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

  • Education

    Australia Office Developer webinar - 11AM today

    • 1 Comments

    Following on from last week's well attended webinar, introducing the subject of developing for Office 365, Andrew Coates will start to dig into the specific topics. This week, at 11AM he will cover the basics of getting started with the Office 365 APIs, as you learn how you can build on top of Office 365 to create new services and features for your users.

    The webinar runs today (Wednesday 26th Jan) at 11AM AEST (ie 11AM in Sydney, Canberra & Melbourne; 10AM in Brisbane; 10:30AM in Adelaide; and an early 8AM in Perth)

    Make a dateAdd this webcast to your diary

     

     

     

    If you joined last week, you can use the same link to join


    There’s over a billion Office users, and over 200 million education customers using Office 365. And with the shift to the cloud with Office 365, Office has become a platform for developers, as well as a set of tools for users. Customers expect apps and web services to use their existing tools, rather than create a new one for each different system they use (things like email services, or calendars). So we have been working hard for a few years on making sure that Office provides ways for developers to create and integrate with it. It is now fundamentally easier to create an Office Add-In, list it in the Office Store, and start selling it to the 147 countries where there’s an Education store category.

    • Why would you create a cloud document storage system in your app, when you can simply use the same OneDrive that users use for their other documents?
    • Why would you insist users create yet another username and password to login, when they can use the identity given to them and managed by their school or university?
    • How could your collaborative learning service be improved if you knew who a student regularly collaborated without outside of your app?

    And the most interesting thing is that by integrating with, or building on top of, existing Office services, you can develop an app from germ of an idea to a live service faster, with less pain for customers, and with a greater reach to customers globally.image

    But, let’s face it, even though our CEO Satya Nadella describes it as Microsoft’s “most strategic developer surface area”, it’s still not well understood, even in Australia, where we’ve had lots of educational apps and services developed that link to Office 365.

    So we’re doing something about it!

    Over the next three months we’re going to running a series of webinars leading up to 2 major Hackathon events for education app developers in April 2016 (start with the webinars, and then we’ll let you know about the Hackathon next).


    Office Developer Webinar Series

    You should build applications and add-ins that take advantage of the immense reach and power of the Office clients and Office 365 services. Join Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist Andrew Coates and the occasional guest speaker in this series of Wednesday webinars that will take you from novice to expert in Office Development in 10 weeks.

    Running each Wednesday morning, topics to be covered include:

    • Overview of Office365 Development
    • Getting started with the Office365 APIs
    • Getting started with Office Add-ins
    • Introduction to Identity with Azure AD and the Office365 APIs
    • Deep Dive into the Microsoft Graph
    • Deep Dive into Office Add-Ins with Word and Excel
    • Deep Dive into the Office 365 APIs for OneNote services
    • Creating Client Side Only Apps with Angular, ADAL and Office 365 APIs
    • Getting Apps Submitted and Approved for the Office Store
    • Deep Dive into Mobile development with Office365 and Xamarin or Cordova

    Finally, in both Sydney and Melbourne we will run an in-person hackathon in early April where you’ll be able to put your newfound skills to good use. We’ll have experts on hand over two days to help you get an Application or Add-In up and running.

    Your host: Andrew Coatesimage

    Andrew Coates has been a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft for over ten years, teaching, learning and sharing coding techniques. During that time, he’s focused on .Net development on the desktop, in the cloud, on the web, on mobile devices and, most recently for Office. Andrew has a number of apps in various stores and generally has far too much fun doing his job to honestly be able to call it work. Andrew lives in Sydney’s Eastern Studies with his wife and two high school-aged children.

    You can follow Andrew on Twitter, read his occasional thoughts on his blog, and stalk him professionally on LinkedIn

  • Education

    Webcast - Developing on Office 365 in Education - Wednesday 20th January

    • 2 Comments

    There’s over a billion Office users, and over 200 million education customers using Office 365. And with the shift to the cloud with Office 365, Office has become a platform for developers, as well as a set of tools for users. Customers expect apps and web services to use their existing tools, rather than create a new one for each different system they use (things like email services, or calendars). So we have been working hard for a few years on making sure that Office provides ways for developers to create and integrate with it. It is now fundamentally easier to create an Office Add-In, list it in the Office Store, and start selling it to the 147 countries where there’s an Education store category.

    • Why would you create a cloud document storage system in your app, when you can simply use the same OneDrive that users use for their other documents?
    • Why would you insist users create yet another username and password to login, when they can use the identity given to them and managed by their school or university?
    • How could your collaborative learning service be improved if you knew who a student regularly collaborated without outside of your app?

    And the most interesting thing is that by integrating with, or building on top of, existing Office services, you can develop an app from germ of an idea to a live service faster, with less pain for customers, and with a greater reach to customers globally.image

    But, let’s face it, even though our CEO Satya Nadella describes it as Microsoft’s “most strategic developer surface area”, it’s still not well understood, even in Australia, where we’ve had lots of educational apps and services developed that link to Office 365.

    So we’re doing something about it!

    Over the next three months we’re going to running a series of webinars leading up to 2 major Hackathon events for education app developers in April 2016 (start with the webinars, and then we’ll let you know about the Hackathon next).


    Office Developer Webinar Series

    You should build applications and add-ins that take advantage of the immense reach and power of the Office clients and Office 365 services. Join Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist Andrew Coates and the occasional guest speaker in this series of Wednesday webinars that will take you from novice to expert in Office Development in 10 weeks.

    Running each Wednesday morning, topics to be covered include:

    • Overview of Office365 Development
    • Getting started with the Office365 APIs
    • Getting started with Office Add-ins
    • Introduction to Identity with Azure AD and the Office365 APIs
    • Deep Dive into the Microsoft Graph
    • Deep Dive into Office Add-Ins with Word and Excel
    • Deep Dive into the Office 365 APIs for OneNote services
    • Creating Client Side Only Apps with Angular, ADAL and Office 365 APIs
    • Getting Apps Submitted and Approved for the Office Store
    • Deep Dive into Mobile development with Office365 and Xamarin or Cordova

    Finally, in both Sydney and Melbourne we will run an in-person hackathon in early April where you’ll be able to put your newfound skills to good use. We’ll have experts on hand over two days to help you get an Application or Add-In up and running.

    Webinar Week 1: Overview of Office365 Development - Wednesday 20th Jan 11AM

    In this introductory session, Andrew Coates will explain the power and potential of developing on the Microsoft Office platform. We’ll cover extending Office Clients with Add-Ins, connecting to the Office365 services with the Microsoft Graph APIs and distributing your solution. This is a great session for anyone interested in learning about the power of Office development, and will concentrate on the most recent development model. No prior knowledge is assumed, and there are no pre-requisites.

    At the end of the session you’ll have a good understanding of what Office Development means in the modern world, how your application will run on virtually any platform, including iOS, Android and, of course, Windows, and the setup you’ll need to do Office Development (you’ll be surprised how few requirements there are in terms of operating system, IDE or environment).

    This introductory webcast runs on Wednesday 20th Jan at 11AM AEST (thanks to Australia’s immense size, that means that it’ll be at 4 different times around the country - 11AM in Sydney, Canberra & Melbourne; 10AM in Brisbane; 10:30AM in Adelaide; and an early 8AM in Perth)

    Make a dateAdd this webcast to your diary

     

     


    Your host: Andrew Coatesimage

    Andrew Coates has been a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft for over ten years, teaching, learning and sharing coding techniques. During that time, he’s focused on .Net development on the desktop, in the cloud, on the web, on mobile devices and, most recently for Office. Andrew has a number of apps in various stores and generally has far too much fun doing his job to honestly be able to call it work. Andrew lives in Sydney’s Eastern Studies with his wife and two high school-aged children.

    You can follow Andrew on Twitter, read his occasional thoughts on his blog, and stalk him professionally on LinkedIn

  • Education

    Western Sydney University gives 5,000 Surface 3’s to new students

    • 0 Comments

    This education news from the Microsoft News Centre was good to see:

    Western Sydney University will provide 5,000 Microsoft Surface 3 devices to commencing students this year, as it continues to provide innovative and highly engaging learning opportunities and cements its reputation as one of Australia’s most progressive educational institutions.

    imageOn Wednesday, students who received an early offer from the University received a Surface 3 device as part of the University’s ‘Connect and Collect Day’ held at the Parramatta campus. Students receiving the Surface 3 device are studying a range of courses from across the School of Science and Health, Social Sciences and Psychology, and School of Nursing and Midwifery.

    Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Denise Kirkpatrick said it’s central to Western Sydney University’s wider strategy that fosters innovation and industry alignment. And the University is working in conjunction with Microsoft and other partners to create more opportunities for students to learn by using contemporary technologies in ways that provide them with greater flexibility. As Denise Kirkpatrick said:

    Several years ago Western Sydney University became one of the first universities to provide devices to students as part of its flexible learning program. The 2016 program takes that a step further as the University works with industry leading technology partners such as Microsoft, to determine the most suitable device for each of our courses.

    Our students are the leaders of tomorrow and as we prepare them for their future careers, we believe it’s essential that we empower their learning with the necessary support and leading edge technology to maximise learning outcomes and deepen their engagement in learning.

     

    Of course, Pip Marlow, our Managing Director in Australia, is pretty happy too:


     

    Microsoft is delighted to be working closely with the progressive Western Sydney University. We see the role of technology as a driver of change in the way students learn the 21st century skills they need to become our future leaders,” said Pip Marlow, Managing Director, Microsoft Australia.

    Ms Marlow said the close relationship between Microsoft and the University came as a result of a shared belief in the value of education and the part that technology can play in redefining the educational experience for students and faculty.

     

    But just how important is a laptop or tablet (or, even better, a Surface 3 which is two-in-one!) to students? We did a global uni student survey, and more students declared that they couldn’t live without their laptop or tablet than live without their significant other!

    image

    Nearly two thirds of students are still taking notes by hand, compared to a quarter who take notes on their laptop, and one in ten who take notes on their tablet - so hopefully the combination of Surface 3’s ability to take typed notes and handwritten notes on the same device will make life easier for every student who’s lucky enough to be given one this academic year!

    image

    The story on WSU students adopting Surface 3 made it into iTWire and Delimiter too.

  • Education

    Free Power BI training sources

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    I’ve written about the Microsoft Power BI service a few times over the last year, and shared some of the work that I’ve done with it. If you have any interest in data and turning it into information, then I’m an absolute fan of Power BI. And if you want to share in some of the data fun, then you might want to spend a little time learning about what’s possible. So here’s my list of go-to places for free Power BI training!

    I’m not a data geek, or a statistical whizz, but an every day user that has learnt that you can tell some really cool stories when you turn data into information. I’ve been able to learn some of the skills for manipulating data from colleagues, and from online courses, and from watching others. But I’ve found that you have to learn to play with data yourself, because the process of playing with the data, creating visualisations, and asking your own questions is part of the learning journey.

    Free edX course: Analysing and Visualising Data with Power BI

    imageThe Microsoft/edX partnership seems to be producing a lot of courses at the moment, and this course is a great example.

    In this course, you will learn how to connect, explore, and visualize data with Power BI. This course is taught in short, lecture-based videos, complete with demos, quizzes, and hands-on labs. The Power BI product team guides you through Power BI end-to-end, starting from how to connect to and import your data, author reports using Power BI Desktop, publish those reports to the Power BI service, create dashboards, and share to business users so that they can consume the dashboards through the web and their mobile devices.

    What you'll learn

    • Connecting, importing, shaping and transforming data for business intelligence
    • Visualising data, authoring reports, and scheduling automated refresh of your reports
    • Creating and sharing dashboards based on reports in Power BI desktop and Excel
    • Using natural language queries
    • Creating real time dashboards

    When & where to get it

    The edX course starts on 12 January 2016, and lasts for four weeks

    Sign up online here

     

    Free Microsoft Virtual Academy webcast: Bring the power of data to every user in your organisation

    This isn’t really a course, but more of an introduction to the whole Power BI story - and what’s possible in terms of connecting different data sources, and bringing information to users. It includes demonstrations as well as presentation materials. The Microsoft Virtual Academy offers a broad range of courses on data subjects - Big Data, Advanced Analytics, Business Intelligence - from Level 100 (basic introduction) to Level 400 (rocket science level!).
    There are a number of other Power BI courses on the Microsoft Virtual Academy, but I wouldn’t recommend anything that’s over 6-8 months old, as the pace of change has been so fast in the service, so much of the older material will be out of date.

    What you’ll learn

    It includes discussions and demos that focus on integration with Power BI, Excel, SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), Microsoft Dynamics, and SharePoint BI.

    When & where to get it

    This webcast is always available online

    Watch online here

    Free Power BI training resources from Jen Underwood

    Jen Underwood is an enthusiastic and vocal member of the Power BI team who has a long-running website and blog focusing on BI and Advanced Analytics. She has an excellent page of on-demand webinars, videos, hands-on labs and other training resources. Jen also writes a regular stream of blog posts on Power BI, and more generally on analytics, and I’d definitely recommend adding her blog to your reading list.

    What you’ll learn

    Jen’s website has training materials for the Power BI service, and then specific sections for the mobile apps, the Power BI desktop app, Power BI in Excel, the different data sources that Power BI has built in, and a section on developing for Power BI.

    When & where to get it

    Look on Jen’s website for the training section

  • Education

    How to buy academic Power BI licences - a step-by-step guide

    • 0 Comments

    There are a number of ways of buying Academic Power BI licences, so I thought I’d write a quick summary to help people, as I have had the question a few times recently from customers and partners. We make it easy to buy Power BI licences for commercial customers straight from the Power BI website, but for education customers, there’s a different route that gets you the special discounted license. (BTW I’m not a licensing expert, so there may be other ways of buying academic Power BI licences that I’ve not covered, so feel free to add more info via comments on this blog post!)

    I’ll start by assuming you know what Power BI is, or you’ve been working with the free version available at powerbi.microsoft.com. If you’ve not got that far, then have a read of my story ‘Using Power BI for Education Analytics in schools’ to see some ideas of what you can do with it.

    Buying academic Power BI licences from your Microsoft partner

    In Australia, most of our education customers have an EES licence agreement (Enrolment for Education Solutions) to buy academic licences of Microsoft software and our online services, at pricing significantly lower than commercial pricing. You can simply add Power BI licences to that agreement by talking with your Microsoft licensing partner - or getting your IT manager to do it. Although this is a fairly straightforward process, it isn’t instant - it can take a few days to set it up. But the advantage is that the licences are managed as part of your overall agreement, and you get the best academic price. The academic ERP will be around $3 a user a month.

    The normal commercial pricing for Power BI Pro in Australia is $12.70 a month (you can get this on this Power BI pricing page, after you’ve changed the currency to Australian dollars). If you want to buy a commercial licence, then you can click the ‘Purchase’ button that sits below the price (I've hidden it here, because I definitely don’t want you clicking it!)

    image

    Buying Academic Power BI licences through your Office 365 portal

    The instant way to buy academic Power BI licences is through your Office 365 administrator portal. Whilt it looks longer, it’s because I’ve listed every click! Typically in your school or university there will be a few people that have access to your Office 365 admin portal, but they may not know how easy it is for them to add Power BI licences through it. Basically, it’s a few clicks, and you’ve got immediate licences you can start using.

    Here’s the walk through of how to do it:

    Step 1: Login to the Office 365 Admin portal at https://portal.office.com/admin/, or if you are already logged into Office 365, go to the app menu in the top left hand corner, click and select the Admin tile. If you don’t see the Admin tile, then you’ll need to find a person in your organisation that is one of your Office 365 admins.

    image

    Step 2: Select Purchase Services from the left hand menu (it’s near the bottom)

    image

    Step 3: Under “Other Plans”, look for Power BI Pro for faculty - it’s $2.90 a month
    Ignore the one that says “Power BI Pro” at $12.70. That’s the full commercial price, so you don’t want that one!

    image

    Step 4: Click “Buy now

    image

    Step 5: Select how many user licences you want, and whether you want to pay monthly or for the year in advance, and then click Add to Cart
    I think it makes sense to select a full year ($34.80 user/year) so that you’re not creating more work every month.

    image

    Step 6: After clicking Next, you then get to choose how to pay. Although you can pay through credit card, you’ll probably just change the drop down to “By Invoice”, so that it gets billed the normal way we bill you.

    image

    Step 7: Click Order and that’s it - you’ll have the new Academic licences for Power BI in your Office 365 tenant.

    Now you can allocate them to users. From the main Admin menu in Office 365, you select Users, then Active Users, and tick alongside the ones you want to give the licences to and click “Edit”. On the third screen you can allocate your licences to those users. (I’ve covered this briefly because I think your admin will already know how to allocate licenses through the portal. But if you need more info, read this support article)

    I feel it’s right to add a disclaimer here: all this info was correct as I sat and wrote it this evening, on 6th Jan 2016. It might change tomorrow, so also check out any comments on this blog post too!

  • Education

    Translating resources for international students - and talking to your watch

    • 0 Comments

    Australia continues to grow our international student education sector, with a record $18.8 billion of revenue in 2014-15 from the nearly half a million international students who study at our universities, TAFEs and schools. In universities international students make up a quarter of all students, and come from over 150 countries. It makes education a key export industry for Australia, and it also creates new challenges for education institutions - especially as the plan is for the number and diversity of international students to grow rapidly by 2020.

    How do you offer translation services for students?

    Traditionally translation services have been expensive, and limited in scope because of that. But what if we could change that - make it more available and more cost-effective. With changes in technology, some specialist services in an education institution - like dealing with translation services - have become more widely available, and easier to implement. It means that you can provide the services more widely. For example, provide on-the-spot, automated translation of documents, websites, lectures, tutorials, lesson materials to students. They won’t always be word perfect, and match the same high levels that are required for key legal documents, but they can provide a valuable aid to students who may still be getting up to speed with learning and working in English, or parents and students who are browsing your school\TAFE\university website to find the right place to learn next year. Or helping your student support staff connect more easily with students.

    Translating with Microsoft Translator

    image

    The Microsoft Translator service is a cloud-based automatic translation service which supports 50+ languages, allowing you to reach the populations in countries representing 95% of the world’s GDP. We use it extensively in our services like Office, SharePoint, Yammer, Bing and Skype. And big companies like Amazon, Adobe, eBay, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Twitter use it to translate web content, product and restaurant reviews, social media posts, search queries etc.

    Because it is an app service, accessible through an API, you can use it on your website, or in mobile applications (eg in a ‘help around campus’ app on your students’ iPhones and Androids). Or you could use it within a desktop app as part of the workflow for support staff who are publishing information or responding to student enquiries.

    The service starts with a free level, that will translate up to 2 million characters a month, and then offers subscriptions for higher volumes.

    The Translator service also has some finely tuned additions - a Microsoft Translator Hub that allows you to setup organisation-wide translation systems that understand the specific terminology and language nuances used in a specific industry (tick - we definitely have our very, very specific education jargon!). The Hub is also designed for cross-industry collaboration (for example, all the universities could collaborate on a system-wide translation hub, so that 40 universities don’t have to setup custom translations for things like “ATAR”!).

    The other option is the Collaborative Translation Framework which allows post-publishing improvement of translated text (this would be ideal for lecture notes and learning materials, where today’s students could feedback on specific translations and nuances to benefit future students)

    The beauty of the Translator service is that, as well as a series of apps, it is provided through APIs that can be built into your apps, websites and services. You can get started using the Translator API here.

    So far, so good. But this afternoon I found out about something even cooler that we’ve done with the Microsoft Translator. We’ve just released the services to allow you to translate a spoken conversation using your Apple Watch or Android wearable, and paired phones.

    Talking to your watch…and translating

    Imagine this - a student starts talking to you in Brazilian Portuguese - and you only speak English. They can hand you their iPhone, and whilst they speak into their Apple Watch in Brazilian Portuguese, the translation in English will appear on the phone screen. And when you reply in English, they’ll see the Brazilian Portuguese translation on their watch face!

    image

    This video shows how it works:

    Of course, you can just do it with just the phone, no wearable required, using the Microsoft Translator app. But who wants to miss out on the fun of talking to your watch and seeing the amazed look on a student's or parent's face?

    Learn MoreLearn more about Microsoft Translator on wearable watches, and download the free apps

  • Education

    Deploy a Moodle Cluster on Azure, using Ubuntu

    • 0 Comments

    Moodle logoI’ve just finished a conversation with our team in the US who are working on lots of smart Moodle integrations to various Microsoft technologies (like the Office 365 integration with Moodle components and the Moodle virtual images for Azure) and they mentioned that there are now also complete quick start templates for deploying a scalable Moodle cluster, on a LAMP stack, on Microsoft Azure. It’s a quick way to get Moodle in the cloud.

    Why is cloud-hosted Moodle important?

    Often, many Moodle installations start off at small scale as an open source project, and then grow to become a critical tool in a school or universities’ system. And, over time, as usage grows there can be growing pains as the number of users places bigger demands on the servers that are running the system. There are three common ways that organisations solve this problem:

    1. Keep adding more servers and infrastructure to scale your home-grown Moodle system up
    2. Switch to a fully hosted Moodle service, like Moodlerooms, and hand over control to your service provider
    3. Keep running your own Moodle - in the cloud - by switching it to run in a cloud datacentre

    The third option means you keep control over how your Moodle is configured and the strategy for its future, but takes away the hardware and other capital costs of option one. And as your Moodle usage goes up and down, you only pay for cloud services you are using, not pay for servers sitting idle in your datacentre for half the year.

    You’ve always been able to deploy a small Moodle in the cloud very easily in Microsoft Azure (so easy, in fact, that even I managed to do it on my own last year) with a few clicks, but to deploy a completely scalable Moodle system, with multiple servers and ready for tens of thousands of students has been more complicated until now.

    Deploy a Moodle Cluster on Azure, using Ubuntu

    Our global team have release a template to allow you to deploy Moodle on a full open source stack (running on Ubuntu, PHP, Apache and MySQL) running in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

    It runs as a LAMP application on Ubuntu in a clustered configuration. It creates a one or more Ubuntu VM for the front end and a single VM for the backend. It does a silent install of Apache and PHP on the front end VM's and MySQL on the backend VM. Then it deploys Moodle on the cluster, and configures a load balancer for directing requests to the front end VM's. It also configures NAT rules to allow admin access to each of the VM's. It also sets up a moodledata data directory using file storage shared among the VM's. At the end, it runs the Moodle installer on all the front end VM's to complete the installation.

    What that means is that a Moodle administrator, or system integration partner, can take advantage of best practice advice for getting your Moodle LMS into the cloud, and keep your system on a familiar open source configuration.

    And you can simply download the free pack to do this from GitHub

    Learn MoreDownload the Moodle-Azure quickstart template here

  • Education

    The Accessibility Guide for Windows 10 and Office 2016 - helping students with special needs

    • 0 Comments

    Last week we released the Accessibility Guide for Educators for Windows 10 and Office 2016. And I put it onto my ‘must share that sometime’ list. But it wasn’t a priority for me, because in the past I’ve written a lot about accessibility with Microsoft products and services, including things like:

    But this morning I watched a video shared by my colleagues in Canada, about Matthew’s journey with assistive technology, and it tells the story of how Matthew Cockburn uses various assistive technology to help him with challenges created by his cerebral palsy - things like the ability to simply plug in a special mouse and keyboard to allow him to use a laptop to keep up with the other students.

    I’m pretty sure there are parents, teachers and lecturers who don’t know about the range of support resources we have for helping with accessibility needs, and how some simple steps could help children and young people with disabilities to have more success in their learning journey.

    So instead of filling out some cells in another dull spreadsheet this morning, I thought I’d spend half an hour to write this, share the video above, and let you know about the Accessibility Guide, and our other resources.

    Can you take 30 seconds too, and share this information with another colleague or friend that could use it? Because somewhere in your circle of friends-of-friends there’s another Matthew, and you might just be helping them…

    Learn MoreVisit the Microsoft Accessibility website for general information or download the Accessibility Guide for Educators for Windows 10 and Office 2016.

  • Education

    Most in demand skills of 2015?

    • 0 Comments

    I remember in 2013 I wrote “What skills do I need for the future?”, about the most in-demand skills for all occupations, and in the future what employers will be looking for from today’s students. The top five skills employers were looking for in 2013 were:

    1. Oral and written communication skills
    2. Detail oriented
    3. Microsoft Office
    4. Customer service oriented
    5. Organisational skills

    Do you see that? At number 3, IDC had identified Microsoft Office as the only software package that employers called out within the top 20 skills list!

    Okay, but now we’re two years on, and we’re closer to the ‘future’ that IDC were predicting, what does the story look like?

    image

    The Freelancer Fast 50

    Well, I just read some research from Freelancer.com, which is the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace, with more than 17 million registered users who have posted 8.9 million projects and contests to date in over 850 areas as diverse as website development, logo design, marketing, copywriting, astrophysics, aerospace engineering and manufacturing.

    Freelancer.com publish a Fast 50 report, which is a right-here-right-now “pulse check of the movers and shakers across industries, technologies, products and companies” and is based on the projects posted in the last quarter. After analysing 356,876 jobs posted in the last quarter, they found that there continues to be a strong surge in demand for jobs related to Microsoft technologies, with a 63% jump in Windows desktop projects, 29% growth in Microsoft Word projects and 27% growth in Microsoft Excel projects.

    Freelancer, in their press release, describe it as “A comeback for Microsoft”, but when you consider this over time, it really isn’t - we’ve got the same pattern of skills in demand in 2013, and now in 2015.

    There’s a lot of conversations around at the moment about the link between education and employability (and especially in universities, a real focus on the data of employability of students). What this data shows is that Microsoft and our education customers are both moving in the same direction (and it also gives an extra stamp of approval to our decision to ensure that 5.5m students in Australia can get Office 365 ProPlus free)

    Two different reports, two years apart, both making the same point. I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence.

  • Education

    Still using paper forms for parent permission slips? Time to do a risk analysis?

    • 0 Comments

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: One of my pet hates is paper permission slips from my daughter’s school (and even more so now that they have switched to emailing me the slips, and I have to print them, sign them and send them back in my daughter’s hands. Double pet hate now!)

    So I’m genuinely delighted to share a summary of an article from ParentPaperwork, which gives some extra compelling reasons to abandon paper forms and head online

     

    How risky are paper forms in schools?

    Seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents

    Risk and liability management is a significant and growing issue for schools around the world. Schools face ever increasingly tight legal frameworks around privacy, risk management and in some countries the advent of litigious parents who will sue for everything from poor exam results to even the mildest perception of the school placing their child in harm’s way. Some schools now employ full time staff members whose job is to prepare risk assessments and evaluate every activity for the potential for all manner of disaster.

    With this in mind it’s essential schools consider all aspects of their administrative and management processes and policies. ParentPaperwork is helping schools with this by offering a platform that replaces paper forms with a secure, robust online forms system to capture, manage and report information from parents.

     

    The article looks at seven key risk areas:

    1. Who signed the form?
      Schools have an obligation to secure informed consent from the guardian. Does a paper permission slip actually give you that?
    2. Are forms filled out correctly?
      Because paper forms have no controls to the information entered, you can’t easily make sure that it’s filled out correctly, and that everything you need has been completed. Leading to more work to chase up…
    3. Can you read their handwriting?
      Often you’ll need to transcribe from a form to another system or spreadsheet. Can you be sure that key information is transferred accurately if you’re relying on our famously illegible handwriting (especially if any of your parents are doctors)
    4. Are the responses from parents being compiled correctly?
      If you have dozens or hundreds of forms, can you be sure you’re collating the responses correctly
    5. Are your paper forms stored securely?
      Can you be sure you’re meeting your record keeping requirements, especially if you’ve also transferred responsibility outside of the school office (eg if forms go back to the teacher, are you sure that they are being stored appropriately)
    6. Can you find a form from six months ago? Five years ago?
      How easy is it to go back and find a single form from the past?
    7. Who has access to your paper forms?
      This is a key question, because many of the forms you collect will contain highly sensitive personal information about students and parents - like health information for a school trip - and so you'll have obligations about the security of that information well beyond the immediate life of the form itself.

    The team at ParentPaperwork have built a very easy to use system for handling electronic parent permission slips (and it’s easy for parents, not just the school!) that means your staff can concentrate on spending time on teaching and learning, not paper shuffling. And parents can easily respond to a permission slip on their phone, tablet or computer.

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    Find our more about ParentPaperwork, and see some of the schools around the country already using it

    And it’s important to note that it runs on our Microsoft Azure cloud, which means it’s got the Australian Signals Directorate tick of certification for storing non-classified data, and links to your existing identity system through Azure Active Directory. That means you could do things like enforce automatic multi-factor authentication to allow (senior) staff to access it from away from school.

    Learn MoreRead the Parent Paperwork article about the risks associated with paper forms in school

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