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

  • Education

    Student Advantage–the best way to get Office for student BYOD devices



    Last week we announced Student Advantage, a new benefit to qualifying institutions that brings Microsoft Office to more students worldwide. This is a global programme that most Australian education institutions will already qualify for. And for Australian schools, universities and TAFEs, it comes at a perfect time, when there are more BYOD initiatives than ever.

    From the beginning of December, any institution that licenses Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for all staff can provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students (on their personally-owned or institution-owned devices) at no additional cost.

    Office 365 ProPlus includes all the familiar and full Office applications — locally installed on up to five devices and available offline. When a school combines Student Advantage with Microsoft’s other cloud services, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online, all available free through Office 365 Education, students have access to the same set of gold-standard productivity tools and services used by businesses and 110 million students and staff all over the world.

    Anthony Salcito, Microsoft president of Worldwide Public Sector Education said:

      Students use Office every day for school work and activities that are most important to them. Office not only helps students stay organised and get their work done today but at the same time develops skills that will be required when they enter the work force... We are thrilled to offer Student Advantage to schools across the globe so students have access to the latest, most up-to-date version of the world’s leading set of productivity tools in order to give them a competitive advantage when entering the workforce.  

    Worldwide nearly 98 percent of students using productivity software currently use Office. Student Advantage enables students to access the familiar experience of Office in an always-up-to-date cloud service across their compatible PCs, tablets and phones.  

    You can get Started with Office 365 for Education now using the free A2 option (which gives your staff and students access to Exchange and SharePoint online, as well as Office Web Apps) – and then add the full Office 365 ProPlus suite over the holidays. And because the software is being delivered through Office 365, your students will be able to go online to get Office ProPlus installed on their devices – not just PCs, but also Macs and their smartphones (the installation web page will show them the right options for whichever device they are logged in from).

    There is a full FAQ document which I’ll publish tomorrow with more detail for institutions. Microsoft partners (such as Authorised Education Resellers) can access their training information on the Microsoft Education Partner Community.

    Learn MoreRead the original press release

  • Education

    Perth Microsoft Education Partner Summit–22nd October


    I’m travelling around the country at the moment, along with some of the others in the education team, meeting with the Microsoft Education Partners including the Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers, to provide an in-depth training programme to help our partners develop their education IT business.

    Next Tuesday we’re in Perth, and there are still places available for partners to attend (or, if you’re from a WA school, it’s an opportunity to ensure that you’re Microsoft partner is attending, so that you can be sure that they are up-to-date with our strategy and product announcements).

    We’ve structured the day to allow you to attend just the morning or afternoon session, depending on your particular interests.

    The agenda for the day in Perth is:



    Microsoft in Education overview

    An introductory overview of Microsoft’s Education business, our strategy, the current market trends across the education sector, and a review of key opportunities for Microsoft partners selling into the education market.


    Voice of the Customer

    An invited school leader provides their perspective on the key challenges they face, the opportunities for enhancing learning, and their strategic direction.


    Office 365 for Education

    Office 365 for Education is Microsoft’s key cloud service for students and staff that enhances collaborative learning and communication. With pricing starting from ‘free’ (or complimentary, as the lawyers call it), and continuing up through a range of services up to full voice capability to replace PBXs, the software and services opportunity for partners is huge. In this session we’ll explore the product proposition, licensing, and partner services opportunities.


    Morning Tea



    Windows in the Classroom

    An opportunity to get an experience of a Windows in the Classroom session – which is a 2 hour hand-on seminar program normally delivered to school leaders and education decision makers. A Windows in the Classroom hands-on session positions Microsoft in the context of learning and classroom practice, and is delivered by professional educators on behalf of Microsoft. The sessions demonstrate the value of the Windows platform in concert with Office applications, Lync, Learning Suite, and the many other tools that enhance learning in the classroom for teachers and enable students to build 21st skills.

    We’ll conclude this session by breaking down the resources used during the session to consider how they will help you to sell devices, software and services to your school customers, and how you can engage Microsoft’s team to support your sales opportunities.





    The local education market

    An opportunity to hear from your local education-focused Account Managers responsible for the Microsoft relationship with schools, TAFEs and higher education institutions. You’ll get our view of the strategic challenges and opportunities, as well as the state of local school and TAFE devolved decision making. We’ll also describe the Microsoft licensing agreement coverage, so that you know what pre-existing Microsoft licensing agreements you can leverage on, and where there are opportunities to help customers’ save money or introduce new efficiencies.


    Education Apps on Windows 8

    The ‘apps’ market offers new opportunities for our education partners, as well as new ways of working for education institutions. This session will look at key Windows 8 education apps, and consider what it takes to make a great education app.


    Education Solutions strategy

    In the last session of the day, we’ll look at the market for complex education solutions focused on the business needs of education institutions. These conversations about solutions often don’t involve the IT department until the very last stage, as they are addressing business challenges such as raising standards of achievement through learning analytics, or developing more effective student recruitment and lifecycle management.

    We’ll share our insights on the growing solutions marketplace for high-level, business-centric solutions, and offer strategies for business development in these areas.

    You can register here - We’re at the Perth Convention Centre, from 9AM to 3:30PM on Tuesday 22nd October

    For details on the Brisbane and Sydney Education Partner Summits, check here: Microsoft Education Partner Summits in Australia – register now

  • Education

    Understanding the Learning Strategies of the 21st Century Learner - Virtual Professional Development webcast series


    Microsoft PIL Webcast header

    Our worldwide Partners in Learning team run a series of Education webcasts focused on providing deep insights into teaching and learning. They are run from the Microsoft global headquarters in Seattle, and feature presenters from around the world. Fortunately for us in Australia, they are scheduled to run twice during the same day, and the one that runs at 5PM Seattle time is Australia-friendly!

    Understanding the Learning Strategies of the 21st Century Learner - webcast

    In the morning of Thursday 24th October in Australia
    (10AM – QLD; 10:30AM – SA; 11AM – NSW/VIC; 8AM – WA)

    Join this great dialogue on the 5 best strategies every 21st century learner needs to succeed in school and in the workplace. Why a capacity to learn is more important than knowing. Topics covered will be:

    • How to remove the roadblocks to learning
    • 3 Steps to understanding everything you read
    • Best Study Skills for 21st century learners
    • Technology strategies that enhance learning

    During the webinar, three ‘Amazing Grades’ books will be given away to the first three attendees asking questions. Amazing Grades is a worldwide goodwill book with 101 authors from 13 countries around the world and includes a special bonus chapter by Nasha Fitter of Microsoft.

    Presented by:

    imagePat Wyman, College Professor, author, and Founder & CEO,
    Pat is a College Professor, founder and CEO of and best-selling author of Amazing Grades:101 Best Ways to Improve Your Grades Faster and Spelling Made Easy: Learn Your Words in Half the Time  

    imageBonnie Terry, Board Certified Educational Therapist and best-selling author,
    Bonnie, best-selling author of School Strategies for ADHD Kids, Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, and Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and one of the co-authors of Amazing Grades. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America's Leading Learning Specialist.  

    imageSusan Kruger, M.Ed, best-selling author, and Founder,
    Susan is the founder of and best-selling author of SOAR® Study Skills: A Simple & Efficient System for Getting Better Grades in Less Time. She will be speaking on the best study skills for 21st century learners.

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register, for the webcast
    The website lists the time in US Pacific Daylight time as 5PM on 23rd, which is on the 24th October for Australia. At 11AM for those in NSW & Victoria; 10AM in Queensland; 10:30AM in South Australia and 8AM in Western Australia

  • Education

    The challenge of student retention–how early do universities spot students at risk


    I’ve been chatting with Jon Ryder at XMPro in the UK, who has been working with British universities on projects for student engagement and retention. I’ve also been working with Microsoft Education partners in Australia on the same challenge, and their solutions which help universities and TAFEs identify students at risk, and then effectively manage student retention processes.

    imageJon’s created a great summary infographic that shares some of the data he’s collected from a survey of over 100 universities in the UK, which includes some interesting insights that are likely mirrored here in Australia:

    Most universities don’t know how ‘at risk’ students are being managed

    This was a big surprise for me – that only 1 in 8 universities believe they have sufficient visibility as to how ‘at risk’ students cases are being managed. Despite 7 out of 10 respondents feeling that up to 20% of ‘at risk’ students are reversible and can be re-engaged.

    4 out of 10 ‘at risk’ students are identified too late for the university to resolve the student’s issue(s)

    The whole profile for the data set is:

    • 12% are identified early enough to make a difference
    • 47% are identified later than the university would ideally like, but soon enough to make a difference
    • 35% are identified too late to be able to resolve the problem
    • 6% are only identified when they actually tell the university that they are leaving

    (I wonder if there was a category for ‘we only found out after the student had left’?)

    The challenges of managing student retention

    Jon’s survey found 3 top challenges that universities faced when managing ‘at risk’ students:

    1. Inability to communicate consistently and effectively with students due to the number of people involved in that student’s experience
    2. The sheer volume of students makes it difficult to effectively manage each individual case
    3. The university discovers the threat of attrition too late to be able to sufficiently address the underlying causes

    S1 Consulting logoHere in Australia, one of our education partners that have been focusing on Student attrition and retention management is S1 Consulting. They have developed a model for managing the student lifecycle through a combination of effective analytics and a focused implementation of a CRM system to manage interventions through to retention.

  • Education

    Markbook for Windows 8–a replacement for Mindtrail?


    I’ve written before about Lucas Moffitt, and his Teacher Collection apps for Windows 8. As a reminder, Lucas has developed 9 different apps to help teachers with typical classroom tasks, like marking, lesson observation, creating curriculum resources and lessons etc.

    Windows 8 Markbook TileHis latest app is Markbook for Windows 8, which teachers can use to create, evaluate and report on assessments. It lets teachers create a sophisticated marking rubric to use for both formative and summative assessment, and then allows teachers to create an assessment framework for either a single activity of a whole module or even a whole course, linked back to the institutional learning outcomes. The app captures assignment results at both student, groups and assessment criteria level.

    The components of an assessment system

    The components of Markbook can be organised in any order in an assessment overview, so that you can structure a linear decision-based flow as you mark.

    • Competence – Assess a student’s competence in a knowledge or skill area as competent or not yet competent
    • Selection - Create a custom dropdown selection list with rich or lean values and scores
    • Single Value - Provide a single value mark (ie attendance mark or ‘final’ mark)
    • Header - A custom label to help organise other components (also appears on reports)
    • Feedback - Provides a free text field to include any comments and feedback when evaluating an assessment

    Once you’ve created your template, the actual assessment is as easy as tapping a screen, or clicking a mouse. And you can add extensive comments and feedback with a physical or on-screen keyboard.

    Screenshot of Markbook, part of Teacher CollectionProviding quality feedback to students

    And finally, after finishing up your assessments, you can then product class reports, individual student reports and reports for specific assessments. And you can bulk export the individual student reports as well as the aggregated reports – so you can provide quality feedback to students as well as generate your own summary reports.

    Lucas got a great testimonial for his app from Dr Bret Slate at La Trobe University, who’s quoted on the Markbook page:

      Finally, someone has created an expert solution for student assessment and feedback. Markbook reduces assignment assessment time and student results’ administration by about 60%. Each evaluation of an assignment, test or project is as rich and as fresh as the last. Assessor fatigue is reduced and, most importantly, students are satisfied with both the comprehensive feedback and the clear assessment of their work.  

    This isn’t just an app for teachers wanting to move from paper-based marking. It’s also for teachers looking to change from older, unsupported apps, eg as a replacement for Mindtrail.

    Like the other apps in Lucas Moffitt’s Teacher Collection, the dual aims are to save teachers time, and to improve the quality of student interactions – in this case, by making it easier to provide quality feedback to students.

    And the best bonus is that Lucas has created this app with a full-function trial version, so you can download it and work out whether it suits you, before having to find the $5 for it!

    Learn MoreLearn more about Markbook on the Teacher Collection site

  • Education

    How many devices can you install a Windows 8 app on?


    When we first launched Windows 8, we allowed customers to install an app from the Windows Store onto up to five devices. This was similar to other app stores at the time, but personally I quickly found the limit was a challenge. For example, if I was trying out a range of different devices (as an education IT team might do) I found myself authorising & de-authorising devices to keep within my five device limit. It also could potentially create problems for education customers – for example, if users were roaming across different devices (for example, if students shared a trolley full of laptops in a classroom, and used a different one from the set of 30 some days).

    Up until Friday the answer to the question “How many devices can you install a Windows 8 app on?” was five. And that applied whether it was a paid-for app, or a free app.

    So I paid attention when I saw the announcement last Friday on the “Windows App Builder Blog” that the limit has now been increased to 81 devices. As they said:

      In response to that feedback, and as we announced at the Build conference in June, we're increasing the app roaming limit to remove friction from the app installation process. Starting on October 9, Windows Store apps can be installed on up to 81 devices associated with a single Microsoft account. This will apply to all apps in the Store, for both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.  

    The 81 devices limit is the default, although app developers can set a different if they clearly state it in the app description on the Windows Store (that seems completely fair to me, as an ex-developer, because if you are making a living selling apps, then it’s important to have control over some of those decisions. I can imagine that there are some apps where the developer may set a much lower limit. I could also imagine scenarios where they may set a higher limit too, especially for free apps focused on education).

    For education customers, this is a big step that means you can still allow users to roam across different computers and use apps on different Windows 8  computers, whilst still having users login to their own accounts (rather than the alternative of not having a user login).

    Learn MoreLearn more about the change in app limits on Windows devices

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: How to deploy Windows 8 in education


    This is part five of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at  “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide”, then “Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment”, followed by “Windows 8 in Education: setting up Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in education” and finally “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Guide for BYOD in Education”.

    The Windows 8 deployment guide for education

    imageThis guide contains advice on how to deploy Windows 8 in education – covering the technical aspects that an IT team will need to know to easily and securely deploy Windows 8 to existing and new computers in a school, TAFE or university. There are a number of key deployment strategies discussed, including deploying standard images on every machine, and light-touch or zero-touch Windows 8 deployments. Even if you have been deploying Windows computers for years, and have a standard mechanism that you’ve used successfully for all of that time, I would still recommend reviewing the alternative mechanisms that have been developed for Windows 8, to ensure that your chosen model is still the most efficient – for both your IT team, and for your users. This is especially critical in a world where users have an expectation of more individual control over their devices, their choice of software, and their modes of use. The way you choose to deploy Windows 8 to your users is going to be one of the first decisions which could ultimately decide how happy your users are with the IT system that you provide – and that’s becoming more key as teaching staff have increasing control over their own use of technology, and whether or not they use your corporate systems.

    As an aside, I used to work for an organisation where the IT team had so tightly controlled what users did, that the impact was that users increasingly ended up building an alternative IT system through a combination of mobile devices and mobile internet services – the upshot was that IT had significantly less visibility and control of users’ activities than if they’d had given users a little more control and flexibility in the first place. And when your users are switching to using third-party web services for their day-to-day activities, you give up huge amounts of control. I’ve heard of scenarios of teaching staff bringing servers into their classroom to allow their students to use collaborative environments, because the IT system provided centrally blocks access to the apps and web-based servers they want to use. The lesson for me from this is that sometimes IT’s insistence on too much control actually leads to radically less control!

    The three primary methods for deploying Windows 8 in education

    You can install Windows 8 onto devices within your institution in many ways. Although deployment strategies for enterprise customers typically apply to educational deployments too, certain requirements make educational deployments unique. All educational environments need to provide not only for administrative staff but also for teachers and students, each of whom has special requirements for their computing environment. Historically, many education users have chosen to deploy a single image to their computers which includes the operating system, all the required application software, drivers and updates. However, the recommended strategy now is to deploy a ‘thin image’ which includes the operating system only, and then to deploy applications, drivers and updates after the initial deployment.

    Either way, you then need to pick one of three primary methods for deploying Windows 8:

    • Manual installation
    • Image-based deployment
    • Automated installation

    This deployment guide for education talks you through each option, including which tools are available from Microsoft to help you make it easier, and the factors that will help you decide between the options available. The four strategies discussed are:

    • High-touch, with retail media
    • High-touch, with a standard image
    • Lite-touch, for higher volume deployments
    • Zero-touch, for very high volume deployments

    To pick the right one, you’ll need to consider how many computers you are deploying to, where your computers are based, what skills are available in the team doing the deployment, which of the combination of free and licensed Microsoft deployment software you have/want to use, and whether or not you’ll also be deploying standard applications at the same time.

    For each option, the Windows 8 deployment guide for education then steps you through the things you’ll need, the decisions you will have to make, and the steps to take – and provides a deep set of reference materials for you to use.

    The final chapter also guides you through the tools available for managing institution-owned computers, so that you can see the benefits, limitations and requirements of each option – and so helping you with the ongoing lifecycle management of your IT systems.

    Pretty obviously, this guide isn’t for everybody – it’s really the thing that will light up the faces of the IT team as they dive down into what quickly becomes an acronym-lovers guide to IT (if you get excited about whether to choose between ADBA, KMS or MAK for Windows activation, this guide’s for you!). But the authors have done a great job of providing good overviews, without throwing too much detail too quickly; and then they have also provided reference links to much deeper detail.

    Learn MoreDownload the Deployment Guide here (PDF)

  • Education

    Microsoft Education Partner Summits in Australia – register now


    Microsoft Education Partner Summit in Australia (banner image)

    Next month we’re loading the Microsoft Education team, and a big pile of equipment, into an appropriate vehicle* and setting off on a road trip – heading out to five capital cities across the country to meet up with our Microsoft education partners and resellers. And here’s your invitation to book yourself, and your colleagues from sales and marketing, a place to spend the day with us in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth** and Sydney.

    The Microsoft Education Partner Summits in Australia are an opportunity to get deep insight into the changing dynamics of the schools, TAFE and universities sectors from the Microsoft Education team. With the schools market moving rapidly towards a devolved marketplace, and increasing numbers of institutions implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy, the traditional business models of many of our education partners, and of Microsoft, is challenged by new market dynamics.

    Education is increasingly a competitive and critical market for Microsoft and our partners, with key organisations seeing the long term value of winning the institution and seeding their brand through these schools to reach teachers, students and parents. The combination of the consumerisation of IT, technology adoption at younger ages, the accelerating desire for 1:1 computing and BYOD are requiring education institutions to take more innovative approaches to learning, in and outside the classroom.

    The agenda is specifically focused on meeting the needs of sales and marketing personnel who want the most effective sales messages and strategies to win in a transformed marketplace. With traditional revenue streams being disrupted by increasingly fragmented decision making, the Education Partner Summit in Australia will focus on ensuring that you walk away with the information you need to develop an effective and profitable strategy to grow your business, with practical sales resources, and understanding how you can leverage your Microsoft relationship and the resources of the Microsoft Education business to sell alongside you.

    The day will benefit sales and marketing teams dealing with schools, TAFEs and universities. Additionally, the seminar will provide valuable insight to product marketing and development teams who are looking to identify new profitable product and service opportunities within the education sector.

    The aim is to ensure that our partners can compete effectively, and tell a differentiated story that appeals across the different levels of decision makers within education institutions.

    The day runs from 9AM to 3:30PM, and we’ve structured the agenda so that you could have some colleagues attend only part of the day (for example, for the more technically mind we’ll have a great session in the afternoon to look at Windows 8 app development for education).

    Where are the Microsoft Education Partner Summits?

    We’re going to be touching down in the south first, and then heading progressively up the country (although I thought at first that this list had been sorted from bottom to top, but then I realised it’s not quite right).

    To book yourself in for any of the events, just click on the link below:

    10th Oct – Melbourne

    15th Oct – Adelaide

    22nd Oct – Perth

    29th Oct – Sydney

    1st Nov – Brisbane

    The event is open to Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers (AERs), resellers of our OEM device partners, Independent Software Developers, any organisation with a registration on Microsoft Partner Network, or another organisation which resells, recommends, develops on, or supports Microsoft technology in education.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you next month. If you’ve got any questions, then either drop me an email, or ask a question in the Comments box below.

    * Okay, I may have to concede that ‘appropriate vehicle’ is going to mean row 37 on a domestic flight!

    ** Personally, I’m also excited about making my first ever visit to Perth, so I’m hoping the weather’s going to be bright and sunny for me.

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Guide for BYOD in Education


    This is part four of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at  “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide”, then “Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment” and finally “Windows 8 in Education: setting up Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in education

    Front cover of BYOD Devices - A Deployment Guide for EducationBring Your Own Device (BYOD) models are becoming increasingly popular in schools across Australia, especially as schools try to continue providing 1:1 access after the end of the DER programme. The strategy enables students to use their own computers or other devices in the classroom. The tightening of school budgets and the consumerisation of technology make the BYOD model attractive, but the use of BYOD programmes requires careful planning by IT, to ensure that the students can still participate fully, and to avoid disruption in the classroom, and the perils of teaching to the lowest-denominator device.

    Our new Deployment Guide for BYOD Devices has been produced to help you evaluate the different device options. Before it dives into the specifics about deploying your BYOD model, it starts with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses across different BYOD device options:

    • Smartphone
    • App-based device
    • Laptop computer
    • Tablet PC with pen

    It then goes further to analyse the considerations for different Education BYOD models, with a further look at benefits & considerations of each BYOD model:

    • School-defined single-platform laptop
    • School-defined single-platform laptop plus another device
    • School-defined multiplatform laptop
    • Student choice of laptop or tablet
    • Bring whatever device connects to the Internet

    The deployment advice then flows from these options:

    Building a secure BYOD environment – which includes physical device security, data security and access control (with some excellent links to detailed TechNet library articles)

    Building a supportable BYOD environment – including technical support, maintenance, licensing of software, security and device lifecycles.

    Preparing the infrastructure – including network security , file and print, collaboration and communications considerations.

    Learn MoreDownload BYOD Devices: A Deployment Guide for Education

    For more background, and discussion around the teaching and learning scenarios, you should also read the Microsoft BYOD In Schools white paper produced last year by my colleague Sean Tierney and Bruce Dixon from the AAL Foundation. More information here

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: setting up Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in education


    This is part three of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at  “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide” and “Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment”.

    One of the challenges for educational institutions is managing the wide diversity of devices and user types. Given such diversity, establishing and maintaining a standardised technology learning platform can be difficult. Let’s face it, even with your own institution-owned devices, it may be possible to purchase some new devices running the Windows 8 operating system or upgrade existing devices to Windows 8, whilst other institution-owned devices may be unable to run Windows 8 (such as older hardware, or devices running Apple iOS or Google Android).

    Add in the complexity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives, which are increasing in popularity and it can get super-complex.  BYOD initiatives allow students and/or staff to use their devices in and out of the classroom. Whilst BYOD initiatives help institutions by reducing the up-front cost of devices, they can also complicate the technology management for IT staff, and classroom management for teaching staff.

    Virtual Desktop Infrastructure on Windows Server 2012 can remotely run Windows apps as though they are running on the user’s device – including audio, video, graphically-intensive apps – and giving them access to their own connected devices – such as USB connected scanners or memory sticks.

    Microsoft Deployment Guides for VDI in Education

    VDI for personally-owned devices whitepaper - front coverVDI for institution-owned devices whitepaper - front cover 
    To help you with your planning, and to understand the options, we’ve produced two Windows 8 Deployment Guides for Education:

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