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

  • Education

    generation-e Live@edu webinar - Monday 16th May

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    generation-e logo

    One of our education partners, generation-e, are hosting a Live@edu webcast next week, at 4pm on Monday 16th May. It's just 30 minutes long, and will provide an overview of the Live@edu service - the Microsoft hosted email service that's being used by schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia. (You can see some of the Australian Live@edu case studies on this blog).

    If you want to attend, all you need to do is make sure that you've near a computer and internet connection at 4pm (EST) on Monday, and have headphones or space around you to allow the sound of Owen's voice to be blaring out of your laptop speakers (Smile).

    To add it to your calendar, click here.

    To join the meeting directly, just copy this link and then click on it on Monday.

  • Education

    Microsoft licensing for virtualisation - simplified guides

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    At last, some simple to understand information on Microsoft licensing for virtual environments. Although this isn't specifically written for Education, and doesn't cover the specifics of the EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions) licensing scheme, it does help to explain the principles of Microsoft licensing for virtualisation environments, across the four key elements: server, desktop, application and management.

    Licensing for virtual environments graphic

    And there's a lovely set of step-by-step interactive guides for each of these scenarios, as well as a video from Brad Smith explaining the basic principles of the licensing model. And finally, there's a set of download briefing documents for virtualisation.

    Learn MoreLearn More about Microsoft Licensing for virtualisation

  • Education

    IT Security in Education

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    A newly published page on the Microsoft Education site in the US might be helpful to you to get an overview of the different aspects of IT security in education that we can provide answers for. Topics covered include:

    • More secure email messaging
    • More secure portal and document collaboration
    • More security for endpoints - laptops, portable storage etc
    • More secure identity and access management

    All of these issues are topical in education, whether it's about securing information that's in digital form as it flies around the internet, or securing physical devices that contain sensitive date, like teachers' laptops.

    Learn MoreRead the full story on IT Security in Education on the US Microsoft Education site

  • Education

    Microsoft IT Tech Tuesdays – Live Meetings for school IT Managers

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    Almost every Tuesday lunchtime we run a Tech Tuesday webcast for school IT managers in Australia. It's a great opportunity to take a look at one of our educational products or solutions in more detail, and there's a wide range of subjects, from specific products like Lync (for unified communications in education) to programmes such as EES (our new licensing scheme for schools) and sessions that are bound to be popular, like 'Free Microsoft Educational Tools'.

    By doing these as Tech Tuesday webcasts, it means that there are all the benefits of a live session, without any of the travel challenges.  Built on Microsoft's collaborative technologies, these live, bite-size presentations are instructor-led, and endeavour to cover a broad range of topics facing schools across the country.

    Tech Tuesdays - Dates and Topics

    17th May - Office Communicator and Lync
    24th May - Product Licensing in Education (EES)
    31st May - Live@EDU for Schools
    7th June - Free Microsoft Educational Tools
    14th June - Cloud Technology in Education
    21st June - Virtualisation in Education
    28th June - Education Desktop Deployment

    All session run from 12-1 EST

    Learn MoreFind out more, and pre-register for the free Tech Tuesdays

  • Education

    Partner Briefing from NewLease - Capture Your Cloud

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    NewLease (one of Microsoft Australia's distributors), Microsoft, and Citrix are inviting Microsoft Partners to join us for a day designed to help you Capture your Cloud. Although this training day is not specifically for education partners only, the latest research is showing that public sector organisations, including education, are going to be the earliestg widespread adopters of cloud services, and represent a tremendous potential for you to create a new business model.

    Instead of talking about why you should be in the Cloud, we will help you understand HOW to get into the cloud and what the business opportunities are. You will learn about how to build profitable Cloud offerings and be exposed to a variety of opportunities that you can bring to your customers.

    There will be detailed sessions on:

    • Desktop-as-a-Service: Learn why this service is fast becoming one of the most talked about in the Cloud and the associated business opportunity, and get insights on the Microsoft-Citrix solution that makes DaaS great for you and your customers
    • Licence Mobility: As of July 1st there will be amazing new Cloud opportunities. You can now combine Microsoft SPLA licensing with a customers' existing licensing, to deliver outcomes with much more flexibility. So even if you've never heard of SPLA before, you'll get valuable insight into the ways you can build Cloud offerings for your customers
    • Vendor updates: Microsoft and Citrix will tell talk about developments going on in their businesses
    • Partner Case studies: Hear from existing partners about their successful Cloud businesses

    Dates and Venues

    • Sydney, 24th May, at the Stamford Grand, North Ryde
    • Melbourne, 26th May, at the RACV City Club in Bourke Street
    • Brisbane, 31st May, at the Microsoft offices in George Street
    • Perth, Thu 2nd June at the Microsoft offices in St Georges Terrace

    Registration will be at 8.30am, Presentations will run from 9.00am- 3.30am. View the Agenda.

    Learn MoreLearn More about the NewLease "Capture Your Cloud" Partner briefing

  • Education

    Windows Azure toolkit for Windows Phone 7

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    Cloud Power logoDoes exactly what it says on the tin - a Windows Azure toolkit for Windows Phone 7. Makes it easier to develop mobile applications by giving you access to cloud services to run your data services. (Oh, and there's also a way of getting Windows Azure free for 30-days, also on this same web page).

  • Education

    Using student performance data to support learning

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    The Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) team have set up the BI Labs, a place where they can share some of their experimental work. Don't get misled by the 'Business Intelligence' label, because their job is all about helping people make sense of the vast amounts of data that we're engulfed within. In education, there's a massive bank of student performance data (as well as financial and statistical data) that can be very difficult to interpret.  I've sat it meetings where the challenge has been to work out how to understand 1,000 rows of a spreadsheet or table, and then to work out who's doing well. And almost always a teacher or lecturer will be able to tell as much about a student from their one-to-one interactions as they will from a massive report - mainly because the student performance data is so well buried in the massive reports!

    This problem isn't unique to education - it happens in virtually every business in the world. But in education, the expected outcome is normally different:

    In Business, analysis is often done to summarise information - How's the business doing overall? Where's this year's profit coming from?

    In Education, the analysis flows in two directions.

      • The first is the aggregated view - how's the school going to do in the exams this year? How does the budget look?
      • The second is the individual view - what help does this student need to progress? Who are the individuals that need more support?

    And in many cases, systems have been built to primarily server the aggregated, rather than the individual view eg the needs of managers rather than frontline teachers and lecturers. (That's not just an issue in education, because finance/HR/ERP systems often have the same thing).

    PowerPivot small screen shotOne of the most exciting things I've seen in years to address this is PivotViewer - an interactive tool that allows you to present data in a graphical way - so that in an educational context, you can make the students' faces be the visual key to the data. That's a much better way for a teacher or lecturer to see data - they can much more readily understand a picture of their class when it's actually presented as a picture. And the users can 'play' with the data themselves, easily digging into the detail to find what they are looking for.

    To get an idea of what it is capable of, take a look at the UK Wedding Venue search on hitched.co.uk, which is using PivotViewer to allow website users to find their perfect wedding venue. It gives you a good idea of how powerful it could be if you linked PivotViewer to some of your education data, and how you could be using your student performance data to support learning.

    What the BI team have now done is to release tools to allow you to link PivotViewer with SharePoint data and SQL Server Reporting Services. Which means that most education institutions will have a much easier time linking it to their own data.

    All of the tools and resources to use this are available as a download from the BI Labs site. The BI team also run a BI Labs blog, and Dr Cristian Petculescu, who's the architect behind this, explains a lot more detail on his personal blog.

  • Education

    Authorised Education Reseller programme webcast - May 11th

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    imageHere in Australia, our main education subscription licensing scheme is EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions), and to be able to sell this scheme to their customers, partners must be Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers (AER).

    If you are a Microsoft partner, then there is a webcast next week on 11th May at 2-3pm EST (that's Australia EST, not middle-of-the-night-US-EST) to provide more information on how to license your customers using the academic licensing schemes, including how to license students under the Student Option. We'll also be talking about our incentive programme for partners, and what resources are available to help partners reach their education customers.

    Don’t miss out – attend this webcast to find out all you need to know, and where to find the key resources you need to support your education licensing sales.

    If you're an education customer (school/TAFE/University) rather than a Microsoft Partner, then pop over to our main Australian Education website to find out more about EES.

  • Education

    Moodle hosting on Windows Azure in the Cloud

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    This week I've written a few blog posts about Moodle, the open source Learning Management System. Part of the reason is to demonstrate that the worlds of Microsoft and Open Source are not mutually exclusive, and another reason is to demonstrate that there are plenty of ways to implement a learning management system that complement your existing ICT infrastructure. So far this week, I've talked about Moodle/Live@edu integration, installing Moodle on Windows Server, the Moodle Add-In for Office, and installing Moodle on SharePoint (and why it's better on SharePoint). So what about going a step further, and removing the need for on-site servers for Moodle, by hosting Moodle on Windows Azure?

    Moodle & Windows Azure logoThe normal implementation model for Moodle is to install it on your in-house infrastructure - setting up Windows or Linux servers in your data centre, and managing them as part of your IT system. But that requires an up-front capital investment in the hardware, setup etc. So why not just use Moodle hosting in the Cloud? It means you don't need to run your own servers, and can scale the system out to support students as and when you need them (rather than having to buy big lumps of hardware capacity in advance of your actual usage).

    With Windows Azure there's a cloud-based service which allows you to switch on (and off) capacity as you need it - and you simply buy the capacity you need, when you need it (just like your other utilities, like electricity and water).

    There are two projects currently available for hosting Moodle on Windows Azure, both on CodePlex (Microsoft's open source project hosting site, which hosts over 200,000 projects currently):

    • The MoodleAzure project on CodePlex gives you Moodle version 1.9.9, and has been modified to allow you to run as many instances of the web role as you may need - allowing you to rapidly scale up the implementation to reach tens of thousands of students instantly.
    • And the Moodle 2.0 for Azure project, released in March, gives you an installer for the latest version of Moodle - 2.0, and comes from the Laboratório de Tecnologia da Informação in Brazil.

    And because both of these projects are on CodePlex, there's a community of support on the site for advice as you start to implement and use them (there's also a whole forum on the Moodle community website for Windows users)

    Somebody has already setup a demo Moodle hosting site using the Moodle 2.0 system on Windows Azure, and made it available as a public site, so that you can see it running in exactly the same way that your users would. It's only a demo site, with a very small amount of content, but it gives you a good idea of what it can do for you and your students. You can find the Moodle 2.0 on Azure home page here

    What does this all mean for Moodle and Microsoft users?

    The upshot of this (and everything else I've written this week) is that if you're using Moodle, or somebody within your institution is or wants to, then you can do a bunch of things to integrate it into your existing ICT infrastructure, and which help to improve the experience for your students and teachers (as well as reducing the cost for your ICT budget). This can range from hosting Moodle, to integrating Moodle to your email or portal system. And there's plenty of support across the Microsoft and Moodle community for implementing these projects.

    Learn MoreQuickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

  • Education

    Why Moodle is better on SharePoint

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    Earlier today I wrote about installing Moodle on SharePoint, in order to improve the capabilities of the system, and improving the experience for your staff and students. Although I summarised some of the benefits of doing this, I thought it was worth expanding the list out (with the help of my friend and SharePoint MVP Alex Pearce in the UK) to describe some of the things your users will notice. So, when you install Moodle on top of SharePoint, here's the kind of capabilities you add:

    File editing directly in Moodle

    Normally, once you have uploaded your file into Moodle the file is stored in a folder on the Moodle server. This is great but it doesn’t allow you to edit the file. By storing the file in a SharePoint document library you can easily find the file, change it and not have to worry about re-uploading the file again.

    Versioning documents in Moodle

    SharePoint allows you to keep versions of the document you are editing. Over the academic years you may change the file several times, add and delete content but one day you’ll want to go back and view something you deleted. SharePoint will allow you to revert back or just browse previous version. (And this also great for team working, where you can track team changes)

    Search Moodle at the same time as your SharePoint

    As the files are now being stored in SharePoint, SharePoint will index the files and their content automatically. Using SharePoint as your central place to search you all your academic resources is a great learning tool for the learner to find what they are looking for. And it also means that your central search index on your SharePoint is enhanced - because you can search for documents within and outside of your learning management system with a single search.

    Office Web Apps in Moodle

    With the Office Web Applications available for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in SharePoint 2010 it allows documents to be opened in the browser using the web apps. Teachers or students can open documents in the browser, simply make their quick change and save it back to the site without having to upload and download again.

    Check-In/Check-Out Documents in Moodle

    All these are great but you wouldn’t want your students to see the changes to documents they are using in a course while you making changes. You can check the files out to make changes, make changes over a few minutes, hours, months but until you check the file back in the users will see the original file you want them to see until you are ready to release those changes. (Which means you can start creating next year's course files without changing this year's)

    SharePoint 2010 Workspaces integrated to Moodle

    SharePoint Workspaces allows you to download a document library and make changes from a machine that doesn’t have access to that SharePoint site at the time. In other words you can now make changes to your Moodle course documents offline.

    Workflows in Moodle

    If you have a process for releasing learning resources to students, you can take advantage of the approval process in SharePoint that will allow another colleague to check the files before you release them to all students. This is pretty important where you have sensitive projects that need some oversight or compliance processes.

    Which hopefully convinces you of the value that installing Moodle on SharePoint gives you. And is your next question:

    How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

    I'd recommend Alex Pearce's work again here - he's written a three part guide to Integrating SharePoint and Moodle, which steps through the specific steps.

    Learn MoreQuickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

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