    Need contact details for any of them? Drop me an email, using the ‘email me’ link at the top of the page

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