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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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May, 2009

  • FE blog

    May College SMT meeting


    This week we hosted 35 College Principals, Vice Principals and Senior Managers at the Microsoft Campus in Reading for a day showing both our technology and solutions and that of our partners.

    From our perspective, it was a successful day – demonstrating how Microsoft solutions can help Further Education colleges with both their business needs (CRM, Business Intelligence, SharePoint, Office Communication Server) and also their student needs (with things like Live@edu).  Feedback from the day was very positive from both partners and customers.

    This is the first time we have followed a format of both Microsoft and also direct partner presentations  - we chose 8 partners who have worked most closely with us developing their solutions for the FE sector. These partners were Parabola (SharePoint), Tribal, Capita, Diagonal (CRM), Clarity (BI), Salford Software, RM, Focus on Business (CRM).

    This is the 6th event we have done over the last 18 months specifically for college senior managers – keep an eye on the blog for future ones.

    All of the slides are available to download:

    [On this link if you're reading it on RSS]

  • FE blog

    How will Windows 7 help FE colleges – Part One – The Overview


    The wind down for the summer has hopefully started for some. But for college IT teams, it marks the beginning of getting ready for next academic year, and the thinking on how your IT services will be developed for your users. So I thought this might be a good time to share some training/planning resources for Windows 7 with you. I’ve watched a batch recently, and have been very impressed with the way that they explain the principles first, and the need for some of the new features, rather than just jumping straight into the usual “How to do it…” mode

    The Microsoft Learning team have created a series of “Learning Snacks” – 15 – 30 minute videos – which talk through parts of Windows 7, and describe how to manage some of the new features. I know that plenty of you have downloaded and installed the Windows 7 beta onto a laptop, and these resources are just as useful whether you are one of those (gives some hints on what features are worth exploring a bit more), or if you haven’t yet tried it, but want to understand what it might be able to do to grapple with common IT challenges that education faces.

    Today we’ll start with the introduction, which provides an overview of technologies that improve performance, reliability, security, and compatibility. And it also takes a look at how it may help reduce “operating cost” (does that mean giving you a bit more time to do the fun stuff, rather than rushing to desktops around campus fixing things?)

    Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7


     Learning Snack: Introducing Windows 7

  • FE blog

    How will Windows 7 help FE colleges – Part Two – Stop people doing silly stuff


    We both know that although our users are very sensible people, sometimes they do incredibly dumb things with their computers. It can be caused by ignorance, or it can be because they are so keen to get on with their jobs, that they throw caution to the wind. Here’s a quick Vox Pop Quiz – see how many of these things have happened in your college:

    If you’ve ticked any of the boxes, then hopefully the following material will help you feel a warm glow of anticipation.

    The 25 minute lesson covers BitLocker (which you may already know from Windows Vista, but it has added more control for easily securing pesky memory sticks) and AppLockers. It’s AppLocker which I think will make you smile. It allows you fine granularity of control over what software can, and can’t, be installed or run on your college-owned computers. It’s more sophisticated than a “Lock it all down!” approach, and might be a good solution to allow you to devolve more control to staff over their ‘own’ laptops, without opening the floodgates to a software-installing-and-licensing nightmare.

    Even though I can’t claim to understand what a Hash Key is, I found the level and pace of the material perfect – it tells a very clear story, very well.

    Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7


     Learning Snack: Introducing BitLocker and AppLocker in Windows 7 

  • FE blog

    Lowest cost Office 2007 – Bulk order under Home Use Programme for staff


    This could be part of a “things you wish you’d heard about earlier…” series. If you’re working within a UK college, then there’s a fair chance that your university has signed a Microsoft Campus Agreement, and that this applies to YOU!

    The deal, in a nutshell, is that you can place a bulk order, on behalf of employees at your college, for full copies of Office 2007 Enterprise for £6.93 each, for them to use on their home computer. Microsoft ship the software to you, and you can then recover the cost from staff who want a copy.

    But here’s the catch. The £6.93 offer is only open until the 15th June 2009. And it is for employees’ home computers only, not for your use within the college.

    • If you’re in the IT team, then you’ve got a chance to make your colleagues happy (as well as save money yourself)
    • If you’re working elsewhere in a college, whatever your role, then there’s a chance to save some money

    image The Campus Agreement comes with a feature called Software Assurance, and that includes a benefit called the Home Use Programme (HUP). This means employees of the college can normally buy Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 for £12.93 for their own home computer. HUP is mainly designed for business users of Microsoft software, to increase employee satisfaction, employee retention, and training and productivity. (I’ll whisper this so that only the IT people hear - it’s also been seen to reduce support costs).

    The licence allows employees to use the software as long as they work for the organisation, and as long as the organisation is covered by Software Assurance. Unlike the similar “Work At Home” scheme, the employee is the one responsible for correctly licensing (ie you simply have to let them know when they should stop using it, you’re not expected to enforce this).

    Two things to do before Friday 12th June

    It is easy to activate:

    • Your ‘Software Assurance Benefit Administrator’ (quick, find a number for the IT department!) goes onto the Microsoft Volume Licensing Services website, and ticks a box to activate the programme (at http://licensing.microsoft.com).
    • That person can then place a bulk order (at least 20 copies*) by emailing hupvalue@msdirectservices.com
    • The HUP team will then give you a call, check all the details, and we arrange for you to pay us and to sign an order form
      At this price, we’ll ask you to pay in advance – either by credit card or college cheque – so we’ll issue a proforma invoice
    • We’ll send you the software packs for you to distribute to employees

    It’s that simple.

    And instead of paying £90 in a shop for Office Home & Student, your employees have Office Enterprise for their home computers for less than £7.

    We’ve got HUP Information Packs sitting here in the office, with a resources CD to help promote it internally. If you want one, just drop James an email

    I completely recognise that this deadline is very short. And I don’t expect that you’re going to be able to get all of your staff to decide whether they want a copy with just a fortnight to place your order. But a quick email around staff could quickly identify some that want it. And after the offer is closed, your staff can still order individually via the normal route (I’ll write that bit up next) for £12.93.

    * The maximum number of copies that you can order is the number of FTE’s (employees) that you’ve declared on your Campus Agreement

  • FE blog

    The Ultimate student offer ends soon



    You probably have heard about the Ultimate Steal before. It’s the offer where students with a .ac.uk email address can buy a copy of Office 2007 Ultimate edition, for £38.95

    UK students have some of the highest rates of usage of Microsoft Office in the world, and also one of the highest rates of ‘mis-licensing’.

    Okay, that’s me being nice. The research tells us that some students know that ‘borrowing’ software from friends & parents isn’t allowed. And the copy floating around on a blank DVD with a licence key number written on it may not quite be legit.

    As we get near the end of the promotion, we’ve created some web banners that colleges can put on their websites, to remind students that the deal is just about to close (at the end of June). This is especially handy for those who are just about to leave you this summer – once they’ve gone, they return to a world where ‘student deals’ disappear, and they will end up paying a lot more for the same things. And that’s true with software too. There’s unlikely to be a better deal available for them.

    If you want to tell your students about the deal, especially before they leave you for the big wide world, then you can download any of the banners below and put them onto your student portal.

    Download from here, and then link them to The Ultimate Steal website for the UK

    But first, some fascinating insights into which ones worked where in the world…

    International comparisons of student marketing…

    United Kindom

    UltimateStealOfferEndsSoon_Banner2_298x95Last year we used this web banner in the UK, and we know that it was pretty successful. For some reason, UK students liked something that was between “dull” and “whacky” – in our research focus groups, they said that if we were too cool, it wouldn’t be right.

    United States

    UltimateSteal_OO_298x100 Students in the US seemed to respond better to a slightly plainer design. When experimenting with more graphical ones, the response rate dropped off a bit. Perhaps because they were mesmerised by the lovely colours?

    Microsoft.com advertising


    On www.microsoft.com, we found that students responded well to the “save 90%” message. But we were never sure if it was just students clicking it, or general visitors to the website. This is because the website is read by all kinds of people, whereas the other banners only went on websites read by students, such as university & college portals.



    Oz was the interesting one. They found that students responded to something quite different. In fact, the whole marketing campaign in Australia was themed around “It’s not piracy”. And it worked very well.

    We’re starting to wonder, if we were able to run a student offer next year, whether this would be a fun idea for UK students.

    What do you think?

  • FE blog

    The Ultimate Steal – Student Office offer is finishing soon


    After I forgot to do this last week, John reminded me to tell you:

    Don’t miss the boat – Office for £38.95 is ending soon

    If this is your last year at Uni or College, don’t miss out on this special students-only deal on Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 for only £38.95. You can only get it at www.theultimatesteal.co.uk and only while you’ve got a valid .ac email address. So before you leave and lose your .ac.uk email address get online and get genuine non-pirate software you can trust. You’re going to need reliable and genuine software for those times you bring work home, and you might as well make it the latest versions.

    You have to be quick as this price is ending on at the end of this term (last day for orders is 30th June 2009) and you’ll hate yourself if you miss out.

    Look at what you get: the latest Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook as well as Publisher, Access, Groove and OneNote. At £38.95, that’s 90% off estimated retail price. But you’ve got to have a student or faculty email address with a .ac.uk domain from a UK higher education institution.

  • FE blog

    Windows 7 – All my Release Candidate DVD's have gone


    Sorry, they've all gone now!

    I’ve laid my hands on some ‘Windows 7 Release Candidate’ DVDs. Over the next week, I’ve got a series of blog posts planned to talk about some of the features of Windows 7 that will be particularly useful to colleges, and you may want to install a copy of it, so that you can try them out in your particular situation. So if you’re interested in spending a little more time understanding what Windows 7 does, and have a spare computer hanging around, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

    Four interesting things about this:

    1. “Release Candidate” (RC) is the penultimate release before we say “Yes, it’s definitely final and released”. Once we’ve done that, we then call it RTM, or Release To Manufacturing. This RC version is free to use for a year, whereas the RTM version is the final one that you pay for. (Of course, at the end of the year, you then need to upgrade to the released version or revert back to whatever your computer was previously licensed for)
    2. Although we generally advise you not to run the Release Candidate for business critical computers, I know quite a few education customers who already run it on their own laptops/netbooks. I have been running the beta (earlier) version of Windows 7 on my demonstration laptop since January, and have just moved my main laptop onto Windows 7. Because we like inventing new words at Microsoft, we call this “dog-fooding” (as in “We eat our own dog food”). Basically, it’s part of making sure that it’s good enough for you to use, by starting to run our business on it.
    3. This is the first time I can remember that the new version of Windows runs on lower spec hardware than the previous release! We’ve dragged a few older laptops out of various storage cupboards (where they’d been put because they ran Windows Vista poorly) and they all seem to cope quite well with Windows 7. I’ve also talked to a few customers in education who say that it good running on various netbooks, which have definitely been a challenge with Windows Vista.
    4. You should play around with the BitLocker feature, mentioned in the video accompanying yesterday’s blog post, because of the new mode called BitLocker to Go. This gives you encryption protection for USB Memory Sticks (think: ‘personal data loss’) but as I was reading a bit more about it last night, I discovered it also allows you to specify a default that any USB Memory Stick can be read, BUT only encrypted memory sticks can be saved to. This seems really useful in a school – it means that teachers/students can be allowed to bring in their lesson plans/videos/pictures etc from home on a memory stick, but you can stop them copying college data onto it.

    Anyway, if you’d like me to send you a installation DVD, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.


    Small print: When they’re gone, they’re gone!

    Another bit of small print: We have copies for the 32-bit version. Somebody has just asked for a 64-bit, which we don't have, but you can download that from this link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/evalcenter/dd353205.aspx

  • FE blog

    Free download of AutoCollage for teachers


    clip_image001Another way for you to help staff in your college – and it’s another free download.

    AutoCollage is a picture editing tool with a big difference – it works out what to do with your pictures, so that you don’t have to. You point it towards a folder of pictures, and it analyses the contents, using a range of intelligent features, including face detection and saliency filters and uses this to identify interesting parts of pictures. It then uses that analysis to blend your photos and combine them into an AutoCollage. Phew, saves all that “which photos should I use?” angst.

    Unusually, the product came directly out of the Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge, rather than through our usual product release routes, which is why you can not only read about the product, but also the research being done into face detection, object selection and image blending. The AutoCollage team have also made a video showing it in action.

    The UK Partners in Learning team have been working with MS Research for the past several months to persuade them to let teachers get AutoCollage free (normally you can download a free 30-day trial version, but then it costs £18).

    clip_image001[8]Obviously their persuasive powers have worked and it is available through the UK Innovative Teachers Network. So anyone wishing to use AutoCollage for educational purposes can go to the UK ITN, register for a free username and password, and download their free copy of AutoCollage directly from the site. The UK ITN is currently the only location in the world with this offer.

    The “educational purposes” bit means that you can also let students have copies to pull together all of their field-trip photos too.

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