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

  • Education

    More Moodle advice – The Moodle on SharePoint white paper

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    Following on from the Office Add-In for Moodle earlier in the week, there’s some further advice and support from the Education Labs team for Moodle that may be useful to you - Moodle on SharePoint. If you’re either using Moodle, or considering it, then you may want to consider how you set it up. Because Moodle is an open source product, it’s often assumed that it should be installed on an open source server – like a Linux box. But the challenge with doing that for many schools is that it doesn’t therefore easily integrate with their existing ICT systems – for example, managing users and files on your existing school file servers.

    However, there’s a more positive way to deploy Moodle, which is to install it on your existing infrastructure, rather than having to add additional complications. The most powerful bit of your infrastructure to add it to is your SharePoint – because Moodle on SharePoint fills in some of the gaps of a conventional Moodle system. First, it helps prevent data loss. For example, if a teacher deletes a file by mistake and wants to get it back, you’ll easily be able to go into SharePoint and restore it from the recycling bin – rather than it being lost forever. Secondly, you can take advantage of versioning in SharePoint. If a teacher or student overwrites a file by mistake, it can be restored to a previous version from SharePoint. Finally you can use SharePoint’s search capabilities to search across all of your content, whether it is in your SharePoint file storage, or in your Moodle system (currently there is no equivalent file search capability in Moodle). Perhaps most importantly, teachers can get these benefits while continuing to use the Moodle user interface they are accustomed to, meaning no new training.

    How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

    So if it makes so much sense to run your Moodle on SharePoint, how do you do it? Well, we’ve published a white paper that explains how to set up SharePoint as the file system for Moodle. It doesn’t need any special code – if you have SharePoint and Moodle, it is a matter of configuration.

    You can download the full white paper here (click on the Read It link) which can help you plan your strategy.

    image  Quickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

  • Education

    Moodle Integration for Office

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    I've written a couple of blog posts about Moodle this week, so I thought I'd see if I could write a useful Moodle blog post every day this week. Today, the Office Add-In for Moodle.

    The idea behind the add-in is simple. Now, when you got to Open or Save a file in Office you can select to Open from Moodle or Save to Moodle directly. This makes it easier for your teachers to use Moodle natively, and hopefully will encourage them to make better use of your in-school learning management system. (If you have a SharePoint-based learning platform, you get similar functionality in Office 2010)

    The “Office Add-in for Moodle”

    View Slide ShowUploading files to Moodle is now much easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (2003, 2007 and 2010) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications. With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications. You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

    So what do you need in order to start using the add-in? It doesn't require anything to be installed on the Moodle server (note we only tested against Moodle versions 1.8-1.9). Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the add-in and access their documents. Once installed, the add-in adds two menu items to your File or the Office Button menu: Open from Moodle and Save to Moodle. In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in. Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in. Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

    We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodles come from teachers. We’ve gotten some requests already about adding support for students and assignments, but we want to hear from you. So check it out, and let the EducationLabs team know what you think and if there’s anything you want them to work on.

    It’s worth browsing on the Education Labs site for other projects they've released

    Learn More ButtonFind out more about, and download, the free Moodle add-in

  • Education

    Installing Moodle on a Windows Server

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    Moodle logoYesterday I wrote about Moodle and Live@edu integration. And somebody pinged me an email to ask why I was writing about it, asking 'isn't Moodle all about Open Source?'. I guess I see it differently, as I see a choice of using Moodle as just one small part of an overall ICT system in education. And Moodle is just one of the options alongside lots of other excellent Learning Management Systems.

    Just because Moodle is released as an Open Source application doesn't mean that you have to warmly embrace Linux servers to run it on - and running it on Windows Servers is probably more popular than you think. Last year we announced the release of WebMatrix. Basically, it’s an easy and free way to get started building Web sites on Windows. WebMatrix is a tool for building, customising and deploying your Web sites in one common, straightforward way. The idea is that WebMatrix can be used by a wide range of developers, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to use it. It brings together a bunch of our resources into a simple install - a Web server (IIS Developer Express), a database (SQL Server Compact), and a programming framework (ASP.NET). It’s a simple free download – just download and install it onto a spare server.

    But the extra useful bit is that you can then use the Microsoft Web Application Gallery to install and customise popular ASP.NET and PHP open source community applications - including Moodle - whilst also seamlessly integrating with our professional development tools and servers including Visual Studio, SQL Server and Windows Server.

    The Web App Gallery contains a long list of free downloads to install on top of WebMatrix, including Moodle, Joomla!, WordPress and a long list of other free apps to install (the main categories are: Blogs, CMS, eCommerce, Forums, Galleries, Tools and Wikis)

    It also includes a new, easier-to-learn syntax for ASP.NET to provide you with a faster way to build standards-based Web sites. The built-in helpers simplify the use of ASP.NET to perform increasingly complex and common tasks like connecting to a database, displaying a Twitter feed, or embedding a video.

    This means that you can have the flexibility and freedom to use the tools you choose, and have an easier way to deploy web servers that fit into your existing IT infrastructure.

    You can get WebMatrix by downloading the Web Platform Installer, and then install additional apps from the Web App Gallery

  • Education

    A social media policy to encourage the use of social media by teachers in NSW

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    Twitter birdsAccording to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend, the NSW Department for Education is implementing changes which support teachers to use social media both professionally and privacy. From now on teachers in NSW schools can access Twitter, Facebook and other social media from the classroom. And the Department have created a NSW social media policy for teachers - which is critical to helping them to understand what's expected of them. It starts with the statement:

      The department supports its employees’ participation in social media online applications such as social networking sites, wikis, blogs, microblogs, video and audio sharing sites and message boards that allow people to easily publish, share and discuss content.  

    When I read it, I liked seeing that intro "The department supports…", because that's a pretty positive affirmation in a social media policy for teachers  (much better than "You are allowed…"). You can find the NSW Social Media Policy for teachers here*.

    So from now on, you can expect to have many more teachers discussing education, sharing links, and also looking for information through social networks.

    If you're a supplier to education, what is your social media policy? If your customers are using Twitter, are you? Are you making it easier for teachers to find relevant information through social networks?

    * It took me a while to find the social media policy for teachers, as it doesn't show up when you search their website. But happily it's listed alongside all of the other 184 current school policies and guidelines, alongside such timeless classics as the "Pirated DVDs Screening Guidelines", which uses quite a few words to say "Don't"!

  • Education

    Using Open Source Moodle with Microsoft cloud services - case study

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    Whilst businesses have customer-relationship management systems, and online shops, the education equivalent is a Learning Management System (LMS) - something that will help a school, TAFE or university to deliver learning resources to their students, wherever they are.

    There's a diverse bunch of learning management systems in use in Australia - Blackboard, Desire2Learn, the RM Learning Platform, Uniservity, SharePointLMS - across all sectors. Whilst these tend to be fully-managed systems (where the software is installed on your own servers by the supplier or in a cloud-delivered hosted service) some people have chosen to build their own LMS by bringing together different components from different suppliers.

    Education Labs logoAs Computerworld reported recently, Redlands School in Sydney is one of those, where they have integrated an open source Moodle Learning Management System with the Microsoft cloud-based Live@edu email system (using a plug-in from Education Labs). They use Moodle as the main portal for learning resources - whether the student is within school or at home. And by adding integration to the Live@edu email system, it means their students now have single sign-on to their email, and cloud storage, straight from the home page of their Moodle system. As Christian Jean Sellies, the Redlands Director of ICT, is quoted as saying:

      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.  

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Live Services Plug-in for Moodle

  • Education

    What are the key issues for University CIOs in Australia?

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    CAUDIT logo

    CAUDIT (the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology) has just published a really useful list of the key issues for University CIOs and IT Directors within Australia - or, as they describe it, those issues which were keeping them awake at night.

    They are:

    1. Mobility & Personal devices
    2. Cloud Computing Issues
    3. Funding & Resourcing
    4. Data Storage & Management
    5. Business Continuity
    6. IT staff – Re-skilling for the future
    7. Governance & Strategy
    8. Constant Change
    9. Research Support
    10. IT staff – Recruitment & Retention

    If you're working with University CIOs in Australia (or hoping to), what do you do that could help them with managing or solving these issues?

    Learn MoreA summary, including the trends for the last 3 years can be downloaded from their site

  • Education

    Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 Review of the Economic Impact

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    imageWindows MultiPoint Server 2011 is the latest version of the clever technology that allows you to share one computer between multiple students - saving money on hardware, power and IT management costs. It's an ideal solution where you have banks of fixed computers, and it's coming up to replacement time - or where you need additional computers to supplement access for a 1:1 scheme. The kind of places it's popping up are in computer labs and resource centres/libraries. The beauty of it is that you can still provide plenty of access for your users - each gets their own keyboard, mouse and screen - but you typically only have one computer driving six screens.

    Now Forrester Consulting have done a Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 Review, looking at the Total Economic Impact of it. What they've done is to look at the long-term costs of running two alternative scenarios - individual computers and MultiPoint Server 2011 systems. And their comparisons look at the software, hardware, energy and management costs.

    As they are IT consultants, they use a lot of technical terminology and acronyms to describe the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), Risk-Adjusted ROI, and the 'can't-live-without-it' Nett Present Value (NPV). So if you love numbers, formulae and analysis, then you'll love this report.

    Here's my simple summary of their conclusions:

    • A school using Windows MultiPoint Server will spend 66% less than an alternative one using standalone computers
    • The three-year 'cost per seat' drops from $1,145 to $391 (which brings it down to about $130 a year)
    • Over the three years of use, you'll save 67% on energy, 66% on hardware, 99% on maintenance - and you'll spend 64% more on software.

    Learn MoreRead the full Forrester Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 Review of Economic Impact here

  • Education

    Ribbon Hero 2 - bringing gaming and learning closer

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    It just might change the way we think about end-user training - ZD NetIt seems that one of the trendy topics discussed at education conferences these days is the combination of gaming and learning. Most of the time, it’s discussed in the context of the classroom or of students, but a few years ago we applied it to product training, in one of our experimental Office Labs releases, called Ribbon Hero. It was designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting. The heart of Ribbon Hero was a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. And to add the competitive element, Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook so you can share your success (or in my case, failures) with your friends. Ribbon Hero offers to post an update to your Facebook profile when impressive point levels have been reached.

    Ribbon Hero 2

    The team behind Ribbon Hero have gone even further, with Ribbon Hero 2 - incorporating a completely new, cartoon style interface, and a new job for Clippy (the really annoying 'helpful' paperclip from Office 97-2003).

    Ribbon Hero

    Ribbon Hero is a free download, and has got to be a big step up from conventional training ideas and manuals. Having heard Sir Mark Grundy of Shireland Collegiate Academy talk about the way they get their students learning by having a leader table for educational games, I can imagine the same kind of thing happening with this.

    Ribbon Hero screenshotI could tell you more about it - but it is much easier for you to download it, and have a five-minute play, than for me to try and describe how good it is to use. And remind yourself as you're using it, that it's the equivalent of a long dull training course. Imagine how you'd have conventionally learnt what it's teaching. Next time somebody talks about gaming and learning, you can wisely point them towards an example they may not have seen!


    Learn MoreFind out more, and get the free download for Ribbon Hero 2

  • Education

    SharePoint training boot camps

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    Icons_teacherStudent_blueAlthough this isn't specifically just for Education partners, the upcoming CIAOPS SharePoint boot camps running in Sydney on the 25th and 26th of May and Melbourne on the 19th of May are ideal if you are looking at how to help your customers make more use of their existing SharePoint installation - especially where you have a solution which helps them to turn it from an IT-centric document storage system to a process-handling, learning environment supplementing ICT system.

    Each course is limited to a maximum of 20 attendees and will provide attendees with hands on knowledge of a range of SharePoint products and technologies.

    Amongst other things you will learn:

    • how to work with SQL Server which is the heart of SharePoint storage
    • how to install, migrate and maintain a variety of SharePoint products
    • understand how to recover from SharePoint disasters
    • how SharePoint integrates with Microsoft Office 2010
    • how to design business solutions that can be templated

    Each attendee also receives a 12 month subscription to the CIAOPS SharePoint Guide (www.wssops.com) valued at $299 as well as hard disk (valued at $100) containing virtual machines, documentation and more. The full day course costs $399.

    For more details visit www.ciaops.com/bootcamp or contact Robert Crane (director@ciaops.com) to sign up.

    Remember, that places are strictly limited and the courses are filling fast (they aren't just for education partners) so if you want to learn more about SharePoint and how to make it work for your business and your customers, sign up now.

  • Education

    Education storage doubles every year for the last five years.

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    A year ago, Computerworld wrote an article about the use of internet bandwidth across NSW schools, following the roll out of student laptops - and the rapid growth in demand. Although it's a year old, it's worth a look if you're not familiar with the scale of the ICT within the NSW education system.

    At the bottom of the article, almost as an afterthought, is a list of interesting statistics of the scale of ICT in New South Wales education. As I read the list, I thought about the parallels to business IT - and how big educational ICT is - such that it would make it a significant ICT business, anywhere in the world.

    • 1.3 million students — 500,000 K-12 students, 800,000 in further education
    • 96,000 employees, including 5500 IT staff
    • 500 support staff at schools for the Digital Education Revolution.
    • 2411 locations
    • 280,000 PCs,
    • 7000 physical servers on site at schools and TAFEs
    • 3500 virtual servers on site at schools and TAFEs
    • 1560 virtual servers in the DET’s two data centres
    • 800 physical servers in the DET’s two data centres
    • 280TB of storage space which doubles every year for last five years.
    • 96 per cent of DET schools are connected by fibre.

    The bit that astounded me is that they have 280TB of storage space, and that's doubled every year for the last five years!

    Learn MoreRead the original Computerworld article

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