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

  • 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

    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

    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

    Queensland Department of Education and Training - Partners in Technology Briefing


    I’ve just received an email from DEEDI (the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation) about an upcoming government briefing on the ICT strategy and procurement for the Queensland Department of Education and Training. If you’re doing business in Queensland education, then this might be of interest:

    Friday, 2 September 2011 – Partners in Technology Briefing –  Department of Education and Training

    The Information Industries Bureau has arranged for Department of Education and Training to deliver a presentation of their proposed ICT procurement schedules. This is an opportunity for ICT firms to hear first hand about the future use of ICT in these organisations.

    Participants will discover:

      • The organisations structure and purchasing procedures
      • Key agency personnel
      • Details of proposed ICT contracts and expected timeframes.

    DATE: Friday, 2 September 2011

    TIME: 8.30am to 9.30am

    COST: Free

    VENUE: Ground Floor, Rooms 1 & 2, 80 George Street, Brisbane

    Please click on this link to register your interest

    Has anybody any experiences of these briefings before? Do they represent a good investment of time?

  • Education

    What does the word ‘Learn’ mean to you?


    In your head imagine a one minute video on the word ‘Teach’. Hmm, interesting…

    So how about changing to another angle. How about a one minute video on the word ‘Learn’? That’s exactly what STA Travel have done.

    Once you’ve watched it, have another go… Imagine a one minute video on the word ‘Teach’

    I wonder what a group of students would produce if they had this project?

    Learn MoreSee all three Rick Mereki videos - MOVE - LEARN - EAT

    My reflection? How many learning opportunities have I missed as I travelled the world!

  • Education

    Weekly technical webcasts - 15-20 August 2011


    Webinar iconThis year we’re offering a series of live webcasts, led by a Microsoft subject matter expert, on a range of core Microsoft products. They are not specifically designed to focus on education - and attendees will be from a wide range of industries - but I wanted to highlight the opportunity for you to take part to get up to speed with leading edge technology changes.

    Each week I’ll highlight the webcasts coming up soon, and provide a more detailed overview, and give a list of future sessions that you can book into your diary. All of the webcasts are scheduled for 2-4PM AEST (Australia East Coast time). See ** below for more details on how the webcasts work

    This week’s webcasts

    Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named "Denali" AlwaysOn Series, Part 1:
    Introducing the Next Generation High Availability Solution

    In this session we talk about the new high availability solution that is being introduced in SQL Server code-named ‘Denali’. The session provides an overview of AlwaysOn and introduces the key new features and capabilities that will help businesses achieve the high availability SLA for mission critical applications. The session is the first part of a three-part series. See table below for parts 2 & 3

    16th August - Find out more, and register 

    Microsoft SharePoint Online Overview

    This informative and demo-filled session provides an overview of SharePoint Online, and as much detail as we can fit into 2 hours.

    16th August - Find out more, and register

    Sneak Peek at Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2012 Concepts

    The upcoming version of Service Manager 2010 R2 will deliver standardized, compliant, and automated IT as a Service.  Come to this session to see an early preview the all new Silverlight based SharePoint self-service portal, service catalog, service requests, release management, IT business intelligence, and many other improvements that are being added to Service Manager.

    19th August - Find out more, and register

    Future webcasts

    Register Here

    2 September

    Best Practices for Private Cloud Implementation

    Find out more, and register

    6 September

    Microsoft Exchange Online: Unified Messaging in Microsoft Office 365

    Find out more, and register

    7 September

    Inside Windows Azure, the Cloud Operating System

    Find out more, and register

    20 September

    Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named "Denali" AlwaysOn Series, Part 2: Building a Mission-Critical High Availability Solution Using AlwaysOn

    Find out more, and register

    20 September

    Microsoft Lync 2010: In the Cloud

    Find out more, and register

    23 September

    Understanding How Microsoft Virtualization Compares to VMware

    Find out more, and register

    27 September

    Microsoft Visual Studio Tips and Tricks

    Find out more, and register

    27 September

    Ten Must-Have Tools for Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    30 September

    Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012: Deployment and Infrastructure Technical Overview

    Find out more, and register

    4 October

    Microsoft Lync 2010: Setup, Deployment, Upgrade and Coexistence Scenarios

    Find out more, and register

    14 October

    Virtualization: State of the Union

    Find out more, and register

    18 October

    What's New in Manageability for Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named "Denali"

    Find out more, and register

    18 October

    Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Office 365: How to Set Up a Hybrid Deployment

    Find out more, and register

    21 October

    Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2012: Overview

    Find out more, and register

    25 October

    An IT Pro View of Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    28 October

    What Are the Bridges between Private and Public Cloud?

    Find out more, and register

    1 November

    Microsoft Office 365: Deployment Overview

    Find out more, and register

    8 November

    Upgrading to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server Code-Named "Denali": A Comprehensive Look

    Find out more, and register

    11 November

    Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012: What’s in It, and How It Enables the Building of Private Clouds and Federation to the Public Cloud

    Find out more, and register

    15 November

    Taking Office to the Cloud: Integrating Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Managing Windows Azure Applications

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Integrating Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    Find out more, and register

    25 November

    Integrating the Microsoft System Center Stack for Process Compliance and Automation

    Find out more, and register

    29 November

    What’s New in Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named “Denali” for SQL Server Integration Services

    Find out more, and register

    6 December

    Microsoft Lync 2010: Audio, Video and Web Conferencing Architecture and Experience

    Find out more, and register

    ** By running them as webcasts, our aim is to allow you to get the latest news, without travel costs, or event fees. And with all of the advantages of being able to watch an online webcast whilst also being able to do other things if necessary.

    All of the free webcasts are two-hour long sessions, and combine technical presentations and live demonstrations. The level of the content is suitable for IT teams in schools, TAFEs and universities, as well as for pre-sales consultants and technical consultants working within Microsoft’s education partners. There are some which are much more specifically tailored for developers, and I’ll highlight those below.

    You’ll need to register in advance, and you’ll then receive a Calendar note as well as info on how to join the Live Meeting online. All of the webcasts are scheduled for 2-4PM AEST (Australia East Coast time)

  • Education

    Building a more efficient research datacentre


    The Microsoft team that run our internal IT systems have to manage a complex and very fluid IT environment - just like you. And the It team are often at the leading/bleeding edge of technology (especially if you consider our habit of ‘eating our own dog food’). So they have some hard-won lessons on technology implementation.

    Icons_gears_blueThe latest addition to the IT Showcase, a huge library of published case studies on their work, is a technical case study on how they developed a Private Cloud infrastructure. I’m sure there are universities across Australia who have exactly the same kind of challenge today, and will find their case study useful.

    Developing a Private Cloud infrastructure for research

    Microsoft IT wanted to reduce lab space server sprawl and introduce a new level of management and support efficiency. The facility needed to be both efficient and flexible enough to support the research and development needs of the different product groups. The solution was to build an energy-efficient, flexible, high-density facility that meets the needs of the research and development community at Microsoft and is able to host private clouds that provide Infrastructure as a Service.

    It meant changing the research culture, as well as the IT infrastructure, and replacing a 180,000 square feet facility with something nearly 80% smaller. And designing a local datacentre that could run with a PUE (power usage effectiveness) of 1.3 or lower.

    What that meant was:

    • Reduced the footprint of on-campus lab space
    • Efficiencies in scale and facility design provide power-consumption savings
    • Virtualisation reduced the number of required physical systems and the amount of resources required to manage them
    • Offering Infrastructure as a Service through the private cloud shortened the time it takes to deploy systems and reduced variations in the deployment of systems

    The full case study talks through details such as designing the network fabric and the process of picking the host requirements (eg memory, storage and processors)

    Learn MoreYou can read the full case study online (and download a Word version)

  • Education

    Have you seen the Live@edu blog


    Icons_monitor_blueMy colleague, James Marshall, writes the UK Live@edu blog. There isn’t an Australian equivalent, but almost everything that he writes is relevant to Australia too. If you’re a Live@edu user in Australia, or you’re interested in learning more about the service (which is the Microsoft free hosted email and collaboration service for schools, TAFEs and universities), then it’s worth keeping an eye on it, or adding it to your RSS feeds.

    Some of the recent posts that have caught my eye include:

    • Live@edu deployment webcasts
      Download links for his two recent Live@edu deployment webcasts, covering domain ownership; user provisioning in Live@edu; migrating data and automating Live@edu management
    • Configuring regional settings and setting UK English dictionaries in Live@edu
      Contains the answer to the golden question: “How do I set the dictionary for all of my Live@edu mail users”
    • Why and how to delete and de-provision users in Live@edu
      After explaining why you may or may not want to delete users once they’ve left your institution (ease user management, remove the risk of abuse of your email domain versus continuing contact with alumni and giving students a continuing email address they can use for university/employment applications), James then lets you know how you can delete mailboxes and still keep the Live ID going (so that students don’t lose their SkyDrive, Xbox ID etc)

    There are lots of other good blog posts there too, so keep an eye on it.

    Learn MoreRead the UK Live@edu blog

  • Education

    Ten of the best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint


    Following on from my previous blog posts, ‘Ten of the best SharePoint School websites’ and ‘Ten of the best SharePoint University websites’, then it’s time to get closer to home with Ten of the best Australian school websites built on SharePoint (or best TAFE websites or best University websites).

    The reason I’m focusing on ‘built on SharePoint’ is because most Australian education institutions have SharePoint, and have it integrated into their identity management system and their security model. So extending that same system to run your public-facing website means that you can easily create a website that allows students to access their course materials from home, and staff to be able to use the document storage and workflow, without having to setup yet-another login or user list on yet-another system. Anyway, back to the best school websites list…

    I’ve had help from colleagues tracking some of these down, and recommendations from customers and partners. But ultimately I take total responsibility for the completely subjective Top Ten list and their rankings!

    So here’s my top ten of the best education websites built on SharePoint in Australia

    It’s my take on 10 School/TAFE/University websites, built on SharePoint, that are worth looking at for design ideas and inspiration for functional ideas - or simply because you want to nudge another colleague towards seeing that SharePoint can deliver a beautiful experience for staff, students and prospective students.

    Click on any of them to link to the live website

    1. Gordon Institute of TAFE, Victoria

      This was easy for me to pick as Australia’s best education website built on SharePoint. I’m sure this website must inspire potential students - it gives off the impression of a vibrant learning community, with a fun attitude to the serious subject of learning. And the design makes it easier to navigate to the key information - and encourages you to explore more.

       Gordon Institute of TAFE

    2. Victoria Department of Education - FUSE

      An amazing interactive experience which puts access to learning materials right at the front of the site. And let’s be honest, it breaks the mould for ‘policy-type’ websites, because it’s putting the ‘fun’ into ‘functional’.

      Victoria Department of Education - FUSE

    3. Abbotsleigh School, New South Wales

      You can tell from the very first page that this is a school that takes learning seriously - and the strong photography shows how it puts students at the centre of the experience. With many private and Catholic schools, you can see the increased importance of needing to ‘sell’ the school to prospective students and parents, as well as keeping in touch with the parents of existing students.

      Abbotsleigh School

    4. Trinity Grammar School, New South Wales

      Another design-centric site, but with a clear navigation structure that means students & parents can easily find the section that’s relevant for them. (Pipped by Abbotsleigh for #3 position because it didn’t have Search on the home page)

      Trinity Grammar School

    5. The Learning Place, Queensland

      Another government site, which are often some of the trickiest to design and run, because they are trying to meet the needs of so many stakeholders. Although the SharePoint portion of the website sits behind the login screens, there’s an excellent video here that shows what Stage 2 is delivering.

      The Learning Place

    6. Brisbane Catholic Education, Queensland

      Although this doesn’t have the high graphic design of some of the previous sites, the navigation here is clear - with the tabs at the top helping users find their way quickly to the section that is right for them - students & parents; schools & curriculum; employment etc.

      Brisbane Catholic Education

    7. Bendigo Tafe, Victoria

      Another great TAFE site in Victoria (is there a secret recipe they have there?). I particularly liked the 3D box design, which was very simply to create, and added to, rather than confused, the navigation.

      Bendigo Tafe, Victoria

    8. John Paul College, Queensland

      A nice looking site that crams a lot of information onto the home page - but without making it too busy. A slow rotation of the main picture adds interest, but without detracting from the content and links.

      John Paul College, Queensland

    9. Hale School, Western Australia

      A slightly more traditional design, which puts details on the front page, rather than just short links. As with the others, it’s often the photography that makes the first impression.

      Hale School, Western Australia

    10. Australian School of Business, New South Wales

      Okay, this may be 10th out of my list of 10 - but there’s hundreds of sites that didn’t make it to the Top Ten, so it’s still good going. I like the way this page is easy to read, and has all the vital components - news, events and search - right there.
      What would have given it a higher rating? Less ‘stock’ images and more good photos from the School of Business itself would have helped me, as a parent, to imagine my daughter going to study there.

      Australian School of Business, New South Wales

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint Top 10 Australian Education websites on SharePoint

  • Education

    Windows 7 to reach four out of 10 computers by end of year


    Last month, I wrote that two-thirds of PCs are still running Windows XP, and wrote about some of the things that hadn’t been created when Windows XP was launched (Feeling nostalgic? Your students may not be). It surprised me to hear that there are so many out of date PCs (as Windows XP is a decade old now).

    However, I’ve just read on ZDNet, reporting on a Gartner analysis, where they are predicting that by the end of the year, 42% of PCs worldwide will be running Windows 7. Which means there’s a massive wave of upgrades and deployments going on right now…

    Learn MoreRead the full story on ZD Net - 42% of PCs will be running Windows 7 by year-end

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