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

  • Education

    Australian Government ICT Strategic Vision 2011 - draft


    Agimo blog logoThe Australian Government draft ICT Strategic Vision has just been published for consultation and feedback. They've published on the AGIMO blog, which is where they've invited public comments.

    I'm going to have a detailed read today, but a quick scan over the weekend highlighted what a well written, easily understandable document it is - and it directly addressed some of the issues that I've spotted with ICT in the public sector since arriving at the end of January. Overnight, I'll share more of my thoughts, but for the meantime, you should take a look at the draft Australian Government 2011 ICT Strategic Vision, and consider commenting - as well as considering how it might affect your strategy going forward.

    Learn MoreRead the draft ICT Strategic Vision

    The AGIMO is the Australian Government Information Management Office, which works across Govt to keep Australia position as a leader in the productive application of information and communications technologies to government administration, information and services.

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia Schools Roadshow - May 2011 - Building skills for tomorrow



    Next month we're running a series of roadshow events for school Principals, IT managers and Curriculum leaders. We're aiming to cover the country, with events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, from 10th May to the 2nd June.

    There are three separate streams to the day, with a breakfast session for Principals (from 7:15 to 9:00 am), a full-morning session for Curriculum Leads from 9:30am to 1pm; and IT Managers get the full works, from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

    The day will have a mix of deep sessions on key issues, customer case studies, and product showcases - including some of the latest whizzy products that are relevant to education - cool laptops and tablets, unified communications and video conferencing, and the Kinect for XBox 360. With speakers including Principals, Innovative Teacher Award winners, and other school staff, the day will provide a good insight into life in schools today, and the issues affecting them.

    You can find out more about the events - and register to attend - here. If you're working at a Microsoft education partner, I'd encourage you to register and join the audience - think of it as a training event - hearing about some of the customer success stories that will help you in your work, as well as get up to speed on the ways our education team talk about our products and services.

    Venues and Dates for the Building skills for tomorrow roadshow

    Tues 17 May AEEC Adelaide Showground

    Tues 10 May QPAC

    Thurs 5 May The Hutchins School

    Thurs 2 June Melbourne Park Function Centre (note changed date)

    Thurs 19 May Duxton Hotel

    Wed 25 May Australian Technology Park

    Learn MoreFind out more, and register

  • Education

    Ways to preserve student data on laptops


    imageVillanova University in Pennsylvania have created a case study with us on their use of Windows 7 right across their campus - for 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 staff. So far, they have migrated 7,000 computers, with just 3,000 left to do before August.

    The case study has some great 'sound bite information' in it, including the fact that those 10,000 computers are supported by a team of just 16 people in Technology Support Services! In addition, they run a walk-in help desk centre called TechZone, staffed by 25 paid students.

    How to reimage a computer without losing students' data

    The driver for migration from Windows XP was to make their network more manageable and speed up their processes. In 2009 there was a noticeable increase in students bringing malware infected laptops in for repair, caused by online sites. If they couldn't clean up the computer, they'd resort to reimage them - which took up to a day and wiped off the user data. As Jill Morrison, the manager of the Software Support Services team said:


    Students place tremendous value on their digital lives and it’s not unusual for them for have about 100 gigabytes of data on their computers. Although the university backs up all faculty and staff data, we can’t provide backup services for all that student data—and students often don’t do their own backups. Our students were understandably upset when they discovered that the process of fixing their computers could delete all of their personal and academic information, and that they would have to recreate or reload all their documents, pictures, songs, and videos.


    By moving to Windows 7, not only have they got a more secure and reliable environment, but when things do go wrong, they are easier to fix. Villanova IT staff now can fix corrupted student computers without deleting their data. As Ben Alfonsi, the Technical Support Manager, says:

      Windows 7 is architected in a way that allows us to do file-based imaging instead of sector-based imaging. This is really important. With Windows 7, we can restore an image rather than replace it and keep all the files and data intact. Now we can repair students’ computers while preserving their digital lives. Needless to say, our students are much more satisfied with Villanova TechZone services.  

    Reducing Windows 7 migration time

    The migration itself was rapid - 85% of their applications worked immediately in Windows 7, and for the rest remediation was easy. And they used Windows Easy Transfer to migrate staff data using USB flash drives as part of the upgrade - transferring data in under an hour, compared to 12 hours with network-based migrations.

    And the other benefit for the small IT team is that they have reduced from creating and maintaining 35 different Windows installation images to just 2 - one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit.

    I've met education customers who have told me that they 'don't have time to think about upgrading from Windows XP' - and then you read case studies like this Villanova University one, and it shows how a small amount of up-front time investment can be a real time-saver in the long run.

    Learn MoreRead the full Villanova University case study

  • Education

    Curtin University moves more services to the Cloud with Windows Azure


    First they moved the students' email

    Every year, in the UK alone, 9,000 USB sticks are lost in the laundry*. How many of them contained a student's thesis?

    If you were a student at Curtin University from 2009, imagine how pleased you'd be if your email inbox capacity jumped up from 40MB to 10GB, and you could suddenly access your email from any computer and on your phone - and then you had a further 25GB of Cloud storage. You'd suddenly become a lot less reliant on USB sticks to keep your vital thesis drafts on. That's 40,000 students suddenly more relaxed about doing their laundry.

    The case study on Curtin's first moves into the Cloud covers their move to the Microsoft Live@edu service.

    Then they moved their own internal systems

    iPortfolioThe second step for Curtin University to the Microsoft Cloud was to move one of their other internal systems - iPortfolio - to support students whilst at university, and also when they were job hunting after graduation. Like many university systems, the challenge was to take an internal system, creaking under the weight of 40,000 students' data, and update it, reduce the cost - and make it available to students in 100 countries.

    iPortfolio allows Curtin students to upload multimedia learning materials into a personal portfolio, so that they have their own personal learning bank available throughout their studies - as well as giving them an electronic portable portfolio that they can present to prospective employers. The system was so useful, that within six months of building it in 2009, they were already hitting the storage challenges of success. Happening right at the time that they were trying to move away from capital-intensive IT projects!

    The project team migrated from their existing Oracle-based system, using expensive SAN storage in the university data centre, to the Windows Azure Cloud service - allowing them to more flexibly scale the system, and reduce the ongoing infrastructure support costs.

    Many of the examples of Windows Azure are about software development companies, moving massive consumer systems to the Cloud. What makes the Curtin University story interesting is that the developers in the University did most of the programming - they didn't get it taken out of their hands, but were able to keep control of their project and their data.

    Education in Australia is moving to the Cloud quite rapidly - and the reasons for it are clearly defined in this example, where the students, the staff and the university IT department all get a benefit.

    Learn MoreRead the full Curtin University Windows Azure case study

  • Education

    Put this in your diary - the Microsoft Australian Partner Conference 2011 dates


    Icons_globeAsia_blueThe Australian Partner Conference is a great opportunity to connect with Microsoft, and get an understanding of Microsoft’s strategy for the coming year,  and connect with other partners.

    The dates for this year's Microsoft Australian Partner Conference have been fixed for 2011. More details will come later in the year, but for now, time to lock your diary!

    When:  Tuesday 23 – Thursday 25 August 2011

    Where:  Gold Coast Convention Centre

  • Education

    How would a 'Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2011' award look in your reception?


    At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, there are lots of awards handed out to our key partners. And the previous winners know how much it helps them to generate new business, get immediate credibility, and open doors.

    So even if you're not going to the Partner Conference itself, then you can (and should!) still nominate yourself for Education Partner of the Year. It's not that difficult - here's the blurb from the website:

    The Public Sector, Education Partner of the Year Award recognizes partners who have exhibited excellence in providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to Education customers. Successful entrants for this Award will demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, as well as consistent, high-quality, predictable service or solutions to Education customers. Successful entrants will also demonstrate business leadership and success through strong growth in new customer additions and revenue such as integrating with Microsoft Cloud based technology like Live@edu and Azure in addition to the Windows Phone platform. Partners applying for this Award should demonstrate effective engagement with Microsoft by leveraging the Microsoft Partner Network to develop, create demand for, and sell their software solutions or services.

    And the good news is that the deadline is now 29th April - which means that you can even do it last minute, and sneak in your entry whilst the Americans and Brits are all watching the Royal Wedding.

    Learn MoreLearn more, and enter your nomination for, the Education Partner of the Year award


    As my Dad always said, you've got to be in it to win it.

    And once you've done it, enter for Australian Microsoft Partner of the Year Award too - might as well use the answers twice!

    PS If you're not a Microsoft Partner, but you're a customer of a good one - then tell them to enter.

  • Education

    University CIOs - being pulled in all directions


    I've written before about the mindset of a university CIO (see all 'Mindset of a CIO' posts), as part of trying to look at the world through their eyes - What is it the are challenged by? What keeps them up at night? And what do they think is going well?

    At the CCA Educause conference in Sydney, I saw the video below - filmed at the University of Sydney recently. It is a series of short interviews which starts with Geoffrey Brown, who is Director of Faculty Services for ICT at the university, and then continues with a range of other faculty members.

    And if you want a good reason to spend 4 minutes watching this, how about these two quotes - both in the video below:

    "We are in a new era where there are so many more services that are now available, the expectations are so much higher than ever before. People in academia will get their solutions off the web - when they want it and how they want it. And the IT people will become vaguely irrelevant"

    Geoffrey Brown, who is Director of Faculty Services for ICT

    "Don't believe the hype. Face to face lectures are alive and kicking. We're social creaatures which thrive on contact with others. And, surprisingly, students appreciate the discipline and the structure which comes from attending traditional lectures."

    Vanessa Gysbers, Associate Lecturer in the School of Molecular Bioscience

    If you are a university CIO, these people are your customers - and the challenges they face are your challenges too. Must be difficult to balance off all of these priorities - within a fixed budget and a fixed team...

  • Education

    Copenhagen Business School moves to the Cloud


    imageCopenhagen Business School recently switched their student email to the Cloud, using Live@edu.

    The case study video below goes into detail about their selection and approval process (they involved students alongside the IT team in the selection process) and one of the quotes in the video reminded me of the closeness between Business Schools and future employers: "We liked the fact that everyone at some point in time has been in contact with Microsoft Office, which is why we chose something that people could recognise."

    One of the quotes in the video is something I've heard quite a few times when talking to customers, but it always strikes me as odd when I hear it:

      The transition has been very smooth….we heard almost nothing from the students. And we take that as a sign that it has been a success  

    It's almost as though the measure of success for IT implementations is that nobody has noticed you've done anything. And, if that is the case, then perhaps IT is underselling the business value it delivers to the organisation!

    View the video on the main Microsoft website

  • Education

    Education is moving to the cloud. What does that mean for suppliers to education?


    'Education is moving to the cloud' might have seemed like a bold statement a year ago, but there's no doubt that for some functions - like providing student email - so many institutions have moved, that for the rest, the question is when not if. And other business systems are following.

    On Monday we announced that we're moving our Dynamics ERP system into the Cloud - using Windows Azure. The side note on this is that it gives another option for implementation, because customers can stick with on-premise systems, or switch to a cloud service, or use a bit of both (for example, to help with demand peaks). InfoWorld has a good overview on the ERP in the Cloud story.

    But as this general shift to the Cloud happens, the business model for suppliers is changing too. Because moving to the cloud normally means saving money (which means spending less somewhere along the line!) and also moving to subscription services - and away from buying software and hardware with up-front costs and licences. If you're a supplier to education customers, what does this mean for your business model?

    Many of the answers will be in the 'Microsoft Dynamics Cloud Partner Profitability Guide'. It's a well written business strategy guide - one for the CEO or CFO - and talks about the customer benefits of Cloud solutions:

    • Reduce time to value - especially as you can use the cloud elasticity to implement quickly, then scale up and down
    • Optimise investments - reducing up-front costs, the bureaucracy of capital investments and reduce working capital
    • Realising cost savings - by reducing conventional ICT infrastructure costs

    And it then goes on to summarise what it means for the industry as we move to the Cloud. We have to:

    • Increase demand generation - to produce a higher volume of customers that are better educated about our solutions
    • Close deals with fewer interactions - and productise more solutions to avoid custom-building every solution
    • Give customers cost-effective, valuable, low risk solutions (to avoid customer attrition)
    • Carefully manage the customer life cycle

    Graph showing cloud profitability model 

    There's a lot of detail in the report about business models - and what it does to your (and our) existing business models - and the chart to the right caught my eye as it pointed out that the break-even point for a Cloud solution is later than today's model.

    I know that there are customers in education that read this blog, who at this very moment will be wondering why we/you have to make a profit. But with Cloud services, they pay for a good service that supports their business goals - and if they're not getting it, they can switch - so I'm not shy of them reading this too!

    If you're in a Microsoft software or solutions partner, then you, or somebody in your organisation, would be wise to read the Guide, and hopefully learn some of the business lessons we've learnt so far as we move to the Cloud too.

    Learn MoreDownload the 'Microsoft Dynamics Cloud Partner Profitability Guide'

  • Education

    Every university in Australia will lose market share - what does that mean for university CIOs?


    I was just reading some analysts research - which sadly I can't share because of copyright issues - and it hit me that over the next decade every university in Australia is going to have a smaller share of the global student body than in the past decade. And that is going to impact on the University CIO Strategic Priorities for 2012 and beyond.

    The reason for this is the phenomenal growth rate of Higher Education students in countries such as China and India. Today's students from Asia are critical to the continuing financial model of many Australian universities. And in the future, even if the absolute numbers increase, the proportion that get education at a university in Australia will reduce - as hundreds of new universities are constructed in their home countries.

    imageDon't underestimate that task - the chart to the right shows the exponential historical growth in tertiary students from the UNESCO Global Education Digest for 2009. The number of tertiary students increased globally by 50% between 2000 and 2007.

    Currently Australia sits fourth in the global league table for inbound tertiary students, as it hosts approximately 7.5% of international tertiary students (just over 200,000, out of a total of 2.8m).

    As this growth in tertiary students has continued, and specifically with international students, the focus of CIOs in universities in Australia and worldwide has dramatically shifted over the last five years.

    Surveys show that attracting and retaining new students and researchers has moved into their top three priorities, as has activities which increase the growth of their organisation. And core IT tasks have gone down in their strategic priority lists.

    I think that to keep up with the growth in student numbers, even more shift has got to happen. CIOs are going to be a valuable asset to helping their university deliver learning channels that don't rely on physical buildings and students sitting in lectures. I know that this is already happening, but we're only seeing the thin end of the wedge. If a university wants to keep it's share of international students in the future, then it is going to have to find ways to teach them remotely - and to deliver a fully immersive, fully supportive learning environment to do it.

    So here's my prediction of the issues that will rise up the CIO's priority lists, to create the University CIO Strategic Priorities for 2012:

    Business Priorities

    IT Priorities

    1. Student recruitment and management support

    1. Integration of processes and systems

    2. Flexible learning delivery on campus

    2. Migration to the cloud

    3. Flexible learning delivery off campus

    3. Connecting learning technologies into core systems

    4. Reducing university infrastructure costs

    4. Removing and replacing legacy systems

    IT has to become an enabler for the growth in the future, and the IT team in the university will be making the same journey that IT teams in businesses are making too - to connect what they do to the strategic value of their business. And to be able to do that, they'll need to have a good grasp of the macroeconomic issues, the strategic university priorities, and the business benefits that their IT investments deliver in that context.

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