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

  • Education

    How many Live@edu users are there?


    Globe iconOne question I do get asked frequently is “How many Live@edu users are there?”, or more generally “How many education customers use the Microsoft Cloud?”. Often the answer I have to give is outdated - at BETT in 2011, we announced that it had now reached a total of 15M students using Live@edu, up from 11M in November 2010.

    Over on the ‘Official Microsoft Blog’, we’ve just released an update, and there are now 22 million students using Live@edu worldwide, a doubling since this time last year. And it’s growing at the rate of 27,000 students every day. New institutions signing up for Live@edu recently include a range of universities including  University of Colorado at Boulder and Kings College London ; a number of state-wide school systems including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and not for profit institutions like the Royal National College for the Blind in the UK.

    Read the Official Microsoft Blog post Live@edu Tops 22M Users, Grows 100 Percent Year Over Year

    As we move into this next year, we’re continuing to offer Live@edu as a free cloud email, collaboration and communication service for staff and students, as well as bringing in Office 365 for education. It will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises, and we are offering some qualifying education customers Office 365 in order to take advantage of Exchange Online and Lync Online today. We will add SharePoint Online capabilities in 2012 when Office 365 for education is broadly available. Current Office 365 education users include Georgia State University, Dundee University in Scotland, East Norfolk Sixth College in England, the Inzai City Board of Education and Wakayama City Board of Education in Japan - and earlier in the year I also highlighted Curtin University here in Australia.

    As I’ve said before, education is moving quickly to using the Cloud, to save money, build more flexible ICT infrastructures and enable much more effective collaboration. So, although the answer to the question “How many Live@edu users are there?” is 22 million today, it’s already wrong by the time you read this. Because every day education customers are doing more in the Cloud.

    Learn MoreRead related Cloud Case Study articles on this blog

  • Education

    The Big Picture Experience for education partners


    The Big Picture Experience header

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Hopefully, if you’re based near either Melbourne or Sydney, you’ve already registered to come along to The Big Picture Experience. There are two separate dates in each city:

    • Melbourne
      • 22nd November for Microsoft partners
      • 23rd November for all customers
    • Sydney
      • 30th November for Microsoft partners
      • 1st December for all customers

    The events are being run as an ‘experience’, rather than as a conventional conference, so we’ve thrown away the usual long-dry agenda with the audience sitting down for hours on end. Instead, we’re creating an experience more like a theme park - lots of different zones to explore and learn in:

    • The Future of Productivity
    • Ultimate customer experiences
    • Insights 24/7
    • Mission control
    • The Modern Home
    • A World of Devices

    The Big Picture Experience for Partners

    Big Picture Partner DayKeynote

    On the partner days, we’re going to kick off the day with a keynote, and then it’s up to you to plan the rest of the day how you want it. The keynote speaker, Steve Vamos (named in the top five most influential members of the Australian technology industry by the Australian Financial Review), will share his perspective on leadership, innovation and how the potential of people and organisations is greater than ever before. Steve is the president of the Society for Knowledge Economics (SKE) and a non-executive director of Telstra. SKE is a Sydney-based think tank which researches corporate leadership, culture and management in knowledge-based globally-connected economies.

    Education Partner briefings

    For partners working with education customers, I’m going to be running a number of half-hour workshops, where we’ll be providing a briefing on the education licensing programmes available for Authorised Education Resellers, and looking at three key market opportunities, including the opportunities to supply Microsoft Academic subscriptions to private schools. For all partners focusing on education, whether or not you’re the licensing partner, we’ll look at key ways to grow your education business.

    You do not need to pre-book these workshop sessions, as they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Briefing Room at 11am, and 1, 3 and 4pm.

    Register for the partner events

    Tue 22 Nov, 8am - 5pm
    Check in and explore the showcase from 8.00am, keynote starts at 9.15am
    Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, 2 Clarendon St, South Wharf
    Bing Maps | Directions | Add to Outlook calendar
    Register Now and get your DigiPack

    Wed 30 Nov, 8am - 5pm
    Check in and explore the showcase from 8.00am, keynote starts at 9.15am

    Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre – Hall 5
    Bing Maps | Directions | Add to Outlook calendar
    Register Now and get your DigiPack

    The Big Picture Experience for Customers


    The customer days have exactly the same look and feel as our partner day, but instead of a big keynote, there are a number of mini keynotes and case studies throughout the day. There will also be many members of the education team on hand throughout the day, so that you can put faces to names, and get a chance for a deep and meaningful conversation! Oh, and over 100 other Microsoft people will be around each day, so there’s bound to be an expert in whatever subject you’re interested in.

    I can speak from experience of organising the Microsoft team at the world’s largest education IT exhibition at BETT, that having so many Microsoft people in one place means that it gives you access to knowledge that might normally take weeks to track down!

    The Big Picture website has a full agenda and detailed event guide, so I’d recommend jumping over there for full details and to register.

    Register for the customer events

    Wed 23 Nov - 9am - 6pm
    Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre2 Clarendon St, South Wharf
    Bing Maps| Directions | Add to Outlook calendar
    Find out more and register

    Thu 1 Dec - 9am - 6pm
    Sydney Convention & Exhibition
    Centre – Hall 5
    Bing Maps | Add to Outlook calendar
    Find out more and register

  • Education

    Business Intelligence Bootcamp for Microsoft partners


    Sarah Arnold, over on the Australian Partner blog, has just announced that there’s extra help available for partners who are aiming to get the Business Intelligence competency for Microsoft Partners at Silver level. If you’re a partner that’s deeply engaged with education customers, you’ll know how much data education institutions collect, and how much useful insight it would deliver to them if they were able to analyse it easily and comprehensively - whether that’s for learning, assessment, finance or many other uses. Over 2,000 people a month in Australia search for either ‘BI in education’ or ‘learning analysis’, so there’s definitely an untapped potential.

    So investing in Business Intelligence in Education makes sense! Here’s Sarah’s offer, which includes five days of training for two of your staff in December, to help you work towards Business Intelligence certification:


    Are you working towards your Business Intelligence Competency and can you commit to achieving it by December 31, 2011? We have an offer for you on a first come, first in basis…

    This ‘Competency Development Offer’ provides Microsoft partners with resources to support you in achieving your Silver Business Intelligence competency on the basis that it is completed by December 31, 2011. The resources include;

    Complimentary access for 2 individuals (for Silver competency) on the Business Intelligence Bootcamp training course valued at $7,500 per person, in Sydney.

    Duration: 5-day accelerated boot camp

    Location: Macquarie University,

    Date: Tuesday December 13 to Saturday December 17, 2011

    Training hours: 8am to 8pm each day

    Content: Exam Prep Training content (Instructor led courses covering Theory, Hands-on labs, Revision and Exam preparation) targeting: Exam 70-448: TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance and Exam 70-433: TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development.

    Note: Accommodation can be arranged at Macquarie University if needed but this will be at your own expense.

    If you are interested in participating in this offer and can achieve the Silver Business Intelligence Competency by December 31, 2011 please email me and I will send you an application form. As spots are limited this is a first come.


    Of course, this is open to all Microsoft Partners in Australia that are aiming to get the Silver level competency in Business Intelligence, but I wanted to highlight it to the education partners that read this blog, to give you a chance to jump in quickly!

    Learn MoreEmail Sarah now to get the application form

  • Education

    Another take on qualifications – thought about the Microsoft IT Academy?


    IT Academy Programme If you’re running the ICT systems in your school, and NOT running the curriculum ICT, then you may want to forward this onto the ICT Curriculum Co-ordinator. Although it’s got ‘IT’ in the title, the IT Academy is actually all about curriculum development and helping your students/staff to gain commercially valuable qualifications.

    imageI’ve mentioned the Microsoft IT Academy scheme a few times recently, but not gone into the detail. Basically the scheme offers schools the chance to deliver Microsoft’s IT training and qualifications to your students and staff. The qualifications that you can deliver will help your students (or even parents in your community) raise their skills to prepare for business roles, or potentially for technical employment as web developers or systems administrators.

    The chart on the right (click on it to see the BIG version) shows the routes to the qualifications that students can attain. And because the qualifications are instantly recognisable in the commercial sector – like MCSE qualifications – it is an instant help with preparing for employment.

    But this isn’t just about student qualifications – it can also be used to provide training and qualifications for the wider community, and this is exactly how some of the current IT Academies use it – which is either helping to generate a revenue stream, or to increase parental engagement.

    Once you’ve signed up to be an IT Academy, the scheme includes all of the following resources:

    • Over 300 Microsoft eLearning courses
    • A bunch of software licences
    • Discounts on Microsoft Certifications and Courseware
    • An MSDNAA & TechNet Plus Subscription
    • Microsoft Certified Trainer Membership

    And yet it doesn’t cost a fortune (just over a couple of thousand dollars a year for a typical high school)…

    Learn MoreFind out more about IT Academy


    ps You may not want to tell the curriculum side, but it’s also a great way to get yourself an inclusive MSDNAA and TechNet Plus subscription if you’re having difficulty getting it paid for otherwise!

  • Education

    Hawaii offers IT skills training through their public libraries


    Yesterday, I wrote about the IT Academy programme in the context of students achieving industry-recognised qualifications whilst still at school, TAFE or university, and I quoted a few examples of different school and tertiary education systems that were offering it to their students.

    Hi-Tech Academy logoWhat I hadn’t read at the time was that it’s just been announced that the Hawaii Public Library System are now going to offer their users the same opportunities to take the 350 Microsoft Digital Literacy and IT Academy study programmes free. All their users need is a library card, and then they can take the courses in the library or at home. And if they want to, they can then take a certification exam to get Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technology Associate or Microsoft Certified Professional certifications.

    According to Donald Horner, the chairman of the Hawaii State Board of Education:


    IT certifications are increasingly recognised as valuable credentials that give young people expanded career opportunities. The Microsoft IT Academy ensures patrons equal access to IT training and certification through all libraries across the state, regardless of location or economic status.


    Hawaii’s library system is unique as the only statewide public library system in the US, and I noticed quite a few innovative ideas on their website - like the ability to borrow electronic books for ereaders. They even have a neat ‘snapshot of a day’, which shows that on one day in November 2010, they server 18,204 customers, answered 8,642 questions and loaned 25,304 library materials.

    Learn MoreRead more about the Hawaii Public Libraries announcement 
    or find out more about IT Academy

  • Education

    How do you prepare for paper-based exams in the age of IT?


    Interesting story in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, about the dilemma for today’s students. Their everyday learning is commonly taking place on or with a computer - writing essays in Word not with a pencil, researching online as much as through books, and developing high level skills as they draft, revise and improve their assignments in the same way you and I do in the workplace. And then we put them into an exam hall with pencil and paper, and expect them to work completely differently for their high stakes tests.

    Rachel Olding’s article “The pen’s no longer mightier but still important” takes a look at the challenges that creates. It covers the changes between the ways and tools students are learning, and they tools they use in critical assessments. And it includes this insight:

      …a student at Riverside Girls High, says some classmates had taped batteries and weights to pens to strengthen hand muscles weakened by tapping away on keyboards.

    Almost diverted my eye from the bizarre references to Moodle as ‘noodles’ Smile

    Learn MoreRead the original SMH article "The pen's no longer mightier but still important"

  • Education

    What skills do employers look for in interviews - persuading your students to value ICT subjects


    Over the weekend, a friend of my daughter was excited about the idea of becoming a spy for a career, and how her careers officer had failed to mention it as part of her career planning. So my daughter decided to help her by finding out how you get a job as a spy.

    My father-in-law said it was all about the ‘old boy network’, but he was quickly corrected when we found out that MI5 - the UK security agency equivalent of ASIO - run job ads on their website in the same way as another organisation).

    So we went online to look at their job ads. And it turns out if you want to get a job as a spy, these days you need to know how to use business applications like Excel and Access [link]


    And linking back to the blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, ‘What skills do your students need to work in the world’s best workplaces’, it seems that’s true for lots of other companies.

    Of course, if you want to work at Microsoft, knowing how to use Microsoft software is an absolute must. And the same applies for many other jobs in other companies. A colleague in the US spotted that if you want to work at Google, you’re going to need the same kinds of skills. When he checked last week, there were 88 open jobs on their website that required either Excel or PowerPoint experience [link]


    So as your students start to make choices about the subjects they are studying, remind them that the right choice of the skills and qualifications they can get at school, TAFE and university will be critical when it comes to getting their first, second or even tenth job.

    Maybe that’s why we’re seeing lots of education systems around the world taking advantage of the IT Academy programme, where students can get technical and/or proficiency qualifications as they progress through the education system. Students could leave with a high level technical qualification on their resume, such as Microsoft Certified Professionals, Microsoft Technology Associates or Microsoft Office Specialists. (And you’d also give them a great intro to the acronym-tastic modern workplace, with MCP, MTA & MOS as starters!)

    Some of the IT Academy participants include North Carolina, KL University, Boston City Campus and Business College, Washington State and Box Hill TAFE in Australia.

    Learn MoreLearn more about the Microsoft IT Academy programme

  • Education

    Incentive programme for Microsoft education partners in Australia - EEScore



    Since we launched the new Microsoft licensing programmes for education earlier this year, with their snappy names of EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions) and OVS-ES (Open Value Subscription for Education Solutions), we’ve had good feedback on how they have radically simplified licensing for our education customers.

    I was in Melbourne speaking at an event a couple of weeks ago, and one school actually said to me “I keep telling the other companies we deal with that they need to make their licensing much simpler, like yours is now.”. As a 25 year veteran of Microsoft education licensing, I can assure you that was a bit of surprising (and pleasant) moment!

    What the scheme does is to allow schools to simply count their Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff, and then decide which software to license, and that gives them their core desktop licensing agreement under either scheme. Then they add on a ‘student option’ for any devices that are dedicated 1:1 for students, and any additional products (like servers and Microsoft Project/Visio etc), and then they’re done. There’s a similar scheme (just under EES for their servers too).

    • EES is for organisations or consortia with more than 1,000 FTEs
    • OVS-ES is for organisations with less than 1,000 FTEs

    Many customers are saving money under the new scheme, and one of the significant benefits is that it takes out the peaks and troughs of IT spend, as instead of big lumps of software purchases, you pay a single consistent subscription fee each year.

    Although many education customers already know about this in Australia - of the 3,000+ non-state schools, nearly half have signed up to the scheme - there are still lots of individual schools out there (independent and catholic schools) that would benefit from looking at the new schemes to replace their existing licensing arrangements.

    Ultimately, the choice is there for the customer to decide which one works best for them, but to encourage all of our Authorised Education Resellers (AER) to have the conversation with their customers, we’re running an incentive programme for education partners until the end of December, which is applicable to partners promoting the OVS-ES programme for customers with less than 1,000 FTEs.

    If you’re a Microsoft Education partner in Australia…

    If you’re an AER, you should have heard about the programme from us directly by email, but just in case you haven’t, you can register and find out more at the EEScore website (What are the odds we’ve sent the email to somebody who’s out on holiday for a month, and when they come back, it’ll be down the bottom of their inbox?)

    If you’re not an AER, then I assume you’re not selling licences to education customers (because only AERs have access to the special academic pricing), but if you want to, there’s more info on the AER programme here.

    There are two webinars coming up for partners, covering both the EES and OVS-ES programme, on 17th November and 1st December - both at 10:00-10:30AM. You can register here

    If you’re an Education customer in Australia…

    If you’re a customer and buy your own licences, and you’ve not heard about this from your regular Microsoft partner yet (either EES or OVS-ES), then I suggest you get them on the phone, as you don’t want to be last to find out the details! If you want to find your local Authorised Education Reseller, then you can look them up on this AER Search page

    Learn MoreLearn more about our Academic licensing programmes

  • Education

    Reasons to blog - I blog to learn


    I’ve had such a hectic week that I’ve not really had the time to sit down and write a detailed blog post about an education initiative today.

    So I thought I would share a little bit about what’s going on in my head, and it’s a thought that came out of a meeting with a partner in Sydney this morning. I was thinking about the reasons to blog, and came to a realisation that at the moment:

    I blog to learn

    What does ‘I blog to learn’ mean?

    Mike Phillips wrote an excellent article - 8 reasons you should blog - on his EatSleepSocial blog last year. And as I was preparing to deliver a blogging workshop, I was looking at the list again:

    1. Learn something new about your industry
    2. Learn something new about yourself
    3. Learn from being criticised
    4. Demonstrate thought leadership – don’t just be a sheep
    5. Be part of the community
    6. Be transparent and authentic
    7. Use your free time constructively
    8. Create a movement

    I first read it last year, and at the time my reasons to blog were mainly down the lower end of his list. But since moving to Australia in January and starting this new blog I’ve realised that’s changed. I’ve been plunged into a completely new continent, market, job and community of people, and so I am now blogging more often as a process of self-learning - because in order to write a blog post that makes sense, I have to be sure I know what I’m talking about (most of the time Smile)

    It means that it takes me longer to write a blog post than it used to, because I have to do more research to get the context right. But every single blog process forces me to learn more. In Mike’s list, here’s what his top 3 reasons mean to me:

    Learn something new about your industry

    For yesterday’s blog post about the looming teacher shortage in Australia, I had to go and do a bunch of research on Australian statistics to understand the story behind the headline, and to write something that added depth to the headline story).

    Learn something new about yourself

    I try and write a blog post every weekday. If you don’t blog yourself, that may not sound tricky, but I can assure you it is - especially as I try very hard to make sure that everything is in the context of readers who work in or with Australian education institutions, and have an interest in ICT. My typical blog posts are 600+ words, so that’s 3,000+ words a week on top of everything else I’m doing.

    Learn from being criticised

    I’ve been blogging for six years now, so I’ve learnt to develop a thick skin, because it’s much easier to criticise on the web - especially if (like this blog) you allow people to comment freely. And I always look at it as feedback and try not to take it to heart if somebody tells me I’m an idiot for expressing a point of view.

    And writing this blog post was a learning process for me, and made me reflect on my reasons to blog yet again.

  • Education

    The looming teacher shortage in Australia - what does it mean for ICT?


    If you’re looking for long-term trends in education in Australia, that will strongly influence decisions that schools, TAFEs and universities take on their future strategy, then one strong driver of behaviour for leaders (at an institution and state level) is going to be the availability of teaching staff.

    According to the Clarius Skills Index:

      Three major employment sectors will face substantial skills gaps as Australia’s ageing workforce heads for retirement, according to the latest Clarius Skills Index…for every 107 teachers who retire, there will only be 73 to replace them if the wider population’s qualifications remain unchanged over the next decade-and-a-half.  

    So as the average age of the teacher profession increases (with a large group who are now close to retirement), there aren’t going to be enough young teachers coming into the classroom to replace them. According to the ABS, there were 286,000 teaching staff in Australian schools in 2010*, and other research suggests up to a third are close to retirement*.

    Australian teaching staff:student ratios

    Over the last decade, the number of students per teacher has declined, leading the potential for smaller class sizes, and more specialist teaching in smaller groups. The chart below, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows the trend for 'Student to Teaching Staff’ ratios since 2000.

    Graph: Full-time Equivalent (FTE) STUDENT TO TEACHING STAFF RATIOS, by affiliation - 2000 to 2010

    At the same time, the number of students in private schools has increased by 21% compared with an only 1% increase in students attending government schools. The proportion of students in private schools is now 34%, or more than 1 in 3, up 4% since 2000*.

    What happens next?

    In other countries facing this problem, there have been two key focus strategies.

    • Increase the number of people entering teaching (which has turned out to be quite tricky in many cases)
    • Develop new models of learning that rely less on low student:teacher ratios

    Australia is no different to these countries. But the critical difference is that over the next few years we are going to see an increase in the devolution of power to school Principals - including more responsibility for hiring their own staff. That’s going to be quite a challenge to take on at a time when there’s going to be more competition for teachers due to a shortage.

    Enter the role of ICT in the classroom?

    If you are considering developing an education technology for the future, this trend probably means that there will be much more demand for learner-centric support, rather than teacher-centric (eg with less teachers, are we going to see less demand for teaching led from the front of the class with interactive whiteboards, and more demand for interactive study resources for learners to use individually?).

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