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March, 2013

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Technologies at Barnsley College


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education series of blogs.


    In 2004, Barnsley’s Council Leader Steve Houghton CBE said to me, in the course of an interview for an article I was preparing on Barnsley schools,

    ‘We can’t be a former mining town for ever.’

    It stuck with me as the right kind of aspirational attitude for any community living with a challenging post-industrial legacy and Barnsley schools have taken it fully on board (We’ve blogged already on the innovative work at Barnsley Academy with Windows 8 phones).

    If there’s one single place, though, that can act as the final backstop, providing hope for young people and lifting both aspirations and expectations, it’s Barnsley College, which takes in 8000 full and part time students, eight out of ten of the town’s school leavers.

    It doesn’t fail them either. In 2010, Ofsted rated the College ‘Outstanding’ on 20 out of 22 categories (the remaining two were ‘Good’). The report says,

    ‘The college provides an inspirational resource for the Barnsley community and a transformational one for many learners.’

    That same Ofsted report frequently mentions the effective use of learning technology, so it came as no surprise to discover that the IT journey continues. Technology is now used even more extensively and creatively. So much so that when Microsoft Business Manager for Further Education, Mike Morris, talked to me about the College, he used the term ‘eco-system’ to describe the way that Microsoft technologies, and associated devices are being used to provide a joined-up service for students and staff.

    I followed up with a call to Mark Kendrick, IT Director at the College, and sure enough within a very short time Mark had mentioned Windows 8, SharePoint, Office 365 Education and Lync 2013, as well as a number of brands of Windows 8 tablet (including Surface). All of it – and here’s the point – is working in harmony, like the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, whose home is almost within earshot of the college.

    The starting point is a SharePoint environment, first developed for staff, soon to be extended to students with a ‘MyDay’ front end (a Collabco product) with single sign on to resources including their timetable, library account, and the ‘Moodle’ VLE.


    At the same time, students have ‘Live@Edu’ – moving soon to ‘Office 365 Education’ – with free email, storage on SkyDrive, access to office web apps.

    ‘Office 365 gives a level of service that we couldn’t manage any other way,’ says Mark Kendrick. ‘And it prepares them for the real world – something useful for life not just for their time in College.’

    And that’s not all. Also in the picture is the coming rollout of Lync 2013 which will replace the existing PBX telephone system and go on to do much more ‘The idea is to deliver remote lessons and to share good practice with less traditional classroom teaching ,’ says Mark.

    But of course all of this is about much more than technology. The underlying aim is to make a difference to the way that students learn, which is why all of the software innovations are planned to go along with the extensive use of Windows 8 tablets – Samsung Series 7, Asus ‘Vivo’, and Microsoft Surface of course.


    They are on trial in various departments including Catering, and Early Years. As well as the new devices, Mark and his team have successfully upgraded and given a new lease of life to an existing set of inexpensive ‘Zoostorm’ touch screen tablets to Windows 8. Now equipped them with 3G dongles, they’re for use by students out on work placement.

    The whole package of innovations – ‘A big game changer for us’ in Mark’s words -- will make it possible for the College to move towards a more flexible approach to teaching and learning.

    ‘We run something called “Self-Organised Learning” says Mark. ‘They can pick up a Windows 8 tablet and organise your own learning environment within the building. So not everything’s done in the classroom. The emphasis starts to be more on guided learning than on direct teaching.’‘

    Immediately, the connected nature of the whole enterprise becomes clear – SharePoint ‘MyDay’ portal (from Collabco), Lync, Office 365 Education, Windows 8 devices – all working to create a personalised learning environment that Mark calls,

    ‘Learning without barriers’.

    At the same time, by continuing to provide quality learning with fewer, face-to-face teaching hours, and by fully exploiting existing Microsoft licensing agreements it turns out to be clear demonstration of how to bring about a change of learning culture through efficient and responsible use of resources.

    ‘What you have to remember is that it’s public money,’ says Mark, ‘So we have to be seen to be cost-effective in delivering our services.’

    It all really only works if the tablets in use are Windows 8 devices, because they effectively become integrated into the College’s Microsoft ‘eco-system’.

    ‘Other devices – Apple and Android – are hard to control in terms of safeguarding and so on, and keeping in touch with what the students are doing,’ he says.

    This realisation – I think of it as ‘the penny dropping’ – of the implications which arise from seeing the up-down, sideways, outward and inward connectivity and manageability of Windows 8 tablets, is already well advanced in the educational IT community. The coin’s a bit slower to hit the ground among professional educators. But that’s bound to change as users discover that they can sit in the staffroom, or the student coffee bar, or at home and have seamless access to everything they need to move their work on.

    Steve Houghton, the Council Leader I met in 2004 went on to speak feelingly of the need to do radical things in the cause of improving the life chances of young people, ‘Because if you just do more of the same, you end up with more of what you had before.’

    Everything about Barnsley College says that they’re entirely signed up to that -- and that they have the IT team, and the technology, that’s well able to support the vision.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Webinar: Overview and Benefits of Office 365 Migration for Further Education



    Why the Further Education sector should consider Office 365:

     Microsoft Office 365 delivers the power of cloud productivity to educational institutions of all sizes, offering them:

    • Lower costs
    • Better security
    • Anywhere access to the things like class assignments, email, and calendars
    • A happier, more connected campus 

    Find out how Office 365 can help students and educators in your college connect and collaborate in and outside the classroom.


    Microsoft Webinar: Overview and Benefits of Office 365 Migration for Further Education - Tuesday 19th March, 12 – 1pm

    • Introduction from Sajid Rafiq,  Education Technology Solution Specialist (5 mins)
    • Live@edu to Office 365 – A quick overview of the procedure from Kyle Hayes , UK Live@edu to Office 365 Upgrade Manager (15 mins)
    • Migration to Office 365 – Overview of best practice to migrate to Office 365 from Matthew Garrett , Technical Director, Cloud Business (30 Mins )
    • Q&A


    We aim to deliver webinars that focus on your areas of interest, so please select three Education topics when you register







  • FE blog

    Office 365 Education Top User Tips #7 – Following Content in SharePoint Online


    Originally posted by James B Marshall on the UK Education Cloud Blog.

    Having looked at the new social networking features of SharePoint Online back in the 2nd edition of our top user tips it’s time to look at following sites that interest you, too.


    If you find a SharePoint Online site in your institution that you want to access again, you can follow it to keep it handy. In addition, people who follow you get an update in their newsfeed about the site you’ve started following. This helps build your reputation as a collaborator—without any extra work from you. So following a site is similar to ‘liking’ it but with some added benefits.

    Once you start following a site, you can:

    • Find the site easily in your list of followed sites.
    • See activity from the site feed in your own newsfeed.
    • Share your find through an automatic newsfeed post that people who follow you can see.

    Find out more about following sites that interest you on Office.com!

  • FE blog

    Flash in Windows 8


    Originally posted on the IE Blog.

    We have updated Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 and Windows RT to enable Flash content to run by default. On Windows 8, all Flash content continues to be enabled for IE on the desktop.

    As we have seen through testing over the past several months, the vast majority of sites with Flash content are now compatible with the Windows experience for touch, performance, and battery life. With this update, the curated Compatibility View (CV) list blocks Flash content in the small number of sites that are still incompatible with the Windows experience for touch or that depend on other plug-ins.

    We believe having more sites “just work” in IE10 improves the experience for consumers, businesses, and developers. As a practical matter, the primary device you walk around with should give you access to all the Web content on the sites you rely on. Otherwise, the device is just a companion to a PC. Because some popular Web sites require Adobe Flash and do not offer HTML5 alternatives, Adobe and Microsoft continue to work together closely to deliver a Flash Player optimized for the Windows experience.


    This updates the immersive IE experience on Windows 8, and both the immersive and desktop IE experiences on Windows RT. The update will be made available to customers with Windows Update. The curated CV list applies to IE on the desktop for Windows RT since the most common reason to block Flash is that the site relies on other plug-ins that are not available on Windows RT.

    More compatible Web experiences

    Our approach to Flash in Windows is practical for Windows customers and developers. For Windows 8, we worked with Adobe to include a version of Flash that is optimized for touch, performance, security, reliability, and battery life. Adobe made substantial changes to the Flash player to align with the Windows 8 experience goals. We shipped this optimized Flash component as part of Windows 8, and we service it through Windows Update. IE10 with Flash on Windows 8 enables people to see more of the Web working with high quality, especially compared with the experience in other touch-first or tablet browsers and devices.

    When we released Windows 8 and Windows RT we used the IE Compatibility View (CV) list to enable sites to run Flash content compatible with the Windows 8 experience, including touch responsiveness, performance, and battery life. In Windows 8, IE on the desktop runs all Flash content, like it does on Windows 7.

    Looking at our engineering experience with Flash and Windows 8 and RT, as developers improve their Flash content, the vast majority of sites with Flash content that we have tested are now compatible with the Windows experience goals. Of the thousands of domains tested for Flash compatibility to date, we have found fewer than 4% are still incompatible, in the most part because the core site experience requires other ActiveX controls in addition to Flash. With Windows 8 in the hands of customers and developers, we listened to feedback around the experience of Web sites with Flash.

    Developing compatible Flash content

    For developers building sites with Flash content, this document posted on MSDN goes into more technical detail about the criteria used to place sites on the Flash CV block list, as well as steps that developers can take to test their content in immersive IE and submit their sites to be removed from the block list. The documentation also includes a best practices guide to help developers, designers, and content publishers create experiences with Flash that play well in IE for touch, responsiveness, and battery life. These best practices complement existing recommendations and tools like modern.IE for authoring touch-friendly HTML5 sites. Also, starting tomorrow, modern.IE enables testing whether or not your site is on the curated Flash CV block list.

    For the development community, platform continuity and technology choice are important. Flash in IE10 on Windows 8 and Windows RT provides a bridge for existing sites to transition to HTML5 technologies where it makes sense and at a pace that is right for the experiences they want to deliver to their customers. With today’s update to Windows 8 and Windows RT, consumers can experience more of the Web by default.

    -- Rob Mauceri, Group Program Manager, Internet Explorer

  • FE blog

    Office 365 Education Top User Tips #2–SharePoint Online Social Networking


    Originally posted by James B Marshall on the UK Education Cloud Blog.


    In part 1 of our bite-size top user tips we looked at Offline Access. Today, in part 2, we look at SharePoint Online’s social networking features; in particular the ability to tag words and mention people.

    In SharePoint Online as part of Office 365 Education, the Newsfeed page in the My Site continues to provide an aggregated view of activities from content and people the user is following. However, the feed is improved with new microblogging functionality that enables students and teachers to do the following:

    • Take part in conversations by posting comments and replies.

    • Post pictures and links.

    • Use tags (starting with the # symbol) to define keywords that fellow teachers and classmates can follow and search for.

    • Use mentions (starting with the @ symbol) to tag users in posts and replies.

    • Indicate agreement with comments and replies by clicking Like.

    • Follow people, documents, sites, and tags to customize their feed.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft IT Academy & Office 365 Education – college guide for successful training



    If you’re looking to deploy Office 365 for Education, would like unlimited Office 365 training at a low cost for IT Professionals and want to support your staff, teachers and students on using Office 365, have a look below for info the Microsoft IT Academy Program.

  • FE blog

    Office 365 Education Top User Tips #9 – Multiple Co-Authoring in Office Web Apps


    Originally posted by James B Marshall on the UK Education Cloud Blog.

    In the eighth installment of our top user tips we looked at Excel Surveys using the Excel Web App, and today we’re going to look at the co-authoring features that can help you analyse that data, brainstorm ideas, and work collaboratively with your classmates and colleagues in real time, via the browser.

    Document collaboration is a critical element to working effectively in the classroom. The combination of SharePoint Online and Office offers a spectrum of document collaboration methods, whether it is co-authoring a spreadsheet or routing a school field trip plan through a workflow. Understanding the ways you can collaborate on documents is vital to making the best choice for your needs and improving your productivity as a student or educator.

    Here are two examples of the Excel, and Word Web Apps being used by two people to edit the same work (click on them to enlarge!):


    Without having to download and open the document in the full Office client students and teachers can work together in real-time; and the beauty is that the Web Apps work across a variety of devices, here’s the same spreadsheet from above on an iPad:


    Getting started is really simple – check out our fourth top tips post all about SkyDrive Pro to see how you can easily upload your content into Office 365 and in minutes you can be working with others!

  • FE blog

    Office 365 Education Top User Tips #6 – Outlook Web App on Mobile Devices


    Originally posted by James B Marshall on the UK Education Cloud Blog.

    We’re over half way through our top user tips series (there are only 10, I promise!) and today we’re looking at the latest Outlook Web App (OWA) and how it works on mobile devices such as tablet PCs and smartphones.

    When you’re on a traditional device OWA can be a really powerful, browser-based, tool for managing your email, contacts and calendar; however, when you switch to more mobile, smaller and touch-enabled devices having an interface that’s been built for those environments makes more sense.

    OWA is sensitive to the browser it’s being viewed on, and the great news is that in the new Office 365 Education there is a version that is specifically optimised for mobile and touch! Here’s how it looks on an iPad:



    As you can see, the icons are bigger, the interface focuses on the content and it’s very easy to get access to your information. You can preview the touch-optimised interface on your PC by appending the following strings to your OWA URL:

    • For the tablet experience append: ?layout=twide
    • For the mobile experience append: ?layout=tnarrow

    So your URL would look like: https://podxxxx.outlook.com/owa/?layout=tnarrow, and would look something like this in Internet Explorer 10:


  • FE blog

    Office 365 Education Student Portal at UWL


    Great video from the team at University of West London talking about their 2012 UCISA-Eduserv Award for Excellence winning Office 365 Education project. The University set out to harness the powerful collaboration capabilities within Office 365 Education to create a personalised, interactive and social platform to support the institution’s mission to raise aspiration through the pursuit of excellence. They were also passionate, as part of the project, to allow students to combine social learning with academic study.

    The following video gives a comprehensive overview of the project, combined with feedback from the students, themselves.

  • FE blog

    Windows 8: What IT Pros Should Know - Great insight from Seton Hall University and others!


    Great Windows 8 roundtable discussion featuring a range of deployment experts from across the IT community.

    Get valuable tips for deploying Windows 8 in the enterprise and take a walk through the latest Windows 8 devices. The insight from Paul Fisher from Seton Hall University around how Windows 8 is helping them to realise their 1:1 computing goals is particularly compelling.

    The challenge for today's IT professional is figuring out how to provide the flexible access to corporate resources that users need without sacrificing security, data integrity, or performance. This roundtable discusses how Windows 8, and unique features such as Windows To Go, can help institutions more easily achieve these goals.

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