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

  • Education

    Cloud migration strategies in Education

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    I've just updated the list of webcasts on Cloud migration strategies - which focus on the migration of internal Microsoft business applications to the Cloud with Windows Azure, by adding the interview with two key architects - Scott Richardson and Tom Woods.

    They talk extensively about the cost-saving aspects of moving to the Cloud, but one of the other parts I found interesting was the framework that they have used to assess all of our internal applications. As organisations think about Cloud migration strategies, there are both technical and business issues to consider. Scott and Tom talk about the way that they used some set criteria which allowed them to develop a prioritisation framework, based on two key aspects:

    • Business aspects

    - Criticality of the application
    - Regulatory issues
    - Information sensitivity

    • Technical aspects

    - Complexity
    - Monitoring needs
    - Access to source code
    - Database size

    By rating applications on these criteria, they were able to categorise each application as Basic, Intermediate or Advanced. And then they could used these to plan what to move to the Cloud and in which order.

    The parallels between our internal business systems, and IT systems in education are strong. If you were to do the same for your application portfolio (whether you're a software developer or CIO), what would it look like? And do your current plans reflect the priorities?

    You can download the MP3 of the interview here, or use the link below for the full list of webcasts:

    Learn MoreSee all of the TechNet radio episodes on Microsoft's experiences of Cloud services migration

  • Education

    Connected Learning Workshop and Training for Education Solution Partners

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    Microsoft would like to invite our education solution partners in Australia to our free technical workshop on the Connected Learning solution area being held in Malaysia on 4th - 6th May 2011.

    This workshop is designed for pre-sales technical, consultants, system engineers and technical decision makers with an interest in Microsoft platform solutions for education collaboration including the Learning Gateway framework and Live@edu. We expect that after this training you will be able to deploy education solutions based on these platforms that leverage SharePoint, Exchange and Microsoft’s cloud platform for education – Live@edu.

    Date and Location

    4-6 May 2011
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

    Course Objectives

    After completing the instructor-led Connected Learning workshop, attendees will be able to understand:

    • What is Live@edu and what it provides for education
    • What is Live@edu value for partners
    • How to plan and start Live@edu engagement
    • How to sign up and provision users into Live@edu,
    • How to implement single sign-on and federation with Live@edu
    • How to integrate Live@edu with SharePoint
    • How to migrate email to Live@edu
    • What is new in SharePoint 2010
    • What is SharePoint Learning Kit
    • How to deploy Office Web Apps
    • How to implement SharePoint workflow using Visio
    • Example of Learning Management System (LMS) using SharePoint 2010

    Who Should Attend?

    Microsoft partners are invited from across the Asia-Pacific region with an interest in the education sector, including solution integrators and ISV partners. You don’t necessarily have to be an existing partner in education – the purpose of the workshop is to expand your technical skills for solutions in education. Prior technical knowledge (level 200) of SharePoint, Powershell and Exchange is highly recommended.

    Registration

    You will need to register before Friday, 23 April - confirmation will be on a first-come-first serve basis.

    Detailed agenda for the training and venue

    Registration and accommodation details form

  • Education

    Webinar - Managing Documents and Content in SharePoint 2010

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    Icons_teacher_blueThere's a webinar on 21st April from 12:30-2:30PM (AEST) that will be of interest to all of those who've got SharePoint, and are working out how to get more value from it.

      Everyone can dig a hole to store content, finding that content and getting it out again is the key.  

    The challenge with SharePoint in education is to move it from a tactical asset (somewhere to put files and distribute work) to a strategic asset (to use it to improve the model of teaching and learning in your school/college/university). One of the challenges of building a great SharePoint is to stop it turning into the dumping ground for info (just becoming another Shared-Drive). In education I've seen great examples of student portals, where students use it for everything from homework assignments to exam revision; and parent portals, where parents can easily find attendance and attainment information for their children, and can access all of the previous school reports. And there are plenty of tricks that can be used to make it easier and simpler for different groups of users - for example, to allow students to email their work from home straight into a document library at school.

    So this webinar, on 21st April, will be really useful for you if you want to know what your SharePoint is capable of - and some insight into ideas that could be used to support your teachers and students.

    Learn MoreFind out more, and register for the SharePoint Document Management webinar

  • Education

    The Australian Education Market by the numbers

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    There is no shortage of data on the education marketplace - but finding a summary of the whole market is tricky. So I created one from trawling across the various government sites and statistical bulletins.

    So here's my 'home movie' version of the key numbers for the Australian Education Market, which summarises:

    • Total Australian government spend on education
    • Total number of schools, TAFEs and universities in each state
    • Mix of state, catholic and private schools
    • Total number of students in Australian schools, TAFEs and universities
    • The Top 10 Australia universities, by student size

     

    What other data would be useful to have in here?

    Sources:
    Total education budget - Productivity Commission Report on Education and Training 2010
    TAFE budgets - NCVER Statistics
    Number of schools - ABS
    Number of TAFEs - NCVER
    TAFE staffing - Productivity Commission
    Higher Education staff - DEEWR
    Higher Education students - DEEWR
    Schools by State - ABS
    Higher Education by state - DEEWR
    TAFEs by State - NCVER

  • Education

    What does the NSW data centre consolidation project mean for education?

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    The New South Wales government have started to implement their data centre reform programme, with education (specifically, the NSW DET - Department of Education and Training) as one of the key drivers. The government in NSW currently runs around 130 data centres, and to goal is to bring that down to just two, over the next decade.

    The NSW CIO has said that will save 473GWh of electricity* over the next 15 years , so there's a cost driver. And it will also drive more scalable and robust capacity.

    What it's likely to mean for education users and partners is that there will be more pressure to either deliver a complete service (eg a cloud-based service) or use the new central government data centres. The days of projects which require discrete networks of servers, with high upfront capital costs, will be limited.

    * If, like me, a GWh doesn't mean much, then here's a comparison - 473GWh is half the total annual electricity consumed in the state of Victoria in 1990.

  • Education

    The mindset of a university CIO - Part three - Monash University's IT support shakeup

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    If you're involved in Higher Education IT, then there's an article over on CIO.com.au that's worth a read. The story is about the way that Monash University (Australia's largest university, with 60,000 students) has consolidated their IT service requests function, moving from supporting users through 50 different IT teams, to just one. Here's a key section from the article:

     

    “Everything was locally determined and this gave an inefficient delivery model,” Tebbett said of the IT infrastructure prior to the transformation.

    “That started to be recognised in 2007. It got more serious in 2009 when it moved to a shared services view, and that led to the definition of the CIO role which hadn’t existed until that stage.”

    Tebbett said the dispersed nature of the university’s networks was reminiscent of a traditional approach towards technology in the higher education sector and Monash was heading towards a shared services model.

    “The higher education sector is probably one of the last to get real about it,” he said. “We’ve got a number of expectations in the higher education sector. There’s a lot more collaboration going on between disciplines, other industries and other institutions.”

     

    Over the last three days, the CCAEducause conference has been running in Sydney, attended by hundreds of CIOs, IT teams and information specialists from universities across Australia - and what's clear is that there is a shift happening in the role of IT in learning support - and in how the IT team are shifting to a 'business support' mindset - as opposed to a historical 'IT support' position.

    Time to reset your historic perceptions of the IT team's role in Higher Education…

    Learn MoreRead the full article "Monash Uni reduces IT teams after consolidation project"

     

    See also: The Mindset of a University CIO - Part One and Part Two

  • Education

    Education Partners at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference

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    The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) is in Los Angeles this year, from 10-14th July. If you've been before, then you'll remember that it's one of the key times of the year when we announce new information - and specifically focus on where it fits into our partner's business strategy.

    Last year's WPC had quite a few education specific sessions, including a very deep-dive into the Learning Analytics market, as well as looking at the wider opportunities for developing solutions for today's education market across schools and universities.

    At the moment, you can still get the early-bird rate on the 5-day All Access Pass (which works out at less than US$400 a day) until 25th April.

    I'll get more details on the education content shortly, but I'd definitely recommend registering to the conference, and considering entering yourself into the WPC Awards too. If you're looking for a great way to reward a valuable member of your team, a trip to WPC would definitely be a memorable experience which would deliver significant business benefits back to you too.

    Learn MoreLearn More about the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference

  • Education

    What is a Learning Platform?

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    Whatever phrase you use - Learning Management System/Learning Gateway/Learning Platform/VLE - the idea of providing an interactive learning environment for students, staff and parents to access 24 hours a day can be difficult to explain in simple terms. Especially to people with different perspectives on what it should be.

    Can I recommend the following video - it's a great cartoon style explanation of a 'learning platform' - which is the UK-centric phrase for a Learning Management System. Featuring my two favourite characters - Mr Spleen, the Geography Teacher, and Miss Print, the school business manager.

    There's a really important message, supported by research, that comes at the end:

      Of course, by itself, the learning platform isn't going to transform anything. It will all be down to how the staff and students use it.  

    It's something to remember when it comes to looking at implementing systems - sometimes the technical features take precedence over the change management planning - and in the case of learning management systems, that can be a million dollar mistake.

  • Education

    Microsoft licensing changes for hosted and shared services

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    imageThe pace of change in licensing - in positive ways for education customers - is speeding up. Hot on the heels of the EES licensing (which is leaving most customers I'm talking to much better off), we've now announced changes to licensing that will make it easier (and cheaper) to license software as you move to the cloud - specifically where partners are hosting an application, or servers, in their own data centres.

    Here's my quick summary of the changes from 1st July:

    • In what we're referring to as 'licence mobility', we're making it much easier when you are going to run software in a hosted data centre, by extending the licensing rights for a bunch of server technologies, so that you can run them on-site, or in a externally hosted shared data centre under the same licensing scheme.
    • The extension is for customers with active Software Assurance (you've automatically got this if you have a Campus, School or EES Agreement)
    • This will cover licensing for:
      •  
        • Microsoft SQL Server
        • Microsoft Exchange Server
        • Microsoft SharePoint Server
        • Microsoft Lync Server
        • Microsoft System Center servers
        • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
    • In addition, we're reducing the pricing and 'management overhead' for licensing Windows Server in hosted scenarios using our SPLA scheme (Services Provider Licensing Agreement), by eliminating use restrictions for conventional licenses, allowing us to remove Outsourcing licences
    • We've also added a Core Infrastructure Suite to SPLA licensing
    • This will help you with your flexible IT strategy - you can decide which of your on-site services you want to run in an off-site, third-party datacentre, without creating a big licensing headache. Tie this with the economies of scale from shared data centres, and things are looking up!
    • There's flexibility that allows you to move your applications to the cloud - and back - every 90 days

    For education, this whole announcement is especially important, as education customers can normally buy licences significantly cheaper than commercial organisations - and this has sometimes caused a hiccup where a partner has been buying licences to run a shared data centre, and has paid full commercial pricing.

    A typical scenario where this change is really helpful is where you are using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system to manage your student and alumni relationships, and you are hosting it in your existing data centre. It's the ideal service to move to a shared, hosted data centre, as there are definite peaks and troughs in usage - and the server capacity required. In the past, you may have needed different (or additional) licences if you moved this to a shared hosted data centre - and because of this it often presented barriers to doing it.

    There is a fuller description of the changes on our Licensing site, and you can expect to see more detail over the next few months as we get ready to implement these changes from 1st July

    Learn MoreLearn More about the changes

  • Education

    Encryption in education - If one of your staff laptops disappears - do you know the data is secure?

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    According to The Guardian, BP have just lost a laptop containing 13,000 personal records related to the Gulf oil spill. And the laptop had no encryption. So where are we with encryption in education?

    Security LogoI've been a BitLocker encryption user since the days of Windows Vista on my laptop, and since that time I have been reassured to know that should something happen to my laptop, all of the data on it is fully encrypted and secure. The whole process was very smooth – I simply enabled it in the Control Panel, and the encryption happened in the background over a morning.

    What astounds me is that more organisations don't deploy BitLocker encryption onto their laptops as standard. After all, it's easy and it's included with Windows Enterprise versions - which schools, TAFEs and universities will be licensed for as part of a Campus, School or EES Agreement. And it's a fire-and-forget protection - once you have enabled it, you can forget it's there. I have been happily using a laptop which is fully encrypted by BitLocker for the last two years, and it's never bothered me or interfered with what I need to do.

    A typical laptop for a teacher or member of school staff is likely to have piles of sensitive data on it - whether that's student lists, reports, or really sensitive information such as special needs or child protection information. So why would they not be automatically encrypted with BitLocker before you hand them to staff? Or retrospectively encrypted now? Encryption in education worldwide seems to be entirely reactively driven - it happens only once a significant data loss.

    If you want to know what's involved in deploying Windows encryption, there's an excellent TechNet article written by the Microsoft IT team – they’re the people that keep all of our in-house IT systems running.

    The article deals with both the technical, and managerial issues, of managing the introduction, and also gives a unique insight into the challenges of change in a very tech-savvy environment. And the article is incredibly honest about the challenges faced, and the lessons learned. Here’s an extract":

    Lessons Learned

    Lessons learned during Microsoft IT's BitLocker deployment include:

    • Microsoft IT tried to retrofit the environment with BitLocker. A better approach would have been to move forward with new computers and then upgrade only existing computers that had the highest security risk.
    • Microsoft IT thought BitLocker would be easier to deploy than it was. Microsoft IT relied on the BitLocker Preparation Tool to handle all aspects but found during testing that it failed in some situations, primarily due to locked files when trying to shrink the partition.
    • Hardware needs rigorous testing at scale. Computers that test well in a lab environment sometimes yield different results in a production environment. In other words, one computer in a lab might look fine but thousands in the production environment have variance, such as differences in the BIOS.
    • Recognizing high-business-impact data is a difficult, industry-wide issue. Few tools are available that enable organizations to find the types of high-business-impact data that users have on their computers.

    Read the whole article here, and if you have time take a look at the whole IT Showcase section – a large section of the website in which the Microsoft IT team share their experiences in running a complex IT infrastructure (The “How Microsoft IT reduces costs” section is especially interesting)h

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