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

  • Education

    Webinar - Managing Documents and Content in SharePoint 2010


    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


    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?

    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?


    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


    If you're involved in Higher Education IT, then there's an article over on 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



    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?


    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


    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?


    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

  • Education

    Managing non-Microsoft devices on your education network


    System Center LogoLast week, at the Microsoft Management Summit 2011, Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President for the Management & Security Division unveiled some news in his speech that would be of interest to any university, TAFE or school. It was all about the extension of the System Center family to manage more non-Microsoft devices - including Android devices, and  iOS devices like iPads and iPhones. Sadly, because it was part of the announcement for the new System Center 2012 Beta, there's not a huge amount of detail that's been posted up on the various Microsoft websites, so I've put together my bullet-point version of what's been announced, and then given you all of the source material below:

    • You can already provide email support for other devices through Exchange ActiveSync (Windows Phone and phones running Symbian, iOS and Android)
    • With System Center Configuration Manager 2012, in addition to in-depth management of Windows devices - servers, desktops, laptops and phones, we're making changes to enhance the management of other devices.
    • We're adding support for:
    • iOS-based iPhones and iPads
    • Android devices - smartphones and tablets
    • Symbian smartphones
    • Your IT management team get the benefit of a single set of tools, and a single interface, to manage a much wider part of your campus infrastructure.
    • To help you manage your information security and data loss risk, features added include:
    • set password and pin-lock policies on any devices which connect to your corporate data, even if it's just email
    • setting rigid security rules - for example, to wipe a staff member's device if multiple bad-PIN attempts are made
    • the ability to do a full remote data wipe and reset on registered lost devices - whether they are owned by you, or owned by the user. If you've not already got it, you're going to need a policy that your users agree to when they start using their personal device to connect to your corporate systems.
    • Improved reporting means that you will be able to see what devices are connected, by whom, and what for - so that you can keep a track of changes in your user base (eg what proportion of your students are connecting to your corporate systems with which phone type - really useful for building your mobile web services plan)

    So next time your Principal, or a Head of Department or one of the Deans insists that they need to get access to your corporate systems from their personal phone, or they start syncing files with sensitive data to their iPad at home, you will at least know that you can manage the risk of data loss - and do it from the comfort of your existing System Center management console.

    You can view the full text of Brad's presentation, including the demonstrations on the PressPass site, and here's an extract where Jeffrey Sutherland is demonstrating the new Configuration Manager 2012:


    But today, with Configuration Manager 2012, I now have the tools at my fingertips to manage mobile devices just as I managed my traditional Windows desktop.

    As you can see, there are a number of reports that come built in with Configuration Manager 2012, specific to management of mobile devices. I'm going to show you one report that I find particularly useful, which is the count of mobile devices by platform. And this helps me understand what type of devices are connecting in.

    As you can see, we have just under 14,000 mobile devices that have connected. And even though we've standardized on Windows Phone as our preferred device, our users are able to bring in whichever devices they want. And so you can see that we have a fairly broad distribution across IOS, Android and Nokia Symbian.

    However, understanding what devices I have connecting is just the first problem that I have. Now let me show you how easily I can configure the security policies that I want to apply on mobile phones. So, I'm just going to view the properties of my connector. And as you can see, we have several settings groups from which I can build up the correct policies to apply. I've already set a password policy, but I'm going to make one small tweak to it, and that is if the phone is lost or stolen, and somebody is trying to break into the PIN, I want it to actually automatically wipe if the user has failed to enter the correct PIN after a number of attempts. I'm going to set that to ten.

    And now just like that, this policy is now being pushed out to every device that's connected to our environment


    Learn MoreLearn More about System Center 

    Download the System Center 2012 beta

  • Education

    Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience


    I have a huge respect from the Microsoft IT team - the people who have to keep our IT systems up and running, in the face of tens of thousands of highly capable internal users (yes, 'highly capable' also means disruptive!) and millions of users externally (including some with evil intent).

    Podcast imageSo when they make big changes to our IT - as they have been doing recently by moving many of our internal systems to the cloud - they learn lessons I want to hear about, because education customers and partners are doing similar projects - and many of the lessons learnt are as relevant to a school or university as they are to our own business.

    The TechNet team have just collected some of those stories together into TechNet Radio downloads, including interviews with Tony Scott, the Microsoft CIO. You can either listen online via the TechNet Edge website , or download the file for your MP3 player/phone/car etc


    Online version
    TechNet Edge


    What Does the Cloud Mean to the CIO
    Tony Scott, Microsoft CIO is leading the Microsoft IT organization to invest in the cloud. Listen to this interview to find out how it will bring new possibilities and benefits to the business.



    What Customers are telling Microsoft IT about Cloud Computing
    Bob Anderson and Mike Olsson share what the cloud means to senior business leaders from around the globe. Listen in as they discuss how Microsoft IT is gaining valuable insight into future cloud solutions, best practices and how they are implementing these new ideas on the Windows Azure platform.



    Microsoft´s Chief Information Security Officer on Cloud Security
    Hear from Joe Lindstrom and Microsoft’s Chief Information Security Officer, Bret Arsenault as he shares with us his thoughts on Cloud Security. Listen in as they discuss privacy and security implications for the cloud as well as some of the current challenges and solutions for this new computing paradigm.



    Moving Applications to the Cloud
    Bob Anderson and Mike Olsson discuss how Microsoft IT is migrating their applications to the Windows Azure platform. Listen in as they discuss lessons learned and best practices as well as how organisations can better prepare for their own move to Windows Azure



    Using SQL Azure to Enable Self-Service Business Intelligence
    Sanjay Soni and Rajesh Padmanabhan discuss how Microsoft IT is delivering Data as a Service to various Microsoft business and IT User Groups. Listen in as they discuss unified, enterprise level, agile data distribution systems that are possible through SQL Azure and how Microsoft IT has created a world where business users have the power to access all of their data in one central location



    Integrating Day-to-Day Operations with the Cloud
    Celia Morant-Kraus and Gayle Mateer from Microsoft’s HR IT Department discuss the Windows Azure platform and how it helps capacity management and service level agreements, as well as how it provides a flawless computing experience for employees.



    Developing Applications on Windows Azure
    Abe Ray and Bart Robertson discuss how Microsoft IT is developing applications on the Windows Azure platform. Listen in as they go in depth into the three main business benefits for developing applications in the Cloud as well as how Windows Azure is optimising the online social and digital media experience at Microsoft.



    Application Migration Strategies for the Cloud
    Scott Richardson and Tom Woods discuss how Microsoft IT implemented Windows Azure migration strategies for over 1500 internal lines of business applications. Listen in as they discuss the how-to’s and lessons learned for this project.



    In Australian Education, the shift to the cloud has been rapid too - either to shared private data centres here within Australia, or to regional data centres (such as our Cloud services data centre in Singapore). Although many of the initial moves have been about cost-saving, there's now a growing trend of moving to the Cloud to improve service delivery. And that's the trend that will probably accelerate things more - because if the alternative you face is a high capital investment and long project implementation times, or a quick project in the cloud, then you can afford to be much more user-demand led. There are two ways that you're likely to end up using the cloud:

    • The most visible for you is when you move one of your own applications to the cloud - like your student portal or a collaboration service that you run in your own network today
    • The less visible way is when one of your service providers (for example, the people that provide your student management system or your learning management system) moves the application to the cloud. This might be completely invisible to you, or you may simply see it as switching off your own servers (saving money, power etc). A good case study is the Janison system that allowed NSW to avoid putting in 60 servers, and instead delivered an exam system from the cloud, saving tens of thousands of dollars.

    Learn MoreLearn More about Windows Azure

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