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

  • Education

    The Education Sessions at Australia Partner Conference - Part One


    This week the entire education team has been up in the Gold Coast at the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2011 (APC). It was a packed week - hundreds of our partners from right around the country, along with a sizeable chunk of the Microsoft team - which was a busy mix of keynotes, breakout presentations, group meetings, one-to-one meetings, and a healthy dose of socialising.

    As part of the agenda, we took a two hour dive into the education business, and talked about many different aspects of the marketplace, our future strategy, and what we’re doing to help our partners. As this is a public blog, I can’t publish all of the information here, but over the next couple of days I’m going to share as much as I can, and provide links to the resources we referenced.

    And for the benefit of those partners who were at APC, I’m going to try and stick to the order we used on the day. There was so much information packed into the session, it’s going to take me quite a few blog posts…

    Where possible, I’ve included the original slide info, so you can click on any of the slide thumbnails to see the enlarge image.

    Meet the Microsoft Australia Education Team

    We kicked off with George Stavrakakis, the new Microsoft Australia Education Director, introducing his team. All of the people on the first slide were in the room - our Account Management teams for the three main states:

    • Microsoft Australia Education Team - NSW - QLD - VICMark Kenny for Queensland
    • Claire Jorgensen for New South Wales
    • Trudi Grant for Victoria.
    • Each of them is supported by their Account Technology Specialist - Lance Baldwin, Andy Reay and Emilio Parente.

    Next George introduced the broader team across the rest of the country, including:

    • Microsoft Australia Education Team - other states and segmentsEducation Account Managers for the other states (Graham Lawrence for NT, Savvas Neophytou for Western Australia, Rob Santucci for South Australia, Michael Bennet for Tasmania and Brian Senior for ACT)
    • Our account team for Catholic and Independent Schools - Ken Rankins, Mark Caldwell and Vanessa Gage
    • Our Higher Education team - Lucy Segal and Mark Tigwell

    And finally, just some of the other members of the education team:

    • Microsoft Australia Education Team - the hangers-onme, looking after partners
    • Clive Dillen who is the Education focused person in Microsoft Services
    • Jane Mackarell, our Academic Programmes Manager - who runs the Partners in Learning programme in Australia

    And that was just the core group covered. There’s a large group of others that George mentioned who didn’t get their smiley faces onto the slides, including our Education licensing specialists, the marketing team, the Academic team in DPE and our colleagues from Microsoft Research.

    Want to know more about the team? More reading here

    Learn MorePart Two - The Australian Education Market Overview

  • Education

    The Australian Government’s ICT strategy for Education


    There are all kinds of interesting documents that describe the Australian Government’s ICT strategy for Education, so here’s a summary of some of the key resources you can use to research the market.

    If you’re from outside of Australia, it’s important to know that there is a Federal strategy - which applies to all states, and then State strategies for each individual state. They normally mesh together, but it’s common for a federal strategy to be implemented in different ways in different states (in fact, it’s sometimes the strategy for some states to ensure that they implement things differently to their neighbouring states)

    What I’ve linked to below are the strategic plans for education ICT for the three largest states and the Federal government.

    The Australian Federal Government Education ICT Strategy- ‘Digital Education Revolution’

    New South Wales Government Education ICT Strategy

    Queensland Government Education ICT Strategy - ‘Smart Classrooms’

    Victoria Government Education ICT Strategy - ‘Digital Learning Statement’

    If you have links to the plans for smaller states, please add a comment below with a link, and I can put them into the list.

  • Education

    The winner of the Microsoft Australian Education Partner of the Year is…


    Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year 2011

    This week, it’s the week of the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference. There are nearly 1,000 people gathered in the Gold Coast to learn together about Microsoft’s future strategy, from both a technology and market perspective. (From a distance, you can get a bit of a flavour by seeing what people have been tweeting about).

    The conference opened last night with the announcement of the winners of the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards, including the Education Partner of the Year. The finalists for the education awards were Dimension Data, Janison and OBS.

    As I was on the judging panel for the awards, I know just how hard it was to separate out the finalists, because the entries were all great case studies about the work that our partners had been doing to help improve teaching and learning across all education sectors in Australia. But, as with all awards, we eventually had to separate out three finalists, and then an intensive internal discussion led us to a winner.

    And the winner is…

    The winner for the Education Partner of the Year was Janison, for their work on using the Cloud to deliver online Science assessment exams to students in New South Wales Department for Education and Training.

    And here’s what the judging panel had to say about Janison’s award:

      The entry demonstrated that even the smallest companies, with the right mix of innovation and obsession, can deliver solutions which allow our joint education customers to innovate in their core tasks of enabling teaching, learning and assessment. Janison’s Cloud Assessment Framework, based on the Microsoft Windows Azure system, has laid the groundwork for all of our partners to enjoy greater success in the Australian educational technology market. With 40,000 students in New South Wales taking their annual Science exams online through the pilot, and 80,000 students from 600 schools due to take part in October 2011, it’s clear that Janison have now changed the game for student assessment.  

    Learn MoreLearn about Janison's award-winning ESSA project

  • 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

    How important is ICT to academic success - the majority of US parents say ‘Very’


    Phi Delta Kappa - a US teachers professional association - use Gallup to carry out a poll of 1,000 Americans about their attitudes to education, teachers and related areas in the public schools system. There’s some interesting statistics in there (which made me wonder whether Australia is similar, or very unlike the US education system), as well as some hot political issues that are current in Australia too. For example, there’s a question about whether standardised test scores should be published for individual teachers (parents marginally in favour). You can read a summary of the survey here, and the full report here

    There is a specific section about ICT in education, which makes interesting reading. Here’s a couple of interesting things I found:

    ICT is very important to learning, but less so for ‘academic success’

    70% thought that is was very important ‘that all students have access to computer technology’, but only 52% thought that access to computer technology was very important ‘for ensuring student academic success’.
    They don’t explore the reasons for this - I wonder if it is a reflection of the disjoint between learning (often using technology) and the exam process (often pen and paper based)?
    See page 15, Table 17

    Which is better - a more effective teacher online, or a less effective teacher in the classroom?

    This was the question that the survey asked:

    “Suppose a school wants to offer a new class and is considering whether the class should be taught online or in person. Would it be best for the school to hire a more effective teacher who was only available to teach over the Internet or would it be better to use a less effective teacher who could teach the class in person?”

    I was really surprised by the result - almost evenly split:

    • More effective teacher online - 46%
    • Less effective teacher in person - 50%

    I feel there could be hours of debate about why parents answered this question in particular ways. But if you were considering talking about the use of video conferencing and online learning to support a wider curriculum, you’d know from this that half the room may not like the idea, whilst the other half would be focusing on the quality of the teacher on the other end of the video link or system.
    See page 16, Table 22

    Learn MoreFind out more, and download the full reports, here

  • 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

    SharePoint Governance and Lifecycle Management in education


    As you’d expect, we run a massive internal SharePoint system at Microsoft. It contains 250,000 site collections and 36 terabytes of data - growing at the rate of 1 terabyte every three months (yup, that’s the equivalent of 300,000 extra 1MB documents every month). The impact of that growth was not just storage cost - it is also search speed and search relevance (if you’re searching a gazillion out-of-date documents, it makes it harder to find the one you really want).

    The Microsoft IT Team, who keep it all running, have implemented a SharePoint governance and lifecycle management system, to help meet the information standards for the business, as well as reduce cost and improve the search experience. And then written a great Technical Case Study to share their experiences. I thought it worth sharing because I know that education users of SharePoint are grappling with similar issues, as they develop SharePoint usage out from an IT department to institution-wide.

    Policies for SharePoint site lifecycle management

    There were four key policies implemented, which helped bring the system under better control:

    • Site classification. Sites must assign and maintain site information classification, information security classification, and ownership. Eg Team sites must have one full-time employee site owner and two administrators at all times.

    • Site lifecycle management of expired/abandoned sites. Sites expire one year after creation and must be renewed annually. Sites that have no activity over a period of six months are considered abandoned and are subject to decommission.

    • Site storage and quota management. Depending on the hosting environment, storage quota limits range from 2 gigabytes (GB) to 100 GB, depending on the type of sites and hosting options. SharePoint libraries and lists are not to exceed 5,000 items. Sites are backed up daily and recoverable up to 14 days.

    • Customization and server-side access. For most of the standard SharePoint-hosted services offerings, MSIT neither allows server-side access or server-side configuration changes by users, nor does it allow most third-party plug-ins, site customizations, new features, or additions.

    Information Security Classification tabsAlthough our IT environment is very different to an average education user, there is some really useful implementation advice in the IT Showcase case study - for example, in the way that we’ve tagged all SharePoint sites with an Information Classification - something that could be ideal for categorising sets of data in an education SharePoint system (see right).

    There’s also interesting insight into the way that sites are categorised for traffic - with ‘heavy hitters’ categorised when they reach more than 100,000 hits a day, or consuming more than 10GB of memory.

    Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft IT Showcase case study on SharePoint Site Governance and Lifecycle Management

  • 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)

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