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

  • Education

    The biggest factor affecting student retention happens before the student arrives

    • 2 Comments

    I've been in a lot of discussions about CRM for student recruitment and student retention systems in the last month, and today I'm spending the day in a planning workshop, so I thought I'd share a controversial thought bouncing around my brain about higher education student attrition:

    There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the biggest factor impacting student attrition is their preparation for university before they arrive. And if we were to ‘game’ student retention improvement, the most effective mechanism would be to alter the intake of students. But is that fair to do? Or, are we already doing it?

    One factor that impacts student retention is prior academic achievement. It appears that students with lower academic scores on entry are more likely to drop out, although that be covering up other factors such as parental engagement, preparation for the style of learning in universities.

    According to Steve Draper, from the University of Glasgow:

    “If a student’s parents both went to university, preferably the same university; if their school assumed they would go and pre-trained them e.g. to take notes, use the library, to write essays exhibiting critical thinking, etc., then this may make that student more likely to succeed. Furthermore there are associations, almost certainly causal, between wealth and family support on the one hand, and retention on the other. More accurately, different families demonstrate different amounts of commitment to keeping a student in education. Previous academic achievement is a measure of this because it measures their demonstrated commitment to date, and so selecting for achievement is also likely to select for continued support, and against students who may have to leave to support their families which is a common cause of dropout.”

    We already select students on their academic ability. Is it also okay to select student intake, based on their preparation for university (some already do)? And if so, do you draw the line at selecting according to the parent’s university history? Especially if you know that’s a real factor that drives student retention and attrition.

    Find MoreFind related articles on CRM in education, for student recruitment and retention

  • Education

    The 5 factors which affect school performance

    • 10 Comments

    imageAs I mentioned on Friday, I’m currently reading “School performance in Australia: results from analyses of school effectiveness”, a research report published in 2004.

    When the report starts to take a look at the comparisons between secondary schools, using the main data sets that they have available for school-level analysis, there are five factors which they isolate as being key ones. In the statistical analysis, they call these the ‘control variables’, but they key message is that these are the five things external which have a big impact on the attainment of students. If you remove the influence of these from school-level analysis, you can then analyse the difference in performance between secondary schools more effectively.

    The 5 factors which affect school performance

    1. Previous student attainment (through GAT scores)
    2. Socio Economic Status of the student intake
    3. School size, based on number of students
    4. Rural/Urban location
    5. School sector - Public, Private or Catholic

    Why are these the key underlying 5 factors which affect school performance?

    1. Previous student attainment (in Victoria they use GAT scores to measure this)
      This is used to ensure that you are measuring the ‘value added’ to students’ performance, not just their final achievement
    2. Socio Economic Status of the student intake
      This is used to remove bias from a school being in a particular area which may affect it’s student intake. For example, if a school is located in an area with a higher proportion of social housing, statistically the students are likely to be less engaged with education (eg higher absence rates), with less well educated parents.
    3. School size, based on number of students
      OECD research quoted in the report shows that as school size falls below 1,000 students, average student attainment falls too
    4. Rural/Urban location
      Research shows that this is an important influencer of school performance within Australia
    5. School sector - Public, Private or Catholic
      When you don’t take this factor into account, then the analysis of school performance tends to show schools grouping into three bands, representing the different sectors.

    By taking these factors into account when looking at school performance, you are able to get a better idea of how each school is performing compared to other schools, and a better idea of the ‘value added’ to individual students. (You can read much more about this from page 28 of the report. You’ll also see on Page 29, that they used a different set of factors for primary schools, which included density of indigenous students and transient families).

    The question I have in my mind now is:

    If you are a school leader in Australia, do you have the right performance data available, in your analysis systems, to allow for these 5 key factors? Do the reports that you receive help you to allow for these factors?

    Learn MoreRead the full 'School Performance in Australia' report

     

    NB I know that there will be readers who will see this as an over-simplification of the analysis. My aim isn’t to reinterpret it, but simply to share what I’m understanding as I’m reading it. And I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong - either by adding a comment below or hitting the ‘Email Blog Author’ link at the top right.

  • Education

    Something for the weekend - free eBooks from Microsoft Press

    • 0 Comments

    A colleague shared with me a list of other free ebooks from Microsoft Press, that you may find useful too. Many of them are quite technical, so they won't be for everybody. I bet there are some colleagues around you that would appreciate this list:

    imagePersonally, I haven't read them all - but I have read the Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions book - mainly to make sure that I can keep up with some of my more technical colleagues and customers, and to understand what the true potential can be in different scenarios.

    Learn MoreFind all the other 'Free Download' posts on this Education blog

  • Education

    Ten of the best - SharePoint School websites

    • 3 Comments

    A colleague asked me to recommend some school websites built on SharePoint, that they could share with others. After I’d finished it for him, I thought I’d pop it into a PowerPoint for others - and then go further by popping up a quick blog post too. Here’s my take on 10 School SharePoint websites that are worth looking at for design ideas and inspiration - or simply because you want to nudge another colleague towards seeing that SharePoint beauty can start at skin deep.

    Click on any of them to link to the live website

    1. Twynham School Sixth Form, Christchurch, UK
      image

    2. John Paul College, Queensland, Australia
      image

    3. Victoria Department of Education’s FUSE site
      image

    4. West Hatch High School, Essex, UK
      image

    5. Hale School, Western Australia
      image

    6. Wootton Bassett School, Wiltshire, UK
      image

    7. Brigidine College, New South Wales, Australia
      image

    8. Brookfields Specialist SEN School, Berkshire, UK
      image

    9. Florida Virtual School, USA
      image

    10. Twynham School Sixth Form, Christchurch, Dorset
      image

      Note: The reason I listed this twice isn’t me cheating - I simply wanted to make sure that you saw their amazing interactive curriculum pages, and I know you’d kick yourself if you hadn’t seen it at No.1

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint version of Top 10 School SharePoint websites

  • Education

    Ten of the best - SharePoint University websites

    • 10 Comments

    After the list of school websites built on SharePoint from earlier in the week, here’s another handy (and subjective!) list of Ten University SharePoint websites. These websites are all public facing, and by building them on SharePoint, it means the universities can manage the content in exactly the same way as they manage their other resources - and use SharePoint’s workflow to manage the publishing process. But enough of the SharePoint Content Management story - let’s get down to the pictures:

    Click on any of the images to link to the live website

    1. Northern State University, USA
      Northern State University website

    2. Saïd Business School – University of Oxford, UK 
      Saïd Business School – University of Oxford

    3. Coventry University, UK 
      Coventry University

    4. University College London Hospitals, UK 
      University College London Hospitals

    5. Harvard Business School Executive Education, USA 
      Harvard Business School Executive Education

    6. Furman University, USA 
      Furman University

    7. University of Wales, Newport, UK
      University of Wales

    8. The University of Colorado Denver Business School, USA 
      University of Colorado

    9. Chalmers University, Sweden
      Chalmers University

    10. Washington University in St. Louis - Olin Business School, USA
      image

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint versions of Top 10 University SharePoint websites

  • Education

    Can your SharePoint become your Learning Management System?

    • 1 Comments

    Over the last six months I’ve written about Learning Management Systems (LMS) quite a few times. I’ve asked questions like “Do you really need a Learning Management System?” and “Are SharePoint Composites the future of the Learning Management System?”, and shared some research, like “One third of colleges considering changing their Learning Management System” and “Emerging trends in Learning Management Systems”. And I’ve even provided overviews of some LMS options, like Desire2Learn and Hosting Moodle in the Cloud.

    If you’ve been following some of those stories, then you might also be interested in a presentation from the International SharePoint Conference 2012, presented by Dave Coleman, a SharePoint guru, and Alex Bradbeer of the Arts University College Bournemouth. It’s a well told story of migrating an institution from Blackboard to SharePoint, and some of the decisions that they took along the way to deliver the key functionality to their staff and students. I’m sure it would have been better to be there in person, but the slides are pretty self explanatory:

    Learn MoreLearn more about SharePoint in learning on Dave's SharePointEduTech blog

  • Education

    Final version - Free Windows 8 programming ebook

    • 1 Comments

    Cover - Windows 8 Programming bookLess than a week ago, I wrote about the free Windows 8 programming ebook "Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript" from Microsoft Press. The link I gave then was to the second version, but five nights have passed, and Microsoft Press have now released the full and finished version.

    So if you're interested in Windows 8 programming, then here's the book to read. It will teach you how to develop apps for the new version of Windows, and get them running on existing desktops, laptops and notebooks, as well as slates including the new Microsoft Surface.

    Given the size of the book (800+ pages) and the fast and fluid nature of the subject, then it will have been a remarkable achievement to get it finished and out within a week of the Windows 8 launch, so I'm sure Kraig Brockschmidt will be having a long lie down in a dark room now.

    Right now the download is a PDF book, but EPUB and MOBI formats are coming, for people who want to get it onto their Kindle, Nook etc

     

    Learn MoreDownload the Microsoft Press free eBook "Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript"

    Download the companion content for the eBook

  • Education

    Ten of the best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint

    • 3 Comments

    Following on from my previous blog posts, ‘Ten of the best SharePoint School websites’ and ‘Ten of the best SharePoint University websites’, then it’s time to get closer to home with Ten of the best Australian school websites built on SharePoint (or best TAFE websites or best University websites).

    The reason I’m focusing on ‘built on SharePoint’ is because most Australian education institutions have SharePoint, and have it integrated into their identity management system and their security model. So extending that same system to run your public-facing website means that you can easily create a website that allows students to access their course materials from home, and staff to be able to use the document storage and workflow, without having to setup yet-another login or user list on yet-another system. Anyway, back to the best school websites list…

    I’ve had help from colleagues tracking some of these down, and recommendations from customers and partners. But ultimately I take total responsibility for the completely subjective Top Ten list and their rankings!

    So here’s my top ten of the best education websites built on SharePoint in Australia

    It’s my take on 10 School/TAFE/University websites, built on SharePoint, that are worth looking at for design ideas and inspiration for functional ideas - or simply because you want to nudge another colleague towards seeing that SharePoint can deliver a beautiful experience for staff, students and prospective students.

    Click on any of them to link to the live website

    1. Gordon Institute of TAFE, Victoria

      This was easy for me to pick as Australia’s best education website built on SharePoint. I’m sure this website must inspire potential students - it gives off the impression of a vibrant learning community, with a fun attitude to the serious subject of learning. And the design makes it easier to navigate to the key information - and encourages you to explore more.

       Gordon Institute of TAFE

    2. Victoria Department of Education - FUSE

      An amazing interactive experience which puts access to learning materials right at the front of the site. And let’s be honest, it breaks the mould for ‘policy-type’ websites, because it’s putting the ‘fun’ into ‘functional’.

      Victoria Department of Education - FUSE

    3. Abbotsleigh School, New South Wales

      You can tell from the very first page that this is a school that takes learning seriously - and the strong photography shows how it puts students at the centre of the experience. With many private and Catholic schools, you can see the increased importance of needing to ‘sell’ the school to prospective students and parents, as well as keeping in touch with the parents of existing students.

      Abbotsleigh School

    4. Trinity Grammar School, New South Wales

      Another design-centric site, but with a clear navigation structure that means students & parents can easily find the section that’s relevant for them. (Pipped by Abbotsleigh for #3 position because it didn’t have Search on the home page)

      Trinity Grammar School

    5. The Learning Place, Queensland

      Another government site, which are often some of the trickiest to design and run, because they are trying to meet the needs of so many stakeholders. Although the SharePoint portion of the website sits behind the login screens, there’s an excellent video here that shows what Stage 2 is delivering.

      The Learning Place

    6. Brisbane Catholic Education, Queensland

      Although this doesn’t have the high graphic design of some of the previous sites, the navigation here is clear - with the tabs at the top helping users find their way quickly to the section that is right for them - students & parents; schools & curriculum; employment etc.

      Brisbane Catholic Education

    7. Bendigo Tafe, Victoria

      Another great TAFE site in Victoria (is there a secret recipe they have there?). I particularly liked the 3D box design, which was very simply to create, and added to, rather than confused, the navigation.

      Bendigo Tafe, Victoria

    8. John Paul College, Queensland

      A nice looking site that crams a lot of information onto the home page - but without making it too busy. A slow rotation of the main picture adds interest, but without detracting from the content and links.

      John Paul College, Queensland

    9. Hale School, Western Australia

      A slightly more traditional design, which puts details on the front page, rather than just short links. As with the others, it’s often the photography that makes the first impression.

      Hale School, Western Australia

    10. Australian School of Business, New South Wales

      Okay, this may be 10th out of my list of 10 - but there’s hundreds of sites that didn’t make it to the Top Ten, so it’s still good going. I like the way this page is easy to read, and has all the vital components - news, events and search - right there.
      What would have given it a higher rating? Less ‘stock’ images and more good photos from the School of Business itself would have helped me, as a parent, to imagine my daughter going to study there.


      Australian School of Business, New South Wales

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint Top 10 Australian Education websites on SharePoint

  • Education

    Is there academic pricing for Windows Azure? No, but there's something better…free Azure

    • 5 Comments

    image

    For many of our products and services, there's special education pricing – these typically give education customers up to an 80% discount on normal prices, or even go so far as providing some services (like Office 365) free for education customers.

    It doesn't apply to Windows Azure, as there isn't a specific Windows Azure Academic licensing price list. The basic Azure service is pretty low-cost already (renting a virtual machine on Windows Azure costs $2c an hour!), and some parts of the service are free to everybody – for example, with Windows Azure Web Sites you can run 10 basic websites for nothing in the cloud.

    So when you're looking to move some of your IT to the cloud – for example, to host a learning management system like Moodle on Windows Azure – you would just use our standard Windows Azure pricing.

    What could be better than Windows Azure academic pricing?

    So if there isn't special academic pricing for Windows Azure, why did I say that there's "something better"?

    Well, it turns out that if you want to use Windows Azure for teaching purposes, you can apply for a "Windows Azure Educator Grant", which will give you a 12 month free subscription to Windows Azure for faculty, and a 6 month free subscription for your students!

      Grant applications are designated for faculty who are teaching Windows Azure in their curricula as well as faculty preparing to integrate Windows Azure into their curricula. Educator Grant awards are subject to demand and availability.  Educators will receive a special 12-month pass for their exclusive use, and may request 6-month non-renewable passes for distribution to their students.  Each pass is valid from the date of redemption. Educators may apply for passes for each of the courses they are teaching, and may only distribute these passes to students registered as part of their educational institution.  

    What does the free Windows Azure Educators Grant include?

    There's a ton of different services and resources included within the free subscription for both staff and students, including:

    • 2 small compute instances for Cloud Services or Virtual Machines
    • 10 Shared Web Sites
    • 10 Shared Mobile Services
    • 35GB of Azure storage
    • 50,000,000 storage transactions
    • 750 Service Bus Relay Hours
    • Two 1GB SQL Web Edition databases
    • 8GB of data transfers in and out

    Azure was expanded last month, when we announced the availability of Windows Azure Infrastructure Services.  This new service now makes it possible for you to move whole applications into the cloud, and puts us in the position of being the only global cloud provider with fully supported infrastructure and platform service offerings.

    How to apply for the Windows Azure Educators grant

    To get more information, and apply for a Windows Azure Educator Grant go to the Windows Azure Educators site. After receiving your application and verification of your faculty status, we will send you a grant letter to sign and send back to us to get passcodes for your Azure accounts. Neither you nor your students will pay for access to Windows Azure. Accounts are valid for 12 months for faculty and 6 months for students and can be extended if needed.

    Learn MoreFind out more on the Windows Azure Educators site


    To help you get started with Windows Azure in the classroom, there are plenty of resources, and course and lab material, at Windows Azure Resource Kit and on Faculty Connection Web Site. It includes an Introduction to Cloud Computing, Software & Tools and Course 50466B: Windows Azure Solutions with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.

  • Education

    How to make a beautiful school SharePoint site

    • 0 Comments

    Last week ago I shared my list of “10 of the best school websites on Sharepoint”. And the opinion around the office was that the Twynham School Sixth Form website was the most astonishing one (in fact, half a dozen times I was asked by Microsoft colleagues “Are you sure that was done in SharePoint?”).

    My colleague, Ben Nunney, who’s an ex-teacher, paid it a massive compliment when he said on Twitter “I know I'm too old to go back to school, but if I could I'd go here - PURELY based on their amazing website

    Mike Herrity from Twynham School talks on his SharePoint in Education blog about all of the things that they’re doing with ICT in his school, and it makes a useful resource if you’re thinking of doing some SharePoint work yourself.

    Twynham School's VI Form website

    He also wrote a series of short articles about how they have created the Sixth Form site, which were published on his blog. The series actually walks through the whole process, and describes the challenges (including the need to convince the Leadership Team in the school that you can make a good looking site in SharePoint).

    If you are in any way involved in using SharePoint in a school, I think it is a must read series, either for you, or for whoever is providing/developing your SharePoint.

    How to build a SharePoint website for a school

    Learn More icon

    The whole series, and a lot of extra detail, is also available in the Twynham School Learning Gateway 2007-2010 ebook

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