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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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February, 2009

  • FE blog

    Hunting down free stuff


    I have a colleague, Daniel Good, in the US, who runs a blog which exists purely to aggregate information from other Microsoft blogs. With the volume of information we publish regularly, it is sometimes tricky to find the right source of information but often there’s a blog out there, written by the team that are completely focused on the thing you want (like this blog, solely focused on information for UK Universities). So it makes a good starting point to go looking for specialist information.

    imageThe blog is called “Blog MS – Official Microsoft Team Blogs”, and as of today indexes 214 Microsoft team blogs (ie written by a team responsible for something, rather than a single individual). Every week Daniel produces a summary of what’s been published on those blogs, so if you have a need for information this Monday morning, then you know where to go.

    One of his interesting posts is the “Guide to Free Microsoft Software and Online Services”, which he’s assembled from information provided by colleagues. If you want to find some free Microsoft software, or a free online service, then this post is the place to go. It’s a long, long list, so if you want to find a freebie, make it your starting point.

    (Assuming you haven’t found it first on the Microsoft UK Education site’s Free Stuff list)

  • FE blog

    Free event - Identity and Access for Education



    We’ve got another free event coming up at the end of April – this time it’s about solutions for identity and access management in education, with a smattering of Live@edu thrown in for extra value. It’s with one of our partners, Oxford Computer Group, and will show the technologies and services being used to optimise and support infrastructure services for messaging, collaboration and identity and access management. In the afternoon, the University of the West of England will be talking about their experiences too.

    The day will have plenty of acronyms – not just Live@edu, but also ILM and IAG (will they be handing out acronym bingo cards at the beginning?). The point of course is to show how ILM (Microsoft Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007) integrates with your existing infrastructure, and what IAG (Microsoft Intelligent Application Gateway ) can do to help you setup and manage secure remote access for students, staff and partners.

    It’s on Wednesday 29th April 2009 at our offices in Reading, running from 9am to 4pm, and the following sessions:

    • Identity and Access for Education – Optimise your current Infrastructure (Microsoft)
    • Overview of Live@edu & Outlook Live (Microsoft)
    • Connecting Live@edu with existing Platforms and Systems (OCG)
    • Identity  Lifecycle Management for Education with ILM “2” (OCG)
    • Secure Remote Access with IAG (OCG)
    • Customer Case Study - University of the West of England

    Grab your place (or find out a little more) by emailing my colleague, Bonami Meredith.  Because there’s a maximum capacity of 20 people, it’ll be quite interactive with plenty of chances to ask your own questions.

  • FE blog

    Free one day Virtualisation conference in London



    “Explore how to make IT more cost-effective in uncertain times. Microsoft and partners invite you to this invitation-only event.”

    Dan sent me details of our “Virtualisation and Management Conference” on 10th March. Overall it makes good agenda, but I do take issue with the phrase “…in these uncertain times…” because within education, I don’t think things are as uncertain as implied. Although budgets are currently tight, I think that what is certain is that education budgets will be a lot tighter over the next two to three years. As we head towards next Government financial year, there’ll be some adjustment of belt-loops coming up. It may not feel as if we’re in the budgetary good times, we’ll probably look back to today fondly in a couple of years!

    I think what that means is that it is worthwhile investing time in looking at ways that you can reduce your IT budget in the future – making some strategic decisions whilst you’ve still got flexibility in your budget to implement changes. And that’s why I shamelessly say that spending a day in London on 10th March is a good investment of time.

    You’ll hear from various Microsoft speakers of course, but the two gems of the agenda for me are:

    • Perth and Kinross council will talk about their strategy and how they saved £100,000 by virtualising.
    • The afternoon has split streams, where you can choose between sessions from Computacenter, Avanade, Infosys, HP, Unisys and TCS.

    This event isn’t just for education, or even just for public sector organisations. So you’ll be able to compare notes with a range of other organisations who’re looking at virtualisation, which might add some more depth to the event.

    Anyway, here’s the details:

    FirstquotesExplore how to make IT more cost-effective in uncertain times.

    Get a fresh view on virtualisation and a head start on planning your next move. See how customers are using Microsoft's virtualisation and management technologies to cut costs, save power and space, reduce carbon emissions and be more flexible and effective.

    Understand how the right virtualisation and management tools can deliver these savings and benefits quickly in your organisation without disrupting or undermining your existing IT investments and skills.

    If you have already invested heavily in virtualisation, see how Microsoft can bolt on to make that investment work harder and slicker. Then, take that knowledge and see how Microsoft's key partners can help you turn the idea into reality and accelerate your project with their skills, experience and insights.

    Exclusively for this event, six key Microsoft Partners — Avanade, Computacenter, HP, Infosys, TCS and Unisys will deliver workshops on their approaches to delivering virtualisation, insights and customer experiences. Choose from a variety of sessions that show you how to accelerate your virtualisation project and move from strategy to execution.

    Don't miss out; achieve faster, more cost-effective IT... Endquotes

    The event is at our London offices on 10th March, and runs from 9am to 4pm.

    You can register (and see the full agenda) here, for which you’ll also need invitation code 0CB2A8

  • FE blog

    Free Event - SharePoint in FE


    One of our partners, Parabola Software, asked me to let you know about their free “SharePoint in Further Education” day which we’re hosting at our main offices in Reading on Friday 27th March.

    As well as an opportunity understand what Sharepoint can offer and chat with people from Parabola and Microsoft, you’ll be able to see what other colleges are using SharePoint for and to network with them.

    Parabola Software has been working in FE for 5 years now, and they’ve built up quite a few customer references – on their website they’ve got case studies from Esher College and Oxford and Cherwell Valley College.

    This free event is principally for principals and the IT decision makers in colleges. Later this year they plan a separate technical workshop for IT staff.

    Here’s the agenda


    Introduction - Amanda Bicknell, Microsoft


    Introduction - Richard Gray (Managing Director, Parabola Software Ltd)


    Managing SharePoint in FE: Back up, Recovery, Security and Management - Phil Allen, Microsoft


    Break for refreshments


    Live Case Study on experiences with SharePoint - David Lloyd (Director of ILT Development, Esher College)


    Live Case Study on experiences with SharePoint - Chris Miles from Oxford and Cherwell Valley College


    Lunch and networking


    Interactive Q & A session on using SharePoint in Further Education


    Using SharePoint to provide Independent Learning Programmes - Adam McCarthy, Parabola


    Beyond SharePoint: Business Intelligence, Performance Point Server - Phil Allen, Microsoft

    To register, and for venue details etc, email Adam McCarthy with your contact details (including a phone number)

  • FE blog

    OneNote and Learning Styles


    Last year, I wrote about the booklet on OneNote and Learning Styles produced by Ole Lauridsen from the Aarhus School of Business, Denmark.

    Late last year, Ole visited the Microsoft Campus in Seattle and gave a talk about his project, and explained more of the background to supporting different learning styles through the use of ICT. There are two ways to find out more. You can either watch the video below (good for a day like today, when thousands of schools are closed in the south of England), or you can read his full paper, which is on Mike Tholfsen’s blog. Here’s the abstract:

    “There are many learners at all levels who know about their learning styles strengths, but are not familiar with an adequate ICT platform that supports these strengths. For these learners the Microsoft application OneNote is the solution. Conversely, there are OneNote users who tend to get lost in the many features and the flexibility of the program; their use of the program can be much more focused and efficient when they use their learning styles strengths as their points of departure. This paper presents the learning styles model of Drs. Rita Dunn and Ken Dunn and shows how to implement the model by using OneNote.”

    So the choice is yours – Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles in an academic paper above, or the same information through sound and vision below. What does your choice say about your learning style?

    OneNote and Learning Styles
  • FE blog

    Address the New Economic Landscape in FE



    One of our partners, Focus on Business, are hosting a morning seminar entitled “MS Dynamics CRM in FE - How it Addresses The New Economic Landscape” on Friday 20th February at our London offices in Victoria Street. It’s a seminar designed to demonstrate how our Dynamics CRM is helping colleges to achieve and maintain the requirements of TQS, T2G, WBL, Employer Engagement, whilst addressing the challenges that the recession is placing on employers and learners. (Let’s face it, that’s going to make a pretty full half-day!)

    Jane Cunningham, of Castle College Nottingham will be speaking, as well as speakers from Microsoft and Focus on Business.

    Focus on Business is an independent provider of CRM Solutions and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner who specialise in developing CRM Solutions for colleges. Which these days means pulling together lots of different databases, build an evolving and scalable CRM system, and automate processes to reduce costs.

    Anthony Wallbank, Director at Focus on Business, puts it succinctly:

    FirstquotesCollege's futures will depend on how well they are able to track Employers, Partners, Learners, and Courses etc. Colleges are complicated organisations and need a system that can give them the whole picture at a glance.Endquotes

    Register for the free event here

    Can’t make it? Download their whitepaper “CRM for colleges of Further Education” instead, for a taster

  • FE blog

    Do you know your GPO from your AD?


    If you don’t, then this may not be for you! Microsoft Learning have put together a new online game which is designed to help (and encourage!) system managers or developers to consider certification (as in, Microsoft certification, rather than men-in-white-coats-certification. Hmm, I wonder if over the Atlantic, they don’t have that second meaning, as in “Mark is certifiable”)

    Anyway, if you want to find out if you’re certifiable, or you want to set up healthy competition between your IT team in college (or even amongst your IT students), then this could be just for you. And it could be ideal if you live in the Midlands and get the promised 2-8 inches of snow overnight tonight! One long day of electronic tests for everybody tomorrow!

    The game takes the form of a trivia show, and includes a broad range of technical questions geared towards one of two disciplines: Developer, or IT staff. Some of the questions appear to be taken straight from the pages of Microsoft Certification, so it looks like a primer for someone preparing to take a MS Certification exam. I managed some right answers, but then got caught out by one of the “rogue” questions (does anyone know the nickname of the original Microsoft logo?).

    Choose a character, select your field of expertise, and pit yourself against the entire online tech community in a quest for Tech IQ supremacy, a top spot on the leaderboard — and departmental bragging rights.

    Check out the game at www.areyoucertifiable.com and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

    You may also find yourself wandering down memory lane as yet again Clippy makes another satirical comeback. After having been P45’d out of Office a while back, he’s starting to make increasing appearances across various websites, with his new satirical hat on. My favourite places that he pops up is on David Salaguinto’s Office Offline blog, like in this cartoon below, and in “Are you Certifiable” he comes back as a quiz show contestant. All better than those times when he used to pop up and say “You look like you’re writing a letter. Would you like some help with that?”

  • FE blog

    Web mapping event



    Carla, from our Virtual Earth team, tells me that they have another free seminar coming up in March, where there’s a chance to get an overview of our web-based mapping solutions. I think this is probably going to be more useful for developers, and potentially some of the teaching staff, but there’s bound to be somebody out there that I didn’t think about that will find it relevant to a project. The day has a mainly technical slant, and there’s a session of tips for developers.

    Here’s the details:

    An Introduction to Microsoft Mapping Platforms

    Friday 6th March – Microsoft, Thames Valley Park, Reading

    The Microsoft Europe Virtual Earth team is holding a free one-day seminar to provide you with all the information you require to integrate online mapping into your website to create a user experience that will delight your users. Never before has it been so easy to track resources geographically, analyse information, manage a mobile population (14-19 anybody?), or map a wide range of different locations.

    The agenda will consist of:

    - An introduction and overview to Virtual Earth, helping to set the scene and agenda for the day.

    - Informative sessions with a chance to hear from customers and partners who have utilised Virtual Earth as well as technical presentations and the latest updates from the team.

    - A masterclass from Johannes Kebeck highlighting useful tips and tricks for developers, ensuring you get the most out of the Virtual Earth platform.

    - An opportunity to network with other customers, partners and developers as well as members of the EMEA Virtual Earth team.

    The day will run from 9.00am until 4.30pm.
    Places are limited so if you do wish to register please do so by following this link (You’ll need Invitation Code: 5292A6)

    You can also register by phone on 0870 166 6680 (The event reference number is 4015)

    imageYou may get the chance to learn about some of the ways of creating map mashups too – like the way that University of California have added their own diagrammatic campus maps overlaid onto the satellite imagery. I can imagine all kinds of practical uses for this by a premises team, or even for mapping your network infrastructure.

  • FE blog

    A question of security


    I was at a conference yesterday (sadly covered by Chatham House Rule so no juicy snippets) which looked at security of public sector ICT systems, and there was a session which was about malware. Although it was delivered in a matter-of-fact deadpan way, it left me feeling just a little bit nervous (and made me check that “Auto Updates” were enabled on my home PCs, as soon as I walked through the door of Chez Fleming).

    I’ll tell you a bit more by the end of the week, but one of the debates was about whether people running bigger ICT systems automatically applied updates (eg Windows Update), or tested them first. Now I’m not sure if you can compare colleges and central government departments, so I need a bit of input on the poll below before I’m prepared to say any more…

  • FE blog

    The ongoing transformation of the employer responsive skills system


    There appears to be at least 3 language systems in use in the UK:

    • There’s the language that students speak - U KNW TH WY THT EVRYTHNG HS 2 BE WRTTN IN SHRTR WRDS (Special thanks to Madhouse for the brilliant web translator)
    • There’s the language that almost everybody else speaks – like the English written in newspapers, which assumes an average reading age of a 14-17 year old
    • And finally, there’s the language that is spoken by lawyers, local and central government and their agencies, which is less understandable than the other two.

    Today, I’m struggling to decode the third kind. It’s all in this letter from the LSC to college principals, sent out just before Christmas. I’ve copied the text below…

    imageDeveloping College and Training Provider capacity to deliver Train to Gain

    I am pleased to be able to write to you with information on significant additional funding which is to be made available this year to support college and training provider capacity to deliver the expanded Train to Gain service.

    As you know, Train to Gain represents a radical change in the way that funding is secured and how training is delivered. Many colleges and training providers need support to ensure they are well positioned to operate effectively in this new environment and to meet the changing needs of employers and their workforce, particularly in the current economic climate.

    At the Association of Colleges (AoC) Conference in November, John Denham, Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), announced a £30 million restructuring fund. The fund is designed to support colleges and training providers to develop new approaches that result in expansion of their delivery capacity and, where necessary, allow them to make changes to their existing business models. The ultimate aim of the fund is to ensure that colleges and training providers:

    • are better positioned to work with more employers
    • can deliver the expanded Train to Gain offer, and
    • focus on the current economic priorities of supporting small and medium sized employers, and individuals and employers in redundancy situations.

    Importantly, the fund is intended to complement the support available through the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) World Class Skills – developing responsive provision programme.

    The LSC will manage the fund on behalf of DIUS. Guidance on how it will be distributed is outlined in the attached annex. The money will be allocated direct to colleges and training providers. The fund has been discussed with AoC and Association of Learning Providers who support its purposes and the method by which it will be distributed.

    The fund is available for this year only and is intended as a one-off investment to support the ongoing transformation of the employer responsive skills system. This level of investment will support a significant step-change in the capacity and ability of the sector to make a positive contribution to the skills of employers and their workforce.

    i know that colleges and training providers will respond positively to the opportunities that this major investment brings.

    Working my way through ‘restructuring funds’, ‘new approaches’, ‘delivery capacity’ and ‘developing responsive provision programmes’, what I think we’ve got here is some money to help you to continue to change the way your college grows its business. Over the last couple of years we have been seeing a rapid growth of the adoption and use of CRM systems in colleges to support new relationships with individual students and local employers. Once a college has started, it seems that they quickly realise how the system could be expanded to support more processes for more staff. The limit of expansion seems to be that colleges have only allocated a limited budget for CRM systems provision.

    One of our partners, Morse, have been supplying CRM systems to colleges, and they’re being asked by more colleges now to support their growth through better application of customer management techniques. At a joint event in December, we saw how their Employer Engagement Solution makes it possible to manage the sales relationship with local employers, as well as to manage the whole workflow within your college ��� allowing you to setup and follow a defined business process. Now that there’s extra funding available, you might want to see if it’s right for you too.

    Morse have made a series of videos showing the system and how it works, which provides an easy way to understand what they’re offering, and how it helps to build an evidence base for TQS.

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